Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas...

Between moving, running the kids, and Christmas quickly approaching, life has been a bit full lately. Thanks to a huge snowstorm, however, everything has come to a complete standstill and we have had some time to enjoy the holidays. Couldn't go anywhere this weekend, so we were able to help Grammy bake cookies. School was cancelled two days this week already so we have gotten a lot of practice and homeschooling done.

The kids have had a number of performing opportunities this month. It has been really neat to see Haley and Dylan practice together and arrange their music together. They are playing so much better than last year. The improvement is dramatic. Dylan is more confident and playing a wider variety of chords. He is more creative in how he accompanies Haley. Haley has made dramatic improvements in her playing both classical and fiddle.
We found out a couple days age that Haley was selected for the Suzuki Youth Orchestra of the Americas in Minneapolis in May 2010. We had sent in an audition tape back in October. The tape was a little funny because she had played through the song, Vivaldi's Concerto in A Minor 3rd Mvmt, 4-5 times trying to play it at the slower tempo her teacher had suggested. Afterward, her teacher suggested that she play it through once at whatever tempo she chose. In the beginning of the tape, she is giggling from sheer joy at being "let loose." Then she plays the song so musically but she made a tiny error once then quickly recovered (shifted when she shouldn't have). Her teacher recommended sending in that recording which we did. I was a little worried that the mistake would keep her from being selected but it didn't.
So, Christmas is almost here. We are in our new home. We have three beautiful, talented kids. We have a lot to be thankful for this Christmas.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Parenting Responsibly...

Okay, I know it's been months since I have blogged. Life gets in the way sometimes. Our home of 15 years has sold this month and we have to be out of it by the end of this month...talk about stressful. Wouldn't be so bad if all we had to do was pack but with the kids' schooling and all their activities...ahhhh!!!

Newt is in school for the first time. He loves it and is adjusting fairly well. It took a couple weeks to get his classes situated which wasn't the best start to his schooling career but with a little help from Aunt Dale, things have improved.

Haley auditioned for Temple's Youth Classic Strings emsemble and was accepted into the 1st violins section. The director is very impressed with her playing ability.

So, we are packing and moving. We won't have to pay tuition for Newt's school anymore and Dylan is thinking he may want to try school next year. We downsized a bit on the new house but it is a neat place with 1.65 acres and a separate building that will become Daddy's "Man Cave."

I was talking to Haley's violin teacher about needing to keep our monthly payments the same so we can continue with the kids' activities. She understood our reasoning, since she has very musically gifted children. We know we spend nearly a mortgage payment on Haley's music every month but we also know how much she profits from our efforts and see that she has this amazing potential so the only way we can be responsible parents to her is to give her the opportunity to see where she can go with her "gift." Hence, downsizing.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Jessica's Wedding...

Once upon a time there was a beautiful little girl who walked down the aisle at my wedding with her little brother and sister as the flowers girls and ring bearer. That was 16 years ago this month and now that beautiful little girl is a beautiful woman who will be walking down the aisle as the bride in her own wedding. Time flies....

Tomorrow morning we will be making a quick trip to Boone, NC for Jessica's wedding.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fiddle Camp...

Back in February when Haley noticed a website announcing Kevin Burke teaching at Swannanoa Gathering, I was picturing the Suzuki camps we have attended in years past with lots of young people in attendance.

The first day was a bit rough and hot...not enough signs telling us where to go, having to unpack our belongings in the heat, and a very long orientation which wouldn't have been so difficult for Haley except that she was dying to see Kevin Burke and his flight was delayed so he wasn't there yet.

Getting lost had its good points. We found a great swing for down times and learned our way around really well. I didn't schedule Haley for the first class period so she had time to play and practice her classical music in the morning. We found a lovely little spot under an arbor with privacy for the most part except for the occassional passerby. The camp was big...a lot of people and performers/teachers (famous in the Celtic music world) for every instrument. I think there were 7 fiddle teachers.

Haley had a fiddle technique class in the late morning that was a little below her level so she was bored. I had signed her up for that one thinking there would be more children in it. She made some more "adult" friends who sat with us at meals.

She absolutely loved her class with Kevin Burke. It was 2.5 hours with a half hour break in the middle. She waited for that class all day. Monday he taught them 2 songs...Kathy (Haley's fiddle teacher) had said he doesn't usually like to teach songs in his camp classes but thought he would because Haley was there. After class he gave Haley a book with the music for the songs on his CD that she loves and autographed it for her. Some of the other performers saw the article about her winning the Fleadh while performing in Philadelphia prior to the camp because the daughter of the banjo teacher said she had seen the article. She and Haley made friends and spent a lot of time together. Shaunagh was almost 12 years old and was wonderful with Haley.

There were no kids near Haley's age in any of her classes. All the kids near her age were in the children's program which was basically baby sitting while parents took classes. There were a few teens in her classes. It didn't bother Haley any. She talked with her adult friends and a number of them asked for her autograph saying she'll be famous someday and they can say they knew her when... She played in a slow jam session Monday afternoon and caused the usual stir. The guys leading that jam session asked her to start a couple tunes...saying "Only people wearing pink shoes can play this one." They kept watching her play and she happened to know all but one of the songs they played in the hour. Kevin lead the slow jam session Tuesday and we also attended on Wednesday because Haley's friend, Shanaugh's, mom was leading the session so Haley sat with Shanaugh and played.

There were great concerts given by half the teachers Monday night and the other half Wedneday. Both lasted from 7:30 until 10:30. Haley slept off and on through the second half on Monday night but woke completely up to see Kevin perform last. Wednesday night, she spent the first half of the concert seated with me. Right before intermission, they called up the scholarship winners. Haley and 6 "kids" in their late teens and early 20s (the scholarship was available to people under 23yo). Everyone awwwed when Haley went up with the others onto the stage. The guy announcing asked that they hold applause until the end of him reading the names and giving them certificates but when Haley was called up second to last everyone clapped and cheered anyway.

After the concert, Haley was determined to join Shanaugh at a late night session. She hadn't wanted to before last night because she was so tired. We found Shanaugh. Haley ate a hotdog with them...she hadn't liked dinner, then we all went over to an area to play a few tunes. There were tents set up all over for people to jam in (I think 5 tents) but we went to a place with a rock wall and steps to sit on. Haley, Kathleen, Shaunagh, and two concertina players (one of them Grainne who is also a wonderful harpist) began playing. Some of the other teachers joined them (a button accordian player and a bagpipe player) and people began to crowd around including a number of the other teachers who were not playing but just socializing. A large crowd gathered and people began taking photos and video on cell phones...of Haley. One guy who we'd eaten with at a meal, said that Haley was the star of Swannanoa Gathering. I think everyone at camp heard her play or heard about her playing.

Around 12:30 it began to sprinkle and since we weren't under a tent, Haley put her fiddle away and we decided to go (not even realizing how late it was until we got back to the room at almost 1am!!). As we were leaving Kevin Crawford from Lunasa and Martin Hayes stopped us to talk about Haley. Besides Kevin B., Martin Hayes was probably my favorite performer. Martin said that Haley was "the most astonishing young fiddle player (he's) even seen!"

Tuesday and Thursday nights there were dances. It was wonderful seeing the performers playing together as a ceili band. They seemed to enjoy each other's company which was nice to see. I always marvel at the friendliness of people in the Celtic music world. Haley did a duet with Shaunagh for the student showcase Friday night. It took some time for them to decide on a tune set because they had different tune repertoires but they did a good job together especially given that they only had 2 days to work on it together.

I enjoyed my time shuffling Haley to classes and reading outside her classes. It was really nice to have the time with nothing to do since my life at home is so scheduled. I didn't expect the reaction Haley's playing received. I expected there to be more kids. I always expect to go somewhere and find another child like Haley who enjoys playing music like she does. I actually wish for that to happen. All in all it was a great week.

Haley is really looking forward to seeing Shaunagh in Ireland when we go for the Fleadh next month. Tonight the kids are doing a fundraising concert for the trip. So many people have stepped forward to help us raise money. I am so grateful to them all and don't even have the words to express my appreciation. It is just amazing to me and another example of the wonderful people in the Irish music world.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A New Chapter...

Every so often, I feel as if we are opening a new chapter in Haley's musical life. Lately, we are turning those pages very quickly. Yesterday, Haley had her first lesson with Brian Conway. He heard Haley play at the Fleadh and asked if he could teach her. I found out that Kathy had him in mind for Haley at some point but couldn't figure out the logistics since he lives 2.5 hours away.

He told us that he wasn't taking on any new students and was allowing his student load to drop off by attrition but when he heard Haley play, he couldn't pass up the opportunity to teach her.

We had to drive in pouring rains which caused traffic and accidents making our 2.5 hour drive into a 3.5 hour drive. We were a half hour late for the lesson and Brian had a wedding to attend so was only able to teach her for about 45 min. In that 45 minutes he gave her so much information. He gave her exercises for practicing techniques, bowing specifics for jigs, went over a new tune with her, and played her 2 other reels to think about for Ireland. He doesn't know her yet...so will probably be a bit surprised when she has them learned by the time he sees her again.

If only we didn't live so far away. I feel that he has so much he can teach her and she will soak it all up like a sponge. Our summer is crazy busy with camps, weddings, and Ireland.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


We had a long, exhausting, but wonderful and exciting day at the MidAtlantic Regional Fleadh competition. I had signed Haley up for the competition because her fiddle teacher thought it would be a good experience for her with kids playing music all over the venue and she would get to hear other young Celtic musicians plus get some comments on her playing from the judges.

I should have guessed we'd have a good day when Haley was practicing in the cafeteria (there were kids all over practicing their tunes on different instruments) and people were stopping to listen to her. One woman stopped then came closer and listened then said, "There are going to be a lot of scared competitors when they see you today."

When we went to the hall outside the room where the competition was, there was a group of 5 older girls gawking and commenting on Haley and her little fiddle. I overheard another mother talking to someone with her and caught part of her conversation about how kids gain so much in maturity as they get older and how someone they knew started playing fiddle at 7yo but didn't start competing until 12yo...she obviously thought it was wrong of us to have brought Haley to compete.

Haley was the youngest by far...the next youngest was probably Alexander at 10.5yo and the oldest could have been as old as 13.5yo (the birthday cut-off was January). All the other kids were playing 3/4 to full size instruments.

There were so many kids that they split the kids into two groups at the last minute. Haley was to go last in her group and as I sat listening to them all, I was getting really scared because I knew she played better than all of them (many were out of tune and/or no rhythm at all and others who played pretty well were nervous). The older woman judging looked completely miserable until Haley started playing then she broke into a smile and started tapping along. When Haley finished, she asked how old she was (she hadn't said more than two words to the other competitors) and she smiled and shook her head when Haley told her. I knew Haley was going on and I was just hoping that the good players all happened to be in the other group because we were really looking forward to hearing some excellent players.

Haley's friend, Alexander, went on to the next round from his group...they picked 6 from each group to go to the next round. His parents came out raving about 2 girls and a boy in his room who played really well. The judge had told the kids that song choice was very important and that many had chosen songs above their ability levels. She said it would be better to pick an easy song and play it well rather than a difficult song played poorly. After the round, the woman who I had overheard previously was telling her daughter, "Oh, she's just a natural. Some kids are born like that." Then she was all sweet and friendly toward us.

We had to wait around all day until 3:00 for the call back round. During the wait, we went into the room where the competition was being held. There were a few people waiting. A man came in who I recognized but couldn't place. He was talking to the others then one of them told him "We have a 6 year old in this round." He pointed Haley out and the man came over and asked her to play for him. He asked her to play another song then another one. He asked who her teacher was and Haley's fiddle teacher happened to be his his agent. The man was Brian Conway...the NY Sligo fiddler/teacher who the mother of an 18yo fiddler who plays at some of the sessions I take Haley to told us about. He was very impressed with Haley and offered to teach her. He gave me his email address and number.

The judge for the final round was from Ireland. Haley went second. There were so many wide-eyed looks and whispers around the room after she played. There were 3 other kids who played very well. One girl from Canada who I thought was excellent...she won the slow airs competition earlier in the day. Once everyone was finished playing this judge also spoke about song choice and not picking songs beyond ability level. He told everyone he was looking for tone quality, left hand position, bow skills, posture and rhythm especially at this young age, and not looking as much at ornamentation though it did play a part in his decision and the standards at this competition were very high.
He announced 3rd then 2nd place (two of the kids I thought played really well). That left the girl who I thought played best and I was mentally comgratulating myself on having picked the winners. The judge said the person who took 1st place had blown him away because she showed such command of her instrument, way beyond her age, so much so that she played like someone who had been playing for years and years.
At this point I was still thinking this described the other girl but then he called Haley's name!! We were all so shocked that it took a few minutes to sink in. I had to go up and get her trophy because it was so big and heavy. We have to have her name put on the trophy and give it back next year for the next winner.

When I called Haley's teacher to tell her, she was shocked and she said that Brian Conway had stopped her in the hall and told her he wanted to steal her student. After we met him, I told my mom that it was worth the trip to NY just to have met him and have him hear Haley play. At that time I had no idea what the rest of the day would hold. Haley called her Daddy to tell him and he didn't believe her. I heard her telling him 3-4 times then he wanted to talk to me.

The next day, Haley and her partner took 3rd in the duet competition. They were the only duet pair out of 9 who played the same instrument. I think the judges were looking for the different instruments and how the kids worked them together. Haley and her partner played really, really well together. They were focused, in tune, and perfectly timed with one another.
There were two judges for this competition and one was the judge from the finals on Saturday who had awarded Haley first place. He smiled and waved to her when he walked in and saw her and she "flirted" back. Haley and Alexander went first and their actual playing was better than any of the other groups. When the judges announced the winners they said they didn't necessarily pick the best musicians (so I knew the kids hadn't won first LOL) but picked the winners based on how well they coordinated their separate instruments. The judge who called up Haley and Alexander for 3rd said that they had worked out what they were going to play with some nice variations, played beautifully together, and their timing was impeccable. He said, "One didn't blink without the other blinking too." LOL

I thought the kids who took second had done a great job together (a fiddler and a tin whistle) though the fiddler was a bit out of tune at times. The ones who took first, I would not have picked at all (pianist and tin whistle). I think the piano had a bit of an advantage because they were the only group to have an accompaniment (the pianist's left hand) whereas all the other instruments were melody only (both people in the duet have to play the melody...they can't harmonize or accompany). There were two girls (accordian and flute) who I thought were the best duet and I was a little disappointed they didn't win though after Haley's win yesterday, not much surprises me.

So, now we have a trip to Ireland to plan (passports to obtain, flights to figure out, accommodations to find and most don't have websites or addresses on the web so I can't figure out which are closest to where we need to be because they told me that the town gets sooooo crowded that you can barely drive once the weekend comes) so Haley can compete in the All Ireland Fleadh. It is very exciting!
I have to figure out how we can get back home in time for Haley to go to New Hampshire for Suzuki camp which is the following week. Plus figure out how we can make it to our niece's wedding the weekend before we are supposed to leave and change our reservations in North Carolina because we were going to make that trip into our family vacation.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Time flies...

I am having a hard time keeping up with blogging. Time is flying by and before I realize it, another month has gone by. Own time is filled with schooling, running from one activity to another, keeping up with the house, and musical performances.

It seems that one performance leads to another for my kids like a giant snowball. The kids performed at Pittsgrove Day. They played three 20 minute sets. Someone called Sunday before last who had seen their card and visited their website. He asked them to perform with his Blues band last Friday evening. They had a lot of fun doing that and even got on stage with the Blues band to try out some blues. They have sold quite a few CDs and probably would sell more if I remembered to take some with us to performances. LOL

Haley is still working through Book 4. She will play the Vivaldi A Minor Concerto (1st movement) for the end of year concert next Sunday evening. It is a little risky since she just finished learning all of it a couple days ago. I mean, she has known the notes for a long time but played it her own way, without shifting. Don't ask me how. Anyway, she is getting it and tends to play better under audience pressure so I am hopeful she will pull it together. Her teacher and I decided that 2 lessons a week would be a good idea for now. So we've fit them in when able or when needed. Her music is getting more and more difficult for me to keep up with and I was a little panicked when her teacher agreed that it would only get harder.

We are headed to NY today for the Mid-Atlantic CCE Fleadh fiddle competition. Haley came down with bronchitis yesterday but we got her to the doctor's quickly so she is on antibiotics and nebulizer (I realized that she hadn't really had a respiratory illness since she was almost 4yo so we hadn't needed the nebulizer for years...I thought maybe she'd outgrown needing it but that's not the case, she just hadn't been sick.). She is feeling a little better today so she should be almost herself by tomorrow...just with a nasty cough.

Dylan really took a liking to the blues when he played last weekend. His teacher is a very good blues musician so has been teaching him a bit. When Dylan played the singer of the blues band told us he played better than some people who have played for 20 years or more! Dylan has been practicing guitar for hours lately. I love that he has found something he is passionate about and wants to work for.

Newt loves the new electric drum set. It gives him a way to show his skills during performances. We are about to turn in the paperwork so he can enter school in the fall and he is beside himself with excitement. I am happy for him though I will miss having him around so much. He will do great. He always does.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Catching Up...

It has been awhile since I last posted and so much has happened I can't possibly write it all here. I will give a little recap of the most exciting events here. The kids had lots of performance opportunities around St. Patrick's Day. They were asked to play for the retirement home where Haley performs monthly with her Suzuki teacher for their first paid gig. Things just exploded from there. I keep likening their music to a snowball that keeps gaining momentum. They played at the coffeehouse with a local strings group...did their own 15 minute set in between the other group and received a standing ovation, played at a retirement community, played in bars (okay, we only took Haley to hang out in bars), and had the opportunity to play with a new set of "adult friends" (Haley's title for the people she plays with at adult sessions.) at the Charlesworth in Fortesque and then with a few just last weekend at one of their homes. That was a beautiful afternoon...peach blossoms everywhere, warm weather, playing in a garden, and Irish music.

Haley finished up Book 3 and played a mini concert for her teacher and I. She is now working through Book 4. She will play her first polished piece from the book at their retirement home concert on Friday. We are very excited that she received a full scholarship to the fiddle camp she begged me to register her for...Kevin Burke will be her teacher for the advanced fiddle classes. She emailed him to let him know she was excited to be coming and he emailed back saying he couldn't wait to see her (very cute!!) We are at a crossroads now with her violin playing. Her music is getting more difficult for me at the speed she is moving and we are considering options like an extra lesson or a practice partner to help.
Dylan saved and saved his money for months and months and last week purchased himself a new Fender (1X12) amplifier. He practices all the time now and is getting really good. This weekend I heard him calling out the chords for another guitarist and even though the other guy probably may have known them anyway, it was neat to see Dylan able to do that.

Newt was very excited that Poppop and Grammy bought him an electric drum set. It is very light and portable so when the kids perform as a "band" he can take it along. He gets bored just playing the bodhran and loves being able to "show off" his skills with the new drumset.
The kids have been having a great time "writing" their own music and recording it at the studio. It is neat that they have the opportunity to explore that side of music. I am so grateful to Frank for doing that for them.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Playing for St. Patrick's Day #2...

Today the kids had their first paid gig for a St. Patrick's Day party at the retirement home where Haley plays once a month with her Suzuki teacher's students. They were a huge hit and did a great job playing.

Check out their clips on youtube.com http://www.youtube.com/user/ptmom343

The kids have been working hard in the recording studio once a week to arrange their music and record their music by laying tracks. They are learning so much about how recording works and what is available to them in their music.

Playing for St. Patrick's Day #1...

Yesterday afternoon we took Haley to Fergies to play with an adult Irish session. We went there a couple weeks ago and she had a great time. This week, being St. Patrick's Day on Tuesday, there was a huge crowd and the session was being held upstairs with mics and amps and everything (unlike last time when they sat at a little table and just played). No musicians were there when we arrived so we snagged a table near the little stage area (luckily a group was leaving as we arrived upstairs). The owner noticed Haley's fiddle case and thanked us for bringing her saying he had heard all about her from our last visit.

The musicians who did arrive we had never seen before. There was an accordian player who seemed to be the most likely to be in charge so I approached him and asked if it was a session or a band then told him I had brought Haley to play. Haley took a seat on the other side of the stage from him. They started out playing a few songs Haley didn't know then the accordian player asked her to come sit by him, she handed him her tune list, and he asked her what she wanted to play. At first they didn't mic her and she played with him playing softly next to her. After he heard her play, he turned the mic toward her and asked her to play something else.

The crowd was crazy about her. They gave her standing ovations, cheered, clapped along to her playing, and cheered every time she went back to her seat to play again. People were just amazed by the tiny little girl kicking her feet that barely hung from the seat playing away at the fiddle. People took photos and videos of her, including the other musicians. As the afternoon wore on, the crowd became rowdier and rowdier so we decided it was time to leave after a couple hours. As we were getting ready to leave a number of people asked to have their pictures taken with her and the owner thanked us saying more people were there because of Haley than because of St. Patrick.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Status Quo???

It has been over a month since I last blogged. It hasn't been that I haven't had anything to say. It is more that I have not been able to decide exactly how I want to say it.

I have been a bit overwhelmed lately with Haley's music...the speed at which she is learning material, the difference in her playing, etc... I can't even allow myself to think about what she will be doing a few months from now so I have to just take each day as it comes. She is all signed up for a fiddle camp with classes given by Kevin Burke. If you know anything about Haley, you will know that this will be the highlight of her summer since he is her fiddle hero. We also have Suzuki camp planned in August.

Haley has also been working on learning piano. It is mostly hit or miss as to whether or not I give her new material but no matter, she just practices her old material or works out melodies on her own.

This month being March and St. Patrick's Day is a busy month for my musicians. They have quite a few performances scheduled, even a paid gig! They are also working in the recording studio to arrange some of the songs they play to do a more "professional" recording rather than one that is like a live performance. I continue to be amazed at how their musical lives are expanding in ways I never would have imagined.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Musical Weekend...

It seems that musical performances around here tend to all come at once. That was definitely true this weekend. Friday night, Haley had a "dress rehearsal" at the retirement home for the biannual Suzuki concert. I was a little worried about her songs because she was still learning to shift for Humoresque and her Gavotte in D Major still needed a little work but we took a "calculated risk" as her teacher called it and assumed that she would perform better with a crowd than she had so far for practice. This turned out to be the case...we should know by now to trust Haley. LOL

Saturday, all the kids played with Next Generation Kids at the Garden State Discovery Museum. It was a nice venue and all the kids did a great job! Here's a link to pictures of the event... http://ballyphilly.ning.com/photo/albums/next-generation-discovery

Sunday was the biannual Suzuki concert for her Suzuki teacher's students. All her teacher's students did wonderfully. Haley performed so expressively. Everyone said she looked like a "real" violinist. (At home, I have to hold her scroll still so she doesn't move but on stage there was no one to stop her from doing it her way.) She so at home on the "stage." After playing, she calmly waited for the applause then motioned to the pianist to stand for his applause.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


A couple years ago as our sweet 12yo yellow lab, Skeeter, was declining in health, we decided to purchase another dog to ease the loss when it came. We wanted a smaller dog so it would be less of a hassel to take her places, less hair in the house, and less damage to property.

While looking at various doggy types, I fell in love with Toy Fox Terriers. They seemed like the perfect breed for our family...small but with the terrier attitude and playfulness. I searched and searched for one locally but came up short. I finally found a breeder in AL who had pups and was willing to allow us to pick ours up at her friend's in FL near where Uncle Karl was stationed. We made the trip down determined to only take the dog if she had the right "personality." As I walked up to that cage of puppies, one puppy ran and hid in a tent and the other came right up, jumping onto the side of the cage wanting to lick me...she was our pup.

The only problem...she was sooooo tiny....2lb. I was so afraid we would step on her. We took our spunky little puppy home. She made us all fall in love with her during the ride. She climbed into our shirts to sleep, played like a large dog, and kissed us up every chance she could.

That was 3 years ago. Skeeter died about 2 months after we brought Tinks home (cancer in her brain). Tinks was there to help fill the void. Now she is a fixture at our house. She loves to sleep under my laptop while I sit typing or sleep on any soft blanket she can find. She hides under my bed during thunderstorms and hates the sound of the bodhran playing. She looks forward to her Greenie every morning and has learned a number of neat "tricks"...sit, down, stay, wait, stick em up, shake, roll over, dance, etc... She barks and growls at anyone who acts menacingly toward Haley or me and loves to go with us in the car.
I just wanted to post about all the members of our family.

Monday, January 26, 2009


Yesterday, Newt attended his very first judo tournament. He placed second (out of two people) but he did a great job considering his opponent was significantly bigger than him (probably closer to my size than his), had been doing judo since he was 5yo, had a father from Russia who competed in the Olympic trials in his country, and had the highest belt rank an under 16yo can have.

Newt only lost by one move in each match and didn't get nipponed (thrown for an automatic win). I don't understand the scoring in judo so the score was either 1-0 or 10-o (it was difficult to tell how many points were awarded for the one move the boy got on him each time). Newt attempted many moves but refused to use any of his wrestling skills/moves ("I wanted to try out only my judo moves.").

I enjoyed the fact that they started at 1pm and we were finished fighting with medals awarded and out the door by 2:30pm. They certainly know how to move people and get a tournament finished. I also enjoyed the fact that I know nothing about judo. It was way less stressful that way. I could just sit back and watch. (I do think I will look up the scoring rules so I at least understand how they score for next time.)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Irish Musicians...

Tonight I took Haley to an Irish Seisun at The Plow and the Stars in Philly. As I sat and watched my little tiny girl sitting on a stool playing away on her violin...besides thinking that she just might roll herself off the stool rocking back and forth to her playing, I had two thoughts.

The first is that I have to say that Irish musicians, especially the ones who meet to play at The Plow and the Stars are some of the nicest people I have ever met. They accept my little 6yo as if she is one of the adults. They let her chose some of songs to play and seem to enjoy her company. That may be one of the greatest benefits to her interest in Irish music...the people we meet as a result.

The second is the amazement I feel watching her do what she does and not just her musical abilities...her maturity and poise while speaking to the musicians...she is just as comfortable with adults as she is with other kids. They ask her questions, she looks them in the eye and answers and asks questions of them. I know teens and adults who can't communicate and conduct themselves with that amount of poise. I don't know what I did right in my life to be gifted with not only this amazing little girl but also her brothers who have their own gifts and talents.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

How does a child do this?

My Haley loves music. Anyone who has read any part of this blog knows this. Just when I think I know the depth of her love for music, she has a day like today and I am in awe of her once more. Maybe I should just get used to this feeling when it comes to my baby.

Last night while getting/giving snuggles before bed, Haley was trying to tell Daddy he'd had his share and it was my turn. He said, "But she makes her practice violin and I let you play all day!!"

She replied, "But I love practicing violin and Mommy knows it."

Today as I finished my morning shower and turned off the water, I heard the wonderful sounds of my little one taking it upon herself to practice her violin. I listened to her playing through her review pieces from Books 1 and 2 then her scales. Afterward, she played with her toys for a short time then asked me to sit with her while she finished her practicing. She worked for another hour + on her Book 3 songs (two for her concert next week and her newest piece), played around with other violin favorites, then practiced her newer fiddle tunes. Once all the violin playing was finished, I taught her a new song on piano and she practiced that for awhile. Then I showed her how to play the first few measures of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" by Bach even though her little hands are too small to reach the octave required. She did get the right hand and made her own left hand notes to go with it.

We spent the rest of the day at a birthday party then took Newt to wrestling practice. When we got home Haley played piano for the rest of us once she finished dinner then it was late so most of us sat to watch a bit of TV prior to bed. Not Haley, she donned her headphones (the best purchase I have made in the last month) and practiced piano for another 45 minutes by herself.

I find it amazing that a 6yo has that amount of motivation and desire to perfect something. She is an amazing child.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

CD Making...

Friday, the kids spent the day in the recording studio finishing up their first CD. They worked hard from 10am until almost 4pm stopping only for lunch to finish recording their songs and getting them the way they wanted them. A lot of the time was not spent playing music but waiting for things to be rearranged and set up or doing sound checks. They were so excited, they didn't mind any of the waiting. They were so mature. Each of them admitted when they thought they had made a mistake or when they thought they could do something better.

Frank was so wonderful with the kids. He showed them how everything works and gave them different options for some of their songs. He listened to their ideas and encouraged them to try them out. He even played around with them...at one point the boys started fooling around playing "La Bamba" between takes, Haley began singing along, and Frank started adding bass guitar using his keyboard. He then taped it to surprise the kids but Haley wasn't surprised at all. She immediately asked, "Can we hear it back?" when they finished.

None of us can wait to hear the finished product. It was a great learning experience!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Laying down tracks...

Today the kids gained first hand experience on what it takes to put together an album/CD. A few months ago the kids played together in a local fall festival. The music teacher who had arranged their performance offered to put together a CD for them to thank them. The holiday season was too busy for everyone but this week he contacted us and we set up an appointment for today. Last night was like Christmas Eve for them.

Today was our first meeting so he could listen to their songs and set up his recording equipment. We arrived at 10am and it took close to 1.5 hours to set up the drum set, mics, headsets, and get all the instruments coming through the equipment properly. The kids were so excited they didn't even mind all the waiting around. Once her headset was on, Haley thought it was just the neatest thing that she could hear herself so she talked to herself and made noises into the mic while the rest of the setup was completed.

They then played through their first set of tunes. Frank thought everything sounded good and the kids were ready and excited so we decided to start recording. They played through their polkas 4 times fully plus a number of partials where someone erred or the energy level was low. The kids were very good about deciding where they may have made a mistake or asking if they could try again to make it better. They worked out a few options together and were really thinking about how to make their music sound better. On the 4th full playing, we all knew we had a good recording. The energy level was there, they were in tune and time together, and there were no errors.

Dylan then played his acoustic guitar to the recording and Frank dubbed the acoustic guitar onto their song and showed them some of the ways he could use the computer to polish up the song. We were on a roll but the boys needed to get to music lessons. The kids head back into the recording studio on Friday morning. They are so excited.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


I was given these photos of the kids today and think they are excellant. Two are from the Christmas musical Dylan and Haley participated in and the others are from way back in October when they played the Fall Festival at church. They are just too good not to share. They were taken by the Youth Minister at church who was a professional photographer.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Video and piano playing...

Here's a link to Haley playing at the Wren Party on 12/26/08 http://ballyphilly.ning.com/video/wren-party-special-guests

Haley has been asking to learn piano for over a year now. I have put her off since I couldn't figure out how we could ever fit in more instrument practice with this child. She has always been drawn to piano and has been picking out familiar melodies for a couple years now. Last month, she figured out a two hand version of Little Drummer Boy using a combination of by ear playing and the music in front of her.

Yesterday I gave in to her and showed her the positioning of her hands to begin the John Thompson Piano Course. She played through the right hand of the first song, then the left hand, then she put both hands together. She did the same with the second song. At first it was very slow going as she tried to coordinate both hands to play the songs but she practiced and practiced...maybe sitting at the piano 5-6 times throughout the evening. This morning, she sat at the piano immediately after breakfast and she was able to play the first two songs smoothly. She taped herself playing them, too.

After I was up and dressed, I showed her how to learn the next two songs...right hand alone, left hand alone, then both together. She practiced on and off today numerous times and by this evening was able to play all 4 songs smoothly. Her single-mindedness and motivation to practice are amazing. So, she is learning to play piano now. I wonder how much of it clicks with what she is learning as far as reading music for violin (notes and rhythms).