Tuesday, July 31, 2007
As you can see we got quite a surprise when we opened up our new vacuum cleaner yesterday. Just kidding, of course, this is Evalyn playing with the box, which she claimed as her own.
Our old vacuum blew up on Saturday. Well, it popped and smoked a bit. Now the motor only seems to run on super puree speed. It was an old vacuum. I went to Wally World to get a new one.
After hours (or what seemed like hours) of comparative shopping on the cell phone with Lisa, who was feeding me information from the Internet while I looked over the different available models and brands, we picked out our optimal vacuum, only to find out... they didn't have one in stock!
Not wishing to return home empty-handed, I spent another hour looking at home theater systems. That wasn't really a whim. We've been thinking about one for a long time. The stereo system in our living room was the same one I had in high school, five thousand years ago. The selector knob was worn out and for the past two or three years we've had to spend several minutes jiggling it at the start of every DVD or CD in order to get a clean signal coming out of both speakers (this last sentence is certified exaggeration free). Lately we've been unable to get that to work at all. So...
I spent another hour looking at home theater systems, and I picked out the optimal surround sound set-up only to find out... they didn't have one in stock!
So I bought some yogurt and went home feeling mighty defeated. But yesterday I tried again, this time at the new Wally World out west of town. Yes! Both items were in and I brought them both home. It's good to have a variety of department stores in your community; competition breeds excellence.
Anyhow, we set up the surround sound with speakers balanced on the arms of the sofa and wires going all over the place. We put in a DVD of Brian Wilson's live performance of Smile (there can be no better way to inaugurate a new set of speakers), went to the set-up menu and selected 5.1 surround sound. We were blown away!!! I sat there immersed in this fantastic music, with my arm around Lisa, watching Evalyn dance and thinking "this is the life"! Now all we need for Christmas is a nice big high definition flat screen TV!
So today we decided to figure out what to do about the speakers and the wires. We will need to completely rearrange the front room. We went back to Wally World and purchased four CD/DVD shelves, one each to put the front left/right and back left/right speakers on. We've just spent most of the evening putting those together. Here I am posing with them. Yee haw!
Needless to say, the studio is still a pit, but I did get some actual work done today - mostly figuring out finances. We're in pretty good shape coming off of my most successful summer in years. This will help me make some decisions about which new projects to start on. More about that soon.
In case you're wondering how the domain name thing went... MontyHarper.com has finally been safely transfered to my current ISP. I had to pay about as much for that as the cost of the home theater system, and the old ISP still has control over KidsMusicPlanet.com. It's a long story. But in a couple of months hopefully I'll be able to transfer that one too and the whole ordeal will be over.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Well, obviously one thing I need to do now that our summer tour is over is organize the office/studio. I thought I'd post some "before" photos above, and maybe that'll motivate me to get it done so I can post some "after" photos later. Maybe! :-)
Many new projects await my focus and attention. I haven't quite decided where to go from here, but I'll be making some choices soon and blogging all about it I'm sure.
Which brings me to this blog... Will it be a challenge to keep the posts interesting on a daily basis while working at home? Yes! How am I going to come up with interesting photos to post? I don't know!
Not to say that it's been all that interesting so far, but hey - you're still reading! What's keeping you around? Post a comment or email me or call and let me know. If I happen to post something great, leave a little comment. Or if I'm boring you to death, do the same.
Better yet, ask a question or make a request!!
Go ahead, respond. Don't just sit there reading this. Yes, I know you're reading this right now. I can see you through the computer screen. Mmm hmmm - you flinched just slightly there when you read that last bit. You're not quite certain I'm joking, are you? I like what you've done with your hair by the way. Are you planning on going out like that?
Am I freaking you out yet? So leave a comment and tell me to stop freaking you out!
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Today was my last summer reading program, in Duncan! It had been a few years since we visited Duncan. Lisa and I were surprised that the building seemed totally unfamiliar. Turns out the library had moved into new digs. The program room was a separate building all to itself at the back of the parking lot. Pretty cool! We had a great turnout. The kids in the top photo are some of the teen volunteers.
We put 6,981 miles on Ruby Sue, our Subaru! I performed my program 53 times. It was a great summer, but we are ready to move on to other things!
See you at the library, next summer!
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Whew, this day has been looming on the calendar as a toughie, but it turned out really well! I was worried about performing outside, and about getting to the second show on time.
The morning show in Muskogee was in the parking lot behind the library, and it was part of their end of summer reading centennial party. I didn't know if my program, which works wonderfully indoors, would translate well in the great outdoors. There were tables full of prizes and other potentially distracting activities laid out for later, and the day was quickly warming up. A scattered, distracted, possibly uncomfortable audience can spell bad news for attentive participation.
However, there was a nice breeze and I set up on the loading dock in the shade, with the sound system blasting, so I figured it would at least be fun for me!
As it turned out, the kids were fantastic. They sat down and behaved just like a great library audience in a program room. I was pumped due to the unusual circumstance, and gave a high-energy performance. Even the song introductions were snappy - with the audience so far away I ditched my usual chatty approach, getting me from song to song much more quickly while still providing the needed background. I hope I can remember how I did that!
The crowd clapped after each chorus when Evalyn sang Oklahoma Annie, and they gave her quite a send off at the end. She even received a nice complement from the Mayor of Muskogee (who was there to decree Oklahoma Kids Day after my part of the program).
I'd say this morning's show turned out to be one of the very best of the whole summer!
In order to get to Okmulgee on time, we needed to be packed up and on the road half an hour quicker than usual, and we made it no problem.
The Okmulgee Library has been remodeled and expanded since the last time we were there. Evalyn was very impressed with the architecture. I was very impressed that they now have an elevator to the basement, so loading in was a breeze.
My parents and Evalyn's cousin, Brittany made it to the second Okmulgee show (see the photo above). This was cousin Brittany's first chance to see Evalyn perform. The girls had a blast running around together after the show, and then we all met for dinner in Tulsa on the way home. Fun fun!
Tomorrow's program in Duncan is the last show on our Summer 2007 tour!!!
See you at the library!
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Today it was just Lisa and I in Chanute (top photo) and Parsons (bottom photo), KS. These were "Get a Clue" shows, and it was fun to sing some different songs for a change. In Parsons I had space to bring volunteers up for "You're a Dinosaur." Lisa says they were my most entertaining group of volunteers yet. My Stegosaurus was a real ham, and my hadrosaur's hoot was a cute little sound. The adults seemed to be having as much fun repeating it as the kids.
Evalyn spent the day at her grandparent's with her cousin Brittany who is visiting from Arkansas. She will join us again tomorrow for a tightly scheduled three shows, the first in Muskogee, the other two in Okmulgee. Then we do our final summer program Thursday in Duncan!
We did finish reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows yesterday. I don't want to say much because you might still be reading it, but what a wild ride! We all enjoyed it very much.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
I took this photo today of Lisa and Evalyn reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It's a bit posed, I admit - I've been the one actually doing most of the reading. This book is all we've been doing for two days, other than meals! We are about two thirds of the way through it. So far it's a real page turner; well worth the hype, as we knew it would be. Evalyn cried bitterly at one point, but she's anxious to continue. I'm sure there will be more strife ahead...
It may sound corny, but it feels to me like we are taking part in something bigger than ourselves. This is a once-in-history moment. Millions of people are experiencing the same long-anticipated story all at the same time, each head creating his or her own unique version as printed words are eagerly translated into ideas and images. Very cool.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
We had a nice evening show at the Hardesty branch library in Tulsa today. As you can see I snuck the camera out and took a couple of rare photos of Lisa and Evalyn together. This is how they pass the time at each library while I'm setting up for the show, and also during the show until it's time for Evalyn to perform - reading together. We also read in the car and at bedtime every night. Evalyn must be the most read-to kid in the world!
Only three days of shows left next week - Tuesday we're in Chanute and Parsons, KS; Wednesday in Muskogee and Okmulgee, and Thursday in Duncan.
Wish me luck tomorrow. I have a meeting with my former ISP to try to regain control of two of my domain names, montyharper.com and kidsmusicplanet.com. Why they still have them is a long story but basically, they want a lot of money out of me or they'll shut down the sites. I just want to get administration of the domains transfered to HostBaby, where the sites actually "live." This has been a thorn in my side for almost two years. Hopefully it'll all get straightened out tomorrow.
Harry Potter on Saturday! We plan to attend one or more release parties tomorrow evening, but we'll play it by ear as to whether we want to hang out until midnight. We've already got a copy of the book coming via Amazon.com on Saturday. We'll be trying to get it read before Tuesday's shows so we don't overhear any spoilers, which is what happened last time!
See you at the library!
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Well, we're back to typical Oklahoma summer weather now - no rain, but it's hot! We did three shows today at the Lawton library. They all went really well, but Evalyn had a mishap during show number three.
During the verses in "Oklahoma Annie" Evalyn pulls a stick horse out from behind my guitar case and rides it around. (This is choreography she worked out herself at home out of an insistence that the "real" Annie should be in the show.) Well, as she set off with Annie her foot got caught in the microphone cord and down she went!
I saw it coming, too - I stood there thinking, "Should I stop to fix this, or will she manage to step out of that loop on her own..." and pow she was down. Needless to say, Daddy felt pretty bad about that.
Evalyn's knee was hurting and she cried some. After a few seconds of trying to figure out if she could go on, the audience applauded her like an injured athlete, and she went to sit with Mama. I continued the show with "Silly Song."
After "Silly Song" Evalyn came up wanting to try again. We started from the beginning and gave a great performance. Evalyn received a huge round of applause - the biggest we've ever gotten! Mama and Daddy were mighty proud of her for getting up to try again!!
Evalyn says, "My knee hurt real bad and I was very sad and I was proud of myself that I got the biggest round of applause we've ever gotten."
At all three shows the kids did a wonderful job singing "Oklahoma Kids a Kaleidoscope." At my previous two shows in Glenpool and Piedmont I thought I just had particularly good singers, but now I'm thinking that the way I've been introducing the song lately must be making a big difference. It's fascinating to me how small changes in the presentation can really effect the way the audience participates. Now that I've got it figured out, the summer is nearly over! Well, that's OK - I always strive to improve on what I'm doing!
Here are two photos of Evalyn outside the Lawton library in front of the "Sun Burst" sculpture, one from today and the other from 2005. We just thought it'd be fun to look up the old photo and compare.
Two more days to Harry Potter 7!
See you at the library!
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
We had a terrific show this morning at the Piedmont library. The first photo above was taken by Rhonda Turley, the librarian. See Flat Stanley in there? He's been visiting libraries all over the country!
Our friend Chester, from Chester's Party Barn was there, and he took us out to lunch! We enjoyed catching up with him and learning about the various projects he's involved with lately. Maybe one of these days I'll get to write him some songs!
We made it home in time to catch most of Rana McCoy's musical at the library. Rana was Lisa's piano teacher for many years, and she and her students recorded the song "Junior Detective's Club" for my Get a Clue CD. Every summer Rana writes and produces a musical play for the library, which involves kids as the performers. It was a stirring show, and very informative about the many people who've made Oklahoma such a great state. We were very glad we caught it - it's rare during the summer for us to get to see any of the other programs!
Just three more days to Harry Potter #7!! We are all keyed up for it!
See you at the library!
Monday, July 16, 2007
Well this is the glamorous exciting life of a children's musician. I've spent the weekend sleeping in, reading a book about the origins of the universe just for fun, playing with Evalyn a bit, and getting a few things done, such as: we ordered business cards for Lisa's Kids Music Planet podcast, I did some songwriting, printed maps for this week and next, filled a couple of CD orders, attended a phone conference for Children's Music Network about our website, mowed the yard, did some laundry, Lisa paid bills, auditioned a few CDs for the podcast, and together we cleared a bunch of cardboard boxes and CDs from the CMW awards out of our living room. I guess we got more done than I thought.
Only six days of touring left this summer and then it's on to other things. Tomorrow's an early day, with a 10:00 show in Piedmont. See you at the library!
Friday, July 13, 2007
My Get a Clue CD is now available on iTunes! You can download individual songs or the whole CD. Just click the album art above and if you have iTunes it will open to Get a Clue. Please write a review!
Not a whole lot going on today. I slept in and prepared a bank deposit (which is no small task when one's income consists of many small checks from many diverse sources).
Lisa and I went to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It was OK, but we were expecting much better. We thought it did a poor job of interpreting arguably the best Harry Potter book of the series so far.
It's easy to criticize any of the movies for feeling rushed, or leaving too much out. We understand that the movies must necessarily be put together differently. But the other movies stood their own pretty well, and stayed true to the spirit of the books.
This one fell short on both counts. I imagine anyone who hasn't read the book will feel puzzled in several spots watching this movie. We were also dismayed at various omissions and/or changes that seemed to stray from the spirit of the story. For example, Harry got awfully wise awfully quick with a little speech about Voldemort and love; in the book he struggles with these concepts, which is way more interesting and realistic. All the moral complexity and character development from the book seems missing. Perhaps a dementor sucked the soul out of the script.
But my biggest disappointment was that I didn't get to see the tapestry of trolls in tutus across from the Room of Requirement! Come on, how hard is it to put up a tapestry?! It's not like it would've made the movie any longer!
Well, we'd be interested to hear from you - especially if you see the movie and haven't read the book - did you feel like you were missing something? Post a comment!
Our recommendation, though - READ THE BOOKS whether you see the movies or not. Those who've only seen the movies must be wondering what's the big deal? If you just watch the movies you're missing out on 90% of the story! And if you haven't done either you're missing out on the greatest children's series since... ever!
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Well, silly me, I forgot to put the camera in the car this morning, so we have no photos from Glenpool today. This photo is from yesterday - Lisa caught me glancing at my watch!
Today's show went very well. The program room was small enough I didn't use the sound system, and it was raining so we thought it'd probably be a small group. But kids kept coming in during the first song until the room was jam packed. They were fantastic singers and participators, too, especially on "Oklahoma Kids, a Kaleidoscope!" It gave me goose bumps.
Only eleven shows left in six days on the road over the next two weeks. It's hard to believe the end of our summer tour is in sight!
Next week is Piedmont, Lawton, and Hardesty branch in Tulsa. See you at the library!
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Our two shows in Kansas went very well today, especially the evening show in El Dorado. We had a pretty small crowd, but the parents were into it and that always helps in a big way!! The kids were cute (as you can see in the photo!) and very sweet. They were really fun during the dinosaur song.
These were my first two "Get a Clue" programs. At Hesston I did Take Me to Your Library, Get a Clue, Silly Song, You're a Dinosaur, Oklahoma Annie (with Evalyn), Frog Song, Hanging Out With Heroes, and Trick or Treat Smell My Feet. At El Dorado I started with The Howdy Song, and ended with Heroes and the show seemed to flow a bit better that way.
This was the first time for me to perform the song "Get a Clue." I still need to figure out how to instruct the audience so they can sing with me on the chorus and come in at the right times! We had fun with it anyway.
Tomorrow is Glenpool, and then we get a four day weekend before heading back out. Only ten days until Harry Potter book seven!!
See you at the library!
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Here is a photo of me with half my audience in Durant! That's right, there were six kids today. Actually, we started with five, went to eight, then down to six, plus one baby, two moms, and two librarians. Participation rarely works with a group that small and my show is highly participatory this summer. I made a valiant effort, but in the end I pulled some quick substitutions and did a few story songs I haven't gotten to do in a while.
Whew - seven hours of driving (and I set up the sound system) to sing for six kids! I hope they liked it! It happens sometimes - once many years ago Lisa and I drove all the way down to Hollis, in the far southwest corner of the state, and we got zero kids! I did the program for two librarians that day. So any kids at all are way more kids than my all-time smallest audience!
Off to Kansas tomorrow. See you at the library!
Monday, July 09, 2007
It was kind of fun for Evalyn and me to be on our own today. In the car we listened to some CDs that she is judging for the CMW Awards. When we got to the church where the Hearts For Hearing camp is located we ate our lunch together, then Evalyn entertained herself with her bag of toys while I set up.
The show was fun - it was a very small group, so I could be a bit informal and answer questions and discuss the history behind the songs a bit more than usual.
I took the photo of Evalyn above. The group photo was taken by the gentleman who came to read his cowboy poetry to the kids after my program was over. Now I wish I'd taken a photo of him and written down his name! Evalyn enjoyed his poems while I packed up the car. But I didn't get to talk to him afterward because I told Lisa I'd be home by 4:00 so she could get to the post office.
As it turned out, Lisa spent the whole day stuffing envelopes and made it only about half-way through the pile! The CMW Web Awards is a bigger job then either of us figured on. PJ Swift has been doing it all on her own for years and years. Kudos to PJ! I'll bet she's glad to get a break, but I also know she's busy with other projects this summer.
So tomorrow I'm on my own. Lisa will stay behind to finish mailing out packages and Evalyn will stay behind for her dance lessons while I spend most of the day driving! Well, time to load up the old iPod Shuffle...
See you at the library!
Sunday, July 08, 2007
Can the weekend be gone already? I mowed the lawn and helped Lisa with her CMW Awards work. I guess I did manage to do a small amount of writing too, and I played some with Evalyn each day. Today we played Harry Potter mixed with Justice League and Scooby Doo. She was so excited when she came up with that combination! I'm sure we'll be picking up tomorrow where we left off today.
I've just now gotten around to putting together this week's itinerary. See my face above? The look Lisa captured in that photo kind of gives you an idea of what I think of this week, travel-wise.
Tomorrow, Evalyn and I will be without Lisa. She'll be staying home to stuff 80 envelopes for the CMW Awards. Then on Tuesday, Evalyn has dance lessons, so Lisa and I will be without her, if we can get her grandparents to watch her all day. (If you're reading this, Mom, we'll be leaving earlier than we thought, and getting back later!) I may end up on my own, with eight hours driving to look forward to!
Wednesday will be a late night getting home, but Thursday will be easy and Friday we have the new Harry Potter movie to look forward to! After that only six more days performing over two weeks, and the summer's over. So I shouldn't complain!
Friday, July 06, 2007
Too many mosquitos and too much long wet grass kept us indoors at the Perry library this morning. We had a super audience - they sang absolutely stunningly for "Oklahoma Kids a Kaleidoscope!" And as you can see many of them stayed behind for photos afterwards. Hi, everyone!
Now Lisa is taking a nap and preparing herself for a strenuous push to get all those Children's Music Web Award packages mailed out over the weekend! Next week's shows include Hearts for Hearing in OKC, Durant and Glenpool, plus two libraries in Kansas: Hesston and El Dorado. Kansas is doing the "Get a Clue" theme, so I'll have a different set of songs to practice between now and Wednesday.
See you at the library!
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Today we did three shows at my hometown library here in Stillwater. This is always a treat, not just because we don't have to travel, but they know me here. The audiences are great. My parents and Lisa's mom and sister get to see the show. And we get to socialize a bit with the librarians over lunch.
Sales were fantastic today - we sold 54 items! Of course that means I'm up late restocking the sales box and calling in all the credit card sales.
I passed something of a milestone, too, while bringing CDs in from the garage. I opened up the last box of 100 Jungle Junk! CDs. Here's something for you Jungle Junk! fans out there to know: after these last 100 are gone, I don't plan on making any more. Sales of my earlier CDs are too slow to justify filling the garage with another 1,000 copies (that's the minimum order that makes any financial sense). But take heart - one of these days I'll probably re-release the songs in some form, and they'll always be available for download at iTunes.
Tomorrow we'll be performing outside (weather permitting!) in Perry. See you at the library!
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Lisa took on the job of collecting entries and corralling judges for this year's CMW awards. Packages have been showing up on our doorstep all summer and our living room has been taken over!! Now she is sorting through the CDs and preparing to send them out to judges. It's a big job! Go Lisa!
We've enjoyed sampling some of the music and stories ourselves. There's a lot of great new stuff out this year. For more info on the CMW Awards, check out the Children's Music Web.
I also thought I would post a link to this review from Little Rock Family in which "Get a Clue" gets a mention: Bill Childs' Column. Bill is co-host (with his daughter, Ella) of the wildly popular "Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child" radio show and podcast, which I will be guest-hosting in August. His column is also printed in Minnesota Parent, Valley Kids, and Albemarle Family.
See you at the library!
Here's a photo from the Wetumka library on June 7. Evalyn reads Ariel under the table.
And speaking of libraries and reading, and songs about such things, all this time...
I've been checking the XM database under "Monty Harper" to find out if my songs "Get a Clue" and "Can You Guess" have played yet on XMKids. The result kept coming up negative.
Today Lisa thought to search by the title instead. And... apparently they both have been played! The last time was on June 23.
The trick is, they are each listed under the artist "Monty Harper wit." That must be short for "Monty Harper with Scribblemonster" and "Monty Harper with Mr. Billy." (Why searching for "Monty Harper" doesn't also turn up "Monty Harper wit" I'll never know.)
Anyhow, all you XMKids fans out there, please call in to request "Can You Guess" and "Get a Clue" (there's another "Get a Clue" they also play, so be sure to specify the Monty Harper "Get a Clue" with the ScribbleMonster band)!
XMKids is on XM Satellite Radio, channel 116, and also on DirecTV channel 868.
You can call in your request whenever there's a live DJ, at 866 328 2345. The DJs are very friendly and good at talking to kids on the phone.
OR, you can email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can even ask them to play it on a date and time you know you're going to be in the car listening.
See you at the library!
Sunday, July 01, 2007
It's been nice to be home these past couple of days. Lisa showed me a photo in Friday's paper of the corner of Highways 177 & 33 at Perkins, underwater! We drove through there twice on Thursday. And the rain is still falling every day. Our 4th of July fireworks display at the lake has already been postponed indefinitely.
The photo here is from Blanchard on June 19. Thanks to Kay Lowry for taking it and sending it. I had fun with the cropping. It's getting to be a challenge providing photos every day without them all looking the same!
I have two happy bits of news to report...
First, there was a really fantastic review of The Great Green Squishy Mean Concert CD and of my music in general posted this week on the Cool Tunes For Kids blog by Eric Herman. Here's a quick quote: "Monty Harper is without a doubt one of the most lyrically sophisticated writers working in children's music today." You can read the rest of the review here: Monty Harper review.
Second, the Unisong International Songwriting Contest has announced the winners in their eleventh annual competition. My song "Get a Clue" was in the top 20 finalists, and "Big Red Fire Truck" received an honorable mention (putting it among the top 35).
You might remember that last year I took 1st and 4th place. But I'm still happy with this year's result. The top 35 songs represent about the top 1% of entries. At that level all the songs are great. Putting them in order can be a fairly subjective exercise.
Of this year's winners, the third place song is my favorite: "Mighty Jackie (The Strikeout Queen)" by Marla Lewis and Les Julian.
Congratulations to all the winners and finalists and runners up! You can hear the top four songs on the Unisong Website.
My next library shows are here in Stillwater on the 5th at 10:00AM, 1:30PM, and 3:30PM and in Perry on the 6th at 10:00AM.
See you at the library!!