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In recognition of the up-coming U.S. Thanksgiving holiday.
ZOO DIARY – TURKEY’S DILEMMA
SCENE: CITY ZOO
Thanksgiving eve. The zoo denizens are upset with the zoo directorate having not been included in the Thanksgiving celebrations
Once again, we’re not included in Thanksgiving celebrations
Did you really expect to? I mean, why should they? Who are we? Merely the tools in which they make money. That’s all - and how do they thank us? Closing the zoo for the day so we can’t even expect extra treats from visitors. This is so typically…human
SOUND: GOBBLE-GOBBLE… GOBBLE-GOBBLE….
What’s that noise?
Noise? What noise? Are my stripes straight?
You don’t hear that?
‘You are magnificent… Those teeth…those sparkling eyes…’
Maybe if you’d get your face away from that mirror and stop admiring yourself…
A person has to make sure that he looks good from every angle. Being the sole representative of the zebra specie in this zoo comes with a responsibility. A daily body examination is necessary to ensure that all my black stripes are evenly spaced on my perfectly white skin. ‘Yesssss! Perfection personified!’
Far be it to burst your bubble, Zeeb…
…I am not zeeb - or zebby - or zeeby-baby. I’m a zebra. Z-E-B-R-A!
Gotcha Zebby-boy – like I was sayin’ – the way that I see it, the stripe on your upper right leg doesn’t well…match the left
What?! You must be mistaken. It’s not possible… How could this be? I just checked it not two minutes ago and it was perfectly aligned
MANNY, the boa constrictor slithers in)
Hey – how ‘ya doin’?
Manny – you’re out. Free. Did you eat lunch, yet?
Yes Manny – I do hope they’ve fed you some nourishment. I mean, it’s important to keep up your strength. We don’t want you slithering around hungry looking for anybody, heh-heh…
That’s the last thing we need - being that we’re your friends and all - that is to say, we don’t want you to experience hunger pangs…
As I remember, I had a nibble a month ago but no in between snacks since then. Sure is quiet around here. No humans to knock on the glass of my enclosure. One day...one sweet day...someone is gonna hit hard enough to break the glass and they'll find out why my knick-name is Mr. Squeeze
There it is again. Sounds familiar-like
(a turkey suddenly drops down from a tree)
A tree chicken. How unique.
I am a turkey who requires sanctuary
Listen chicken sweetheart…
…turkey…I am – um – an endangered specie. Yes – that’s it - and am declaring myself on the extinct list thus requiring sanctuary
You must be someone important judging by your extensive vocabulary. All cultured and important species have an extensive vocabulary – and a beautiful body, of course (zebra looks at himself in the mirror) You handsome fool!
I am very important. In fact, I can state with absolute knowledge that I am number one on everyone’s hit list, today
Well I for one, believe you. You do look very appealing – in an endangered species way of course
Wish we could help, turkey, but we live out in the open with nowhere to hide
I could send a protest letter to the Zoos of America if that could assist you in any way
I am doomed!
(slithering almost directly in front of TURKEY) Well turkey – really feel for you, in the true sense of the word. I just happen to live inside in a huge glass enclosure that has lots of hiding places.Why don’t you come back to my place and check things out? I live alone and there’s nobody to bother or see us
That’s a very generous offer on your part –
-Manny – TURKEY Manny
Anything for a friend in need.
(the two start to make their way to MANNY’s place)
cont’d.) Did anyone ever tell you that you have a beautiful, full body. I bet under all those feathers, you have nice firm flesh
The farmer took good care of me up until before Thanksgiving. You can see for yourself when we get back to your pit.
Oh I intend to
Can I give you a hug?
Later…when we’re alone…they’ll be plenty of hugging to go around
Please welcome my dear friend Pat Brisson, whose short post reminds us all to be thankful for the Food We Eat! Pat is always an inspiration for me. Just seeing her smiling face makes me want to be kinder and more mindful of others.
Pat has generously donated an autographed copy of her book, The Food We Eat: from farm to table for the comment contest. For a chance to win, simply leave a comment about giving thanks.
Author Pat Brisson shares about the writing of her picture book: Before We Eat: from farm to table
I have long felt that Thanksgiving was the most spiritual of all American holidays because it’s not cluttered up with stuff but is all about getting together with family to share a meal. And give thanks for all our blessings. And although Before We Eat: from farm to table is not specifically about Thanksgiving, it’s an appropriate book to talk about in the Thanksgiving season because it’s about being mindful, when we sit down to share a meal with family, that a lot of people worked very hard to help us get food to our tables.
I grew up with the tradition of saying grace before meals and this book started out as a grace with the words Bless the one who did this and Bless the one who did that. My editor at Tilbury House, Audrey Maynard, asked if I would consider changing Bless to Thank. She thought it would give the book broader appeal. So I did, and it became a sort of secular grace – a moment of thankful awareness of, not only the workers in the fields, but also the ones packing the crates and checking weights and driving the produce to the stores and all the clerks who sell the food to us.
When Audrey said they were thinking of an illustrator who did woodblock prints to do the illustration. I said, “Oh, like Mary Azarian?” “That’s who we’ve sent it to," she told me. I was stunned. I LOVED Mary Azarian’s art and – be still my heart – she agreed to do it! Came out of retirement to do it! I was thrilled. Mary’s striking art takes my words to another level. Her prints are both strong and tender and offer so much for the youngest readers to explore on the page. If I never do another book (a strong possibility in this current difficult market) I will feel like I’m going out on a high note.
* MOONBEAM GOLD AWARD * * GROWING GOOD KIDS AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN CHILDREN'S LITERATURE, AMERICAN HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY AND NATIONAL MASTER JUNIOR GARDENER PROGRAM * (Milk doesn't just appear in your refrigerator, nor do apples grow in the bowl on the kitchen counter.)
“A simple poem thanking the people who grow, transport, sell and prepare our food is transformed by Azarian’s bright woodcuts... A warm celebration of both small farms and the idea that it takes a village to feed a child. (Picture book. 2-6)” (Kirkus)
Illustration from Before We Eat
“The book is a thoughtful examination of where food comes from― that is before is gets to the grocery store. …Pages show people engaged in every manner of food production: plowing, planting, harvesting, milking, egg gathering, packing and weighing crates, driving delivery trucks and cashiering at the grocery store. It is a wonderfully inclusive and honest way to view food acquisition.” (Jennifer Prince - Children’s Book Review, Citizen-Times, Ashville NC)
Pat Brisson is the author of 20 books for young readers, including The Summer My Father Was Ten and Sometimes We Were Brave (both from Boyds Mills Press). A graduate of Rutgers University, she is a former elementary school teacher, school librarian, and public-library reference librarian. Pat lives in New Jersey with her husband.
Artist Mary Azarian is the Caldecott-Medal winning illustrator of Snowflake Bentley, written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin (1999, Houghton Mifflin). She created the pictures for Before We Eat by first carving the pictures in wood (in reverse!) and then printing them with ink onto paper before adding the color with watercolor paints. She lives and creates her art on a hilltop farm in Vermont.
To learn more about the publisher of Before We Eat, click on the link: tilburyhouse.com
Thank you, dear Pat, for this thoughtful reminder to give thanks. Thank you, dear reader for leaving a comment about what you are thankful for. The winner will be announced on November 29. ~ClaraAdd a Comment
My sister teaches music in an elementary school. Half of one of her early elementary classes is made up of first generation Americans. In explaining the words of "My Country 'Tis of Thee", my sister told those children that they were today's pilgrims.
As we prepare for Thanksgiving, let's remember those who come here to find sanctuary from persecution, poverty, and discrimination. We all came from somewhere else, no matter what some people want to believe.
Right now, this is my favorite Thanksgiving book. Puppets, balloons and pageants - the birth of an American tradition.
Some of my favorite Thanksgiving books, new and old.
Molly's Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen. This classic was turned into an Academy Award-winning short film. Third grader, Molly, asks her mother to make a Pilgrim doll from a clothespin. Her mother, who was born in Eastern Europe, doesn't know what a Pilgrim is. Molly explains that a pilgrim is someone who came to this country to worship freely, and to escape hard times. Her mama makes a doll that looks like a Russian girl. Molly's doll helps the teacher explain that America still welcomes pilgrims for all kinds of reasons.
A Strawbeater's Thanksgiving by Irene Smalls. Jess, a slave, looks forward to the corn shucking party. He hopes to be the special boy chosen to keep time for the fiddler by beating on the fiddle strings with a pair of strong wheat straws. Hopes don't always come true and Jess works hard to make his hope become a reality. Melodye Rosales provides beautiful illustrations for this story.
A Turkey For Thanksgiving by Eve Bunting. Mr. Moose is determined to deliver a turkey to his wife for Thanksgiving. Turkey is equally determined to stay away. No worries, happy endings abound, all around. And Diane de Groat's pictures are colorful and adorable.
Balloons over Broadway by Melissa Sweet. Tony Sarg, a German-born puppeteer, was the artistic genius behind the first Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. He designed it to mirror the parades and processions of many of Macy's immigrant employees. This picture book biography, written and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, is my FAVORITE Thanksgiving book right now.
There are more, so many more. I might add to this list in the next week or two. Just remember to be kind to everyone you meet. Stand up for people who need defending. Give thanks for what you have.
Add a Comment
Two poems for my readers . . . and wishes for a joyful Thanksgiving.
Autumn By Emily Dickinson
The morns are meeker than they were, The nuts are getting brown; The berry's cheek is plumper, The rose is out of town.
The maple wears a gayer scarf, The field a scarlet gown. Lest I should be old-fashioned, I'll put a trinket on. In Harvest By Sophie Jewett
Mown meadows skirt the standing wheat; I linger, for the hay is sweet, New-cut and curing in the sun. Like furrows, straight, the windrows run, Fallen, gallant ranks that tossed and bent When, yesterday, the west wind went A-rioting through grass and grain. To-day no least breath stirs the plain; Only the hot air, quivering, yields Illusive motion to the fields Where not the slenderest tassel swings.
Yams or sweet potatoes? Chestnut or sausage dressing? Sweet potato pie, apple or the traditional pumpkin?
All across America, come the fourth Thursday in November, families of all configurations will gather to celebrate with rituals of food and family to give thanks. And School Library Journal’s take on Ms. Gibbons picture book is true enough, when it said:
This cornucopia of all things
Thanksgiving has abundant enough
information for young readers
without overwhelming them.
That is a perfect predictor of what your young reader will find in the pages of Ms. Gibbons Thanksgiving treasure with a beribboned, plump and fully feathered turkey gracing the cover of this wonderful Thanksgiving reading treat. It’s a perfect read either before or after the feast, plus a great addition to a story hour or classroom library.
Just how did all this tradition of a harvest holiday start?
Gail Gibbons has provided young readers with a historical and colorful collection of the cavalcade of harvest feasts starting with the Egyptians honoring Min, the god of plants and fertility. Moon cakes were even served as the moon was at its fullest then.
The Greeks had their own Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, while the Romans had their own version in Ceres who was offered the first fruits of the harvest.
And the ancient Jewish harvest festival of Sukkoth, celebrated under a hand made tent is a harvest festival of thankfulness to God for his protection and for their food.
Not to be outdone, in the Middle Ages farmers in England held festivals to mark the end of the harvest, as well.
I’m feeling pretty thankful myself right about now now that the harvest from our farm is in. Grapes picked, apple trees are bare of those red and golden beauties, and the only veggies that remain are the cauliflower, broccoli and the brussels sprouts. Cruciferous veggie lovers rejoice!
But, what about that American tradition called Thanksgiving Day?
Kids can probably tell you a thing or two themselves about those brave 101 passengers that sailed from England, landing at Plymouth, Massachusetts who called themselves Pilgrims.
Though, as I recall, there were some aboard the Mayflower who were not.
It was a cold and harsh winter where there was a scarcity of food and many died.
Young readers will be fascinated seeing famous Indians such as Massasoit and Squanto teach the Pilgrims how to plant when spring arrived.
I love the detail Gail Gibbons adds in her images as the Indians give the Pilgrims a tutorial in corn planting, plunking a fish in the hole ahead of the corn, as a wide eyed Pilgrim looks on.
Fish? Very good fertilizer, sir!
The harvest feast that fall was a three day affair. These Pilgrims and Indians knew how to party.
Her beautifully harvest hued picture book also points out the differences in dates between the Canadian and American Thanksgiving celebrations. Theirs is on the second Monday of October and, of course, as decreed by Abraham Lincoln in 1863, the American Thanksgiving is on the fourth Thursday in November.
Gail Gibbons has done a wonderful job of putting Thanksgiving into a historical perspective.
Her treatment of an American Thanksgiving is full of the symbols of the celebration; families decorating doorways with corn shocks and pumpkins, pictures of families and friends gathering for the Thanksgiving Feast at a table loaded with many of the same foods the Pilgrims and their guests, the Indians, feasted on.
Nothing is left out in her treatment of all the things that make this American holiday what it is – football games held that day, plays about the Pilgrims put on at schools, and those long awaited floats, balloons and bands of the traditional Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The sharing and remembering is a big part of all family traditions, and Gail Gibbons has remembered the best till last in her Thanksgiving picture book for young readers:
Each day when young children get home from school, parents ask how their day went and if they have any homework. For some parents, the homework their child brings home can be daunting because it has material on it that they haven't thought about in years. They have to "brush up" on it in order to help their children understand the concepts the child's homework is intended to reinforce. Some parents find homework annoying because it is so repetitive and their children could be doing something more engaging.
Last month on social media, Native parents circulated photos of worksheets and books their children were bringing home. Some of these photos were of cartoon-like images of Indians who greeted Columbus.
November is Native American month. Thanksgiving happens this month, too, so, some of the worksheets parents are sharing on social media are about Indians greeting the Pilgrims. Some just have random images of Indians on them because it is Native American month.
If I asked you, teachers, to look through your file of worksheets, some of you will see what I'm talking about. Smiling Indians handing corn to Pilgrims. Cute Indians sitting cross legged on the ground, tending a fire, next to a tipi. Color-by-number worksheets of Indians... We could go on and on, right?
For Native parents--and for non-Native parents who know these images are stereotypical--the homework itself is more than daunting or annoying. They know those worksheets carry messages of who or what Indians are supposed to be. They know those images are misinforming the children the worksheets are meant to educate. For them, these worksheets put them in a what-do-I-do about this moment. Some will point out the stereotypical image and, if needed, tell their child why it is stereotypical and not ok. Some will arrange to meet with the teacher. Some will express their frustration, with family and friends, in person and on social media. And some will keep silent because they fear that speaking to you, their child's teacher, will put their child in an awkward position.
For Native children, those images are one more silent assault on Native culture. These silent assaults, however, are ones their teachers are handing to them. My guess is that some of you, teachers, don't even notice those images on those worksheets.
I have empathy and respect for teachers. I taught elementary school in the 1980s. I know how hard it was, then, to work with the limited resources I had from the school itself, and from my own pocket. Teaching is even harder, today, than it was then. So I'm not writing this to make you feel bad.
I'm writing to ask you to take a few seconds to look--really look--at the worksheets you're going to use today, or tomorrow, or the next day, or any day. Do they have those images of Indians on them? If they do, set them aside.
A lot of you assume these worksheets and biased children's books don't matter because you believe there aren't any Native kids in your classroom. If you're basing that belief on an idea that Native people have dark skin, dark hair, high cheekbones, and personal names that sound Indian in some way, you're reflecting a stereotype.
I don't say any of this to shame you, or to embarrass you.
We all have a lot of ignorance about people who are unlike ourselves. I have had many moments of being embarrassed! I, for example, loved Five Chinese Brothers. I have very warm memories of reading it--memories that go all the way back to my early childhood years. I carried that book in my heart for decades. Then, in a graduate school course about children's literature, that book was one we looked at, and I realized how racist its depictions are... and I let it go.
I hope you'll read this letter as a virtual hug, of sorts, from a fellow educator who--like you--cares about teaching and what we teach to children. We're all learning, every day, how to do it better. I welcome any questions you have--about worksheets, or books. My entire website is for you. It's all free. For you.
Sincerely, Debbie Reese American Indians in Children's Literature
P.S. (added an hour after I hit upload on my letter):
My husband suggested I say a bit more about what teachers can do instead of the usual Thanksgiving activities. So! If you're working with very young children, remember your training. Early childhood education is centered on teaching children in a here-and-now framework. For them, the long-ago (when colonization began) is not best practice. For children at that age, if you want to do something about the holiday, take the what-I'm-thankful approach instead of a usual Pilgrims and Indians ones. Because you're working on their fine motor skills and use craft projects for that purpose, you can do arts activities about turkeys. For older children (3rd grade and up), check out American Indian Perspectives on Thanksgiving. If you want to take some time to unlearn what you've learned about Thanksgiving, you can start with a fellow teacher's post about Thanksgiving books: Kara Stewart's "Children's Books about Thanksgiving."
Enter to win all four full-color Judy Moody and Stink books; including Judy Moody & Stink: The Wishbone Wish (Candlewick, Reprint, 2015), written by Megan McDonald and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds.
Giveaway begins November 9, 2015, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends December 8, 2015, at 11:59 P.M. PST.
Over the next three weeks, each of the TeachingAuthors will blog about 3 (or more!) things we're grateful for in each of our posts. I'm kicking the series off with a Thanks-Giving Thanku poem below. As in the past, we're also inviting you, our readers (and your students!), to join in by sharing your own "gratitudes" with us. And this year you can participate in one of FOUR ways:
Share your "gratitudes" in a comment to any of our blog posts from today through Friday, November 27.
Send them to us via email to teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com, with "Thanks-Giving" as the subject. Depending on the number of emails we receive, we may share some of your gratitiudes in our posts.
Post them on your own blog and then share the link with us via a comment or email. (Feel free to include the image below in your post.) On Saturday, November 28, I'll provide a round-up of all the links we receive.
"Speaking of stress, writing thank you notes has been shown to ease stress, reduce depressive symptoms, and encourage people to be more mindful of what makes them happy (just ask Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon), as well as foster better relationships."
I'm definitely in need of some stress relief right now. The past month has been rather nerve-wracking. We're in the midst of a major home remodel project encompassing our family room and kitchen. I'm currently without a working kitchen, and the furniture that used to be in our family room is scattered about the rest of our small house.
In my thank you note for last year's Three Weeks of Thanks-Giving, I expressed gratitude to my family, my writing friends, and to all our TeachingAuthors' readers. Of course, I'm still grateful for all three groups of people, but I'd like to add three more groups this year. I'd like to thank:
The students of my COD class, Beginnings, Middles, and Ends, for their patience with me if I was a bit distracted/frazzled during the last two weeks of class.
My family members and friends for all their help and support during this time. In particular, for my husband's siblings and their families for providing temporary homes for my father-in-law. (He normally lives with us, but his bedroom is currently storing some of our family room furniture.) And also to the dear friends who allowed my husband and me to stay with them for two nights while our new hardwood floors were stained and finished.
The wonderful craftspeople carrying out our remodeling project. They've been careful, courteous, and punctual throughout the whole project AND they're doing marvelous work!
The target completion date for the kitchen/family room remodel is Saturday, November 14--the same day I'll be attending the SCBWI-Illinois Prairie Writer's and Illustrator's Day. We'll still have lots to do afterward, but if all goes well, I should have my kitchen back then. I'm definitely looking forward to that!
The other day, my husband and I were eating dinner in our makeshift kitchen (in our dining room) when the Passenger song "Let Her Go"came on the radio. In case you're not familiar with the lyrics, the song begins:
Well you only need the light when its burning low Only miss the sun when it starts to snow Only know you love her when you let her go . . .
I began singing a revised version that went something like:
Well you only need the kitchen when it's been torn out Only want to cook when there's no stove about Only miss the cupboards when you must do without . . .
I thought of turning this into a poem for Poetry Friday, but decided to go with a Thankuinstead:
I invite all of you to also participate in our Three Weeks of Thanks-Giving by sharing your "gratitudes" with us in one of the four ways I listed above. And don't forget to also check out this week's Poetry Friday round-up over at Write. Sketch. Repeat.
Our favorite season is here…autumn! We are celebrating by reducing the price on our adorable Thanksgiving book, Ten Thankful Turkeys. This colorful autumn tale follows ten turkeys as they get ready for an important celebration. This story teaches about gratitude using numbers. There are also fun turkey facts in the back of the book.
We hope you’ll gobble up this deal before it’s gone!
This has been one hell of a tough year so far. It started in February when my then-publisher decided to close their doors, leaving many authors either scrambling to find a new publisher or deciding to try the self-publishing route. I was lucky. I immediately hooked up with Mirror World Publishing whom I met at the Windsor-Essex Book Expo in November 2014, and signed two contracts with them. It was truly a serendipity experience. And I am so grateful.
Both my books were polished and re-released world-wide within six months. My first book, The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantiswas re-launched in June, and Legend of the Timekeepers in August. I went from a stressful situation to relief, and yes, worked hard with my new publisher to get the books back on the shelves. It was a fresh start. A clean slate. And I am so grateful.
Then, I got the reminder that life’s too short, too precious to waste. This past July, my youngest brother succumbed to cancer. He was only 49, and was diagnosed with a double-wammy of a rare muscle disease and cancer of an unknown primary about 1 ½ years ago. You can never predict something like that is going to happen. Ever. But we know it can—and does. Who knows when life can change for us or those around us? So be grateful for your health. If life’s not what you want, go out and find a new one. If life’s great, live it to the fullest and be thankful every day for all that you’ve been fortunate to do and have. Whatever stage of life you’re in find a way to enjoy it and to maximize your circumstances. I know I’m moving forward with my life. And I am so grateful.
This past August, my hubby and I celebrated our 30thAnniversary—a milestone in this day and age. We booked a cruise to the Western Caribbean in November to mark this momentous occasion and to get a little R&R. It’s a first for us who always seem to put our needs and wants on the backburner of life. So we decided that it’s our time to enjoy what we’ve worked so hard for during the last thirty years together. And I am so grateful.
As I write this post, the combine harvester is reaping the soybeans in the field behind our home. It was a tough year, even for those soybeans with the relentless spring rains, and unpredictable elements. A reminder perhaps, that each year brings different challenges, and new life experiences. I urge you to find what gives you fulfillment, happiness, and a sense of accomplishment. Appreciate the little things and laugh at yourself. Find the courage to change, to rebound, to persist, to pursue, to seek, to speak out, to trust in others, and to cut away the relationships that cause you pain or do not bear fruit. I have. And I am so grateful.
How has your year been so far? What have you been grateful for? Would love to read your comments! Thank you for investing your time in reading my blog! I am so grateful. Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians!
“My thanks to my parents is vast,” says Toyin Spellman-Diaz, oboist with the Imani Winds woodwind quintet. “Without their help, I would never have become a musician.”
Many professional musicians I’ve interviewed have responded as Ms. Spellman-Diaz did, saying that their parents helped in so many ways: from locating good music teachers, schools, and summer programs, to getting them to lessons, rehearsals and performances on time, while also figuring out how to pay for it all. In addition, there are those reminders (often not well received) that parents tend to give about not forgetting to practice. Ms. Spellman-Diaz received her share of reminders, noting that “at some points, I didn’t feel like practicing. Dad’s going to be thrilled that I’ve admitted that it helped that he nagged me to practice. For decades he has been bugging me to admit that.”
But beyond these basics, when I ask musicians to recall something especially mhelpful that they’re thankful to their parents for in terms of furthering their musical development, the responses tend to focus on how a parent helped them find their own musical way.
Toyin-Spellman Diaz: The non-musical goal her parents had while looking for a good private flute teacher for their daughter during elementary school had a profound effect on Ms. Spellman-Diaz’s musical future. “They wanted an African-American teacher so I could see a classical musician who looked like me, to show me that there were African-American classical musicians out there,” she says. Her second flute teacher was also black, as was one of the three oboe teachers she had during high school, after she switched instruments. “It absolutely made an impact and is partly why I play in the Imani Winds.” This woodwind quintet of African American musicians was started in 1997 with much the same goal her parents had: to show the changing face of classical music. However, one of her flute teachers was also into jazz. “I think my parents were trying to steer me toward jazz. They would have been really excited if I became a jazz flutist,” she says. But classical music won out, and that was fine, too. “With my parents, it was knowing when to let go and let me find my own voice, my own passion for it.”
Jonathan Biss: This pianist credits his parents with creating an “atmosphere that I didn’t feel I was doing it to please them or because it was good for me. I was doing it because I loved music.” When he was young, he too sometimes needed practice reminders. “But if they said, ‘Go practice,’ which wasn’t often, it was always accompanied by ‘if you want to do this.’ Their point was that you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, but if you choose to do it, you have to do it well.”
Paula Robison: After she started flute at age eleven, her father realized that she had a special flair for it and “saw a possible life for me as a musician,” says Ms. Robison. He knew regular practice was essential, but he didn’t want to become an overbearing, nagging parent. So when she was twelve, they shook hands on an agreement: she promised to practice at a certain time every day and if she didn’t, it would be all right with her for him to remind her. That went well until one day during her early teens when she was “lounging around on the couch” during the hour she was supposed to practice. He reminded her of their agreement. She says she angrily “stomped up the stairs” to practice and “whirled around and shouted, ‘Someday I’m going to thank you for this!’” And she has. “I thank my father every time I pick up the flute.”
Liang Wang: When asked what he was most grateful to his parents for, this New York Philharmonic principal oboist says, “They allowed me to be what I wanted to be. A lot of parents want their kid to fit into what they think the kid should do. Oboe was an unusual choice. There aren’t many Chinese oboe players.” But he fell in love with the sound of the oboe. They supported him in his choice. He notes that his mother “wanted me to pursue my dream.”
Mark Inouye: When asked about the best musical advice he received as a young musician, Mark Inouye recalls something his father said to him at about age eleven, after a particularly disappointing Little League baseball game “in which I had played poorly,” says this principal trumpet with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. The pep talk his father gave him carried over to his beginning efforts on trumpet, too. He says his father told him, “You may not be the one with the most talent, but if you are the one who works the hardest, you will succeed.”
Sarah Chang: “Mom understood I had enough music teachers in my life. The best thing she did was leave the music part to everyone else and be a mom,” says violinist Sarah Chang, who started performing professionally at age eight. “Bugging me about taking my vitamins, eating my vegetables, fussing about the dresses I wore in concerts. . . She was always encouraging, my number-one supporter.”
Headline image credit: Classical Music. Notes. Via CC0 Public Domain.
Happy Turkey Day, all! I'm spending my Thanksgiving with the family and cats, at home, my favorite place to be.
And I won't be shopping this weekend; I just loathe the whole Black Friday thing. I might order some books off the internetz, or shop at Etsy for Small Business Saturday. But otherwise, I'm curling up with a book.
Look at this stack I brought home from Bouchercon! I will admit, some of these are not books I would be reading if they weren't in my book bag. But I wanted to read out of my comfort zone for a change, so I'm even going for a cozy mystery with cupcakes on the front. I'll let you know how it all works out...
I have a lot to be thankful for this year. First, my Kiddo is happy and healthy and living in California with her new husband and I will be seeing them at Christmas when they come to visit.
I'm thankful for my friends and family, even if I don't get to see them very often. And I am thankful for my online friends, even though I haven't met many of them. One of the things I love about blogging is getting to know so many people all over the world, an opportunity that can be found in few other ways. Thank you to all my followers and readers. Your presence on my blog is much appreciated.
Thanksgiving was hit hard in WWII because of rationing and it wasn't lost on the people who drew comic strips for the newspapers, as you can see:
November 25, 1943 Rationing on the Home Front:
November 25, 1943 Rations on the Front Lines:
I wish everyone a happy and bountiful Thanksgiving
“I was lucky all the time in having great teachers,” says clarinetist Richard Stoltzman. When I asked him about special ways his early teachers helped him, he mentioned his elementary school band director who was “enthusiastic and cheerful, no matter what,” and also a private teacher he had in high school who taught him how to practice with purpose. But the teacher who seems to have had a life-changing impact was his first private teacher, with whom he studied for about a year during junior high at a music store in San Francisco. That teacher instilled in young Mr. Stoltzman the idea that he could indeed become a musician.
Other musicians have cited similar confidence boosters when asked about the especially helpful things a teacher did for them. Here are teacher reminiscences from Mr. Stoltzman and other professional musicians.
Richard Stoltzman — “He taught me both saxophone and clarinet,” says Mr. Stoltzman of his first private teacher at that San Francisco music store. “He didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t play classical music and improvised music.” At this store, young Mr. Stoltzman played his first “crossover recital,” performing Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust” as well as a classical piece. “This was a big moment for me, that my teacher allowed me to do those things and encouraged them.” Then the Stoltzmans moved to Ohio. “I was so sad to leave that teacher. At my last lesson, he looked me in the eye and said something like, ‘You can do it. You can play music. Don’t stop.’ If somebody believes in you, that makes you say to yourself, ‘Well, this person believes in me. So even if I don’t think I can do it, I guess somehow I better keep doing it.’”
Isabel Trautwein — “My confidence was very low at the end of my undergraduate years. I was close to quitting because I was so uptight and just couldn’t stop worrying that I might play out of tune,” says Isabel Trautwein, violinist with the Cleveland Orchestra. “Then I went to Cleveland to study with Donald Weilerstein. He used the ultimate non-judgmental approach. He never used criticism. He would go through a piece line by line and wanted to know what I was trying to say, as a person. He would say, ‘In this phrase, where are you going?’ My eyes would open wide. I would think, ‘I don’t know. I’m just trying to play it in tune. I’m trying to play it well.’ But that’s a terrible goal. So he would say, ‘OK, but do you want it to be gutsy? Or dark? Are you going for the gypsy approach? Are you going for fantasy? ’ He had all these great words. He’d also say specific things like, ‘Feel your index finger when you play.’ It was a mixture of musical cues that have to do with the character and musical feel, and then physical cues that had the ability to take your mind away from that voice that says, ‘Oh, that wasn’t good,’ the critical voice. If I’m thinking about my fingertips, I’m not going to be able to judge myself on what just went wrong. Weilerstein’s lessons were only about the violin. Never psychoanalytical. It helped a lot.”
Paula Robison — “I had been studying with Marcel Moyse for about five years, and was already in the professional world of music as well as the artistic one, but I still had many questions,” says flutist Paula Robison, who studied with this renowned teacher at the Marlboro Music School. “One day I came to a lesson with the Concerto in D of Mozart. I played the first movement. Mr. Moyse was silent. He puffed on his pipe, in deep thought. Minutes passed. I waited. Then he slowly said (in his wonderful French accent) ‘Paula, I have teach you many theeng, but now you MUST GO YOUR OWN WAY.’ I was shocked. I felt like a bird kicked out of the nest. But he was right. It was time for me to fly. And I did.”
Jennifer Undercofler — “I am so thankful to all my teachers for their tireless commitment and dedication, but the one lesson that stands out was the lesson I learned from the great Dorothy DeLay,” says violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, who studied with Ms. DeLay at Juilliard. “She told me to go to the library and listen to all the recordings I could get my hands on and attend concerts as much as possible, to listen and learn as much as possible. She thought it would be incredibly helpful to study the phrasing, tempi, sound, and technique of all performers so that I could imbue my own sound with this insightful study and thoughtfulness. This purpose of being able to teach oneself with the right tools, so as to ‘own’ your sound, was the greatest lesson of all.”
Jennifer Undercofler — “I’m probably most grateful to my first piano teacher, a graduate of the Paris Conservatoire, who was deeply creative, with a wonderful, wry sense of humor. She always expected more out of me than I thought I could give. I remember her assigning me an Ives etude (I must have been 10 or 11 years old), declaring that she hated it, but knew that I would probably love it. She proceeded to break it down with me over the coming weeks, with considerable gusto. She was right, of course—I did love it. I don’t know many teachers, even now, who would have taken that particular plunge with an elementary school student,” says pianist and music educator Jenny Undercofler, whose fascination with ‘new music’ has continued ever since. “In a similar vein, I remember Jerry Lowenthal calling me when I was a masters student at Juilliard, to tell me to make time to play ‘new music’ on the Focus Festival. I was so surprised and flattered by the call, and of course I then played in the festival, which further opened the ‘new music’ door. I think of this when I encourage private teachers to have their students play with Face the Music. Their ‘endorsement’ can make a world of difference.” Face the Music is a ‘new music’ ensemble for teenagers that she started as an outgrowth of her work as music director of the Special Music School, a New York City public school.
Toyin Spellman-Diaz — “The impetus for my interest in music came from my first public school music teacher in fifth grade,” says the Imani Winds oboist, Toyin Spellman-Diaz. “She inspired in me a love of seeing a project come to fruition. She put on musical productions. She would play the piano, rehearse the choir, have kids get costumes. She had crazy ideas and somehow made them come to life and did it with determination and joy. I remember watching her as a young child and thinking that even though it was a lot of work, she enjoyed what she was doing. I remember thinking, ‘I would really like to do something like this when I grow up.’ I sang in the choir. She introduced me to the flute and I played in the school band. I wanted to follow in her footsteps and be a music teacher,” says Ms. Spellman-Diaz, who has a studio of pupils now. She also serves as another kind of teacher during Imani Winds concerts, with the informative comments that she and others in the quintet share with the audience before each piece.
Headline Image: Sheet Music, Piano. Public domain via Pixabay.
As a small boy in the 1920s, my father sang in the choir of the parish church, St Matthews, in Walsall in the British Midlands. Twenty years later, he was married with a couple of children and our small, tight family belonged to the Religious Society of Friends, the Quakers. Friends do not have church services. There is no hymn singing. But every Christmas Eve, religiously as one might say, at three o’clock in the afternoon, the family gathered around the radio to listen to the broadcast of carols and lessons from King’s College, Cambridge.
That was long ago and for me, since I now live in Florida, far away. I have long since lost my faith in the Christian religion. Even if this were not so, I doubt that I would much enjoy Christmas overall. When the kids were little, it was a lot of fun. But now, it strikes me as appallingly commercialized and an occasion when you spend way too much on presents no one really wants, eat and drink to excess, and end by quarreling with people that you have not seen for a year and by which time you both realize why it is that you have not seen each other for a year.
But every Christmas Eve I track down the broadcast of the King’s service and listen to it, even though because of time-zone differences it is now for me in the morning. Music spurs emotions as does no other art form, and I find listening an almost-melancholic experience as memories of my childhood come flooding in and I recall with huge gratitude the loving family into which I was born. I remember also my dedicated teachers recreating civilized life after the horrendous conflicts of the first part of the century. How can one speak except with respect of a man who spent the first half of the decade driving a tank over North Africa and Western Europe, and the second half explaining to nine-year olds why Pilgrim’s Progress is such a tremendous story and something of vital relevance to us today?
So Christmas remains very important for me, as does the other great highlight of the Christian calendar. As a teenager, having failed O level German miserably, I was packed off one Easter vacation to stay with a family in Germany, so I could (as I did) succeed on the second attempt. Music again. On Good Friday, German radio stations played Bach’s Matthew Passion, and listening to that – even though in respects I prefer the dramatic intensity of the St John Passion – has remained a life-long practice.
Perhaps because it is all so German, I find myself focusing on the dreadful events of the Third Reich, but also – and obviously the theme of Christ’s sacrifice is all-important here – on those who showed super-human qualities in the face of absolute evil and terror. Above all, Sophie Scholl, at twenty-one years old a member of the White Rose group in Munich who started handing out anti-Nazi pamphlets in the middle of the war. Inevitably discovered and condemned to death, as she was led to the guillotine, she said: “How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause. Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”
I would not for anything relinquish the experience of Easter and the moments when I contemplate the truly good people – I think of those combating Ebola in West Africa – who stand so far above me and who inspire me, even though I am not worthy to clean their shoes. You don’t have to have religious faith to have these all-important emotions. You do have to be a human being.
“How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause.”
And so finally to the third festival, that of Thanksgiving. Growing up in England, it was something unknown to me until, to go to graduate school, I crossed the Atlantic in 1962. In the early years, in both Canada and America, people invited me into their homes to share the occasion with their family and friends. This is something that has stayed with me for over fifty years, and now at Thanksgiving – by far my favorite festival overall — my wife and I hugely enjoy filling the table with folk who are away from home or for one reason or another would not otherwise have a place to be. No special music this time – although I usually manage to drive everyone crazy by playing opera at full blast – but for me an equally poignant occasion when I reflect on the most important thing I did in my life – to move from the Old Word to the New – and on the significance of family and friends and above all of giving. In the Republic, Plato says that only the good man is the happy man. Well, that’s a bit prissy applied to me, but I know what he means. People were kind to me and my wife and I try to be kind to people. That is a wonderful feeling.
Three festivals – memories and gratitude; sacrifice and honor; giving and friendship. That is why, although I have not a scrap of religious belief and awful though the music in the mall may be, I look forward to Christmas, and then to Easter, and then to Thanksgiving, and to the cycle all over again, many times!