The Beggarmen in Concert at Theatre Cedar Rapids

I am delighted to invite you to experience our traditional Irish band The Beggarmen in a concert that will be taking place on the set of Irish playwright Conor McPherson‘s “The Weir” at Theatre Cedar Rapids.

The last time I performed on TCR‘s Grandon Stage this past summer, I was a barefoot and pigtailed fiddler playing in a coal mine with an unparalleled bluegrass-y band: Matt Brooks on guitar and dobro, David Ollinger on bass, and Greg “Bucket” Kanz ripping it up on his unique and personally constructed drum kit.

The coal mine now lives only in our memories. TCR’s Scenic Artist and Props Master Daniel Kelchen has transformed the Grandon into a traditional Irish pub in a fictional rural Irish town that resembles rural towns in McPherson’s grandfather’s home county of Leitrim. Incidentally, or perhaps not at all, Leitrim is only 45 miles away from my mother’s home county of Cavan.

The connections don’t end there, not remotely, because all of the proceeds from this concert will go toward a scholarship fund for TCR’s Just Right for Me class, the theatre arts class for  autistic children that our son Atticus enjoys and that I recently wrote about.

There are so many reasons that I want you to attend this concert, not the least of which is that I am so grateful to Theatre Cedar Rapids for consistently providing a breadth of opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to come together to experience the magic of theatre.

This same sense of community runs very deep in our efforts as a band to connect people to music that tells a story and that keeps a beautiful cultural tradition thriving as it has for centuries.

Please join us for what is sincerely a once in a lifetime opportunity to promote community through art. Sunday, November 8 at 6 pm.

And spread the word!

Into the Woods

I’m not a medical professional. Once upon a time, I was a board-certified music therapist but I let my board certification lapse when I had two babies in two years. Daycare wasn’t remotely affordable for one baby, let alone two.

When I was doing my music therapy internship, I did work briefly with some autistic children but all of my observations here are really coming as the mother of one specific autistic son.

So you know what they say…

If you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person.

That’s my disclaimer. Having said that, my anecdata (i.e. my focus group of precisely one 8 year old and a few of his friends) lately has me wondering if there’s something inherent to musical theatre that is appealing to the autistic mind.

My son has been taking an amazing class this fall at a theatre in the neighboring city. The class is called Just Right for Me and it’s an acting class for autistic children. When I mention this class in passing, there are two main reactions to the concept of teaching theatre techniques to autistic children. People who don’t have much interaction with autism say “What? Wow! What will they think of next?!” and people who know and love someone autistic say “That’s perfect.”

We don’t have anything like this class in the town where we live so it’s a little bit of a drive every Saturday morning. I could quantify the drive in minutes or miles but it would be more relevant to tell you that, if one happened to be listening to the Broadway cast album of Sondheim and Lapine’s “Into the Woods”, it would take Act One to get there and Act Two to return home.

I thought I knew “Into the Woods” pretty well already because I’ve played in the pit for it more than once and I’ve seen it multiple times but I was wrong. I’m so often wrong.

Careful the wish you make, wishes are children
Careful the path they take, wishes come true,
not free…

The music stops abruptly. He has the iPod in the backseat with him and is in charge of the controls.
“Wishes are what?” comes from the backseat.
“Wishes are children…” I sing back to him.
“Children? Jack and Little Red are the children. They’re not wishes.”
I start to explain “It’s a metaphor. He’s saying that you can’t control a wish once it…” The music starts again. He doesn’t want my metaphor right now. Metaphors wear him out.

I try again later as we pull off the highway. The music has stopped and his face is pressed against the window.
“Have you ever gone into the woods, honey?”
“You mean Grasshopper Trail?”
“No, I mean…can you think of anything that you’ve done that has been like a journey?”

A long silence and then the orchestra is pounding out those quarter notes at the beginning of Act One.

I wish! More than anything, more than life!

He started the cast album over from the beginning again. My clumsy questions won’t lead us to enlightenment on my tidy timeline but the conversation isn’t over either. The woods will wait for us and we will always return. Over and over is how we do everything.

Wheelhouse, Population 1

My students, both the ones I gave birth to and the ones who come to me for a musical education, are used to me using sports analogies to illustrate ideas about technique and practice. We all have a good laugh about this instructional tendency of mine because I am the last person you would find doing any sort of sportsing.

ON177
By Mike Rosenthal at VectorBelly

Imagine my utter lack of surprise to discover that the term wheelhouse, which I use a LOT, was popularized by baseball, meaning “the zone that is most advantageous for a batter to hit a home run“.

Now that we’re several years into this homeschooling adventure, the one area in which I feel like I have wasted the most energy is trying to convince other people that our parenting choices are not negative reflections of any other parenting choices.

Homeschooling is my wheelhouse. Public and private schooling , for separate and entirely personal reasons, are not. If I wasn’t a professional musician with a strange and varied work schedule; if my son wasn’t autistic; if my financial situation were different; if if if… who knows what my wheelhouse would be.

Sarah Mackenzie‘s guest post at Simple Homeschool (excerpted from Sarah‘s book Homeschooling From Rest; A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakeable Peace) has inspired me to consider how I am loading my metaphorical pack as we begin our homeschooling journey this fall. The thing that weighs me down the most, that makes each step leaden instead of light, is making excuses for my wheelhouse.

I know that it will take some vigilance on my part to make sure that this habit of mine doesn’t sneak back in with each well meaning question from a stranger (or often, from a friend) but I dedicate this post to my desire to hold that precious vacated space open for what truly nourishes us on this journey.