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Creative People: The Ostlers – a family creating together

One of the things that I admire most about my sister (and there are a lot of things) is that she has a TOTAL mother-heart. She and her hubby LOVE their family and they love to be together, which is wonderful, but can be problematic when you are trying to make your artistic dreams come true! Both she and her husband are incredibly creative people. Fiona writes novels and has a theater background (including acting, writing and directing) and is amazingly musical (songs just pop into her mind – wow!) Bret is an artist, I mean everything that the man touches turns into art! He does photography, draws, writes poetry, and is very musical. As a married couple, each has supported the other in their aspirations – he has a band, she a writing career.

But recently, they came up with a BRILLIANT idea. What would happen if they created together? What if they involved the whole family in creating together? That way they could work on their dreams, talents, and passions, but have family fun as well (and teach the kids valuable lessons about creativity). The solution? The Bret and Fiona Show. It’s a YouTube family comedy sketch show. They involve everyone, create original songs, write and produce, film and edit.  It’s truly amazing to think about how much those kids are going to learn about the creative process!!!

Here’s their first season –

1. Family Band: in which Bret quits his job in order to start a family band.

2. We Have Cookies: in which Bret is unable to get his job back, but finds a silver lining in a bad situation.

3. Fiona Strikes Back: in which Fiona uses her musical ability to slap some sense into Bret.

4. The Mommy List: in which Fiona goes back to work and leaves Bret in charge of the home.

5. Staycation: in which Bret can’t stand being a stay-at-home dad and moves the family into a hotel.

6. Travel Agent: in which Fiona loses her job and only writing a song can bring her out of her sadness.

I put in my favorite videos, although they’re all fun and there are some holiday special songs as well. Check out all of their shows through the links above.

It led me to think for a long time about what I could do with my girls. What would be a creative activity that we could all do together? One that will be fun, teach them some skills, help us to learn to work together, and fit into our time and money budgets – but most importantly be something that I am passionate about creating. I think I’ve come up with the right fit, which I will write about soon.

What about you? What can you and your family to create together?  With summer coming up, this is the perfect time to do something wonderful together!

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Home Concerts

Several months ago, my dear friend, Cydnee had been to a home concert of Indie artist, Sarah Sample. Sarah makes her living as a singer/songwriter and Cydnee, a very talented musician, set up a house concert which I was able to attend last month.

It was a brilliant evening of socializing, eating and celebrating art and music. What a nice way to spend a night. I wonder why more people don’t do these types of activities. I know they did years ago before we “plugged in” and art forms became things that we observed rather than participated in.

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Cydnee with her other true love.

This is Cyndee at her piano, she performed several songs that I enjoyed immensely (I’ve always been a fan of her work).

When we walked into her house, I thought, “wow, did Cyd get some new art?” I forgot that part of the evening was to show off Melissa Gaddis-Simkulet’s beautiful work.

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Melissa's art was unique and engaging.

They put out a spread and we socialized, passed a hat for Sarah and then enjoyed a lovely concert. Sarah did a showcase of her work after Cydnee. She is a brilliant lyricist, I was quite impressed with the depth of her songs. Her work can be found  here.

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Sarah's beautiful smile, such a great performer!

It was such a special evening and I’ve been pondering it since, trying to think of ways to encourage friends and family to share their creative pursuits.   Any ideas?

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Royal Wedding – Jerusalem, inspires you to greatness

Kate Middleton enters Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011

I was so touched by the words of the anthem/hymn, Jerusalem by William Blake (1808) music by Sir Hubert Parry (1916) during the recent Marriage ceremony of Prince William and Kate Middleton.  Poetry is not written like this anymore, where the words are so powerful, they move you not just through emotions, but with the desire to become something greater than you are now.

And did those feet in ancient time.
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land

Beneath this poem, William Blake inscribed an excerpt from the Bible: ‘”Would to God that all the Lord’s people were Prophets” (Numbers 11:29).

Please see more of the interpretation of this poem here.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge exit Westminster Abbey

Much has been made of whether this is a Patriotic Anthem or a Hymn, to me it’s both.

So here’s my challenge.  Try writing poetry, not in the Modern style (devoid of rules, rhyme, meter, or sense)  but in a Romantic or Classical style that can be seen as an anthem or hymn.  Something that is moving, both with words and phrases.  It’s harder than it looks.

We have come to a time when mediocrity is celebrated.  When people scoff at attempts to live enriching principles.

There was nothing mediocre about the wedding that was celebrated last weekend.  Extreme lengths were taken to prepare for this wedding in the name of perfection and the celebration of Marriage.  It was simply, Historic.

I want more from the art that comes from our time.  I want Art that speaks to the inner goodness inside mankind.  Words that don’t mock or deride a person for trying to be more than they are now.  Creations that breathe life, action, and a desire to be better into our minds and hearts.

When people desire to undertake worthwhile challenges simply because it builds the soul, we will be better people on this earth.

Here is a video of the event –

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Concert Etiquette for Children

Teresa Carreño, c. 1862 (printed later), Modern albumen print from wet plate collodion negative by Mathew Brady Studio. Taken with permission from Flicker with CC license by Cliff1066.

Teresa Carreño, c. 1862 *

Last Saturday we went to an Art Show at BYU.  My five year old was an ANGEL!  (She also did really well at the Nutcracker ballet when she was a few months shy of turning four.)   I think that children, even young ones (ages 4-6), can do very well at live events (concerts, plays, shows, etc.) IF;

  1. They are given expectations ahead of time.
  2. They are given background information (this music was used in that movie, or remember when we saw this picture, here are some more like it).
  3. They are given things to look for/listen to.
  4. They are taken to things that are relatively age appropriate.
  5. We remember their specific limitations. (For example, my two year old wasn’t an angel at the art museum, but it was during her nap time, after all).

Here are some ideas about expectations for different events.

Art Museums

Rules at art museums are in place to ensure that the art is kept in good condition and so that patrons can quietly meditate.  Often art has a spiritual or religious nature to it or it has been created to understand/process a difficult topic.

  • Quiet voices.
  • Follow the posted rules and guidelines.
  • Don’t TOUCH the art!
  • Typically no food, drink, gum, etc.
  • Usually no photography (flashes can damage some paintings).
  • Children should stay with parent/guardians the entire time (no running around, etc.)
  • Be aware of others around you – respect their space.
  • Ask me lots of questions 🙂 I’ll often stand with my girls and ask them to tell me what they see, or ask them to look for things.  For example –pick your favorite piece of art and tell me why you like it.
  • If I don’t know the answer, and as they get older I’m sure I won’t, we’ll ask the attendant/curators questions.

Concerts –

Typically classical music performances are more formal than other musical concerts (rock, country music, etc.), but an understanding of the etiquette guidelines will help concert goers to feel comfortable.  Help your child to understand that the performers have worked really hard (put in hours of practice) to get ready for the performance.

  • Dress – typically dress at a concert is formal to semi-formal (think of how one would dress when going to church, synagogue or place of worship).
  • Arrive and find your seat five to ten minutes early. An usher will help you find your place.  Quiet conversation is fine until the lights dim. If you arrive late, you will not be allowed to enter until intermission.
  • Program – You are usually given a program.  Though these are FULL of advertisements, there are usually some very helpful and educational program notes that are worth reading.
  • Stay in your seats – unless there is an emergency.  There is usually an intermission in which you can get up, stretch, use the facilities, etc.
  • No talking during the performance.  Also no cell phones, texting, eating, drinking, popping gum, etc. (Basically, show respect to the performers and those around you.)
  • Clapping – Usually after a performance there is a quiet moment in which all enjoy the magic of what just occurred.  Then the audience claps, sometimes shouts “bravo”, and at times gives a standing ovation when the work was particularly good.  Follow the audience as to appropriate times to clap (sometimes there are pauses between pieces (movements) when the audience does not clap).
  • Outdoor “Pops” Concerts – these concerts are less formal (dress is more casual, picnicking is sometimes allowed) but good manners are still expected.

Shows – Musicals, Operas, Ballet –

The rules are typically the same for these performances as those for a concert.   Again –

  • Make sure that the content is appropriate (will it be entertaining for the child?)
  • Make sure that the length is appropriate (shows can last for two or more hours.  Very young children fidget after 10 minutes. )
  • Introduce the children to the subject matter/story ahead of time – help them understand the story, listen to the music, give them things to look for.
  • A great idea is to show DVD/Video performances ahead of time, so that your children are familiar with the content.
  • Often there will be special children friendly performances which will be shorter or geared toward the kids.  Look out for these.

Introducing children to cultural activities is beneficial to your child, your family, and society because it gives them;

  • Appreciation for things of beauty and culture.
  • Manners – the realization that there are codes of behavior – ways to act that are appropriate in different situations.
  • Dressing up and going to an event makes kids feel special.  It’s exciting and fun!
  • An understanding that there are many wonderful and beautiful things in the world.
  • Hopefully in our fast-paced society, it will give them moments to stop and reflect quietly.  (Children need time learn to think.  I loved driving around in the car as a young girl, my parents would play classical music, and I would look out the windows and just think.)

It’s worth the time and effort to help your children learn to appreciate cultural events!

*Modern albumen print from wet plate collodion negative by Mathew Brady Studio. Taken with permission from Flicker with CC license by Cliff1066.

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American Music: The Sherman Brothers or Some Thoughts on Creative Collaboration

For decades two brothers dominated the scene of movie songs, hired on as the Disney Studio songwriters and later went on to write music for other films.  Robert and Richard Sherman wrote pretty much everything from 1961 to 2000, and now their music is found in Broadway remakes of the movies.

I say everything, because so much of the movie music that I loved from my childhood comes from them.  Here are a few of my favorites (this is not an all inclusive list, just a few from each movie – there are many more for each one);

  • Summer Magic (1963) Femininity, On the Front Porch, Ugly Bug Ball
  • Mary Poppins (1964) Spoonful of Sugar, Stay Awake, Chim-Chim-Cheree, Sister Suffragette, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, Stay Awake, Let’s go Fly a Kite
  • Winnie the Pooh (1966 and 1968) Winnie the Pooh, Little Black Rain Cloud, The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers, Hefalumps and Woozels, The Rain Rain Rain Came Down, Down, Down
  • The Jungle Book (1967) Colonel Hathi’s March The Elephant Song, I Wanna Be Like You The Monkey Song, That’s What Friends Are For The Vulture Song
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) Hushabye Mountain, Me Ol’ Bamboo, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  • Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) The Age of Not Believing, Eglantine, Portobello Road, The Beautiful Briny, Substitutiary Locomotion
  • The Slipper and the Rose: The Story of Cinderella (1976) Why Can’t I Be Two People?, Once I Was Loved, What A Comforting Thing To Know, Protocoligorically Correct, A Bride Finding Ball, Suddenly It Happens, Secret Kingdom, He Danced With Me/She Danced With Me, Position and Positioning, Tell Him Anything But Not That I Love Him, I Can’t Forget The Melody

I love the way that their lyrics are full of wonderful word play.  For example look at the following song;

What a Comforting Thing to Know

(from The Slipper and the Rose, which was my favorite movie as a girl.)

Good kings, bad kings
Sane kings or mad kings
Benevolent or nefarious
Here is where they bury us
Oh ho ho
What a comforting thing to know
There’s a pre-arranged spot in the family plot where my royal bones will go
Yes, I’ll be slipped into the beautiful family crypt
Oh ho ho
What a comforting thing to know

The lyrics are so clever and the music is catchy, easy to remember.   Here is a site in which you can find all the lyrics to the songs from that musical.

This is one of the songs (again from the movie) Protocoligorically Correct, I think it is such a kick to see these older men dancing in their tights :).

So many, many happy memories are tied to these songs!

Bob & Dick Sherman and Walt Disney

Recently (2009), their sons made a documentary, The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story about their lives and their partnership.  Here is a site from the creators that highlights the film.

The filmmakers bring up an interesting point in the movie, that the brothers worked together but due to a family rift, they led separate lives and their families had virtually no contact with each other.  So, men that made music for happy families for over fifty years had a dysfunctional family.  Jeff and Gregg Sherman (the film-making cousins)  do a very good job of not pinning blame on either brother.  The film also showed how amazing it is that their very different personalities intersected in a way that created a tremendous amount of work.  They were able to set aside their difficulties and collaborate together.

Which brings me to some thoughts I’ve been having lately about collaboration.  Steven R. Covey talks a lot about the synergy of ideas that can come when people work together.  I agree that there are times when “two heads are definitely better than one,” but there are also times when collaboration can run away and change your idea so far from the original vision that it hardly seems recognizable.

I think that in those moments, it’s so important to have good communication.  But, when one of the group is overbearing in their ideas, it can become pretty difficult.

There is a difference though between collaborating on an idea as equal partners and getting feedback and collaboration on a project on which you are the “master” – you can take or leave the ideas depending on which ones will work for your overall vision.

What are your thoughts?  When has teamwork been a positive experience?  When has it “backfired?”

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I Need Baroque!

Just found this CD at the Library.  Baby Needs Baroque, a 1998 collection (there are a ton in the series) You can buy it from Amazon, Target, Overstock.com, etc.  You can check out snippets from the songs and purchase for an MP3 player at many different links, here is one at Amazon.

Now, I bring this up, not because I work for the Baby Needs company or anything, but because;

  1. That is a seriously funny picture.
  2. Before I began this website, and started studying composers, I was never into Baroque music.  Now, I cannot get enough of it.  I’m serious.
  3. Lately, when I’ve wanted to calm my sweet, yet hyper, daughters down I’ve been putting in this CD – works like a charm.
  4. I’ve found a new favorite Baroque composer  – Georg Philipp Telemann, all of the new songs that captured my attention on this CD was his.

I’ll share my favorite Georg Philipp Telemann piece that was featured on the CD. Adagio from Concerto in D Major for Trumpet and Orchestra.  The trumpet is hauntingly beautiful.

This is a youtube video, poor video quality, but the sound is lovely because of the acoustics from the Church that they are practicing in. Brian Shaw, Baroque trumpet, in rehearsal with the BelleMeade Baroque Orchestra in Nashville, TN,  December 2008.