Album Release

Friday, October 30, 2009

K-State of mind

Last weekend I joined a bunch of my family up in Kansas for K-State's homecoming football game. I appreciate my family; we all have our issues but we love each other anyway.

I was there solely for "the hang" but also got to take in some football fanaticism (I did wear purple as to not be a party pooper). I live in West Texas and yet I still go through culture shock whenever I'm at a football game. Like I've never seen a football extremist. We tend to take things pretty far, don't we? I mean, as humans sometimes? We just get fixed on something and run with it.

I obsess, too. But I can't think of something that I've totally sold out for. Harp, I guess, if that counts. Pizzeria Bianca in Phoenix maybe.

I was at the game thinking that the stadium was not too far off from what the Roman Coliseum stood for 2000 years ago. There must be something built into us that wants to be "better than that guy." Or that team. Or that school. Or that harpist. And it's life or death.

This past month at school, my students and I were following the International Harp Competition in Israel. It was the harpist's version of fantasy football, if you will. Good times. They all picked who they were routing for and tracked their way through the four stages. Sometimes here (in Odessa), it seems like it doesn't necessarily matter WHO you are routing for, as long as you are routing for SOMEONE and that you are their die-hard fan. UT or Texas Tech? Permian or Odessa High? Rosa's or Taco Villa? Ina Zdorovetchi or Remy van Kesteren?

Besides football and Mexican cuisine, music competitions are also a big deal in Texas. All-City, All-Region, All-State... many music classes totally revolve around upcoming competitions and contests.

Somewhere someone said that the last shall be ultimately first and the first shall be last. Someone also said there's nothing better to do than to eat, drink, and enjoy your days under the sun because they will be all too short. Someone else taught that whatever your hand finds to do should be done with all your might.

There's a balance in there somewhere. I'm working to find it. I'm trying to be thankful in all situations and to be correct in my ways. I'm trying to be kind. To be humble. To do a good job. I'm trying to enjoy my days. To enjoy a football game with my family. To take my best friend to Rosa's when she's in town. To take one day at a time.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose. A time to: be born, die, plant, harvest, kill, heal, break down, build up, weep, laugh, mourn, dance, throw away stones, gather stones, embrace, refrain from embracing, gain, lose, keep, throw away, tear, sew, keep silent, speak, love, hate.

This has been an intense few weeks. School is back under way- 53 harptastic students this year! I'm in heaven. I'm so thankful that I love my job.

It seems also that I've been surrounded by change in this past few weeks. And not only my own change, but changes for other people. Dave and I have been been on the humble side of making music lately- hospital visit, weddings, a funeral, and a birth. The birth was yesterday- and my first harp delivery! My friend's son, Max, was born to the key of E Major. It was so amazing to be playing mere feet away from someone entering the world.

Max was breathing his first breaths as someone nearby dialed the mother's sister back home in Germany. The sister was anxiously awaiting the news. I was immediately taken back to three different phone conversations that passed between my sister and I- her being in the delivery room and me on the other end of the line somewhere or another- California, France, Texas. I am so sad to have missed all three of her deliveries, and I was moved at the conversation in front of me. It was the middle of the night in Germany. September 2nd. Same day as my nephew's birth.

I'm excited for this school year. Did I mention that I love my job? As it being my second year in Odessa, I feel like my head is all of the sudden above water! Strange, relieving feeling. My resolution for this year: do not compromise my own time alone/ practice with the harp. After the very-often 12-hour day of teaching, I crave "my time," and I'm not going to give it up this year!

On tap this weekend:
Bernard Andres' "Danses d'Automne"
Bach's Cello Suite #6- Sarabande (so beautiful on the harp!)
Douglas Gibson's latest harp sketches

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Things I like about fishing

It's a beautiful, sunny day Utah. I have been slowly re-entering real-life after being in the Blue Lake bubble. My clothes have been washed and I no longer smell like a camp fire. Sad to say.

Voila... some thoughts I had during this morning's outting with my uncle. There may be a metaphor for life or some insight into the harp world in here, but I'm guessing not. Here we go...

Things I like about fishing:

The way the floating bobber creates an image of a jalepeno suspended in front of an upsidedown mountain.

The rediculus smell of power bait.

Lulls in conversation that are broken 45 minutes later simply by, "I outta go back to worm."

Each catch is a celebrated event- it may only happen once after a whole day of trying. I like that the fish don't make it too easy on us; it's like playing cards- half skill and half luck. Maybe mostly luck.

I like cleaning the fish guts out and washing it up. (This is odd and unexplained, but it goes back to when I was 7. I'm going to blame it on my dad being a horse surgeon.)

I like the luxury of capturing your own dinner.

I like that it's all about getting the darn fish to bite your hook, but it's also not really about getting the fish to bite your hook. Yes, you are out there to get fish, and you will do whatever it takes (change the bait up, switch locations, cast into a promising area, etc)... but it's also about (at least for me) just sitting there and enjoying being outside. If I get up before the sun comes up in order to "catch fish" but only end up hanging out with Uncle Mike and enjoying the scenery for 9 hours, I'm totally cool.

Thanks, Beth and Mike, for letting me come to visit!

Friday, July 10, 2009

My Blue (Lake) Heaven

Greetings from Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Michigan, where converse are the shoe of choice and 30 kids make up the tuba department alone!

This place is wonderful. I walk around with a giant smile on my face, that I could be up with the trees, talking harp most of the day, hanging out with interesting people, hearing some great music, seeing great art, watching great dance & theater... this is becoming the highlight of my summers.

There are about 100 faculty members and 1300 campers for each session. The faculty tend to whine about the coffee, the occasional mouse in the cabin, our paycheck, the mosquitos, and the 8 AM classes. In all honesty, though, we love it here. We would actually pay to be here because we love it so much.

I have a fantastic group of 7 high school-aged harpists. We spend about 6 hours a day together playing, playing, playing, playing. They spoiled me from the first day because of their ease in working together. We've been able to do a lot of exciting things because of how motivated and easy-going each of them are. My personal favorite was watching them perform "Chanson dans la Nuit" by Carlos Salzedo for the camp talent show, arranged completely by themselves for 14 hands instead of two.

I think the talent show night has actually been the highlight of camp for me (not counting the 4th of July campfire on the lake). Next time I get down or blue, I'm going to remember seeing that entire crowd of young people cheering for each other, some of them getting up on stage out of sheer bravery and zest for simply being able to breathe, and all of them having one care-free heck of a time. Favorite act: glow sticks guy.

This past week marks the first time that I have actually enjoyed conducting. The harp ensemble made it a pleasure to wave my hands around, especially for Stephanie Curcio's "Flume Gorge." Great piece.

Another thought from this week: my teacher in France would always kinda sink into her chair, kiss the cross around her necklace, and say a prayer before one of her students performed in public (it didn't seem to matter which one). I would watch her and think it was strange that she would be so nervous for them, but am starting to experience the same thing when I have to sit in an audience while my students perform. What's up with that? I'm more nervous for them than for myself.

Can't not mention this: I would like to send a special shout-out to Chris Smith who brought the house down with his fiddle playing during the faculty recital. We did "The Devil Went Down to Blue Lake" for harp and fiddle, and it turned out to be a memory that I will gladly keep for a long time. I've never played with a mic in my face before! Very strange. I've been wanting to perform that tune for a long time now. Thank you, Chris!

I'm going to miss this place.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Whats the point?

Every Friday in harp class, I give a short quiz. This quiz asks questions about stuff we talked about or studied that week. Of course, I use the quizzes to gauge the progress of the students' learning, but I mostly like to give the quiz out of sheer curiosity... I wonder what in the world they will write.

A quiz question from a couple weeks ago was "Name three ways music serves us as a culture." Some of the answers were:

to help us dance
to express feelings and ideas
to entertain each other
to enrich religious services
to help us feel emotion

The other night I went to the Midland Odessa Symphony's pops concert. That's an entire blog entry in itself, but I've got to say here that they played one medley of songs called “Salute to the Services.” The conductor invited veterans to stand and be honored when their armed force's song was played. Wow. Powerful and moving.

Earlier in the afternoon I had been at an outdoor harp recital at the hospice in Odessa. Some of my students played in the garden there, and it was lovely. I know one person personally who was there that has been facing the death of a close friend. I thought about that quiz question. Why is there music? What's point of it? How does it fit in to our lives?

In this case, the music may have caused the person to feel hopeful and sad at a time when it was perfectly alright to feel sad and hopeful. In the case of the pops concert, the music had evoked in me feelings of gratitude and humility in front of about 50 men that had served my country. And now tonight as I write this, I'm listening to Sigur Ros. Perfect music for reflection and inspiration.

Here are some photos of the last month's harp happenings in Odessa. School is out for summer time. I'm going to miss seeing these peeps! I'm happy to have some time off from schlepping harps around... I've discovered this great diet called "Harp Mover 3000." Move 3000 harps in a month and shed those unwanted pounds. (I didn't get a completely accurate count, but I think it was around 3000 harps.)

Happy summer!

Monday, April 20, 2009


Uncomfortableness is a good sign. Being uncomfortable (in the non-physical sense) means that something is growing and making progress inside of us. It means we are allowing ourselves to FEEL, to taste, to be in forward motion, to live.

This past week I organized the "First Annual" Permian Basin Harp Masterclass. I have this habit of throwing myself in way over my head and seeing what comes of it all, and this event was yet another example for the books. Sometimes I stub my toe on the moon and sometimes I come out victorious. The idea of a music "masterclass" hadn't seemed to be too familiar in Odessa, and I had planned all of this with no expectations but also with very very high hopes that the harpists here could be touched and transformed by two special guests.

"You want to do what? Who?"

"Ya, so I'd like to have a harp workshoppy thing with my teacher from France and this other harpist guy from Mexico."

And what do you know? It happened! Elizabeth Fontan-Binoche and Santiago Morales flew in to paint the town red for five days and five nights, all because of this crazy instrument with too many strings. 15 young harpists from across Texas were present to soak in teaching, humor, and harp music. They visited my classes and were interrogated by my students. I am so thankful for these two; they make me a better person just by being near me, let alone a better harpist! Now I'm not the only one in Odessa who feels this way.

But an idea keeps lingering in my mind now that my guests are gone and the dust is settling- something blog-worthy. Here it is: it's all about being uncomfortable. Madame Fontan travelled countless hours to a foreign country to GIVE of herself and her experience as a harpist. Santiago travelled and managed to be here to GIVE of his heart and music. I didn't sleep for a week so that I could somehow GIVE this masterclass to my students. The students pushed themselves and mustered up their bravery to face new challenges in their playing and performing- to GIVE all that they could. I'm proud of us. A Man once said that we are happier when we give than when we receive. Giving is usually against our nature and quite uncomfortable, and being uncomfortable isn't comfortable. But giving invites happiness into our lives. I could feel the love this past weekend. I could feel the happiness in my bones by just sitting around watching people in this give-fest. Can I get a witness?!?!

My favorite moments in the masterclass were when Madame Fontan would go off on a tangent in the middle of someone's lesson. Not an angry, off-course tangent, but some story or anecdote that related to the moment. I usually lean in to hear what she has to say anyway, but when she starts in on some obscure thought (which isn't at all obscure), brace yourself for a profound message encapsulated by humility and love. Good stuff. Really good stuff.

And who knew Madame Fontan likes horchata and mariachis!?!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Grandjany's Rhapsody

So there are things in life that happen to you or that you see that will stick with you and never leave you alone thereafter. One of those moments for me was the first time I heard French harpist and composer Marcel Grandjany's harp solo Rhapsody. This piece is nuts! Wow. Wow. It has ever since been on my list of things I'd like to experience before I die. I'd like to play this piece.

I'm in the midst of learning it now after several attempts here and there over the past 10 years. This time I'm not taking it off my music stand until it's really learned, really memorized, really a part of me. Grandjany wrote it for his teacher, Henriette Renie, roughly 50 years ago. For me, this is his masterpiece.

I've never been hoarse after practicing before, which prompted this blog entry. There must be something even nuttier about this piece than I had bargained for. It's funny- I don't even realize that I'm singing while I'm practicing it... I guess it just sucks it up out of my vocal chords on it's own, which does not surprise me. This piece sucks everything out of you that it can. I feel like I need to stop and eat a power bar by page 5, and I have a lump in my throat pretty much from the get-go. Man.

Can I just tell you how amazing this work is? It spans over the full 47-string range of the instrument, not wasting a single drop of the harp's capability. Grandjany's notation reveals his anal retentiveness, indicating every nuance and subtlety he intentioned. The notes alone, though, without those clues, lends itself so well to what he wanted to express that I find myself saying aloud, "Duh" when I see a crescendo marking, rolled chord indication, or an accelerando. It's like the markings are just ways to keep yourself in check to make sure you're on the the same page (so to speak) with his hoped interpretation. You feel for sure that a harpist must have written the piece (as opposed to composers like Faure, Hindemith, or Debussy) because of the intuitiveness of the way the notes lay on the harp. It plays itself. It feels like you're rolling around naked in kashmir from start to finish.

Which is not to say that this is not an angry piece. It is. If Passion is Switzerland, Anger and Hate are its neighboring countries, along with Love and Sincerity (I'm not sure what that means, but bear with me). You've got it all in Rhapsody. Everything is on the table for eight minutes and it's a vulnerability that I'm a little scared of. It requires a perfect balance of strength and delicateness- the lion's power in one measure and the lamb's gentle spirit in the next. The silence after the last notes die away makes me want to drive home with the radio off and ponder what the heck just happened. Wow. It's really strange to say this, but it's like I can feel very close to Grandjany himself when the piece is over. Like he's in the room. Like he's also in tears and he's also exhausted. It's as if I'm not only producing the music, but I'm also simultaneously experiencing it for the first as a listener. Weird. Hard to explain.

Let's talk about hand span for a minute. Guys have the obvious upper hand, as it were, in terms of reaching giant chords... and there are a few places where it takes every ounce of relaxation, strategic hand position, and power for a girl-sized hand to hit some of those non-rolled chords at full volume. Yikes! But it's like riding on the Matterhorn at Disneyland: once it's over, I want to turn around and do a certain passage again. And again. And again.

So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Rhapsody is a harpist's crack and I'm proud to be in the club. I hope to humbly play it for you one day.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Things that I like about this month so far

Things that I like about this month so far:

Finally performing a Pat Metheny tune that I have been drooling over for 9 years: "Just Like the Day." Thank you, Dan Smithiger, for the magical drumset-ness. I will remember that.

A Valentine's Day margarita on the romantic riverwalk of San Antonio (tout seul, mais ce n'est pas grave).

A surprise from my niece: a frog valentine card waiting for me in my post office box.

Practice time. That's something I hadn't had much of in the past months. On the front burners: Grandjany's Rhapsodie (another drool song for me) and Mambo by Bernard Andres.

Sushi in St. Louis.

Tasting my own medicine. In my dictator fashion, I declared Wednesdays a composition day in my harp classes. The students are working on their own compositions and writing them out- sweet! Until one of them asked me to write out one of my own that she'd heard me play. Touché.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Yes we can.

I write this after more than 15 hours of CNN coverage of today's inauguration, and 15.6 miles away from where George W. Bush made his homecoming this afternoon.

What a day. I'm emotionally exhausted and I was just watching it all from my computer at school!

This was a day of "WOW," followed by Yes ... Yes... Yes.

Today was the first day in my adult life that I have been proud to be a United States citizen. I remember being patriotic as a girl, but the past decade of meg-life has been one of cynicism and discontent towards America which has slowly grown into a fluffy tree of bitterness.

I have spent many years hiding my face as an American. I have, on several occasions, apologized to my deceased grandfather for my ungratefulness of his service in the military, and for being so embarrassed for his country, our country. I had been sitting down for the USA. In the place of patriotism I have had no comment. In the place of 4th of July fireworks, I've had skepticism.

But today. Today was the first day that I had hope for us as a nation. I'm standing. In silent somberness, I'm on my feet for President Obama. With a breath of relief, I'm standing in prayer... God bless us, God have mercy on us, forgive us. God help us. You can. Yes You can. Change us. Amen.