My Musical Family - Joy Riggs

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A blog about my family's adventures in making and appreciating music.
Updated: 50 min 4 sec ago

A Facelift for My Blog's Fifth Birthday

Thu, 01/22/2015 - 10:19am
Five years is a long time to do anything. When that’s the amount of time a person has done something fun, or productive, or both, it’s an anniversary worth celebrating.

Today I am celebrating the five-year anniversary of this blog, My Musical Family. I published my first post on Jan. 8, 2010, and followed that with eight more that same month. Sheesh — what an overachiever! Now I am lucky if I get two posts a month.

If you are a regular follower, you have probably noticed there is something different about the blog today — it has a new look!



I was originally just going to add a few new pages to the blog, including a page with links to my other writing, and a page that summarizes the career of my paternal great-grandfather, G. Oliver Riggs (the links are located in the gray bar just under the name of the blog). But one thing led to another yesterday, and suddenly my little blog looked like a big kid with a new haircut going off to kindergarten.

Change can be difficult. I am still getting used to the new look, but I am also excited about it. Let me know what you think!
Categories: Citizens

Living Treasures of Northfield

Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:39pm
Sebastian, Elias and I were among the crowd of more than 100 people who showed up last Thursday evening at the Grand Event Center to celebrate happy news (which it seems we are all so desperate for these days): the occasion of DeWayne and Theo Wee receiving Northfield’s 2015 Living Treasure Award.

The city’s arts and culture commission made public what our family has known for more than a decade — the Wees are talented musicians and wonderful, giving people.

The annual award honors Northfield area residents who make an outstanding and lasting contribution to the city’s identity and quality of life through arts and culture. (For more background, you can read the Northfield News article about last week’s event.)

I first met DeWayne and his wife, Theo, when Louisa was in kindergarten. Louisa decided that she wanted to take piano lessons, and she insisted that we find her a teacher. If any of you readers remember what Louisa was like as a kindergartner, you will recall her persistence. I asked around and got the name of a teacher who lived down the block from us. Unfortunately, she had no openings. But that teacher suggested DeWayne, who also lives in our neighborhood.

DeWayne Wee looks on while a 6-year-old Louisa performs at a piano recital.I must admit — at the time, as the mom of a kindergartner, a preschooler and a toddler, I was not interested in interviewing a dozen people to find the absolute best teacher for my child. I mainly wanted someone who was patient, kind and lived nearby, so I wouldn’t have to go far to get her to her lessons. It was just out of luck that Louisa ended up with a retired St. Olaf College professor who had studied at St. Olaf, Juilliard, and Indiana University.

Clearly, he was more than qualified to teach my daughter. But more importantly, I discovered that DeWayne is one of the most patient and encouraging teachers on earth. Not only did he teach Louisa through fifth grade, he taught Sebastian for about four years, and he is in his eighth year of giving lessons to Elias.

All three kids have experienced the pleasure of having Theo fill in occasionally for her husband at their lessons. She also is a kind, patient, highly qualified retired St. Olaf music professor, and both she and DeWayne have performed for numerous community organizations and events, have served as church musicians, and have provided accompaniment for students participating in the high school solo/ensemble contests.

The Wees were nominated for the Living Treasure Award by high school band director Mary Williams. At the event last week, Mary read some comments by former and current students who were appreciative of the Wees’ contributions.

Louisa would likely have chimed in if she hadn’t been away at college. Last spring, when she was a high school senior, she performed a French horn solo, the Rondo from “Mozart’s Concerto No. 4 in E flat Major,” for the solo/ensemble contest, and DeWayne played the piano accompaniment. It was a fitting way for her to conclude her K-12 music performance career.

At Louisa’s graduation party, we showed DeWayne the video of young Louisa from an early piano recital performing the piece “Mozart By a Nose” by Kevin Olson, which concludes in an unexpected way: as directed in the music, Louisa played the final note with — you guessed it — her nose. It was a memorable piece, one that fit her personality, and watching DeWayne’s enjoyment of the performance was as much fun as watching Louisa play it.

Our family’s hearty and sincere congratulations go out to DeWayne and Theo for a much-deserved award. Bravo!
Categories: Citizens

Writing Progress

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 2:24pm
Last Friday I finished a draft of the fourth chapter of my book-in-progress. The chapter, “Song of Iowa,” is about the two-week trip my paternal great-grandfather took to the South in 1906 with an Iowa regimental band and a delegation of Iowa officials and Civil War veterans to dedicate battlefield monuments to Iowa soldiers.

Today, I received a copy in the mail of a book I ordered that is one of my sources for the chapter. The book, Dedication of Monuments Erected by the State of Iowa, was published in 1908, two years after the trip.


I had taken notes from a copy in a library, but now I have my own copy to peruse whenever I want.

The title page, with a fancy illustration.It includes the text of the speeches made during the trip, it lists the names of the songs the band played, and it contains several maps! So cool.

A map of Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi.I am now working on the second chapter of my book. It takes place at the turn of the last century, when my great-grandparents, G. Oliver and Islea Riggs, moved to Crookston, Minnesota, and became central to that city’s growing cultural life.

And yes, I am writing out of order. I have now completed drafts of the first and last chapters, the fourth and fifth chapters, the prologue, and scenes from several other chapters.

My plan is to finish Chapter 2 this weekend, and I have much work ahead of me, so I will get back to it!

Categories: Citizens

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