Saturday, May 22, 2010

Weddings -- the good, the bad, and the lovely

Someone had casually suggested that I write a book about my various piano jobs and adventures. While I'm flattered, I can't imagine there are many people who would want to read such a book.

But I figured it'd be worth posting a few things here.

Last night I played for my first wedding of 2010. It was in one of those huge Baptist churches, with tile flooring and a shiny baby grand piano up on a stage, and great acoustics.

I enjoy playing for wedding because:
1) Well, who wouldn't like it? You get to see fancy hair-dos and pretty dresses, and you feel the energy and excitement from everybody involved. I'm reminded of details from our wedding that I don't think of often -- like how we had a hard time getting that Unity candle lit, and the pastor made a little joke about it.

2) I really enjoy playing the 30 minute prelude music before the ceremony begins. This is the best of all worlds to me. People aren't sitting in silence staring at me, but they aren't as noisy and oblivious as they are at a restaurant or party, either. I can really sense that I'm setting a mood, and I like that.

I don't enjoy playing for weddings because:
1) Well, they make me a nervous wreck. I have no doubt it will become easier after I do it a few more times. (Don't tell anyone, but this is only my eighth wedding.) But you have to watch the door and the aisle out of the corner or your eye while playing, and expect to end a song or switch songs on about two seconds' notice.

Last night, for example, I was supposed to watch for the wedding coordinator to stand in a certain doorway to cue that I was ready to stop playing prelude music and begin the first ceremony piece. This supposed to happen at about two minutes til six.

At six o'clock, I still did not see her. I took the repeat again, and hoped I wasn't somehow doing something wrong.

After taking the repeat again, I realized I was going to have to play something else. I switched to another piece, still frantically keeping one eye on the door (which is a bit tricky to do).

Still nothing when that piece was over.

This continued until she suddenly appeared in the doorway at 6:10 pm!

It turned out that Someone Important was late, and they had to stall to wait for them.

Things like that are good, though. Assuming I pull it off well, it adds a point or two of Appreciation.

And after I get eight more weddings under my belt, I probably won't think a thing of it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Why it's Cool to be a Piano Girl

Last weekend I played at a nice restaurant downtown. It was my first time there. I'm scheduled to go back again twice in late June. If you know me personally and live in town, ask me and I'll tell you when and where.

My non-musician friends (which is most everyone) sometimes ask me how I get these jobs. In this case, a booking agent saw one of my web listings and called me -- which is sort of interesting, if you think about it. He's never met me, never heard me play, and didn't have a referral. Just found me on the web, called me, and hired me. I guess he was first dazzled by my photo and then completely won over by my professional Phone Voice, ha ha!

And that's just fine with me.

Someone else asked me if I get nervous. Actually, I was nervous about finding the place, getting stuck in traffic, and figuring out how to get from the parking garage through the bridge walkway to the actual restaurant.

But nervous about playing? No. And the reason is simple: No one is really listening to me or looking at me. And that's just the way I like it. It's kinda like playing at home, but more fun, and I get paid.

Now here's what's so cool about being the Piano Girl at a restaurant:

It's kind of an alter ego thing. It's a Slightly Different Me when I go out to a job.

In my real life, we go out to eat at the IHOP five minutes from home, when kids eat free, and get an extra plate for sharing. I go to places like Publix and the library and the doctor. I wear casual (although hopefully attractive) clothes.

In my real life:

I do NOT go downtown.
I do NOT eat at nice restaurants.
I do NOT get free valet parking.
I do NOT wear floor-length dresses and high heels.
I do NOT use rest-rooms with lit candles, cloth towels, and hand lotion.
I do NOT have people in uniforms bring me bottles of water and offer me free food.
I do NOT have strangers slip me twenty dollar bills. (Well, that only happened once, actually.)

It's Different. And it's Cool.

The other thing that's cool (and this is kind of along the same lines) is that most people I know in my Real Life don't do this.

So they're impressed. [Sometimes.] They might ask: How did you get that job? What's it like at the Ritz? Did you get any tips? What songs do you play? What do you wear? Do you get nervous?

And that makes me feel Special. And Interesting.

And I like that.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Obligatory "Homeschool Schedule" Post

I've noticed that most homeschoolers love to see other homeschoolers' daily schedules. So, at the risk of boring Everybody Else, I'll entertain my fellow homeschoolers (hopefully) with our schedule.

Here's what we usually did this past school year. If you don't already know, Rachael just turned nine, Rebecca just turned seven, and Benjamin will be four next week.

Community Bible Study homework. (15-20 minutes) The four of us are all in a weekly Bible Study, and this is the first year Rachael has homework. (Next year, Rebecca will have the same assignments as well.) We do it together at the kitchen table: I read the scripture, Rachael reads aloud the questions and we answer them together, and often Rebecca colors. Benjamin used to sit at the table with us with a toy, but then after a while he started announcing he was going in his room as soon as we began, which was just fine with me.

Math-U-See video lesson (4-7 minutes, once a week) This only happens when we start a new lesson, which is usually once a week. We usually all watch this on the couch. I know it sounds stupid to have to watch a video teaching how to add, but the video teacher is really likeable and funny, and believe it or not, he presents things in ways I've never heard of before.

Rachael one-on-one time (35-40 minutes) During this time, Rebecca would go play with Benjamin in his room. What I did with Rachael at this time has evolved over the months, but currently we do Writing With Ease (narration, copywork, and dictation), First Language Lessons (mostly grammar and poem memorization), All About Spelling, and a few minutes doing math together just to see if she has questions, and possibly to work on word problems together.

Rebecca one-on-one time (30 minutes) Rachael takes Benjamin down to the playroom. I've been very relaxed with Becca's schoolwork this year. We just started Writing With Ease, which she loves. She went through the Alpha Math-U-See book in about 4-5 months, so we casually do Beta and some supplementary stuff. She likes phonics games, which reminds me that I haven't done that with her lately. Today she read out loud to me. It just varies.

Rachael Alone Time (20-30 minutes) Technically, I would play with Benjamin, although often this was a struggle for me, and often I would spend a big part of this time moving laundry and checking my e-mails.
It's a little hard for me to play alone with him because he doesn't like to do things that I can handle, like coloring or doing a puzzle together -- instead, he wants to play with his cars, or some sort of game where I chase him or something, and frankly, I'm too old and grumpy for that. But often we played with various Discovery Toys, or Leap Pad, or sometimes I just read to him. Meanwhile, Rachael did her math and cursive writing practice (although right now she's doing Explode the Code Book 6 because I think she needs the spelling practice). Rebecca would either join me and Benjamin or, more likely, occupy herself somehow.

Snack/Five in a Row (45 minutes) This was my solution to kids wanting a snack, but me feeling like that was a big time-waster that made it hard for everyone to get back on track. We have the snack on the couch while we read a book from our current unit study, usually with Five in a Row. (Right now, however, we are studying the colonial times/Revolutionary War, and reading different biographies by Jean Fritz.) Benjamin will sit through most of the book until he's done eating. Then he soon gets wiggly, and either I send him to his room to go play or he dismisses himself. Usually, after the reading, we work on something for the girls' notebook. For example, after we read If You Lived in Colonial Times, they had to write down and illustrate four things they remembered from the book.

Around this time I start fixing lunch. Once we have lunch, it varies greatly, depending on what day it is, what else is going on, what mood we're in, and what the weather is like.

In mid-afternoon, when I read to Benjamin at his nap time, the girls are each supposed to go have silent reading. Rachael recently finished Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg and Cam Jansen and the Chocolate Fudge Mystery. Rebecca really enjoys the "Rookie Reader" series and reads them over and over again.

And that's what we do. In August things will change considerably, but I'll save that for another post.