Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Community Music

Since Tim applied for a job helping design a music program for a community college, and given that my favorite game is "how would you teach this?", I have been thinking a lot about classes I would require for a music program.  The "conservatory model" used by most college music programs, both classical and commercial, doesn't actually prepare students for much but performing.

But performing is NOT the only part of the job for a musician. Especially since most musicians spend their entire lives working on a local or regional level, not a national level. Ironically, for those musicians, the performing is really secondary. You don't get to perform unless you master a whole bunch of other skills.

So, here are classes I would require for music majors, if the music program was going to release real musicians into the real world to make a living.

Oh, before I forget, first I would require a minor or a practical certification in a non-music field or teaching (but only if they are actually suited to teaching in a public school setting), since most musicians will spend many years (or even their entire career) making money in another area to support their music habit. Might as well qualify them to make a living as they build their music career. And to do it without label support, because even musicians that get signed to a label usually have to go it on their own.

Also, all music students (and all college students, actually) should be required to do a semester's worth of individual career counselling (at least 3 or 4 sessions), including taking a VALID interest test (like the Strong Interest Inventory, not like the Meyer-Briggs test). (The SII, as a side note, said that I would enjoy the work of a musician, and I was surprised because I thought that was only performing, and I only sorta enjoy that--but it turns out that it was right. I really really enjoy the career of a musician. It's so much more than performing.)

Other things musicians should ideally learn in a music program:

Performance Skills
*  Performing in their individual main instrument and genre live and in ways appropriate for the venues they likely will play (ie not recital halls)
* Performing in a studio/the process of recording from in front of the mic
* Performing in a dozen other genres, including both classical and jazz but also as many contemporary genres as possible. Outside of the "national acts," no musician who makes a living has the luxury to perform only in one genre with only one band.
* Performing on as many additional instruments as you can possibly do (not to a master level, but so you've done it)
* Modeling and Acting, and maybe the photography thereof (so from behind and in front of the camera)
* Public speaking/ emceeing/ toastmasters kind of stuff
* Performance analysis, where you film your own performance AND the audience's reaction and analyze both

Business, Marketing, and Entrepreneurship
* Music careers (most musicians don't know performing isn't the only option), aka how to most musicians actually make money?
* Basic accounting, tax laws, how to do Sole Proprietor taxes, etc.
* Music law, copyright law, licensing a business, etc. A music legal business class that is NOT marketing
* Marketing (NOT get ads on the radio marketing, but real useful music marketing, including the materials you need)
*Graphic design, including using the computer programs, and including the types of materials musicians design, from press stuff to photos to T-shirts
* Web Presence, including how to design and build a cheap website, viral video/YouTube realities, and social media (most musicians do social media wrong, and have incorrect expectations about what it actually does) (this is also a technology class)
* Getting gigs and building an audience (two different things completely but that are wedded by being reliant on good social skills and good networking skills)
* Fundraising, including crowdsourcing, loans, money management with future projects in mind.
* Money management for musicians--with a full acknowledgement of the realities of money for musicians, including that it comes in fits and starts, is irregular in amount, and is scarce all the time

Music Technology and Science
* Music Technology--every musician should be able to set up and run a sound system appropriate for their primary instrument and the venues it usually is used in (including, for this, mic technique and sound checking, EQ, etc). There is no excuse for a musician to graduate without knowing how to sound check and a show--from both sides of the board. Vocalists MUST do a section on mic technique for singers. Everyone needs to know what sound guys do so they can work together well, from load-in to load-out
* Music computer programs (like ProTools, Finale, Sibelius, StaffPad, etc)
* How to make a music video, including camera and software info, and focusing on "hacks" to do it cheaply
* Studio Engineering (so even if they don't record themselves, they understand what the engineer is doing and so can perform better)
* Music production and distribution (including digital distribution and CD production "deals" and how not to get tricked)
* Understanding sound and the science of music, heavy on the acoustics parts

Interpersonal, Social, and Health 
* Health and psychology for performers--so many ruin their bodies because performing and moving equipment is incredibly taxing and stressful, and so many struggle with the introverted/extroverted aspects of the job (because you really would have to be both to have it easy in music)
* Possibly a mental health class or yoga class to help give musicians good mental health habits and resources as well as some skills for dealing with other musicians when they are falling apart
* Music psychology (how your art affects your audience), including music therapy

Non-performance Music Skills
* Songwriting and arranging
* Piano skills
* Caring for, transporting, and repairing instruments and equipment
* How to teach private lessons in your primary instrument AND how to run a private voice lessons business (this is also a business class)
* Music publishing, in all its varieties: how to get sheet music made to self-publish, how to get it made my someone else, how to get music in movies, etc.

Academic Music
* a literature class, but that only deals with songs. So not a how-to-write-a-song class, but a how-to-listen-to-and-analyze-songs (music and lyrics, all genres) class the way you get a how to read and analyze literature class for English majors
* History of popular music (with the understanding the popular music in some eras was opera or madrigals, and including both "high art" and "low art")
* Music Folklore (real folklore, like academic folklore)/Music in Society--this would be a chance to study how music is produced, shared, and transmitted in regular culture (word of mouth transmission of both skills and musics). NOT just folk songs, although that is an important starting point, but how pop music and skills are spread (so a how to understand your music's reach and where to learn the skills you need class). This could cover the value of music in society and how people use music in their daily lives.
* Writing, with a focus on music writing--reviews, blurbs, press releases, bios, album notes, explanations of what you're doing

Music Management/Production
* Music administration (most of the jobs open in music are in administration)
* Event production (a lot of jobs are open in this, too)
* How to build and run a band (auditions, group management/ dynamics/ social skills, running rehearsals/ rehearsing, communication)
* Travel and touring--the practicalities of it, the costs, the planning, the getting of gigs outside your home area, where to go, why, and how to deal with the interpersonal issues
* Basic auto repair and maintenance (if you plan on touring at all)--actually, this should be required for all college students everywhere. That and how to pay taxes and how to use power tools. It's more of a life skills class (should be required for college!) than just a touring musicians might need this class

Of course, Tim doesn't do film music, soundtracks, musical theater, or classical performance, so I'm sure there are classes that would benefit those kinds of performers, too, that aren't on this list.

I'm sure I'll keep adding to the list. There are so so many things Tim has had to learn the hard way that could actually be taught to musicians. And it would be groundbreaking if a school did just  a few things: 1. Acknowledged exactly how most music careers actually go (ie stayed local and worked on a build it up basis rather than a get discovered basis, mostly not commercial or classical) and 2. Taught for reality instead of for fame. Oh, and 3. Embraced that there are many kinds of music separate from classical (and even more than just jazz and commercial) and all are equally valuable.

Tim had some really good ideas about all this (of course), one being that most of these courses could actually be taught by professors in non-music majors who are already teaching on campus.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Ha--that big house is back....

My house is for sale again. Can you believe it?

Reasons this won't sell. Again.
0.  Publicly available, easily searchable online estimates of the value of this house are (on homesnap) $189,000-230,000 or so (the same as my house I'm in now) or Zillow, comparable properties are worth $39,000-$80,000 (less than the equity in my current house).  Not only that, every real estate site shows it sold last December for $210,000. So nobody is going to fall for the $650,000 estimate.
1. People who are ready to spend $650,000 on a house want a house that is ready to live in and worth $650,000, or else they'll build a brand new custom place
2. Even if it was fixed up, this wouldn't be worth $650,000.
3. No water rights, so not useful as a farm property
4. No barns, so not useful as a horse property
5. County has insisted this property will never be used in a pot-related industry
6. Stubbornly zoned Ag, so very limited business allowed here, but the building looks like a business, not a house. Not to mention the dirt road won't support traffic of a business use
7. The place was for sale for 5+ years, off and on, for prices ranging from $450,000 and down to $200,000; it's changed hands twice in 12 months and nobody has successfully developed it into anything yet.
8. REALLY difficult to get a loan of any sort on this property thanks to it being gutted
9. Last people who got a change-of-use approved on the big building found it came with a bunch of arbitrary and capricious requirements, including not letting their pigs offend the bald eagles nearby and removing a perfectly good shed for no discernible reason.
10. It looks like a big office building.
11. This is what you can get for about the same price right now in the same area: "Custom built 6 bed, 4 bath, ranch tucked into the foothills with outstanding views and 30 plus acres. Wonderful horse property with eight fenced in acres, and a 1000 sq ft 3 stall barn with water and electricity. This home features heated, 3 car, over-sized garage, walk-out basement, vaulted ceilings, 5 piece master, covered back patio great for entertaining, and a geothermal system that reduces the cost of utilities and keeps the home at a comfortable temperature all year round." On 30 acres. THIRTY.(http://www.cohomefinder.com/p/80513/1718253-5524-W-County-Road-8e-Berthoud-CO-80513.htm)
Or this, for less and an hour north: "In-town acreage w/ room to roam! Come stretch out in this sprawling, updated & nicely appointed ranch home w/ open floor plan design. Boasting 2 master suites on main level, this 5+ bdrm, 4 bth home has something for the whole family. Enjoy the covered back patio while watching family play in the park-like backyard. Retreat to the finished basement for fun & entertainment. Don't miss the insulated detached 30'x40' workshop w/ 2220V service. Country feel, w/ access to everything in SE FTC." http://www.cohomefinder.com/p/80525/1718465-1000-Province-Rd-Fort-Collins-CO-80525.htm

Funny thing was, even though I want to raise my kids in that kind of area (it just FEELS right), just yesterday (literally yesterday), I decided it was good we hadn't been able to buy that place last year because I'm not sure the county would have been easy enough to work with. Boulder County has a downright terrible reputation for being bullies to homeowners who live outside city limits. Nobody wants to work with them, it seems. Of course, nobody complains about when things go smoothly and run well, so maybe the few unhappy voices are all that get heard, over hundreds of happies. I have no way of knowing. 

My concerns:
1. I'm not sure we would be able to get permission to do what we'd want to do with the place even though it's zoned for it.  We would need a change of use permit approved to turn the former migrant worker dorms into a single family house. The property is already zoned for that, but they have rules about how big a house can be in the county, and this building is outside their limits. Never mind that THEY BUILT THE BUILDING. They might still not approve it because it's too big, even though there's no way to make it smaller.

2. They might approve it but make arbitrary demands we couldn't afford. The last potential buyer wanted to turn it into an ag research facility with a pig farm out back, and the land use commission approved that use, but with a list of bizarre conditions that included putting up a six-foot privacy fence (around a 3.5 acre property--that's a lot of fence) so the pigs wouldn't offend the bald eagles half a mile away by the river, and taking down a perfectly good shed (and they didn't give a reason), and making whatever modifications FEMA required to get it out of the flood plain (not just buying flood insurance....), and put in nice landscaping in the back lot--presumably so the pigs would like how it looked in their yard?  So that doesn't give me a lot of hope they would approve 8 kids living there, if pigs were too potentially offensive. 

3. I have tried and failed to figure out what the taxes on the property would be. It might break us if they decided it was a million dollar property and figured taxes based on that.  (Edit: I found it finally--just about $2400 a year, so about double what we pay here--not as bad as I feared).

4. Given their requirements for the yard, I'm not sure we could happily (and affordably) meet their requirements for the house to become a house and get a certificate of occupancy for it.

5. Even though they say homeowners can act as their own contractors and do the work themselves, I'm not sure they actually would let us, even though we'd want to. I'm pretty sure I can build a wall up to code if someone teaches me how (and we were planning to hire a contractor to do that), but I'm not sure the inspectors/building permits people will approve.

6. Kids might scare the bald eagles, and that might be trouble. Apparently those bald eagles are THE important residents of the area.

7. They might not allow us to do what I had wanted: Finish the kitchen and bathrooms, and then finish the main body of the house as 4 giant rooms and use temporary walls until we know for sure where we want to put the permanent walls. 

I suppose if it were even possible for us to buy that place (given the current overpriced-ness....), I guess I would want to talk to the neighbors (all 2 of them, in fancy houses) to make sure the county is reasonable to work with, and also insist the current owners get the change-of-use approved (it costs like $500 to apply) BEFORE we agreed to buy it (or as part of the conditions of the contract).  I wouldn't want to be in the position the current owners are--bought the property thinking they could flip it and make a good buck, and it turns out they can't use it or sell it.

I'm waiting, though. Even though I decided we're not even going there at all, having it hit the market again kind of threw me for a loop. Especially since a friend gave me an entire kitchen a couple of weeks ago--cupboards and all. Even the sink. 

But Tim just applied for a job in Aurora that I hope he gets, and we agreed he was done commuting, so I was thinking if we could find a place, we'd go down there.

But there is so much about that big house that appeals to me. Big sky. View of the mountains. Quiet. Dirt road. Space enough for everything we'd ever want to do, inside and out. The dreams are all there. The practicalities of it may be impossible.

Ah, life. Every time I move on, that house comes back to get me.

Update: What I think they think they're doing: There is a shortage of commercial/warehouse property in Boulder County right now thanks to the pot industries taking it all. Boulder has been adamant that the growth and production of marijuana is more of an industrial operation than an agricultural operation, despite growing plants being involved, because of the intensity of power usage, the armed security required, and the complexity of the process. I suspect the owners of this property are from outside Boulder County and are trying to sell it as an industrial property and potential pot grow operation. Unfortunately for them, multiple realtors have told me the county has made it very, very clear that they WILL NOT change the zoning on this particular property from agricultural to industrial or commercial. So at the moment it's priced as a commercial property would be (probably reasonably). But it won't sell as a commercial property because the county won't change the zoning.

And it's unsuitable as an ag property at that price (given you can get much better ag properties for less) and also because it has no water rights and no outbuildings. Some sites classify it as empty land because the buildings are not in finished condition, but as empty land it would be worth only $80,000 after the buildings were removed (which would be costly). Some sites classify it as farm/ranch property with buildings, which is also not going to happen because there is better farm/ranch land available for cheaper and with finished buildings and water rights. But even sites that list it as a property with a house find the value, in its current condition, is about $183,000-$230,000. And one site gave a "finished and ready to live in estimate" of the property value as $435,000.

So unless they can successfully do what 5 years of potential buyers wanted to and failed to do (get the county to change the zoning to make it commercial or allow pot grow operations in ag zones), the building is not going to sell for anywhere near $650,000. And, in fact, it's probably not going to sell at all. They'll probably either lose it to the bank or have to give it away because truly the value of any given thing is not what you think it is worth but what people actually are willing to pay for it. And 5 years of attempts tells me that this property is actually worth nothing, not even the value of the land thanks to the buildings that stand on them being so expensive to deal with.

Curious to see what they end up doing with it and how long it takes them to realize the trouble they're in, write off the loss (since it's owned by an LLC, I understand this is a possibility), and give the place away. Or trade me for the equity in my own house. I might do that, if the county would let us turn the big building into a house. But that's a big if.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015


Me: "Do you like boiled eggs, Elijah?"

Elijah: "Yes, but I don't like the pac dot in the middle."

End of an era

I have heard over and over from so many, many moms that not long after they had their last baby, they got depressed.  They had just spent a good long time doing a very important thing, and now what?

That might strike me at some point. I've actually been expecting it. Even moms who knew everyone goes through that were surprised that they, too felt it.

So far, though, I've been quite delighted to get rid of baby things (they take so much space!) and baby clothes (a whole closet I can use for something else soon!).

And I feel a lot like I do when we move. Sure things are different, but I love getting to redefine myself and present a new me to a new ward who has no idea who I was before. Moving is a fresh start where I get to define how I am perceived, and that's fun for me.

And my thoughts have not yet turned to a sad spot, or to wondering what next can possibly be as important as having babies. (Nothing, I think?)

Where my brain is going:

--All those things I've always wanted to do with the kids but couldn't because my arms were full? We can do them. Let's go camping!

--I have had a baby either in my arms or in my belly for over 14 years now straight through. And I've been either pregnant or nursing (or both) straight through with no break for over 7 years. Straight. My arms have always been full. I wonder what I can do? I have no idea my capabilities...but I'm pretty aware of my weakness. So I'm excited to discover if I have any superpowers (since everyone has SOME).

--Will I actually be able to keep my house cleaner? That's an interesting possibility.

--I can finish all my quilts and all my weaving projects! Woohoo!

--I can build my website and finish all the preK-eight curriculum I have outlined.

--I can learn to illustrate and finish my little leveled activity readers.

--I have so many novels that have sat untouched for years because I was doing more important things.

--Having babies is only part of the important work we do in parenting children. I'm looking forward to getting to just raise these guys. I want to teach them and play games with them and enjoy them.

--Knowing I don't have to do this again, I'm starting (finally, 5 months after baby came) to enjoy being with the kids just as they are, without planning anything. Having so many has forced me to mother intentionally (else a child actually can go several days without me making eye contact with them, which is scary!), and I'm enjoying that.

--Some day my kids will be big enough that I can travel with Tim. I'm allowed to think about that now.

--I only have 4 years with all 8 kids at home before they start going on missions, so I'm going to enjoy every minute of it that I possibly can.

--I think I can actually homeschool the way I can in my head. Finally. We might actually get that organized and keep it organized.

--The sleep disorder is exacerbated by baby-having. So with no more babies, we might actually get things under control. I don't even really care how late we sleep, as long as we get ourselves off the non-twenty-four-hour sleep rhythm.

--Always I've had to prioritize tiny people over everything else, the whole 14 years I've been at this. But very soon there will be only bigger people, and then maybe I can get some order going here. (Of course, what use will it be to sort the toys if there isn't anyone left to play with them?)

In other words, I'm not looking back with a sense of loss or finishing or sentimentalism.  I feel like I reached the peak of a great mountain, and I can see before me grand vistas of all the life I can have and all the adventures my family can enjoy now that I'm not going to be using all my spoons every day building little bodies. And that's pretty exciting.

I never really was a baby person. I'm the one that cries when someone else has a baby because I know how hard it is to not sleep for 3 months straight. I actually felt pretty done with babies after 7, and only had 8 because of that one dream I had where 7 asked if 8 could come along, too. And I am SO GLAD we had her. So glad I didn't quit at 7. But I'm done now. And the future is looking pretty exciting. There is much work to do and much fun to be had, and I am happy to be going there.

Sunday, June 07, 2015


Jack: "Mom. I love church. I love to go to church. I love to ride in the strollit with Eemaline!"

Me: "We have to get ready in 1 hour."

Jack: "I need a jacket-shirt."


I love that. A jacket-shirt. That's a good description of a button-up Sunday shirt!

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Prayers answered

I didn't get the main thing I prayed for this month.

But I am in awe of two things:

God is obviously aware of my wants and needs because He provided a bunch of things I have wanted for a long time but wasn't asking for (things that would make me happy but are not absolutely necessary for survival).

I have a whole lot of friends who are close to God, because when He talked to them about what I needed and wanted, they heard him, listened, and acted on it.

That just blows me away.  Both that God cared, and that my friends are such amazing people that when He talks, they effortlessly hear and act.

And I am so grateful.

And also I did get some of the things I prayed for, in addition to the things I wanted but didn't ask for.

So thank you, friends, for phone calls when I was down and feeling very alone (and you had no way of knowing that), for clothes, for eggs, for cupboards, for a piano, for a working oven, for a dishwasher, for a bed. You couldn't know that I wished I had a few pretty tops (for me and for Anda), that my oven would break the day after you asked if I wanted one, that my bed is anything but flat and the mattress is splitting open, that I looked longingly at every piano for sale all month but didn't mention it to anyone.  You couldn't have known I was praying for ways the kids could have their own little places to put their things away, or that the dishwasher door has been jumped on so many times I was afraid it was going to start leaking.

Thank you.

Jack tries to sing "Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree"

Jack sings:

"Popcorn on my eyes.
Popcorn on my eyes.
Popcorn on the eyes.
Ice cream.
Ice cream.
Ice cream.
Popcorn on the ice cream.
Popcorn. Ice cream.
Ice. Sicles.
Popcorn. Popcorn."

Thursday, June 04, 2015


Today, Jack thought I was holding a book backward. He took it away and said, "No!  That's the The-End.  Read here.  Oh. Wait. _That_ is the The-End. Read here."

Jack says, "Emmeline wants to take mine baba."  Always "mine," never "my."

Today, I asked Jack if he needed a diaper change. "Yes," he said. "Mine diaper is pop, like a water balloon."  I said, "Your diaper is going to pop?"  "Yes," he said. "Like a balloon. Pop."  So I laid him down and changed his diaper and was horrified to discover he was still in his nighttime diaper many hours after he woke up. He had gotten up when I was in the shower and I had forgotten to change him when I got out!  Ooops. And yes, it did feel an awful lot like a water balloon that was about to pop. I can't believe it didn't leak!

Jack frequently says to me, "Mom, I'd like to hold you."  And when he cries in the night, or had night terrors, he refuses to calm down unless I say to him, "Jack, I'd like to hold you." And then he's fine.