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.


ACLU Update

Art Roche, Mary Denmead, William Dutcher, Zach Twardowski and Atticus Dutcher in Richard III. Photo by Andrea Wilson.

I am not the only American to have spent the past week alternately devastated and enraged but I am so grateful to have also experienced flashes of true hope and deep love for how my community has responded.

Between our event on Friday which raised $833.25, Writers Resist! last Sunday, and The Last Night in America organized by Megan Gogerty on Thursday, eastern Iowa artists have raised upwards of $3700 for the Iowa ACLU this week. Many people do not realize that the ACLU is a non-partisan organization that prides itself in upholding everyone’s civil liberties, no matter who they are or what they believe.

We are going to take care of each other. We are going to resist injustice. We are going to pay attention and participate in the democratic process. We are going to use our art to magnify what is going on around us because, as my friend and mentor Ron Clark said recently in a Press-Citizen interview: “It’s our artistic community that most effectively holds out a mirror and says, ‘Look at what we have become.'”

There are many petitions circling. I’d like to direct your attention to this one in particular asking that we preserve the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. When I signed it, it still needed almost 100,000 more signatures to get a response from the White House. This is quite literally the least you can do but is still so important.

Together we rise.


RIII gratitude

We had our final rehearsal last night for our pop-up activist abridged reading of Shakespeare’s Richard III coming up on Friday and I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

For Ron Clark, for bringing his lifetime of experience and leading us with his characteristic vision and deep compassion, all the while giving us hours upon hours of his time.

For Jody Hovland, who joined us in our final rehearsal to share her amazing talent and mentorship.

For Keith Reins, who will be with us on Friday, guitar in hand, for our musical partnership and for always having my back.

For Nick Westergaard and Meghann Foster who are not only incredibly gifted actors but also run Brand Driven Digital and are sharing their marketing expertise with us.

For Bethany Horning, costumer extraordinaire, and her support team of Jeremy and Chase, for her creativity, cheerful encouragement, and texts that make me snort coffee out of my nose.

For Chris Okiishi, easily one of the most generous and supportive people any of us will ever know, for lending his time to get the script in our actors’ hands.

For my beloved family Carmel and Rayburn Vrabel and Jon and Susie Dutcher who have spread their pride in this project far and wide which included, in some cases, defending us against the criticism of political disagreement among their own Facebook community.

For my friends who have pressed money into my hands earmarked for the ACLU.

Finally, for these beautiful actors who are sharing their time and talent with all of us: including Ron, Meghann, and Nick mentioned above and also Larry Baker, John Clarence Cameron, Aprille Clarke, Mary Denmead, Carrie Houchins-Witt, Art Roche, Katie Roche, Zach Twardowski and my very patient and wonderful men Joe, Liam and Atticus Dutcher.

You all give me hope and that is the most beautiful gift we can share with one another.

RIII in the Press-Citizen

Many thanks to Jeff Charis-Carlson at the Iowa City Press-Citizen for a wonderful, comprehensive article about our upcoming pop-up abridged activist reading of Shakespeare’s Richard III!

From the article:

Although Donald Trump won Iowa by almost 10 percentage points on Election Day, for some Iowans the upcoming presidential inauguration kicks off not a season of celebration but a “winter of our discontent.”

There are marches and other protest events scheduled across the nation to correspond with Trump taking the nation’s highest oath of office Jan. 20 in Washington, D.C.

Some critics in the Iowa City area are lodging their protest by turning to a 400-year-old play to express their political concerns for the next four years. To them, William Shakespeare’s descriptions of King Richard III seem equally applicable to the president-elect.

Click through to read the entire article on the Press-Citizen website.

To address Dr. Hagle‘s thoughtful query in the article, our aim is to illustrate a historical comparison and to come together as a community to unite in our real concerns about our prospective leadership. I assure you, we aren’t changing Shakespeare’s lines to fit the circumstances. There’s no need to. Shakespeare doesn’t need any help from us to make a salient timely point.

Everyone, please share far and wide. We’d love for this article to draw people to the production but we’d also like our voices to be heard around the world. Iowans are paying attention and we will rise up and resist. #notmymegalomaniac




Cast List for RIII

Ron Clark and I are thrilled to announce our powerhouse cast for RICHARD III, A Reading for Inauguration Day!

Richard, Duke of Gloucester     Zach Twardowski
King Edward IV     Ron Clark
George, Duke of Clarence     John Cameron
Cecily, Duchess of York     Katie Roche
Edward, Prince of Wales     Liam Dutcher
Richard, Duke of York     Atticus Dutcher
Queen Margaret     Meghann Foster
Lady Anne     Aprille Clarke
Queen Elizabeth     Carrie Houchins-Witt
Earl Rivers     Art Roche
Lord Richard Grey     Larry Baker
Marquis of Dorset     Larry Baker
Duke of Buckingham     Mary Denmead
Sir William Catesby     Nick Westergaard
Sir James Tyrrell     Larry Baker
Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond     Nick Westergaard
Bishop of Ely     John Cameron
Lord Hastings     Joseph Dutcher
Mayor of London     Art Roche
Lord Brakenbury     Art Roche
Murderer 1     Joseph Dutcher
Murderer 2     Carrie Houchins-Witt
Messenger     Aprille Clarke
Messenger     Joseph Dutcher

Costumes     Bethany Horning

Music     Tara McGovern , Keith Reins, and Joseph Dutcher

RICHARD III, A Reading for Inauguration Day
Friday, January 20, 2017
North Ridge Pavilion in Coralville, Iowa
Doors open at 6:30 pm
Coffee, wine, and dessert
Free will offering to cover the venue’s rental fee ($200) with all remainder going to the ACLU.

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.