Heart and Place at the C.M. Russell Museum,Great Falls, MT

 

 

Fourteen performances in four days in six different venues!  (Sounds like a country song)  I’ve just returned to Seattle after presenting my program, Heart and Place, Music of the Westward Expansion, in Great Falls, MT last week. The week involved hauling around a guitar, fiddle, Cheyenne Courting Flute, and sometimes a full size keyboard, and amp along with samples of C.M. Russell artwork.

The C.M. Russell Museum sponsored the residency which included programs in middle and high schools, as well as an evening performance in the museum.

The highlight was playing a concert in the intimate setting of the museum for around eighty people on a beautiful Yamaha grand. There was something magical about playing 19th Century music surrounded by Russell’s artwork and artifacts from the same era.  Many people in the audience were from my hometown of Choteau. Choteau is 50 miles down the road from Great Falls. Thanks to all who made the journey down the road!

I can’t say enough about the dedicated arts professionals in Great Falls including the music and art teachers in the classrooms, along with the Music and Art Supervisor for Great Falls Schools, Dusty Molyneaux and Eileen Laskowski, Education and Programs Manager for the C.M. Russell Museum.

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I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.

-John Steinbeck

 

Heart and Place

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I’m delighted  to announce the launch of a new program, Heart and Place: Stories of the Westward Expansion told through music and narrative.  This project feels like coming home, as I grew up in rural Montana.  Choteau, Montana, to be precise, population 1800.
My early music experiences in that small town and have fueled my career as a music educator/ musician.  Some of those experiences include  singing in choirs, playing in band, studying piano, playing for church, acting in musicals, and to driving to the next small town for voice lessons. This program brings it all home.
I’ll be launching the program in Seattle on Oct. 14 and will be taking it to Montana to perform at the CM Russell Museum Oct. 26, 7:00, as well as several Great Falls area schools.
 The story of the West is epic, and while I cannot focus on everything,  I’ve chosen certain aspects to highlight including the music of the Overland Trail, the early frontier settlements, and the  Northern Cheyenne Courting Flute as taught to me by Jay Old Mouse of Busby, Montana. The performance includes solo piano music, singing, guitar, and demonstrations on the fiddle and the Northern Cheyenne Courting Flute.

“COURAGE IS BEING SCARED TO DEATH, BUT SADDLING UP ANYWAY.”   ― JOHN WAYNE

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Montana’s Trailhead

Billings, Montana, marketed as Montana’s trailhead,   located in South Central Montana in Yellowstone County,  serves as Montana’s largest  city  with a population of nearly 115,000 residents.  I was born in Billings while My Dad was attending Eastern Montana College (now Montana State Billings).  My Mom reports we lived in a humble abode ( a garage)  for around $30.00 per month. We lived in Billings  for my first four years, then moved to Poplar, Montana, then ended up in Choteau, Montana.

My recent trip to Billings, accompanied by Joe,  was  nostalgic, relaxing and educational.  The primary reason for the trip was to pay a visit to Jay Old Mouse and learn about the Northern Cheyenne Courting Flute.  In a  couple of packed days,  we visited the Little Bighorn Battlefield, hiked along the Rim Rocks, strolled along the Victorian Mansions in the Historic District, and visited the  Western Heritage Museum. We also spent time with my brother and family who drove over from Clyde Park, near Bozeman.  (also ate at a great restaurant called the Wild Ginger!)

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I love finding unusual music stories, and I found a treasure in the Western Heritage Museum!  Ever heard of the song, the Hippy Hippy Shake, recorded by the Beatles and 30 other bands? It also turned up in that 80’s movie, Cocktail,  starring Tom Cruise.    As it turns out, that song was written by Mexican-American rock star, and Billings born, Chan Romero ( born  in 1941).  Here he is performing The Hippy Hippy Shake.

 

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I had no idea there was such a rich Mexican- American in Billings.   It’s truly a thrill to find these hidden music gems on my travels.

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Sculpture on the  Little Bighorn Battlefield

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Billings Victorian Beauty.

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Would love to add this outfit to my vintage collection!

 

 

 

I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.

-John Steinbeck

 

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

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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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Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Have Yourself a Merry Little  Christmas, Words and Music by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, Recorded at the Yellow House Studio 

Wishing you peace and love in the Holiday Season

XOXOX,

Laura

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on, our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the Yuletide gay
From now on, our troubles will be miles away

Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more
Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow
So hang a shining star upon the highest bough
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now

 

Yves Saint Laurent The Perfection of Style

Yves Saint Laurent The Perfection of Style is on exhibit at  Seattle Art Museum,now through January 8!

Spent the morning in awe and giddy delight as I took in this amazing exhibit at SAM.  Left inspired by the colors, the designs, the textures, the history, the process, the sparkles, the variety, the creative output, the elegance,  the life, the style,  and the genius of Yves Saint Laurent (1936-2008).

 

 

Today’s recording:  Cordoba from the Spanish Suite Andalucia by Ernesto Lecuona

 

What the World Needs Now is Love Yellow House Salon Week #6

I’m off on an adventure later this week with my daughter and her middle school orchestra, that’s why this week’s recording is a little early.  The trip is a labor of love, as I am the trip leader for 37 kids and 12 adults to the beautiful Icicle Creek/Sleeping Lady resort in Leavenworth, Washington. That’s a story for next week, perhaps.

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I love walking to cafés, almond milk cappuccinos,  and making lists.

I have pages in my filofax planner (one of my favorite things), listing people, experiences, and things I love. I’m up to #42.

If we all do a little more of what we love and focus on loving those we love, I think the world will be a little better place.

As Mother Teresa said, We can do no great things, just small things with great love .  Now with all this talk about love, here’s  What the world Needs Now is Love. 

Music by Burt Bacharach, Lyric by Hal David, arranged by Phillip Keveren, played by Laura Dean

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No, not just for some but for everyone

MP4 Format What the world needs now is love, sweet love

MP3 Format here!