In this era of advancing technology, many music teachers are beginning to foray into the Internet Lesson experience.  Whether the platform is Skype, FaceTime or another method, it has become a convenient way to monitor students who are out of town, or when they miss due to inclement weather.

I have been teaching Internet Lessons a little over a year now.  It began when a student whom I’ve taught in out-of-town summer workshops for years asked me for Skype lessons after what was for her a very motivating workshop week.

Last night was our all-studio Fall Recital.  I have been teaching two students via internet on a consistent basis. Since our list of performers was smaller than usual, I decided I was going to try to find a way to include these two out-of-town students.  When I talked to the administrative people at the venue about it, they told us they did have wi-fi and gave me the connection codes.  They also said “we’ve had people join us for skype meetings before, but this will be the first time in history in all of the recitals we’ve hosted that we ever had Internet Performances!!”

Long story short – We did it!  I put them as the first two performers since it was a little bit more time-consuming to connect them.  We had a big 27″ iMac desktop in the front which the performer was on via FaceTime. I used external speakers which I also mic’d.  After their performance, I re-connected w/ them on a smaller device (iPad and Laptop) and put it on the front row so they could watch the rest of the performers.

It was a great success.  The connection for those type of lessons is sometimes not ideal and this was the case for the recital performances as well, but afterward both my “live” students and the two from afar were all enthusiastic about the result.

After the recital, we even took the devices and let the virtual performers ‘see’ the table spread for the refreshments – which they both thought was fun.

Another small, but funny thing – one of the families posted a picture on the mom’s Facebook showing the girl w/ the computer in front of her, ready for her “performance in Texas.”  One of their friends commented “Very cool!  Must be in Austin!!”

Made me feel proud to say “Not Austin – HOUSTON!  Austin is a very cool place, but we lead Texas in Guitar Recital Internet Technology!”   Well, if there was such a thing.

It was fun trying something new and feeling it was successful.

Yes! We made Guitar Recital History last night, at least for the first time at that facility – Cypress Creek Community Center – when a recital performance was presented over the Internet in combination with live local students.

There was a problem for the Internet Performers who could only enjoy the refreshments virtually, however. Next time we will have to send them some cookies, I guess.

The Recital Begins!

The Recital Begins!

Virtual Performer from PA

Virtual Performer from PA

Virtual Performer from MO

Virtual Performer from MO


Guatemala, the Honduras border and all of the El Salvador that lies in-between. Did it all in one day on a relaxing Sunday excursion w/ Familia Rodriguez.

Our destination Sunday Morning was the Aguas Termales de Santa Teresa in Ahuachapán, near the Guatemalan border. These ‘thermal waters’ are heated by the nearby volcano.

Aguas Termales

The warm steam rising from the ground at the Santa Teresa Hot Springs in Ahuatachatan, El Salvador

Departing from San Salvador, the drive leads away from the city. Paved roads soon became dirt-covered, rocky one-lane passages. Stores and apartments gave way to countryside with sparse, make-shift housing. People and dogs wandered about, walking in the afternoon sun.

The road grew more and more narrow as we neared the entrance of the Santa Teresa Termales. At the point of the entrance was a grassy field with a pond that seemed to billow smoke. The steam rose in swirls above the water. See Video. Pretty interesting.

Needless to say, the time spent at these relaxing waters provided a contrast to the high-energy work schedule of the preceding week.

Combine all of this hot, spring water w/ the fertile volcanic soil that adds up to growing beans that make great coffee. The mountainside that’s not oozing steam is covered w/ Really Big Machines and mounds of coffee beans in process. This coffee is processed with the thermal mineral waters that are heated by the volcano and produce some of the most flavorful organic coffee in the world.


Processing the coffee beans at the volcano in El Salvador

more pictures are here at the accompanying link…below…

One last stop ‘between the clouds’ at the Entrenubes Café – another relaxing getaway full of food and flowers.

…and just because it was so much fun…here are some final pics of the After-Concert Party at Abbi Pupuseria, Planes de Renderos – the village famous for it’s fantastic pupusas!

Pupuseria Abbi after the Final Concert
Faculty and Festival Directors



Link to all of the pictures!!

Looking forward to when I can return to Central America!

Back home now and ready to share about the closing days of the VI Festival in El Salvador.

This year’s festival was bigger than ever. Teachers in my course represented four countries: Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and, of course, El Salvador. Our classes were held in the Albert Einstein University in nearby Antiguo Cuscatlán.

Teachers Course 2012

Teacher Training Course
12 Teachers from 4 Countries

Many teachers and some of the students traveled in a delegation from Visión Mundiál (World Vision) in Guatemala. There they are doing great work providing Arts Education to underprivileged families. This video is in Spanish, but you get the idea.
Guatemala ‘Visión Mundiál’ in the news!

One afternoon, right outside the window in my classroom was the bird that the Barrios composition “Bicho Feo” was named after. Since I recently uploaded a video of this piece, it was really cool to be seeing the bird ‘Live!’ He was chirping away in the same manner as the intro ‘sweeps’ from the piece!

It happened the next day, too, and this time I pointed it out to everyone and asked if they recognized the bird. They didn’t recognize the name as it’s more commonly known as benteveo.
BichoFeo or Benteveo
There are legends surrounding the origin of this bird’s voice. The following was translated from an article in ‘Wikipedia:’

In some places, they believe that when benteveo cries it’s unique melodic call beside a house, he is announcing the arrival of unexpected company: relatives, friends or strangers. In other places they consider it a birth announcement. In rural areas of the Argentinian coastline, it’s cry is generally considered a warning of a bad omen which one should flee to avoid. A legend of the guaraní tribe says that the benteveo was a wicked grandson who the god Tupá turned into a bird because he would not give his dying grandfather a glass of water.
Legends of Benteveo!
Now I really know more about this bird than I probably ever needed to!!


Santiago was my last student every day of the festival. He also plays cello, so his guitar lesson had to fit in around all of the cello classes. Since his dad is the festival director, I’ve watched him grow up to his ripe old age of 8.

At the end of every lesson, I ask the student and the parent (if one is there) if they have any questions. Usually, the response is “No.” His lessons stood out because every day his answer was “Yes!”

The questions ranged from “Who ARE you?” to “why did you choose that activity to do in my lesson today?” to “what do you call that thing on the guitar?” (indicating a guitar support that was used)


Santiago at his lesson

Well, one day in his lesson, we focused on using vibrato. He seemed to already know how to do it and said something about playing the cello. But when I ran into his cello teacher, she insisted he wasn’t ready for vibrato on the cello yet. “Well,” I told her, “he did a great job with it on his guitar today!”

On the day of the Final Concert, Santi was the most enthusiastic vibrato-er of all. He didn’t miss one chance to use vibrato on the long notes of the pieces we performed as a group. Funny thing – he was the only one! Many of the others know about it and should have been playing with vibrato. There he was – because he’s restricted from it’s use on cello – faithfully and beautifully vibrato-ing his little heart out on his guitar.

The Final Concert for the students and Presentation of Certificates to the Teacher Course participants is always both exciting and sad at the same time. The most exciting announcement is the formation of a new Festival in Guatemala to be held alternating years with the one in El Salvador. So, the greeting “see you next year in Guatemala,” replaced having to say only ‘Goodbye.’

Guitars on Stage

Guitarists in the Final Concert

Flying early Saturday from Houston to San Salvador is a good time for a first-class upgrade. It doesn’t happen too much anymore since United and Continental merged because there are so many more VIP customers with United. A big woo-hoo! A couple of confused folks thought I was in their seat due to the similarity in numbers of the gate – E2 – and my assigned seat – 2E. Other than that, it was an uneventful flight.  

The VI Festival Events began Sunday Evening. So, Saturday was a day to settle in at the Hotel Terraza, change guitar strings and later, meet for dinner. Festival Director Julio and his wife, Alma, took the three teachers who were already in town – Barbara, Caroline and     me – to a favorite local restaurant – Tipicos Margoth de El Salvador. Margoth celebrates 50 years of service this year and the food is well-known for being authentic. I can’t tell you the names of much of it, except for pupusas – the runaway national favorite of all foods.  Margoth is laid out sort of like Luby’s or LaMadeliene.  You walk past items on display and tell the servers what to put on your tray.

Tipicos Margoth

Typical food of El Salvador – yucca with vegetable/salsa topping, green tea, bean and cheese pupusa, pumpkin soaked in sugar and cinnamon.

I CAN tell you about another local food. Elote Loco (el-LOW-teh) is corn on the cob rolled in a grated cheese mix and then drizzled with mayonnaise and salsa. Sounds strange, but looks interesting. I decided to give it a try.  In return, it pulled out my front tooth. As in, there it was, on the cob next to the corn. Hence the title of this entry as my tooth actually *was* in my pocket – in a little plastic vial of water. 

Elote Loco

“crazy” corn on the cob.
This stuff broke my tooth. Maybe it’s not totally to blame, though.

AGHGHGHGH!!!! Yikes. Really. Yes, my imagination was over-reactive flashing forward to the start of classes Sunday night. “So, kids, let me introduce you to your teacher – the Wicked Witch from the United States…”

 It was an uneasy night for me, but on Sunday morning early, someone took me to a dentist who is Julio and Alma’s relative. He came in to the office Sunday just for me. He made a post for it and glued it back in less than 30 minutes; but warned me not to bite down on it any more. After all, he said “the tooth is broken.”

 I’m so happy to have all of my teeth together again that the prospect eating only soup, oatmeal, ice cream and the like is really OK with me. 

 That evening the Opening Concert was very successful. It’s a nice reunion with students and teachers from past years as well as an opportunity get acquainted with new ones.

At the end of the evening post-concert reception on my way out of the buiding, somehow I tripped on the pavement. With my guitar in the heavy Calton flight case strapped to my back. It was embarrassing enough, so just got up and kept walking.

Everyone says my Spanish is much better. Which is funny – because I was disappointed with my preparations.  I listened repeatedly to recorded podcasts about using the conditional and subjunctive tenses, which are advanced for me. They never really made sense and I did not master them.  However, there are some vocabulary words I picked up as well as more confidence just using sentences and simple constructs. 

When we started classes Monday and I met with the students for the first time, it was natural to speak in Spanish to them. As the afternoon ticked on, however, I felt my brain on overload and when one of the kids said “I speak English. You don’t have to teach me in Spanish,” I actually took him up on it.  Usually “I speak English,” means they go to an “American School” in San Salvador, which does not necessarily mean they are conversational and often they do not understand simple instructions.

Master Class

12 yr old student working on interpreting a Renaissance piece from the Chilesotti collection

In addition, my foot and one knee were bruised from my fall the night before which did not become apparent until I started teaching the afternoon waves and waves of students. One hour in particular, 7 students reported to share the hour of private lessons.  Since my teaching style is pretty active, this became really painful as the day continued.  There was not a minute between as one mega-class dovetailed into the next.

There is plenty in the plus column, however. Already noted is the camaraderie between the faculty, meeting the students – especially those that return from previous years – and their families.  Many volunteers help things run smoothly and they have such big hearts to serve the faculty and help make us comfortable in their country.

Guitar Professors

Leading a class of guitar professors from Guatemala,El Salvador, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

This year’s festival is my 4th visit to El Salvador. My first visit was for the IIIrd Festival in 2005.  It’s always exciting to work with a group of local teachers and see them progress in their knowledge and confidence about setting up new students to be life-long learners and lovers of guitar. Couple that with the loving nature of the Salvadoran people, and it’s an even richer experience.

More to come…..


I am making progress on a solo guitar CD…very, very slowly. Jim and I have collaborated on several recordings, some of which should probably be re-released on disc or at least as d-loads,but none of those were solo guitar projects.

In the middle of getting the recording more earnestly underway, came two playing events in the same week. Each had it’s own specific set-list. Both of them contained some nice tunes. I wanted to take (at least!) one tune from each of those and record it for YouTube.

In addition, since 2010 the Barrios piece “Bicho Feo (Tango Humoristico)” has been a really popular addition to my concert rep. In July I performed it again in a solo recital and promised that I’d get a video of it as soon as possible.


This famous and popular tune was requested at a family event I recently played at.

This video is dedicated to Tammy and Robert and their beautiful daughters Riley and Reagan.

Guitar: Taylor 812CE (1998)

This comes from a vocal song, so has the typical verse / chorus / bridge format. In and around the expected verses and choruses, the rest of this arrangement was sort of made up on the spot.

I thought this take felt ‘fun’ – at least, it was fun to play.
I hope it’s as fun to listen to as it was to play.

Guitar: Taylor 812CE (1998)

(3) BICHO FEO (Tango Humoristico)
(Augustin Barrios Mangore)
[Guitar by Benz Tschannen – ]
This Barrios piece was known to be a favorite encore that was also referenced in his concert programs. The title means “Ugly Bug” and it refers to a particular bird whose call it attempts to imitate.

Though he did not write it down, he did record it. However, all recordings were lost until recently. In 2009, two copies were discovered and donated to the Barrios Museum in Paraguay. The piece was transcribed by Tony Morris and it has been revived in performances by him and others who have received his transcription.

As far as I know, this is the only Video of the piece. I was not able to find another anywhere.

I hope you enjoy it. It has been popular with audiences in my travels as well!!

Here’s the transcription of the music, done by Tony Morris.

Here’s a short clip of the Bird it’s named after!!

I spent some time searching for other videos of “Bicho” to confirm whether or not mine is the first out there. I did not find any other video recordings of it.

However, I did find two interesting links.

After only a week, my ‘Bicho’ video is on this Pakistani forum called “One Pakistan” and has a 5-star rating!!

One of the concerts I performed at the University of Houston was covered in a Local Katy, TX news story.

“If I’m writing this to you, it’s because you’re a special person in my life.”

This started out as an email to family to express my love and appreciation to the most special people in my life. As the email took shape, I realized it should be expressed to everyone I know.

My husband and I spent last weekend in DC celebrating with my youngest sister and her new fiancé at an engagement party given for them by some friends. We also visited with my brother and his family – watching TV and having fun.

Yesterday morning when our plane landed back in Houston and we turned our phones on, there was an email saying that one of my musician colleagues had passed away suddenly, just a few hours prior, of cardiac arrest.

It is shocking news. He was not old (’50’s), he was busy and active, and appeared to be healthy.

Events like this shine a light on what is really important.

We are all busy. As a self-employed musician, it’s natural to want to work as hard as possible while the opportunity is there.  The busy work schedule makes it difficult to take time to get check-ups and routine tests just to be on top of things.  Especially if you feel fine!

If this busy, healthy, middle-aged guy could be suddenly struck down without warning, then it could happen to others, too. I guess it could happen to anyone.

It’s always hard to lose family members. Or friends. When they are old or sick, at least you have some time to make the adjustment and say the things you need to say – whether to make wrong things right or just so they know how you feel.

When things like this happen so suddenly and there isn’t any advance warning – well, that makes it very difficult for the loved ones left behind.

Do what you need to (go for walks. Change your diet.) and stay on top of things health-wise.

There is one more thing to add – another colleague passed away earlier this year, a beautiful guitarist who was only 42 years old. She had battled cancer for years, so in her case, she just finally lost her struggle.  A friend of mine who works with her told me had regrets that he never told her how much he admired her as a teacher. So, he wrote me a note to tell me how much he appreciated and respected my work and our friendship.


I want to tell everyone I love that they’re important in my life. That I am looking forward to many, many more years together. Mr. Rogers used to say – and it’s true – There’s Nobody else like you. Everyone has their place and their calling.

Say it to those who need to hear it – “I appreciate and love you!!”
I guess there’s never enough time to say those things as often as they *should* be said.

My colleagues’ passing has given me food for thought.

In their memory and as a tribute, Let us all say it now, to those we love, while we are able.

Pianist, Educator

John Hendrickson at CCMTA Luncheon

John Hendrickson and Dorothy Kirkpatrick – CCMTA Presidents

John H on Harley!

John Hendrickson – on a Harley!
(from John’s website)





















Guitarist, Instructor


Sabine Madriguera

Rick Whitehead was my first guitar teacher. As my bio states, I was fortunate to be able to begin my studies with him and am grateful for his help and inspiration through the years.

The reason for the post today is my recent acquisition of his CD “Guitaristic”

Though it’s his most recent release (2008), it’s actually an older recording that was finally taken ‘off the shelf’ and readied for release.

Prior recordings are three trio and one solo jazz guitar disc.
Rick Whitehead Trio – Live in Captivity
Live in Captivity – AGAIN
So, There We Were
Rick Whitehead Notes From Home

The Washington Area Musician’s Association recognizes top talent in the area annually with ‘WAMMIE Awards.’
Rick’s 1st WAMMIE came in 1998 for the Trio’s CD “Live in Captivity.”
It was followed by two more (so far!)-
Rick was selected in 2006 as DC’s Best Jazz Instrumentalist and
in 2008, The Rick Whitehead Trio took honors as Best Jazz Ensemble.

After listening to “Guitaristic” last night, a couple of very important things stood out to me. So, here are my thoughts about it:

This CD represents a project Rick started working on back in the ‘90’s, and then let sit on the shelf for years.

So, here we are in the 21st Century with previously unreleased music by Rick and the late, great Charlie Byrd. For those four cuts alone this CD is worth the price. “Out of Nowhere,” “Lullaby of Birdland,” “So Many Stars,” and an original tune of Rick’s entitled “Children Playing.”

Which brings up the next surprise: that Rick wrote three of the tunes on this project – “Wherever It Takes You,” “August Rain,” and the aforementioned “Children Playing.” As far as I know – there are no other recordings of his compositions and he hasn’t performed them live, either. They’re great tunes and hopefully, they will now find their way into the standard jazz rep of other artists as well.

The disc includes quartet renderings of several tunes – ‘Caravan’ is one of those and is a stunning example of the blazing chops and level of artistry of Rick and pianist Stef Scaggiari, Dave Wundrow on bass and drummer Mike Sheppard.

In addition,some tracks feature Rick having fun with the multi-tracker which shows another side of his playing and personality unique to this disc.

“Guitaristic” is a fine complement to Rick’s previous CD’s. His talents as a guitarist and as a writer deserve wider recognition. I, for one, am very, very grateful this project did not remain on the shelf!

And finally, a couple of videos:

First, Rick with the Airmen of Note. This was a guest spot after retirement. One of his signature tunes also on “Live in Captivity AGAIN.”

And here’s the trio with ‘Caravan’

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