A Musical Adventure with Aunty Julie-Ann Smith

A Musical Adventure with Aunty Julie-Ann Smith

Aloha and Welcome to our Musical Adventure Page!

Today is a special day for Lava Mama Homeschooling because it marks the beginning of a new project that will lead us on a musical adventure. I will be collaborating with Ms. Julie-Ann Smith or as we like to call her “Aunty Julie”. 

If youʻre not familiar with this Hawaiian custom, thatʻs okay! Here in Hawaiʻi we call people Aunty or Uncle as a sign of respect. So, no sheʻs not “really” our Aunty, but we do love and respect her like one. 

Although my blog has only been in existence for a little over a year, my girls have been taking music lessons from Aunty Julie for almost four (4).

Our Musical Adventure…

Our musical adventure started back in January 2016 when I saw a Craigslist listing offering Piano, Harp, and Voice lessons. I had been searching for a piano teacher for our girls for sometime and decided to contact the instructor. After talking story for a bit (informal interview) she decided to take on the task and teach piano & music to all three of my girls. The youngest being only 5 yrs. old, at the time. 

In the beginning we would all head over to Aunty Julieʻs hale (pronounced~ “Hah-Leh” ~ Hawaiian for “house”); once a week for 30 minute lessons, per girl. I would wait there during their lessons, either in the house or our truck (my choice of course). 

Musical Adventure

This is now…

Now in our current musical adventure (November 2019) only 2 of my 3 school aged keiki attend music lessons with Aunty Julie. The oldest of the 3 was invited to attend Kamehameha Schools last school year and she decided at that time that she wanted to pursue other interest. Now when my girls have piano lessons I just drop them off and come back when theyʻre finished, a whole hour and a half later! Yay me…LOL!!!  Anyways, that was a bit of our backstory on how our musical adventure came into being. But without out further ado, Iʻd like to introduce you all to Aunty Julie, as we continue on and learn about her own muscial adventure.

More.... About Aunty Julieʻs Musical Adventure Continue Reading Below!!

An Adventursome Musical Journey

Musical Adventure

The Start of My Musical Journey...

My musical journey began at the tender age of seven (7 years old), on an old upright piano donated by my Grandmother. This was the start of my weekly lessons, which would run for the next fifteen LONG years; including summers; this all before college. (Can you hear me groaning!) After high school I further pursued music to get my Bachelors of Music degree. If youʻre wondering why I did this with my apparent not so positive outlook, then I encourage you to read-on as I share my journey. 

The college years….

During my college years I loved to play piano for musicals & in bands. However, after being kicked out of my professor’s studio I decided to work on a degree more suited to this type of piano playing instead of the classical solo venue. I received my degree in coaching & accompanying all instruments as well as voice accompanying. 

Perfect! This was right up my alley because besides loving to play classical music with violinists et al, I LOVED directing & playing in musicals. Thus started my career of over 50 musicals I have directed and/or performed in musically. At the same time I enjoyed a full career accompanying school & community choirs with my good friend and colleague of 30 years. 

Photo by Alan Liu on Unsplash

A Vatican Easter….

My highlight from this work was performing at the Vatican on their main 3 key-board organ for Easter service. Funny thing though; I had no performance clothes. We; my choir, conductor & self, had arrived in Europe just 3 days prior to the performance, but our luggage went to Russia! One of the men in the choir was kind enough to offer me a clean t-shirt he happened to have carried on the plane. Thus was my concert attire at its finest! 

Even funnier if you can picture it: on top of the huge organ I was to play was a small monitor of about 8 inches which showed what was behind me. Guess what that was… my conductor! You know; the guy who stands up in front of an orchestra and waves his arms around like crazy? 

Conductor on the move…

Ok, no big deal…I can do this: manage 3 organ manuals, (the keyboards) the stops, (buttons to push for different sounds) & foot pedals while looking at the music & my conductor in the monitor…. until my conductor starts to move as he’s conducting! 

He begins walking back and forth in front of the choir while conducting! The screen monitor I had to watch him on had a range of about 2 feet. He was walking far out of that range & then coming back and walking off in the other direction! Given the fact that he & the choir were about a football field away behind me, I couldn’t just turn around & look! 

The conductor’s job was paramount to keeping the choir and me together. He is the glue. What a nightmare. He finally must have realized that I couldn’t see him, so he stopped the choir and had them pick up where I was. Now I was leading the choir! Other than nerve wrecking things like this happening I have had a wonderful career as a pianist, teacher & composer. 

Just pia-No there is more…

In addition to playing piano I also learned to play the harp in college. I was highly influenced by the Marx Bros. movies as a young girl. Harpo, played the harp like no one ever, and even though Chico played with unusual antics at the piano I fell in love with the harp. If you don’t know who they are look them up! 

What a world that opened up for me in Alaska! There were no other harpists in the area including at times in Anchorage where the symphony resided & performed. Wouldn’t you know after years of substituting for them; the day before I moved to Hawaii the Anchorage Symphony called to offer me the harp position! But, Hawai’i called and I answered!

Musical Adventure
Our very own Aunty Julie!

Personifying Harpo Marx…

My favorite experience with my harp was personifying Harpo Marx. At our local theatre we did 2 of the Nunsense musicals and inserted extra characters. I inserted Sister Harpo who of course played the harp. Donned in the blonde, curly Harpo wig and Nun habit; I would go forth on stage and pretend to be Harpo and pull some gags on the audience along with play my harp for them. You know: stuff like pulling a rubber chicken out of your pocket… or strings. It was great fun. 

Adventuresome years & obtaining my Master's…

During 30 adventuresome years of living in Alaska I also got my Master’s degree & certificates in Harp Therapy. My Master’s is in piano & harp performance & early piano pedagogy with emphasis on learning styles & personal intelligences. Having always gravitated to children I wanted to know more about how they learn & why they don’t all learn in the same fashion. 

My struggle & desire to learn that led to teaching…

Having not been the best of students myself; I struggled in school with number dyslexia I didn’t find out about until an adult. I hated lectures, listening, sitting still & memorizing subjects I didn’t find interesting. I wanted to find fun ways to learn in addition to knowing how we learn. I had a desire to know more about individual talents, how to enhance them and learning in general. 

All of that studying & love of children has brought me back to teaching. I have several teaching books of music for piano & harp. I’m constantly trying to invent a new game or activity to enhance piano study; away from the piano for variety & an interactive learning experience. My main goal in lessons time is to have fun & include as many other subjects as possible in the experience. I call it cross curriculum and it helps connect the dots of learning; if you will. To learn more just click the link below! www.harpiano.net

Coming soon to a blog near you…

How does Hawaii & piano go together? Well you will have to wait for that post later this year. 

Aloha & Blessings on your homeschool journey!!