Sunday, March 29, 2009

Girls' Weekend 2009

There are many things that you do not get to do when you are a full-time band director. One of these things is having an entirely free weekend to spend with some of your friends at a given get-away destination. Since I'd been living in State College, a few of my friends from the PSU Alumni Association, Greater Pittsburgh Chapter, thought it would be great to have a Girls' weekend. The rules were simple: No work, no husbands/boyfriends, no children, no pets, no thinking, just fun and relaxing.

Friday, March 28th, while I finished with all of my obligations and pre-planned events, Kathy, Kathy and Laura got settled into their room, went shopping and ate. I picked them up for an evening of people watching at one of State College's local establishments. Fun was had by all.

Saturday led us to painting pottery at 2000 Degrees, some more dining, watching the Pens win and then watching Pitt lose. As a Penn Stater, are we surprised? Nah...

Sunday brought us to do some more minor shopping, a stop at the Berkey Creamery, and our final lunch at Otto's Pub and Brewery.

There was not a time when we weren't laughing. As appropriate, we reminded ourselves of the rules (like when we attempted to think), and maintained them as much as possible. Thanks Laura, Kathy M., and Kathy K. for a great time!

Notable quotes:
How Laura orders food, "I'd like two slices of people, please...wait, I mean pizza!"
How Kathy M. orders food, "The beer-brained dunken chicken looks good...oh, my god...I meant beer-brined drunken chicken!"

PMEA 2009

Time and money are both factors in my ability to attend the annual PMEA (Pennsylvania Music Educators' Association) state conference over the last 10 years. This year, all the stars aligned and I was able to attend the conference, held in the Valley Forge (Philadelphia) area.

My teaching partner, Alan, had the lucky chance to stay on-site in the Radisson. A picture of his "galactic" room is available above. Ah, the convenience...I stayed about 5 minutes away, which was not too bad.

I had the chance to round-out my professional development by attending educational sessions, performances and social gatherings with former undergraduate colleagues as well as current graduate colleagues. The All-State performance that I chose to attend was the All-State Jazz and Vocal Jazz Ensembles. What great talent we have in the state of Pennsylvania!

It was refreshing to be able to attend the 2009 PMEA conference, and I am looking forward to next year's conference in my home area of Pittsburgh.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pierogi Party!

When the Steelers made it to the Superbowl this year, I decided to have a Superbowl party in my new apartment. What I didn't do was take many good pictures of that event.

Anyhow, the fare for that party was typical of Pittsburgh folk. Paul and I made several kinds of pierogies for the event and they were a hit! They were so much of a hit that some of my grad friends wanted to learn how to make them. I promised that we'd set a date for a pierogi making lesson.

We gathered on Saturday, March 21, 2009 for the culinary lesson at the Docker residence. Yu-Chen, Jess, Cathe and Yi-Ting helped to prepare a new batch of dough with Paul's instruction, and then work with the ready batches of dough to turn them into pierogies. I was on the finishing end with the actual cooking. In total, we made the following types: potato/cheese, potato/cheese/bacon, beef/cheese, prune, apricot, apple. When all the cooking was finished, we gladly sat down to eat and then play a fun game of Apples-to-Apples.

A couple of days later, I used the dough that the girls made to make the following types of pierogies: cannoli filling (ricotta & chocolate), apple, cottage cheese/onion. Good times, good friends, and good food. Who could ask for anything more?

"Bach's" Lunch

It's been a LONG time since I performed publicly for anything other than some sort of church-related function...alright, about 12 years. When I decided to finish my master's coursework, I also decided that it would be a good idea to go back to studying voice. I thoroughly enjoy singing, and could stand to learn more about teaching voice, so why not?

There's been a ton of "untraining" going on in my voice lessons...particularly unlearning the "super dark" tone from my Diocesan Choir experience and learning the difference between choral diction and solo singing diction. I've worked on several short songs, mostly American folk songs, which has been very refreshing. Professor Kennedy has been wonderful to work with and I'll never forget the day that he told me he had signed up not just me, but his entire studio for the "Bach's Lunch" concert.

It was about a month ago, and he had asked me if I had ever heard of the concert series. Since this was my first time on campus during the academic year, I had no knowledge of the concert series. He explained it to me and of course built up the drama to that pregnant pause where I was wondering, "Okay, what did he do??" Then he said that he signed me up for the March 26th concert. "As a matter of fact," he said with a smile, "I signed up my whole studio!" I was a little relieved that it wasn't just me, but also still a little anxious about the thought of singing for something that wasn't church-related.

That being said, I've been working really hard on getting the words in correct order for "Come again, sweet love doth now invite." The song is not as easy as it appears. It's REALLY easy to swap the words in verse 1 for verse 2, etc., and in no particular pattern. My knack for swapping one part of a verse for another has created both some humorous moments and frustrating moments in rehearsal. I've learned a new level of patience with myself.

My accompanist is a doc student friend of mine, Lauren Kooistra. She has a pretty heavy load with both taking classes and teaching classes and probably didn't have the space to take me on, but I'm very thankful that she did. Our rehearsals together were efficient and fun, and so was the performance. I can't say "thanks" enough.

Now we go to today. The performance was at 12:10 this afternoon, and I was second on the program. I am one of two females in Professor Kennedy's studio. Something that I'm absolutely thrilled about is that I FINALLY put all the words in the right place in the performance. I seriously didn't think that I'd ever get one fully correct performance with the lyrics. Enjoy the video!

Spring Break "09" with Corey...Memphis, TN

Throughout my undergrad, I only had one real spring break...1998, when my sister and I decided to drive to our brother's place in Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. I had not had any spring break trips at any other time because I was always on some tour with some ensemble...choir, mainly. They were fun tours, but it was never really a spring break trip. Anyhow...

There's a blues singer by the name of Barbara Blue. She was originally from Pittsburgh, and one of my closest friends, Corey, and I discovered her while she was still performing in Pittsburgh. We were instant fans, and rarely missed a performance. You want stage presence? Barbara's got it!

Barbara relocated to Memphis just over 10 years ago, for a better gig: singing at Silky O'Sullivan's. After Barbara's move, Corey and I said that we'd go to Memphis some day, just to see her in her element. This spring break was our first chance.

We stayed at the Westin, Executive Suite (Thank you, Tonny!), which was just around the corner from Silky O'Sullivan's. We toured through Beale Street, which isn't very long, but there is a lot there, walked through a significant part of the city, visited Graceland, and just overall relaxed and enjoyed each other's company. I even got the privilege of joining Barbara on-stage to sing one of her more upbeat numbers and closer for her final set on Sunday night, "Trouble with a Capital T".

We had a great time. This spring break was well worth it! So, I guess our next trip will be...?

My 33rd

The difference between this year's birthday and the last eight is that I did not spend it in the classroom with students or at some sort of after-school rehearsal (i.e. musical, concert band, jazz band). I DID get to spend it with close friends and family.

The first part of my celebration was dinner with my PSU grad friends. We went to my favorite restaurant, Otto's Pub and Brewery, and as with most get-togethers this semester, we had a theme: birthday songs. Everyone in attendance had to compose or sing a different birthday song. I uploaded the video from the said event. A good time was had by all, and I feel very fortunate to be among so many fun-loving, intelligent and talented people. I'm very happy to call them my friends. Thanks to everyone in attendance that evening and enjoy the video!

The second part of my celebration was dinner with my family. We went to the Primanti's restaurant in Moon Township, which is about 10 minutes from my home...not quite the atmosphere as the original one in the Strip District of Pittsburgh, but the food is just as good. It was nice to be with my family all in one place, since the beginning of the semester. I'm very blessed to have such a loving, supportive and awesome family.

The third part of my celebration was my trip to Memphis with Corey...that takes me to the "Spring Break" post.