When I look back over the last few posts, I realize that they are more Eva- than Ian-heavy. That’s because Eva and I are doing more face-to-face exploration together than Ian and I are. Ian’s 12 now, and branching out to classes and projects that have less and less to do with my direct teaching of anything. Most of his work – especially in the music world – has long since required expertise beyond what I have to offer.
It’s exciting stuff, and I’m watching his musical personality unfold in his many and varied activities. He composes all the time – pop, rock, ballads, jazz, latin, orchestral work, classical marimba – there aren’t many genres that he’s not excited about. Sometimes this composing happens on the computer, Ian typing out lyrics and singing them out while he goes. Sometimes, like last night, it’s well past his bedtime, and he quickly records himself belting out a few reminder lines on his cellphone. The orchestrated pieces he creates using the computer software Finale. My “assignment” for him this year is to become proficient in Cubase, a computer program that is more useful for creating realistic sounding recordings of his work. I know nothing about Cubase, so the only help I can provide is in the form of library and internet resources, and perhaps a mentor or two.
If put all together, Ian probably works on music in some form approximately 3-4 hours each day. This breaks down to two hours of daily band rehearsal at the high school, approximately one hour of composing work, and one hour of practice. And then there is musical exposure – listening to jazz masters, watching Coldplay music videos, dancing to Gangnam Style and it’s various parodies; that happens off and on all the time and is difficult to quantify in terms of time spent. To be real, this level of work doesn’t happen every day, and those Magic the Gathering trading cards will often grab his attention much more firmly than the musical task at hand.
Folks who don’t know better might wonder what kind of Tiger Mama I am. 3-4 hours?? For reals! But the truth of the matter is that my main purpose and task as a homeschooling mom is to give Ian the intensive, high quality academic experience he desires while opening up as much free creative time as possible for him to pursue his truest love. This was my commitment to him from the beginning, and as he gets older, I find my job as manager increases as my role as teacher decreases. The only academic teaching I directly provide at this point is history. Between public school, his online class, and internet resources, the rest is pretty much taken care of.
Over the past few months, Ian has become more deeply involved in a wide variety of musical projects and has ambitious goals for the rest of the year. They’re so exciting, I’m going to share some of them here:
- Home record and share his increasing number of original compositions
- Continue composing in all the genres I mentioned above, including songs for his band Hex Radio, songs for his other group Flash, marimba trios for his high school wind ensemble, and other pieces as they come up
- Increase performance opportunities for both solo and band work
- Become proficient in Cubase
- Explore and apply for several categories of Downbeat’s Student Music Awards (there is a lot of prep work for this process, and though it is incredibly competitive, the work involved is a worthy pursuit even if no award is won)
- Prepare for various upcoming festivals and all-state auditions
- Rework his website
Coming up on November 9th, the University of Mary Jazz band will be performing Ian’s arrangement of John Coltrane’s “Bessie’s Blues.” This was his major music theory project last year, and after dozens of tweaks and last minute changes, we think it’s finally ready for public presentation. We are so thrilled about this event – I’m downright giddy for it. And tomorrow night he’ll have his first solo gig… ever, I believe. He’s downstairs right now rehearsing; he’ll be singing and playing keyboard – mostly originals.
One of the things he’s most excited about is a budding collaboration between him and Isabella Taylor, a tremendous young visual artist out of Austin, Texas. I’m not going to give any spoilers here – the project will be months in the making, and you’ll just have to be on pins and needles until they unveil. But I’ll tell you this – it’s unlike anything he’s ever done before. It will be fun to see what they come up with together.
With all this work – all these goals – you can see why 3-4 hours each day isn’t so unreasonable. It’s what he wakes up wanting to do and craves all day. In fact, his only criticism of his schedule this year is that there isn’t more time to do music.
It’s like this with intense kids. We parents are just doing our best to keep up, provide the time and resources our kids need, and make sure they go to bed at a decent hour and eat three meals a day. Oh, and brush their teeth and all too. And put on a jacket. And you know, the little things.
If you have similar experiences with your kids, I’d love to hear about them. How do you help your intense kids manage their time? And how successful are you at helping them find open space for creative pursuits? Share your tips! We’d love to hear them.
Oh, and before you go, check out this song that Ian and his buddy Ty from Flash! recorded the other week. Good fun!
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