Category Archives: studio

Congratulations to Dannye and Rob!

Introducing Dannye and Rob, my featured musicians for September and October!

There is a special place in my heart for family music-making so it’s an extra thrill to be featuring a mother and son for the first time in my featured musician series.

In addition to making music at home, in school ensembles and at church, Dannye and Rob as well as Rob’s two sisters regularly bring their musical gifts to enrich the guests and staff at The Russell and Ann Gerdin American Cancer Society Hope Lodge. I find it truly beautiful that they are so committed to using their talents to share joy and inspiration.

Sept-Oct 2017 Featured Musician (1)-page-001

You can follow some of Dannye’s other creative pursuits at her writing website

Congratulations to Nina!

Introducing Nina, my featured musician for July and April!

Shortly after Nina and her wonderful family moved to the area, I noticed her beautiful voice and serene presence in the Family Folk Machine and my heart leaped in recognition of a true up-and-coming artist.

Nina’s innate talent is matched ounce for ounce by sheer determination and she has already accomplished an incredible amount as a fiddler, not the least of which was her May 2017 appearance in City Circle‘s ANNIE GET YOUR GUN both as an actor and an onstage fiddler. I can’t wait to see what else is in store for our Nina.



Ready, Set, Summer!

Borrowing from my charming, talented and articulate pal Jeffrey C. Capps because it all applies to me too (and why reinvent the wheel?):

Dear Friends,

It’ll be a busy musical weekend for me, and I hope to see many of you!
On Friday, I am honored to join Tara in opening for John Rapson’s must-see Hot Tamale Louie benefit for IC Compassion at The Mill. We’ll be performing a couple of tunes during the 8 o’clock hour and the show will follow at 9. This is a really incredible show and a great cause! More info here.


On Saturday, I’ll be performing twice as part of the Longfellow Front Porch Music Festival. Family Folk Machine will kick off the afternoon with a 2 p.m. set at 604 Grant Street, and Jeffrey C. Capps and His Almost All-Girl Band will immediately follow on the very same porch. Grab your lawn chair, and come on out! More info here.

And if you’re one to plan ahead, please mark your calendar for Saturday, July 1 when Tara and I will make our annual appearance at the Iowa City Farmers Market. We’ll play from 9 until 11 a.m. on the temporary stage right outside of City Hall!

Thanks so much!

Sound as ever,


I also have two other related events this weekend: at 4 pm on Saturday, I am honored to accompany on guitar some of my fiddle students as part of the Longfellow Front Porch Music Festival. At 9 pm on Saturday, the Hot Tamale Louie ensemble will be playing at the Motley Cow. This is a ticketed event and it will sell out so look sharp.

Happy summer!!

Congratulations to Ambrose!

Introducing Ambrose, my featured musician for May and June!

Ambrose’s talent for composition has been emerging alongside his pianistic abilities beginning very early on in our musical adventures together.

Ambrose has the unique and precious ability of finding and revealing stories in his music. I feel so grateful for the gift of witnessing him discover himself as an artist.

May 2017 Featured Musician (1)-page-001

Congratulations to Anna!

Introducing Anna, my featured musician for March and April!

Anna and I both have April birthdays, we both love to play fiddle and we are both devoted fans of Hamilton so we have plenty in common.

Anna is an enthusiastic and creative musician who takes risks and reaps the rewards of her courage. She has so much joy to share and is truly a gift to all who know her.




But, it isn’t.

A is for Accordion

When I was twenty, I worked in the preschool classroom of a child care center and got to know the children and families really well. Since I was known to be studying music in school, I was often asked by parents to give some early music lessons to their children or to assist with music practicing for the older siblings who were already in lessons.

I was practically a baby myself and an inexperienced teacher but my advantage was that I knew the children so well.  I was taking a year off from being a full-time student to establish residency in Iowa and so I was at the child care center all morning and most of every afternoon. We ate our snack together at those squat little tables. I watched them squabble on the playground. I observed them making discoveries about words during story time. They were all bridging that magical time between being a baby and becoming a kid and it was fascinating to see the possibilities of the world bloom before their eyes.

There is one piano lesson that I will never forget. We’ll call him Jacob (not his real name) and he was about four years old. Jacob was a cheerful and comical little boy, very well liked by his friends. He was unusually proficient on the playground for his age, always the fastest kid to get to the slide and the first to tackle a new piece of playground equipment. No fear, no hesitation, just all energy and determination. I had already been working at the child care center part time for a year or so before that and I remembered him in the toddler room, always zooming around with a big smile.

I can’t remember what exactly we were doing that day at the lesson but I remember how his little fingers stumbled on the keys and how much grouchier he was than usual.

Jacob was a really smart and charming little boy and he was adept at steering conversations and situations to suit his purposes so I was never surprised when he became rather chatty. “I have a question”, he would say, and he would ask something vaguely relevant to the situation: “why are there black keys?” or “could I fit inside the piano?”

His frustration waned as his questions became sillier until:

“Why do I play piano, Tara?”

“What do you mean?” I laughed, taken aback. “Because it’s fun! We play music because it’s fun.”

“But, it isn’t.”

Do you know that, until that moment, it had actually never occurred to me that a music lesson can be the first truly difficult task that a child has ever encountered? Learning to walk or to talk is no small feat either but the natural scaffolding of each of those skills makes their acquisition so gradual that the challenge can go largely unnoticed, except by the doting parents.

The good news is that learning to play an instrument becomes fun, more so over time, and that a positive relationship between a teacher and a student can carry both of them until then.

That conversation so long ago has informed my teaching so much through the years. I think back on it often to remind me of the enormity of what I’m asking of these amazing little people.

Beyond that, it has sustained me when my own creative work feels crushing and terrible and worthless. We tell ourselves that our work is hard because we’re lacking in some way. That’s not it. It’s hard because it’s hard.


Congratulations to Waylon!

Introducing Waylon, my featured musician for January and February!

Waylon and I had several fun and productive years working at the piano and when he recently he discovered the joy of the mandolin, he clicked with it immediately.

From his picture, you might guess that Waylon is a delight and you’d be correct. I especially love listening to Waylon and his mother Carrie make music (and treasured memories) together with Waylon on mandolin and Carrie on guitar.