An Opportunity to Learn

Its day three of Minnesota’s adventure of sheltering in place. In some ways, this experience is different than I thought it would be; and in others, it is exactly what I expected. There has been progress on that ever-running list of projects that need attention in my space, and based on the current date for students to return to school it looks like I will be working from an online platform for more than two weeks. This break in normal life routine is starting to feel a little bit like a healthy tax return: an abundance of opportunities, but without direction and intent, likely to fade away without any tangible benefits at the end. To put it simply: I don’t want to squander this opportunity to stretch, grow and maybe even try something new. And I’m a little overwhelmed because the opportunities are endless. Literally. Even though physical travel is limited, virtual learning can pull resources from all over the globe. So if you are a new/temporary home school parent looking for projects to support your student’s homework (or even find things to do), or your a student looking to for new ideas to fill time after homework is finished I’ve got some great resources for you!

Anyone interested in creative writing, bullet journaling, or hand lettering?

Boho Berry, which is run by the amazing Kara Benz, is a fantastic place to explore the concept of bullet journaling. If you already are a seasoned bullet journaler, its also a great spot to find new inspiration if you’re feeling stuck in a rut. The concept of bullet journaling has always struck me as a perfect balance of art and words, organization and creativity. First rule of bullet journaling: you don’t have to have a fancy notebook, or do what everyone else is doing – you use what you have and make it work for you.
If you’ve always wanted to try hand lettering, Archer and Olive’s Bonnie Kuhl just lauched a free Modern Calligraphy class. If traditional calligraphy is more your desired style, SkillShare has a wide range of options. (Oh dear . . . SkillShare could become the next black hole in my life!) They also have a particularly interesting 10 day writing challenge class that would be really fun to do in a practicing-social-distancing online group setting.
And if we’re going to mention creative writing, I have to give NaNoWriMo a shout out. Not only do they host a month of crazy writing in November, they also host two (less stressful) events where writers get to pick their own word count coals: NaNoCamp in April and July. (Camping at its finest – no bugs, no leaky air mattresses, access to indoor pluming and hot water . . . but no guarantees regarding crazy neighbors.) Maybe this is the year you take the plunge and write a mini novel in April.

How about health sciences?

The Franklin Institute of Integrative Health Sciences is an accredited college offers evidence based distance learning programs for aromatherapy, herbal science and health coaching. They have a page of free resources which includes upcoming webinars and articles. (Save the date! April 10th – How Essential Oils Work is going to be a great class!)

How about maths?

Dave Ramsey is offering a free two week trial of his Financial Peace University program. I’m told that it is possible to binge watch the entire program in that time frame. Budgeting and investing are skills I wish I’d been taught in high school. Economic uncertainty makes wise money management an invaluable skill – I thought I’d pass along the link just in case anyone is interested.

So far my own choices are a blend of health sciences and fine arts. Two weeks ago I had the chance to take a four-hour class from Franklin Institute on Hydrotheraphy. (I’m still working homework for that.) The rest of my personal class list is filling quickly.
In order to stretch skills I haven’t used in the last decade, I’ve signed up to audit a music theory class from Coursera.org. I am also working my way through a sent of training videos on how to use the SmartMusic software. Last October I looked at incorporating this program into my teaching practice, but never pursued it. Now I’m sorry I didn’t provide that tool to my students and parents sooner.
I’ve signed up for a free trial of SkillShare and am working my way through a class on flat lay photography; I have a second class on traditional photography lined up, though I doubt I’ll have my camera fixed by the time I’m ready to take the class. (Pity.)

Oh so many things to learn and so little time to try! I’d love to hear how you are filling your time and all the things you are learning. Drop me a comment and tell me the best thing you learned today.

music, StayHomeMN

Finding hope outside the box

Hello friends! Life had been changing at all kinds of crazy lately, and I’m starting to think about it in terms of “before” and “after”, although we haven’t really got to after yet . . . we’re still somewhere in the middle if COVID-19. Intentional perspective in my narrowed world is becoming increasingly important. Maybe it is in yours, too. With each change, each directive the state leaders issue trying to contain the spread, its easy to feel like we’re being pushed into smaller and smaller boxes: reducing the size of public gatherings, working from home, and finally today (for Minnesota) sheltering in place. I’m an introvert, so I will admit that I’m not stressed (yet) about being at home for more hours than normal. I really love the people I live with and I’ve got a home to-do-list that is longer than I am tall. I also have a pile of library books the size of a small child weighing down one end of my desk – between reading, lesson preparation, and projects there is no reason for boredom to be part of my reality at any point in the next two weeks.
However, taking a stay-cation and needing to stay home to help reduce the spread of a virus are two different things and I can see the potential for even the strongest of introverts experiencing a little anxiety and stress by the smaller world.

So when a coworker emailed me a link to a creative project the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra posted on YouTube, I intentionally saved it to share with you just before the weekend. Their mini gift to the world – which was not a quick five minute project, but hours of collaboration and editing – is an inspiring example of thinking outside the box to deliver hope and joy. I was inspired by how they chose to think outside the box to figure out how to stay connected with their fellow musicians and then extended that connection in order to share their gift with the world stuck at home. They could have seen it as being stuck, too, but they decided to find freedom in the boundaries and their world grew.

So go watch their cover of Beethoven’s 9th – I don’t think it was an accident that they picked the movement known as Ode to Joy. While you listen, think about how you can use your gifts to bring someone else joy. Let me a comment and share your ideas – because God gave us unique and different gifts so we could be stronger together.

dear students

Thursday Music Class: String’s Club Special

Dear Students,
Just because we can’t have in real life practices doesn’t mean that we should be putting ensemble practice to the side. I’m working on a set of lessons we can do together that will help our group play skills, and this mini project is a hint at things to come.

MPR has their new daily music lesson up, and I was thrilled to see that its focus connects to some of the things we had been discussing in our February rehearsals. Do you remember when we played tag with a solo? One member played a measure from a piece of music, at at the following measure, the next musician had to be ready to take over – repeating through the group until the entire song had been played. The goal was to make it sound like one one instrument was playing instead of (in our case) five by matching the rate of decay for each last note in a measure. It was a really great exercise in reading music, counting together and listening carefully to match the tone and volume of the other players. What you might not know is that we were also experimenting with melodic contouring – the shape that is created with a line of music.

Today’s assignment = head over to the MPR lesson on Melodic Contouring. Take a careful look at the line drawings they posted, then pick one of the listening samples. Create a basic line doodle of what you think the melodic contour of your chosen clip looks like. Take a picture and send it to me. (Make sure your song title is on your doodle so I know which clip to listen to!) Then – and this is the really fun part! – get ready to see how visual artists get creative with melodic contouring.

There is a growing movement of animators to create line riders – tiny cartoon characters that ride a line of music. A year ago there was barely a handful of videos on YouTube and it was strictly classical music. At this point, there are line riders for pop songs, techno, soft rock, and even the mashups made popular by The Piano Guys. The ability to see the shape of music changes the way we hear it, as well as how we play it.
Watch the video for Edvard Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King and leave me a comment telling me if you thought the animator did an accurate representation of the music with their line drawing. Remember that harmony and rhythm combined with the melody make a three dimensional shape, so remember to listen to how the piece changes around the melody as you watch the line move.

I can’t wait to see what you create!
Miss Cara

PS – Bonus tip: sometimes the melodic contour can be a hint as to the quality of music. Think about the shape of one of the songs on your current play list – is it complex or is it simple? Is it repetitive or is it varied?


Believe it or not . . .

. . . moving violin lessons to an online platform works surprisingly well. I haven’t quite gotten my studio re-set for the transition of working from home again, but technology has come a long way since the last time I experimented with this platform of connecting with and encouraging students.

I strongly believe that music is a good coping mechanism for uncertainty, it is therapeutic, and any degree of stability and normality I can bring to this unusual situation will (I hope) be seen as a benefit to the students. Online lessons may not be ideal, but they will maintain forward motion and a community connection that is becoming increasingly important.

I am also convinced that the music that shapes our environment is a key component to our general outlook. I’ve found that streaming Minnesota Public Radio’s classical station during my work hours has made a distinct impact on my ability to focus as well as remain calm in stressful situations.
When Minnesota’s governor announced the temporary closure of all schools, MPR launched a new page dedicated to musical activities for students – Classical Kids Music Lessons. There is a current backlog of about four music themed activities and each one explores a different idea connected to music. (I will be utilizing their lessons to review specific concepts with my students in the next few days.)

MPR’s Classical station also has a wonderful selection of live-streams to integrate music into your day. I tend to gravitate toward their classical stream, but they also have a choral stream, or relaxing piano music. And just for fun, they have a program called Friday Favorites at 3:00 p.m. where you can request your favorite classical pieces . . . which I might have done on behalf of the Double Sharp Strings Club. Listen in tomorrow and see if our request gets played on air!