Tuesday, February 26, 2013

District Champ 2013!!!

 I love watching my son wrestle. It doesn't matter much in the grand scheme of things whether he wins or loses. Of course I love to see all his hard work pay off with wins...but I am just as proud of him when he loses.

Newt has been around wrestling since he was 2 months old. I used to ride down to Annapolis to watch my brother's Naval Academy matches, most of which my tiny little son slept through...air horns, cheering, and all. We have pictures of him on his hands and knees on a wrestling mat from when he started crawling and I think he knew how to throw a half nelson before he could walk.

He started wrestling when he was 5 years old. It just seemed the natural thing for him to do. He was a tiny kid...never made it on a growth chart for age and was always a few pounds under the lowest weight class so football, baseball, or basketball just didn't seem right. He loved wresting practice and working out. At 5 years old he once told his coach, "Give me more push-ups to make me stronger, coach!" He always gave it his all and we hoped watching the older kids fooling around and groaning at extra activities wouldn't let him know certain things were not considered fun.

I tried to keep him away from pressure. I didn't allow him to cut weight. I took him to clubs and  tournaments. I did a lot of the coaching from 8 years until 8th grade. I was one of the few moms coaching her child on the mat. When he came off the mat, I hugged him whether he won or lost. When he hit 8th grade, he started lifting and putting on weight. We worried until then he'd be too small to wrestle in high school but he grew.

His first year in high school he had a great year. He wrestled with pneumonia (which I didn't know until after he'd finished wrestling for the day) and took 2nd at the Tri-County tournament losing by only 1 point in a bad ref call. He took 3rd in the District and, after a number of coincidences (one kid not making weight and another dislocating his shoulder), Newt took 4th in the Region. Last year he had another really good year. He was District Champ and placed 4th in the Region for real though his last match was a heart break for him since he lost to a boy he'd beaten earlier in the Region tournament.

This year started off rough. Newt sprained his ankle in one of the first practices and tried to continue wrestling through the pain but would come limping off the mat after every match whether he'd won or lost. By just before Christmas he could barely walk on it let alone wrestle so I took him to an orthopedist who did an MRI which showed a split in the ligament. Newt rested it for 2 weeks...you would have thought it nearly killed him but he did it. He then went back to practice and was undefeated for the rest of the year. He took 1st at Districts last Saturday!

He goes on to Regions this weekend. He has a tough weight class, possibly one of the toughest in the region. Depending on his own mental toughness and determination, he may place high enough for States or someone might come along and knock him out of the running. Either way, I am still so proud of the young man he's become. He only has one more year of high school. We will begin looking at colleges this spring. I often think how quickly the time has gone by. That little, tiny baby I once held at wrestling matches in Annapolis will be heading off to college himself in a little over a year.

                                                             Congrats, Newt!!!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mid-Winter Scottish and Irish Festival 2013

We spent most of the weekend working a wrestling tournament. The boys weren't wrestling but were working at the score tables with their wrestling teammates. My job was to write bout sheets. 

I lucked out, though, because I had to leave early yesterday. Ha! Haley was invited to perform with The John Whelan Band for the Mid-Winter Scottish and Irish festival in Valley Forge, PA. So, after getting up really early in the morning and working the tournament from 6am until 11am, we headed off to Valley Forge for the festival.

When we arrived, we walked around the festival for a few minutes and talked to some people we know. Then we got in touch with John and headed to the hotel for a rehearsal. I sometimes think Haley enjoys the rehearsals as much as the actual performances. She loves John and the "fiddle girls" in the band, Genna and Kathleen. Actually, I think she loves everyone in the band. 

They spent quite a bit of time choosing tunes for the set, deciding on orchestration, and playing through everything, making changes when necessary. Haley has been listening to the CD John gave her for Christmas and many of the tunes came from that. Though she "knows" them, she'd not played them before. Most of the other tunes, she learned on the fly. She and John worked out a version of King of the Fairies with the band. 

 The band sounded great together! I love the way John works out the sets so everyone has their time in the spotlight. They have so much fun on stage together.

After the performance, we were able to get a copy of Irish Philadelphia's band new CD called Ceili Drive. It features musicians local to the Philadelphia area. Haley and Dylan recorded a tune set with the Next Generation kids for the CD so it was cool for them to hear how their "work" turned out. I love the way Dylan's guitar sounds on the CD!

We have three busy wrestling weekends in a row coming up then our crazy month of March gets under way. March is a very busy month for my Irish musicians! Let the fun begin!!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Nine Hours...

Nine hours....the amount of time Haley had a fiddle in her hand yesterday. Three hours...the amount of time she spent in the car driving from one thing to another. Doesn't leave much time for anything else in a day.

Yesterday was a very music-filled day. Haley woke and practiced her orchestra music and fiddle in the morning (at least 1 hour). We drove to a rehearsal for a couple gigs she and Dylan are doing with some other musicians, this is one...the Celtic Celebration (yeah, I know she was 9 when they hired her for it but has since had a birthday). The rehearsal went fairly quickly (1.5 hours) and they figured out some sets to play together then worked out an outline for the different events.

We then drove home where she logged in another 2.5 hours practicing classical violin. We had a couple hours down time so she and I baked some chocolate chip squares to take with us that evening and killed a few zombies....Dylan wouldn't play with me as he was too busy lying around so I recruited Haley. Ha!

We then got back into the car and drove to a wonderful house party in Philly. The tiny little home in the city was filled almost to overflowing with people playing Irish music together and those listening to it being played. I don't know that I have ever seen so many different instruments in such a small space. Haley's uillean pipe playing friend, Keagan, was there though he was uillean pipe-less as his pipes are trapped in Maine in the snow storm waiting to come home with a new set of drones so he had his tin whistle with him. There was good food, instrumental music, singing, and story telling. I think it is amazing that my child gets to be a part of such a long tradition of music and fun.

We were at the party from 6pm until we dragged Haley out at 11pm though I only counted 4 hours of that in my total above since we ate when we first arrived. Haley didn't want to leave. She kept saying, "One more set!" Yeah, folks, we force her to play her violin all the time! Truth is...she forces us to stay out late to listen to her play her fiddle. ("Haley can we please leave now. Mommy and Daddy are tired." Ha!)

That photo at the beginning of this post was taken at the Dublin Ohio Celtic Festival back in August 2012 by Andi Wolfe (website). She took some great photos of the John Whelan Band while they performed. I needed a publicity photo of Haley for a gig she has with John this coming August and I liked this one a lot.

                         Does anyone know what this is? (Hint...the answer is somewhere in this post.)

Dylan is taking a guitar class in school this semester. They offer Guitar 1 and Guitar 2. Newt had taken Guitar 1 as a freshman. I knew it would be mind-numbingly easy for Dylan so I got special permission from the teacher for him to just skip to Guitar 2. The nice thing is Dylan has been picking up his guitar much more to fool around on it since starting the class this week. He has been so busy first with football then with wrestling that he hasn't had much time to just play unless he has to practice with Haley for a gig. I hope he learns something from the class as well.

Monday, February 04, 2013

A Biological Reason for Early Music Lessons?

I wrote a post a while ago in response to a discussion on when to start a child in music lessons on the Well Trained Mind Boards. Many people on the boards were telling the original poster that it was good to wait until a child is older because they will be more mature and learn faster (though this has not been my experience at all). In that post I listed a number of reasons why I thought early music training was important as it pertained to my own child. I won't go back into all that because it is all right here.

Yesterday, this was posted in a Suzuki Chat yahoo group. It is from an article in New Science magazine and presents a biological reason for early music training.

"Good news for pushy parents. If you want your child to excel
musically, you now have better justification for starting their
lessons early. New evidence comes from brain scans of 36 highly
skilled musicians, split equally between those who started lessons
before and after the age of 7, but who had done a similar amount of
training and practice.

MRI scans revealed that the white matter in the corpus callosum - the
brain lesion that links the two hemispheres - had more extensive
wiring and connectivity in the early starters. The wiring of the
late starters was not that much different from that of non-musician
controls. This makes sense as the corpus callosum aids speed and
synchronisation in tasks involving both hands, such as playing
musical instruments (Journal of Neuroscience,DOI:

Christopher Steele of the Max Planch Institute for Human Cognitive
and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, says this is the most
compelling evidence yet that younger-trained musicians have an
advantage because their training coincided with a key period of brain
development. At age 7 or 8, the corpus callosum is more receptive
than ever to the alterations in connectivity necessary to meet the
demands of learning an instrument."

The first sentence of this article, "Good news for pushy parents," is really annoying. It is a generalization and makes me question the intelligence of the article writer. Supposing that all parents who begin their child in musical training before 7 years old are "pushy" is presumptuous and completely incorrect. I know a good number of people who started younger children, sometimes reluctantly, on musical instruments based on their child's desire to play.

Anyway, the interesting thing about this report on the study was that those who started musical training after 7 years old had MRIs not much different from that of non-musician controls. So, after 7-8 years old, musical training does not cause changes to the corpus callosum...the area of the brain involved in speed and synchronization in tasks involving both hands?  Sounds like a bit of scientific proof for another benefit to early musical training.