Organists of the World: Demand Your Rights!

Earlier this week, while on a visit to our country estate (a.k.a. my sister-in-law’s house northeast of Cincinnati), McDoc and I stumbled upon an amazing sight!

reserved for org

Sure, it looks like just an ordinary parking space, but look closer:

reserved for org CU

That’s right, yo! If you’ve ever been in a church parking lot (and who doesn’t hang out in them?), you may have noticed something along these lines. Oh, sure — that’s easy. But if you took a survey of churchgoers, asking them whether they’d rather skip the sermon or the music — well, I think you’d get a good idea of who the real VIP is in this context. πŸ˜‰

BTW, when we stopped to take this picture, a car was just pulling into it. “Are you the organist?” I asked the driver, fully prepared to make a citizen’s arrest if he had said no. He identified himself as the choir director, so I had to let him off the hook. He kindly backed up so I could have my photo opp, then he told us the back story. It seems a previous organist liked to do her grocery shopping in between the early and late services, and having a reserved space meant she could slip into the church just in time even after the rush of congregants had arrived. Very efficient, I’d say!

Thanks to the choir director of Lebanon United Methodist Church for being so friendly! πŸ™‚



Random Number Memory Generator

McDoc wants to take piano lessons.

He asked me the other night what I thought the general prognosis was for adult piano students – how well do they generally do?

In my experience, the challenge for adult students is to tolerate the discomfort of not immediately being able to play as well as they want to. Typically, they know what the music is supposed to sound like, and they have particular pieces they love and really want to be able to play, but there’s a gap between what they hear in their mind’s ear and what they can do – at least at the beginning. Of course, the same is true of kids to some extent, but I think kids are more accustomed to, and comfortable with, being in learning mode. Adults have a strong expectation of competence from themselves, and can get frustrated easily when it’s lacking.

Having said that, though, I think the prognosis for adult students is very good, IF they’re willing to work at it. You know the saying, “Anything that’s worth doing is worth doing well?” Well, that’s fine when you’re already at the top of the mountain, but I don’t think it’s very encouraging when you’re staring up from the base. I actually prefer to say, “Anything that’s worth doing is worth doing badly,” meaning that it’s okay to be imperfect – the only way to improve, the only way to work out the kinks, is to see where they are.

I also said that how well an adult student does depends on what their goals are starting out. McDoc said, “Yeah, I know you can’t expect to play all 106 Beethoven sonatas right away.” Indeed! πŸ˜€

“I think you’re thinking of Haydn,” I said — Haydn having written 106 symphonies.

Beethoven wrote only 32 piano sonatas – though it might as well be 106, considering how difficult they are.

That thought activated my brain’s random memory generator – what, you think that’s weird? C’mon, everybody has one!

At a summer “piano camp” I attended when I was 18, the students were required to memorize the statistics of all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas: opus number, key, and title, if any. Maybe the number of movements, too – I don’t remember exactly (if not, I think that would’ve been a good idea). It was a good mental exercise, I think, though I must confess I haven’t retained more than a vague sense of it in the intervening years. At the time, there were as many anguished cries of “why do we need to know this?” as you might have expected to hear in a math class. πŸ™‚

I was at the top of the eligible age range for this particular program, so I was surrounded by hordes of little prodigies, dang them. I had a couple of advantages, though: for one, I had just finished my first year of college (I was something of an overgrown prodigy myself), and had taken the full load of music major courses, so I was excused from the music theory class when the instructor discovered on the first day that I could have taught it myself. (In fact, if he had been smart, he would have paid me a cut rate to take his place while he went out for long lunches!) Also, since I was legally an adult, I was allowed to wander off unchaperoned from the college campus where the camp was held. I didn’t have a car, but I had a map and motivation beyond all logic, so I put a water bottle in my backpack and trekked through the streets of Orange County, California in the summer heat in search of a drug store. An 18-year-old woman who’s determined to buy makeup is a force to be reckoned with. πŸ˜‰


Miss Music Nerd 2.0

Happy June, Music Nerds everywhere!

I have been in a dark place lately. Way too much of this:


…and not nearly enough of this:


That being the case, I have been hesitant to inflict myself on the world.

What is the cause of this sad state of affairs, you ask? Well, I have been afflicted with the paralysis of perfectionism. It’s an insidious condition that stops you in your tracks, so afraid that anything you do will be inadequate, you just don’t do anything at all.

If ever you’re able to look at it in the light of day with a rational eye, you see very easily that it’s complete and total horse hockey. But when it’s the middle of the night and those random shadows on the wall seem undeniably real, you sorta lose perspective.

And after awhile, up crop all the nagging questions that typically accompany generalized existential angst:

Why am I here?

Why do I write?

What’s the point of it all?

(Side note: I noticed from looking at my stats that readership is higher during the weekdays than on the weekends. That led me to conclude that people were reading my blog when they ought to be working instead. Am I responsible for distracting people? Leading them down a garden path, and contributing to a decrease in productivity, hurting the economy — and thereby hurting America? πŸ˜‰ )

You know what, though? If you do this tortured-artist song and dance long enough, it becomes tiresome, finally. I know I’m tired of it. So I’ve made a decision.

The internal voice that reflexively says “not so fast, young lady” – the inner critic that finds a way to damn everything before it even exists – I hereby banish it.

Enough already. Whether I really did something so outrageous on some long-ago occasion that I needed to install such a filter in my brain, or whether it’s just part of the birthright – more like a birth defect – of my cultural milieu, I now declare: point taken. Lesson learned. We can move on now.

I’ve decided to simply give myself permission. Carte blanche. To write about whatever I want. Music will always be my first love, but music won’t be jealous if I love other topics as well. (The first commenter who asks, “Why are you writing about [some non-musical topic] on a blog called ‘Miss Music Nerd'” will get some kind of a prize. Maybe something like this.) Does that mean I risk going overboard occasionally? Sure. Is this whole thing a bit of an over-correction? Absolutely. But it’s a risk I’m willing to take, finally. No one’s physical safety is at stake, after all; if I screw up, it might be embarrassing, but no animals will be harmed. πŸ˜‰


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