Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Officially Closed

So...we finally broke down and decided to stop trying and posting on multiple blogs and are having just one for the two of us. So, there will be no more posts here and you should check us out at:

Monday, June 14, 2010

What do you think?

So...I'm having to write my own course packet for the Basic Vocal Skills class I am teaching this fall. Every book that I read seems to be a bit odd in how it teaches to sing. (odd=different than how I think it should be taught, but I've earned the right to think it should be different!) For heavens sake, one goes into detail about the four functions of the glottis (one of which is defecation, in case you were wondering...)

So, I wrote my introduction to the class, and I'm curious if this would make you excited to learn to sing? I know it piddles out at the end, I'm working on that:

Learning to Sing

Basic Vocal Techniques

I remember the first time I got on a bike. My little 10 year old body climbed over the frame my mother was holding up while I tried to figure out all of these new places to put my hands and my feet, where I was supposed to sit, and figuring out this new motion that meant that I was pedaling. It was a completely different world than walking (something that I’m sure was as difficult to figure out, since I seem to have blocked it out of my memory), and I wasn’t completely sure that I could really pull it off.

My biggest concern was falling over, so my mom’s promise was that she would hold on to the seat while I pedaled to make sure I stayed upright. As I started pedaling, though, she redacted her promise and I soon found myself alone, pedaling for my life trying to stay upright. While I was excited that I was riding a bike and staying balanced, I soon learned that there was a whole world of skills I had not yet learned related to bike riding. For example, as I came upon the gravel pit marked by a “No Trespassing” sign, I was unable to turn and avoid certain failure. Once I had entered the gravel pit, I was unable to figure out how to brake and effectively stop the bike. My only solution was to abandon ship, and I soon found myself on the ground with my new bike several feet away.

Years later, as an adult, I decided to return to bicycling, both as a way to keep in shape and a way to explore new territory. Perhaps my first ride after decades of not being on a bike was a bit ambitious. After driving several miles up into the mountains, only to discover that the trail was one constant and steep climb, I discovered that it was much too much work for my significantly weak lungs and out of shape legs. Fortunately, I have a good wife who encourages me to stick with things and convinced me to keep riding, starting with less demanding trails. In a very short time I was back in shape and ready to attack the very same trail I had tried at first, and was much more successful. While there are still skills to master and strength to gain, I can see the progress I have made, and am willing to continue mastering the skills I’ve learned.

Some of you are coming into this class to sing for the first time, while some of you have been at it for years. Many of you may have sung years ago and are looking forward to singing again. In many cases, the situation is the same for each of you. To learn to sing well you have to coordinate a variety of processes, from breathing correctly to moving your lips, tongue, and soft palate into the right place, all way staying open and relaxed. In addition, there are hundreds of tiny muscles inside your voice box that you can’t even feel (let alone see) that need to be coordinated so that you can change the pitch and even the intensity of your voice. Many of these muscles will have never been used in the way that we will ask you to in class.

As a result, your muscles may feel like they are rebelling, and you may think that the best solution is to just dive off the machine you’ve set in motion. Don’t give into that temptation! Remember that the muscles related to your voice are simply learning how to do something new, and that is going to take time and patient repetition for them to be able to have the strength to be successful at it.

Just like in my first mountain biking excursion as an adult, as a singer you cannot begin singing the most difficult of music in the loudest voice at the widest range. Instead you have to start with basic exercises that will help to train and strengthen the muscles to be prepared for that big, dramatic moment. Every chapter we will talk about a different aspect of your voice, give you an opportunity to discover and become more aware of the muscles or the sounds that we are trying to pay attention to, explain to you what is happening in your voice, and give you some exercises to practice at home so that your body will get more effective at the new technique you have just learned.

Learning to sing can be broken down into three major areas that are best approached by looking at the three parts of a bicycle horn: the bulb, the honk, and the horn. Squeezing the bulb pushes air through the honk, creating a sound that then bounces around in the bulb to make that unique sound that sends pedestrians scattering. In the voice, the breath (the bulb) pushes air through the vocal folds (the honk) and create sounds that bounce around the spaces in the head, the mouth, and the nose (the horn) until it final comes out to make a beautiful singing voice. As a singer, we have to learn how to work each part of the voice independently so that they can work together to make a beautiful sound. Each section will deal with one of these three areas. While we may leave one area for awhile to work on something different, keep practicing the exercises so that you are ready to learn more advanced techniques when we come back to that part of the voice.

Another big part of learning to sing is finding beautiful music to sing. In this class, we want to expose you to a wide variety of different types of songs that you can sing. Some will be familiar to you, while some will be completely different. All of them, however, will be beautiful and fun to sing. Take advantage of these opportunities to try something new. While it may not be your favorite flavor, it might be something you like to come back to every so often, and it definitely increases your versatility as a singer.

As we work together this semester, remember that singing should always be fun! Every opportunity that you have to sing, either with the class or in front of the class is an opportunity to do something that you love enough to join us for this semester. Our goal is to help you to have fun and to learn ways to be a better singer.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Lesson Learned

So...for my Music Appreciation Course that I'm teaching this fall, I'm getting all gung-ho about getting things lined up early. My goal for each of my classes is to have the first 8 lectures (first month) prepared (or at least powerpointed...) so that I am ready to go. I still am going to have a lot of work once I get there, so I'm hoping this gives me a chance to keep my feet under me this first semester.

I found a really fun text for the course and started getting my lectures ready. This text was particularly attractive, because it had some powerpoint slides that I could already use, as well as a test bank that works very nice for midterms, etc. So I've made it all the way up to my first midterm (about 8 or 9 classes in) and I decide its time to talk to the textbook manager at the school to make sure I can get the text ordered.


Turns out they bought back a text from last semester that I need to use at least for this first semester. its a fine text, and the students will still learn what they need to. It just means I have to go back and read another book and make sure that my lectures line up with what they are teaching....ugh.

Starting over....

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Finally some pictures!

I've gone on the Bonneville shoreline ride several times, but I always forget to bring Whitney's camera along! I'll admit that part of why I "forget" is because I'm afraid that I'll endo on the bike and ruin her camera, so I wanted to do it enough of times that I felt comfortable in the ride. Anyway, here are some pictures! In other news, Whitney's been playing with Adobe Lightroom, and did just a wee bit of editing on these pictures, don't they look great?

A panorama of the starting point for the trail, absolutely beautiful!

I think these views are so fun!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Fourth Try's....the charm?

I took this picture with Whitney's panorama feature on her new camera. This is the meadow about half a mile up the ride. This is the first ride I did when I rented a bike, and tried again the after I bought the bike, and tried AGAIN when my buddy rented a bike and came with me. Every time I've been a little bit better.

This time was the best by far. I stopped about half as often, didn't fall off my bike (only on the one really steep hill), and really enjoyed the ride! I ran into a few fellow mountain bikers, one college student - we rode together for a few legs - and a whole group of bikers who were pretty good at giving me some examples (as I followed them) on how to do better riding down the trail. It was awesome!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Little Engine that Could

I didn't take this picture. I keep forgetting to grab Whitney's camera when I go places, partially because I don't want to ruin it (it is a pretty nice little handheld). I borrowed this from so you can kind of see what the trail is like. this would be one of the smoother portions..:)

I really wasn't sure I was ready to go back on this trail. I tried it last Thursday and had a really rough time. It was a lot of fun because there were lots of ups and downs, but I kept having to stop on the ups (at a certain point the bike starts to tip over and you have no choice but to put a foot down) and ride my brakes on the downs (they were pretty steep). I kept planning on going at it again, but I just freaked myself out and decided to do other rides or sleep (after all, the book does say I should rest every couple of days or so). I couldn't come up with any excuse, so I decided to try it again.

I've learned quite a bit since I last tried this, and I felt pretty good about myself. I think I handled the gear shifts a lot better; I would either find myself in too high or WAY too low of a gear every time I would try a climb last time. This time I found the right gear a lot more often and just kept on trucking away. It was a crazy feeling to just crouch forward and keep on pedaling (looking at the top of the climb was pretty intimidating) and then all of the sudden find yourself at the top!

I felt more comfortable on the downhills, too! Partially because I knew where the turns were so I could prep for them, but also because I trusted the bike a lot more, and it was a lot of fun!

There are so many times in my life (particularly when I was younger) where I would try something once. If I failed, I gave up on it, if I was successful I kept going with it. The same old habits started to kick in here. I didn't necessarily fail last time, but I wasn't all that good at it... I'm so glad I didn't give up! Our home teachers came over last night (bless their hearts, they called at 5:30 because one had realized he'd be out of town all weekend and asked to come over at 7) but the message was about how change in the gospel sense is the result of repeated good choices, not some dramatic moment. Whitney has been reading in her new favorite book that sudden changes in weight - fad diets, overexercise, etc. - are not lasting. The only way to have success - to achieve lasting change - is to keep going at what we know is right, even when the payoff seems so small, or even non-existent.

One of my favorite quotes that I put on the board in choir is by Anna Pavolova: "To tend unfailing, unflinchingly toward a goal; that is the secret of success." I think that sums it up pretty well!

This wasn't the most well crafted thought I've had, but its something that's been sticking with me today.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

And I was worried about moving to the midwest...

Before I bought a bike, I did some searching around to see if there was even mountain biking to be done in South-Central Wisconsin, or if I would be smarter to go for a road bike. I found a few trails about a half-hour away and decided that was close enough for some fun enough to justify some weekend rides.

Then this article shows up in the Janesville Gazette!

How awesome! The Park is delightfully close to campus, too!

In addition to that, there's this, and this. I think I'll be in good shape!