Update from the Spring Festival

If you have been following me on twitter (and hopefully you have!), then you know I’ve been at some MAMTG… thing… all day. But what does that even mean? What on earth is MAMTG (pronounced Mam-tag by yours truly), and why are there so many accordions around?

MAMTG stands for the Mid-Atlantic Music Teachers Guild, and it is an organization of music teachers from all across the tri-state area. It is a professional organization, and their big yearly event is the Spring Festival held, not surprisingly, in the Spring time. This year, it is the first weekend of April (right now! I am actually writing this from the hotel lobby, with the occasional sounds of accordion music wafting through). The festival features vendors selling music themed gifts, an entire room devoted to accordions, and competitions on every instrument, including voice, a battle of the bands, and separate piano and keyboard categories.

As I understand it (so maybe this is not 100% accurate), the MAMTG rose from the ashes of the ATA, the Accordion Teachers Association. At its height, there were thousands of accordion players involved in competition. The accordion has faded from prominence in this new organization, but still features. It seems like only a handful of accordion students compete, but this year there was an entire room dedicated to accordion vendors and demos, and of course, Saturday night features an Accordion Extravaganza!!! (Actually, they are just calling the event “Mary and Friends” as it is a performance honoring Mary Tokarsky, but I think Accordion Extravaganza is a MUCH better name). So. An accordion performance stuck in the middle of a weekend dominated by piano and voice competitions. Seems a little out of place, until you learn that tidbit of history.

Miss Anna, what are you doing at a competition anyway? Yes, it’s true. I hate competition. I think there is too much opportunity for a healthy competition to turn into some ugly, aggressive and stressful, but I never, ever, ever present it that way to my kids. It is not a competition against other students, it is not a race. What it really is is a competition against yourself, and a challenge to not let you get the better of yourself.

I never focus on trying to make my kids better than anyone else, I focus on making them the best versions of themselves. They wake up every morning with the ability to be 110% awesome in performance. And then all these little things happen to make them distracted and to get them nervous. We work on not-letting-the-nervous-monster-scare-us just as much as we work on our music. We really work hard at being the best us we can be, without even paying attention to any other performer in the room.

I know that not every single one of my students will come home with a 1st or 2nd place trophy. Well, I think they deserve trophies, but I know, the reality of the matter is they will not get them. BUT. Every year, my students are dedicated to competing again, no matter what. Because we don’t focus on the competition so much as we just focus on being awesome in front of a crowd of strangers, which, I can tell you from personal experience, can be really, really hard, but really, really rewarding when done correctly, no matter what silly trophy you may or may not bring home.

So that’s where I am. I hate competitions, but I’m at one. There are lots of accordions but not much of an audience for it (too bad, people are really missing out). There will be some more live tweeting, I’m sure, but I know that once we get to the awards announcement part of the banquet, I might just be too busy being excited for our students to tweet. I kind of love when real life gets in the way of my online life.

The Nerdiest Music Joke Ever

Someday, I will memorize this entire joke.  For now, I will just leave it here for your perusal.

C, E-flat, and G go into a bar.
The bartender says: “Sorry, but we don’t serve minors.”
So, E-flat leaves, and C and G have an open fifth between them.
After a few drinks, the fifth is diminished: G is out flat.
F comes in and tries to augment the situation, but is not sharp enough.
D comes into the bar and heads straight for the bathroom saying, “Excuse me. I’ll just be a second.”
A comes into the bar, but the bartender is not convinced that this relative of C is not a minor.
Then the bartender notices B-flat hiding at the end of the bar and exclaims: “Get out now! You’re the seventh minor I’ve found in this bar tonight.”
E-flat, not easily deflated, comes back to the bar the next night in a 3-piece suit with nicely shined shoes.
The bartender (who used to have a nice corporate job until his company downsized) says: “You’re looking sharp tonight, come on in! This could be a major development.”
This proves to be the case, as E-flat takes off the suit, and everything else, and stands there au naturel.
Eventually, C sobers up, and realizes in horror that he’s under a rest.
C is brought to trial, is found guilty of contributing to the diminution of a minor, and is sentenced to 10 years of DS without Coda at an upscale correctional facility.
On appeal, however, C is found innocent of any wrongdoing, even accidental, and that all accusations to the contrary are bassless.
The bartender decides, however, that since he’s only had tenor so patrons, the soprano out in the bathroom, and everything has become alto much treble, he needs a rest – and closes the bar.

Non-stop Summer

wanted to write a short missive about all the random crap i’ve been doing. because it a) has definitely been random and b) i’ve been doing a lot of it.

two weekends ago i went gambling in my cousin’s in-laws’ backyard. it was definitely kind of fun – a birthday party for my cousin at his in-laws’ house. they have a really nice backyard for parties, and they totally have an outdoor bar, just one of those wrought iron and glass type constructions that they sometimes make patio furniture out of. it was fabulous. i spent most of my time there, who’s surprised? cousin’s wife rented a whole bunch of gambling tables – like for blackjack, roulette (not the russian kind, because after all, i’m ukrainian) and poker. i spent just a little bit of time at the blackjack table and actually won some money. got into a fight with my cousin about politics when he was crazy drunk. fabulous time. don’t worry, we still love each other.

which was actually the first thing i told him when i saw him *this* weekend at a wedding. he laughed, so we’re cool. so there was a wedding this friday in the extended family this past weekend, on friday. at some really nice place in the livingston area. i honestly could have hung out at the cocktail hour for more than just an hour because the food was pretty good, the bar was open and the music was live. they also had a martini bar and a tequila shot bar. like i said, could have stayed at cocktail hour for more than just an hour. actually, if we could have skipped right from cocktail hour to the AMAZING dessert buffet, i would have been a pretty happy camper.

saturday night, ended up at anthony fiumano’s CD release at the Saint. anthony rocked, of course, and it was great because everyone i haven’t talked to in awhile, or needed to talk to, was there. it was actually a pretty productive evening. saw joanna burns whom i seriously haven’t seen since, like, a party at my house last summer. it was awesome to talk to her, because, well, i haven’t! saturday was one of those evenings where i tried leaving for, like, two hours but just kept running into people i wanted to talk to. i even talked to some random guy about my different colored nail polish and my rubber duckies. finally got out around 1:30 or so.

as an aside, i hate when i listen to a recording and i can tell that the instruments are synthesized. get real instruments or get a “real” job! ugh!

sunday we took a field trip into the city to go to veselka to stuff ourselves silly with amazing ukrainian foods.. and stuff ourselves silly we did! i think between the five of us (including my venerable sidekick AKA my evil twin, jess) we sampled every single kind of varenyky they had. also among us we had one of their potato pancakes, stuffed cabbage, their kutia, and their burgers. i had to freaking roll out of there, practically. we walked around the neighborhood a bit, walked the kids up to see st. george’s and all the ukrainian bars.

i love bars in the city that have their doors and windows all open in the summer time. we stood outside bar 82 and just listened to the trio playing in there (sounded like a trio but we couldn’t quite see the band clearly) for a little bit. i notice that a lot of places have numbers in their names, and of course, now that i’ve said that, i can’t give you any examples, but i as we were walking around the east village i noticed that.

monday i went to warped tour with jess and chris and a few of his little friends. mostly spent the day with jess though, wandering around, getting acosted by people who wanted us to listen to their band. i got a ZILLION (ok, maybe only 9) CDs from random bands from around the country. pretty freaking awesome. i handed out tigerlily cards, too, because hey, i’m getting better at this networking thing.

i got a bit of sunburn at warped tour, and also the best sunglasses ever. jess also got the best sunglasses ever, but her sunburn is WAAAY more intense than mine.

i’m definitely going back next summer. maybe even to more than one. just to hang out in the parking lot. just kidding.

this week i’m practicing like crazy for my gig this coming saturday. no, not the wedding i’m singing at. that’s easy. i’m playing a civil war reenactment with my dad saturday night. well, let me rephrase. it’s his reenactment, in that, it’s the group he works with that’s running it. my father and i are not singing together. this is a good thing, trust me. sometimes, my dad is not so good with the singing.

and actually, tomorrow i’ve got a wedding to go to. it’s always so cute when one rockstar marries another rockstar. haha. tomorrow should be fun. and maybe after tomorrow i’ll get a bandmate back!

sunday i think i’m actually not doing anything, but i’m sure my mother will have a long list of stuff she wants me to do that will keep me from doing things i need to do. like… practice for my next gig. or laundry. or vaccuuming and dusting. or washing dishes. or SLEEPING. but yeah, she has a knack for doing that. then i get a lecture about the collection of dishes on my kitchen counter.

anyways, so that’s where i’ve been lately. just so you don’t think i’ve fallen into a black hole of some sort.

Tigerlily Leaked into my Dreams

well, it’s not that i dreamt about anything really directly tigerlily related but………. if it weren’t for tigerlily i wouldn’t have ever have been to see any of the bands i’m about to mention.

this is actually a dream i had yesterday, but i then went ahead and spent so much of yesterday sleeping and lazing around (hope im not getting sick) that i never got around to blogging it.

i was listening to rick barry’s ballad of the unwilling martyr, and even though it’s technically, i guess, his song, the version i was listening to is the version that was available on the paperback radio myspace page. or maybe it was the days awake page (back when it was days awake featuring rick barry, i dunno, the file isn’t available on any of those three pages now so it’s anyone’s guess as to where it originally was, but i’m gonna guess it was days awake, actually. anyway) but my point is, i have two versions of the song, and one is off rick barry’s album, and one is a live version, with DA/PR, and it was that version, the live version, i was listening to.

Then, all of a sudden, I start hearing this other song, but only snippets – like i’m listening to the radio and am hearing little bits of another station broadcasting on the same station I’m listening to.

But then I remember I’m not listening to the radio, I’m listening to my iPod, and I get really confused.

I get even more confused when I realize I’m not actually listening to my iPod, either, I’m actually at the Stone Pony, and they’re playing it live. I’m standing in back, actually in the sound booth (can’t remember if i have headphones on or not) and while the band is playing, that weird other music that was coming through like it was on a different station was actually rick from TWiNE … who was on stage with them. it was clear that he wasn’t singing along with them, he was doing his own thing. it was also clear that absolutely no one on the stage was acknowledging him, which led me to believe I was the only person who could see or hear him.

and then i woke up.

Sit Back and let the Soda Flow

so you know how, like, everyone has at least one friend who is obsessed with led zeppelin, or one friend who is obsessed with nirvana, or one friend who is obsessed with marilyn manson, or whatever? well, my mother is the token friend who is obsessed with the beatles. i’m sure i know people who are more obsessed with the beatles than she, but, well, she lives with me. i see her on a regular basis. and she really really really really really likes the beatles, and has since they came out.

so tonight im out at buddie’s in sayreville/parlin (i never quite remember exactly which town and they’re right next door to each other anyway) and mean mr. mustard plays over the PA inbetween bands, followed immediately by polythene pam. and i was thinking, those songs flowed right from one to the other, they must be off the same album.

now, granted, it’s late. i don’t even know why my mother is still awake, let alone answering the text messages i send her asking which album that’s off of. my mother, in her over-tired delirium answers, “hmmmm dr pepper”

i come home and ask her to rethink the last text she sent me and she rolls back the video tape… smacks her hand to her forehead and exclaims, “DR PEPPER?! I must be tired.”

oh my mother.

and on top of that, it isn’t even ON sgt pepper! clearly she’s slipping.

What can one woman do on 3 hours of sleep?

sometimes i amaze myself with the amount of things i manage to pack into a random day. let me just recap for you the last 24 hours or so of my life for you.

friday at 9 PM – earlier in the day i texted eric on a whim to see which of his 45098583726 bands he was playing with that night. turns out, matt o’ree @ the mad hatter in sea bright (col. mustard, in the library, with the candlestick) from 10 til close. a venue i’d never been to before + a band i’d only seen once + a friend i hadn’t seen in months = a good time, whether or not i could even find anyone to go with.

see, because i’ve come to the point where music is too important to me, supporting the local scene is too important to me, that not having someone to go with is, personally, a really lame and completely invalid excuse. i know that this is a perfectly good reason for the majority of people to avoid doing.. whatever.. but for me? no. it makes my mother worry, and i’m sure that, from people who notice, i get a few odd looks being a single female out at a bar, completely anti-social and digging on the music. but you know what? who cares. well, i care about my mom, but who cares about everything else. music is just too important.

and in a way, it’s kind of nice to go out somewhere new, somewhere where i only know one or two people, if that many. somewhere i can disappear for just a few hours, and be a random face in the crowd that no one is really paying attention to. it’s like a vacation.

i host the show at mugs so everyone knows me there. the owners, the bartender, the waitresses, and our growing number of regulars (they’re never all there at the same time, but man if they were we’d pack the place – there’s about 15 or so people who are there really consistently and i’ve even gotten to know some of them by name). i go to writers in raritan and the crowd there knows me, too. sometimes i even get a shout out from on stage. i always know a mess of people when i go out to court tavern, between the cats i roll out with, the random people that show up, and the bands. same deal for the cup and, when i travel down to the land of asbury park, the saint. and we won’t even get started on the throngs of people who know me in the ukrainian community. i met someone a few weekends ago who said “oh wow YOU’RE anna lawrence!” and, f’real, i knew we traveled in social circles that mixed on occasion, but getting a response like that was kind of surprising.

it’s amazing the people who know me in all the random places i go, so it’s really kind of nice to be able to go to a bar, find a stool, get a pint and just enjoy the music. and not have to talk to anyone. and zone out, just for a little bit.

end the tangent within the tangent.

so i went down the mad hatter (got lost, somehow, because apparantly my GPS, my trusty navigator, captain jack, got drunk on all the rum and led me to totally the wrong spot) and really only planned on staying for a set or two.

because after all, i did have to teach at nine in the morning. this is a very important point. i left my house thinking, “in 12 hours, i will be starting my work day, and seven hours after that i will be finishing it.” who works on a saturday like that? a piano teacher does, that’s for sure.

i get there after matt started. chat with eric inbetween sets. they play again and i start talking to this other random guy, randomly, oh it’s so random, and we talk the rest of the night. he buys me guinness, we discuss everything from music, to politics to religion and the institution of marriage and why an unforgiving ukrainian will cut your face if you refer to it as “the ukraine,” we cover pretty much everything in just a few short hours and i am pleasantly surprised at the caliber of people who patronize the bars these days. he is neither creepy nor is he completely crazy. and did i mention he bought me guinness?

so the next thing i know, after “the ukraine” and quoting a bronx tale, the band is DONE for the night. done. done and the bar is closing. as in, you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here. what time does that happen in new jersey? oh, that’s right, two o clock.

say goodnight to eric, get in my car, get home. it’s nearly three by the time my head hits the pillow. i get text messages in my sleep and, as addicted to texts as i am, they don’t even wake me.

this is now the end of the tangent, or, really, the prelude to the actual blog entry. and i’ll bet you thought this was already long enough.

saturday at 6 AM – i am standing outside with the puppy, watching, making sure she remembers that we are out here for a reason and that reason is to do her business. that’s right. we slept for only approximately three hours.

saturday at 9 AM – i start teaching. my first lesson¬† has pretty much just as hard a time getting up on a saturday morning as i do. he speaks in one word answers to me, and only sometimes manages to smile and laugh. today, however, he is speaking in full sentences. at this point i’m assuming this is a good omen of a wonderful day ahead.

saturday at 1 PM – two of my students are quitting permanently and 1 is quitting for the summer. maybe this summer i’ll actually get to take off on saturdays.

saturday at 3:30 PM – my day is done a whopping half hour early. not that it really matters, because i sit on the computer looking stuff up for lou for over a half hour.

saturday at 4:30 PM – i arrive at home. another saturday’s teaching is done. i actually have time to eat dinner before dance class.

saturday at 6 PM – i get to dance class. now let me tell you about dance class. it’s run by a woman who is just naturally very energetic and into dance orrrrrrr maybe she does an 8-ball before dance class. probably it’s the former, but man oh man she is in the zone.

and today at dance class? i was the only one who showed. between graduation parties and other end of the school year events i was the only person who wasn’t already busy. so it was just my teacher and i. for an hour and a half. she works us hard, and when she’s got you one on one there is just no down time. i shouldn’t say that, because she did let us take a break for just a few minutes, and we were chatting about all the dancing she did in ukraine (all sorts of eastern european dancing, moldovian, hungarian – !!! – i think she said lemko, too). if i didn’t think i would die, i would love for this woman to teach me privately every week.

by the time i get home, i am thoroughly exhausted. i can’t even think. three hours of sleep, seven hours of teaching, one and a half hours of dance class. i was ready for bed at, like, nine. i’m supposed to be out at a party right now but i was seriously afraid i’d fall asleep at the wheel either going or coming.

i was trying to think of all the times i pulled all nighters or got only one or two hours worth of sleep. through all of annalawrence: the early years, all those times where i was awake from sunday to wednesday, i still don’t think i expended the amount of energy i did today.

and by now i am pooped. you’re probably wondering, that was a really long entry for someone who’s tired. blame my typing speed. i can type at the same speed i think at, more or less, so the words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup. it’s endless, i tell you. i could go on and on. jai guru deva om. instead i will end it here. when i woke up this morning (with those statesboro blues, raymond, wherever you are) i didn’t even think i’d make it through the day. i made it and then some. even practiced a little bit in there. now it’s time to settle the puppy down and collapse in bed.