Friday, April 25, 2008

FINALLY Making a Decision

It has been a long year, and at the same time has gone by so fast. No, not 2008. Of course, it's almost 1/2 over already too! I'm talking about the year I took off from school. I can remember about 1 1/2 years ago, about, when I walked into my piano teacher's office crying. Being the wonderfully sympathetic teacher that he always is, he sat and listened to my frustrations.

I have always been a driven person. The problem is that I tend to sway from over-driven, to burn-out, just a bit too often. When I entered his office that day I had had enough. I had travelled to Wisconsin, Cincinnati, and took a mid-term exam, involving the memorization of all 32 Beethoven Sonata themes, all in about 2 weeks! I was plain exhausted and sick of school. After we talked, we agreed that time off from school was just what I needed. I needed to have a little fun in life, take a breather, and think about whether the DMA degree was really what I wanted.

Since then, as those of you who talk to me often already know, I have gone back and forth about a million times! Not only that, but I have been in and out of one very close relationship, and also swayed between getting married and going to school. I remember my friend Jaime saying to me back then, when I first made the decision. "It sounds like you know what you're doing. And if you aren't doing the right thing, God is great at making detours." Thanks for the advice Jaime, it's so true!

I have learned a few very important things in the past year.

1) Don't talk about marrying someone, and having kids with them, until you're sure you love them first. You only break their heart, and yours, and it's unecessary.

2) Don't be afraid to wait. When we try to push ourselves through something we cause more stress than is needed, and sometimes take 10x longer than if we just waited for God to help us through it.

3) Don't be afraid of change. I didn't know how I was going to handle it when I got 17 piano students in the Fall. But it was a great experience for me. Here I am just a couple of years into teaching and I already feel like I'm so much better at it. My people skills are better, and I've learned how to teach kids vs. teaching adults. It's been a very rewarding experience for me.

4) A break doesn't have to be a trip to the beach. It can be simple things like waking up and chatting with my mom at breakfast, sitting in my pjs for hours, not eating breakfast until lunch-time. b vggggggggggggggggm

ok, pause! I could delete the jibberish above, but I thought I'd keep it...that was my cat Tommy saying hello to you all while I stepped away from my computer! THANKS A LOT TOMMY! :) ..yes, another great thing about being home for a year..waking up to Mr. Thomas sitting on my head, giving me a head massage :)

Ok, anyway. I guess that's about it. I don't need to go on and on about this. I just wanted to share with you all that I am very grateful for the time I had off of school. I taught piano, played and directed at church, accompanied, had temp. office job, spent time with family and friends, and got to do some traveling to (mostly for auditions and MTNA conference, but it all still counts).

So, last night I e-mailed my teacher again and told him I had finally made up my mind to get my DMA. He was very happy. I have put my poor teacher through so much in the past year! (at least!). He has had to deal with, "I don't think I want my doctorate".."Well, maybe I do".."No, I don't".."Well, maybe yeah but not here"..."Well, I was rejected everywhere else, so maybe not".."Ok, WVU isn't so bad"..."But what if I meet Mr. Wonderful and he whisks me away...then I won't need it!" And FINALLY, "Ok, well, Mr. Wonderful isn't anywhere in least not yet, and times not going by any slower, so if I want this degree, I better do it now!"

I spent a lot of this morning organizing my summer teaching schedule, and printing off and reading all the graduate manuals and such for the DMA program...there is SO much involved! But instead of feeling overwhelmed, I'm actually excited about it...ok and a little overwhelmed too. I think the part I'm most afraid of is the comprehensive exams. They come after all the course work is finished, which is at least a year or two from now. I will hopefully have most of my 6 recitals done by then too, except for the last solo recital, and maybe another chamber recital. But when they do come around I have 1 week to complete a take-home bibliographic music history exam/project and a take-home theory exercise/project, in preparation for the following week. The following week I have a 3 hour history exam and 3 hour theory exam, all written, and both in a 6 hour period, in one day!!! The exam questions are specially crafted by my DMA committee. That's the part I'm really scared about. After that I have an oral-comprehensive exam with my 5 member committee.. sometime within a few days or weeks from the written exam. The entire take-home, written and oral all counts as 1 exam. If I don't pass the entire exam the first time around, I only get one more try, granted the committee grants me the 2nd try, and if you don't pass it after the 2nd try, you cannot continue the DMA degree. Granted all of that goes well, then I have to complete my thesis project prospectus with my advisor (probably my piano teacher) followed by an approval from the committee, and then the actual project, followed by lots and lots of revisions, followed by a meeting with my committee where I have to defend my paper, and FINALLY finished with my final solo degree recital....I am hoping to have all of this completed before I am 30 years old (if I do it in 4 school years, I'll be 29).

Yes, you can tell I'm rambling....which is because I had a 2 1/2 hour nap this afternoon and am not sleepy!! I have to be in morgantown tomorrow morning though. So, I better go to bed.

Thanks for reading! And also, thanks for everyone's prayers..of course I'll need more if I'm going to try to get this degree... :) But, I have felt a strong sense of peace in the decisions I have made, knowing that whatever I do with my life, God is making it work out. Now, when I find Mr. Wonderful, which hopefully I will, eventually, I can still get married and have kids.....I'll just be Dr. Mom :)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Why I Believe In Homeschooling

I have needed something worth while to talk about for a while now, and have also been getting tired of my dull blog site with no pictures. Well, I have no pictures to offer you tonight. Instead, I would like to address a question that my cousin, along with several other people have asked me. Why does a girl who was public schooled her entire life, feel so strongly against any other type of schooling than home-schooling? Since my paragraphs get long and tiring, I will make a list, which may be easier to skim through and read.

#1 I want my children to learn about God, Jesus, the Bible, and to not feel afraid to pray out loud, and worship God as we were created to do. And I certainly don't need the school principle suspending them because they have infringed on their peers "freedom of religion"

#2 While every child needs to know how to function and get along in the real world, there are a few things I think my kids can go without learning about until they are older. Such as? Well, violence, sexual promiscuity, bad language, etc. I can share several stories of children saying things to me as a kid that caused me to learn about things no child should be learning about. In fact, at one point, a group of boys I went to school with were threatened to be suspended from school because the things they said to be on a day-to-day basis were so terrible. I remember HATING waking up in the morning and going to school because if I stood up for myself, the teachers would reprimand me, instead of the people verbally abusing me.

#3 Children have a right to wake up, go to school, learn, and never be afraid that the school might blow-up because someone brought a bomb to school. Think I'm exagerating? No! I have memories of sitting on the school hill-side in Michigan, on a regular basis, because of bomb-drills, waiting to make sure the school wasn't going to blow-up, before we could go back inside. About 6 years after that I was living in WV where book-bags were either not permitted, or only those that were see-through or mesh. We also had a team of police officers that swatted us down as we entered the school doors, to make sure we weren't armed. And when we did have actual bomb or other violent warnings at school, we were not permitted to call our parents and be picked up. Instead, we got out of classes early to sit in a gymnasium for a pep-rally, lead by the school principle, to convince us that whomever was making the threats couldn't scare us or keep us from going to school...not very comforting!

#4 Kids don't need to wake up at 6am, go to school from 7-3, and then spend all night doing homework. It makes more sense to me to teach school, and get the homework done by evening. This way you can actually spend family time doing other, music, going to a museum, taking a walk, doing things kids like to do, like going outside to play!

#5 The home-schooled people I have known have always been smarter, on average, than most public-schooled kids I have known. I think it's fair to say a lot of home-schooled seniors (in high school) are smarter than most college grads I know. They also seem to have better work-ethic when they are on their own. Maybe part of this is because many public schools have eliminated having to read entire books, and writing essays. Everything is so dumbed down that many college students don't even know how to write a college-level paper.

#6 Home-schooled kids are only sheltered if parents make them that way. They can have social skills equal to public-schooled kids, as long as the parents make an effort to involve them in church activities, home-school umbrella groups, and other activities. They get to develop social skills without parents worrying as much about their kids picking up un-Godly habits.

#7Children spend less time sitting in class while the teacher struggles with the "troubled students" and more individual attention, helping each child meet their potential.

#8 More flexibility with scheduling. If the family wants to take a vacation, have a reunion, or whatever, we can take our work with us, and pick up when we need to. We don't have to worry about driving to school on bad snow days, or getting behind on school work because of it. We can work things around our schedule, instead of the other way around.

I probably sound very idealistic explaining my feelings. I realize that kids will pick up bad habits, do things they shouldn't, and just be kids, no matter where they go to school. But, if I can do something to assure that my kids grow up happy, healthy, safe, and with a knowledge of God, they have a greater chance of being happy, healthy, and most importantly, Godly, adults. And while I was public schooled, and yes, obviously had to work through my issues, there are many things I wish would have been different from my school-days. The grass is always greener on the other side, but in this case, I think the grass actually IS greener.

Oh yeah, lastly, #9 I think home-schooling will be fun, and educational for both them and me!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Judge Etnoyer

This past Friday I got to do something I have never done before. I was a judge for a piano competition! A good friend of mine, who works at a Christian K-12 private school, asked me if I would be one of the judges for the competition. They had several categories, all ages, and not just music! They also had a variety of art-work. When I agreed to the judging I did not know anything about the competition, including that it was going to be held at a private Christian school. I could not have had a better first experience though! The girl I judged with was a former grad. school roommate as well as a peer from my piano studio at WVU. We worked so well together. We judged around 15-17 kids, from very young to middle school age.

Aside from experiencing judging, this was also my first experience inside of a Christian school. I am somewhat of a pessimist when it comes to any kind of schooling outside of the home, even private Christian schooling. However, I was pleasantly surprised at what I saw! Kids had bible verses on their lockers, the school was very clean and bright, with lots of windows. Mainly, it looked just like any other school, but there was a sense of love and belonging that radiated from most of the teachers and students I ran into there. The best part of it for me was that before the judging began, all the judges/teachers gathered in a room to discuss logistics and then we all prayed before going to our separate stations. This was particularly special because I happened to know that one of the girls judging for the vocal competitions, a student at WVU, is an atheist! What an experience that must have been for her to be surrounded my sincere Christians who prayed together!!

As for the judging, it was really something to be in the same position as those I usually feared! It really shed new light on the nature of competitions for me. I felt so bad for some kids, and it was really hard for me to sit there and not say, "It's ok. You can get out your music" I had to treat every child equally, and for some that meant watching them fall on their face, (so to speak), and find their way to the end of a piece. Regardless of the performance each student gave, my friend and I were sure to smile and thank everyone who played. I was very conscientious of what I wrote on their comment sheets, with the scoring and written comments. I wanted every child to go home feeling like they learned something from the experience, and could be proud of themselves for something, even if it was just making it to the end!

I should add at the end of this a note to my mom, who with such confidence in her daughter cautioned me the morning I left not to "Make the children cry". Thanks mom!!! And in case you are wondering, no child cried, at least not in our presence! If anything, some of the kids were overly distracted by the mob of family/friends that accompanied them to the performance. We sometimes resented this because a child would come in very prepared, but was so distracted by the crowd and parents flashing pictures, that we knew they didn't play their best. The best kids were sometimes the ones who came in alone, with no one inside the room but us.

The one last thing I must say about the competition is that some teachers are really crazy!!! We had one guy who actually came in after his student played and had lots of memory slips, sat down with us (which you are DEFINITELY not supposed to contact is supposed to be made with judges at a competition). Anyway, he sat down with us and started to tell us how amazing and perfect his student was the week before, and how this NEVER happens. I was very nice, told him I had a student working on the same piece and that we were both very understanding that memory slips happen, even to the best of us. I just don't know what he was expecting us to do!! We had already written our comments, and scored the performance, and we certainly couldn't go back and change anything! It seems like some people just have a hard time letting their students stand on their own two feet, and learning that the student's performance is not always a direct reflection on the teacher's ability to teach. Some people just can't get past that though, I guess.

Anyway, I guess that was about all I wanted to share. I am pretty tired and it's getting late. Spring keeps teasing us lately. It was like summer for 3 or 4 days, and it's been freezing for the past 2 days!! Oh well, maybe "the sun will come out tomorrow" :)

Good night and God Bless! :)

p.s. One last thing I have to say about all this, in regard to my blog title "Judge Etnoyer". I want anyone who might question my intentions to know that I certainly, in no way shape or form, view myself as better or more important because I got to do this. It was a humbling and rewarding experience. The biggest lesson for me was learning that we are all just people, whether we're the student, teacher, or judge. We should never feel intimidated by another person. The whole reason we have competitions is to grow, learn, and be rewarded for our hard work, whether that's getting a medal, or just intrinsic satisfaction in a job well done. And most importantly, we do it to glorify God, and not ourselves. That's what made this competition very special.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Trip to Colorado

I am back! I wanted to take a few minutes and post a short blog to give you all an update on how my trip to Colorado was, earlier this week. First of all, my #1 favorite thing about the trip was seeing the Rocky Mountains! Almost 4 years ago I spent the summer at the Aspen Music Festival & School in Aspen, CO. I felt so inspired by that trip, and it was just as wonderful seeing those mountains for the second time! My professor and a former student of hers shared a hotel room with me on the 14th floor of the Hyatt Regency. We could see all the way out, several miles, to the mountains that bordered the city.

In case some of you are wondering, I was in Denver attending the MTNA (Music Teacher's National Association) National Conference. This was my first time, and I got to go for an extremely low rate due to the WVU Collegiate Chapter fund which helped sponsor me, and the fact that I still get in for the college/student rate. College-age students were definitely in the minority at this convention. I was surrounded by many of the top music pedagogues, publishers, and music clinicians in the country. I will admit, some of it was kind of boring. I still haven't fully adapted to the idea of "conformed business atire". During some of the events I wanted to jump up and down and say "Music is FUN not Business!!!" But I also have to admit, in all fairness, that behind the staleto heals and suits, there were some very friendly and light-hearted musicians, who had a lot of wisdom and experience to share with me. In fact, one of the nice things about the MTNA conventions is that unlike many other business gatherings, people feel completely comfortable sitting and talking with strangers and making fast friends. It is just part of the advantage of meeting others who share a common love for music.

While at this convention I attended three seminars (I would have attended many more but I have been struggling to over-come a cold for almost 2 weeks now). One was focused on the "Celebration Series" which I found very applicable since I am currently teaching 4 piano students out of this series. One seminar focused on the generational differences between most current music educators, and the current rising generation. They discussed ways that teachers need to learn to understand the way children learn today, using technology and group learning. The third session I attended focused on how to make your students fabulous and fearless performers. The speaker focused on transposition, improvisation, using MIDI technology in the lessons, and much more.

Aside from seminars, the high-light of the trip for me was the performances. I was able to hear all of the national winner recitals for the Junior and Senior divisions, as well as the Young-Artist winners. The students were so inspiring to me! In addition, on the final night of the convention, aprox. 2,000 of us crowded a down-town United Methodist Church to hear a very memorable performance by the world-famous concert pianist Lang Lang ( I should mention here that he is only 25 years old!). This was my second opportunity to hear Lang Lang, just in the past year or so. He also performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony last time I heard him. This pianist is so phenominal that they are beginning to rank him in the same category with Horowitz and Rubinstein. He has been performing since age 5 and has already performed in every major city in the world. If you ever get a chance to hear this musical-wonder perform, I strongly encourage you to take it!!!

The rest of my time in Colorado was spent eating some great food, doing some church-music shopping at the convention sales booths, and even visiting the Denver Art Museum where I saw some beautiful Impressionist art work, including pieces by Renoir. For the first time in my life, I actually understood the definition of Impressionism, as opposed to my past trips to art museums when I had a very confused idea of what Impressionistic art was about. It really helped me as a musician too, because now I have a clearer understanding of what a musician means when they talk about the "Impressionistic Music" of Debussy.

I think that is about it. I am busy catching up on work now that I am home, still getting over my cold, and really on fire to get back to practicing. I believe a month away from practice and the convention trip were just what I needed to get back into the swing of things. In fact, at my church choir rehearsal last night, my choir members said there was a noticeable difference in my conducting! This was very encouraging to me for two reasons. 1) I have not been working on my conducting since the last time we met and I chose the piece we were singing just before rehearsal. 2) I felt a big difference as I was conducting in my awareness of all the details of the music, and in the ease of expressing them to the choir. It was nice to have it reaffirmed that I am in fact improving and that time away from practicing can open us up to be better performers.

I'll let you all go now. I hope in a few weeks to have the pictures from the Lang Lang concert developed, and will try to post them on here.

God Bless!!