Friday, April 23, 2010

Drawing the Curtains

     The air has been cool this week ....especially at night. Spring blooms slowly in Wisconsin. Our daffodils are just past their prime and the crabapple trees have ripe buds.
     When it is cold we leave our bedroom curtains closed.  As I straightened up that room this morning and prepared to sort some laundry, I decided I really needed to draw the curtains.  It was a lovely day outside and some solar heat would feel good.  As I pulled them open sunlight filled the room.  It was so pretty!   At that moment it occurred to me this is like reading Scriptures.  When I take the time to read and study scriptures, particularly in the morning, I am drawing spiritual curtains, so to speak.  I am opening the door to receive spiritual light.  What beauty awaits!
     It was a profound moment.  I really needed it, too.......I periodically wander away from this activity and the reminder felt good.  That is what I will do next.
     I just wanted to share this in hopes that it might encourage someone else!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Viola Rehab

     For almost two years I have been in what I call "viola rehab".  I had felt for some time that I needed some professional tune-up lessons.  I finally tried a local teacher and discovered a gold mine.  I also found out that I had acquired many BAD habits during my mothering years.
     To make a long story short, my first lesson revealed to me that this was probably the perfect teacher for me at that time.  This has turned out to be true.  He had experienced some similar problems and knew what I had to do.....and it works.
     When I began these lessons I did not have confidence that I could make changes in technique at my age.  I knew it would be a long haul, so to speak.  It took me two years of at least 5 hours of playing a day in graduate school to get in shape, and I was 30 way back long was this endeavor going to take??  Phew!!
     I had a few remarkable experiences at home with scriptures at this time.  There were a few times when I absent-mindedly opened my Bible and my eyes landed on verses referring to the fact that with God nothing is impossible.  Sometimes it was the story of Abraham being told that Sarah would have Isaac in her OLD age-other times it was a passage in the New Testament.  It happened too many times to be a coincidence. So I exercised faith and worked.
     It is working..........I am making the needed changes.  I am not finished, but I already see some results.  It is easier to play.  Who thought it would be EASIER at my age???!!!   I am so VERY grateful.  So VERY thankful for this opportunity....cause I just love my viola.........


     This is a follow-up to my last post.  While reading from the Book of Mormon to my family at breakfast this morning,  I began at the top of the next page to be read and this is what came out, "For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from they that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have."  2 Nephi 28:30
     As I read this I noticed it echoed some ideas presented in my post from yesterday.  I felt a spiritual impression in my mind that the other students in the class I referred to dropped out because the professor offended them.  They had enough.  I have always wondered what the real reason was they left the class.  I have had feelings and guesses but have been unable verbalize them.  This was my answer. The more I think about it the more it fits.  On the other hand, I wanted and needed what he was teaching and was greatly rewarded.  I  feel  that some of the students would have come to value what was taught if they had remained long enough to give the prof a chance.  In later years I had a chance to talk him up to a couple of my colleagues; they took a classes from him and gave him rave reviews.
     When experiences like this happen I am mindful of scriptures referring to looking "beyond the mark".  Most of the students did that, I think.  Me, too...... but for different reasons. "Looking beyond the mark" resulted in fear and anxiousness.  It paralyzed me to some extent.....I was too scared to communicate! I was expecting to learn about many symphonies and be able to recognize them and expound at length about each.  It seemed like an impossible task to me and I was terrified at times.  Really scary.....  Instead I learned how to do this without memorizing tons of facts.  Yes, you do need to know many composers' styles well.....but that is very different than mindlessly memorizing facts and listening to something over and over again until  you hear every note by memory.  In my case it was more a matter of putting labels and categories to the ton of music already in my head at that point.  It meant refining my listening skills ...learning to listen with my mind as well as my ears.  Critical listening.
     What I would really like to do now is put a plug in for the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith, the translator of such.  When I first heard about Joseph Smith I thought it was hogwash.  That stuff doesn't happen, I thought.  And---this is really weird.  Besides, what a common and boring name. more basic can a name be than Joe Smith?  Basic......and how much more basic can a poorly educated 14 -18 year old boy be?  His background was very common.  I have read and pondered his life and the Book of Mormon and I think it a remarkable feat to have translated the B of M.  The more I learn about Joseph the more I discover what a remarkable man he was.  Over time he became a man of great knowledge and wisdom in addition to being a true disciple of Christ.  He became a prophet of God.  He was the instrument in restoring the original gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by the Savior.  A basic man expanded into a  prophet of God by living principles of truth.  Absolute truths.  The gospel is truth....things as they really are.  I encourage anyone to read, study and pray about it yourself....don't take my word for it.  I believe it was Joseph who said that "truth will cut its own way".  The Holy Ghost will testify of its truthfulness if you really want to know. 


Sunday, April 18, 2010


     My first music history class in graduate school gave me the keys to succeed academically.  In retrospect it was a great blessing in my life, but at the time it was painful.  I had been a crammer as an undergraduate and had not retained a lot of music history upon entering grad school about 6 years later.  My class, Symphonic Literature, was not being taught in the expected way and most of the students dropped out. I think they wanted exposure to lots of symphonies, but the professor taught style analysis so that we could each discover on our own who wrote a particular composition and be able to defend our conclusion.
     In the end I was left alone with a student getting a doctorate in music theory.  I was too terrified to drop out.....and  I also liked what was being taught.  My prof focused on basics at the beginning and that was exactly what I needed.  I soaked it all in.  I remember him saying that it had been his experience that graduate students disliked discussing basics....they were done with that and wanted to move on (hence most dropped out), but that was always the place to start.  I understood him to mean that we can never know too much to ignore the basics, and that when we attempt to analyze a composition, that is where we should always start.
     Basics in this case included looking at how a composer treats the basic elements of music....SHMRG, or Sound, Harmony,Melody, Rhythm,and Growth.  My professor gave us his practical, simplified version of La Rue's style analysis (a book I abhorred as an undergrad...!!!). It was a 3-4 page outline of each musical element, SHMRG,  and under each was a detailed list of musical characteristics  to look and listen for.  It was wonderful.....and my method for every analysis paper I wrote.  It worked beautifully.   It is the key to understanding music. That difficult, intimidating class turned out to be the best academic experience I had. 
     That experience has affected other areas of my life, including my understanding of what I believe to be the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I have found that becoming a follower of Christ  revolves around three basics taught by the church I attend (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), and they are faith, repentance and baptism.  The more I learn the more I see that everything is related to these.  It takes faith to believe and act in accordance with Christ's teachings.  Repentance, or changing to more fully live as Christ would have us do (obey commandments), involves commitment (in my case, baptism and then renewal of this covenant each week as I take the Sacrament).  This leads to more faith, more repentance, and more commitment.  As the cycle repeats we are added upon, so to speak, little by little.  We feel more of the Holy Spirit, our ability to  obey increases, and our understanding expands.  The atonement of Christ makes all of this possible. cooking, in design, in health, and so on and so on.  Start with the basics........

Saturday, April 3, 2010


     Recently I watched part of the movie Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.  For those who have not seen it, the movie tells the story of a "green" junior senator played by Jimmie Stewart and his battle with corrupt senators.  He was a powerful example of someone who did everything he could to break through dishonesty and corruption and fight for what he believed to be right. 
     In March I began teaching  the 5 year old children at the church I attend, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  As I reflected on the movie I remembered the lesson I will teach next.  It is called Dare to Choose the Right, I think.  Hence my post title, DCR.
     Mr. Smith dared to do right.  He met tremendous opposition and won in the end.  There was hope for positive change.
     I can't help but wonder how much corruption is in our federal government today.  It brings forth scary thoughts.  I wonder if there are any Mr. Smiths out there and why I don't hear about them.  It makes me mad, among other things.  Something is--and has been--wrong with this picture.
     At the same time I know that there are some good men in Congress.  I know this from study and I also know it from a feeling or impression that I have had...all is not lost yet.  I pray that these men exert their influence.
     How often do each of us DTDR?  I suppose that daring to do what is right begins at home, daring to teach our children what we know to be right and doing it ourselves.  I think it means picking ourselves up when we goof-up and try again.  That act can be daring in itself.
     Today and tomorrow I am going to watch the semi-annual general conference of our church (available on the internet at  I hope to be encouraged and strengthened by what I hear.

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In addition to being a violist, I am a wife and mother (three sons). I dabble in writing, handwork, sewing and photography.