Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Merit Birds

I was so excited for the publication of this book, since the author is my friend Kelley Powell.
I spent an entire morning reading it straight through.  It has been a while since I've had a book that I couldn't put down.  Then I lent it to my sister and she read it over the course of two evenings.  What a great read!

My favourite part of this book is the easiness of Kelley's writing and the way that it drew me into the story.  The mix of characters, so different from each other, all become connected.

The relationships between these characters become more complex as the story unfolds, with such highs and lows that I had to sit and think about how I felt at the end of the book.  It was beautiful.

If you buy the book today on Amazon, Kelley is offering some really neat free gifts with your purchase, including recipes used in the book, music and another amazing story she has penned!  Check out the synopsis below and then head to themeritbirds.com.
Let me know what you think!

"Eighteen-year-old Cam Scott is angry. He's angry about his absent dad, he's angry about being angry, and he's angry that he has had to give up his Ottawa basketball team to follow his mom to her new job in Vientiane, Laos. However, Cam's anger begins to melt under the Southeast Asian sun as he finds friendship with his neighbour, Somchai, and gradually falls in love with Nok, who teaches him about building merit, or karma, by doing good deeds, such as purchasing caged "merit birds." Tragedy strikes and Cam finds himself falsely accused of a crime. His freedom depends on a person he's never met. A person who knows that the only way to restore his merit is to confess. "The Merit Birds" blends action and suspense and humour in a far-off land where things seem so different, yet deep down are so much the same."

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Balance and facts

Many students have been curious lately about the fact that I both live and teach here at home.  Some adults would like to know how I achieve work/life balance.  Kids are more direct and say things like "I know you live here, because I went to the bathroom and saw your bathtub".

The truth is, while I try to keep teaching and life a bit separate, I love what I do!  When I'm in the kitchen, I collect bread tags for MYC classes.  I listen to podcasts about music, the arts and teaching.  For Christmas "Rita the Racoon" was one of my gifts, since a student guessed that I would be a racoon for Halloween.  Now she is the studio mascot (check her out next time you are here!).

So to satisfy your curiosity, here are some important facts about me:

Favorite colour: Purple (this has been my favourite colour forever)
Reason for teaching: I love music, I love kids, I love sharing what I love with others!
Hobbies: cooking, reading, yoga and travelling of course.
Musical Goals: I'm playing around with some songwriting lately and I'm working on some very challenging piano repertoire that I hope to have ready this year!  I'm also trying to play more oboe, so it is not taking the backseat.

Do you have a question? I'll answer some of the most interesting ones this week, so send them my way!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A Documentary: Mount Ephrem-Martial Arts Pioneer in Ethiopia

My partner Garmamie's documentary has been nominated as one of the top 10 in the Afrinolli Short Film Competition.  The winner will be decided by voting, so please vote before Monday if you have the chance and check out the short documentary at the link posted below.

Here is a little interview with Garmamie about his documentary.  We look forward to hearing your comments about the film!

1. What inspired you to be a documentary filmmaker?

Storytelling, regardless of the medium is an interest of mine. Be it a written and/or a performed poem, a
presentation or a documentary film, stories present themselves everywhere. Although I was always interested in fictional films... over the years and through various experiences I've realized the value in capturing reality. The best stories I've ever heard where real ones lived by everyday people who have never shared their journey and tales.

2. "The [Afrinolli Short Film] Competition is designed to expand the conversations on issues about the African continent by Africans". What does this topic mean to you and how did it motivate you for your documentary?

The African continent, much like any continent, is filled with a diversity of stories. My documentary is dealing with the topic of an individual's quest to find (and maintain) inner balance with himself, his past and present through the philosophy of Jeet Kun Do (a martial art). The context of his challenging journey is riddled with a variety of challenges and his story is particularly untold and unique to the story of martial arts in Ethiopia and Africa as a whole. What motivated me for this documentary was this individual passion for his way of life thought martial arts and his willingness to share his story.

3. Tell us about Ephrem. How did you meet him and what made you decide to base the documentary on him?

I was in Ethiopia in the fall of 2012 filming a long form documentary on martial arts (this long form documentary is still in production). While I was in Addis Ababa (the capital of Ethiopia), I got to meet various current and former key players and local legends of the martial arts community in East Africa. I met Ephrem through that network. I had heard of him through other key members of the international jiujitsu community and they strongly recommend I speak with him. Ephrem was very open to the documentary process, which made my job very easy and enjoyable. His passion and dedication is impressive.

4. What was the editing process like? Did you have anyone to give you feedback and support?

It's all in the process, an editing process. This is where the story is made and put together. Lucky for me, I had plenty of contructive feedback and support from Nicole, my girlfriend.

5. What message are you hoping that viewers will take away from this documentary?

There are many messages, but one in particular is to follow your passion, respect and honour it, for it is a reflection of your life and it will keep you balanced, focused and ready for any obstacle. Ephrem is a true martial artist and his story sheds light on how martial arts provide the discipline and focus an individual needs to find everyday balance.

Please vote for Garmamie's documentary Mount Ephrem-Martial Arts Pioneer in Ethiopia at:

The deadline is Monday!

Please vote for Garmamie's documentary Mount Ephrem-Martial Arts Pioneer in Ethiopia at:

The deadline is Monday!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Canada Reads 2014: Annabel

After my last post on The Orenda, Jian Ghomeshi announced the Canada Reads 2014 contenders on the Q.  Not surprisingly, The Orenda is one of them.  This year's theme is a book that will change the nation.  Of course being the bookworm that I am, I rushed out to by the other books right away.

I started Annabel by Kathleen Winter on Wednesday evening and finished by noon yesterday.  What a great read, I was absorbed into the story from page one!  While I'm not sure I feel that the book will change our nation particularly (I do welcome your comments on this!), it will effect anyone who reads it.  

Annabel will make you question your perception of identity and how we perceive that of others, as well as how cruel society can be about these identities.  

Has anyone read other books that tackle social norms and identity?

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Orenda

Over Thanksgiving, I indulged in The Orenda by Joseph Boyden.  Some of you may already know about my intense addiction to fiction novels, but during the teaching season, I have to keep it under control, or I would spend every spare moment hidden away with a book.  My Mom actually had to hide books on me when she wanted me to clean my room when I was a child/teenager.  Good thing she is not in Ottawa to do the same thing to me now!:)

Anyways, back to the point.  Three Day Road was the first book I read by Joseph Boyden and I was blown away.  Though I'm a happy person myself, I find that books that leave you reflecting (usually on the unfairness of the world) are the ones that are remembered most.  Boyden has definitely hit the nail on the head regarding native affairs in Canada.  The Orenda makes one reconsider our Nation's history and question our part in it.  His accounts through characters on all sides of the story show the depth of his understanding and research into the subject.

I don't want to give away the whole story, so go read it yourself!  I look forward to hearing your comments about the book.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


Can you believe it is September already?  I can't!  Like other teachers and music teacher friends of mine, I did not sleep much last week, in anticipation of the start of a new season.

My best friend in Madrid, inspired me to write about the positive aspects of this season.  Please view her blog at: http://tallworldafterall.blogspot.ca/2013/09/five-things-fast-on-first-day.html?showComment=1378388306160

So here are a few:

Morning Coffee
Yes, I did drink coffee in the morning all summer, but now that the weather is getting colder, it's nice to warm your hands up in the morning.  And now, I drink my morning coffee much earlier, while working on my new Mozart Sonata.  Is there a better way to start the morning than coffee and Mozart?!

The sun is shining and my studio looks bright and ready for learning!  It is also a good day to sit on the balcony and lesson plan before classes.

It's easy for the days to fly by without accomplishing what you mean to, when you are on a relaxed summer schedule.  Now that I've been getting up early and getting to work, I've been super-productive.

I've missed hearing music all day...now I get to hear music all the time, both my students and mine.

My Students
I've also missed my students!  Now I get to see them all and hear about their summers and goals for this year.

So what have you enjoyed about the start of fall?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


When I was younger, my Dad would encourage me once in a while to have a "fun-practise".  This is a great way to take a break from pieces that you have been working on for a while and review some favourites, no matter how old!  I have favourites that I play at least every week from about 15 years ago!  Or work on some popular music you like.  

Another way to have a fun-practise is to make it social.  Often, as a musician at any level, you have to spend a lot of solitary time practising.  It can get lonely!  Join a music group or get together with some other musical friends.  At my music-dinner-parties, repertoire ranges from Vivaldi, to Jazz, to Adele and  old classics.  Much to the amazement of a new attendee, we even played and sang "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" (John Denver).  I'm sure my neighbours were equally impressed at such a late hour.

Don't have any other musical friends?  Talk to me!  I have been working on creating theory, composition and performance groups for my students of all ages.  I think it is great to get together with others who share your interest in music.

What else do you do to make practising fun?  What are some of your favourites that you play time and time again?