Eden Casteel Music Studio

Voice, Piano and Performance in Rhode Island and Everywhere

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Eden's Ins and Outs for 2015

Eden's INs and OUTs for 2015 IN: Reading books OUT: Reading minds

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High quality audio and video recordings of music lessons for my students Relying on hazy memory

Diaries Facebook statuses

Running the 2015 NYC Marathon with my husband (yes, I am) Sleeping in

Charcoal gray as a neutral Brown anything (I only like brown as mulch)

Regular online voice lessons Irregular in-person lessons

Improv classes Half-assing

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Confidence Guilt

Helping my students learn more music theory and history Assuming they're learning it elsewhere

Fearless graying Real Housewives Hair

Trackr Bravo Missing cats

Low sugar cuisine New pants

Guest organ stints Cantoring

Christmas caroling at our annual cookie party!

Small ensemble choral singing Cyber choirs

Dave Ramsey Debt

Making my home studio beautiful and welcoming Schlepping all over the Ocean State

What? Me, drive?

Driver's Ed Texting

Daily prayer Worrying

RINATS No NATS

Kvetching Gratitude

Samaritan's Purse Kate Spade

Age appropriate performances Musical Jail Bait 

Massages for health Toughing it out

Learning how to audition in a challenging environment Giving up

Traveling Netflix

Deadlines To-do lists

Resolved: Cuddle ALL THE CATS

Blogging more Blogging less

HAPPY NEW YEAR, my Eight Blog Readers! XO EC

The Seven, Vol. 11: Sweet Abstinence

1. I'm in dietary limbo, following a bout of gastric distress. After a nasty night of "hurl up and die" and a full day in bed where I could barely lift my head, I'm dressed and bleaching everything in sight today. I know I should try to eat something but I have almost no appetite, and don't even want to hear anyone talk about food. I'm dehydrated and pale, but I look fabulous in my jeans! As Emily Blunt said in The Devil Wears Prada: ea7f7f00ce20155589e161dbc45782b6

2. I gave up sugar and alcohol for Lent, but I have to confess I have not been perfect in my fasting. I broke the alcohol fast when I was helping my parents pack up their house in Ohio. Was I going to turn down a little Jack Daniel's toast with my parents in their wonderful new condo? No, I was not. I only broke the sugar fast because The Best Photographer In The World brought home an Allie's Donut. The road to Hell is paved with Allie's Donuts. Why not blame my husband, the way Adam blamed Eve? After I ate that donut (glazed), I noticed that it seemed sickeningly sweet. I had to eat the whole thing to prove to myself that it wasn't that enjoyable.

3. So, it was probably the combination of leftover pizza, a glass of wine, and a hot chocolate with whipped cream that did me in on Sunday night *. My stomach was just overwhelmed. And now store-made hot chocolate is on the list of Foods I Will Never Eat Again, right next to White Russians (21st birthday at the blues bar in Cincinnati. Disgusting).

4. Have you heard about the lady whose family gave up sugar for a year? That sounds really, really appealing right now.

5. I've actually never been gaga for sweet stuff. I can take it or leave it. I'm a salt girl. Movies exist so I can eat popcorn with salt. I love salt n' pepper potato chips. Smoked almonds are my crack. Where is the book about giving up salt for a year? No, I ain't gonna write it. And besides, we need some salt to survive, don't we? My own mother is on a high-sodium diet to raise her blood pressure. See? Craving salt is probably in my DNA.

6. I've also been half-successful on my third Lenten fast: No laptop in bed. Yeah, I sought out some comfort on Hulu yesterday, and I found it. I watched about ten episodes of Lark Rise To Candleford. I've had a few other days where I broke the fast to buy an airplane ticket, to reply to an important email. But it's clear to me that when I end the day with a book in bed, I'm happier. So, when Lent concludes with the Glorious Solemnity Of Easter, I'm going to try very hard to maintain . . .  and abstain.

7. Right now my bedtime reading is violinist/Holocaust survivor/restaurateur George Lang's autobiography, Nobody Knows The Truffles I've Seen. I bought it for the title. It's a delightful memoir filled with reminiscences and recipes. I can't wait to have the stomach to read it again.

*For the non fish eaters: Catholics can choose to maintain the Lenten Fast for 40 days, or pause each Sunday. I obviously chose to pause. Might rethink that one. 

2013, Resolved

Goals for 2013  What I resolved, and how I did: I want to learn how to prepare a few more healthy foods. I didn't learn how to make the Thai rolls, but I did make a lot of smoothies. That counts, right? I learned the hard way that kale doesn't blend so well in my blender. Bleech.

It's time to say goodbye to brown clothing -- forever. Khaki, you're next. I ditched all the brown, AND the khaki pants! I could never find anything to wear with them! Gray and black are my neutrals. What's more, I've said goodbye to about half of my closet. I just kept giving away stuff that didn't make me feel good, didn't fit well, or didn't fit my life anymore. It felt wonderful. I'm no minimalist, but I am really tired of managing crap I don't care about. Really tired. Let it bless someone else's home and life.

I love teaching, and I love breaks from teaching just as much. Keep doing this. I did this! I welcomed many new students into my studio, and I also started using Genbook to schedule lessons, which allowed me to schedule downtime, too. Genbook rocks! 

Breathing 101 with members of a church choir in Hartford, CT (April 2013)

 

Pray more and more and more . . . because prayer works. Yes. Yes it does. Prayer saved my brother in law's life in November. While my mother deals with the effects of Multiple System Atrophy, prayer keeps me from despair and overwhelming anxiety. Prayer is the most powerful way I can express gratitude and thankfulness. I pray in the shower, when I'm driving, when I'm running, and yes at church. Pray to whomever or whatever you want. Just pray.

Look who's kicking? The woman who never intentionally exercises, that's who! Way to go Mom.

Run a half marathon. Run a 10K. Run a 5K. Run. Or just tone up. Or just look like I've lost 10 pounds. My emergency trips to Ohio this fall did result in a 7-pound loss, so I ate 7 pounds of Christmas cookies to compensate. I ran a 5K on New Year's Day in Phoenix, and I ran a 5 mile race in Narragansett in October, but didn't run anywhere else. I promised my husband I would run a half marathon with him in 2014 so I'm beginning to train again. Happily, my 13 minute miles are quickly decreasing to 11 minute miles. How on earth did this happen? I blame the extra conditioning I have been doing with Fitness Blender and the LoloFit 7-minute HIIT Workout app.

Restrict Facebook and other cyber time wasters. The best thing I did: I removed the Facebook and Twitter apps from my phone. It is very hard to care about tweets when you can't see them on your phone. Glorious.

Say a long goodbye to my 20 year old cat Rebel, and have him make a peaceful trip over the Rainbow Bridge. After the big blizzard last winter, we both got terrible colds. I got better, but Rebel got worse. On Friday, Feb. 22 at 2pm we took him to the vet and said goodbye.

Goodbye my friend.

Five hours later I was onstage singing a recital. I had water, cough drops, and tissues on the piano, not sure what was going to come out of me besides music. When I walked in, I asked the (dear) organist Joey if he knew a certain piece. He did, and so I ended my Valentine's Day themed recital with "For I Will Consider My Cat," a love song by Benjamin Britten that was perfect for him and for us. 

I'm writing a short children's musical about Saint Francis. I wrote it, I directed it, and it was performed in May. My son stepped in to play Francis, only two weeks after playing Oliver in his high school musical. You can perform Francis Makes A Scene at your church if you like! I dedicated it to Rebel the Cat.

The Wolf, eater of birds, aka St. Francis' future pet. (May 2013)

St. Francis and his homeboys (May 2013)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also wrote a third edition of "Quonnie The Musical," and created a website for the show, and the theater camp that preceded it. It was our biggest cast, and our best show yet!

QTM's Madame Director with two talented cast members! (July 2013)

Paint some landscapes. I aspire to be Winston Churchill. Paint some walls, too. And the garage doors. I painted nothing, not even my wagon. 

Travel more. Last year I enjoyed short trips to New Orleans and Montreal. This year: Colorado? Key West? Graceland? India? Nah. I made a lot of trips to Ohio to be with my family. Each trip was worth it. 

Figure out that contact lens prescription once and for all, and write it down so I can find the right contact for the right eye. I think I keep mixing them up. Fail.

Plant a smaller vegetable garden, to make room for more flowers and trees. This happened and it made me happy. Eden can only handle so much garden! We demolished most of the vegetable garden and decided to support local farmers' markets instead. I planted more bushes and trees this year; it will be fun to watch them grow. And I think we're getting asparagus this year!

Blooms, blooms everywhere (August 2013)

Continue to celebrate the end of orthodontia payments, car payments, and house payments (ALMOST!). My Michigan house finally sold at the end of January 2013, almost three years after it hit the market. On the night of the closing, we went to eat at a restaurant I had been saving for just this celebration. The restaurant turned out to not be worth the wait gastronomically, but emotionally it was the feast I had been waiting for.

Be at peace. That's my resolution for 2014, and my wish for all 8 of you who read this blog. Well, that and . . .

 

The Seven, Vol. 5: Stopping time

Is it just me, or does the year speed up suddenly in November? This is problematic, for there is so much I want to savor and remember. . . . 1.  I'm looking forward to hearing phenomenal organist David Hill at Christ Church in Westerly on Sunday Nov. 10 at 4pm. It's a free concert and there is great food at the reception! The first organ concert I ever heard was while I was studying in Graz, Austria in 2005. Every Sunday night the local Dom hosted European and Russian performers, and I got hooked. Organ concerts are like no other kind of performance, allowing a very pure form of listening. You can't see what the organist is doing, so you can only marvel at the endlessly fascinating sounds that spill out of the pipes. It's the same instrument, but it's completely different as it's manipulated by different sets of hands and feet. If you haven't been to an organ concert yet, I suggest you enjoy a mountaintop experience with one of the very best artists, on a very fine instrument. See you on Sunday.

2. I just finished teaching a five-week voice class with singers from The Chorus of Westerly. We talked about breath support, bright and dark sounds, vowel shapes, and how to sing notes that are really far apart, all in preparation for our first concert of the season. That's Sunday, Nov. 17 at the George Kent Performance Hall. We're doing John Rutter's Mass Of The Children and Morton Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna. Both works are quite recent and the composers are still living (Lauridsen recently emailed our choir!), but the music is steeped in the traditions of chant and English melody. Best of all, it's intensely hopeful. If you mashed up the two works, you'd have one giant spiritual statement of great beauty, deep emotion, and really wide intervals. No disrespect, Eric Whitacre, but I prefer these guys. Here's the most famous section of the Lux Aeterna. We all have a lot going on in November, but to me that is even more reason to stop for an hour, and just bask in beauty. You need it. We all need it.

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3. My family's Operation Christmas Child boxes are packed and ready to travel! Here's what I included in the boys' boxes (ages 10-14): A deflated soccer ball, ball pump, two pairs of socks, toothbrush, toothpaste, flashlight, batteries, notepad, "instant" Christmas tree, tape measure, Sour Patch candy, Pop Rocks candy, Mentos candy, Patriots water bottle, kazoo, yo-yo, kaleidoscope, deodorant, combs, mini-race car, and mini-Legos. This year I think I really "got" the right mix of stuff. It's not too late for you to visit the website and build a box online!

4. I visited my folks in Ohio. My mom has to do leg exercises each morning, so I joined her in support and solidarity. Bridget helped by adding some furry resistance. We laughed a lot.

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5. The Best Photographer In The World just finished his second New York City Marathon. Let's forget that two years ago, covered in ice packs at mile 20 of his first New York Marathon, he declared I could divorce him and take all his money if he ever tried to run a marathon again. This was a much better experience for both of us! He wanted to have a really good run with no injury, and that's what he had. I intercepted him a few times and made sure he wasn't hurting, or in need of a snack. Each time I saw him he was happy and relieved that his knees were holding up. He lost all energy as soon as he crossed the finish line, and I steered him back to our hotel. He made very strange sounds in the shower, and then we celebrated his accomplishment with room service:

A cup of soup, some burgers, a soft bed, several glasses of ice water, and thou

6. Actually, the best part of Marathon Weekend was meeting our lovely newborn niece . . . .

Aunt Eden and Baby O

. . . . whose schedule would humble the most indefatigable runner . . .

7. Let alone her dear dad.

Mile 20 or Mid Morning, who really knows

 

 

The Seven, Vol. 4: Dansko Mystery Solved

1. You recall my Missing Danskos. Well, I accepted that they were gone, even though I wondered where they'd gone to. I bought a new pair of Kates on eBay, for $29! After I won the auction, my daughter looked at the screen and said, "Those look just like the shoes I saw outside." WHAT?!?!?

And so she led me outside, to a grassy area about 50 paces from our back door, and sure enough, there was a shred of what used to be my Danskos. My son joined us. "Oh, I wondered what those tan pieces were," he said as he found several more hiding in the lawn. Those pieces were the remains of my missing Danksos. At first we thought some fetishist coyotes snatched them from the back porch. But, we quickly realized that a powerful lawn mower probably unknowingly sucked them up, ground them up, and spit them out. . . .the kind of lawn mower that comes to our house every week or so.

Rest in Peace, Dead Danskos.

2. So . . .new Danskos!  Okay, they're not flashy. O.J. Simpson would call them "ugly-ass shoes." So, there was only one other bidder. Yippee for me. They're SO comfortable, and they're not tennis shoes! The style is called the Kate, size 38, and the color is a muddy green -- or, as Dansko calls it, "Moss." I'm wearing Kate, Moss.

Kate Moss would not wear Moss Kates, but I will

 

3. In a supreme expression of spousal love, I have agreed to run the Ocean's Run Half Marathon with my husband, next March. Yes, I am aware this is 13.1 miles. I am terrified. . . and also a little intrigued. Can I do it? I just ran-walked the "Get To The Point" 5-miler in Narragansett last Saturday, and the first few miles felt surprisingly easy. Then, as soon as I saw the Mile 3 marker, my legs turned to stone and I sluggishly walked most of the rest of the course. Fail. I also grabbed water out of another runner's hands by accident and she gave me the stare of death as she stumbled off. I let her beat me.

4. I use the Jeff Galloway method of running with walk breaks, so I average a tortoise-like 13 minutes per mile. No, I haven't figured out my actual walking pace vs. running pace. Yes, I will do that. But, to cover 13. 1 miles at all I will have to practice running faster and for longer. Incredibly inspirational runner-blogger Sheryl Yvette (aka BitchCakes), who is running her first New York Marathon this year, started doing some speed training with a local running club and reported improvements in pace and stamina. So, I have started incorporating a little speed training into my (short) runs. I'm slowly extending the time I run before I take a walk break (right now it's only about a mile, but previously I've been able to go for two miles and twice in my running "career" I actually ran for three straight miles). I'm occasionally doing the "Magic Mile" test where I see how fast I can just run a mile -- last Sunday I did it in exactly 12 minutes, which is GREAT for me, and I was even able to pour on some speed for the last minute or so. Progress! I have never really discussed my turtle-riffic running life with the world at large, because everyone else seems so much faster. They ARE faster! But, I believe I'll get at least a little faster than I am now, and that will make my half a least a little more enjoyable. I'm definitely one of the gals who loves the feeling when the running is OVER. That Gatorade tasted really, really good.

I don't deserve this Gatorade . . .OH YES I DO!

5. My husband (AKA The Best Photographer In The World) is running his second New York Marathon on Nov. 3. He's excited but also really ready to run it. I'm very proud of him for putting consistent effort into his training, and prouder still that he has raised over $10,000 for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, through the Fred's Team running club. My job on Nov. 3 will be to track him on my phone, and maybe show up with a snack, somewhere around Mile 16.

6. A student of mine played a lead role in a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical last weekend, at a local community theater. I'm not at all objective and this is not a review, but he did do a great job! Solid performances by the entire cast, lovely voices, excellent costumes, and the audience was enthusiastic. I give an automatic standing ovation to any production that lets me drink wine and eat Snickers while I am seated. I'll offer only one criticism. Apparently, there is no room for an actual piano in the theater or in the wings. That's a tough situation, and you do the best you can with the space you have. However, the keyboard reduction and synthesized strings were a distraction for me. I'm probably more sensitive to this, than a "lay" person who has not music directed a bunch of shows. I am no fan of karaoke musicals, but I wonder if prerecorded tracks might have actually worked better here.

7. If you want to experience the best live musical sound ever, here's what you do: Sing in a choir or ensemble, and stand behind a full orchestra, in a packed house. Sonically and spiritually, there is just nothing better. Nothing. You're coming to hear The Chorus Of Westerly sing Morton Lauridsen and John Rutter on November 17, aren't you?

Jamming with the Q Band

Once a year I get to jam with the neighborhood band, in my own back yard. They come to support my husband's fundraiser for Fred's Team, a charity that supports the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. We eat, we drink, and make noise. Our set list includes "Kansas City," "The Girl From Ipanema," "Route 66," "Oye Como Va," and anything else we can convince the rest of the band to try. We rehearse about four times a year and play a few local parties each summer. It is great fun. New window box, installed and planted about an hour before guests arrived, laden with Fred's Team colors!

 Here we are performing "Your Cheatin' Heart" by Hank Williams, in the key of Patsy Cline. I think I look a little too serious here, but I was concentrating on playing the bass line, trying to fill piano riffs and singing lead. (Oh shut up, Eden. Elton John can do it, so can you. Bring me another White Pumpkin Russian and I will!)

Ron's running medals from previous marathons and halfs. So proud of him.

 

 

My Happy Apps

I am selective about my smartphone apps: No to Angry Birds or Tetris, yes to Couch to 5K. No to Minecraft, yes to Vine. I only keep apps that I really like and use frequently. These apps make me happy! My music apps. . . some of them

Pandora reminds me of the summer I sold actual physical CDs and cassettes at Camelot Music. We sat around the break room digging through the large cardboard box filled with free promotional cassettes and CDs (okay, only I did that). I scored Madonna's Immaculate Collection, which was a big deal at the time.

I'm always justifying looking for apps for music education. My hardworking ClearTune app helps singers (including moi) figure out how to make the small changes that lead to more accurate pitch, and it's a godsend for nervous new sight singers and pianists ("Was that an E flat? It wasn't? I could have sworn it was. Are you sure?").

Being from the Dark Ages, I learned music theory the traditional way, with workbooks and flashcards. Writing out the scales is always a good idea, but apps are great for drills on note names, intervals, and chords. I like Musicopoulos for straight theory and straightforward practice. If you don't have a smartphone, Theta Music Trainer is a good place to practice.

My perfect pitch made ear training very easy for me, but I have begun to recommend these two solid apps for musical mortals: PlayByEar asks you to sing or play back chords and melodies accurately. EarTrainer shows intervals being played on a piano keyboard.

Blob Chorus by Lumply

For sheer fun, the best ear training app is The Blob Chorus. Groups of blobs sing individual pitches, then a purple King Blob repeats one of the previous pitches. Match the blobs, and King Blob gets a crown. Get it wrong, your blob explodes! This is great for singers who are learning to hear their part inside a choir.

I have loved the public radio show Music From The Hearts Of Space since I was a teenage waitress at Elby's. The program aired on WCBE every Sunday night at 10pm as I drove home from the night shift, and I would keep listening as I changed out of my 100% polyester uniform and speed-read some Faulkner for the school week ahead. I use the show's app frequently and also listen to their online archive at www.hos.com

My senior high prom date turned me on to the SomaFM website years ago, as we exchanged one or two perfunctory emails to catch up and therefore avoid meeting up at reunions. He remembered my teenage love of Hearts of Space and recommended this. It was the last I heard of him but thanks, Dean, and I bet you have the app now too! SomaFM is a collection of 15 quirky, well-curated online stations (and that's the last time I will use "curate" in a post) ranging from NASA beeps and blips to bachelor pad jazz. I always wrap presents from Santa while listening to "Xmas in Frisko," their not-safe-for-children radio station.

I just downloaded the Inception app and . . woah. Wierd and wonderful to have music played according to your own movements! When I miss Michigan or DC, I listen to the local traffic report through my iHeart Radio app and then I'm glad I don't live there anymore. I also use a couple of lolofit apps, including the 7-minute workout and Jeff Galloway's Easy 10K. They always make me feel like an Olympian, no matter how infrequently l use them. I wish the 10K app had more variations in run-walk ratios. I don't see why I can't run for one minute and walk for ten, and still have Jeff tell me "great job!" in his Southern twang.

Running is slightly easier with this app

Even on the worst day, my Random Gratitude app asks me to think of something good and type it in. The best feature of this app is that it randomly scrolls through my previous posts, reminding me of so many wonderful little things that I might have otherwise forgotten.

So, what apps should I add to my collection?

 

Voice Lessons, Vocal Coaching, Piano Lessons, Performance Coaching, and Musical Production.

Eden Casteel Music Studio, 81 Post Road, Wakefield RI 02879. Phone: 401-932-5589.