Monday, March 30, 2020

Coronovirus,

This is the topic that is governing our lives in every way. Social interactions are curtailed and groups are on hiatus. The State of Michigan has proven to be in the frontlines of care and protection of our citizens. I am so proud of the leadership our State Government has provided and continues to provide to those of us who live in this beautiful State. As of March 16, 2020 all schools and universities are closed. Bars and restaurants must cease inside service and seating as of 3pm today. Carryout, drive thru and delivery services are allowed. Casinos are closed. There are restrictions on access to hospitals, physicians offices, rehabilitation centers, skilled care facilities, memory care centers...even churches and temples are buttoned up tight. All large group (of 50 or more attendees) gatherings are prohibited. Grocery shopping occurs via online ordering and curbside delivery. There have been some predictable, short term shortages (fever reducers, OTC pain relievers, Kleenex, disinfectants and sanitizers (hand sanitizers in particular)...but the most unusual shortage has been toilet paper! I am a bit confounded by this run on TP...as Coronovirus is not an intestinal illness. I know it is necessary for us to practice social distancing and shelter in place protocols...but TP shortages????

How are we to cope? In our family, the biggest change has occurred in preschool and daycare closures and the need for our littles (age 2 and 4) to be with Nana and Poppa 5 days per week. As the Nana, I love this...and of course as a teacher and speech pathologist with decades of child development experience...I am planning all sots of activities. Board games, reading, coloring, crafting, outdoor play, chalk drawing, singing, marching, playing all sorts of musical instruments, baking, cooking, kite flying, swinging, syrup making and an occasional at the farm movie nights (complete with popcorn and juice pouches) are on the agenda.

As a grown up, I am relishing this mandated focus on our home, farm and family. Our DIL Katie is a State of Michigan employee, and as such has been sent home to do her work. I applaud our Governor for taking the lead on limiting all types of unhealthy/risky group activities, and this applies to work location challenges. Bravo Governor Whitman! It is a great comfort to me to know that Katie is home, safe and healthy, and off the road. Since Josh, Katie and the girls live only 5 miles away, I can luxuriate in my family, their happiness and their safety.

On a personal level, I am using my time to continue a deep dive focus on my harp playing...with work on technique, repertoire and confidence building. I am continuing to write music and arrange music via Musescore. I am setting up my technology grid to support opportunities for FaceTime harp lessons. I am using online ordering for groceries and household goods. I am cooking yummy meals, playing with my granddaughters and completing our taxes (hey, not everything can be lilacs and unicorns...right?). And, I work on my prayer journal and my bible/devotional studies.

Therapeutic musician activities are focused on skill development at home. There aren't opportunities to play out for others at this time, as all locations are are buttoned down tight...as they should be. There have been some back channel discussions that I am aware of...hinting that schools closures lasting

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Welcome Back!
Well, updates are due! How have I been spending my time (musically), and how am I progressing on my journey to become a better harper, and a compassionate and appropriately credentialed Therapeutic Musician?

For starters, I have been diving deep into establishing a reliable and appropriate repertoire of pieces. I am focusing right now, on creating Mp3 files of music targeted toward young children and infants. I am deep into well-known children's songs and lullabies....so Twinkle Twinkle/Alphabet Song, All Through the Night, All the Pretty Little Horses, Mary Had a Little Lamb, Over the Rainbow, I Love You Up to the Moon, and Farm Boy's Lullaby are where I'm hanging my musical chapeau at the moment!

Additionally, I am continuing my harp lessons with the amazing Christa Grix, and working to master and use the MuseScore online software to commit my own music and musical arrangements to print. It is truly exciting to see my own compositions appear on the page...they look so professional.

One of the things I am mindful of, in this winter season, is the importance of self-care...the need to refill my vessel...to encounter things that make me smile, that inspire me and that bring a feeling of mastery. So, last night, I attended an amazing concert at the Owens Community College in Toledo, Ohio. This campus and its facilities are amazing. I was alerted to a wonderful concert opportunity by my friend Denise Grupp-Verbon, who is on the faculty of the Music Business and Harp department. The concert featured Nicolas Carter, a Paraguayan Harpist who is simply extraordinary! I have been treated to his music and harp mastery and beauty at least 5 times in the last 2 years, and I learn something and become more committed to my harp playing every time! What a wonderful way to refill my bucket! Best of all, I was accompanied by my friend/harp teacher Christa Grix and my sweet hubby Al, who genuinely loves Nicolas. We are blessed to call Nicolas and his wife Mari as friends...such blessings the harp has bestowed upon me!

So far, I am feeling much more accomplished in the music notation department of late... I have written and published an arrangement of Deck the Halls, an arrangement of Fairy Lullaby, and 3 original pieces which I composed: "Gravity" (a harp solo with optional guitar accompaniment), "I'm So Glad You Came My Way" (a lullaby dedicated to my granddaughters, Kinze and Kasten), and a Flute Trio "Flute Fantasy" a flute trio in 2 short movements that I wrote in 1972, at the age of 17, as a final exam requirement in an advanced Music Theory Class!

My original score of the trio, was laboriously hand notated, and is quite dog-eared...not because of frequent use, but because of age and benign neglect...LOL...so I took this afternoon, and did something I've dreamt about for 48 years...I professionally notated and published my musical score for "Flute Fantasy" including original and current copyright...can you believe it???? The thing is...this piece has only been performed ONCE...in the aforementioned Music Theory Class, as a final exam requirement...the thing is, I was one of the performers (along with my sweet flute friends Lauren Kemp Hanson and Diane Dinkgrave)...given the outrageous case of nerves I had that day...since I was performing in front of my friends, musical classmates and my Band Teacher, Mr. Burman....and the fact that my grade depended on a respectable performance....I remember absolutely NOTHING of the piece and how it ultimately sounded! So...Musescore has a very respectable flute voice...and it has the amazing ability  to play what you notate...complete with dynamics and repeats...VOILA...today I really HEARD my original Flute Trio for the first time EVER...(well the 1st time in 48 years...but as I said....who remembers???) And...I feel that it has managed to hold up pretty well! I don't say that as a brag....but more, truly in the vein of UTTER AMAZEMENT...I am struck by the melody, the harmonies, the fact that I wrote 2 movements...an Allegro and an Adagio and that I utilized passing tones, unexpected harmonies and complex rhythms. I am so grateful for the music education (vocal and instrumental) with Mr. Eugene Dyer and Mr. Don Burman.

Other requirements need for the completion of this 1st phase of my CCM training: A picture of self with harp (for a brochure?), the competition of a lengthy multiple choice exam (done), A lengthy written exam (in process) and the three 10 minute Mp3 samples (also in process). There is light at the end of the tunnel!
love to all....Thanks for reading!
Lee

Sunday, January 12, 2020

My new goal for 2020, is to post more often, and with more focus. That said, life is what music is, so life will definitely impact my postings.

I am concentrating on simplicity...in my relationships, in my interactions and also, in my creation and playing  of music. When playing in a therapeutic manner, the self is sublimated..not the major focus. Certainly, I need to be prepared, aware, knowledgeable and compassionate...but my ego needs to be checked at the door. The ownership of any positive outcomes for a patient and their family is not because of me...the "performer", (healing music is never a performance)..but instead requires me to be a compassionate giver of a musical gift. The music is given, and I step away. Certainly, I admit that it deeply matters to me that I do my best...but not for me...but instead, for the patient and their family.

Musically, my offerings need to become simple and beautiful...playing more simply requires a much different set of skills in order to be filled with beauty and healing. The shape of my hands, the openness of my arms and body, the proper contact of my fingers with the strings. These things bring beauty to the harp. Fundamentals are key. As a flute player, I've had more than my fair share of difficult musical scores. 16th and 32nd notes ascending into the 3rd and 4th octave at the speed of light...this type of playing involves a very specific skill set...and the beauty of these passages is often tied to speed, agility,  breath support, phrasing and accuracy. Now, playing for others, as a tool for lessening pain, regulating pulse and respiration, supporting alertness, enjoining memories, or helping in transitions is totally different. Especially on a harp.

As part of my training, I work with a mentor. As such, I submit regular mp3 files of my playing...each sample geared toward the age and medical needs of the patient. There have been several huge adjustments that I have been asked to make...rhythm, tempo, phrasing, multi-focal playing, increase in repertoire...all have kicked my tush to the curb...but I have made progress. The hardest thing I've needed to do....the thing that continues to hang on in my playing...is my ability (or lack there of), to play simplistically but beautifully.

The harp is known for its employment of arpeggiated chords, glissandos and flourishes...these techniques are "signature moves" in the harp world. These devices can add beauty to the most simplistic of melodies...and often, these skills are often relegated in some form, to the left hand of the harpist....except...when playing at bedside. Healing music is pure, unadulterated, minimally embellished and made beautiful not by the number of notes played...or the speed...but by thoughtful technique...pure, beautifully and thoughtfully phrased...uncomplicated. As a musician, simple technique and musical phrasing can be VERY deceiving. It is a true skill to develop beautiful, full, rich tones...defined by hand position, finger placement, sustain, well-aligned pitch, and well placed pauses. The location of the hands on the strings, the pulling of the string into the palm...the relaxation of the shoulders...the fluidity of the arms and proper bend of the wrist all make each note sing. I am even learning that correct posture with a full and open thoracic cavity colors the voice of each note...and the overall sound of my harp.

My mentor, Pat, is a very knowledgeable and patient person. Time and time again, when hearing my Mp3 samples, she responds: "Stop using your left hand so much!" and "Declutter your playing!" and who can forget  the ultimate admonishment: "Just put your left hand in your lap!" And so, I am forced to really listen to the way that I play...not the what...the way. Talk about humbling...and exciting.

How do I get these very important basics to become second nature? By having a deeply respected teacher with the patience of Job. I want to give great credit and thanks to my amazing harp teacher Christa Grix. She is stunning in her ability to get me to the basics, and she is helping me turn my playing into something beautiful, something healing and something magical.
Thanks and love Christa.

Thanks for Reading...

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Welcome to 2020! I am back in the saddle and rested up, completely ready to continue my studies for my CCM! I am trying to improve in all areas of my musicianship, especially as it pertains to mastering the harp. I am sure that mastering such an instrument is a life long pursuit, and I have no illusions about this process....but I feel that any growth and improvement makes me more capable of ministering to others with harp and song.

I have been busy working on skills that are important to establishing good "Harp Habits".  I have begun serious study twice monthly with a most excellent and accomplished teacher of the harp. Christa Grix is an astounding musician...creative, technically and musically accomplished, steeped in technique and dedicated to the harp as an extension of herself. What an amazing role model and mentor! She has been helping me to address many bad habits I have acquired as a self-taught harper....chief among these issues has been posture, arm position, hand position and correct contact with the strings to produce the most beautiful sound from my harp. Thumbs up! She is strict, but encouraging. She is exactly what I need...a teacher to hold me accountable and to continually challenge me.

Additionally I have begun to use Musescore, a music publishing program, to begin committing my many compositions to paper. This is a very good skill to have, as many of my songs are languishing on scraps of paper and old notebook pages. I was encouraged to begin this process by yet another important mentor: Carolyn Deal. She is the Queen of the Double-Strung Harp (My title for her!)
Her creative approach to the double-strung harp has literally blown open my skillset for this amazing instrument. I play both single-strung and double-strung harps...but...there are just literally hundreds of things that can been accomplished on a double-strung harp, that are not possible with one set of strings!

In November, Carolyn assembled a group of 6 double-strung  harpers and asked us to contribute to a project she was envisioning....a booklet/folio of music containing 6 unique arrangements of a well-known Christmas Carol...our assignment: write and arrange this tune for the double-strung harp. The tune: Deck the Halls. What an honor and a challenge to be included in this group of excellent musicians!
The good news...I'm included...the challenge...learning to use a new music publishing app, while creating my unique arrangement...whew! Did I mention there was a time crunch? After all...what good is a rendition of a Christmas Carol after Christmas?? The victory: I met my deadline and was satisfied with my contribution. This folio of music has been available to hundreds of double-strung players via Carolyn's website, Patreon Page and on the Double-Strung Harp FaceBook Page. WOW!

My new and exciting news is that I have been asked by Eve Stone (the builder of all my double-strung harps: Stoney End Harps), and Denise Grupp-Verbon (the director and creator of my FAVORITE Harp Festival the "Harp Gathering"), to facilitate/present a workshop about the double-strung harp at the next Harp Gathering in May 2020. This is a huge, HUGE honor for me! It will be a "meet and greet" for anyone who is curious about the double-strung harp and its unique offerings to harp players. Eve is even providing several double-strung harps for the workshop, so participants can get their hands on one of these amazing harps. Even better, is that my amazing double-strung mentor Carolyn Deal has supported this undertaking and is going to help me with content, pacing and other suggestions! Gosh...this girl sure feels blessed beyond measure!

Well...back to music editing and writing for now...my current composition is entitled "Gravity" and was performed publicly last Sunday. It seemed to be well-received by my harp cohorts who also have the blessing of studying with Christa Grix. God is Good!

Thursday, October 17, 2019

First, a sincere apology for the absence of a timely update on my journey to become a Certified Clinical Musician! (CCM). My journey is indeed continuing, and I am very BUSY...as I have reached the point in my learning, where the "rubber meets the road" for me personally...I have successfully completed all of my Level I reading, research, written reports and auditory samples. This is a HUGE accomplishment for me. But...now I need to start on the last segment of my level I training and preparation: I need to record 4, 10 minute musical audio files: Each 10 minute audio is targeted toward a particular patient population (elderly, infant/child, general healing care, and those approaching their death). Each population requires different modes, tempos, melodic/non-melodic, rhythmic/non-rhythmic, known/unknown melodies/pieces and lots of appropriate improvisation to connect musical selections and provide seamless transitions in key signature, tempo and emotional content, as dictated by the patient and their articulated and observed needs. My samples require a minimum of 2 songs with appropriate improvisation and transitions. So, I need a solid lock on 8 songs and the "connective tissue" of improvisation for each 10 minute recording. I also have a multi-page examination as well as thought-filled essay questions to complete. Please pray for me as I undertake this next, most important segment of my training.

My prayer life is centered these days on healing....healing of loved ones who are recovering, healing for our Nation, and healing for the individuals the Lord will place in my care as I move forward. I have a HUGE confession...when I was young and so very full of myself...my dreams...my goals...my activities...I heard about a group of Monks. Their sole focus was a prayer ministry...they literally prayed for others, themselves, the church, society...honoring specific requests...and unspoken needs all the time! In my ignorance and self-centeredness...I thought to myself: "How can anyone spend a full day (let alone, days, weeks, months, years, decades...a lifetime) in prayer? " Oh how the Holy Spirit has convicted, righted, opened, and changed my heart!!!! Now, as I write in my prayer journal...I am awash in prayer. The need for communion via prayer... and those private conversations is CONSTANT...not for requests...(tho, those are certainly part of my directed prayer time), but for thanksgiving, for worship, for humility, for wonder, for EVERYTHING....and of course for spiritual and physical healing.

Many years ago, when I was playing regularly in orchestras, I gave my musical offerings to the Lord. I love preparing music...it allows me a chance to pray...to give thanks...to ask for the blessings of music to be used by the Holy Spirit to move hearts and minds of myself and others. Proper preparation of music is also very humbling...knowing that it will be blessed and provide opportunities for worship, focus and thanksgiving. Over the last several years, I have made a conscious decision to not play music for compensation.

When I retired from my full-time job as a speech pathologist, I prayed about what my next steps would be. I have always viewed my career as a teacher and speech pathologist as a calling...not a job. I have been given the ability to help others (never perfectly, but certainly as a heartfelt opportunity)...and as such, I again feel deeply blessed beyond any measure...that my calling was also my occupation...but now, through God's incredible generosity, I am now able to give speech and language support to others...as a gift. It has been 10 years since I formally retired from the Public Schools....and when I walked away from my school position, I recommitted my gifts as a speech pathologist as a gift of thanksgiving to my Creator God. Now I offer my help whenever it is requested...as a ministry...no financial gain desired. God continues to provide for our every need, and I am so grateful to be able to totally turn all my skills and heart longings over completely to the One who placed them in my heart when he created me.

So, please pray that I can serve...via music or speech and language supports...where ever God leads me.

Thanks again for your patience....and for reading and sharing this journey!
Love to all....

Friday, August 9, 2019

Life and Music

Update Number 3:

Well...it has been a very different 3 weeks. I have been in deep prayer for my brilliant and loving cousin Dr. Laurel Bluhm Flores, as she recovers from the impact of a freak car accident. She is currently recovering from a spinal cord injury, experiencing lower body paralysis with some r
eturn of feeling and small movements. (Many of you know her from RUHS...especially band, vocal music, drama and musicals. Additionally...she was a Valadictorian of the Class of 1973!) She has been at the MRI (Michigan Rehabilitation Institute) for almost 2 weeks. Please pray for her complete recovery. I know that the Lord Jesus, as the Master Physician, has a very specific plan for Lori's healing journey. She is beautifully and wonderfully made in the image of Our Creator, and He is busy sustaining her and laying wisdom upon the hearts and minds of her medical team! She is a very faithful Sister in Christ and she prays daily "Lord, Thy will be done!"

Now, here I am, preparing to become a properly credentialed Clinical Musician...and I have a family member who may benefit from soothing harp music...so...I am going to step out in faith this week, and hopefully minister to my dear cousin with music. Lori is a gifted musician, a former vocal music educator in her prior life, before medical school...she knows the difference between good music, great music and so.... I am hoping that my attempts at providing rest, relaxation and peace in her current place...at this current time....will feed her. One thing is for sure...the music I bring will be filled with LOVE...no matter its level of proficiency...

Which...has me deeply thinking of how I will feel, venturing out to play for patients who are not known to me. As I have shared my music with others over the years, I have come up against nerves, jitters, and performance anxiety...all playing opportunities come with a bit of pre-offering anxiety...but interestingly...I am often more keyed up..nervous playing for family and friends...and playing intimate settings...believe it or not, while nerves accompany me anytime I play...a large group is often times easier for me.

Now, clinical music offerings are patient driven...and never a performance...very spontaneous at many levels...but always with preparation and a plan...all I can do, is give all of this to My Savior, and trust that the Holy Spirit will use the gift...for the good of God's Kingdom.

I have completed 7 major assignments and 1 book review out of 7 required. Many assignments require samples of my playing...to demonstrate skill mastery, understanding of music theory, eliminate nerves, and (I think) to begin to "toughen up my skin" for bringing music to others in an intimate setting. I can play perfectly...and then...I hit the RECORD button on Garage Band...SMH.

I am growing on so many levels...and I continue to journey with faith and purpose!

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

A New Update: Coursework has begun!

Well, I am now in the thick of my clinical musician training! The more I know...the more I realize I don't know about most things harp! That's ok though...I see this as a great adventure...a journey...and I am determined to enjoy this new trip as much as I can! Some parts of this journey are joyful...some are frustrating...some are scary...some are a bit nerve-racking...and of course...personal connections to my life and beliefs are being revealed, tested, discussed and bathed in prayer...

There are so many things that have been revealed to me already. The first is...that while I know where I am going after I die...and who I will be with...I've thought very little about the how of how my transition into the arms of the Lord will happen. There is a reason the "when and how" of our last journey is shielded from us. I am deeply grateful that my Savior doesn't reveal that information to me until He feels it is right...but...my desire to become a Certified Clinical Musician has made me learn about, and face several end of Earthly life issues...not just of others...but of myself...and those I deeply love. I have come up against death and dying in every book, journal article and conference call. Playing at bedside for patients in Palliative care and Hospice care settings is a sacred responsibility that will be entrusted me. I will be there to bring peace and comfort at possibly the most sacred moments of a person's life. This is an amazing gift to bring to another soul...and a very real and deep responsibility.

As I read Hospice manuals, read patient and bedside musician re-tellings, read policy documents and learn how to serve...I am also being asked to stare straight on into my own death and how I want my death and the events preceding my homegoing to unfold. It's impossible to separate my own feelings about death and dying from my desire to support another soul as they head to their Eternal Home. I know that my friends and family members who practice medicine or are members of the Clergy have come to this same place on their journey as they prepared for their calling...I rejoice that I have no conflict within my soul about my faith and Eternity...I really can't imagine trying to walk this new path without the Holy Spirit and my Lord Jesus. But, gosh...thinking about the physical process of dying is hard.

Now, about all that stuff I don't know re: bedside harp playing....I am working every day to improve and expand my harp playing skills. While bedside music is never to be a musical performance, showing up adequately prepared as a musician and a member of a patient's care team is essential. Just like when I prepare music for church orchestra, choir, Bible school, Sunday School and Bible study, I am to prepare myself with the skills necessary as a musician for bedside music ministry.

So... I am working on developing an extensive catalog of song genres, and pieces that consider stage of life and medical necessity. I am learning how to play in a manner that can positively impact a patient's blood pressure, pulse rate, alertness and respiration. I am learning how to use music to reach memory centers of the brain, how to relax a writhing body...how to encourage..how to bring peace...
I am learning to focus on preparedness...but most importantly...on personal connections, emotion, empathy.

Now, I'd like to give deep thanks to my mentors through my journey as a musician...there are many...but I will mention just a few today.

First and Foremost: My beloved grandparents Hap and Ruth Hoeppner. These loving and stedfast souls saw a little girl worth saving...and knew instinctively that a relationship with Jesus, a good education, their love and music would heal and feed my Soul. They indulged my need to hear music...to sing...to dance...to play flute, guitar, recorders, percussion...to write music...perform music and love via music. They made sure I was steeped in a true friendship with Jesus Christ..and they never missed an opportunity to encourage me to use my gifts for the Glory of God and the benefit of my family and friends.

Mr. Don Burman: my High School Band Director... an amazing encourager that taught me how to play music with skill and passion...but more importantly...to believe in my musical gifts and continue to reach higher...to take risks...to be adventurous...to say yes...to try a new instrument...to play a new type of music...to compose..to improvise to make that emotional connection to others through music.

Dr. Ray Shuster: the most spiritually led, and deeply accomplished musician and person I've ever known. He has taught me the why and how of the gift of music in worship. That our reason for existence is to praise and worship our Risen Savior...he has lifted me and so many others up and given us the skills, the place and the time to use our Gifts for the Kingdom of God...can there be any better, deeper purpose in life..then to help others know and praise their Savior...the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?!!!  My musicianship has grown under the baton of my beloved Dr. Ray...but even more importantly...my faith and ability to worship has become deep, wide and BRAVE!

So...I am taking baby steps in the harp world...but huge leaps of faith on my spiritual walk. I will leave you with a sound bite...a required assignment that targets total improvisation based on chord structure, dynamics, passing tones and snippets of melody on the harp...this improvisation must be spontaneous and an unknown melody...this is a very scary thing to do. I am so grateful that I have been taught by my mentors to understand music theory...the Circle of 5ths..the use of chord structure..chord inversions, harmony, melody, and musical modes...
Love to my mentors....here and in Heaven!

To hear the improvisation, go to iTunes...find my name Lee Timer...and select Therapy Harp Music.