It recently came to my attention that many professional orchestras (of various ranks and sizes) have collectively decided to put on a Star Wars concert around this month. The New York Philharmonic just celebrated John Williams during their spring Gala and several other orchestras have a concert lined up exactly on May 4 (i.e. – May the Fourth be with you). For your own entertainment, this is not a complete list but.. https://www.starwarstickets.com/
With constant email notifications, text message alerts, and infinite scrolling, modern technology has slowly reprogrammed many of our minds to get used to frequent distractions. In the culture of smart phones, the ability to focus for prolonged periods of time has gradually diminished and got worse than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic as many had transferred to remote work. Coming out of the worldwide lock-downs, the culture of remote work continued to thrive, but unfortunately, not without overwhelm and anxieties that the tech culture brings. The amount of great content online has increased dramatically and it makes people want to take advantage and absorb as much of it as possible. But the human brain isn’t a computer. There is a limit to how much we can learn in a given period of time. So what does this have to do with memorizing music?
Sometimes orchestra rehearsals and concerts are not held in the most ideal spaces. Have you ever sat in a section with so little room that you had to contort your body and hold your instrument in the weirdest and most uncomfortable ways to make room for your bow and the musicians around you? Now imagine playing in a 3-hour rehearsal like this. To make things worse, the chairs are terrible and don’t allow both sit bones to distribute your weight evenly to align the back properly. Oh yea, and you also have to make sure that you can see your music and the conductor reliably.
Last week on Tonebase, I was very inspired by the live interview between Daniel Kurganov and Daniel Rowland and their discussion on tone colors. In particular, their exploration of the first movement of the Franck Sonata prompted me to whip out Simon Fischer’s book Tone. Sometimes, when we look for that special sound in a piece, we can imagine it or sing it, but not always sure how to execute it on our instrument…at least not consistently. This is where a lot of experimentation comes in. But for successful experimentation, we also need a deeper understanding of how the different elements on the violin/viola work in tandem.
Affirmations – positive statements about ourselves in first person and in the present tense. But do they really help cope with performance anxiety and resolve negative feelings leading up to a performance?
Have you ever felt like a fool sitting there repeating phrases to yourself like “I am a great musician. I sound amazing. I am very confident about this.”? All in the midst of being a nervous wreck just before getting up on stage or taking an audition. Ever feel like you were forcing this message to your subconscious self and try to trick yourself out of feeling inadequate, intimidated, or like an impostor?
This is a pretty common scenario. Unfortunately, affirmations don’t always work, even with all best intentions. If we feel like we are lying to ourselves with these statements, affirmations may cause us more harm than good.
There is a better way.
I rarely play recitals. Most of my concerts are symphonic, and occasionally, a third-party event with a chamber ensemble. But this past Friday the 13th I co-hosted one of the concerts as part of the faculty recital series at the school I teach 3 days a week: Third Street Music School Settlement in the East Village of NYC. My colleagues and I had a great time presenting character pieces of Spain and France of the late 19th & early 20th centuries. Some of my young students came and even brought some friends (and their parents) from outside of the school!
Here is the link to the REPLAY in case you’re interested: https://vimeo.com/787163959 …Be sure to open in a browser (the Vimeo app is glitchy); Starts about 16 minutes in.
Continue reading “Feeling the Audience Energy”
Going into the new year, one of my resolutions this year is to be stricter with myself about the “less but better” principle when it comes to striving for the bigger goals (whether it be in the practice room, the studio, or the gym). Ever since the pandemic started, my social media and email inbox has been bombarded with a crazy amount of (very valuable) information. It caused my attention to divert in too many different directions. I would rotate a few too many hats in a single day, convincing myself that I could somehow “do it all” – of course the reality is that everything comes at a cost.
I’ve been thinking long and hard about where to begin the discussion on best practices to minimize unnecessary tension in the bow arm. The complexities of bow technique development for good tone production, various articulations, dynamics, and expression can easily lead one to develop bad habits somewhere along the way.
The most common problems with bow arm tension in players of ALL levels are: Continue reading “Unfolding Tension in the Bow Arm & Hand”
If you’re anything like me, the busyness and excitement of holidays (combined with shorter/colder days in the northern hemisphere) can lead to feelings of overwhelm and anxiety. One effective way to manage (besides sitting with the feelings and accepting them for what they are in the moment) is by practicing gratitude.
Try an exercise with me, called Three Great Things: Continue reading “Three Great Things: The Power of Gratitude”
We can develop musicality through the study of music theory, harmonic analysis, history, and ear training. These are studies that help us understand music better on an intellectual and aural level. On the other hand, we can also experience emotions that we wish to express through music, and/or we feel something while listening to a piece. We might know exactly how we wish to phrase something and have a vision for the bigger scope of a piece. However, all that musicality can be blocked by our physical body when we pick up our instrument.