Monday, December 31, 2012

Three Kitties Concert Review, December 28, 2012

Concert Review

As the full moon glistened on the snow at the foot of Lingle Gap, the Three Kitties rocked the Gykis Glam Party.   The Three Kitties, a band of three friends with stage names Kitty Queen, Whimper and Goldenpelt, entertained party goers with holiday classics ranging from Kitty Queen's lovely Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies to Goldenpelt's raw electric Run Run Rudolph.
 Photo: 3 kitties playing at the Gykis party. 2012-12-28_20-27-35_530 
It was a high energy show, Kitty Queen played keyboards and sang beautifully, Whimper kept the beat on his new Christmas-red drum set, and Goldenpelt played electric guitar, belting out songs Mountain Minstrel style.

The Three Kitties played without a set list, calling out songs on the fly.   

An enraptured fan danced on the bass drum during Swimming Hole, a Three Kitties original that evoked summer fun at the swimming hole on a cold winter night.

The show was followed with a blues jam!  What a party!

Set List:

Run Run Rudolph
Jingle Bells
White Christmas
Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies
Stray Cat Strut
Swimming Hole
Haunted Hollow

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Getting Started

The boys played in a show at a House Concert last night.  I had never been to a house concert and didn't know what to expect.  It was wonderful!  There were kids there!  There were families!  There were people asking about playing music with kids, as families!  About how to get started...

I'm going to write a couple blog posts about getting started.  I'm going to start with the youngest audience, babies and toddlers.  

Here's what worked for us:
  • Play lots of music at home, all different kinds of music, all the time.  Play your favorite music for your kids.  It will become their favorite music!  Dance, sing, and act silly.  Play music in the car.  Sing songs while you walk, work, and play.

  •  Sign up for a Music Together class.  We loved these!  They're so much fun.  The music is good and generally based on folk songs.  There are songs in Spanish.  Best of all, it teaches (completely through play) really sound basic music concepts like pitch and rhythm.  There are other early childhood classes and they are probably good too, but this is the one we have experience with.

  •  Go see live music.  Bring the kids.  Get them up front so they can watch the musicians.  Let their early experiences with music show them that music is something that real people make, not just something that comes out of a box.  Better yet, take them to see kids playing real music.  Kids get really inspired by other kids!
  • Take the batteries out of all the plastic toys that play "music".  Don't listen to bad kid music.  You deserve better and so do your kids.  There's a lot of awesome kid music out there.  Check out Dan Zanes and Elizabeth Mitchell.  Throw away the Baby Einstein CDs that you got at your baby shower.  There have been studies done that showed that kids that listen to these are less musical than kids who don't.
  •  Keep the TV off.  If you need screen time to take a shower, buy a Dan Zanes concert DVD, or a concert DVD of your favorite band.  Gus's favorites were the Dixie Chicks and Bruce Springsteen's Seeger Sessions.  I can definitely still see the influences.

  • Fill the toy box with instruments.  Let your kids play them until they break, then replace them with better ones.

  • Learn how to play an instrument yourself.  

  • Go to music festivals

  • Stay unplugged.  If they don't have video games they won't play them.  Maybe, if you're lucky, they'll pick up those instruments that you have strewn about the house instead.  

I hope you find this helpful.  It was certainly fun pulling out all these old pictures!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Three Kitties

 The Three Kitties

We had a houseful of meowing music today!  Gus gave his friend Nettie her second fiddle lesson, and she returned the favor by giving Gus his first piano lesson.  The lessons were totally cat-to-cat.  No grown-ups allowed.  At the end of each lesson, the "kitties" invited us to hear their concert.  Here's what they came up with.

Have I mentioned that we totally underestimate kids?  We TOTALLY underestimate kids.  Its easy to assume that they need adults to tell them how to play music, to assure them that they're doing it right, to tell them when they're doing it wrong.  And sure, sometimes they do, but sometimes they don't.  The awesome thing about trusting their instincts is that they don't forget how to trust their own instincts.  The awesome thing about letting them play music their own way is that we learn something new.  Kids are musicians too.  Awesome, huh?


Monday, June 18, 2012

Smoked Country Jam 2012 - Festival Days

5 days of music, 5 days of camping, hanging out by the campfire, talking to friends.  The 9th annual Smoked Country Jam took place last weekend at the Quiet Oaks Campground in Cross Forks, PA.  We've been to 6 of them, starting when Gus was 2 and Huck was an infant.  This is where Gus saw his first fiddle and learned his first fiddle tune.  As soon as we arrived, Theresa handed us a copy of this newspaper.  Wow!  That's a lot of newspaper article!  I thought they just needed some quotes for an article about Smoked Country Jam.  I wasn't sure what to make of it at first.  In fact, I didn't get brave enough to read it until almost a day later.  I still feel a little bit sheepish about it, but I think some really good things came of it.  The article highlighted our family's 100 day, turned 450 day and still rolling, practice challenge.  I think there is a whole blog post lurking about that topic, so I'll save it for later. 

In the meantime here are some pictures of our favorite things about Smoked Country Jam 2012:

  learning a new fiddle tune,

relaxing and watching the music,

 cooking hot dogs on the campfire,

 warming up by the big fire,

 sharing our favorite festival with Grammy and Papa Fred,

 being disappointed to not win the Chinese auction, and then getting a gift from one of the Chinese auction winners,

 watching the music with a new buddy,

and staying up way too late every night.

This year Gus was honored to play on stage with Mama Corn, the Poe Valley Troubadours, and the Hillbilly Gypsies.  I'll post some audio files and video as soon as I get unpacked and find the video camera.

Monday, May 21, 2012

When its Working...and When Its Not

Its been pretty quiet around here, both online and in the living room.  My excuse for not posting for the last couple weeks is a broken camera.  I decided to do some research to buy a new one today, picked up the old one and was very surprised to find that it worked again.  I guess it just needed to rest for a couple of weeks.  I admit that I don't understand how the camera really works (I understood my old 35 mm), and I don't know why it was only taking pictures in shades of orange, so I'll just be pleasantly surprised that it works and not ask any questions.

I guess I should take the same attitude about family band, because for a couple of weeks it wasn't working either, not at all.  We couldn't play a single song together without someone getting mad and stomping off.  I started to cringe when I even thought about trying to play music together.  Then, the other night, we started playing music on the porch and it was a blast.  It worked!  No one argued.  Everyone sounded all right.  No one tried to hard to be "boss".  It was fun again.  And the next night, still fun.  Tonight, better than fun.  We took turns flipping through a song book and attempted to play whatever we fell open to.  We learned some new songs.  We played some songs we had forgotten about.  It worked.  No questions asked?
As I uploaded the pictures for this post, I realized the camera isn't quite fixed.  Its better, but there are still some grainy orangy shots.  It might not work tomorrow.  I know that family band is like that too.  Today its working, but like the camera, it's a complicated machine made out of a bunch of parts and if one of the parts is out of sorts the result is likely to be kind of off.

Well, here are some pictures of what it looks like when both the camera and the music are working.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - music yesterday

Clanker Band
Barn Boys Band, trying so hard to get that one drum beat at the right time in the riff.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Making Music Together Increases Kids Empathy

This morning I came across a really interesting article, "Making Music Together Increases Kids Empathy."

Wow!  Something that we're doing every day can increase our empathy.  I say "our", because we've already decided that learning music is just as good for parents as kids.  This is particularly good news, because, being a sucker for parenting books, I tried to read a book about Emotional Intelligence, and I just didn't get very far.  Not that I didn't think it was important, but the book didn't grab me and I felt a little bad about it.

I'm not going to reiterate the article.  You should go read it. I'm just going to agree with it.  Kids in Suzuki violin are nicer than other kids.  In fact, in four years of group classes, I can't think of a single instance of one child being unkind to another.  The kids at Suzuki Institute and Fiddle Camp, too.  All really nice kids.  I've commented on it and just chalked it up to good luck, "Boy, what a nice bunch of kids in the boys' group classes this year, so supportive and fun," and "You can't ask for a more fun bunch at camp."  

Mountain Road Fiddle Camp 2011

It's surprising because Suzuki violin is inherently competitive.  
"What song are you on?"
"I just finished Book 1 and you're STILL on Minuet 3."
But the competition just seems to spur them on, in a positive way.

Suzuki Institute 2011

People often ask me if Huck is jealous and competitive of Gus' music.  He isn't, at least not in that, "He got a bigger piece of chocolate cake than I did," sort of way that brothers are notorious for.  In fact, I think he's Gus' biggest fan.  

In part, it is because Huck has his peers in his class to compete with.  He and a friend have been neck-to-neck since they learned to play Twinkle, and now they're both finishing up Gossec Gavotte.  When either of them performs a solo for their group class, the other watches attentively and claps louder than anyone else in the group!  That alone is a wonderful lesson, to compete in a supportive and nurturing way.   

Fiddle Camp between classes
So, if playing music with other kids increases empathy, what does this say about family music?  Where do we need empathy more than at home?  Don't we often say the unkindest things to the people we love most?  We're patient with strangers at work and at school, but often there's no patience left for our families.  When we play music together, we listen to each other.  We watch each other and interact.  And it brings us joy.  Sometimes, it doesn't work that way, and someone walks away mad.  But as time goes on, that happens less.  We're learning, and we're learning together as a family.  And if we're increasing our empathy while we're at it, we should all go play some music together.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What we're focused on

This post is about focus, extreme focus.  Although most of us admire this kind of focus, we usually encourage our kids to do things in scheduled increments of no more than an hour.  That's the very best part of homeschooling.  Allowing the kids to work on what they're interested in for as long as they want.

Gus is involved with an amazing project with an awesome bunch of talented musicians.  He's working on it all the time and loving it.  He's practicing the songs for hours a day.  When he's not doing that he's poring through the Mountain Minstrelsy book, picking out more songs, or strumming his banjo, chord chart in hand writing more songs.  Its what he's humming as he plays Legos, and what he's talking about after I tuck him in and turn out the light at bedtime.

This is what Gus's life looks like right now. 

 Helping to make sure that the mikes and recording equipment are set up correctly.

Learning how the sound board works.


 Practicing with the band.

 Composing more Mountain Minstrelsy.

Writing about science.

Making art.

 And, as always, taking pictures of the cat.