Northern Cheyenne Courting Flute

 

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Cheyenne Courting Flute made by JD Old Mouse  now part of my instrument collection.

 

My first recording on the Northern Cheyenne Courting  Flute…. The flute is not tuned to a traditional diatonic scale, the sound is more improvisational, however, I have found that I can play some folk songs.  Here is a sample of  me playing Wayfaring Stranger on my beautiful flute. 

In traditional Northern Cheyenne culture, when the time came for a young man to find a mate, he would enlist the help of the tribal flute maker.  The  flute, made of cedar wood,  showcases a bull elk, along with sun and moon carvings.  This design honors the elk for shelter, food, and clothing, and the sun and the moon for the blessings of the day and the night. Upon receiving his flute,  the young man would go off to a quiet area and play a love song,  hoping to attract the attention of his intended mate.

Although not used for courting anymore, the tradition of flute making and playing continues through the work of JD Old Mouse, a Northern Cheyenne Indian who lives in Busby, MT.  Busby is about a 1.5  drive from Billings, MT  on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, near the Little Big Horn Battlefield.  This was a pilgrimage from Seattle to Eastern Montana (my native state) to learn about an aspect of Native American music from a primary source. This is part of a larger music project I’m creating called  Heart and Place: Exploring  Westward Expansion through music and stories.  

JD traces his flute lineage back three  generations starting with Turkey Legs who lived near Fort Keough (Miles City, Montana)  in the late 1800’s. After Turkey Legs, the tradition was passed to Grover Wolf Voice, then to Douglas Glenmore, also known as Blackbear.

 

Turkey Legs, late 1800's, Miles City, MT

Turkey Legs circa 1890, Montana

 

 

 

Grover

Grover Wolf Voice

 

 

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Jay Old Mouse with his grandfather, Douglas Glenmore

 

 

 

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Jay Old Mouse teaching me how to play

 

JD learned the craft of building the flute from his grandfather, Douglas Glenmore. Not only did JD learn the building of the flute, but he’s also a master at  playing. He plays for weddings, funerals, schools and other special occasions.  Whenever a flute player is requested, JD answers the call,  this is part of the flute maker’s responsibility and legacy.

Last week, I had the privilege of spending  a morning with Jay and his wife, Amy,  at their home outside of Busby to learn about the Northern Cheyenne Flute, an experience I’ll never forget. Jay showed me photographs of early flute builders and samples of their flutes, he also played the flute and gave me a lesson on  playing this gorgeous instrument.  I felt honored to get a peek into this culturally rich world.  I purchased one of his wonderful  flutes, which I brought home to Seattle.

Traditionally,  the flute is played  only by men, but JD has given his blessing for me to play and talk about the flute. He has built flutes for other women who are interested in the flute for  healing , or for educational  purposes.

For a video of Jay talking about and playing the Northern Cheyenne Courting Flute visit, please visit  here.

Jay is a warm-hearted, funny,  wise, and and soulful. Talking with him feels like a visit with those three great generations of Northern Cheyenne Flute makers who came before him.

 

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“Old Skool” Jay’s workshop, a converted school bus

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Me and Jay after  lunch near the Little Big Horn Battlefield.

 

Girls With Guitars

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Girls with Guitars! Last week, I taught a beginning guitar day camp that introduced  these young ladies to the guitar. Thanks Ruby (my daughter), in the pink shorts, for helping me this week! We had a blast. We met for two hours every day Monday-Friday and our week culminated in a performance for family and friends on the deck.

Our songs for the week included…..  Firework by Katy Perry, You Belong With Me by Taylor Swift, This Land is Your Land by Woodie Guthrie, and a traditional camp song… Ain’t No Bugs on Me.

I’d like to give a shout out to Rob Hampton of Heartwood Guitar. I love Rob’s site and  frequently pull from his 600+ chord charts for inspiration.  Thanks a million Rob for all of the great work you do! (I’m convinced you never sleep)  These girls certainly appreciated learning such cool and accessible songs!

Here are two wonderful links to the song: Girls with Guitars who was written by Mary Chapin Carpenter performing it here.  Also check out the incomparable Wynnona Judd performing it here. Oh, to be that fierce on stage!

Everyone love guitar, including French composer, Cécile Chaminade (1857-1944), who wrote this piece for solo piano: Guitare , which I recorded a couple of years ago on Women with a Past.IMG_3776.JPG

Buckets of FUN!

Bucket Drum

Simple Equipment

The Shoreline Jam

Remember that old song, I don’t Want to Work? Well,  last week,  I got paid to bang on the drum all day!  Among my music offerings including performances and private lessons, I work in communities near and far as a teaching artist. This means I utilize my skills and knowledge as a music educator and performer to tailor music experiences for a variety of audiences. For example, I’ve crafted tambourines and danced the Tarantella with elementary students, I’ve taught singalongs at retirement homes, and I’ve taught teenage Spanish classes the  Salsa!

This past week, I taught classes in bucket drumming as part of an arts camp offered to elementary aged kids and teens through the  Shoreline Lake Forest Park Arts Council.  I was one of several teaching artists offering unique arts experiences including, movie making/editing, theater  improv, print making, fiber arts, cartooning, silhouette creation, and cooking, to name a few. The goal of the camp, according to Kelly Lie, Shoreline Lake Forest Park Arts Education manager?   The Three E’s: Expose, Experience, Experiment!  I’ll say, the campers  experienced the three E’s in a big way!

My class, Rhythm Explosion, included Latin American percussion, bucket drums,  body percussion, and repurposing recycled materials into percussion instruments.  I met with two groups of students each day for a week.  The overall experience culminated in an Arts Showcase where all participants  presented their work to family and friends. Our final performance included both improvisation and composed pieces.

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The great thing about bucket drumming?  It only requires a five gallon bucket, a pair of drum sticks, and imagination.  (Ear plugs don’t hurt either!) There’s something cathartic about banging out rhythms in a group, or solo experience.

The work the students (with the help of some outstanding teachers) completed during the week was impressive.  The showcase included a professional looking gallery of  visual art  along with  a variety of  live performances.  Upon exiting the showcase, audience members were offered an icy cold fruit pop made by the culinary arts class.

Lorie Hoffman, executive director of the Shoreline arts council gave a presentation during the week about being an artist.  She told us, “Making art makes my heart sing.”   This week made my heart sing.  I can’t help but think experiences like this have ripple effects and  improve the world little by little, poco a poco.

“It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.”
Steve Jobs, in introducing the iPad 2 in 2011

 

For more on bucket drumming, I encourage you to check out this clip:

Here are two websites offering tips on getting started with bucket drumming:http://www.bucketdrumming101.com

https://bucketdrumming.net

 

 

Sweet Santa Fe Spring Break 2017

 

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Santa Fe proved a sweet destination for Spring break 2017.  My  (soon to be 15 years old!)  daughter and I headed down to the beautiful Southwest  for some desert fun in the sun.

Santa Fe, steeped in complex history and diverse cultures, is a mecca for art and history museums.  The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and The Museum of International Folk Art,  are both situated on Museum Hill overlooking 365 degree views of the mountains and the sweeping desert landscape. We stopped at a café for an outside table taking in the view between museum going.

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Along with an impressive historical display depicting the lives of the indigenous cultures of the Southwest, The Indian Arts and Cultures museum included thought-provoking works by contemporary Native American artist,  Frank Buffalo Hyde.

The plaza in downtown Santa Fe,  a stroll from our hotel , was a terrific place to people watch, listen to music, window shop, and talk to the jewelry vendors selling their wares  just outside of the Palace of the Governors (one of the oldest buildings in the country, dating back to 1610).

 

 

My favorite museum, New Mexico History Museum, tells the heartbreaking and captivating  stories of the American Southwest – the native people, the Spanish colonists, the Mexicans, the Santa Fe trail,  it’s all there!  A bonus exhibit on Flamenco dance and music was a highlight.  Turns out Santa Fe is a hot spot for Flamenco dance and culture.

 

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Ruby Dressed as a flamenco dancer. 

 

Then there was the Georgie O’Keeffe Museum  showcasing a collections of paintings  showing  the evolution of her art throughout her career.   I was as fascinated with her life as I was by her beautiful paintings.  O’Keeffe  lived 1887-1986, and spent much of her time at Ghost Ranch outside of Santa Fe, she was ahead of her time as an artist, traveler, observer, and independent woman.

It wasn’t all museums, we also took an afternoon to enjoy soaking and relaxing the 10,000 waves, a Japanese inspired spa just outside of Santa Fe.  We also enjoyed the delicious and spicy Southwest cuisine and loved the crisp clear mornings and sunny afternoons.

Ahhhhh, Santa Fe. We’ll be back!

 

 

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Coronado Historic Site

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A collection of santos

 

 

 

 

Connection and Compassion Through the Arts

 

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One of the highlights of my week  was teaching a the salsa in an elementary school  next to a 4th grade Muslim girl who had a huge grin on her face the entire time.  Her eyes were beaming  as she gave me a big bear hug at the end of the class before heading out the door.  In that moment of humanity, we were saying to each other, “I get you, and you get me.”  I’ll never forget it.

I just spent one week in an elementary school in Shoreline- teaching a Cuban cultural/dance/and song workshop to 45 classes and 600 kids in all. This residency was made possible by a grant from a local arts organization,  The Shoreline Arts Council.  To say the least, it was rewarding,  to take kids on a “classroom trip to Cuba.” I showed photos and videos of my trip, taught a tradition Yeruban song, a Spanish song, and taught the basic steps of two Cuban dance forms: Rumba, and Salsa.  The previous week,  I spent a day in a high school Spanish classroom  giving the same workshop to 5 groups  of  high school seniors (150 students in all),  yet another arts experience made possible with an arts grant.

You’ve heard it before, the arts transcends borders. When kids are exposed to the arts and culture through the arts, it broadens their world view, takes them outside of themselves, and makes them more compassionate human beings.

After one class, a second grader commented, “I see that even though a leader of a country can be thought of as not a nice person, that doesn’t mean the people that live there are bad.” Too true, my friend!

Here are some comments from the high school seniors:

M.K.  I appreciated the opportunity to express myself through artistic movement

L.E.  It was the most fun thing I’ve done in Spanish all year.

E.Z.  It was cool to learn a tradition of another culture.

L.E.  I’m glad I put myself out there to try it, it allowed me to be exposed to others.

Arts funding is currently under attack under our current administration. Please take a moment to  read this article in the New York Times  about the importance of arts and arts funding to our society.

March Music Madness

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“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
Oscar Wilde

Piano Phasing, a concert featuring more than 25  pianists (playing at the same time)  was one of the highlights from this month. Four of my students and I participated in the event, playing a composition by a Dutch Composer, Kristoffer Zeegers.  For a taste of what piano phasing is all about. Thanks to Seattle teacher GraceAnn Cummings for making this possible and for Classic Pianos in Bellevue for hosting the event.

The experience was meditative, loud, and cathartic.  I can see the attraction of making a lot of noise. What a treat to participate right along with my students in a performance.  I adore my students xoxoxoxo!!!!!

In addition, there were adjudications sponsored by the Seattle Music Teachers Association. Nine of my students played two memorized pieces and received written and verbal feedback on their performances from a wonderful adjudicator from Spokane.  Three students participated in the Young Artists Festival at the University of Washington- which is adjudications…. amped up  a few notches with very  high level playing, expectations,  and world class adjudicators.

I adjudicated for a local festival myself,  spent a Saturday from 8-5 listening to about 50 young pianists play two pieces each while I worked with another adjudicator to give feedback on their performances.  Some of their performance attire could melt a heart!  A  six year old in a pouffy white dress with black polka dots comes to mind.

Oh March, never a dull moment.  I  started a music residency at Ridgecrest Elementary  featuring Cuban music and dance.  I’m  presenting  music and dance of Cuba in narrative, photos, and videos,  and then we salsa, rumba, and sing our hearts out!  It’s great to spend a day dancing.  (or a week! ) I’ll see every student in school for two classes when all is said and done, by the end of next week.

There’s a new project in the works  for the fall, and probably for  the next several years. The new project consuming my creative energy is  Heart and Place: Music of the Westward Expansion.   I’m reading a wide array of  history of the West in the 1800’s, including the Lewis and Clark Expedition, diaries of pioneers and settlers of the Western frontier, and anything I can get my hands on.  The story of Westward Expansion is complicated,  compelling, heart-breaking, inspiring, and massive! I’m  spending a good amount of time talking to historians and people who have personal stories (for example,  this wonderful story,  featuring Al Wiseman and the Métis fiddle tradition).   What a delight to  work on this project which is quickly becoming an obsession.  In a way it feels like coming home to my roots.

I’m determined to add  traditional music that would have been played on the trail by he early pioneers to my performance repertoire for this project.  In pursuit of that goal, I’ve started taking fiddle lessons.  A humbling experience, to say the least, but I’m highly motivated and so I  spend an hour every day  sawing on  my new instrument, the fiddle!   Rosin up that bow!

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For the Love of Music- A February Wrap Up

That it’s an honor and a privilege to exchange smiles, soul, and heart directly with the people in front of you. ……. and apply your trade humbly (or not so!) as a piece of a long spirited chain you’re thankful to be a small link in.  From Bruce Springsteen’s Autobiography, Born to Run

I just caught my breath today and reflected on the past month. For the love of music!  Music, a celebration of humanity,  links us to the past and gives hope for the future.  I’m grateful to my students, teachers, and  family for a life in music. In reviewing music events of February, I’m reminded that from Brahms to bluegrass, from opera to  classical sonatas, music explores the spectrum of human emotions including love, loss, joy, yearning, hope, despair, frustration, and excitement. It’s all there,  no matter what the genre.

This is what February looked like:

  • taught 120 private lessons in my studio
  • taught 6 preschool music classes
  • taught a group class in my studio for students playing for Washington State Music Teacher’s Adjudications
  • spent a day in Shorecrest High School as a guest artist teaching students to dance the Salsa and sing Cuban songs
  • participated in a voice adjudication with one of my students
  • saw my daughter, Ruby,  make her  Benaroya Hall debut with the Roosevelt Orchestra
  • attended Angelo Rondello’s inspiring concert of contemporary piano music at the Benaroya Recital Hall as part of the Seattle Music Exchange Project
  • traveled to Mount Vernon to attend a concert of Leider of Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann, and Johannes Brahms
  • attended  Seattle Opera’s production  of Katya Kabanova By Leoš Janáček
  • attended Wintergrass in Bellevue-  a premier Bluegrass Festival where I saw  Flatt Lonesome, The Turtle Island String Quartet and so much more!  (They played an arrangement of Bob Dylan’s Along the Watchtower, it floored me)
  • read Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography,  Born to Run

The highlight of the month, of course, was seeing the Bynum, Montana  School featured in a CBS news story.  I grew up  in Choteau which is down the road a few miles .  In 2010, I spent a day at this school  as a visiting musician.

Indeed, we all should start the day with a little singing and a little dancing. If you need some inspiration, here’s Bruce!