Posted in About Craig

I learned the wrong movement!

As I shared in my post yesterday, music has always been around me. Whether that was church, home, all around me, I love music and have been surrounded by all styles. But back in high school, there were 3 musical passions that fueled me. Choir, playing the trumpet and playing the organ. In those 4 years, I had unbelievable experiences in these 3 areas that inspired and shaped me to become a musician. I want to share one of them today.

My junior year of high school, I was preparing for our annual solo/ensemble competition. I had worked hard at playing the trumpet, was very self confident, and was looking forward to being 1st chair trumpet my senior year. I had excelled on my first 2 solos my freshman and sophomore year and was looking forward to doing great on this one.

I picked my piece, and it was a piece with 4 movements. I was supposed to play 3. So I start working on the 3 movements that it said (so I thought) I was supposed to perform. And I’m getting down SO good. Of course, being 17 years old, I decided to procrastinate going through it with my band director until 2 days before the performance.

So there I am playing it for him with my accompanist. I’m just nailing it, and it’s sounding REALLY good. After I finish, my director says, “Craig, which movements did you play?” I replied with movements 1, 3 and 4. And the 1 and 4 were correct, when he looked in the book, but it was supposed to be 1, 2 and 4. OH NO!! I learned the wrong movement! The 2nd movement was slow, lyrical, and had a difficult accompaniment. My poor accompanist did a great job of making it sound great on such short notice.

After 2 days of cramming and preparing, Saturday comes. I go in and play the correct movements, and I’m feeling good. I get good feedback from the judge. I wait for my results, and when they are posted….it’s a STARRED 1st! That’s the best you can do, and it moves you on to state competition. WHAT? That’s amazing! I was floored. I then went and played it at the state competition (after much more practice on the right movement) and got a 1st there.

So, the moral of the story. First, pay attention to details. Had I fully read what I was supposed to do, there wouldn’t have been a problem! But, at that point, I was regularly practicing, and between band and choir, auditioned ensembles, along with singing in church choirs and playing the organ, I was fully immersed in music and music theory. So, I had already established good practice techniques, I was thinking about and surrounded by music all the time, and so that helped me a bunch in fixing my error.

I’ve learned from that mistake, I look back at it and laugh at it, but it helps me to encourage my students to focus in on details and establish those habits of practice, along with surrounded themselves with music. Music is a language, and the more we “speak” it (by playing and practicing), the easier it gets. Keep speaking it, keep surrounding yourself with it, and it will help you immensely!

Posted in About Craig

Why Do I Teach?

I’ve been wrestling with this question for a while. And there are a bunch of answers I could give. I love music. I’ve spent 39 years of my life making music, studying music and learning about music. I had amazing teachers that encouraged me. All of that is completely true. But that’s not the full reason why I teach.

As I thought about it, the answer became very clear to me. Music is transformative. That’s why I teach. Music has always been a major component of my life. Listening to records, cassettes and 8 tracks are some of my earliest memories in life. Hearing music in worship (my dad was a pastor) and singing along with hymns in church has been the rhythm of my life for as long as I can remember. And I think that’s why I missed it being the most important reason. Because it’s always been there.

Music has transformed me in many ways. As a child and into my teenage years, it gave me an outlet to build up my self-confidence and show my God-given abilities in many different ways. In high school, it transformed me from just being focused on church music (and pop music that I listened to on the radio) to being immersed in madrigals, vocal jazz music, musical theater and many other choral styles of music. And that transformation made me want to teach. I wanted to pass on that joy and enthusiasm to others.

It’s been 20 years since I graduated from college and been a “professional” teacher. I don’t use quotations around professional to knock myself down, but more to remind myself that I am still learning, just as much as my students are. In going to college and getting a music education degree, and spending 18 years in church music, the idea of building a business, marketing, social media and teaching lessons online were never really a thought….until March of 2020. Then everything flipped, and I had to learn on the fly. While I have 39 years of musical experience, I’m by no means an expert. I’m still learning and growing, just as every musician and every teacher is.

I teach because I love music. I teach because I had great teachers that encouraged me in so many ways. I teach because I love helping my students learn. I teach because I love seeing my students transformed. Not just learning the basics of music, but learning how discipline, perseverance, focus and everything else that goes with learning and performing music transforms students into people who are more in touch with their emotions, creative, driven and hard working. And that’s why I teach.

Posted in Singing

Why Do I Sing?

That’s an awesome question. It’s something I’ve always done since I can remember. I stopped to really think about that question. Because if I could choose one that that I do (play piano, organ, trumpet or sing) what would it be? I’d sing.

My dad played choral music regularly growing up. That was my first exposure. He was also a pastor. So I grew up literally next door to the church and music was a huge part of that. But why did I sing?

For me, singing has a powerful and emotional connection. I’m fascinated in looking at that connection. Why, earlier this summer, did I tear up in church when we sang a hymn that probably most people didn’t know? Because it was one of the first hymns where I sang a verse in German. My family sang it for my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary service. I was 7. That was a huge impact in my life.

All through childhood, I sang in choirs, and there were lots of songs that I connected with, but it was when I got to high school that my love and passion for singing kicked in big time. My freshman year of high school, I was in our madrigal choir (I ended up singing all 4 years in it) and was in my first musical (Guys and Dolls). But it was the spring concert, where we sang excerpts from Mozart’s Requiem that just took a hold of me.

The thought of the mystery and the story behind Mozart’s Requiem, along with the thought that Mozart was composing this (in his mind) for his own funeral was powerful! And the music is dramatic, powerful and beautiful!

But then, my sophomore year, we sang my most favorite piece. “Alleluia” by Randall Thompson. I’ll do a deeper dive into this piece in another post down the road, but it only has 2 words. Alleluia and Amen. That’s it. An almost 6 minute piece with 2 words? How can such a simple text be so beautiful? It’s all in the music. Now, back then I loved the piece because it featured a low D, and as a bass that could rumble that out with no problem, it was my favorite. Now, I understand the true depth and beauty of this piece.

There have been plenty of pieces throughout my years that I’ve loved singing and that’s furthered the depth and passion for me to sing. For about 19 years, I didn’t sing as much, and I became focused on helping others sing, whether that was as a teacher or choir director. I do love that opportunity and I use the experience and training that I’ve had as a singer to help others. I’ve gotten back into singing more, and have been reminded of why I love it so much.

So why do I sing? Singing is emotional. It’s powerful. It connects. It’s something that I believe God created me to do. And I get to use that to help and encourage others, whether that is through my own singing or through my teaching.

Posted in Challenge, Funny Friday

Difficult Times

I was given this shirt by my church choir for Christmas of 2019. While it’s funny and ironic, it actually was quite prescient, because in March of 2020, the times did really get difficult.

If you’re not a musician, the top number tells you how many counts are in each measure. Normally that is 2, 3, 4, sometimes 6. Easy and straightforward to count, and (in the case of six) easy to subdivide and feel as smaller counts. The bottom number tells you what not gets counted as the beat. 4 on the bottom is the quarter note, 8 on the bottom is the eighth note, 2 on the bottom is the half note. 4/4 is called common time, because it’s the time that is commonly used in music!

But these difficult times…well, 6/4 isn’t too difficult. You can count it in 6 or 2 big beats of 3. 9/8 means that there’s 9 beats per measure, an eighth note gets the beat. You can count to 9, or 3 big beats of 3. 11/16…..well that’s just silly. A sixteenth note gets the beat (so that’s fast!) and 11? That’s not fun at all.

In my handbell choir this past week, we actually played a rhythm that was in 10/8 time. That was fun. We counted in 4 beats because the eighth note needed to be steady. So it was 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1 &, 2 &. It was a fun challenge!

This is the fun of learning music theory. If you don’t know it, this shirt probably doesn’t make much sense. If you do know it, it’s a hilarious inside joke. I love learning music theory and challenging myself to grow as a musician, even after all of my years of making music and studying music. There’s always something that you can learn!

Posted in Uncategorized

Getting Ready for Fall

My fall session of lessons doesn’t start until the week of September 13th. I thought I’d share a bit about my studio, and show you some pictures of how I’m getting ready!

Parents are welcomed and encouraged to come in and wait while their child is having lessons. I’ve got seating available, right inside my front door!

This is my piano, the instrument I teach from. It was my grandmother’s piano, which my grandparents bought new in 1961. They gave it to me when I was in 4th grade. It’s been in my personal “adult” possession since 2006.

The cabinet on the right also was my grandmother’s! It’s right around 100 years old. It got very full of music, so I got the smaller cabinet to hold books that I’m using specifically for lessons.

If you’re taking online lessons, this is what it looks like on my end! I actually bought the keyboard in January of 2020, to use in composing and arranging music, but it came in VERY handy for online lessons! šŸ™‚

I teach out of my home, and the space (the formal dining room of the house) was one of the things that really drew us to purchasing the house. If you’re interested in learning from me, either in person or online, fill out the I’m Interested form and I’ll be in touch!

Posted in Uncategorized

Performing is Scary

We all from time to time have gotten those butterflies in our stomach before having to speak in front of a group, or play music, or whatever the case is. That’s not the worst feeling to have. It says that we care, we want to do our best, and our body is reacting.

As I tell students regularly, I have NEVER seen anyone stand up in the middle of a performance and yell out “You made a mistake!!” Or, come up to the performer or group after the fact (unless it’s their job as a judge) to point out every flaw in the performance. It just doesn’t happen.

Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to play the organ in the largest physical sanctuary I had ever played in. Now, I’ve been playing the organ for almost 28 years, and I’ve played in a lot of churches, and on a lot of different organs. I’ve gotten past those nerves and butterflies….until they showed up this past Sunday! Why? Well, it was because the organist that I was filling in for is excellent, and those are big shoes to fill, along with it being such a physically large space. I made PLENTY of mistakes. But, I had so many people throughout the week not only thank me for playing, they told me that I did an excellent job. So much so, they did not realize that their organist was gone. Wow!

That’s the thing with performing and being in front of people. Whether it’s music or not, we will more than likely have times where we are having to present in front of some form of group. And it’s one of the great things that you get out of learning and making music. You will at some point be performing for a group of people. And making music is such a personal and connective thing, it helps to prepare you for those times down the road when you’re making a presentation for work, or wherever you are.

So yes, performing can be scary. There’s no doubt about it. But, the more you do it, the more comfortable you will become. Try it. Again and again. It will help!

Posted in Podcast

What’s Your Anthem?

We all have anthems. Whether we realize it or not, we have songs that are our anthem. Do you have one? What is it? Find out more on this episode!

Find out more about Craig and Harmanny Music Education go here

To see Harmanny Music Education’s YouTube page go here

Posted in Music stories, Musical Creativity

Lin-Manuel Miranda

If you go back to last July (or even farther), it’s been an amazing year and run for Lin-Manuel Miranda. Last July, the video of Hamilton was released on Disney Plus and when you have a daughter who is a self-professed musical theater nerd, it’s going to be pretty much CONSTANTLY on.

This July, In the Heights, another creation by Lin-Manuel was released. Again, this was a production that he created years ago, it won a number of awards on Broadway (deservedly so!) and the movie adaptation of the show was fantastic! Once again, the movie and the soundtrack was on constant rotation at our house.

And then, last Friday, August 6th, the movie Vivo was released on Netflix. If you haven’t watched it, go do it! I wasn’t familiar with much of anything relating to the movie, other than Lin-Manuel did the music, and I was blown away. It was an excellently written movie, with an engaging story, and of course, as it seems any time Lin-Manuel is involved, excellent music. The song “Beat of My Own Drum” has been a staple at my house this week, as my younger daughter has taken to that song as HER anthem.

It is clearly evident that Lin-Manuel Miranda is extremely talented. Take a listen to the music he’s created for In the Heights, Hamilton, Moana, Mary Poppins Returns and Vivo, and you’ll hear it. Of course, with that talent takes work. Also, it’s extremely easy to see that he is regularly hard at work as what he has been creating and continues to create takes up time, energy and effort. But, when you fall in love with music, and making music, as Lin-Manuel has, the work isn’t hard. It’s fun.

Since it’s been stuck in my head all week, I figured I’d share!
Posted in Uncategorized

Challenging Yourself

Challenging yourself is HARD. But, when you push past those times you may want to quit and continue to make slow and steady progress, you will look back and find that it wasn’t as bad as you thought it was. That progress may feel small as you’re going, but keep moving forward!

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