Just Say NO!

Creative Infrastructure

Doughnut A first year graduate student in my arts management class presented a paper this week on arts labor economics.  Her undergrad degree was in acting so she had never delved into the topic formally. She certainly understood through anecdotal observation that there is an imbalance between artist labor supply and artist opportunity and that artists are often paid less than their peers in other fields (to put it mildly).  Among the factors she considered was that artists are often willing to work for low or even no pay because the joy of doing the work is payment enough.   In concluding her presentation, she posed a rhetorical question that I paraphrase here: How can we make this vicious cycle of artist oversupply and underpayment stop?

Following this presentation, I returned to my office and this email:

Hello!

I want to reach out and see if you have any film students that…

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5 Things That Make Me a Better Pianist

A pianist is not just a pianist just because she plays music.  There are a lot of factors that go into the making of a musician – A LOT of things.  A well-rounded Mad Pianist is a happy and successful Mad Pianist.  So, here is a list of 5 things that go into the making of a Mad Pianist.

1. Exercise.  Regular exercise always makes me play better.  The more in tune your physical, emotional, and spiritual side are, the better you will do at so many things.  I have found that the more that I exert myself physically, the better my focus and my tone production and control.  Coincidence?  I really don’t think so.  So, if that is what is going to motivate me to get my behind off the piano bench and into the outdoors, I will gladly use that motivation.  Go for a walk or a run, or do some yoga.  Your body and mind will thank you.

2.  Reading.  I love to read.  I  have for my entire life.  I do not recall the following story but my mother does and I have heard it often.  Apparently, I came home from the first day of Kindergarten and announced that I was never going back.  When she asked me why, I replied that they hadn’t taught me to read and so I did not feel the need to return.  Since that time, I have become a voracious reader.  I think it helps that my mom is always reading and always encouraged her children to do so.  I have found many friends in the books I have read and some friends that I visit over and over.  Literature and music are very closely related.  In fact, I often draw my interpreting inspiration from books I have read and the worlds that I have visited.  So, go read a book.

3.  Practice.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  This is a no brainer, right?  I have not always enjoyed practicing and there are days that I still find little enjoyment in the process.  There is a common saying that practice makes perfect.  Well, the saying should really be that perfect practice makes perfect.  I do believe, however, that practice makes better.  I have learned how to make practice more efficient and effective for me but it has taken me years to get to this point.  Practicing is not an easy process but it makes hard things possible.  I can do hard things.  So can you.  Go practice something – it doesn’t have to be the piano or even music.  Just go improve yourself somehow!

4.  Friends.  I have had the privilege to have some great friends during my journey on this earth.  Some I talk with regularly and some I have not talked to since we parted.  That is life.  Good friends encourage you to be a better person.  I had a couple friends during my grad school days that I consider some of the best people I have ever met and talk with them often.  They offered to go and pop someone in the knees that I was struggling to work with.  I declined but their ongoing support and encouragement meant a lot then and it does now.  Your friends should uplift you and make you want to be better.  If they don’t, break those ties.  Life is too short to be miserable and surrounded with people that bring you down.  Go meet someone new today.  You’ll be glad you did.

5.  Day of Rest.  I have one day that I do not practice or perform.  It is a day free from my labors of the rest of the week.  It is a day of physical and mental rest.  I really do not think that I could survive the other six days without my day off.  I truly believe that everyone needs at least one day where they are not worried about work, projects, or the outside world.  I know that I need a day to just be.  So, I take that day to just exist.  On that day, I am not a pianist or a blogger or….anything.  I am just me.  I hope that you can all find a day to just be – even if it is just once in a while.  We all deserve a break – you included.

Peace and Love (and self-improvement),

The Mad Pianist

Music Share: Elizaveta…

I am a huge music nerd.  I suppose that is not a huge surprise to hear.  Well, I am always on the hunt for fabulous, new music and new artists to enjoy.  A couple of years ago, I happened upon Elizaveta.  She is a classically trained musician and is so fabulous.  Monday, her new single dropped.  I am including the SoundCloud file for your enjoyment.  I am also going to include a couple of my favorite tunes by her.  I think you should all take a listen to her over and over and over again.  I definitely want to see her perform live.  I think that she is indeed a performer – check her out, you’ll understand.  Performing with her would be an incredible, incredible dream.

Hero (her new song)

Meant

Odi et Amo

Without You (Cover)

So, what artists do you enjoy listening to and anticipate their new music?  Who is on your bucket list to see live?

Peace and Love (and good music),

The Mad Pianist

Preview

I wanted to share a preview of some pieces that I am pulling back up and going to slowly share with all of you. This particular piece is the 4th in a set of 6 short pieces. I performed this set as a part of my Master’s recital at the University of Oklahoma in November 2007. As I get them all uploaded, I will share the entire playlist with you. I am currently working on getting one of my favorite “fun” pieces ready to record. It is a piece I learned in high school but has stayed with me ever since – “Rocktata” – a piano prelude by Michael Valenti. It is so fun to play. I am also working on some Bach, Beethoven, and dare I say – some American music. In the meantime, enjoy this very short piece from my past.

Peace and Love,
The Mad Pianist

Control

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This is from a clip on YouTube “Allison Janney – In Character: Actors Acting”

“I like control.” – Michael Jordan

What is the difference between being in control and being controlling?  Is there a significant difference or is this just another idea contrived by humans in order to make ourselves feel better?

I was visiting with my friend Mark the other day.  He is a piano student at the local university and one of the most talented pianists I have met.  We were talking about composers and which ones we prefer to play and listen to over those we would rather skip.  It all came down to J.S. Bach.  Yes, he is/was amazing.  I made the comment that I prefer to learn and play Bach because it gives me the sense of control that I feel is lacking in so many other areas of my life.  This is a pretty recent development for me – probably over the last five or so years.  There are days when I feel like I have been spread so thin and my patience is sorely lacking.  There are days when I bounce from activity to activity and feel like I have no real control over my schedule.  There are days when my emotions are so over the place that I really have no hope of functioning in any sort of appropriate capacity.  These are the days when Bach helps to reign me in and find purpose and order in the madness.  Today, I could have benefited greatly from having the opportunity to spend 30-60 minutes just with Bach.  I think that there could have been no better cure from the madness that kept evolving over the day than being alone at the piano with one of my dearest friends – Bach.

When I am working, I always feel so in control.  I know how to do my job and I do it well.  Then a powerful group walks into the building and every person freaks out.  Every.  Single.  Person.  I go from knowing how to do my job to all my superiors questioning my ability to do my job just because a bunch of people walked through the front door.  This is exactly what happened this afternoon.  As my coworker and I were regrouping today and coming up with a new game plan for the afternoon, our department manager comes up to us and starts ordering us around.  The longer the afternoon went on, the more I nearly snapped in two distinct pieces.  I was doing the same thing that I do every Wednesday afternoon because my job function doesn’t change based on people of importance in the building.  However, all the tension from the management team made me want to cry and scream….or something as appropriate.  This is not control.  This is pure controlling behavior.

We are not meant to control each other.  That is not what this life is about.  We need to take control of ourselves and trust that the other people in our lives are doing the same.  I am a human being full of emotions, talent, drive, and the ability to do my job well.  Trust that this I will continue to do and we will get along very well.  If you decide to try to control my actions, well, we might come to a not so happy end.  I am a person that is full of a range of emotions and in any given day, you will see many of them.  I hide nothing.

“Being in control of your life and having realistic expectations about your day-to-day challenges are the keys to stress management, which is perhaps the most important ingredient to living a happy, healthy and rewarding life.” – Marilu Henner

Peace and Love (And Sanity),

The Mad Pianist

Six Words

Can you describe your life in six words or less?  I’ll give you a moment…..

……..

……..

……..

Not easy, is it?

Mine?  Well, um… how about:  Youngest child, plays piano and writes.  HA!  I really just pulled that one out of thin air.  I can also make up limericks on the spot too.  So many talents coming from so many random places.

I am not going to hit you with a bunch of words today or anything too serious.  I do want to share with you a TED Talk.  I love these talks – I listen to one almost daily.  I ran across this one some time ago and then again today.  So, send me your lives in six words or less…or a limerick.  I’m good with either!

The Mind Enters Itself

8d65c75a-501a-458f-8ab6-e392267dcf9a“Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?”
-Theodore Roethke-

 

Do you ever feel like you are losing your mind?  I mean really losing your mind.  This is me – at least the me of now.

I have developed this huge fear of dementia – more specifically of Alzheimer’s.  A person that has Alzheimer’s Disease has a brain that looks like Swiss Cheese – holes everywhere.  This disease literally eats pieces of your brain.  You forget people.  You forget places.  You forget experiences.  You forget how to take care of yourself.  You forget how to swallow.  You forget how to talk.  You lose you.

Back in the 1980s, my maternal grandfather had Alzheimer’s.  He died not long after I turned five, so I have very few memories of him.  In fact, I only have one memory and I am not sure it is even real.  Over the years, I have heard my mom talk about her father during this period.  He would walk and walk and walk and have to be brought home from miles away.  He had moments of not recognizing his wife of many years or his children.  She always comes back to, “I wish we knew then what is known now about this disease.  It would have helped us.”  It is true that very little was known and so members of the family were hurt much more by his forgetting them than perhaps could have been the result.  The family had not been given key information to aid them in their coping with this loss of their husband and father.  This information just was not readily available because it was still early days.

Alzheimer’s Disease is called “The Long Goodbye” for a reason.  By the time a person does die, he is truly and completely gone.  I see this every day at work.  I see the grief family members are called to endure as they slowly lose their family member.  Would I wish this disease on even my greatest enemy?  NO!

I feel this incredible fear and almost certainty that this will happen to me.  I do not want to miss or regret any moment of the life that I am given.

I often feel that my mind is this jumbled jar of thoughts, ideas, and warring emotions.  This past week has been one of heightened creativity.  However, with this creativity comes this feeling of unimaginable madness.  I could not even begin to describe this feeling.  It is like wanting more, more, more and being given a pittance.  I want more time to devote to my art, more time for personal and professional creativity, more time to just live.  I am happy and sad, satisfied and unsatisfied, energized and exhausted all at the same time.

So, for today, I live and create.  Tomorrow I hope to be able to do the same.  There will come a day, hopefully in the far distant future, when I may not even remember that I desired to do so.

Peace and Love (And Creativity),

The Mad Pianist 4efca8b5-d861-48cd-aeda-84be1f3b2651

 

The Confessional

It’s another segment of confession time. There are several new readers to this site and I want to say “Welcome!” So, for your reading pleasure, here are some confessions of a mad pianist – just so you get to know me and my eccentricities a little better.29d5f034-2559-4c2e-9dd2-f669aa5211a1

  1. I hate walking outside after dark. I always have. You could say that I am afraid of being attacked by someone or something. I think it goes back to my watching “Unsolved Mysteries” as a young child. This fear also extends into going into any basement when I am alone – regardless of the time of day. I think I mostly blame my brother for this one. He would tell me all sorts of stories about things coming to get me. For example, he once told me that if I jumped too high on the trampoline that the aliens would be able to see me and come take me away. He would also join me in watching “Unsolved Mysteries” and then concoct ways to scare me out of my skin. Such a wonderful brother, right? No, really- he was and is pretty great.
  2. I organize my books (mainly my books and other stuff as well) by height. I then further break it down alphabetically by author’s last name if there are several books at the same height. I also have organized all my movies alphabetically and the TV on DVD is separate. All my music is organized alphabetically by name of band and further by name of album. Maybe it’s a little OCD but it makes me feel better.
  3. I become really obsessed with things at times. Meaning that once I find something that really strikes me, I tend to focus on that and only that for quite some time. The subject matter rarely matters because it shifts every few months. I have spent time focused on the Kennedy’s, piano technique, certain TV shows, authors, etc.
  4. I get really paranoid when I’m driving my car and all of a sudden some vehicle suddenly appears behind me and follows me for quite some time. I always feel like they are deliberately following me and are, once again, going to attack me. Can I blame the crime and conspiracy shows that I sometimes like to watch?
  5. I actually enjoy pain. I know that sounds bad but it’s pretty true. Not all pain, of course. I hate headaches and pain when I’m sick. However, I get really excited if I wake up sore in the mornings. I love bruises – not only are they like battle wounds but it’s pleasantly hurtful when you accidentally touch them. I think pain is a wonderful way to remember that you are alive. It’s like justifying life.
  6. I really, really, really hate overhead lighting. It’s almost intrusive. I love a room lit just by lamplight and candles. I remember always laughing at the clarinet professor during my undergrad years because of his not using the overhead lighting but I totally get it now. It just really bugs me when something is too bright. Call me whatever you will, but soft lighting will always be the way to go. I can never have too many lamps.
  7. I love to travel – to see the way that people all over live. I don’t even mind traveling alone. On my bucket list is a plethora of places I want to see. One of my goals is to set foot on each of the seven continents before I die.
  8. I tend to over think everything. I believe that there is a definite reason for everything and I am continuously racking my brain in order to try and figure things out. I also tend to doubt myself and my decisions pretty much all the time. It’s a constant source of stress for me wondering whether I’m really doing the things that I’m meant to do.
  9. I have a really hard time paying attention a lot of the time. When I had to attend class, I would drift off and not really hear some of what was said. If you are ever talking to me and wondering if I’m ever paying attention, I’m probably not. I tune out and respond to people with “mmmhmmm” and a head nod so they think I am actually listening to them. I will now hang my head in shame.
  10. I always felt that I was really misplaced in my life. I love Idaho and country-living but I never really felt like I belonged. Idaho will always be home for me, at least in my heart but I don’t know that I will make my entire life here. I enjoyed living in Oklahoma as well but it wasn’t necessarily “home” either. One day I will find the place I feel I belong and all will be well in my world. This I do believe.
  11. I’m not antisocial. I have a hard time putting myself out there because of many things. I fear that I will be left alone and/or will be the odd person out. I suppose I leave myself out on purpose to make the rejection of myself my own fault. I want to be more involved and perhaps I can work on that but give me some time.
  12. I love thunderstorms and just rain in general. While I lived in Oklahoma, it was like weather heaven for me. I loved how the thunder would shake the whole house. After I came back to Idaho, I would really anticipate the thunderstorms and then be sorely disappointed. Lightning and thunder are wonderful. Sigh.
  13. One of the happiest places for me to be is wrapped up in a blanket under a lamp reading a book. I have a lot of books on my “to-read” list. I will never run out of adventures and worlds to temporarily inhabit.
  14. I truly do think that my family is filled with a bunch of freaks but I wouldn’t trade them for the sake of normality. We are all blessedly different but somehow seem to get along most of the time.
  15. I really miss my “what the bleep down the rabbit hole” days with Lisa and Andrea. You will be introduced to these characters soon – maybe next week. They really taught me to live the day that I am given and to embrace whatever life has in store. I never thought that my friends could be my family until I met these wonderful gals.
  16. I have discovered that I have more patience than I ever thought I had. Granted, there are days when I have very little but it’s more than maybe could be present. Today, for instance, I really wanted to snap at some of the old people I work with. Everyone was having a bad day and was grumpy (me included). I swear, if one more person asks me for a napkin while I am handing out the percussion instruments I am seriously going to snap! All is well. I still have a job.
  17. I think if given the right opportunities and the right contacts, I could do something amazing with my life. I am still not sure what that something amazing would look like but I know it is there. Perhaps this here is just the first step in a series of adventures that will follow. I really, really hope so.
  18. As a child, I always thought that I would die tragically as a teenager. Now, I have the fear that I will die young but it will be murder. This used to not terrify me as much as it does now. The older I get the more concerned I am for the associations I make for this very reason.
  19. I like playing scales and arpeggios. GASP. I never thought I would admit to that one but there it is. The more I practice and work at my scales, the better I play in general. Now, who wouldn’t like to play scales if the results are out of this world FANTASTIC? Go play your scales.
  20. I am in a box musically. I am trying to break out of this box but it is so incredibly hard. I love Bach, Beethoven, Liszt, Chopin, Schumann, Bartok, etc. but I absolutely hate Joplin and most ragtime. My mother is probably shaking her head by now. She would love nothing more than for me to play a whole program of ragtime. I struggle with the will and desire to even learn one piece. So, I am going to work at working at this. All in good time.

So, there are a few of my confessions. Why don’t you send me a couple of yours? What is it about yourself that you really wish you didn’t know? The funnier the better. Go for it. You know you want to send them to me.

Don’t forget to send me your questions and comments. The more questions you have to ask, the better. I promise to get to them all and then answers just might surprise you. You want to know why the Mad Pianist thinks the sky is blue, why political parties cannot seem to get along, or why your pedaling foot hurts? Use the contact me form and send in whatever you want to send in!

Peace and love (and a few good confessions),

The Mad Pianist            

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