COVID-19 May Have Cancelled the Tony Awards but You Can’t Stop the Beat!

COVID-19 may have cancelled the Tony awards this year but Broadway performers have taken to the Internet and proven that nothing can stop the beat! Many current and former Broadway casts have come together and created Zoom like performances that have brought a little bit of Broadway into homes across America. These are my top picks for award winning virtual performances. Although some are produced better than others, every single video fills this Noteworthy Mommy with pure joy.

And the winners are…

Legally Blonde the Musical– Laura Bell Bundy along with the original cast of Legally Blond the Musical created this hilarious COVID-19 version of “OMIGOD You Guys Sanitize for Corona!” CLICK HERE to watch.

Company– This is by far my favorite performance, so clever and so well done! I can’t wait for the cast album. CLICK HERE to watch the current cast of Company perform the opening number in a Zoom call. Cell rings, text chimes, Zoom calls…Company!

Hairspray– Alumni from numerous casts of the musical “Hairspray” come together to perform “You Can’t Stop the Beat.” CLICK HERE to view.

Hamilton- The original cast of Hamilton performs “Alexander Hamilton” for one of their biggest fans. CLICK HERE to view.

A coloring page completed by me and my mini me from the Playbill Coloring Book a dear friend sent us.

How I dearly miss the theatre! I was anxiously awaiting the opening of the Broadway revivals of “The Music Man” and the reinvented production of “Company.” Both are musicals that hold a special place in my heart having played in the orchestra for both shows in summers past. Summers I innocently took for granted. Summers filled with music and rehearsals and friends. Summers where I felt part of something bigger then myself. Nothing is greater then being a member of a group of talented individuals who come together and shape and mold and create something beautiful for others to enjoy. It is something COVID-19 has taken from me and my world won’t be “normal” until I can create music with my friends once again.

The Laurie Berkner Band, (The Music That Got Us Through the Quarantine)…Day 81

Although our life is filled with a variety of music, there is one musician who truly got us through the 2020 pandemic and her name is Laurie Berkner!  Known as “The Queen of Kid’s Music,” when I look back at this time in my life, Laurie Berkner and her catchy melodies will be the soundtrack of our time spent in isolation.

Our Introduction– We were first introduced to the Laurie Berkner Band when our local librarian played the “Goldfish” song and the “Bumblebee (Buzz Buzz)” song, which are two of our favorites, during a library class my daughter and I used to attend. That introduction got us interested in her music and we would occasionally listen to Laurie’s music in the car, during playtime and while we cleaned the house.

Live Berkner Breaks– Then the pandemic hit and I began searching on-line for activities to engage my daughter. During our first week in isolation I discovered Laurie Berkner was having live Berkner Breaks on Facebook. We began watching them and had a blast dancing and singing along. In total she had 46 Berkner Breaks. Click Here to access all of them or watch the performances through the Laurie Berkner channel on YouTube.

Singing “These Are My Glasses” during a Laurie Berkner break.

We Love Laurie Berkner!- Now my daughter asks Alexa to play Laurie Berkner and songs like “Rocketship Run,” “We Are the Dinosuars,” and “I’m Gonna Catch You,” all off of her Best Hits album, are some of our favorites. She has also published books based on some of her popular hits and we have enjoyed listening to Laurie read several of them. Laurie’s music has brightened our lives from our first week in quarantine through today. Her familiar tunes, enduring lyrics and beautiful voice, have brought us comfort and joy. We looked forward to seeing her sweet face on the computer and continue to watch her videos and dance along to her creative songs.

Virtual Concert– The Laurie Berkner Band, unable to tour because of COVID-19, is having a virtual concert on June 21. If you and your favorite father are looking for something special to do together, I recommend buying a ticket and dancing along!

Musical Memories– I have a memory to go along with just about every one of Laurie’s songs. “Rocketship Run” reminds me of the historic SpaceX launch. “Airplane” reminds me of our drives past our local airport (which currently looks like a ghost town due to the pandemic), “Boots” reminds me of the fun my daughter and I had playing in the spring rain, “I’m Gonna Catch You” reminds me of sweet little girl giggles as I race around our house trying to catch my daughter whenever this song comes on. “Waiting for the Elevator,” “I Know How it Works,” and “Pig on Her Head” are just pure fun! But there is one song that really touched my heart and that is “Moon, Moon, Moon.”

Moon moon moon, shining bright 
Moon moon moon, my nightlight 
Moon moon moon, I can see 
Moon moon moon, you’re taking care of me

Thank you, Laurie Berkner, for taking care of us through your music and brighting our days and nights with song!

Music Monday (Week of the Young Child)…Day 42

Today begins “Week of the Young Child,” (WOYC) an annual celebration sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). WOYC was established in 1971 and through fun-filled activities it’s a way to focus attention on young children (birth-age 8), their teachers, families, and communities. The official WOYC was April 13-17, during Zion Lutheran School’s spring break, so my daughter’s school is celebrating this week with daily themes and dress up days.Today was Music Monday. When children sing, dance, and listen to music, they develop their language and early literacy skills while being active and encouraging movement. My family of three enjoyed making music together!

Dance- My daughter takes dance class so she chose to dress up in her leotard. During the quarantine, her dance studio has been providing virtual dance class where the young dancers are taken on a trip around the world. Tonight they visited France.

Musical Books- We read a variety of musical books throughout our day. I have so many favorites it was difficult to pick which ones to read! We love Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin by Lloyd Moss. This award winning musical counting book introduces young readers to different types of instruments and musical groups from solo, trio to octet! CLICK HERE to read Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin. The Music in Me was new to me but it was relatable as a little boy navigates his place in a family full of musicians. CLICK HERE to read The Music in Me. by Jane Pinczuk. Hey Diddle Diddle by Eve Bunting is a playful rhyming book with animals playing various instruments. CLICK HERE to read Hey Diddle Diddle. Olivia books are a staple in picture book libraries all over the world. Join Olivia as she forms a one person (pig) band in Olivia Forms a Band by Ian Falconer. CLICK HERE to read Olivia Forms a Band. Tubby the Tuba by Paul Tripp is about a tuba who grows tired of playing accompaniment and wants to have a solo part in the orchestra! CLICK HERE to read Tubby the Tuba.

Making Music- My husband and I are both active musicians so our daughter has grown up attending our concerts and sitting in the balcony at church while mommy and daddy play their instruments. Today we let her play. With our help she played a few notes on the trumpet and on the clarinet. Our daughter has a basket full of percussion instruments that she pulls out and plays on a regular basis. The jury is still out on what band instrument she will play but for now percussion is her favorite!Make Your Own Instrument– Look around your house and make your own instruments out of recyclables. Make a shaker by filling something with rice, beans or rocks. Make a drum by decorating a plastic container or tub. Full glass bottles with various amounts of water, blow across the top and hear a note. How much water do you need in the bottle to make a low note or a high note? Have a parade and march around the house playing your new instruments!

Musical Vocabulary– We listened to various pieces of music and moved our bodies to match what we heard. We danced quickly when the tempo was presto and moved slowly when the tempo was largo. We danced on tip toes when the dynamic was piano and stomped our feet when the dynamic was forte!

Silent Night, Holy Night.. a Two Hundred Year Old Song of Love and Peace

Perhaps the most recognized Christmas carol of all time, the beautiful song “Silent Night” turns 200 this year. With its soothing melody and tranquil lyrics, the song brings hope to us all.

Silent Night the Book– The words “Silent Night” have also been used as the title for several picture books. We found this one at the library.

Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright. All the animals gather together, silent, harmonious, happy forever. The much-loved Christmas carol, “Silent Night,” comes alive in this beautiful story written by Juliet Groom and enchantingly illustrated by Tim Warens.

Lillian and I enjoyed reading this rhyming book based on the song, “Silent Night.” The story features a bear cub and its mother as they walk through the woods on a calm winter’s night. Along their path they encounter animals living in harmony with their natural surroundings while others are deep in their winter slumber. On the last page the mother and cub marvel at the awe-inspiring beauty of a bright star illuminating the night sky. The book is a beautiful story to read with your little one.

Silent Night the Song- Joseph Mohr, a priest from Salzburg, and Franz Xaver Gruber, a teacher from Upper Austria, sang the song for the very first time at the St. Nikola Church in Oberndorf near Salzburg in 1818. The original poem was authored by Joseph Mohr, whereas Franz Xaver Gruber added the melody on his request. Today, the song “Stille Nacht” is performed in over 300 languages and dialects and has been recorded by the likes of Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby and Justin Bieber!

As a musician I get the pleasure of performing the song multiple times every year with the various ensembles I perform in. But the greatest happiness comes when I sing the song at the conclusion of the candlelight service on Christmas Eve at church. It is something I anticipate every year. As the sanctuary’s overhead lights dim, the church illuminates with a warm glow from the small candles carefully held by the congregation. As the light from the candles illuminates my face and the words “Silent night, holy night,” flow freely from my lips, my heart overflows with radiant joy. For the song reminds us all of the greatest gift we will ever receive… Jesus!

“Silent Night, Holy Night! Son of God, love’s pure light. Radiant beams from Thy holy face with the dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,

Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

Two Noteworthy Teachers “Changing Lives Through Music”

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week I wanted to highlight two teachers who have touched my life. To them, teaching isn’t simply a job, it’s a passion! Through their gift of music they are changing the lives of children in a positive way. Portions of this article appeared in the Community Music School of Webster University e-blast in May 2018.

I began taking clarinet lessons at the Community Music School of Webster University (CMS) as a young adult. My teacher, Jeannie York Garesche, helped me with the fundamentals and gave me the confidence as a performer to become a member of the Saint Louis Wind Symphony. “Jeanine personalized each lesson, was patient with me and always set high expectations. Through her instruction, mentor-ship and support, I was able to perform at a level I never thought possible!” Over the years Jeanne and I have kept in touch and my husband and I were honored when she accepted the invitation to perform at our wedding. She is a talented professional musician and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to study under her.

Jennifer and her clarinet teacher Ms. Jeanine York Garesche.

Music brings a lot of joy to my life and I want my daughter Lillian to grow up appreciating music and having opportunities to express herself musically. So I enrolled Lillian in Kindermusik classes at the CMS when she was 8 months old. Lillian and I enjoy going to class together and we both love her teacher, Ms. Jeanne Magee! “Ms. Jeanne is outstanding! It is clear she is passionate about music and is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to child development. She is warm and welcoming and makes learning fun.” Jeanne has a beautiful voice, supports my blog and is one of the sweetest people I have ever met! I consider her a mommy mentor and a friend.

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Lillian and her Kindermusik teacher Ms. Jeanne Magee.

A busy life as a full time mommy, part time educational consultant and active musician have sadly made it challenging for me to continue taking clarinet lessons. Even though I don’t currently study privately, when I perform with the Saint Louis Wind Symphony or the Northwinds Concert Band, I continue to apply what Jeanine taught me. If I ever slow down I hope to study with Jeanine again some day. Lillian has learned to keep a steady beat, recognize loud and soft and often sings the songs or does the dances she has learned in Ms. Jeanne’s class. Lillian is three so we get to enjoy two more years of Kindermusik at the CMS! I will always be grateful to the CMS and their dedicated teachers for providing me and my daughter with quality music instruction.

Teachers often don’t get the opportunity to hear how they have changed lives. So I challenge each of you to take the time to write a note or send an email to a teacher who impacted your life. Let your child’s teacher know how much you appreciate the work they do or encourage your child to write a note or draw a picture. As a former teacher I valued those personal notes far more than any of the lotion, scented candles or coffee mugs I received!

Birthing A New Song

   

 Julie Giroux’s Heartland Portraits

I recently had the privelage of being part of the premier performance of Julie Giroux’s Symphony No. 5 “Heartland Portraits.” This commission was made possible through a generous donation by Pete Poletti, principal tuba and a charter member of the Saint Louis Wind Symphony.

The Saint Louis Wind Symphony had the opportunity to rehearse the symphony with Julie, the talented composer, prior to the premiere performance. During the rehearsal Julie would stop the ensemble and explain that she wanted the first movement played at a slower tempo. Later she commented that another part needed to be played softer so we dropped to one player on a part for a few measures. In the second movement she noted that she wanted a louder cymbal crash in a particular measure. It was clear that she was passionate about her work and she listened to every note with clear intent. 

Participating in this process made me think that as a composer Julie had “given birth” to the notes on the page and they were truly a part of her, an extension of who she is. She was sharing her raw emotion, her intimate thoughts and feelings. By sharing her work with us she was giving up control and was trusting us to care and love her work as much as she does. Just like a mother who trusts a teacher or caregiver to love and nurture her children when she is away from them. She was trusting us to tell her musical story. 

She told the musicians something that day that resinated with me and I find I am reflecting on her words weeks later. She said she didn’t expect us to play every note on the page correctly, noting that no performance is ever perfect. Besides, the audience won’t know if some of the notes aren’t right. What she wanted from us was emotion. Stating that the emotion will move the audience more than playing the right notes. She said, “After all, it is the emotion in life that makes life worth living.”

As a mother I strive to play every note right and make sure I give my daughter enriching experiences where she can learn and grow. I want her to eat healthy foods, live a happy childhood and be well rounded. I often find myself stressing that I am not doing enough for her or that I am making mistakes. For example, should I enroll her in swimming lessons? Sometimes I forget to have her brush her teeth before bed. She goes to bed later than her friends. On play dates she doesn’t like to share. Will she develop poor eating habits after she had a taste of ice cream? The worrisome list goes on and on….

Just like Julie Giroux and her message to us before the premiere performance, deep down I know that I will never play every note right, even with a lot of practice. I can read book after book on parenting and research online but I will still make mistakes and that is ok! My daughter won’t even remember the small imperfections as long as I surround her with my love and support. What is more important is that my daughter knows that her mommy loves her unconditionally, even when she makes mistakes! That she has a mommy who cries with her when she is sad and laughs with her when she finds something amusing. Julie gave me more than the gift of composing a new piece of music that day. She reminded me that I want to be a mommy who isn’t afraid to say I’m sorry and one who focuses on the emotion in the world instead of focusing on the precision of making sure every note is played right.