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After a very busy fall we are looking forward to my son’s first Youth Orchestra performance next month. We have gone through his first audition for an orchestra and chair auditions. Unfortunately, the orchestra decided to move practice facilities this year and moved to a downtown location which is another 15 miles further. We have found someone to trade off commuting with – even tho – two basses in one vehicle is a challenge!

In our public school district, orchestra begins in the 5th grade.  But, because the All city Youth Orchestra is more advanced – they say he is not required to participate in the public school program until middle school. My son is already getting a great introduction to playing with a group and getting more advanced music and skills in performance. Because my son also plays piano, our schedule can get a bit tight. We have to find a balance – always. Sometimes we have to take a step back and cut out a recital for piano or bass. The youth orchestra, even tho a bit of a schlep, have been a great experience so far and I would highly recommend it. We also look forward to their summer camp next year.

We have continued lessons separately and it has proven invaluable. Some kids in the orchestra are older and in middle school. Unlike my son, they are getting an additional class in school, in orchestra. The private lessons have enabled him to “keep up” and even excel! The instructor has worked with him on his youth orchestra pieces and well as preparing him for auditions. Something I couldn’t do.  He was able to help him a ton with his confidence!  I think one of the coolest things was he finally found some kids that love music as much as he does. It allowed him to understand that even in his elementary school where he stands out for his music, he is not the only one who plays. This was so important for him to understand – there are others like him! There is also competition! (this comes about when chair auditioning comes along!) I am amazed at how great these kids sound for just 5th graders and up. This is a result of the blend of some of the best students all over the city and a different point of view from a conductor and someone – perhaps trained differently in education.

There is a cost for participating – however, there are also scholarships available. A  local corporation helps kids who are pursing music and plan on majoring in college. All around – there’s no excuse for not pursuing an all city orchestra as an option for your child!

Youth Orchestra break time!

full size, 3/4 and 1/8 size basses

Image  —  Posted: November 28, 2013 in Music, Music for young children, Music Lessons, Musical Instruments
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So this is the week of sleepover camp for my 10 year old son. We are quickly approaching the start of school. We drove him to a great area in Texas Hill country on a fabulous river. This is his second year there. Sorry to say – there are few places I feel comfortable just dropping him off. I used to run a kids camp for two summers. These kids had physical disabilities and it was mostly volunteer run – I was only one of two paid staff. So, I appreciate what it takes to run ANY summer camp for kids, liabilities and all!  I am all about the best camp experience and I over researched all of the choices. This camp was no computers, lots of water sports, horses and a long standing tradition of returning families. (Since 1927) Not too long – only one week in length. The thing last year that I was kind of bummed about is  – because of the Texas heat – we were skeptical to have our son take his Taylor AE guitar. We were not only worried about the kids not respecting the instrument – but the heat getting to it or it magically disappearing. So we opted not to take it and one of the counselors had a guitar and entertained everyone at campfire. We figured – my son needs a break from music for a little while – maybe he also needs a break from being the one who performs too! He didn’t want to take it this year and I was ok with that. His focus has been on the bass anyway.

So today when dropping off my son at camp – we do our make the bunk, tuck his bag under the bed, say a quick goodbye and wham! I am staring at two guitars right beside his bed. WHAT? One of the two counselors in the cabin of eight young boys was a musician. He brought a very cool vintage electric that his grandfather made – (he still makes them too) and a gorgeous ovation style guitar. I was sure our son’s placement in this cabin was an amazing coincidence. I explained to the counselor that my son was musical and that he can play and quickly asked his genre. (Blues, Rock – good!) I kissed my son on his newly buzzed head…and said goodbye for the week. I heard the counselor say as I walked away…”So how long have you been playing?” Ha, It’s gonna be a great week – for the both of us! 

Instructor with two students playing “Scotland’s Burning” as a round.

Video  —  Posted: July 13, 2013 in Music, Music Lessons, Musical Instruments
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See things through your childs eyes!

What is in my child’s brain???!??!! Parent’s beware of the TESTS!!!

This past weekend my son had a meltdown. At 10 years old, he really hasn’t had one of those in a very long time! There were a lot of causes to this and I do take most of the responsibility. BUT, there was one main thing….the public schools standardized testing last week! In Texas it is called STAAR. (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness ) Every state has them now – called some hard to remember – acronym that some high-falutin’, top brass educator paid by the state has created. I understand why we have these – I get it. How else are we to measure our students, teacher’s, and school district’s success in education? BUT – this morning I laid out some of the papers that came home on Friday AND what he is working on. My question is – WHY the HECK does the kids life have to STOP for these tests??? It angers me really – this is primarily why Clayton had a meltdown. TWO solid days – of testing – hours upon hours and the hype that the school and teachers have to put out – not to mention the PRE-TESTS! Feed your kid right – get plenty of rest, buy a T-shirt to promote…it is all too much for me – let alone my son! Thank god I have friends with kids the same age – they agree. It validates me anyway.

So here is where MY fault comes in – My illustration of it. (photo I took ABOVE)) It’s kinda what is in his brain – RIGHT? The music – the math – the reading – the tests!!!! No wonder he blew up! May is always a crazy time of year for kids – they are planning their summer and looking forward to the END of school. I am doing some of that same planning but not before – try-outs, lessons, recitals and the piano competition. (his first). I do make sure there are other activities – not all music – like tennis, golf, geocaching/hiking, swimming and general playing around. So I do try – really try, to create a balance and not be the stage mom all the time.

So here is my plan next year….give him some time off during test time! Yes, its hard – because there is so much coming up, but he needs it and deserves it! I can’t be the one who schedules all of this – but the symphony did a great thing – they waited till the kids were OUT of school before try-outs – that’s a step in the right direction! Now I need to figure out a similar photo to illustrate my brain….naw…it’s not possible!

Image  —  Posted: May 1, 2013 in Music, Music Lessons, Musical Instruments
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When I first moved to Texas – I didn’t know about the age old tradition of taking a portrait of your child in the bluebonnets. March and April is wildflower time in Texas and in Hill Country they are so fabulous! Bluebonnets have this unique color – I believe it is unique to any other flower!  I had taken many photos of Clayton growing up but this year I decided to do a twist on it. Granted taking the picture with a piano or double bass would be a little difficult – but he still plays all of instruments so the Taylor guitar was perfect.

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I especially love to take pics of Clayton with his musical instruments…you never know when they will recycle…

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My son (right) and my husband (left) at the same piano – Grandpa’s piano.  Pic of Grandpa in the middle conducting.

Clayton with his double bass teacher

Posted: March 16, 2013 in Music

Clayton recently has had the pleasure of learning duets with his bass instructor. He loves this-  his piano teacher does it all the time. His bass instructor prefers a method that involves the CD and playing with it. This is so important when playing bass since it is one of the backbones of the orchestra. When playing with a band, quartet or an orchestra, you are part of that team and practicing alone at home just doesn’t do it. This is a huge help. He is instructing him on so many things about his instrument but also how he learned certain techniques etc. We are grateful for all that he does in a full spectrum of teaching – not just from the book! In June of this year, he is auditioning for YOSA (Youth Orchestra of San Antonio) and will be looking forward to that and the YOSA camp in July. More to come soon! Clayton is 10 years old and in the 4th grade. In our school district strings do not begin until 5th grade. Since he was able to get lessons in electric bass last year for many months by a fine instructor, the transition to upright was easy for him.  This was especially so because his father taught him cello two years ago. Because of his early piano lessons starting at age six, and the electric bass lessons, the bass clef is a natural for him.  We are very lucky that he still plays all of his instruments from the band and still enjoys his Taylor “mini” AE for goofing off! We did try three different instrument lessons at one time for a while – but learned that focus needed to be shifted once YOSA was going to play a part in his choices.