Monthly Archives: January 2014

Favorite Baseball Story

paul_molitorTear down of the Metrodome Stadium in Minneapolis begins this week, and my favorite coaching position with the MN Twins is filled with a new leader. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to share a story from when I was a kid. Here is my favorite baseball story:

My dad took two of my friends and me to a Twins baseball game at the Metrodome sometime in the mid 90s. I must have been in 6th grade or so. We had seats in the upper deck behind left field. We squinted to see the game, but often times people watching is more fun, and we had a good view of a rowdy bunch a few rows in front of us. My friend, Natalie, also noticed a player sitting on the side lines with the name Hector on his back. She decided he was cute, and since he wasn’t playing, we stole some closer seats to the edge of the balcony and tried to get his attention. He winked at us. Natalie was star stricken.

After we returned to our seats, a fly ball was hit and caught by the Twins left fielder. As the crowd cheered, the left fielder threw the ball into the stands, right at the rowdy group a few rows ahead of us. The group was drunk enough to flub the catch. The ball bounced back to our row, and Natalie got it. Her next plan would be to get Hector to sign the ball.

After the game, my dad took us to stand with other fans outside of the parking lot where the Twins players exited the stadium and went to their cars. Hector came out and the only fan screaming his name was Natalie, holding up her baseball. This player, who didn’t play at all during the game, and was probably only on the 40 man roster, ignored his fan, got into his slick car, and speed away. Before Natalie could sulk too much, my dad had good news for her.

“Wait, wait, hold your ball up for this guy! Get him over here!” my dad chirped, as another player came out of the stadium. My dad was in a hurry, thinking he’d miss this opportunity, but this player was slowly and carefully making his way down the line of fans, signing balls, and asking if he’d missed anyone. “Over here!” – my dad helped Natalie hold the ball in the air.

The player signed the ball with a warm smile and returned it to an unimpressed Natalie, who looked down at the signature and scoffed “Paul Molitor!?”

Today, I am excited that the Twins have selected Hall of Famer Paul Molitor to their coaching staff. He’ll be responsible for base running tactics, bunting, and infield defense – my three absolute favorite parts of Baseball. As a player, my personal strengths are smart base running, bunting, and infield defense (I’m a terrible power hitter). Congrats to Paul Molitor. If I wasn’t so in love with the music industry, I’d be very jealous of his career.

Where Off Road Biking and Cello Practice Intersect

mountain biking

Photograph: Jupiter images/Brand X/Alamy

As I continue to take cello lessons, I continue to find similarities in practicing the cello and practicing the drums set. As I work through the music for my upcoming concert, I am muddling through the correct notes and rhythms, but it’s taking a lot of concentration and I’m having trouble relaxing while playing. I’m also constantly worried that my bow is going to bump into the other cellist, and my paranoia is causing restrictions in my movement, creating a less than ideal sound on my cello. During my last lesson, my cello teacher gave me a short lecture, comparing off road biking and cello playing, which, I’ll bet, makes absolute sense for any instrument.

Some years ago she took up off road biking as a hobby. At first, she was trying to control every motion, grabbing the handlebars tightly, tensing her shoulders, etc. One day someone finally told her to loosen up and let the bike do the hard work. She describes that when she did so, she learned what an off road bike was built for. It had specialized parts that took care of much of the movement she was trying to control. She was suddenly able to bike over obstacles she never thought she’d be able to handle.

My cello teacher instructed me to loosen up, let go, as she did with her off road bike – let the cello do the hard work for me. She reminded me that there is weight to the blow, and that the cello sits underneath the bow to support it. She reminded me not to try and control the physics, but rather to notice and work with them as I play.

This is brilliantly similar to how drummers approach their technique. I observe many beginner students holding their drum sticks for the first time with their index finger stiffly out in front of their grip, trying to point the stick into the drum head. However, drum heads are built to bounce, and drum sticks are weighted and balanced to fit in the drummers hands. When a drummer pulls their index finger into the rest of their grip, they may feel a little out of control at first, but quickly, they should be able to notice the bounce of a drum stick coming back from the drum head. They’ll learn to work with the motion, and that’s when their real technique forms. Playing becomes much easier.

My lesson this week reminded me that cellos are specially made for cello playing, just as drums are made for drumming and off road bikes are made for off road biking. I should try to stay loose while playing through each passage, so that I can be aware of the cellos role, and fly with it over obstacles I thought were beyond my skill.

AlphaNotes in Finale

AlphaNotes in Finale
AlphaNotes in Finale

I am an ongoing guest author for the Alfred Legerlines blog, writing a series of articles for pianists with tips on using Finale music notation software. If you are a piano teacher, you may like part one of this series, which walks you through the steps for creating Alpha Notes in your own arrangements.

My beginning students typically learn through a method that fits their personality. I like teaching from Piano Adventures and American Popular Piano. However, I like to include home-made supplemental material, and for students who are learning to sight read, I sometimes like to include AlphaNotes in their scores. AlphaNotes is a font by Finale that puts the note name or solfedge abbreviation inside the notehead. Using AlphaNotes can even help my student’s parents, as I find that parents like helping with piano homework, and spend time writing in the note names under the note heads… which isn’t always correct if the parents can’t read music!

I don’t use AlphaNotes with students for long, because I don’t want them to be a crutch for the student. But they are certainly helpful at the beginning of the sight reading process. AlphaNotes are easy to make in Finale.

Read the full article on the Alfred Ledgerlines blog:

The blog will also show you how to find piano repertoire for your students that comes with Finale.

I’m happy to answer your Finale questions anytime. Leave me a comment below.

Handbells in Finale

colored noteheads and handbellsIf you arrange music for handbells, you may like the two part blog series that I’ve written for the Finale blog: Handbells in Finale.

Part 1: Using the Handbells template, and creating a “Handbells Used” chart.

Part 2: Display colored noteheads to correspond with the colors of your educational handbells.

I’m happy to answer your questions about Finale music notation software anytime. Leave me a comment below.