Thursday, April 30, 2009

Trafalgar Square Adeventure or GIANT KARAOKE

So T-Mobile is, by all accounts, not the best of the mobile phone service choices. That being said, they have the freaking awesomest ads ever! Check out this one that they did in Liverpool Street Station: They didn't close the station, so there were a number of bewildered commuters. I'm totally bummed I didn't get to see it, because HOW COOL?

So when Jo told me this morning that they were filming the next one in Trafalgar Square today I was like "We're GOing!!" And so we did.

This time there were hundreds, if not thousands, of people there and instead of dancing it was giant, Trafalgar Square style Karaoke. The crowd jumped up and down whenever the cameras on these giant, impressively mobile booms swung over us and on the giant screen they had the words and shots from the crowd.

We sang Hey Jude, Build me up buttercup, Total Eclipse of the Heart, and Summer Lovin' before Pink showed up. She ended up standing on a short platform about 10 yards away and we didn't notice at first. We were just like "why are we suddenly being shoved by SO MANY PEOPLE?" And then we figured out she was there. She was lovely the whole time: performed well, put her arm around a couple of the people who shoved their way on to her platform, and was even good natured when someone threw a phone at her (aren't Londoners nice?)

Then we all sang Hey Jude again and this was clearly the one they were actually filming because we sang the na na na na's for (and this is not an exaggeration) 15 minutes. By the end I was singing into my microphone (most likely fake, because that many cordless mics? No way.) "No no no no, no no no nooo, I'm bored now, let's stop"

If you get featured in the Ad you get 500GBP, but Jo and I have a very slim chance of that happening. The two little girls in red jumpers sitting on their parents' shoulders? They're totally gonna be in it- the flexible boom cameras circled them for a good 30 seconds at one point.

The tykes are getting grabby

I had to have a lecture with one of my classes yesterday about how, particularly when it comes to touching other people, when someone asks you to stop or says "no" you need to listen. In other words: my butt- it's not a drum. You know what else isn't? My stomach. Also? It turns out I'm not a jungle gym. Hugs however? I'm so totally there. Just, you know, not all of you right as I'm trying to leave the room, kay?

There were some out of control classes yesterday, all day long kids were getting in major trouble for fighting, not to mention biting. One of the reception classes was even brought to another of my reception classes to see a model for what good behaviour during music class looked like. And one poor girl wet her pants three times. They were beginning to run out of extra uniforms.

On the other hand- they've all got the picture in terms of playing the instruments only when they're asked to, and some of them are even starting to be able to play together as a group- like one clap at one time. Which I think is pretty impressive.

Green class, one of the nursery classes was particularly adorable yesterday. We sang a song with different actions each verse and when I asked for suggestions suddenly we were being sheep, batman, princesses, and frogs. It was pretty great. Also, a fun challenge to fit all of those suggestions into the existing rhythmic pattern of the song.

The upper school music teacher and I began doing music club this week. She uses puppets, storybooks, the piano, and CD's. It is very different from what I am used to doing, but good to see in action. I think I'm going to stay away from the puppets, but there are some good children's music CD's out there and it is silly not to use existing resources. Particularly if they are actually good and not excessively corny. Which is always a fine line to balance.

New Doctor

I just had my new patient intake thingy at the Doctor's office just across the street. (I hadn't managed to sign up with them before hand because I had to have a visa that was valid for 6+ months.) The reception people are very nice but I can't say that I am terribly filled with confidence for the nursing staff.

She asked me absolutely NO medical history questions and got defensive when I asked her if she'd like the answers to some that she might, maybe want to ask me. She did actually take my blood pressure and I did stand on a scale, but she estimated my height- her estimate? 5'9". Um...

I just don't see how an accurate health assessment can be done only knowing a person's blood pressure, weight, and "height."

Grumble grumble grr.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Fun with Food

I made a big pot of chili and with chili you always have to have cornbread, right?
And I have this super cool cast iron frying pan, which you can bake cornbread in, right?
So I DID and it was amazing. Especially with extra corn kernels and a whole pot of honey.

job interview

I had an interview today for an internship with a composition project that is being put on in my area. It is working with early years children and had been advertised at GSMD so I thought it would be a good idea to go for it- expand my experience and all that. Also, combining composition with 3-5 year olds? I'm super curious to see how that would work.

My morning got off to a rough start with a lack of clean, presentable clothes and oversleeping. I ended up arriving 10 minutes late to my half hour interview slot, feeling like crap, and being uncomfortably damp from the unexpected rain. It wasn't a good beginning. Oh, and then I got lost.

But I arrived! We sat down to chat and the interview ended up being very positive over all, I think. It sounds like I'm probably not the best match for the project as I've got a bit too much training and experience already for what is essentially a trainee post. However, we ended up talking quite a lot about my approach to early years music education and what I'm hoping to do with my work next year and into the future and the interview ended up being twice as long as it was meant to be. I think that's rather encouraging.

I was proud of myself for being clear that I was interested in projects dealing mostly with education and workshops rather than projects involving me as a bassist. It may seem like an obvious thing to say, but it wasn't something I had articulated yet and it was good to realize.

This evening I got a message on my phone asking if I would be interested in doing a bass presentation and maybe some songs for one of their existing early years classes on Friday. I'll have to check with the MapMaking tutors, but hopefully that will work- it would be a great opportunity. I figure this is another audition sort of thing for other projects they've got in the pipeline.

Sorry for the vagueness, I haven't asked anyone if it is okay to blog about them so I am sticking to my experience and absolutely no identifying characteristics...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Theoretical Album

Audrey plays the sackbut, so we decided that for our first early music album these will be the photos for our liner notes. (Audrey, Andrew, and Me) Did I mention that it was really nice to see my friends again?

The preparation

Ronni's makeup was applied with an airbrush. Also, Lily, Audrey and I were *super* helpful.

The resort for the wedding was fancy

And in New Jersey. Also, there was a water slide in a "bio sphere." Mara, Drew and I spent far more time than we should have trying to get good pictures of ourselves shooting out the end of it. This is my favorite one, it is of Mara's feet.


I spent the first few days on the East Coast staying at Daniel's house in Germantown and taking the Metro/Train/Walking combo in to Peabody every other day. Daniel was nice enough to come pick me up from Baltimore the first time (an hour drive there and an hour drive back) because I had wanted to both stay in Baltimore long enough to take my favorite yoga class (SO totally worth it) AND do viol consort (see above) AND get back in time for Man Night. Which is what Daniel, his brother Jonny, and their assorted Man friends have each Monday. I was honored to be a part of it. On my second day in the country Jonny and Daniel were teaching lessons late, so I finally got to meet Jonny's new wife Lindsey. She's super neat and we made complicated dinner. When I left for the wedding I tried to take some pictures; I may need to work on my self portrait technique...

Travels to the East Coast (which is West of where I am now...)

So I had a wonderful time on my whirlwind East Coast trip- I met up with some old teachers, checked in on my admissions ladies, and had a bunch of fun conversations about the alumni association with Debbie wherein we discussed that in the age of constant mass communication- probably the best way to actually get answers out of alumni is through hand written notes.

As I was leaving to head to New York I noticed that there was a new etched metal sign on the side of the Conservatory building- so I looked closer. Upper right.

I still love my job

We've been working on instrumental skillz and playing as an ensemble. It's been a little difficult because the tykes only had tambourines and bells to work with which are not terribly different sounding instruments. But today we had a breakthrough; today the drums had arrived!

These drums are great- they're about five inches across, come with two sticks each, have rubber feet so that you can leave them on the ground and still get a full sound, and have a surprisingly good tone for such a little drum. I was ruthless with the taking away of the instruments if they were played out of turn, which I think was a good move. I'd give them back when we went on to the next round of anything we were doing, but I would always take them away if they were played out of turn. This resulted in much better behaviour than I've ever managed to get before.

I hadn't totally expected it, but raising the stakes on things makes them pay, like, WAY more attention. We tiptoed quietly and STOMPED LOUDLY and stopped whenever the drum stopped. When I was starting the activity there was lots of colliding with other children and manic giggling. When I turned it into an elimination game where you were out if you didn't start with the drum and stop with the drum. The tiny tykes got deadly serious.

You know what is funny? Four year olds with looks of intense concentration, standing on one foot, and waiting for you to start again. I wish I could express this one girl's face: she's looking up at me because I'm so much taller and she looks like she could scale a mountain if the situation called for it- that determined and that fierce.

We also played the rhythm of our names on our drums. Some kids immediately got that they were to play the syllables of their names, others- not so much. But there were some super creative things they did too- like scratching the drum, saying their name and then hitting the drum in the beat afterwards, and turning the drum over and tapping it that way. I'm all about exploring the sound potential of the instruments so that was cool.

My favorite was a class where they all started stretching out their names with extra vowels so that a name like "Jane" would become "Jah-ah-ai-ne-uh." The best was when George got terribly upset because I laughed when he tried to tell me that his name really IS pronounced "Ge-eh-or-ge-eh." I'm sorry George, I didn't mean to laugh at you.

In other news I am a big fan of Teaching Foundation Music: a complete step-by-step scheme of work by Ann Bryant. I've thought this book was fabulous for a while now, but it only occurred to me today to check out her bio in the back- she's all kinds of Dalcroze trained. No wonder I think she's awesome.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Travels with Grammy II

Sunday was Palm Sunday so we went to Southwark Cathedral. We had visited earlier on when Laine was here and decided that they seemed like particularly nice people. We also felt that it would be a smaller, less crowded Palm Sunday than St. Paul's. The procession began at 10:30 in the Borough market, so in order to make sure that we would get there in time we left my flat at 9am. However, the bus was trucking along- and we made it there before 10. This ended up being just fine because that meant that we met Michelle. Michelle is originally from Chicago and seems to work for the Cathedral (we never did find out exactly what she does...) Michelle was very chatty and not only helped us figure out *where* in Borough market we were meant to be, but also had a fun time talking with us about the realities of Americans living in London.

For the procession they had the congregation line up on either side of a random road in the market. We sang songs as a whole group with the accompaniment of two painfully bad trumpeters. I kept catching the eyes of people across the aisle as the trumpets messed up *again* and then struggled to keep from laughing. Fortunately everyone seemed to be pretty good natured about the terrible, terrible trumpets. They were so bad that the congregation had to sing loudly and forcefully to keep the tempo/melody/tune/really any musical element you can think of- steady. Finally the choir came out, some more hymns were sung, a bunch of holy water was splattered and incense jangled around. We processed in with the same first hymn again and the beginning of the procession, the end of the line, and the trumpeters were all in completely different places in the song...

The service was long, involved a LOT of standing, and a lot of intonation. Grammy and I both decided that we think the people are wonderful, but we are not excited about the services at Southwark.

Afterwards we found the coffee area and sat at a little table and watched children race about. Michelle came and found us again and we had another great conversation with her before exchanging phone numbers. Grammy noticed that the patio we were sitting on also belonged to the Cathedral's cafe- so we went and had lunch there. Very nice chicken pies with carrots and thick cut french fries.

That evening my friend Sarah came round and we had vegetable stew, home made scones with clotted cream butter, and watched Amelie together before having a sleepover.

Travels with Grammy

We've been having an eventful yet relaxing time here in London. Leisurely breakfasts followed by jaunts into town or around my neighborhood.

On Saturday we decided that we ought to see a show so we got tickets to a performance of The Messiah at St. Martin's in the Field. That was in the evening so we decided to go explore my school area and look around. We took the bus down to GSMD and took a quick tour around the school. It was a lovely day so we bought lunch from Marks and Spencer's and ate in the public bowling green in front of my Finsbury job. Grammy wanted to see the Roman amphitheatre so we walked down to The Guildhall and managed to get there just as the art gallery went from being charged to being free. Well timed us! The art gallery was lovely and it was fun to see the amphitheatre as well. It was hard to believe that the ruins were so old. Particularly as they are bathed in this weird green light and there is an audio track of a crowd cheering/jeering and gladiators running around. It's actually just the tiniest bit silly...

Grammy had seen the 14th century hall that *is* the Guildhall before so we spent a confusing few minutes debating which building off the square it was likely to be. Eventually we figured out that we needed to enter a truly hideous 1960's entryway. The hall had been closed to visitors half an hour before we got there, so that was a little disappointing. I noticed that there were GSMD fliers in their flier area and since I had understood that there was NOT a connection between The Guildhall and GSMD (in spite of the name) I asked about it. It turns out that GSMD is sponsored by the City of London Corporation and The Guildhall is the heart of The City's government. So that is the connection. Once the security guards found out that I went to GSMD and that I was graduating this year, one of them offered to take us back to the hall! So that was SUPER cool. We felt very privileged. Also, it turns out that GSMD has its graduation ceremony in the hall- so it was exciting to see where that is going to take place.

There was lovely early evening light at that point so we walked to St. Paul's and had a quick coffee in Starbucks while Grammy told me stories about Helen. Then Starbucks closed so we hopped on a bus to Trafalgar square. We got some soup in the Crypt, which was very crowded- but a nice woman saw us looking for a table and offered us hers as she was just about to leave. We collected the tickets and were there right as the doors opened for the show. I hadn't been there since the remodeling was finished and it is absolutely gorgeous now. We didn't have the most expensive tickets so our view was pretty poor- but the acoustics were wonderful and it was a total joy. I spent a lot of time watching flickering candle light glinting off of the gold leaf of the ceiling decorations while listening to Handel's recitatives and soaring choral soprano lines. We moved to wider seats at the intermission- for which I was grateful.

See? Doesn't that sound like a delightful day?

Friday, April 3, 2009


I don't know if you know this, but some people have been visiting...Lainey left on Wednesday, but Grammy is still here with me and now I have photos from her camera! Up there at the top we've got Laine and me on the Millennium Bridge in front of St. Paul's on our way to the Tate Modern (Laine's favoritest museum) and the other picture is of the three of us in their hotel room right before Laine left. We managed to get the self timer working and set the camera on top of Laine's shoe box (You should ask her about the shoes, they are AMAZING. Really.)
We've been having a lovely time and today Grammy and I are on our way down to the Borough Market to go check it out. Yesterday we went to Dalston market and bought some vegetables and some African fabric. Dalston is amazing because as you're walking down the stalls it gets very confusing to figure out what country you're actually in. Even the shop signs are done in African styles. It's a lot of fun. We both decided that we wouldn't want to buy fish there though...too much sun.

Temporary Tykes

My friend Kate teaches a drop in nursery class at a community centre in Hackney. She's been sick so she asked me to fill in. Thanks, Kate! It was a bit different from what I am used to doing; there were a couple of parents there as well as a small class from the nursery school across the street. Also, the class was an hour long instead of half an hour.

Kate told me what she normally does with them last night and I was getting intimidated: I've never incorporated stories into my classes! Shown instruments?! She was saying that they're good with rhythms and there were parents and it was long and it was my first time and OH!! I was nervous by the time I got there this morning.

I decided that the theme for the day was going to be "Springtime" because, hey. It is. So I wrote a list of what songs and activities fit in to that theme that I knew already and decided on an order that would alternate between careening wildly around the room and sitting down and trying to actually sing.

We started with Kalele, the name song with fun time drumming beats. I'm used to kids hiding their faces during this song or somehow otherwise drawing even MORE attention to themselves when their name is being sung. But this group was still being pretty shy since it was the beginning of the class.

Then we did the caterpillar song which involved hand motions and then body motions. (Sitting down and then standing up) We had wiggling, munching, spinning, and flapping. I would have preferred to have the teachers contribute ideas for the actions less and the kids contribute ideas more...but whatcha gonna do?

After the hilarity of spinning around in a circle was over we sang a seed growing song that sounds like a lovely lullaby. I don't have a very good sense of pitch- I can stay on key when I'm singing the song, but it's always a bit of a surprise what key is going to come out when I start. I accidentally started this song WAAAY too high. The teachers and mothers were trying to sing along but it wasn't going to happen. So I stopped halfway through and dropped it a fifth. Looks like I might be a soprano after all....

The chorus of that song has the line "and the rain falls, drip drop" so the next thing we did was a body percussion rainstorm. It's nice because they have to look and pay attention to the conductor/director (me) which is a lovely set up for the next thing we did which was a rainstorm again, but this time with instruments.

With the shakers I have a system where if the leader has their shaker above their head: you play loud. By their knees? play soft. Held tightly pressed against their stomach? Quiet! No sound! So I lead it first for a while and then the best behaved kids lead it. It's a good system.

One of the children was totally cutting up the whole morning, but he did something really interesting during the instrumental section- whenever it was loud he started giggling. Whenever it was soft he stopped. And he would do it absolutely with the leader, even if the leader was one of his classmates. He'd been told off that morning so much that I wanted to draw particular attention to the fact that even if he didn't totally realize it- he was doing *exactly* what I wanted him to. Isn't that neat? I was so proud of him.

We finished up with Simama ka which is the big hit with the three year olds in these parts. Jumping up? Bending down? Whispering and yelling all in a very repetitive atmosphere?! Man oh MAN are they there!

So we ended with that.

No instrumental showings, no stories, and nearly a whole hour (50 minutes, but the nursery class was late. If we'd kept going I would have added in a song about an Easter egg hunt because I was PREPARED. Yes, yes I was.)

I gave my contact info to the woman running the centre and told her that if they ever needed a substitute again or even wanted to add another music class on another day during the week that I would be more than happy to help them out and that I really enjoyed their students. She said she particularly liked how kid centered the class had been.