A Musical Series Part One: Where Do I Begin?

I love music. I love singing, dancing, playing and listening to music. Almost all of us love music. There are many people who take their love of music and make it into a career. These people are professionals and they get paid to do what they love. But you do not have to be a professional to learn more about music. If you have ever thought about playing an instrument, or if you just want to understand more about music in general, I can help. In this series I will focus mainly on how to play an instrument and how to read music since I have dedicated a good portion of my time to instrumental music. I play mainly saxophone and clarinet, but my advice in this series can be applied to pretty much any instrument. So if you are ready to take your passion of music to the next level, keep reading.

How to Begin

I know that many students at LMU are not music majors. But one great thing about LMU is that you do not have to be a music major to join the choir or band. We have a community band and a community choir that both welcome musicians of all ages from the surrounding counties and musicians from different departments at LMU. Don’t know how to play an instrument or sing? You can take lessons from the staff for one credit hour if you are interested in learning. You do not necessarily have to take lessons, but they are extremely helpful, especially if you are just a beginner. If you are a beginner, your lesson will mostly consist of learning to play your chosen instruments, but as you go on, you will focus on more nit-picky things like dynamics and entrances. I strongly suggest beginning with lessons since a professional or even an amateur that can give you great advice and can even help you pick an instrument

Pick an instrument

From here, I will mostly talk about band since I have never been much of a singer. However, many aspects that are applied to learning an instrument can apply to choir; reading music, for example, is fairly useful in both band and choir. I recommend you do some research on instruments you are interested in before going out and buying one; they’re not cheap. I am not saying you can’t learn different instruments later, but in the beginning, you should focus on one. I am not going to go too much in depth over picking an instrument right now since my next post will cover all you need to know.

Practice

True Story

True story

 As you can guess, practice is essential to music; it is essential to just about anything, really. When you are first learning to play, you will have to practice reading music, counting music, embouchure, instrument fingerings, and even breathing. You should practice at least an hour a day but as you progress, you might need to lengthen your practice time so you do not fall behind. I know it sounds like a lot, but once you get in down, it becomes second nature. Then real practicing can begin! I will give you tips in practicing later on in the series.

Show up to Rehearsal

 Now that you’ve got your new instrument and you have had a bit of practice time, and you’ve (dare I say it?) gone to a few lessons, you can join band! Don’t be scared to just come to practice; we don’t bite! You can come to concert band on Tuesdays from 6 p.m.. to 8 p.m. for some music that is more on the classical side. You can come to pep band of Wednesdays from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. if you want to play at basketball games. Or you can come to jazz band Thursdays from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. if you are interested in Jazz.

It's what we do

It’s what we do

Of course you are welcome to come to all three; we would love to have you. The series does not end here, it’s just beginning. You may have some instruments in mind, but you will not get far in practice if you do not know how to play your part. There is more that goes into playing an instrument than you know. When you see your favorite musician play he or she makes it look easy but trust me, it takes hours of practice to perfect a piece of music. Making it look easy comes after you have spent weeks preparing to play it in front of an audience. Learning to play an instrument, no matter what you pick, will not be an easy task. So if you are interested in learning how to play an instrument, keep reading!

Are you thinking about picking up an instrument? Comment if you have any questions and keep reading to learn more! Remember to like my post and check in every other Wednesday for a new one!

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Individually Unique, Together Complete

For those of you out there who do not know, I am part of the Zeta Tau Kappa (ZTK) sorority at LMU. I pledged ZTK the spring of 2012. Our colors are purple, blue, and white and our mascot is a bunny. I decided to pledge because I was interested in becoming more involved with my school and with my community. If there are any ladies out there who are thinking of pledging a sorority, I highly recommend ZTK. Of course, the lovely ladies in Kappa Pi Omega and Delta Theta Sigma Sorority are also part of the excellent LMU Greek organizations. In this post I want to share with you some reasons I decided to pledge Zeta Tau Kappa.

Getting involved
One of the main reasons I pledged was to get more involved in the LMU student body. My sophomore year, I realized that I was not involved in my school as well as I should be. I was involved in band but that was pretty much all I was involved in. So I decided to look at some other organizationsztk bunny. One day, I happened to stumble upon an all-Greek event in front of Liles Hall. I asked a few of the ladies there about their Greek organizations and they all gave me the dates of their open rushes. I attended all of them to find out what organization I would fit in with best and found that out of all the sororities, I fit in best with Zeta Tau Kappa. When I pledged ZTK, I immediately became more involved at LMU; I helped promote other organizations such as Green Dot, and I helped with our sorority events like movies nights in the museum and Zombie tag! If there is anyone out there who feels like they are not involved enough with campus life, then I suggest checking out the sororities and fraternities on campus. They will help you get on the right track!

Community Service
Another reason I pledged was to get more involved in my community. If any of you need some more community service hours, pledging a sorority or fraternity is the way to go. Sororities and fraternities both do a good deal of community service throughout each semester. ZTK volunteers at the animal shelter, with the girl scouts, and during Christmas stuffing boxes full of toys, clothes, and toiletries for low income children in the surronding schools. The ZTK Christmas child is my favorite thing we do. I feel better around the holidays when I am assured that I helped at least one family have a good Christmas. Before I pledged ZTK, I had a lot of trouble trying to find community service hours, but now I get more than enough!

ztk 2013 pledge

I pledged Spring 2012

Great friends
If you decide to pledge a sorority, you will befriend some of the greatest people at LMU. I love getting together with my sorority sisters for meetings, open rushes, study sessions, events and anything else we might do. My favorite event we host is Zombie tag! I will admit that pledging can be very tough and there were some days I thought I might quit, but I am glad I stayed with. When you become part of a sorority, you become part of something better and bigger than yourself. I think our sorority quote embodies that thought the best: individually unique, together complete. We are all unique as individuals but when we join together, we complete are own personal talents. We push each other past our limits and accomplish things we would have never dreamed of. For me, joining a sorority is one of the best decisions I have ever made during my time at LMU. These girls are true sisters and have supported me at my lowest times.

My sisters

My sisters

I understand that Greek life isn’t for everyone, but don’t just assume that you are not cut out for it. My freshman year I thought I would never pledge. I wish I had looked into pledging sooner. So if you are not sure, just go to an all Greek event or an open rush. You will never know if you don’t give it a shot! As I said before, it is one of the best decisions I have ever made. So get out there and see if there is a sorority of fraternity you might be interested in pledging!

Are any of  you readers interested in pledging? If you want some more information just leave me a comment and I will be sure to help if I can, even if you don’t want to pledge ZTK! Remember to like my post and check back with me every other Wednesday for a new post!

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TMNT: Turtles Count it Off!

So I was trying to save this to do after the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie came out but I just cannot contain my geekiness. Now, I am giving Michael Bay the benefit of the doubt here because I am pretty hyped about this movie! I am still a bit iffy after my disappointment in Transformers, but I have high hopes for TMNT. I have deeper roots with this franchise than I think a lot of people my age do –I don’t seem to have too many friends that like TMNT. So, in this post I thought I would share why I love this never-ending series.

90s Series

Nineties turtles

90s turtles

I got started on the Ninja Turtles at a very young age. I can still remember watching the Nineties TMNT movie series with my older sister and cousin when I was around 5. I was actually kind of afraid of these turtles. I guess the puppetry animation kind of scared me, but I liked it better when I got a bit older. Even today, these turtles are probably my least favorite besides the Next Mutation series, which I like to forget ever existed. I like the 90s film series, but I just don’t think it’s the best portrayal of the original comics–but then again, neither was the 1987 series. I’ve also realized over the years that this franchise has a talent for targeting a generation, and I guess I was born a little too late to fully enjoy this particular series; it did start two years before I was actually born!

2003

TMNT 2003

TMNT 2003

The 2003 TV series is the series I relate to the most. I can still remember waking up early every Saturday morning to watch this with my sister. I was about 11 when this series came out, so I followed the story lines better than I did with the 90s series. I like that this series is a little more serious and better mirrors the original Mirage Comics turtles. These turtles also have more complex personalities, while in the earlier series I feel like the turtles have nearly identical attitudes. Aside from these few details, these are the Ninja Turtles I claim as my own. As I mentioned earlier, this franchise is great at targeting certain generations, and these turtles were better targeted at my generation. Not to mention it had the best intro! Here it is if you want to listen to it; I recommend you do.

2012

 I have watched some of the new Nickelodeon series and I like it for the most part. I like to catch when it’s on, and for me it’s a close second to the 2003 series. While I was too young to fully appreciate the 90s series, I sometimes feel that I’m a bit too old to fully enjoy this series. One thing I do not like is the new catch phrase, booyakasha, which I can only assume is some variant of boo-yah. It is not that I completely resent the word, I just wish they would use the cowabunga catch phrase once in a while. However, I will admit that I prefer this animation over any of the other cartoons. I like that in this series I can tell the turtles apart even if they aren’t wearing their mask. I feel that giving each turtle a distinct appearance helps add to their own individual personalities.

Favorite Ninja Turtle

Nick Turtles

Nick Turtles

Obviously, I just cannot write about TMNT and not tell you who my favorite turtle is. My favorite has always been Donatello (the purple one). I love that he’s intelligent and is always inventing something that almost always saves them in the end. And he has the coolest mask, who doesn’t love purple? I may be just a tiny bit biased because Donatello is also my favorite Renaissance artist. Michelangelo is a close second just because he’s so funny and carefree. Who doesn’t love Mikey?

Mikey is so adorable!

Mikey is so adorable!

I could go on about this for several pages, so I won’t go into the 1987 TV series because I’m not that familiar with it. I also will not go into the original 1984 comics either, even though I think it is just awesome. I will tell you they all had red masks in that series. I also won’t talk your ear off about how awesome or bad the new movie is since I haven’t seen it yet, but I have to say that those are some epic turtles. If I was afraid of the 90s turtles I can only imagine how terrified kids are going to be of these turtles. There’s part of me that wishes that the newest turtles looked like they do in the Out of the Shadows game; I think Mikey’s adorable in this game.

2014

2014

Okay, I have officially had my little geek party. I hope there are a few other turtle geeks out there who understand my dilemma or even a few readers who can respect it because they have their own personal geeky overturns. But no one can deny that this series is outdated. TMNT has been remade more than any other franchise I can think of (though I am sure there are several others). There are several generations that can relate to this series and that is what makes it so successful.

What’s your favorite TMNT series? Do you have a favorite turtle? Are you excited about the new movie? I would love to hear from you if you want to drop me a comment. Remember to like my post and don’t forget to check back with me every other Wednesday for a new one!

 

 

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Writing Through Writer’s Block

So for the last few weeks I have been dealing with a severe case of writer’s block. Lately I feel like nothing I have been writing is going anywhere. Sometimes I want to give up, but writing is a vital part of life for me, so that is not an option. I feel like I am finally getting back on track now by helping my friends edit some of their stories and essays, and reading a few new books. I love writing, but I will be the first to admit that sometimes it can be stressful. For me, this has been my longest period of writer’s block. In this post I am going to share a few tips that have gotten me through the past few weeks.

Free Writing

Free writing is nothing new. You just type or write for ten to fifteen minutes about anything you want, and the best part is that you do not have to worry about grammar. I, like many other writers, suggest you free write at least once a day. However, it can be a great resource to turn to during times of writer’s block. Several people have told me that they can’t stand to free write because they find it hard to think of a prompt under a time limit. If you are one of those people, I suggest you find one item in your house a day to write about. That way you do not have to worry about thinking of something to write about. I have also had a few people tell me they do not like free writing because it is boring. I agree that I do not write my most exciting material while free writing, but I have had several great stories stem from free writes.

Listing

Listing is similar to free writing, but I think it is a bit easier. Listing is pretty much how it sounds: you simply make a list of your ideas. When I list, I make note of names, settings, animals, and anything else that may pop into my head. I do not recommend listing on your computer because you may not always have your computer as soon as an idea pops into your head. I like to carry a notebook or notepad around with me so I can write down ideas as soon as I think of them; that way I won’t forget them. Sometimes when I do not have my notebook I will text ideas to myself.

Reading

My philosophy!

My philosophy!

Reading is another great way to get over writer’s block. As with free writing, reading is something that should be a staple in every writer’s life. When you read, you will not only come up with more ideas, but you will also pick up on other writing styles. This will improve your own writing style. If you do not want to read another book at the moment you can find a few short stories to read, or you can even reread a few of your favorite chapters from some of your favorite books. I, for one, reread my Harry Potter books all the time!

Meditating

Sometimes the best thing to do is take a deep breath and think about what you are doing. Meditating will help you put aside any stress and help you think more clearly. When I say meditate, I do not necessarily mean to sit with your legs crossed for an hour. Meditating is something that will help you think. For some  people, exercise is the best meditation. For others it is finding complete silence. For me it is long walks in the park or anywhere there is nature. There may be others who disagree with my definition of meditating but as long as it clears your mind, I do not think it matters.

My thoughts exactly!

My thoughts exactly!

This is my advice to you: even in dry spells, keep writing. I know it can be depressing when it feels like a story isn’t going anywhere, but do not give up. Sometimes the stories you feel are not going anywhere end up being the best. So free write, read, think, send yourself text messages; do whatever it takes. I love to write too much to give it up! It is embedded in my blood by now. For me, this blog has been a lifesaver in these past few weeks. It has helped encourage me to write even in my lowest days. So if you think you are up to it, start a blog; it helps!

Have any of these tips helped you? Do you have advice of your own? Either way I would love to hear from you! So leave me a comment and remember to check back every other Wednesday for another post!

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A Healthier Summer

This summer I have really buckled down and focused on getting in shape. I have made it a point to eat better, drink more water, and to exercise on a regular basis. I also get plenty of exercise at the summer camps at the National Fitness Center where I work. The best part of working at the NFC is the free employee membership! As a member, I have access to the main workout area, the cardio theatre, the pool, and fitness classes. I have managed to drop a few pounds, and I have never felt better. I have also made it a point to refer to this as a lifestyle change instead of a diet because I feel like diets always end in disaster. A lifestyle change sounds more permanent. Also, while this has not been easy, it has been way more successful than any diet I have ever tried. In this post, I want to share a few healthy changes I have made this summer.

PiYo

piyo

PiYo

I have made it a point to exercise on a regular basis. I especially enjoy taking fitness classes at the NFC. One of my favorite classes is PiYo. PiYo is a mixture of Pilates and Yoga. It builds strength and flexibility and it is an amazing workout. I always come out sweating, but I feel stronger every time I take it. The first time I took the class, I just wanted to leave and never come back; my legs and sides were sore for three days! However, I refused to give up and started to go twice a week. Now it is one of my favorite classes. One accomplishment I have made in this class is doing a plank for five minutes. I have very weak arms, so for me this was a big deal.

Zumba

zumba

Zumba! I’m in the back in the light blue!

Zumba is another class I enjoy taking and it is by far my favorite workout. It is a lot of fun and you don’t have to be an expert dancer to take it. I will admit I was a little lost at first but now that I have gotten the moves down, I have realized that I love to dance. Zumba is a great workout because you have such a great time that you do not even realize you are working out. (And believe me, it’s an intense workout.) On average, I burn about six hundred calories a class. I highly recommend Zumba if you want to exercise but don’t necessarily like to lift weights or run on the treadmill– you will get a full body workout and plenty of cardio. Plus, you will have a great time; I know I do! I am always sore afterwards, but it is worth it for the workout.

Eating right

Eating right is probably the hardest part of weight loss. Sometimes eating healthy takes more work, healthybut it is worth it in the end. One thing I have learned this past summer is that you can have some “bad” food every now and then, it just shouldn’t be the majority of your diet. I’ve also learned that staying hydrated will help curb your appetite and give you extra energy. I have given up soda for good and am slowly making myself give up juice from concentrate. I have found that eating healthy and working out go hand-in-hand. Healthy food gives you the energy to work out, and working out gives you the motivation to eat healthy. A few healthy foods I enjoy are egg white omelets, baked Cajun chicken, Greek yogurt, and fruit cups filled with grapes, apples, blueberries and fresh peaches.

Personally, this has been a productive summer. So far I have lost fifteen pounds and I am not going to stop there. The tricky part will be carrying my new healthy lifestyle back to LMU. I am determined to balance my new healthy lifestyle with classes, school work, and my job. I have been looking up workout videos online, and I will have to schedule in some cardio and healthy meals, but I am confident I can do it. For me, this is about health. I want to be healthy more than anything else, and I have not felt this healthy for a few years. Honestly, I can’t remember a time I felt this good about myself. I know fifteen pounds really isn’t a huge accomplishment, but it is a start.

So how is your summer going? Do you have any health accomplishments you want to share? Or do you have/want advice? If so, please leave me a comment, and remember to like my post and check back every other Wednesday for a new one!

 

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Animals of My Heart

I’m an animal lover. I love cats, dogs, mules, lizards, and many more. I’m not sure why I’ve always loved animals; there really isn’t anyone in my family who cares too much for them. I’ve just always been able to connect with them for some reason. I will admit that I don’t like every single animal out there; I don’t care for black rats and I hate bugs! For me personally, I have always been most content when I have the companionship of an animal. Growing up I have been lucky to befriend a few animals and I have been blessed with the time I have been able to spend with them. So in this post, I am going to share a few of my special animal companions with you.

Dogs

Reilly

So I’ll be honest, I’m a total cat person. For some reason, every time I tell people that they immediately ask, “Why do you hate dogs?” I don’t hate dogs; I just don’t like them as well as cats, but I do like them. Dogs are faithful, loving, and you can train them to do all kinds of things. I especially like hound dogs; I just love those floppy ears! The only dog I have ever owned was a blue tick hound, pointer mix named Reilly. Reilly was a sweet and faithful dog. He loved to go on walks with me and loved me to scratch his back. And he could never learn how to play fetch. I would throw him a tennis ball and he would run away with it!

Mules

I have always loved mules. I think mules are friendlier than donkeys yet less skittish than horses. I never owned a mule since I live in a sub division, but my great uncle owned the sweetest mule named Blue. When my sister and I used to visit, I would bring a bag of apples and carrots to feed him. Blue loved it when I scratched his muzzle and he would always follow me around because I always gave him so many treats!

Cats

Padmé

So now it’s time for my favorite animal, cats. I am a total, crazy cat lady and I am proud of it. I love cats because they’re loving, but they aren’t as intense as dogs. They may not want attention every time you want to give it to them, but they’re more than willing to snuggle up in your lap at the end of the day. My first pet, Angel, was the most loyal pet I have ever owned. She used to cuddle with me, play with me, and even kills bugs for me until the day she died when she was ten and I was thirteen. I’ve had three other cats since her. I got my kitten Smokey a few weeks after Angel died but she was stolen from me after a year. I adopted a year old black cat named Padmé a few months later.Padmé was more skittish than Smokey and Angel were so she didn’t like many other people besides me. She died my sophomore year at LMU during finals. I had a hard time coming to terms with her death because it was so sudden and unexpected. I’ve recently adopted a new cat, Spock. He is actually the first male cat I have ever owned. He seems to like his new home even if he did get stuck in a tree his first day!

Anatole France once said “until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” I can still remember what it was like that first night Angel came home. I was very young but I felt something I had never felt before, and I’ve never been able to live without that feeling since. I remember how my heart shattered when Angel, Reilly, and Padme died. Sometimes I still stay up at night wondering if Smokey is still alive. And sometimes, I worry that something will happen to Spock. I understand now why my parents were so hesitant when I used to ask to adopt an animal. It has to be so hard to watch your child cry over their dead pet. When you adopt an animal, there is always a possibility that something will happen. I have had to deal with my own share of heartbreak, but if I had a chance to go back in time, I would still adopt Angel and all of my other animals, even if it would lead to the same outcomes. Every moment I spent with them was worth it because I loved them, and there is no one in this world who could convince me that they did not love me too.

Do you have any pets? I am always up for talking about animals if you want to leave a comment. And remember to like my post and check back every other Wednesday for a new one!

 

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A Musical Journey

I’ve been in band ever since I was 10 and cannot imagine my life without it. So naturally when I first came to LMU I immediately auditioned for band. You may have read my post “Get Jazzy” that encompasses my experiences playing saxophone. In that post I briefly mentioned that I played clarinet but I have actually played a variety of instruments over the years. My musical journey started when I was 10, and hopefully will never end. In this post, I would like to share the experiences I have had on my journey so far.

Squeaky Beginnings:

My story begins with a hand-me-down clarinet. When I first joined band in the 5th grade I wanted to play flute, but I had to settle for clarinet because my cousin had an old one I could use. And thus, a musician was born! I played that squeaky little instrument until clarinetI got to high school. Well actually that’s not completely true; I did try playing oboe but it didn’t quite work out, and I did play bass clarinet one year in middle school. By my freshman year of high school it was back to clarinet and I wasn’t too thrilled. I wasn’t bad at it by any means; I got first chair in my school band all the way through middle school. I love clarinet but it just wasn’t for me. After my first year of high school I knew it was time for a change.

Moving to Tenor:

When I made the change from clarinet to tenor sax, I knew I had made the right choice. The clarinet was my first love but tenor sax was my true love. The instrument was a perfect fit, and I made quick progress the two years I played it in high school. I will admit that sometimes when I marched I did miss clarinet. A clarinet is lighter and easier to march, but I enjoyed playing saxophone too much to dwell on that thought for long. I took every opportunity I had to play it and ended up playing for a community band, an all-state band, and of course my high school band.

Moving to Bari

By the time senior year rolled around, my school’s baritone saxophone had caught my eye and I wanted to give it a go since our bari sax player had graduated. Now baribefore you judge me for cheating on my tenor, you have to understand what a magnificent instrument the baritone saxophone is. It’s big, it has a big looped neck, and the sound is so deep! And we needed a bari sax that year so I got the okay from my band director, packed up my tenor for a year and played bari. I had thought my tenor was heavy, but you can only imagine how heavy the bari was. This instrument was truly a beast. It was significantly larger than my tenor; I actually had trouble reaching some of my keys because my fingers weren’t long enough! I also had to wear a harness when I marched it so I wouldn’t strain my neck. The bari sax also marked a significant point in my life. My senior year was a year full of change and switching to the bari sax was one of those changes and I’m glad I got that experience.

Back to Tenor and New Experiences Ahead:

Even though I enjoyed my year of playing bari sax, I missed my tenor. After I graduated I got my tenor back out and started practicing for my audition at LMU. I now play tenor in the concert band, pep band, and jazz band here at LMU. I take saxophone lessons with Dr. Carucci and even took a semester of clarinet lessonstenor with him. My college experience has not marked the end of learning how to play new instruments. My musical experiences at college have actually allowed me to pick up a few new instruments; I took a semester of guitar and am still continuing to practice on my own until I can fit guitar lessons into my schedule again. Also, as part as my requirement as a music minor, I have to take a semester of piano, so I get to learn how to play that too! I am lucky to have had opportunities in my life that have allowed me to improve as a musician. My life my take me to faraway places that I cannot even imagine right now, but the experiences I have had with music will stick with me for the rest of my life.

So what are some of your experiences with music? I would love to hear all about them if you want to leave me a comment, and please remember to like my post and check back in with me every other Wednesday for a new post!

 

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