On Friday, May 10th, Prodigy hosted its 2nd all-ages open-mic night. We had a great group of performers and there was some great talent on display in our intimate little setting. A special thanks to our very own Natasha Kozaily for hosting the evening and assisting the performers with their musical needs. We heard everything from modern pop to solo piano pieces and we were blessed to have a good amount of non-student performers as well. This is the whole reason we started our awesome open-mic. We want people of all ages and musical styles to come and show their stuff!
If you are at all interested in performing in our next open-mic, we are holding it in conjunction with our kids and teens art show on June 7th, from 6:0 to 8:00pm. Come sign up beforehand and let everyone hear what you can do! There will also be some amazing art on display by our kids and teens, so it should prove to be a lovely evening! Come join us!
As we drove up the mountain towards my family’s village, my eyes feasted on the street scenes that played like a movie through the car window. I saw the hope of Lebanon as we passed the beautiful gold stone architecture of Centre Ville with its high-end stores, cafes and restaurants. I felt the pain of war as we drove through streets where homes were still wounded with bullet holes. And I felt the adrenaline of life as it played before my eyes in conversations, smiles, kisses and car horns. Although this was not my first time in my father’s homeland, this visit, like all the rest, felt like the first.
I saw my grandmother’s face peering over the balcony as we approached her house. Dressed in black and a smile, she greeted me with kisses and a stream of affectionate words of love and nicknames. Days at my grandmother’s house passed by quickly in a cluster of boiling pots, a tummy full of Lebanese food, fresh fruit, coffee, orange sunsets on the Mediterranean Sea and the soft whisper of her prayers under her grape-vine veranda at twilight. I truly love this time with my Teta (the Lebanese word for grandmother) where I am left to fend for myself in broken Lebanese and sign language as I try explaining to her that walking barefoot around the house is totally cool. She stubbornly disagrees as she chases me around the house with a pair of slippers, shouting ‘Shay! Shay!” as if summoning a pot of hot tea from the heavens to drop down on my head and prevent me from catching a cold. My Island girl ways have often reminded me of the great difference between the Lebanese side of the family and myself. But despite our disputes on barefoot living and other western-Caribbean traits of mine, I have always felt nothing but love and acceptance. As much as I enjoyed all the time spent with my family, I was yearning to spend my vacation in Lebanon a little differently than I had in the past.
I decided to volunteer my time at St. Joseph Orphanage, which was located a few miles from our village. When I arrived, the nuns were thrilled to have a music and art teacher as well as the students, whose days were filled with only Math, Language and Science. They did not let the opportunity of my presence pass them by and every hour I taught a full classroom of almost 25 students until the bell rang at the end of the day. My resources and language skills were limited, but luckily with music and art you don’t need a large vocabulary. The children, who were between the ages of 5 and 11, were thrilled to have me and giggled at my invented language of Arabic, French, English and funny facial expressions.
Upon arrival on my second day at the orphanage, the children greeted me in a giant mob fighting to hold my hand, pass me flowers and notes and shouting my name “Ms. Natasha! Ms. Natasha!” I will always remember one little boy who proudly herded me through the crowd of children to my classroom. I spent the week teaching nursery rhymes on recorders, playing games of improvisation with an electric keyboard and handmade percussion instruments and of course, musical chairs! Towards the end of the week I taught them how to draw a self-portrait, make butterflies with multi-color paper and create Aboriginal-inspired art with black construction paper and acrylic paint.
The week passed to quickly and on the last day I found it hard to pull myself from the group of children I came to love. That time spent sharing and creating at St. Joseph Orphanage has given me one of the greatest experiences of my life. As I grew up in the safety and warmth of the Caribbean Sun, these orphans were growing up in the landscape of a war-torn country full of uncertainty. Seeing how happy they were to make music and color their lives with paint made me understand first-hand the power of art to communicate cross-culturally and touch lives. I now wake every day with a grateful heart and a hope that through my art and life I can continue to give. Thank you for reading.
~Contributed by Natasha Kozaily, Vocal & Piano Instructor
We are extremely excited to introduce to you the latest addition to our staff, Erin McCaughin. She is currently available for piano and voice lessons both in the studio and in your home. Please contact the studio for more information or to schedule a lesson today!
A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Erin McCaughin is a mezzo-soprano who from a young age found a deep love and connection to singing and expression through music. She began her formal classical training while pursuing a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance under the instruction of Enrique Toral at San Diego State University where she was an active member of the SDSU Chamber Singers and Concert Choir. She then continued her academic studies in Utah, where she graduated with her Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance from Brigham Young University in 2011. At BYU, she studied under Dr. Lawrence Vincent, and participated in Opera Workshop and Opera Scenes Performances. Alongside her classical vocal studies, she kept busy with her participation in the university’s choirs, including the internationally recognized touring choir, the BYU Singers.
With the BYU Singers, Erin was afforded numerous performing opportunities, including performances with the King’s Singers and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and participating in televised PBS broadcasts, including the choral and orchestral program, The Pilgrim’s Journey Home. In 2011, she performed with the BYU Singers at the ACDA National Convention in Chicago and toured Colorado and Wyoming for two weeks. Upon graduation, Erin relocated to San Diego to pursue her musical career. She sang with Full Measure Carolers in their 2011 Holiday season. Erin was a winner of the 2011 FanFaire Foundation Messiah Soloists’ Competition, and sang the Alto arias from Handel’s Messiah with the Greater San Diego Community Orchestra, directed by Angela Yeung, in December 2011. She continues to pursue local performing opportunities and is equally at home performing jazz and musical theatre repertoire. Erin teaches voice and piano lessons at Prodigy School of Arts, and is currently accepting students of all ages and musical backgrounds. Erin is a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing.
Teaching is the process of passing knowledge from one being to another. I’ve passed on a lot of musical knowledge – lines, spaces, letters, numbers – to more people than I ever thought I would over the past three and a half years of teaching at Prodigy. What surprised me is how much give and take teaching has turned out to be. I’ve given much but have received just as much, or even more, in return. I’ve received an education in education. Being a music teacher has made me a better musician, and for that I’m very grateful.
It’s not very common that one gets to do their passion as a paid job but in this case I got lucky. Making music keeps me sane. For me, singing and playing piano relieves stress and anxiety and allows creative juices to flow. Unfortunately life sometimes gets in the way and the business of a full time job, family, friends, and pets puts music on the back burner. This is partly why I’ve loved teaching so much – I’m forced into the studio, to devote time to sitting in front of the piano, to sing, practice and create. I will miss this time immensely, just as I’ll miss spending time with each student weekly.
During my teaching career I’ve taught students from age four to so old they wouldn’t tell me their age. It has been stimulating and challenging learning the nuances of teaching each different age group and learning style. Everyone learns differently and I’ve tried to reach each student, some of whose brains learn very differently than mine! Most of my students have been children and I’m grateful for the fun of bringing back to life my inner child – as an adult it’s easy to forget the silliness and innocence of being a child.
I thank each and every one of my students and their families for their commitment to a musical education. I hope you will continue to further yours and your children’s musical skills, as they are skills that constantly test the brain and will be useful for the rest of your lives. It has been a pleasure working with and getting to know each of you!
Contributed by Anna Roberts,
Vocal & Piano Instructor
The violin is perhaps second in prominence only to the piano in the Western musical tradition. With its huge repertoire of solo music and its esteemed position in ensembles from the string quartet up to the full symphony orchestra, it is known to nearly the whole world over. And of course, the three big composers of classical music — Bach, Mozart and Beethoven — have widely known pieces for the instrument, many of which are used in the plethora of technique and theory books we have today.
But to play the violin — say, to play Bach's Partita no. 3 in E major — is much more than pure technique and goes farther than even theory and musicianship. It's about joy and passion and creativity and happiness. I spent three years of my life being bored to tears by composers like Bach and Mozart. Why? The simple answer is that I had ceased to care about the technique and the theory, and honestly I was no longer having fun with them. But through the guidance of several great teachers (who were, incidentally, working with me on fields completely unrelated to violin — one of them was a sociologist) I not only rekindled a passion for music but suddenly started to understand what Bach was about. Enjoying famed violinist Itzhak Perlman playing the Chaconne from Partita no. 2 has almost nothing to do with the man's technique. There is a strange and exhilarating depth to Bach, despite how simple he seems on the surface.
So reject the idea that technical prowess is everything. There are robots now that can play piano and violin with technical facility equal to — or even greater than — a human. Violin is a beautiful instrument (often given a “feminine” role in contrast to the piano's perceived “masculinity”) with a rich tradition, but ultimately music is about love. The potential creative talent of one person is enormous if found and given the chance for expression. I will leave you with a quote from Kahlil Gibran's poem :
“If you sing of beauty though alone in the heart of the desert you will have an audience.”
--This article was contributed by Frank S. Li, Prodigy's stings instructor.