Breaking up with TV for Beethoven



As I child I was not a fan of classical music. NOT a fan. I would scour the library or bookstores for popular piano music to avoid playing it in lessons. My teacher did let me play (and improvise) the popular songs while my classical scores limped along until contest.

When college auditions came, I panicked. All memorized classical music?! I was forced to “get serious” about practicing and nothing was more easily accessible than Beethoven.

Beethoven’s music sounded good AND fit well under my fingers. The more I played it, the more my musical language grew to appreciate early Bach and Haydn all the way to the late great weirdness of Bartok. But Beethoven was the road in. Hours of practice culminated in a long senior recital. It was one of my personal “conquering Mount Everest” moments.

Use It Up


Little fingers wobble across the keys. Like baby fawn legs, unsure, getting more sure each week. This school year will mark fifteen years of professional teaching. And I love it – not all of it – it’s a lot of hard work – but I am finding my groove.

I’m also finding that it’s easy for a groove to turn into a rut. And to set my brain on autopilot and be annoyed at anything and anyone that causes turbulence. And to look down.

Charity challenged us at writer’s group to think about people in our everyday lives – that we forget to look at.

The people I see everyday, all day, are children. It’s easy to look down – at fingers, at hand positions, at assignment books – and forget to look up at them, long and hard – and smile. To say, “I love to hear you play,” to each child, every time, especially the last ones of the day, when I’m super tired. To say, “Make your mistakes big,” because confident playing leads to better playing.

I’ve realized this because I’ve recently been interacting with other colleagues a decade younger than I am – with way more energy and wildness. I’m remembering my first years of teaching – relationally, I did a lot wrong – but professionally, I threw caution to the wind and didn’t “save back” energy for the next day. Tomorrow would bring its own trouble, but its own inspiration as well.

So this year, my fifteenth year, I’m keeping the skills and the peace and the grace that I need to survive in business. But I’m also returning to the first year and thinking – If my life were marked only for today, how would I live it?

I’m reminding myself to look at the kids “eye to eye”, and what it was like to be young and unsteady and unsure in a new challenge. Remembering to put in the necessary energy to motivate both of us to better music.

And the more energy I put into it, the more I get back from my students. And the more I’m left with for the next day, not less.

Use it up.

Use it all up.


This story is a part of the “Eye to Eye” series.

Visit- Charity, Kelli, Darcy, Ashly, and Jen to read their “Eye to Eye” stories. 



It is a chilly evening as I zip up my coat and head to the studio after work. I am documenting my husband’s progress on his new music album and the last player is recording tonight.

The cellist is our friend and he is amazing. When good players perform they make you smile. When great players perform they make you want to happy cry.

I come in the door on their break – taking pictures and listening to mixes. I hold my breath when they push record so I won’t be overheard. I would have held my breath anyway. John is gifted.

The sound of the bow stirs up emotion. Those strings are me this week. A bow of pressure and demands. Disappointment. Ruined things. Feeling like I am not getting anywhere.



Although it was a decade ago, nothing can blur the memory of the school parking lot lit up with police lights. A little over half-way into my first year teaching, a 12-year-old had committed suicide. I was never the same. I taught him music. I held his silver folder in my hand – with his name on it. I didn’t quite know what to do. Throwing away the folder seemed wrong.  I saved  it for years as a reminder that labels matter.

We say our peace, but the words live, breathe, and ripple in the mind of the hearer. What words did that boy hear? Nerd? Loser? This week another student died in my town, allegedly from bullying.  A broken, lost world. More labels, more ripples.

Is the faith community sad? Are we outraged? Apathetic? Is it someone else’s problem?

How do we contribute to the labels of the world? Maybe we haven’t whispered “geek” or “jock” but we have our own labels. We have “divorced”, “single”, “working mom”, “homeschool family”, “married without kids”, “influencer”, “poor”….The broken world hurts and we huddle together tired and weary with those in our “group”, with those who “get us.” Those outside the group become their label, not individual, priceless works of art created by God. Labels make  it is easier to stereotype, ignore, or bully. We have dehumanized precious souls.

Recently a new friend asked us, “So what’s your story?” Refreshing water. Ripples.

God help us see the story, see the person, and forgive us for the way we mistreat each other.