Tuesday: I had plans to go to a meeting at 6:30 tonight, so I come home around 4:30 to practice before dinner. I had told M about the schedule change in the morning.
When I walk in the door, M and her summer nanny, Lily, are sitting at the kitchen table, coloring. M jumps up, walks to me, and says brightly, “I have a surprise for you! It’s in the den.”
I walk into the den, and she has set everything up for her lesson — her stool and footstand are out, and her guitar is in its stand. My guitar case is also out.
Me: You set everything up for your lesson. Is that the surprise?
Me: What a great surprise!
This was all-the-more unexpected because M had been especially passive-aggressive in the morning when it was time to brush teeth — she had refused to stand up so I could reach her easily with the toothbrush. I actually had to tell Lily, when she arrived, to wait on the porch until M let me brush her teeth. (M then promptly cooperated.)
The substance of our practice was actually so-so. We worked mainly on Meadow Minuet, and M’s note accuracy left much to be desired. But it was clear to me that she knew when she was making a mistake, and she did a lot of things well. She was also excited to give a concert for her grandma, who arrived at around 5:30 to take over so I could go to my meeting.
But nothing takes away from the sweetness of M’s surprise. Given how much conflict we often have over lessons, I’ve got to treasure days like this and to hope that more will be coming.
After the SAM graduation, the family went to Hell’s Kitchen for lunch. M was clutching her trophy with pride, and the waitress naturally asked about it. M explained that it was for playing guitar, and the waitress was delighted.
About five minutes later, the waitress brought over the restaurant’s owner. He plays guitar and he thought it was very cool that a five-year-old was playing; he had never heard of such a thing. He asked about her guitar, wondering aloud if she was really playing something like a mandolin. I showed him her guitar, which delighted him.
Then he announced that he had an extra prize for M because he thought it was so cool that she was playing guitar: A free, autographed copy of the Hell’s Kitchen cookbook. (We had a little TMI moment when I asked him to personalize it, but he declined because of tremors caused by his medication.)
We practiced before dinner because we were going over to a friend’s house. I decided to do something we have never done: play a duet in Read This First that was not a Suzuki song. First, M read through the notes about 3 times, identifying the note names. I was a little frustrated that she couldn’t identify the problem notes after we went through it; I’m trying to get her to problem-solve on her own, rather than always having me identifying what needs work.
But she got through it, and we played it through together a few times. It sounded nice, and we played one four-bar passage several times to get it sounding good. This was all conflict-free and seemed to have a pretty good payoff in M’s satisfaction.
Next, we worked on the C and D sections of Meadow Minuet as follows:
- M played melody, I played bass;
- I played melody, M played bass; and
- M played both in the C section only.
This went well. Her only issues are (1) pinky shape, and (2) paying attention (aiming) before starting to play.
At one point, as she was figuring out what bass note to play, she said:
“I’m corn. Because I’ve got such good ears!”
We had a pretty good practice, but I continue to be baffled at how little we get done in an hour. And M was generally cooperative! We did:
- Sight reading in Read This First. We played two songs, three times through (first saying beats; second saying notes; third saying fruit rhythms). I suppose this took longer than it seemed.
- The double-note Perpetual Motion variation, with a stuffed rabbit to help M keep her wrist up.
- The Fuhrman Tanz. Per M’s studio teacher, I asked her to focus on playing “musically” (we first went over a list of “musical” items she could add to her playing — crescendo, ritardando, vibrato, etc.). She got some things in, and she got the structure right. There’s still room to improve. What I noticed and discussed was how she could play more legato by not bringing her pinky down on the high A too early.
- As an exercise after the Tanz, I asked M to play A-F# repeatedly 10 times and watch her timing to keep it legato. She did perfectly!
- As our inter-song activity, M pitched pennies in a glass. This was a pretty good choice (low distraction, not too time consuming), except when she started to get upset when she was missing. This will probably work better if she has a higher success rate.
The one bummer for me today was how M responded (during a play date) to a friend’s dad’s questions about playing the guitar. First, when he asked if she played an instrument, she said, “I’m a rock star!” So far so good. But then he asked, “What do you like about playing the guitar? Do you have a favorite song?” She answered “nothing” and “no.”
Normally this doesn’t bother me much (though obviously I wish she answered differently), particularly since she has bought into the guitar in other ways (as shown by the “rock star” remark). But the mother of M’s friend had earlier been telling me about her daughter’s ice skating and gymnastics and had remarked with pleasure that her daughter really seemed to enjoy both activities. The contrast with M’s attitude about the guitar struck me.
On the positive side, while M and I were making a Keva-plank structure, she liked something I did and said:
You rockstarred it!
Here’s the bunny we used during our lesson (M kept it under her wrist while she played Perpetual Motion):
At lunch, I was telling M that I thought that if she practiced the note-reading exercise for her group class’s Guitar Olympics, she could do the best in the class. With an accusatory tone and a grim face, she said:
YOU! You’re trying to encourage me!
At dinner, M made up a song that went like this:
The tan man, the tan man, asks the people their favorite color. And they say “tan,” and he is very popular.
The next day the tan man, the tan man, asks the people their favorite color. But they say “pink,” and now his business is not so good.
So the tan man changes his color and becomes pink. And the tan man is very popular again.
I asked her to sing it again after dinner so I could record it. Unfortunately, she forgot to mention a key element of the original narrative thread (i.e., that the Tan Man changed his color to pink). But on the plus side, she added a flying house! Here’s her second rendition:
Without any prompting, M wrote a “song” today. The notes are totally arbitrary, but she’s got a pretty good idea of what written music looks like: