Monday, April 28, 2014


The other day in rehearsal, I noticed that the singer I was working with had a list of hand-written affirmations attached to the front of her music binder. There were about a dozen statements there, all pertaining to the work of a musician and music teacher, and the importance of serving the music instead of yourself, as well as maintaining your sense of self-worth through challenging days. It was good stuff. "I need to make myself one of these," I told her.

You see, the professional field I chose is fraught with issues, especially for women, and especially for women who make their living in teaching and collaborative work. These areas are often regarded as inferior, the fallback professions for those who can't hack it as soloists. Besides that, musicians are always being evaluated by ourselves and others, and while feedback from your peers is important for staying sharp and well-rounded, it can also eat at your self-esteem and make you feel like you're never good enough. Add motherhood to the mix and you've got a perfect storm for self-doubt.

It's really hard for me to say, "I have to go to work," even if that's exactly what I'm doing. I may not be wearing a business suit or a uniform and going to an office, but when I sit down at my piano to learn a piece of music I've been hired to play with someone, that's work. When I go to a voice lesson to accompany a singer on some Brahms lieder, that's work. When I spend an entire Saturday in a neighboring town playing for more than a dozen high school kids at their solo and ensemble contest, that's work. I spent many years in training and study to get really good at what I do, and it's hard sometimes for people to understand that. I am not famous and because my kids are still pretty young, I work as a freelancer on a part-time basis, so it probably looks to most people like what I do is a fun little hobby.

I'm not going to lie; this year has been really up and down for me. As much as I hate it, I'm going to have to think about self-promotion and ways to get back in the game or the loop or whatever you want to call it. It's not easy, but I'd rather be doing this than anything else.

So here are some words of affirmation for myself. Maybe I should look in the mirror and say these every morning.

1. I love being a musician. I love music.

2. I am a trained professional and deserve to be paid accordingly.

3. I put my best effort into all my work, no matter what the difficulty level, and no matter who I am collaborating with.

4. I am not perfect. However, obsessing over my mistakes is counter-productive. I must remember my strengths even as I work to overcome my weaknesses.

5. Being a well-rounded person makes me a better musician.

Finally, I want to share a video I found of the 3rd Beethoven cello sonata performed by Rostropovich and Richter (with Shostokovich turning pages!). I was recently asked to play this piece for an end-of-semester jury, and while it's a lot of work, it's worth every minute. Playing music like this is affirmation in and of itself:

Enjoy the video, all. And now if you'll excuse me, I have to go to work.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

it's only wednesday

This morning around 9:00 the doorbell rang. When I answered, the FedEx dude on my porch said, "Oh, I'm sorry ma'am. Did I wake you up?" Seriously? No, I did not just get up. I've been up for a few hours already. I know I look like crap, but I always do and this week my kids are on spring break so what's the point?

I didn't say that. I just said, "No, of course it's fine," and signed the thing. Then I went back inside and looked in a mirror and realized my hair was all over the place and it probably did look like I had just rolled out of bed.


Here, have a look at some cute pictures of my kids from last weekend. A friend of ours got married at a place right on the Mississippi River, and Daniel and Anya had some fun throwing stuff into the water while we waited for the ceremony to start.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

spring break (part 1)

Pretty ho-hum week here so far. No one was happy to wake up to more of this on the ground:

Cilia in the snow

Brave daffodils

Deck steps

Frozen flower pot

Believe it or not, there are peas planted in there. They haven't emerged yet, though.

My shadow

Water balloon fragment
Poor Anya just caught a cold, so I had to cancel playing for a voice lesson this afternoon. Were it for any other instrument, I wouldn't have bothered, but this is a singer whose voice has been recovering from a respiratory bug for at least a month, and it just didn't seem fair somehow to bring a kid along to her lesson who would sneeze a lungful of new germs into the air every five minutes. We did at least manage a walk in the woods after lunch.

Walking down the creek
Anya stops for a rest

There are lots of tiny waterfalls and dead logs

Do you see the heart-shaped rock?

I've always wondered where this old fence came from and how it got into the creek bed.

Heading home

Friday, April 11, 2014

five on friday: spring break edition

It is Friday, and I'm exhausted, y'all. The last couple of weeks I've put in many, many hours volunteering at the school. I've taken on a rather large project this spring, and while I believe it's worthwhile and important, it's a large amount of work and it occurred to me this afternoon that I better be careful or I'm going to get burned out.

Look at what finally bloomed on April Fools Day!
I've been feeling pretty frustrated lately. I know I complain a lot, and I'm sorry. I don't often take the opportunity to truly acknowledge how lucky I am; usually when I do bother, it's soured with the guilt I feel about being under-appreciated when I should just be counting my blessings and all that. Life is good, my family is well, spring is finally here (though it's probably going to snow on Monday, sigh) and I have been spending a lot of time doing work outside, which is quite restorative.

Next week Madison schools are on spring break. It's so late for a spring break here; I think kids and teachers were ready for this a month ago. But they didn't ask me when they made the school calendar, did they? Anyway, we're not going anywhere, which is kind of disappointing, but I just didn't get my act together or save enough money for a trip, so we're going to keep it low key and try to have some good, local fun. Here are five things I want to do next week:

1. Get haircuts for the kids. Thrillville, I know. But they need it. I should have done this already because we're going to a wedding tomorrow but we didn't have time. Plus, they actually like getting haircuts. We have the same gal cut their hair every time and she does the shampoo and the whole bit and they love it. Last time they both got to help clean up the floor with this special little vacuum made for hair salons.

2. Get the kids' rooms clean. Even more thrilling than haircuts! But it really needs to happen. There is so much junk and it's driving me nuts.

3. Play with clay. My friend is organizing a day we can go to a studio and make some stuff out of clay. They'll fire it and then we can bring it home later. Should be a fun outing.

4. If the weather is nice, spend a day at the Bookworm garden in Sheboygan. I've never been there, but I keep hearing great things about it.

5. Go out for ice cream. Who doesn't love ice cream?

6. I'm adding #6 because room cleaning doesn't really count. I want to have some vacation at home time. You know, watch a movie and have popcorn for supper, make cookies, spend the whole afternoon playing games and reading books, go to the park if it's nice outside (it probably won't be; have I mentioned how I hate April in Wisconsin?), build a fort in the basement. I know this stuff is kind of lame, but I'm doing my best here.