From Tokyo to Hamamatsu, via Dango-zaka, Oshino Hakkai and a view of Mount Fuji

From the Japan Air Self-Defense facilities, we were on the road again, first by motor coach then by Shinkansen or bullet train. Bullet trains have been used in Japan since the 1960s. We are WAY behind on this technology and ability to travel with speed.

We had lunch at Dango-zaka rest area and it was like a Buc-ees! They had food, souvenirs, lovely restrooms and gas. What else can you ask for? The dining there was a food court situation and as I looked through the picture menus (my reading of Japanese is minimal) but I found a picture of  zaru soba (cold buckwheat noodles with a chilled broth) that struck a nostalgia nerve and I knew that was going to be my lunch. I was proud of my ability to order in Japanese and it be understood as well. This was only our first full day in Japan and I was very nervous about how rusty my Japanese speaking skills were.

Also, as I was waiting to put in my order, one of the folks on the trip was having communication issues on how to order his meal at the next restaurant over. They apparently order via a touch screen machine off to the side. You know how Americans tend to speak louder when there’s a language barrier? Apparently, it’s not just Americans! I was able to help translate what my fellow traveler was to do for this lovely couple (I can’t remember who it was, though) and they were able to order their meal. Proud moment there – my Japanese wasn’t as extremely rusty as I had thought!!

So, here’s my yummy lunch from the rest stop:


The broth is at the bottom left and you dump as much of the green onions, radish and wasabi into it as you’d like, then dip the noodles in before eat

ing. You dip your tempura in that broth as well. It obviously wasn’t homemade but it was certainly yummy!

Once we were done with eating and shopping (the first of many shopping stops) and taking pictures, we headed back on the bus to head to Oshino Hakkai¬†and have a great view of Mount Fuji. There are 8 ponds there that are all fed from the water than comes off Fuji Yama and that water is COLD! The scenery is absolutely spectacular, even when she (Mount Fuji is thought to be a woman with many moods) isn’t wanting to cooperate and has covered herself over with clouds. Or maybe she was not sure what she was in for wit

h the load of crazy Texas band directors coming her way!


As we approached the area, we spotted a theme park with several large roller coasters. Six Flags over Mount Fuji anyone?


Of course, there was more shopping, lots of food and great scenery. Our hosts, Ken & Yuriko Murakami and Tomomi Kubo were also delightful in taking photos with as many of us! Many went ahead with hand signs of their respective universities but I choose the typical Japanese peace sign. I have too many university hand signs to deal with!




Once the shopping was done and pictures were taken, we were back on the road again to Mishima Station, where we’d take our first Shinkansen ride (bullet train) ¬†to Hamamatsu. These bullet trains are SO fast! I got a video of one passing as we waited for ours. There is a chunk of it that is in slo-motion (I love the features of my iPhone!!) but understand that the train passed by in about 10 seconds. Crazy fast!! Often times, people commute via Shinkansen and on the way home, they need to eat dinner. So, you get a bento box and a beer and have a party on the train! Cliff and I had our own little bento box party. Here’s my bento box, complete with the actual wasabi root that you have to grind yourself. SO much more tasty!





So that was our full first day in Japan. Next part of our journey are the several days we spent in Hamamatsu.

If you’d like to see all the pictures of this day, please view them in my Flickr account:

More adventures, food and shopping (always shopping) to come!

Japan 2018 – Tokyo, part 1

2 years ago, a bunch of my friends went to Japan and posted a ton of pictures on Facebook. I found out who organized the trip (Thank you, Keith Bearden) and decided right then and there that I was going on this trip the next time it was offered. And I did! The next few blog posts will be about various parts of our trip to Japan.

We begin with our trip from Austin>Dallas>Tokyo.

Cliff (my friend and Japan travel buddy) and I took the Megabus from Austin to Dallas. Turned out that Yvonne, who was my trip roommate had also taken the same bus so it was a little bit of a party on the Megabus. Once we got to Dallas, Cliff & I Ubered to our Airbnb, which was a lovely guest suite inside this gorgeous home owned by Nazare & Eric in Flower Mound. If you need to stay somewhere in the DFW area, I highly recommend looking into her Airbnb. She uses the money she makes from her rental to support a family in a 3rd world country overseas that one of her children worked with. They are beautiful people and I hope to spend more time with them in the future!

The next morning, we Ubered to the airport and I left my phone in the Uber. Thank goodness we had several hours before we boarded our flight, hadn’t gone through security yet AND Cliff had called the Uber because we were able to get the phone back without any issues and get our trip actually started. Once through security, we met up with 46 of who would become our closest friends at the gate.

We finally boarded our flight, which was about 13 hours long and began our journey to the Orient. 13 hours is a long flight and although we had all the luxuries offered by coach on JAL, I was tired of being on an airplane!



Cliff and I were certainly happy to be off the airplane as we loaded our suitcases into the truck at Narita airport. By the way, THAT’S the way to travel with 48 people – have a truck move all the suitcases from hotel to hotel! And this was a cool truck, too. The door opened on the side, much like a transformer. Actually, quite a few things in Japan opened and shut like a transformer.



From there, we bussed to our hotel, the New Otani Inn, had dinner at the Yebisu Bar nearby, where you can get amazing Yebisu beer that you can’t get in the US anymore, and my cousin Shigemasa joined us after work. I didn’t get a picture of us, though. I was too tired yet excited and forgot.

The next morning, we checked out of our hotel, loaded up the motor coach with slippers and a gift and headed to the Japan Air Self-Defense Base. All the “military” forces in Japan are called “Self-Defense” because after WWII, Japan signed an agreement to not have their own military anymore. They are allowed to defend themselves, however, which is how the various Self-Defense forces came to be. We got a tour of their band facilities and they played a wonderful concert for us!

For pictures from this portion of the trip, please see my Flickr albums:
Japan Air Self-Defense Force Band

Stay tuned for the next portion of our adventure!

So, you want to be a music performance major?

I’ve had a few students who have recently come to me, wanting to be music performance majors when they get to college. Students I’ve talked to about becoming a music major have all been interested in one day becoming a band director so this was a bit of a new thought process. The most recent student is mid-way through sophomore year so¬†I feel like it’s critical to get everything¬†on the right track now. So, here are some things I’ve come up with.¬†If I’ve left anything out, please add in the comments.

  • Start private lessons with a college professor.
  • Skype lessons with as many¬†professional musicians as I can connect with them.
  • Summer programs like Tanglewood or Interlochen.
  • Find as many performance gigs as possible.
  • Figure out where professional¬†performers went to school and look into the current procedures of auditioning at those locations.

What else?

Thanks for any input in advance.

Movin’ right along

Well, I’m moving. Again.

In case you didn’t see the FB post, I’ve been hired as the Director of Bands at Tascosa HS, a 5A high school in Amarillo, TX. I’m really excited about the new job! We have a BAND-tastic creative team in place with Daniel Montoya, Jr., composer, Daniel Wiles, drill writer, and Nick Angelis writing the drum book. I have an amazing staff (minus one for the brief moment) and an incredibly supportive administration. What else could a girl want?

MOVERS. I hate packing and I have a lot of stuff! I have plenty of boxes and packing material and I’m very blessed to have Angela helping me pack this weekend. I’m also very blessed that my current landlord is letting me store my packed boxes in an empty unit in my building. That helps SO MUCH because it gives me room to keep building and packing boxes. I can do this.

I’m picking up the truck on Monday and the movers are coming Monday afternoon to load the truck and we leave on Tuesday morning for Amarillo via Austin. Clipford has been in Austin with my parents then with my sister and brother-in-law so I’m picking him up on my way to Amarillo on Tuesday.

Any suggestions on how to move plants? I have quite a few of various sizes that will need to be moved and because I need to leave room in my car for Clipford and his stuff, I don’t think I’ll be able to put them in my car. I’ve put a lot of work into potting and caring for them, I’d hate to leave them behind.

Okay, I’m grungy and tired so more packing will happen tomorrow. For now, shower then bed. G’night.

Love you, mean it!

There’s no such thing…

…as a free weekend when you’re in grad school! Here’s what’s due on Monday:

20th Century Music History:

  • 1964 Timeline –¬†DONE!
  • 1965 Timeline –¬†DONE!
  • Copland composer report¬†–¬†DONE!
  • Create 2 test questions¬†–¬†DONE!
  • Read pgs 50-137¬†–¬†In progress.
  • Bibliography (so far)¬†–¬†DONE!
  • Paper Outline¬†–¬†DONE!

I also have to have ready:

  • Lesson plan for Mr. McInturf’s “How To Be A Band Director” class (I’m teaching them about Charms on Monday).¬†–¬†DONE!
  • Lesson plan for Wind Ensemble rehearsal, which includes more score study, of course.¬†–¬†DONE!(can score study ever actually be “done”?)

Personally, I need to do:

  • Laundry¬†–¬†DONE!
  • Vacuum (it’s getting too hairy on the floors, thanks Clipford)
  • Clean kitchen & grocery shop

And if the weather clears up a bit, I’d like to swim both Saturday & Sunday. Easy weekend, don’t ya think? Okay, gotta go!!

Love you, mean it!

Such an honor!

This summer has been my busiest summer in quite a while. Last month, I attended the University of North Texas Conducting Collegium for two weeks (4 sessions). It was such an amazing experience and I was fortunate to meet so many wonderful people (shout out to the Peanut Gallery!!!). There were 44 pieces and there was something enjoyable about almost every one of them.

The purpose of the Collegium is multi-fold. If you’re a conductor, you gain the experience of conducting the UNT Wind Symphony while getting feedback from the fantastic faculty, learn a great piece that you (hopefully) enjoy and if you’re planning on applying to UNT for an advanced degree, it’s a pre-audition of sorts. The pieces that are assigned for the Collegium are the pieces to appear in the next (9th this year) volume of Teaching Music through Performance in Band series, published by GIA. Directly after the Collegium, the Wind Symphony and staff worked an extra week to record all the pieces for the CDs that goes with Volume 9 and now, the staff is working on the CD edits. The participants in the Collegium are basically rehearsal conductors for the recording session. Pretty cool honor, huh? (But that’s not the big honor this entry’s title refers to.)

The piece I conducted was Celebration, by Joseph Turrin, and it is a great piece to open a concert with! It’s a Grade 3 piece but it doesn’t mean its easy. It’s available via C Alan Publications.

So, the big news – during the Collegium, they replaced a piece that was obviously too difficult to be considered a Grade 3 (this year’s music was all Grade 2 & Grade 3) once they ran through the piece. Every piece that is on the CDs has a Study Guide in the book written for it so one needed to be written for the replacement piece and Professor Corporon asked me to write the Study Guide. Yes folks, I’m about to be PUBLISHED!!! And it’s such an honor that of everyone that was there, he asked me.

I’m writing about Akatonbo by Joseph Spaniola. It’s published by Musica Propria. It is a beautiful piece and we read it several times with the Stony Point Concert Band but it never quite worked for their UIL program. I’ve also been excited that it’s a western interpretation of a Japanese folk song. Talk about fitting me to a T! ūüôā There are very strict guidelines from GIA on how it should be written but they include a template to work from which helps so much. I’m almost done with the writing part. I just have a few questions (which, of course, may lead to more questions) to get answered by Dr. Spaniola. Speaking of the composer, I’m so blessed that he’s been so kind and helpful in this process. They asked me to write the study guide in about 2 weeks (everyone else had about 3 months) and having access to him has been a Godsend!

Hardest part about writing for me is writing formally and not writing in circles. I’ve always had issues with that so editing takes a village. Thankfully, I have a few people who have offered to help. It’s about time to send them a draft. ūüôā Anywho, I just had to take a break from all my researching and writing I keep Tweeting about share this exciting news!

Love you, mean it!

Here’s what you missed…

A lot has happened since I last posted a “real” blog entry.

I’ve applied to several graduate conducting programs (MM) and have decided to go to Sam Houston State University. I’ve gotten acceptance letters from the University as well as a Graduate Assistantship so I’m now officially a Bearkat (what’s a Bearkat? A naked Bobcat!! The last time I’ll probably be able to make that joke for a while ūüôā ). I’ll be moving to Huntsville, TX mid-July. If you want to help me move, I’ll take all the help I can get. I have a lot of stuff.

Speaking of a lot of stuff, I’m having a garage sale on Saturday, May 21. Yes, it’s the morning after my birthday but I think celebrations are going to happen on Saturday evening so I’m not too concerned. If you’d like to participate in the garage sale, let me know. The more the merrier! I’m selling mostly clothes but I’m sure there will be some furniture and such in the mix. It’s hard to know how much I need to downsize since I haven’t been to Huntsville to find a place to live or not yet. That’s happening sometime in early June.

It’s a good thing I got this spot and GA at Sam because my position at Stony Point has been cut (cue sad music here). I have a contract through the 2011-2012 school year but seeing as they’ve cut 5 or 6 band directors at least 50% with only 1 spot open to fill, I have a feeling they’d tap into my other certifications (I have quite a few) and I’d get stuck teaching general elementary education. As much as I enjoyed student teaching 5th grade social studies and language arts, it was a novelty and a means to an end and I couldn’t imagine myself doing that for real! Some can with no thought – juggling all those subjects and small people is NOT for me!

Brad got a job in Beaumont (YAY!) but because of the distance and lack of time, he decided that being in the relationship we were in was too hard, considering what a terrible year he’s had already. He just can’t put anymore stress on his emotions right now. He broke things off two weeks ago (cue more sad music here). I guess I really can’t blame him, knowing everything I know about what’s happened in the past year. It doesn’t stop it from sucking, though. I really miss him. But you know me – shed gallons of tears, put my head down and I’ll prevail yet again. Who knows what will happen when I move to Huntsville, either. You just have to keep on living.

What else…nothing much I can think of right now. I guess I could go back and re-read my last “real” blog post to find other things but that’s enough for now. Take care!
Love you, mean it!