About Monique

How old are you?

What’s your piano and music background?

  • 10 years of classical piano training including some at University of Michigan.
  • Taken several musicology courses at University of Michigan
  • Training to be a teacher of the Alexander Technique, a method for discovering appropriate movement and effort for any task, including piano playing.
  • Keyboardist and renaissance recorder player (soprano and alto) in a Renaissance Dance Band
  • Pianist for English Country Dances, and Contra Dances.
  • Sung in UM’s Early Music Chorus
  • Director of an Early Music Choir for 4 years.
  • Sung at the Michigan Renaissance festival for a season
  • Given several early music/musicology workshops

What’s your music story
When I was 6 years old my mom started teaching me to play the guitar. We did that for a year, and for whatever reason she stopped teaching me and I didn't pester her to continue.

A few years later I was fooling around at a piano and my cousin decided to show me a thing or two. He taught me how to play the melody to The Entertainer and after that my parents thought that maybe they ought to get me piano lessons.

I started piano lessons at age 10 and continued through my first year of college. During high school I played background music for various school functions, played for the residents of a local nursing home, and played keyboard in the pit band for the school musicals. I also started singing in the school choir.

In college I took private lessons at U of M’s school of music, took several musicology courses, and sang in the Early Music Chorus.

After my first year of college I did some musical soul searching. I didn’t feel particularly driven to play classical music anymore. In high school I used to get a lot of positive feedback from the people I played for, but in college few people seemed to care, and those who did could probably hear how not-so-impeccable my playing was.

I dabbled in jazz and boogie woogie and eventually decided to take a break from piano. I still cared about music, but I was burned on the instrument I'd been playing for a decade.

I moved from piano to singing. I sang in the church choir for a little while and in an early music choir for even shorter; neither stuck.

Then in my third year I started swing dancing. I picked it up pretty fast. I loved the music. I loved dancing with great leads. I'd found something special.

Also I met my husband through swing dancing.

And he re-introduced me to that early music choir I’d quit. A year and half later I took over directing said choir and have been directing it ever since.

He also introduced me to renaissance dancing (and English Country and Contra dancing too!). Through that I picked up the recorder, joined the band, and learned things about music I'd never realized if I'd stuck to playing solo classical piano.

A few years later I started playing keyboard in the band.

Now I teach piano lessons.

In Fall 2011 I started taking Alexander Lessons because I wasn't satisfied with my singing voice and noticed that my throat hurt after a full day of teaching. It turned out that the lessons were just as useful for piano and dance and recorder and sewing as they are for singing. A couple months after I started lessons I was invited to try out the teacher training program and found it was a really good fit for me. I'm eager to use what I'm learning in my lessons, and the training shows me how to do that. And hopefully in a few years I might be certified. Yay!

What was your major in college?
Electrical Engineering...

Um... what?
Yeah... it’s a long story.

The short version is I liked math and I liked science, my Dad’s an engineer... it seemed like a good idea and I got a lot of positive reinforcement from my family and friends. Also, being the good little feminist that I am, I liked the idea of being a female engineer.

Then a few things happened.

  1. My worldview changed: I no longer thought engineering was the fastest way to salvation. (That's another long story.)
  2. I met my husband: I found I had a really hard time lying to myself about being content with my degree when he was around.
  3. My life plans changed: Engineering and homeschooling my future children don’t exactly go together. (It's true, I probably could have figured something out if I really wanted to, but... no.)

So I have a fancy degree in something difficult... and a bit of debt. Yay?

If I were to do it again, I’d have double majored in Musicology and Psychology... but at the same time I know that my eighteen-year-old self wouldn’t have put her all into those degrees. *Sigh* Such is life. I learned a lot.

What music stuff do you do aside from teaching?

  • I play keyboard and renaissance recorder (soprano and alto) in a Renaissance Dance Band
  • I do English Country Dancing, Swing Dancing, and Contra Dancing. (Yay AACTMAD!)
  • I play piano at English Country Dances and Contra Dances around Ann Arbor
  • I sometimes sing in UM’s Early Music Chorus
  • I give Early Music workshops once in a while
  • I’ve been teaching myself tonal-music theory.
  • I’ve been working on my own piano skills so I can better teach my students. (Things like sight reading, improvising off a lead sheet, jazz stuff...)

What do you do for fun?
Honestly most of the fun things I do are music related... but here are some other things I like to do too:

  • Dress in silly clothes.
  • Sew silly clothes. (See thing on the right.)
  • Play with my cat.
  • Play with my husband
  • And family.
  • And friends.
  • Read. (Some of my favorite books are Pillars of the Earth and The Dresden Files. I tend to gravitate toward Fantasy. Also I read a lot of non-fiction. Mostly personal development and history books.)
  • Write. (But it takes me way too long and I get very frustrated with it. Rawr.)
  • Home Improvment stuff. (I rewired some lights in the bathroom. I didn't get electrocuted, the lights work, therefore I can do anything!)
  • Watch Documentaries, Movies for Kids (Yay Pixar!), Sci-Fi TV (Star Trek TNG and DS9, Babylon 5, Lois and Clark, Anything by Joss Whedon...)
  • Play video games. (Some of my favorites: Zelda Ocarina of Time, Zelda Windwaker, Zelda Spirit Tracks, Zelda Skyward Sword (can you tell I'm a Zelda fan?), Harvest Moon, Mario Galaxy, Mario Party (The original on 64), Professor Layton series, Pokemon.)
  • Cook. (And not just recreationally.)
  • Garden.
  • Go camping. (I don’t do enough of this.)
  • And other stuff that’s not coming to mind.

What are your Musical Goals
For piano, I want to be proficient at all of the major skills: sight reading, improvising off a lead sheet in multiple styles, transposing on the fly, creating my own arrangements, playing with others, and playing keyboard pieces competently from multiple time periods. Also I’d like to go back through my old repertoire and learn to play my old favorites consciously.

Right now I’m focusing on sight reading, transposing and doing some improvising off a lead sheet. The transposing goes with the sight reading. I’m practicing lead sheet improv by playing with the band.

Anything else interesting?
I also tutor middle-school and high school students. Usually in math, but I can tutor other subjects too.

My philosophy toward tutoring is similar to my philosophy toward piano. Students need to practice teaching themselves. My job is to make sure what they think is true is actually true.

Yay music!