Friday, July 25, 2014


It's Friday, so we don't have our last class of the day. Thank goodness, because I'm exhausted. These classes are some of the most intense classes I've ever taken in my life. I still wonder sometimes why I decided to come back for level 2 after knowing what level 1 entailed. (I'm only being half serious. Anyone who knows me knows exactly why I came back and knows that even though I complain, I LOVE a good challenge.)

Here's a brief synopsis of what my days look like here at the Hartt School of Music.

8:00- 10:00 Conversational Solfege on the first floor with Dr. John Feierabend. He's pretty much the reason I came to this school. Hartt was my first choice for this masters program I'm working on, but Anderson ended up being a better fit since he is adjust there and I could do Kodály here and basically have the best of both worlds. This is a whirlwind class that has more information that I can process. I take notes like crazy and try to put it all together. We begin each day with a canon, a dance of some sort, and movement with classical music. I'm not a morning person by nature, but it is just delightful to start each day making music and synchronizing with other people. These two hours fly so fast it is ridiculous. The teacher is hilarious. He comes to class in flip flops, bright clothes, is always happy, telling jokes, and super smart. He is a very good teacher and has done so much research. He is super opinionated, so sometimes I struggle with if I agree with everything he says, but I love being in his class.

10:00-10:15- Break time on the second floor. Each day they provide some juice and fruit for us, which is excellent. I usually run up the stairs, grab some food, and then run up for my next class.

10:15-12:15- Folk Song Research II on the fourth floor. I LOVE this class. So, so much. We do more folk dancing, lots of singing games, and learn more and more about  everything. We talk about the origins of folk music and culture, the hidden (sometimes ugly and dark) meaning behind some of these songs, and teach each other variations on songs. This class has sooooo much homework. We had to come with 50 master copies prepared. We are spending this week analyzing and indexing all songs. We are identifying tone sets, range, tonality, scale, interval element and note group content, harmonic feathers, etc. Of course, this means we have to have a clear sequence of what we teach. This was the hardest part for me. Sequencing is grey, not black and white, and really has a lot of factors. For this black and white perfectionist, this was a very good exercise to go through but one that had much struggle. I'll likely wrestle with this for quite awhile. Mind blown. The teacher for this class is an elementary ed teacher and is amazing. Humble, kind, wise, and just lives and breathes music. He studied under Jill Trinka (who used to teach here at Hartt). He's one of my favorites here. He told us the first day that "all good folk songs will corrupt you." He told us on Thursday that the 2nd years all walk around crying with bags under their eyes from being up late struggling with their analysis and looking like their brain exploded. He keeps apologizing that he has to do this to us, but  to trust him that it will all be OK by the end of the 2nd week. He gets it. He's a good teacher. Unbelievably good. He dresses like the stereotypical music teacher and I can imagine his students must just absolutely love him. You can tell that he just "gets" life and children and has a conscious and is aware of the music and the message he wants in his classroom.

12:15-1:00 We walk back to our dorm rooms and sing the entire way. Literally, because we have so much to learn. By the time we get back, we have all of 30 minutes to make and scarf lunch, then walk back to class, again singing the entire way back.

1:15-2:15- Choir. Lots of music. Lots of talk about vowels. You know, the usual. The instructor is crazy-good and the people in Hungary like him because he can do things that no other American can in terms of his musicianship.

2:30- 5:00 Torture on the third floor. I mean Solfege II. Hardest class ever. We do all sorts of horrible things. Sing through modal scales, sight-read, dictation, play and sings that must be memorized. This teacher grew up in Hungary and his ear is so sharp it is frightening. While I very much despise his foul and crude language and find it offensive, I am really challenged musically in his classes. If you can see between the bad words, he really is a funny guy. His ear doesn't miss a thing. If you get the tiniest bit flat or sharp, he pounds his fist on the piano, makes a face, asks "What was that? Idiot! Do it again!" I suspect some of what I find offensive isn't meant to be offensive but is a difference in culture and grew up in a rough time, but still. Last year there were at least six people who cried in his class and he just went right on teaching. He pushes us hard. Every once in awhile, he'll show that he can be understanding. On Wednesday the entire class was deflated and exhausted and discouraged. He told it's Wednesday and the normal slump. "It's normal. You right where you should be". Part of what makes him funny is that he has a thick accent and says things in strange ways sometimes because English is his second language. Favorite quotes so far  include

  • "You all so quiet. Like right before execution...." 
  • "You know, Dead People's Day" (He was referring to All Saints' Day) 
  • "I do feel your pain, I really do. But I don't care! Keep going!" 
  • "Shhh! Stop talking! People are suffering at the piano!" (Said while a few were whispering during class.)
  • "When he was in and out?" (He always asks this when asking when a composer lived)
  • "Does makes any sense?" "Do you understand?" 
  • "I had a little time on my hand...." 
  • "Check this out! Check this out!" He says this all the time. 
  • "That was terrible! I don't know about this country, but in Europe the flat means it's flat for the whole piece." (This was after we totally sang the wrong note.)  
  • "That was an East German moment. I love it!" 
  • "Who is gonna be the offering and go first?" 
This class is a trip. A very, very stressful trip. He also gets his key out to tap the tempo on the table, and if you mess up he'll burst into funny jazzy blues chords and be silly. 

After this we eat dinner and then go to the practice room for several hours, then to the kitchen table for several hours. Average bedtime is between 1 and 2 AM. 

I love that I get to meet so many people and have enjoyed catching up with the friends I made last year. It's also a little humorous to see the Level One people freaking out and looking overwhelmed and hearing homework that I had to do last year. I look at them and know I looked exactly like that last year.

It's fun to hang out with music teachers who get it. Many of them (including me) ditch shoes the minute we get to class, and we are all music nerds. It's nice to have music conversations with people who understand and talk about joys and struggles of teaching.

I feel so blessed to be here and for the opportunity to learn. I feel blessed to be a music teacher. I feel blessed to live in a free country. I feel blessed to work at my church. I've turned into a rather sappy sentimental mess. Maybe it's the stress. Maybe it's the exhaustion. Maybe it's the fact that I'll be away from home for so long because Europe is right after this. Maybe it's the East coast. Maybe it's the change of pace. Either way, I'm exhausted but very, very happy.

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