Teaching Orchestra and Band in a Digital Space: Day 10

Routine & Balance

After ten days of teaching remotely, plus a week of keeping track of assignments the week before, while preparing to be a virtual teacher, this thing we now think of as remote teaching, is starting to feel routine. Teaching from my makeshift home office is starting to feel almost normal too. In fact, it’s surprising to me how this pattern has evolved over these three weeks.

At first I kept the same sleep schedule and my morning routine for the sake of not making too many adjustments. After all remote teaching was at first supposed to last for about a month. Then after a few announcements by the WA State Governor Inslee, then the CDC stating that this may very well be our collective reality at least until May, I started to change my mind set about this experience. I became more positive and started approaching long term solutions to some of the challenges facing me, my students and most certainly my family. After all, they too are stakeholders in this environment with me.

The routine is becoming cemented with me, so I’m sure my students are starting to feel it as well. Working from home is no longer the hurtle it was two weeks ago, and now I’m most concerned with the balance of working from home and still being a good father and husband for my family. It seem that the work-life and home-life balance I had been trying to figure out before the coronavirus era began, is still something I’m going to need to tweak and work out. Funny how the challenges of being a full time teacher during regular work hours and keeping an active performance career doesn’t really change in our current situation. I still need to find the time in my day to work on my ability to play the trumpet, and lesson plan for my students with the added advantage of becoming 1/2 of our home school faculty for our kid. 

New challenges are coming. Old challenges are evolving. The earlier wave of obstacles is becoming routine.

My Old Notebooks

I usually carry a notebook in my backpack. It’s become a habit for me to just pull it out and jot down what’s on my mind or notes from a meeting, chord progressions, tone rows…anything I need to put on paper.  Sometimes I may even take a moment to review a notebook from its first page, so it functions as a journal as well. Dates may or may not be written in the notebook, the end of a thought might not be articulated due to some sort of distraction. In any case, I am fascinated by past me and those thoughts.

Recently I went looking through one of my old notebooks and found one of my melted thought-cicles on one of its pages. I referenced a picture of me and my dad. At the time he was diagnosed with cancer and I was in town to visit him. I can’t remember the reason for this particular picture or what were we staring at, but my notes about that moment seem more contemplative and vulnerable.

I lost him 6 months after that picture was taken, and I miss him. My guess is that my old notebooks are time machines because that particular entry took me right back to the moment that picture was taken, and I am lucky to have both to help me grieve.

 

Appreciation, Hip Hop and Fatherhood

As a musician and a teacher, I have had the pleasure to be a part of many cool moments of discovery. This even happens with my daughter sometimes. I still remember with pride when I asked her “Can I Kick It” and she replied (appropriately) “Yes You Can”. Thank you, Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed and Jarobi for that moment. 

Recently I had another one of those with my kid. She asked to listen to “Intergalactic” by the Beastie Boys…so  I put it on in the car. She said she likes the robot sounds in the song, but she always cracks at the end of the track when Biz Markie jumps in at the end of it. We listened to it again with the same result, so I decided to play “Just A Friend” for her. She loved it and sang the chorus the whole way home. 

Soon we’ll have an awesome playlist for our father-daughter car rides.

Tears at random times

I can’t say I usually cry at movies, however with the recent loss of my father I’m finding it difficult to sit through certain scenes in movies. This morning I fell victim to one of these moments while scrolling through things on Facebook. It reminded me of my relationship with my dad, and I appreciate him for it.

To say the James Earl Jone and Courtney B. Vance are brilliant actors, would be an understatement. However for some reason this scene from the play version of Fences took me down. Since the movie version of Fences has been such a success, it’s nice to see versions of the stage version as well.

The things students do

The past four weeks have been quite difficult for me. I had to take a significant amount of time away from my day job as a middle school music teacher to care for my father. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about that as I continue to cope with losing him. However with all that has happened, my students remind me (yet again) why I am a teacher, by creating this message for me.

They did manage to include music we have been studying and a song I made them research earlier in the school year. Great way of connecting our curriculum. Nice job Soundview Class of 2017.

Coping with first day of 1st grade

000255x_rain_on_pavementMy breathing becomes labored, I don’t know what to do with my hands. By the time I get to my car, I’ve got several tears rolling down my face. Luckily it’s raining…so if anyone saw me they might think it was just the rain. It’s 9:30 in the morning on the first day of first grade for my kid and I can’t deal. The car door closes and I can’t hold my tears any more…

A few simple words sent me into this state. First I apologized to my kid for forgetting to give her, her medication. Then she said “It’s okay daddy, things happen. This will help me with my day, I’m really nervous”.  We talked some more and by the end of the conversation she gave me a hug and a kiss, then went back to her new classroom and I walked back to my car.

img_1024The image of her walking towards her classroom stayed with me the rest of the day. If I had this moment back, I might have ask her for one more hug.

Sia is my kid’s spirit animal

The idea of a spirit animal is a cool concept. If you look online you might find a test that might match you with a creature which may best represent you.R-2150791-1309692006.jpeg However, the topic at the moment is Sia and how my daughter has committed every song in her catalog to memory. I can’t explain why she like her music so much, but I appreciate her good taste. When ever I find an acoustic version of one of her songs I try to share it with my kid. And she loves every version my wife and I find for her.

The Mouthpiece Question

I know what your thinking, yet another trumpeter writing about the importance of mouthpiece selection and striking the perfect balance between back-bore and throat size. I happen to follow all those trends religiously but this isn’t another one of those rants. Coincidentally, I currently play a Laskey 75C with a standard throat and back-bore, not that it matters. The question about mouthpieces comes up for me at least twice a year. I’ve noticed this pattern over the past 5 or 6 years.DV016_Jpg_Large_471542.908_75MD

The question comes up because I want to improve my performance on the trumpet. Which usually leads me to examine my approach to the instrument and the art of creating music. In reality it’s a small question that leads to bigger thoughts. The progression of questions might start off like this:

 Should I play a 22 throat with a symphonic back-bore like I did for 12 years or stay with what I have currently?

  Am I producing the sound I want the audience to hear?

  Am I performing music as the composer’s intended and am I being true to the style of music I am performing?

  Am I growing as an artist and educator of music?

•  Can I continue to perform music and have a meaningful family life?

•  Do I make enough money as a musician and educator?

•  Am I doing everything I can to provide for my kid?

•  Should I finish this bottle of wine or just go to bed?

IMG_3313

4-up on 12-11-14 at 5.30 PM #9 (compiled)This is jus a small sampling of the rabbit hole I fall into late at night/early morning. It starts off with the idea of playing a different mouthpiece and whether it’s the “Right Move”. Then there are the other question… Can I afford it financially….Can I afford not to make a change?

Too many questions … Maybe I’ll open up the back-bore next month.

Back To School

While I recognize the changes that occur in my life around the month of September are major shifts, I can’t help the feeling of running head first into the truth….. that I am an adult. Maintaining stability in two art based professions while dealing with parental and husbandly duties, is a total shift from the summer schedule of stay at home dad while checking off items listed on my “honey do/due list”.

Photo on 8-5-14 at 6.38 PM IMG_2307

Having met my “honey do” goals, and satisfied the unicorn adventures with my kid. I now feel the focus of the other parts of my existence starting to flower. At home I get to watch football. As a teacher I go back to my favorite cup to sip coffee out of and listen to copious amounts of Beethoven for our Romantic Music Unit. Finally there is the constant wonderment on seeing the stars.

beethoven-eyes-detail-1 IMG_1675

Finding those little moments within my work and home duties, seems to be the fun at this point. Almost like stealing a single serving point of personal enjoyment while being an adult.

IDL TIFF file

Old Things

Recently I took my computer to a repair shop where I was told that there wasn’t much that could be done to salvage the machine. Normally this wouldn’t bug me, except I realized it was the computer hard-drive that had all the family photos and videos. I have most of this stuff backed up on an external device, however that machine was a big part of how we shared our new family member with the rest of the world.

My kid and I watched out first cartoons on that computer. My wife and I ordered our kids birthday presents and planned parties with that machine. We skyped and facetimed with my parents and my kid met cousins for the first time. My wife created fantastic picture book with photos of our adventure with our kid. The list goes on…

Like most things you grow out of, you move on to the next thing and keep the parts that represent good memories.

MacBook_Pro