Posted by: Marie | December 4, 2012

(761) Mixing work and pleasure

Post #761
[Private journal entry written on Sunday, January 8, 2012]

Well, it’s been an interesting weekend . . .

Yesterday, we held an ensemble clinic at my studio. This is the clinic I created after the teachers associated declared my musical arrangements “not good enough” to be used in their ensemble clinic. Five duets performed for the clinician . . . most were beginning to elementary level. Two ensembles played very simple piano pieces I arranged just for them – Ten Little Indians and Happy Birthday. Another duet involved a piano and a violin – I created an arrangement of America the Beautiful for them. Since the violinist doesn’t read music (Suzuki Method), I had to label every note in her part with the string and finger position . . . which was a challenging task since I don’t play violin, LOL!

Another ensemble involved one gal playing a piece on the piano while the other read a comedic poem (Greedy Dog by James Hurley). The girls are in second grade – of course, their cuteness gave them a leg up with charming the audience! The poem-reading gal used props – when the poem mentioned “string”, she threw a wad a string towards the audience. When the poem mentioned “socks”, she threw an old sock towards the audience.

The audience was almost rolling on the floor by the time she finished . . . it was a hoot!

Then, there was supposed to be a trio made up of three of my most advanced students – I created an arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner just for them. Each student’s part showed off their individual skill levels and each student got to carry the melody for a time. The three are siblings (blended family) . . . and their dad forgot about the clinic and made other plans for the weekend. He realized his mistake two days before the clinic and it was too late to back out of their plans. He called me and very sheepishly confessed his mistake – he was so apologetic that I had to laugh and let him off the hook.

But, I think it may have been for the better because the clinic lasted 75 minutes, even without them. The families of the performers attended the clinic and watched it as if it were a recital – we had 40 people in the audience. The clinician worked with each ensemble for 10-15 minutes, coaching them on how to better work together, how to bring artistry into a group performance, how to deal with technical mishaps, how to deal with human mistakes, etc.

In my mind, I had seen the format being much more relaxed – I imagined that people would be moving around in between groups, which would make that long of a performance much more bearable. But, that didn’t happen. So, the audience was getting pretty wiggly by the time we finished. If the trio had participated, the event’s duration would have been outright intolerable.

The performers really enjoyed the clinic, and so many of the parents told me it was very interesting to see the coaching process – they usually don’t get to see that part of it and they said it gave them a better appreciation for what all goes into an ensemble performance. So, overall, it was a huge success. I think I’ll do it again next year.

And, the plan for the trio is that they will play their piece at the spring recital. They put so much work into preparing it . . . it would be a shame to not provide an opportunity for them to perform it!

Instrument side

Anyway . . . my mom attended the clinic. When she arrived, she had a Christmas gift for me from my sister who lives on the east coast . . . I’d heard about this gift . . . no one would tell me what it was . . . all I knew is that there was a bunch of mystery around it . . .

In the moments before people starting showing up for the clinic, my mom, my mom’s friend, the clinician and I all stood around and tried to figure out what the heck it was . . .

(I’ve included photos of it so you all can see if you know what it is, LOL!)

My mom said that it came from India – my brother-in-law is originally from India and he and my sister were in India visiting a couple of months ago. They bought this thing in India, then they held it on their laps on the flight back to the states, then my Mom carried it on her lap when she flew back from her visit with them recently . . .

Instrument top

There are bellows on both sides, and knobs on the top with multiple holes . . . you can spin the knobs around so that air is allowed to escape from different holes . . . each hole creates a different pitch . . . but, it’s not like you could play it like a flute (or whatever) because you would need one set of hands to pump the billows and another set to twist the knobs . . . so, I’m baffled . . .

Anyway . . . after yesterday’s big production, I’m resting and catching up on emails. I still haven’t received a confirmation from the local police department that they received my report I emailed to them December 27th. So, I sent a second email that included a forward of my first email:

Good Morning, Sergeants Haber and Kling –

I sent the following email to Officer Lopez nearly two weeks ago and requested a brief response from him letting me know he received it. I have not yet received that notification. I also left a voicemail for him about a month ago asking for an update on the case; I never received a response to that voicemail, either. I’m left wondering if my communication methods are effective or not . . .

Since I don’t know to whom Officer Lopez reports, I’m escalating this matter to both of you sergeants listed on the department’s website. While the voicemail is no longer relevant and I don’t need a response to it, I still would like a brief response to the following email so I know the information has been received.

Would you provide that to me, please? Thank you in advance.

– Marie Smith

Quotes 671


  1. A clinic with an audience is a bit of a tough mix. I hope you heard back from the police.

    • Hey, Evan –

      I was pleased with how well the clinic/audience mix worked . . . I’ve seen it before and it has been very effective and encouraging . . . if the students mess up the performance in a recital, there is no second chance. In a clinic, there are multiple chances to perform well . . . it has the pressure of performing with a more forgiving environment.

      – Marie

  2. Marie, we have quite a few overlapping themes in our lives! I should start writing about music more. I loved clinics. I never played with a non-musician audience (just other musicians in the crowd, from the college’s music dept, community, etc). It felt like performance, though- us on a stage, lights dimmed in the audience, applause. We would have two climicians come in, a wonderful husband and wife duo from a neighboring college. They had a great style about them, tag-team critique.
    We also had frequent studio classes with our cohorts, closed and just for the other piano students in my prof’s studio- an intimate group of ~10, he would select a few of us to play on the spot, and then we’d all critique, just gathered around his office, flopped on floor pillows and drinking coffee, it was divine). I imagine that, to some, seeing the refinement process would be interesting, but to others in the crowd, they might feel antsy. Were they aware of the format of the day? Who was your clinician, do you have someone in the community to come and do this, or do you do it yourself?
    I have done some work as a judge with a music organization, and the participants had a chance to sign up for “Evaluation,” which was sort of like a closed clinic. Parents or teacher often sat it, but not always. We’d have a little 10 minute mini-lesson, then I had a chance to write more notes (as they waited anxiously in the hall), then I’d come out to give my written report and a rating of “A, AA, AAA.” But there was pressure behind this. Students would often perform for me their piece that they were also going to use in competition. Sometimes their competition division was first, so they came to Eval relaxed, but I’ve had instances where a student would be scheduled for Eval first, and then Competition immediately following. How could I give any real meaningful feedback right then? I didn’t want to confuse them with correction. So those Evals were just praise and immediate, small corrections (posture, confidence, dynamics, etc).
    Anyways- that cool instrument! I am not sure, can you pump between your knees?

    • Hey, CW –

      I loved to read about your experiences!

      You seem to have a free-flowing creative bent . . . true?

      About the strange instrument . . . I suppose you could pump it between your knees, but I now know that would not be as designed, LOL!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      – Marie

  3. Hi Marie!
    I’d just like to say, when looking at the pictures and description of the gift you got, I thought… could it be that the billows are pumped with the player’s thighs while (s)he turns the knobs? Just a thought… greetings!!

    • Hi, CcyC –
      Thanks for your ponderings about the instrument . . . the next post actually answers the question . . .
      Thanks for stopping by!

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