January 2009

The Group Lesson

January 23, 2009 03:10

With the past two weeks of teaching weathering on me like, well, the crazy weather, I couldn't help but be a little frayed around the edges.  One unexplained canceled lesson is one thing, but when I lose six students and four more need to change their times, things get just plain crazy.  My brightest beginner can't afford lessons anymore, and my two most advanced students just flaked off like dandruff; I chalk it up to senior-itis.  It wouldn't be so difficult if I didn't care about them all so much.  Instead, I feel rejected and abused.  And I don't take too well to unemployment, either.  Luckily, I had my waiting list to consult.  Albeit, most of the I names have drifted off like unclaimed mavericks, but a couple still might be interested.

Several hours of phone calls later, I'm happy to announce that this week I got to meet five--count them, five--fresh beginners.

Two brothers, aged five and seven, are the ones that stood out most in my mind.  I could tell by the father's enthusiasm toward the subject of fiddles that he was the one who wanted to be taking the lessons, but like any good father, he was putting what he could afford into his children instead.  The three of them crowded into my little studio at the back of my house, eager to show me their eBay treasures.  I scanned each instrument, flipping the bridges around, carefully tightening the pegs while averting my face, and announced with mild surprise, "Well, these should work just fine."  They even fit!  I decided that the remainder of the hour would best be spent on both boys at the same time, so they could have time to familiarise themselves with their new instruments.

It's been a while since I taught a five year old boy.  This one was strong and energetic, gripping the neck of his violin like a baseball bat, swinging it.  Lesson number one: how to hold the violin.

(To the tune of "Pop Goes the Weasel")

I tuck my violin under my arm
I put my left foot forward
I hold my violin out to the stand
Up goes the violin!

First, I needed to show them how they should hold their violins.

Take your left hand and place it right here, on the body of the violin.  ...No left hand.  This hand here.  Right here.  Now don't let go.  Keep your hand right where it is, and now you can tuck the violin under your right arm like this.  No, right arm.  This arm here.  Under here.  Like this.  No, don't let go.  You hold it here. 

Five year old has the violin by the neck again, swinging it.

Let's try this again.  I tuck my violin under my arm...  Good!  I put my left foot forward.  (this foot)  I swing my violin out to the stand--no, don't hit the stand with your violin, step back just a little, you need to stand just far enough away--no, don't let go of the violin.  Keep your left hand right here.  Left hand.  This one.  Right here.  Don't--move--okay.  No.

Five year old has the violin by the neck again, swinging it.

Let's try this again.  I tuck my violin under my arm, I put my left foot forward.  I swing my violin out to the stand, up goes the violin!  Now.  The violin balances right here on your collar bone.  Do you know where your collar bone is?  Okay then, do you know where your clavicle is?  No?  See, there's a bone running across here.  No, you're reaching over your shoulder.  Take your finger and run it from your chin down your throat until you feel a little dip at the top of your chest.  Now, slide across that bone...  No, that's your Adam's apple.  Take your finger, right here.  Feel that?  This is where you balance your violin. 

I tuck my violin under my arm--left hand, hold it here, tuck it there
I put my left foot forward--this foot
I swing my violin out to the stand--no, don't hit the stand
Up goes the violin!--on the collarbone.  Don't put the scroll there!

Five year old has the violin by the neck again, swinging it.

The seven year old on the other hand, has followed all directions thoroughly and expertly from the get-go.  He is so good that, in fact, I haven't directed a word toward him all hour.  The only time I thought of him was when he intermittently ducked under the swing of his brother's violin to avoid the sudden clanking of wood on wood.

This is when it occurs to me that eBay violins are not such a bad idea after all.

This is also when it occurs to me that group lessons are not such a good idea after all.

9 replies | Archive link

Things I Should Never Have to Explain

January 12, 2009 04:08

--Please bring your books.

--Please have a violin.  If you do not have a violin, be prepared to obtain one.

--Please arrange transportation to and from lessons.

--If you do not plan on attending your lessons, please inform your teacher, preferably prior to your lesson, not two weeks later.

--Please refrain from putting random items in the candle on your way to use the restroom. 


25 replies | Archive link

A funny thing happened on the way to -35...

January 9, 2009 19:59

Luckily, I bought an oil pan heater and had it installed before things got really serious with my car.  I waited until mid-afternoon to start it, at the exact time that records show that temperatures tend to be the highest in Soldotna in January.  At -25, my Honda started dutifully on the first try, with only a couple of expletives showing up on the gauges.  Good thing--I needed to be in Anchorage by 7:15 pm for symphony rehearsal.

George thoughtfully grabbed a -40 degree rated down sleeping bag and an avalanche shovel, throwing them in the front seat.  "Just in case."  I returned to the house half a dozen times, double checking: wool socks, check.  Thermal underwear, check.  Ski pants, check.  Polartech fleece, check.  Soft-shell jacket, check.  Expedition weight mittons, check.  Alpaca double knit hat, check.  Coffee?  Made a special trip back to the house to fetch my thermos of French-pressed Sumatra.  I was good to go.

All of us drive carefully now when heading through the pass, since even a minor mishap becomes life-threatening in a heartbeat when it's this cold and this isolated.  At the coffee shop, my friends were showing off their frostbite like it was some kind of major accomplishment, but I shudder to thing what nasty things frostbitten fingers could contribute to a symphony concert.

After 150 thankfully uneventful miles, I pulled into the Westmark's parking lot.  It was only ten below in Anchorage, and my feet were beginning to get hot.  By the time I made it up to the eighth floor, I was cracking off layers like a Russian nesting doll, leaving a trail of clothing to room 807's heating unit.

What the heck, it's 72 degrees in here!  My house hadn't seen anything above 60 since I got home.  I reached for the thermostat to shut it off, then stopped.  Wait.  I'm... hot? 

Let's see how high this baby can go! 

I spent the rest of the night sipping cold beverages in my skivvies while writing postcards to George:

Wish you were here!

1 reply | Archive link

Welcome Home

January 3, 2009 19:16

I'm so sorry, I left without even saying goodbye.  Now it's already time to say hello again.  That rather long blank space in my blog was my trip to Oklahoma and Pennsylvania for the holidays.  My dad called me this morning to see how my trip back to Soldotna went.  Everything go okay?

"It went just fine.  It's kinda cold, though."

"What's the temperature?"

"Well, right now it's 31 below."

(Small space while my dad calculates)

"You are exactly 100 degrees colder than we are right now!"

Well, isn't that nice?  It's all quite a novelty until you start the car and it bleeds into the snow. 

I'm going to crawl into the fridge now, see if that's any warmer.

15 replies | Archive link

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