6 tips for new vegans

I recently celebrated my 3 year veganniversary. While going from vegetarian to vegan was a pretty smooth transition for me overall, being newly vegan can be overwhelming, emotional, and isolating. Here are a few tips coming from my experience that I hope can give new vegans a bit of guidance.

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Dealing with meat jokes (and other annoying comments)

I have been exceedingly blessed in the family department, with most everyone in my immediate family barely giving me any crap about going vegan, which is more than a lot of vegans can boast. My mom cooks me a veganized version of meals at family dinners and has cut down on her own meat consumption, and my dad, despite rolling his eyes when being presented with food that is even remotely spicy or lacks animal products, respects my beliefs and life choices. My brother and his girlfriend are fancy city-folk who enjoy branching out with their food choices and trying vegan food. My boyfriend has always been accepting, eats vegan or vegetarian most of the time we’re together, and tries to eat at least one meatless meal per day. (I nearly cried tears of joy when we first started dating and I saw soy milk in his fridge.) All of them have kept an open mind and even visited a farm sanctuary with me.

That being said, I’ve encountered a few people, usually extended family members, who have given me a mildly hard time. Dealing with other people can be one of the trickiest aspects of going vegan.* Some get defensive because they feel your lifestyle is automatically a judgment of theirs. They’re not totally wrong, either. Most vegans would agree that eating meat is not a “personal choice” since it requires the suffering and death of sentient beings, and most who are vegan for ethical reasons believe that in many modern day situations, eating meat is morally wrong. That is heavy. No one wants to be judged or told that something they do every day is harmful and wrong. So when you say “I’m vegan,” they hear “I’m judging you for eating meat.” When people react rudely, defensively, or insecurely to your life choices for seemingly no reason, try to understand this and approach it with patience. Most of us were meat-eaters at some point and may have struggled with the same things before going vegan. That being said, here are some situations I’ve encountered and examples of how you can react.

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Review: Purple Carrot

This past Christmas, I was lucky enough to receive a gift certificate for Purple Carrot, a completely vegan meal subscription service. I have been keeping my eye on the menu since then and finally found a week with 3 meals that looked perfect for me.

Overall, this was a great experience, and I will definitely sign up for another week in the future, especially if I were to receive it as a gift again. I wouldn’t subscribe on a regular basis because of the cons listed below.

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Are pianos even vegan?

Back in the olden days, pianos were definitely not vegan, with keys made from ivory, felts made from rabbit fur or wool, not to mention leather, suede, and other animal derived materials used throughout the instrument.

Fortunately, we vegan pianists can rejoice in the fact that ivory stopped being used on piano keys in the 1970s when ivory trading became illegal (yay!). Nowadays piano keys are made mostly of wood and plastic. Yamaha even developed a synthetic material called Ivorite which imitates the feel of ivory without the cruelty (or the illegality).

Now that we know that the keys are usually vegan, what about the rest of the piano? I admit this is something I had not even considered until recently. Anyone who has ever looked inside an acoustic piano knows that it is a complicated instrument with many different parts made of various materials. What are the odds that the inside of your piano has materials derived from animals?

Well, there’s a whole lot of wool felt in there, and probably some leather, suede, and silk cord, too. And don’t forget the bench–which might be covered in more leather.

So is your acoustic piano vegan? Probably not, and there doesn’t seem to be any “vegan piano” on the market…yet. Perhaps as people become more aware of the ugly origins of animal derived materials, crafters of musical instruments will move towards replacing them with cruelty-free substitutes. After all, the fact that sheep intestines are no longer commonplace in string instruments is a good sign. On the other hand, I did just stumble upon a Macedonian bagpipe that appears to be made from a hollowed out goat corpse. I’ll spare you from the link for that one.


5 ways to spice up scales

For some students, scales are the most dreaded part of a practice session or piano lesson. Practicing with the metronome alone often is not enough to keep a student engaged. Here are a few ways to make scales a bit more fun for students who need a little bit of inspiration:

1. Use background music.

Many keyboards have built in drum beats and accompaniment tracks that can make a great alternative to a “boring” metronome. Better yet, use GarageBand to allow the student to create his or her own beat and decrease or increase tempo as needed.

2. Play with rhythm.

You can make this as simple or complicated as you want and customize it to fit a specific lesson goal. For example, assign a scale in swing eighth notes to supplement a piece with a triplet feel. Engage the student’s creative side by asking them to create his or her own rhythmic pattern.

3. Compete.

Keep a list of students’ record times in the back of their notebooks. For some, it’s enough to compete with their own record and try to beat it each week. For others, they might be more motivated to compete with a friend or other students in the studio.

4. Piano Maestro.

I’m a big fan of Piano Maestro for iPad, especially for scale practice. Customize the exercises as needed and assign as home challenges for students with iPads at home.

5. Compose.

Have students compose short exercises that incorporate the scales they’re working on. Set your own parameters as you see fit. An example might be, “Compose an 8 bar piece for RH that includes the ascending C major scale at least one time!”