Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Look How Much She's Grown...

 Haley came down from her bedroom a couple minutes ago proclaiming that something horrible had happened to her fiddle. Now we've had horrible things happen to fiddles at times like a broken bridge, unravelling strings, etc...at times when it has been extremely inconvenient to drive into the city for a fix so she did have me going...until I looked at her. She was carrying her first fiddle, a tiny 1/16 or 1/32 size violin (we aren't exactly sure of the size because we bought it as a 1/16 but when trading up to the next size at a different luthier found out it was an entire inch smaller than any 1/16 fiddle he had so she ended up going from this fiddle to "another" 1/16 size) and telling me her fiddle shrunk. She found it in the top of her closet though I am sure Dylan helped her get it out. I couldn't bear to get rid of it. Notice the blue moleskin on the chin rest with padding underneath to make it more comfortable for her "sensitive" self and the finger tapes. Her tiny bow still has moleskin attach as a "pillow" for her pinky and another bit for her thumb.

We thought it would be fun to see how much bigger her current 1/2 size fiddle is so we put the two together and discovered that her first fiddle is the size of the body of her current fiddle.

Fiddle, fiddle, and, oh yeah,...more fiddle.

 It seems like every post lately has been about fiddling. Actually all we've done lately has revolved around Irish music but I think that is mostly due to the fact that it is March...the busiest month on the Irish calendar.

This past week Haley and I attended two different concerts featuring fiddle/accordian duos. The first duo was Oisin MacDiarmada and Seamus Begley playing at the home of Haley's first fiddle teacher. It was a lovely concert playing a nice variety of music with some very funny stories and jokes thrown in by Seamus for good measure.

Haley was asked to play for them during the 2nd half of the concert. I hadn't taken her fiddle with us...note to self to keep it handy from now on. So, Oisin offered her his full size fiddle but when she realized it was tuned in E flat (to match the E flat accordian tuning) her teacher went and got her fiddle (also full size) for Haley. Haley played a couple tunes then they asked her to play with Seamus so she played Oisin's full size fiddle tuned to E flat and played a tune she'd only just learned. (Not quite sure how she does that...hmmm!) Granted her intonation would have been better on her own fiddle where her fingers would have been able to reach and her left arm wouldn't have been completely straight. LOL
Saturday, Haley opened for the other duo...Matt Cranitch and Jackie Daly in North Jersey. They mostly played polkas and slides because they are from Sliabh Luachra area of Ireland where those types of tunes are played. It was also a very nice concert followed by a well attended session. We were out very late and spent the night with a friend before going to Haley's fiddle lesson in NY the next morning bright and early.

Sunday, Haley had an early morning lesson (well, 10am but we were 1.5 hours away so had to get up early to drive). After the lesson we went to the nicest mall we know to look around then drove to Cornwall, NY for Haley to join her fiddle teacher, Brian Conway, and a number of his students in a library concert. From the concert, we went to her fiddle teacher's session where Haley played for another couple hours before we made the long drive home.

Haley spent a lot of time fiddling this weekend and a lot of time in the car. Much of the car time was spent practicing her classical and orchestra music with her music propped up on the open glove compartment. I am not so sure she'll be able to do that when she moves up to a full size fiddle.
We have another very fiddle filled week this week and weekend then things should slow down a bit.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

PT Mom

A few people have asked me what the "PT" means in my blog name. A couple asked if it meant "part-time." LOL Not quite sure how one can be a part-time mom unless you are a stepmother or something. Anyway, that is not it.

The PT means physical therapist. I work once a week as a physical therapist for developmentally delayed kids 0-3 years old. I love my job, though I miss doing the homeschooling on that day. I meet many interesting families and love the kids I see. I get to set my own schedule, make a bit of money, and help families. I love watching the kids I see develop their skills. It never ceases to amaze me when a little one takes their first steps.  Whether they are 9 months or 33 months old...I still cry in happiness right along with their parents.

My job also has it's share of sadness...kids in sad situations or with heart-breaking diagnoses. I always remind myself that I am there helping the family deal with whatever they are going through and it makes those times more bearable.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Fiddling with friends...

Yesterday the kids did their last St. Patrick's Day gig at a nursing home's St. Patrick's Party. They have done it for the past 3 years. Until this year, Haley's violin teacher had a once a month concert there that we called Fridays at Four. The name kinda describes when the concert took place. Anyway, Haley has missed seeing the people there and was happy to go back yesterday to play for them.

After the concert, we went to Con Murphy's Pub for Haley and Dyl to join their buddy Paraic for his last weekly gig there. She always tells Paraic he looks like Winnie the Pooh so she wrapped up a scarf she had with Pooh on it and gave it to him.

Take my picture up there!

I love the view from up here!

St. Patrick's Day...

Ha! All their faces look suspicious of that flash!

The kids had a busy St. Patrick's Day evening and even had to turn down a couple gigs because they were already booked.

They started the evening right after the boys got home from school. We went over to a local restaurant owned by Newt's orthodontist, set up the sound equipment and they played a short set for the few people already eating. One couple said they'd seen the kids perform on Sunday and came especially to hear them again.

We left the sound equipment and drove to the next town over for them to play for a group of elderly (and some not so elderly) people who meet in the basement of a church for a covered dish dinner and fun together. My husband's and my high school Spanish teacher was there. We really enjoyed seeing her and getting caught up on the years. She was one of our favorite teachers. We enjoyed dinner with the group then the kids played a set for them.

Then it was back to the restaurant for another short set. The bar area was completely full by this time and loud. They did stop and listen a bit and when they finished, the kids met the owner's girls. Haley and his 8yo daughter immediately made friends and went off to the kitchen area to make their own pizzas. We took Haley's pizza home and shared it for an evening snack before bed. Yum!


Last week, Haley's violin teacher gave her her choice of which piece to work on next. She recently started Meditation from Thais and though she wasn't initially thrilled...since it is a slow piece and all, she has learned to like it. Watching a youtube video of Sarah Chang playing it beautifully helped a lot.

Anyway, Haley's teacher told her to go home and listen to the Bach Concerto in A Minor (the middle piece in Book 7) which she already knew and has been listening to and messing around with for about 6 months off and on since hearing a young girl play it in a masterclass and Bach Concerto in E Major. Her teacher said both are at about the same level technique-wise so she didn't care which Haley chose. 

I could have placed money on the A Minor because she has been dying to learn it for so long and her teacher has been using it as a carrot for doing some not so fun technique work.

So, we went home and listened to the E Major. She thought it sounded happy and started fooling around with it almost immediately. Though she wants to learn both and hated having to decide, the E Major sparked her interest and she decided it was the winner. 

That meant we had to order the sheet music. When the music arrived, Haley was even more excited to have actual "big kid" sheet music rather than music photocopied for her or out of a book like all her other pieces have been. An added benefit! Ha!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Playing with the Chieftains*...

Haley with Paddy
On Tuesday I got an email message for a fiddling friend in Philly, Paraic (whose father used to fiddle for the band but has since decided to spend more time in Ireland), asking if Haley would like to play with the Chieftains*. She was reading over my shoulder because we thought the message was about a gig Paraic does that he often invited Haley to sit in on. Her response was a squeal of delight!

Last night was an incredible experience for her. We didn't have too much information going in...be there at 5pm (concert at 8pm) and ask to see Paddy  who will be expecting you. So, we walked in a door people seemed to be coming and going from and told a woman we were expected. She asked us to wait a few minutes then came back and asked, "Are you Haley?"

She took us into the house where we saw Haley's friends, Jayne and her brother Bram waiting. (Both are students of the same fiddle teacher and we've spent lots of time with them on our different trips to Ireland. They have played with the band over the years so were able to teach us the ropes.) We waited a bit then watched the sound check. I was able to get a few pictures then because I wouldn't be able to during the show. Unfortunately I couldn't get any actual pictures of Haley on stage that way. After the sound check, Haley and I followed the band backstage.

Chieftains* sound check

Sound check with band and pipers
We introduced ourselves to the tour manager, got the ticket situation taken care of for the boys, Daddy, and Poppop, then Jayne found the guitarist who came and went over what the girls would be playing for a solo and his accompaniment to it. A little later, Jon Pilatzke*, one of the fiddlers (and also an amazing dancer) came in and asked what they would be playing. Jayne went over what she was doing then Haley said, "Dr. Gilberts" and he looked a little shocked then, jokingly, said, "Oh, only that easy tune."

Learning a tune with Jon and Jeff
She played it for him and he mentioned something about being out of a job soon then asked how old she is and who her teacher is. He went over when and how the grand finale would go. Everyone would play a tune over and over but between times through the tune, different people would play their own solo...whatever they wanted. Haley didn't know the tune they would be playing together so he played it for her then told her she could just play notes around G but she picked up her fiddle and played it back to him, shocking him a bit. The kids then had some time to eat a little. There was a large spread of food. We met Paddy Moloney* and took some pictures. He was a bit excited to finally have to bend down to have his picture taken with someone.

It was close to show time so Haley and I went out to find the men and take our seats to watch the first half of the show. The band plays such a variety of music with singing and dancing. It is really a wonderful show. I was so impressed with the harpist's solo...it was absolutely amazing. The female fiddler, a bluegrass player, also played a fabulous bluegrass solo.

During intermission, we made our way backstage. Haley felt important knowing the code to get backstage. I had written it down but, of course, she remembered it and was keen to punch it in. We gathered up her fiddle and headed up the spiralling metal stairs to the stage area. From there we watched...during the second half they had guest dancers and a pipe and drum corp join them. The band dancers and the fiddling dancer did an amazing dance sitting on chairs where their feet moved so fast and in perfect time.

When it came time for the grand finale, Paddy introduced Haley then Jayne and Bram onto the stage as a special treat. Haley stood next to Paddy with Jayne next to her. Bram sat a little behind them to play his bodhran in the seat Paddy had used to play his uilleann pipes. They began playing the main tune and taking turns doing solos. As band members played solos, the other members would pretend to yawn if they went too long or do other silly things. The fiddler placed his mic on Haley for her turn. She played a great Dr.Gilberts. Most of the band hadn't heard her play before. The fiddlers both pretended to slam their fiddles on the ground and walk off stage. The crowd roared when she finished. They loved Bram's dancing as well. He's so cute!

Everyone briefly left the stage and a number of them congratulated Haley on her playing. They all went back on to play the An Droh, a tune Haley loves to play, for the snake dance...the pipe band joined them and all the dancers danced the snake dance through the crowd picking up audience members to join in. That was the end of the show.
Haley, Jayne, and Bram with Paddy
We had to go backstage afterward to get our things. We thanked Paddy and the tour manager for having her. Paddy invited her to play with them whenever she'd like.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Celtic Celebration...

Last spring the kids were booked by Down Jersey Jim for his Celtic Celebration. It seemed like it would be forever until today arrived but time flies.

The kids were the "headliners" of the show performing right after the intermission. Whenever I question whether or not I am making the right choices for my kids, I only have to see them on stage to know that is where they seem to belong.

For Haley... the bigger the audience, the better. She talks to them, makes up little comments on the fly, and plays her little heart out. Newt got the audience clapping along and his version of Galway Girl was a hit.

Dylan during sound check.
Dylan was wonderful in his choice of chords to back Haley. All three of them play better in front of a crowd than anywhere. Today they were so "on" that I sat in the audience with tears in my eyes thinking, "Wow! Those are MY kids!" They were incredible!

The audience loved them. They spent about a half hour after the show signing autographs on their CDs or programs and having their pictures taken with other kids.

I still find this whole situation a bit surreal.
Newt waiting for sound check.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Always questions but no answers...

Being a parent is difficult. Having a child with a talent (or children with different talents) just adds an entirely different dimension and completely different concerns to those the majority of parents have. I am constantly questioning...

How to allow my child to still be a child but at the same time give her opportunities to explore her gifts?

How much to allow her to perform and which venues are best?

Which people in our lives are good for her and which do I need to steer clear of?

How do I keep her mentally healthy...not allow her to think too highly of herself and become a monster child but at the same time keep her confidence high? I love who she is, that blend of confident and sweet, and don't want her to change.

Then there are the other members of the family and their needs to consider. Life cannot be only about the one child getting all the attention at the moment.

Sometimes my insides feel like they will explode thinking about it all. Every decision I make has a consequence. It seems like every opportunity Haley has leads to another opportunity like a snowball on a huge hill rolling down getting bigger and bigger. Thank goodness for those times when we hop off and things are status quo for a bit.

The good thing about most of the opportunities lately is that they involve all the kids playing together so it is more a family thing. I feel better about that.

We are very lucky/blessed to have wonderful people in our lives...Haley's teachers, friends, and others we have met in the music world who seem to have all my kids' best interest at heart.

Haley's violin teacher said some very wise words to her the other day when we were discussing opportunities. I'll paraphrase a bit... they are wonderful, exciting, and great at the moment and the anticipation before but don't think of them as turning points or let them change who you are as a person. If people comment about you or your playing saying you are "great" or "amazing", you are still the same person and the same musician with the same talents and challenges. Those comments don't make you any better. The same if they don't notice you or pick you to win a competition or chose you in an audition...you are still the same person and the same musician. It does not make you less in any way. (Don't know if Haley understood the significance of those words but hopefully they will be in her head.)

There have been a few people along the way who have promised things we weren't ready for or tried to get involved when we didn't think it best but those instances have been rare so far. I am not a "good" stage mom...not good at promotion but I am a pretty good judge of character and tend to be more suspicious than not in most situations.

Things are a bit crazy right now so I am questioning and worrying more than usual. Haley and the boys have a number of different opportunities and possibilities coming in the next month...March is a big month for Irish musicians.

I don't know the answers to my own questions so we are just taking it one day at a time, one decision at a time. Hopefully I will make the best ones for my family.

Monday, March 07, 2011


We had another busy weekend. March is a very busy month for Irish musicians. After orchestra rehearsals Friday night and Saturday afternoon, we travelled to North Jersey for a Hooley at the IAANJ. Haley enjoyed joining the musicians, singing songs, and eating treats.
Ceili band

The full band playing for dancers

She's not angry...just thought this would be a cool picture.
We spent the night with a friend then drove to NY for Sunday afternoon fiddle lesson followed by a library concert with Brian, then the evening at his session. Haley really enjoyed the session because her homeschooling, viola playing friend from CT, Sofia and her family were in the city and joined us. Haley loves spending time with Sofia. The girls sat and played with session. Poor Sofia had to try and keep up on her viola, shifting up crazy high to make up for her non-existent E string. She did a great job!
Sofia and Haley

We had a scary ride home in pouring down rain through the city with flooded roads. We made it home safely but very late. Today between violin, fiddle, and orchestra practices, we finished up the last three geography lessons using Paddle to the Sea. We got the program and books as a hand-me-down from Haley's violin teacher who was also a homeschooler. They had used the map to Paddle so we did our best making our own.

Haley was inspired when learning about Niagara Falls so she decided she'd like to try painting her version of the Falls. This is the result of her work.

We finished the day with some reading, a spelling lesson in which we finished up Level H of Spelling Power, and she worked on writing her part of the story project her book club is currently working on.

Our other project for this week is to keep track of her practicing. One of the orchestras issued a challenge to the kids part as a fundraiser and part to get them to practice the new, difficult material. They keep track of how much time they practice the orchestra material then get sponsors for whatever amount each minute or hour. Since we have to do that, Haley and I decided to keep track of all her practicing this week. Her violin teacher promised her a prize if she practices more than 3 hours a day. I am curious how much she really does practice each day since people are always asking and I end up guesstimating an answer. I'll post the results this weekend.