Category: Piano (page 1 of 3)

I hit publish before I wrote a title, so now, this is it. (Because I can’t think of anything else.)

The girls participated in the Ohio Music Teacher’s Association Ribbon Festival –  Julia for the ninth, Lucy for the fifth, and Phoebe for the first time.

You can see Julia and Lucy’s past performances here:

2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016

I love the Ribbon Festival and look forward to it every spring.  It is possible that this isn’t true, but in my memory, every Ribbon Festival Saturday has been sunny.  I’ve been watching many of the same students perform alongside my children for years and it’s inspiring to watch them grow.  It makes me hopeful for our world.  So long as we’re nourishing that part of ourselves that music speaks to, the part where it comes from when we make it, I think we can be okay.

Lucy was the first of my kids to perform, so she was the one to alert me to the fact that my camera was switched to photo not video which is why the beginning of her song is cut off!

Lucy plays Allegretto I at the 2017 Ribbon Festival

I think this is her best performance to date, which I always seem to be saying because she is getting better and better at managing her nerves while playing for people.  This is what the judge wrote:

Good steady playing.  Nice effort to make mp & mf differences – can you make the differences even bigger?  Your posture and hand position are very good, and your stage presence is excellent – beautiful bow!  Keep up the good work!

Phoebe had a rough first performance. Nevertheless, she persisted!

Phoebe plays Cuckoo at the 2017 Ribbon Festival

Phoebe has worked hard on Cuckoo. I was surprised to see her struggle so much.  But she was proud to have done it.  And Jack was proud of her, too.  Did you hear his “Bravo, Phoebe!” at the end of the video?  He’s her biggest fan.

Here’s what the judge shared with her:

Congratulations on your first Ribbon Festival!  I hope you will play in many more.  You did quite well in playing the right notes, and in getting the hands together.  You show good promise as a young pianist.  Be sure to play the piece several times from memory for your family and friends so you strengthen your memory of the music before you play it in public.  I look forward to hearing from you again.

Julia performed last and did just fine.

Julia plays Sonatina Op.55, No. 1 Vivace at the 2017 Ribbon Festival

The judge wrote this:

– Good p to f contrast at m. 8.  At m. 22 – can you give more sound when you start the sixteenth to show us that it’s a sequence of earlier material?

– Nice contrast in mood at m. 53

– Smooth passagework in sixteenths.  Can you bring out the top note of RH chords?

– Can you pull your hair back so we can see your face and make a more direct connection with your beautiful performance?

– Very well done – please keep up the good work!  Solid preparation.

I am so proud of my girls.

Julia, Lucy, and Phoebe at the 2017 Ribbon Festival

I love it when they play the piano.

Keep Calm and Play the Piano

Julia and Lucy had their year-end piano recital earlier this month. Everyone calls it The Cookie Recital because parents bring cookies to share after the performances which I love because baking cookies is my jam. I long for that feeling when someone chooses my cookie from the tray, takes a bite and exclaims, “Oh! These are delicious! Who made these?” (It has happened before!) Or at least finding that at the end of the event, none of my cookies are leftover? Yeah. I like that. But there was none of it this year because the glass in my (brand new!) oven door was broken by a flying step stool, so I had to take: *hangs head low and whispers* store bought cookies. Now, no one ever really knows who brought which cookies and it truly does not matter to anyone if they are homemade or store bought. As long as they aren’t poisoned or stolen, people are alright. But the shame I felt about those cookies was real. The fact that this is a ridiculous reason to feel shame makes it all the more shameful. These are the things I think about while I eat Little Debbie Salted Caramel Cookie Bars in my closet! I will tell you this, though: all of my store bought cookies were eaten.

The girls have had a great year with Ms. Winn. We love her. She is a wonderful teacher. Our hearts were broken when Mr. Palmer retired. I worried that the transition to a new teacher would be tough, but Ms. Winn made it an exciting opportunity. Julia and Lucy have made a lot of progress this year, thanks to Ms. Winn.

Julia, Ms. Winn, and Lucy

Lucy was the first performer at the recital. She played Long, Long Ago by Bayly and did a lovely job. She started to lose her way in the middle, but pulled it together without having to go back to the beginning or repeat a whole section which is a testament to how much she is growing musically. She has a better grasp of her music and I’m so proud of her.

Julia played Minuet in G Minor by Petzold.

She was disappointed in her performance because it was not her best. She was worried that she’d let me down, too. She wasn’t the only great performer to flub their piece. It happens. I still love hearing her play. I’m not sure she realizes that she cannot ever disappoint me by playing the piano.

“Beautiful Tone, Beautiful Heart” – Shinichi Suzuki

We’ve been a part of the Ohio Music Teacher’s Association Ribbon Festival for two presidential terms. I can prove it with these links!

2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015

Julia played in her first Ribbon Festival the year President Obama took office. Lucy played in her first and (Julia played in her fifth) when he started his second term. It’s President Obama’s last year in the White House. I don’t know who our president will be next year, but I’m thinking a lot about that and also the fact that next year should hopefully, finally, be Phoebe’s first Ribbon Festival and maybe also Jackson’s.

Lucy and Julia at the 2016 Ribbon Festival

This year, Lucy played Au Clair de la Lune, which is my favorite song from Book One.

Lucy plays Au Clair de la Lune at the Ribbon Festival

Here’s what the judge said about it.

Beautiful singing tone! Your balance between the hands was very good and I can tell you’ve worked hard on that performance aspect. Remember to keep the wrists supported and up so you have greater control of your fingers and the piano keys. Be aware of your pinkies – can they be closer to the other fingers of your hand when when they’re not playing? Sometimes 5th fingers like to fly away, so inviting them to join in with the other fingers will help your hand work as a unit. It can take some time to get the 5th fingers to work with the others, so keep practicing. Review notes starting from each line so memory can be secure and comfortable. You really use your ear to listen to the sounds you are creating. Great job today! Thank you for playing.

Julia played the Vivace movement of Clementi’s Sonatina in C Major, Op 36, No. 1 from Book Three.

Julia plays the Vivace movement of Clementi's Sonatina in C Major, Op 36, No. 1 at the Ribbon Festival

(The shaky camera work and the scream at the end of the video were courtesy of Jackson. The abrupt cutoff marks the moment I’d HAD ENOUGH!)

This is what her judge said.

– Very clean playing and a steady rhythm.
– Like your touch and sound very much
– Nice expression
– Try to be more flexible with your wrists – may make it easier to play the scales
– Well done and keep up the good work!

I was proud of the girls and so was their teacher who – for the first time – was not Mr. Palmer. After 36 years of teaching, Mr. Palmer closed his studio and retired last August.

Lucy and Julia with Mr. Palmer at his retirement reception

He taught us so much and the impact he’s had on our lives is immense. And we’re just one of so many families that feel the same way. I am thankful for Mr. Palmer. He is an exceptional teacher and an extraordinary man. We miss seeing him every week.

Mr. Palmer's Studio

Julia at the piano at Mr. Palmer's Studio

He’ll be a part of who we are forever.

Julia has piano on Thursdays.

I look for errands
to run after piano
to spend time with her

I dig music.

I am grateful to have a piano in my home.

Playing Piano

It is played every day – I’m even more grateful for that.

Lucy and Fluffy at the piano

I’m always telling the kids that I love to hear them play. It is one of my very favorite things. And it is my wish that they will make music every day of their lives.

And the curtain falls on another season of dance and piano.

It began on Friday with the dance recital.

Recital Ready

Julia tumbled.

Julia's 2015 Dance Picture

Phoebe tapped and plie’d.

Phoebe's 2015 Dance Picture

And after a four year break, Lucy returned to the stage for her second-ever dance performance.

Lucy's 2015 Dance Picture

You’ll have to ask Dave how it went. Since I’d been to rehearsal and seen the show already, I agreed to be the one to remove Jack should he become a distraction, which he did. We walked the lobby, my boy and I, where he acted as host to all the other restless children that stopped by. He’d say hello, show them the water fountain, invite them to play. And for the first time in eight years, Dave saw a show.

The piano recital happened on Sunday.

Mr. Palmer, Julia and Lucy

Lucy played London Bridge.

Lucy's Spring Piano Recital

Julia played the first movement of Beethoven’s Sonatina in G Major.

Julia's Spring Piano Recital

And Dave listened from the hallway with Jack.

In My Heart, Spring Starts with the Ribbon Festival

Saturday was Julia’s seventh?

Julia at her seventh Ribbon Festival

One, two, three, four, five, six, yes, seventh! And Lucy’s third Ribbon Festival.

Lucy at her third Ribbon Festival

Lucy performed Mary Had a Little Lamb beautifully.

She gets so very nervous about playing for people, but she retained her composure and pulled off her best performance to date. Phoebe was so proud of her sister that she stood and shouted, “You did it! You did a great job, Lucy!”

The judge had this to say.

Lucy, I must comment first on your beautiful dress! And you played beautifully, too! Your fingers got into the keys and you created a lovely tone. Your rhythm was very accurate. Think about changing the dynamics when phrases repeat. I know the music doesn’t tell you to do it, but we can do so to make our playing expressive. Your hand position looks good – keep thinking about curling your 5th fingers – they are the most stubborn. Keep up the good work and make Festival an annual goal.

Julia performed the first and second movement of Beethoven’s Sonatina in G Major.

She was on top of the world because her fifth grade science/intervention teacher came to see her play. He really made her feel special. His show of support moved my heart. I won’t forget it and neither will she.

Here’s what the judge said about her performance.

Julia,

Beethoven would surely have been proud of your performance today for its accuracy of notes and rhythms, steadiness of tempo, and security of memory.

I do think that you could have played the piano sections of this famous piece more gently. Some things you could have done with greater sensitivity, such as the diminuendo rounding-off in movement I, measures 8 and 24, and you could have done the crescendo-decrescendo better sometimes.

I couldn’t be prouder of those girls. Oh, and these two, as well.

Phoebe at the Ribbon Festival

Jack, all dressed up

Their Ribbon Festival days are ahead.

The Grimmett kids at the Ribbon Festival

But so far, this was my favorite.

Two Performances and a Footwear Fiasco

The Ribbon Festival was on Saturday. (You remember The Ribbon Festival. We’ve been there one, two, three, four, five times before.) It had been on my calendar for a month. The dresses had been chosen for a week. The day before, I had pulled out the music and numbered the measures, hung out the dresses, and located the shoes – in fact, we’d done a test fitting, just to be sure we were ready. But two hours before performance time, we were not ready. Julia had lost a shoe and Lucy’s shoes, suddenly and inexplicably, did not fit. So, at forty-five minutes to showtime, after a swift foot measurement, I sent the girls down their respective aisles at the shoe store with the task of selecting a black dress shoe in their size. This is how Julia ended up with a pair of heels – low heels, but HEELS – and Lucy, wedges.

This wouldn’t have happened on any other day.

They put them on right there in the store and walked proudly out of the mall like they had those robot legs from Herbie Hancock’s Rockit video.

Amazingly, we were on time for the event.

Lucy battled her stage fright on the bench for 68 agonizing seconds (which I cut from the video) before tentatively, but successfully performing Lightly Row.


Julia played Minuet 2.


They felt pretty good about themselves.

Lucy and Julia with their ribbons

They were almost as pleased with their ribbons as they were with their shoes.

Pia pia pian-o!

I spend a lot of time at (or at least near) the piano for someone who doesn’t even really play. (My repertoire: Heart and Soul, the intro to Home Sweet Home [made famous by Motley Crue], the intro to Right Here Waiting [made famous by Richard Marx], and Chopsticks.) Between the girls’ lessons and daily practices, the piano is one of my main hangouts. Since Phoebe is starting lessons (you guys, Phoebe is starting piano lessons), I’ve had to develop a system for organizing all of our piano stuff.

At the core of the system: binders.

Dave has a weakness for office supplies that’s led to a binder addiction. He hoards them. (I do a good job of hiding it, but if you ever come to my house, don’t open any drawers or cupboards or – Lord, help us – go into the basement because BINDERS!!!) So, I used what I had.

I have one main family binder.

Family piano binder

Each kid has a section where I keep the notes I take during class, as well as their most recent piano practice sheets.

I have a section for each kid.

The kids each have class once a week and the goal is that they practice, at least, five days a week. We keep track of practices on their practice sheet. (I print my practice sheets from Kids Reward Chart.com.)

Piano Practice Sheet

They have five main tasks to complete each day and they get a sticker for each one. If they do all five in one day, they get to pick a treat from the treat bucket. And if they get 25 stickers (i.e. practice five days a week), they get an ice cream cone on the way home from piano class.

When the family binder starts getting full, I transfer their notes and practice sheets to their individual binders.

Piano Binders with my cool homemade bookends

(Please notice the bookends I made myself from old 45 records like this.)

We’ve been doing it this way all summer and it’s really working for us. And now that I have two kids in school, I’m thinking I might need to make a school binder to keep track of all their papers and things. I’ve already made a binder for our finances. And our “school at home” work we did over the summer.

Maybe I have a binder addiction, too. Or perhaps I’m just inspired by my surroundings, which is binders.

Do you have any binders? If yes, you should tell me about them. How do you organize stuff like this?

U-G-L-Y, you ain’t got no alibi! And by you, I mean me.

“When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.” – Lao Tzu

I’ve had that quote posted somewhere I could read it daily for the past ten years, at least. I struggle with this. I compare. I feel competitive. I believe I’m not good enough. And that insecurity brings out the ugliest in me.

Julia and Lucy performed in a recital at a nursing home recently as part of their summer piano curriculum.

“Julia will play The Happy Farmer,”‘ their piano teacher had told me on the phone the weekend before.

“Oh, not Minuet 1?” Minuet 1 is the most advanced song she’s mastered and, in fact, she’s just about nailed Minuet 2.

“No, she’ll play The Happy Farmer. And Lucy will play…we have a few playing Honeybee already…

“She could play Lightly Row,” I offered.

“Lucy will play Blueberry Popsicle Twinkle.”

“Sounds good,” I said cheerfully. But inside, I was not cheerful.

Inside, I was thinking about the fact that Lucy played Blueberry Popsicle Twinkle at the spring recital two years ago and everyone would think she hasn’t made any progress since then.

Inside, I was remembering the gut-punch that came at The Ribbon Festival the year another student asked Julia, “So what are you playing?” and when she answered, her mom said, “Oh, well….that’s okay.” Because, obviously, she hadn’t kept pace. She was only playing Musette. She wasn’t even in Book Two, yet! (At least that’s what I imagined them pointing out to each other on the way home in their car.)

I hate having those thoughts. I feel so small and petty when I think this way. (Does anyone else think this way? I’m not even sure which answer makes me feel better.) None of it matters. Someone will always play better and be more advanced than my girls are. And there will always be someone that isn’t where they are yet. Comparing just diminishes the hard work they’ve invested and love they’ve developed for piano. Learning and playing music isn’t about being the best – it’s about so much more. But here I was reducing it to a contest, as I do – not out loud, never out loud – but in my head.

Of course, I’ve learned to reel myself in, mostly because I don’t want to curse my kids with my competi-mom brain disease.

I know a little comparison can be good. Watching a friend excel can be good motivation to practice better or more often. And performing in front of an audience of other students and their families – people who truly understand and appreciate the effort and dedication mastering those songs requires – well, it’s a wonderful celebration of their progress.

I just wish I could walk on the middle ground from the get-go, instead of going off the deep end and exhausting myself swimming back to shore and finding it again.

I just want to be okay with things as they are instead of always, always pushing so frantically and desperately for better.

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