Monday, December 10, 2012

Oops I did it again...


Well, it has been super busy, but I've had great support and so I guess I didn't even realize it.  Well, since I was on here last, lots have happened on the grad school front - applications, auditions, etc.  I am so happy to announce that in January I will be going to McNally Smith College of Music for violin performance!!  I'm going to be a Master of Music in Performance!  Johnny says that's bad ass ;-)

I also started buckling down on finances.  Grad school + wedding = and expensive year!!!  PLUS looking for a house for after the wedding.  Blog idea - how I'm saving money any way I can...coming soon to a blog near you!!

I've also had a bunch of concerts at school and whatnot.  School is going great and my kiddos are adorable.  However, I'm still counting down till winter break (9 by the way).

Hmm...what else.  OH yeah!!  SNOW!!  I cannot begin to describe how gleeful I am at the sight of snow.  12+ inches yesterday and we STILL had school.  Yes, I live in Minnesota and I still teach school the day after a blizzard.  Booya. 

A whole month....and still only enough time to write just this little bit before I have to go.  I promise it won't happen again.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Giving it a go

Hey look!  For a second week I am successful at writing in my blog!  I had fun all week thinking of good topics and things to talk about.  I gave serious thought to writing a political post and it sounded like a brilliant narrative if I do say so myself.  However, around Tuesday or Wednesday, I read something online that was EXACTLY what I would have written.  It is right around that time that I was frantically getting all my grad school stuff sent in so my frustration at my misguided blog idea was quickly funneled into that scramble.  The good news?  I've done all I can and now I wait to be called for an audition.

I am very much enjoying relaxing in my PJs on the couch watching as the Giants just win the world series, Dexter, and reminisce on my day.  Therefore, I don't feel like writing too much.  However, I would appreciate fingers crossed and any other good luck tossed my way.  I thought in lieu of a blog post (and this is getting to be almost long enough for me to consider it a formidable blog), I would post part of my application, my artists statement.  In this statement I had to describe my background and what I would do with my masters degree.  Well, here it goes.

At times, I feel that the study of music is a creative process divided by tradition.  Many string players travel down the road to classical training as I did; a section leader in high school, extra curricular ensembles and youth symphonies, and finally an acceptance to pursue music as an undergraduate.  As an undergraduate, I again worked up to being a section leader, played in extra curricular ensembles, and this time semi-professional symphonies.  It was at the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point that I truly learned the value of hard work, and at the same time fell in love with the deep, sweet tone of the viola.  As a result, went on to perform my senior recital on both violin and viola.  Upon graduating, I moved back to my native Saint Paul, MN where I started my private studio and began my career as a music teacher in the Robbinsdale school district.  I sought out playing opportunities resulting in my position in the Mississippi Valley Orchestra as principal viola.  I also founded Supertet, a string quartet that regularly rehearses pieces in the traditional string quartet realm as well as newer arrangements.

For many, this is an idyllic story.  On paper, this timeline sounds fantastic.  However, the whole time I was looking around me, wishing to play the other styles that were catching my ear.  In high school, I would complete my practice sessions only to take a little extra time to memorize a fiddle tune or run through “Orange Blossom Special.”  In college, my stand partner and I snuck a jam on “Bile them Cabbage Down” on a student colloquium.  My professor was immensely understanding of my interests and permitted me to play a Mark O’Connor tune on my senior recital.  I wistfully studied the brilliance heard in Stephane Grappelli, Eddie South, Stuff Smith but struggle to get the flowing lines to emit from my violin.  Still, I soldiered on, simply upable to give up trying to learn more about such intriguing music.

I finally found a chance to experiment with these interests and found my niche in the Twin Cities music scene.  I perform with a few groups and work very hard to learn different styles by experimenting with bluegrass, jazz and even a little fusion.  However, I feel that often I am stuck.  I am a product of private lessons, school orchestra, and a collegiate music department, a path that is traditionally very linear and heavily notated.  I am so accustomed to etudes, solo repertoire, and being held accountable by my professors and private teachers.  Yet, here I am, improvising, jamming, learning tunes aurally, and somewhat fumbling in the dark.  Whether I play well or not, I really only have myself to be accountable for.  I am a classically trained violinist in a fiddler’s world; an obstacle in itself. 

So my purpose for applying to pursue a graduate degree comes down to this:  Why, when there are many traditions associated with the violin, are we only focusing on classical music?  Why are fiddle and jazz tunes not as accepted in the concert hall?  What can I do as an educator and a performer to show future musicians that all of these genres are extremely important to who we are as string players.  Can we classically train our youth in the styles of bluegrass and jazz?

Already my private students are subjected to aural lessons from time to time where they learn a fiddle tune by rote.  When they hit a plateau or struggle with a particular skill in their classical repertoire, I assign them a non-classical piece as a sideways step.  They think I’m giving them something “fun,” but really I am developing the skill they need help on by picking a piece that features it.  By pursuing my masters degree I will be able to make even better decisions when pairing these pieces and would love to venture into writing a thesis on this subject.  I imagine that someday, I may even find myself compiling and publishing a book of non-classical tunes that would directly pair with much of the repertoire used in public schools and private lessons.

I have a great passion for teaching and am proud to be in the field of education.  However, learning what I have in the past few years thus far of other styles of violin playing as awakened a love for performing I have never felt before.  I love the adventure of taking a fiddle break in a bluegrass band or working on playing electric violin.  I would love to see my studies broaden my knowledge, opening up windows of opportunities to perform and share what I have learned.  I am amazed at my abilities so far to be essentially self taught in alternative styles and am thrilled at the possibilities for what I would learn as a graduate student.

Armed with a masters degree, I, Karen Krueger, will continue to put my all into teaching and performing as I currently do day in and day out.  The difference will be the level of expertise I will be giving to my students and audience.  At my young age, I realize I have thousands of students ahead of me who will directly benefit to this professional development.  I will work to make sure none of my students will feel lost or set on a predestined path steering them away from the music they are interested in learning as I felt.  As a performer, it is quite obvious that furthering my musical studies will help me develop my sound.  Studying this music in depth will help me become the violinist I’ve always dreamed I could be and will set me on a trajectory to reach whatever goals I set beyond this initial goal of graduate study.

This classically trained violinist will then be classically trained in the art of alternative violin styles.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Years ago, someone once told me I'd be a good blogger.  I typically have a lot to say and I'd like to think I can be witty if I put my mind to it.  So here we are.  I bought a condo and thought this would be a funny place to talk about the trials and tribulations associated with this (and friends and family can attest that trials and tribulations were only the tip of the iceberg!).  It ends up that my life is a lot more than being a homeowner.  I find myself in many situations on a weekly basis that would be great subjects for a blog article, and I guess I got a little distracted, downtrodden.  Here were so many great things to talk about, but here I was stuck with just homeownership and not just that, I had A LOT of catching up to do since many of the funny things that happened were in the very beginning.  How often would I need to write to catch up....but wait there was that funny thing that happened at the music festival I just played....ARGH!!!

So clearly I was immensely successful.  1 published post and 1 draft about the condo that was written on a night I must have been irritated.  I never published it, some parts were great, others junk.  Perhaps it'll just hang out in the draft bin for the rest of its days.

I propose an idea - I am going to start over.  1 blog a week, any topic I feel like.  I doubt I can commit to more than that, it'll be more quality than quantity too.  I am excited to get re-started with the blog and if I write again next Sunday, I'll already be more successful than last time.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Confessions of a first time home buyer

In the spring of 2011, I set out to do something I'd dreamed of since being a starry-eyed college graduate:

I wanted to buy a house.

Ok, so maybe I wasn't entirely serious at first.  I mean, it might have been kind of fun to buy that 8 bedroom fixer-upper, but the 3 furnaces and the crack-house-esque decor may have been a bit much for little me.  Then one day, it happened; I confessed this dream to mom.  It's interesting - looking back, I realize that most of the times I tell her my goals and dreams, they come true.  Hmmm....hang on a second, I may have to call my mom right now "Hi Mom!  Someday, I dream of winning the Powerball."  Actually, these successes probably have a lot to do with the effort she invests when she hears those endeavors and not as much luck.  Wow...just realized that.  Epiphany!!!

So, here we sit at my favorite neighborhood coffee shop, apple symbol glowing, when we pull up a real estate website and see.....IT.  Literally, the first property on the page, this picture made me feel like I was raising an eyebrow slyly while in reality I was probably just staring.  Was it a house?  Nope, condo.  Closer to work?  Slightly.  In my beloved hometown of Saint Paul?  Negative.  Even was in a suburb.

Thinking back, I don't think I was serious yet at that point either; I was buried in work 0.349 seconds after the tab loaded the info.  After a double take I ask, "Is that in the same building as Grandpa?!"  My mom offers to call for a showing and little lightbulbs go off in my head and create a glow around me.  I realize my commute would be 10min shorter due to being closer to a highway, I'd be close to one of the coolest relatives I have, and due to the majority of the residents old enough to remember FDR's fireside chats, I drooled over the possibility of being able to practice music without worry.  The price was ok, it looked pretty cool, and I loved everything about the scenario but the zip code.

Ironically, I was greeted for my showing by the same cheerful agent that showed me the monster house.  I walked through the showing, but I didn't really need to.  It was a little worn, it was very beige, but best of all, my artists eye caught potential.

So this was July-ish and I thought long and hard about entering into a mortgage (did you know that it literally means "death pledge"?!).  On August 16th I made my first offer, very well under the asking price.  I was prepared to drive a hard deal and thought I would have it all set and done before my proposed closing date of September 22nd.  Silly freshman homeowner...

This is where my story really begins.