Keirartworks's Blog

hmmm. hmmm? Observations, actions and connection points through art.


sitting bones

This morning’s cold has made the rain weightless.  As I watch from my third floor window I can feel the pull and flow of ocean, save that it’s air – currents made visible by tiny crystals of frozen water.  The north wind, playing.

My walk at dawn was full of the promise of this; I’m glad to be in the saddle now watching it happen.


The saddle today is all about music education – not just classical, not just conventional, but real and applied like a cord that weaves through every part of life (in Austria the bricklayers sing opera as they work). I’ve got alot of ground to cover from now to Sunday evg – on familiar roads, abandoned roads, through fields, bush and escarpment on animal trails – always pulling this cord (chord?) of an idea through it all.  (I’m tempted* to play a little with this idea (like the North Wind) and pull up the Minotaur in the Labyrinth myth….)


There are models out there that answer the need for a strong, universal program for kids to learn and play music.  Every one of them needs to be altered to fit the place they will be.  Every one of them needs strong advocates on the ground, a solid team of non-competitive, collaborative teacher/player/coaches, and the clear understanding that without including and involving the parents, the community will never engage, the bricklayers will never sing on their scaffolds.


There will be some valuable breaks from the computer – practise on cello & viola & piano, learning vocal lyrics, arrangements; rehearsing & playing a great benefit gig for the Phillippines with great friends (& incredible players); hikes in the playful snow.  Through it all my heart and head will still be in the saddle here, building a good plan.  I love this work.  Love it, love it.

detail of 4'x4' painting in progress:  D-ring snaffle bit

detail of 4’x4′ painting in progress: D-ring snaffle bit

I have the bit in my teeth now and girth snug on my belly – I’m both horse and rider, and we’re off.  See you on Sunday if you live here. Have a great weekend, wherever you are,  if you don’t.  ‘Hope you get to play.

Here’s the Phillippines poster:

calm in the eye poster1(1)


*maybe later, since it would require a pretty serious re-write.  I’m not sure that the bull-headed beast is a bad thing that needs to die in this version, and not sure we need one hero (we need many). Cut or change Theseus’ motivation, re-write Ariadne’s lines, keep the labyrinth as a metaphor for accepting what you don’t and cannot know until you’ve gone the distance,  give the Minotaur an archetypal weight and purpose because we need him, there’s always a scary beast….

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Soil change

These days the greater part of my awareness is below the ground amid the roots of plants I’ve put there  – encouraging them to reach down, to spread through the warm rich mix of compost, loam and peat moss I’ve made for them  – drink drink, feed, grow.

Above ground the signs are good – everyone is standing up tall and strong, producing flowering buds (some for the first time in years) and spreading out as far as possible to catch the sun.

my favourite elm, leafing out again over the north garden

my favourite elm, leafing out again over the north garden

These plants are themselves the meeting point of earth and sun – where miracles occur.  No matter how often I witness this burst of spring growth I’m still astonished by it.

What a will to live and be huge!  What tenacity! – to come out from under three feet of snow and in two short weeks grow from dormancy to golden green and glorious and sweet sweet scent and bloom!

these blossoms are SO heavy - most years their stems can't hold them up, esp after a rain.  Strong stems this year....

these blossoms are SO heavy – most years their stems can’t hold them up, esp after a rain. Strong stems this year….

We exist in partnership, these plants and I.  They cannot choose where they will grow, are entirely reliant upon my attention for this.  Some feel aversion to others and demand to be moved elsewhere.  Some need more space, some need more sun, others less, some more water, some want their roots exposed, other need them deeply covered – I can hear them telling me if I listen properly.  Once they’re settled where they want to be though – the miracles happen – Ah!  What joy.

I believe it is also this way with music education.

celli rehearsing for trio performance in Kiwanis Music Festival this April

celli rehearsing for trio performance in Kiwanis Music Festival this April

Here in this small small town that has witnessed so many big musical triumphs by it’s young musicians, we are in need of a soil change and some enlightened educational planning.  There are very young players who have no access to decent instruments (soil), positive and consistent guidance into proper technique and a regular place to play together (sun).   Very few schools offer string programs now, save for two exceptionally strong programs to the east.  Strings are the heart of any orchestra – without them you can’t play the beautiful classics that so inspire kids to make the world a better place.

OSCVI is a highschool 150 + years old with a rich musical tradition that I am and so many others are a product of – this year the orchestra program at OSCVI was cancelled, for lack of string players.  For me, and for so many others who were enriched by the music from OSCVI, this feels like a sucker punch.

This is not acceptable, to have no school orchestra in this town.

I don’t believe it – that kids don’t want to play stringed instruments anymore.

They are there – the kids who want to play.  They are there, the parents who will support them.  They’re just not getting any sunlight.

Edouard Bartlett - a great gardener of young players.  Photo by John Newton of Ed at Heinl's with a Stradavarius violin, looking cheeky.

Edouard Bartlett – a great gardener of young players. Photo by John Newton of Ed at Heinl’s with a Stradavarius violin, looking cheeky.

We need to change this.  We really really do.  Music allows kids to blossom in a way that academic achievement never will.  In fact, learning to play an instrument well, and in concert with others can only support academic achievement – but this is a by-product.

The real benefit of playing music with your peers is that you learn step into your confidence, accept who you are, respect yourself and others, and learn how to love learning.

Then miracles happen.

Shall we prepare to be astonished?

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January 2013

A fog-laden wind sifts through tree boughs to the northwest.  Into my left ear the presto drip of snowmelt on metal roof is punctuated by a random slide, thunk of heavier stuff pulled to ground.  On my lap, the steady, thundering purr of kitten.

The dark outside is thick with visible air, like stirred winter stew. It feels almost balmy after these minus 29 degree days so I’m tempted to stay out…  but no.   To inside, under thick blankets. To listen, not look.

And here, like a gift, like a soul’s massage, is the heavy rain.

It’s been travel travel for me these past weeks, through the bustling silence of January 2013.  Not what I had expected.  The first month of the year in this place has always had the sensibility of a well-caught breath.  For me it’s always held the promise of a month of stacked, not linear time – so that ‘was’, ‘is’ and ‘will be’ are all in the same moment.  This makes it oh so much easier to find and feel the “Ah.  Yes”  – the insight that will become the engine for the following months and years.

Oddly enough – even amid the schedule and the travel and the deadlines, the all-nighters, the practise and the rehearsals, the cover letters and the interviews, the Wagner, the B&B and the Beethoven, this has still happened.  There is clarity even in this fog of winter stew, and I feel quite deeply certain about a few key things.

KG, I need an axe song – can we talk?  L, I need a couple of songs from you too.  Owen Sound – we need to make good music education available to every kid in this place – and soon.  I’m not kidding about this – in another well-identified post I will gather links and information to illustrate beyond any doubt what is possible here.   To the women of #IdleNoMore – I get it.  Thank you for opening a place where we can all talk and heal together.  G, I get where we’re going, and it’s good.  T, thanks & good luck with the simplification project.  F, L  – courage.  Darlin D – well done.

Oh I feel blessed.