Monday, October 31, 2011

A spot of millinery on a Monday

Many of you may be attending Melbourne Cup events tomorrow. With this in mind I thought I would share my last minute millinery tips with you. Firstly, you must find a hat. I think that any old hat will do. For instance this year I have chosen my second best gardening hat. I have had it for nearly ten years. It's quite faded and green and has often been scrunched up or left in the car. It's perfect for any occasion. Then you need some frills and fussy things to add to it. Try not to be stylish here. It's a waste of time. Everyone knows the best hats are the ugly, weird looking ones (see for example Princess whatshername at the recent Royal Wedding). To decorate my hat I have chosen a silk scarf that I bought for 5 dollars in the throw out bin at Just Jeans last winter, and a big ugly fake red rose that may have come from diva. Whack it all together in five minutes and you're set for any tacky work function that you may be attending.

Monday will be torture for you today

Dear Monday,

I know it's been some time since our last correspondence. Apologies. I hope you have been keeping well. Me? Why thank you for asking. I've been quite fine. I just have a tiny request. If you could manage it I'd really appreciate it if when I check my stars on my iPhone app you don't begin with "Monday will be torture for you today". I'm sure you can understand what I'm getting at. It really doesn't set one up with the most positive frame of mind towards seizing the day. Your reputation would really be enhanced if avoided describing yourself as "torture" and instead worked towards a happier, rainbow-filled, bouquet of flowers kind of image.

As always, just a few thoughts for you to ponder once you have finished with today before next week.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

It's the circle of 5ths

It's always amazing when you have a breakthrough moment with a student. This happened for me yesterday afternoon while giving a piano lesson to my newest student - an adult who recently completed her Grade 8 practical exam. We were working through some theory when she asked what seemed like a very basic question. How do you know what sharps to write in what order in the key signatures? This was strange I thought. Here's a student who has played pieces of quite a high level yet she's not sure about how the keys work. Tentatively, I asked her if she knew about the circle of fifths? No. The circle of 4ths for flats? No again. So I got a big piece of paper and a pencil and we did some basic maths to show the pattern of how sharp and flat keys work. Once you understand it, it's really very simple but no-one had ever explained this to her before. For instance everything about sharp key signatures moves in fifths. C major has no sharps or flats. If we want to find the major key with one sharp in the key signature we go up a fifth from C - to G. G has 1 sharp - F sharp. If we want to find the major key with two sharps we go up a fifth from G - to D. And then to our F sharp we add a second sharp up a fifth from F - C sharp. So, D major has two sharps F sharp and C sharp. And so it keeps going. Flats work on the same pattern except everything is in 4ths. The look on her face when this clicked was absolutely stunning. She couldn't believe it was so easy. How could she not have realised this before? This encounter emphasised a few things to me. Never assume what a student may or may not know. Always check what might seem even the most basic knowledge. Also, encourage students to ask questions. The learning environment has to be one that encourages them to communicate with you without feeling like they are "stupid". And, as the teacher, I have to listen carefully for even the tiniest cues that might indicate there is a gap in knowledge somewhere that needs to be filled. That lesson made my day.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Stay tooned

For a while there in the last weeks of winter I was starting wonder if I would ever get out of bed at a decent hour again. Even though my alarm would go off at 6:30 most days I would still be snuggled under the doona at 7:30....even 7:45 on a bad day. Then I would have to race around like a very late person in order to get ready and be at work teaching at 9am three days out of five. Thankfully, the sun has started to rise earlier and I am getting out of bed a little bit earlier each day. This means there is time again to drink a cup of green tea before heading off to work instead of scarfing down a bowl of cereal and running out the door. There is also time to write a blog post which is what I am doing now. I am most unimpressed with my reduced blogging activity this year. My twitter addiction, study, work and other writing, as well as piano students and accompanying have all kept my weeks full. Now, though, as the year starts to draw to a close I have a little more time so I plan to try and raise the post count before Christmas. Stay tooned.

Friday, October 14, 2011

me...playing the piano

It's been a little while since my last post (she writes as she hangs her head in shame). I'd like to say I'd been on a lovely, relaxing holiday travelling here, there and everywhere without a care in the world. Not so, my friends, not so. I've been finishing off the teaching term here at uni. I've been marking essays. I've been trying to work on my library assignment. I've been rehearsing for choir concerts which are on this weekend. I've been teaching the piano. I've been attempting to make progress on a draft of an article. I've had a birthday. Of course, none of these things are any excuse for ignoring my blog. But it's like my relationship with exercise at the moment. When I have the time, I don't have the motivation. When I have the motivation I don't have the time. So instead, here's a little piece I'm playing on the weekend at our Celtic themed concerts. Percy Grainger is a fascinating figure in Australian classical music for many reasons. Most people know him for his arrangement of Country Gardens. He was also a wonderful pianist himself, also known for his complicated relationship with his mother, Rose, and his interest in sado-masochism.'s me playing his arrangement of a Scottish folk song, Will ye gang to the hielands Lizzie Lindsay. Enjoy.