All posts by hannahviolin

I am a violinist. I also enjoy running, working out, reading, and hanging with my friends and cat.

Happy Holidays!

I am doing some traveling over the holidays, and I know many other people are.  I wish you all safe and happy travels!  If you are staying put, stay warm 🙂

I finished up the Christmas gig season with something a little bit different.  It was a CD release party at a church in Chesterfield.  The style of music isn’t really my thing, kind of contemporary Christian, but Jon and the band knew their stuff and sounded great.  I took home an autographed copy of the CD (by Jon Garrett, entitled “To Find Love There.” ) Too bad I wasn’t actually playing on the CD!  Anyway, this was a few days ago, and I am mainly writing about it because I woke up this morning with one of the tunes in my head…

I did make it through an entire Christmas season without performing “Sleigh Ride.”  This is probably the first time in 12 to 14 years that has happened.  I actually consider this a negative thing, but there’s always next year!

The new year will bring big plans and (hopefully) happenings.  I do have some projects planned (chamber music concert, perhaps a solo/duo recital, possible CD more for fun than profit…) in addition to the usual teaching, Suzuki pedagogy class (another semester) and playing.

This has been a sad year for me and my family.  My grandfather passed away almost a year ago, and my boyfriend’s sister’s husband passed away in September.  The older I get, the more I realize, that’s how life is: sad things happen, and yet time just keeps ticking, and you have to keep doing what you are doing.   I do hope, however, that the next year is better overall…

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, my dear readers!

After the video…

We watched the video of my teaching in class the other day, and it was not nearly as awful as I thought it would be.   In fact it was REALLY helpful.  I should probably record myself again in the future.

What did I learn?  In a nutshell, I talk too much.  I shouldn’t talk so much, or so fast, and simply do.  That might mean playing for the student, it might mean demonstrating a motion, or it might mean moving their body/fingers into the position they need to be in.  Less talk, more action!  I tried to keep that in mind for my next students (and also to slow down my speaking voice for young students!).  It will take practice, but I hope I’ll get better.

I also learned I was doing some things well, which is nice to know.  So often I feel I am not doing things well, or that someone else could be doing a better job with my students (or my life 😉 ), and it’s nice to feel as if I’m doing something well.  I know I am too hard on myself…it’s just that my standards are so high!  Silly conservatory training…

I am looking forward to a musical weekend.  I am playing three concerts with the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra.  One is a Messiah sing along, and two are the same, a  Baroque Holiday Concert, which includes Pachelbel Canon.  The really cool thing is that one of our concerts is sold out!

Next week one of my violin classes (the second year one) will be performing a few Christmas songs for the school.  I know they will be wonderful!  I am so proud of how well my class is doing.  It’s two girls and one boy.  The boy just started cello at the end of September, the girls have been playing violin since last September, and they are playing in three part harmony already!  It’s just wonderful, and makes me really proud.  Wait.  Maybe I’m doing well teaching after all?

Recording a lesson

For my Suzuki Pedagogy class, my teacher insisted I record myself teaching so we could look at it in class and critique ourselves.  I chose to record a young student of mine (I didn’t have that many options right now) tonight.  I have been really stressed out about this!  I have been teaching for what, ten years or so, but I never WATCH myself teach.  Tomorrow in class we are going to watch part of the lesson.  We’ll see what the class thinks!

I have a hard time taking criticism or advice (it’s gotten worse as I’ve gotten older) so I am really stressed about watching the video tomorrow.  Hopefully I can handle it, and learn from the experience, versus having my confidence shaken again.  How many times can a person rise up after feeling beaten down?  (Luckily my teacher is not the beating down type, and more the nurturing type, but my own expectations are different.)

Fingers crossed for tomorrow then!

A few frequently asked questions

I was browsing online today, looking for more sheet music to add to my collection.  I’m always on the lookout for free sheet music, and that was the subject of today’s searches.  I ran across a website devoted to music for weddings, and I was reading the frequently asked questions to see what was said about hiring musicians for your ceremony.

One of the questions had to do with whether or not musicians came to the rehearsal.  As a rule, we do not attend rehearsals.   Why?  We don’t need to (and rarely do we have the time.)  All the musicians need to know is how many people are walking down the aisle to each song, and what words are being said right before we start a song.   If we have any questions regarding when to play, we will have a two to three minute discussion with the person in charge upon our arrival.  The only people at the wedding who might have seen more ceremonies than the musicians are the minister or officiant, and perhaps the wedding planner–meaning, don’t worry, no matter what happens, we’ve got it under control.  (And things do happen–rarely does a processional actually happen exactly the way we are told it will!)

Another frequently asked question is “Do you play the whole song or do you stop partway through?”  We rarely play the whole song (during a processional or the ceremony), unless specifically requested.  We are experts at coming to a stop in any song when the situation calls for it.  If we are playing three songs for the processional, chances are we will only play a tiny bit of each song.  We might not start at the beginning if we feel that there is a part later in the song that is more appropriate or beautiful.  If you ever have a specific part of the song that you love, do let us know so we can take that into account when deciding on cuts.

Another question on the website involved whether or not you should invite the wedding musicians to the reception or dinner.  If we are only playing at your ceremony, there is no reason to do so.  If we are playing for your dinner, we are always thrilled when we are offered food, as generally we don’t get to eat until after we leave, and sometimes the smell of the food is almost torturous!  However, we know that food can be expensive, so we do understand.  Water, however, is always welcome.

Those are just a few of my thoughts regarding a few frequently asked questions.  I’ll try to think of more questions to answer in the future!

Struggling for balance

Somebody asked me recently if I taught or if I performed.  I answered that I do about half of each.  That’s really my goal right now.  I love teaching and I love performing, and for the past few years that balance has been reflected, both in my schedule and in my tax returns.

It’s funny.  I think most people struggle to achieve balance between their career and home life.  I am struggling to achieve balance in my career.  My home life has always been the time left over, and sometimes that balance is very much off (especially once you include practicing and lesson planning).  But that’s a story for another day!

When my work goes out of balance, I feel it.  For instance, there were many times last year when I was doing hardly any teaching.  I would talk to teaching colleagues who were full of stories about their students, and I felt left out, and frankly, sad.  I had just left about 20 students in Cleveland, and missed seeing them every week.  Lately I have been fortunate enough to have several new students (10 private, plus two small classes), and the teaching aspect of my life is feeling very much in balance.  Or has it?  Am I devoting too much of my recent time to teaching?

Last week I played with my orchestra in Columbus, ProMusica Chamber Orchestra for the first time this semester.  As we started rehearsing, I realized I had missed playing in orchestra.  I used to play a concert almost every week until I moved to St. Louis, and now I only play occasionally.  I do play many weddings and receptions, but its not the same feeling as orchestral playing.  My orchestral balance has been off.  Perhaps I need to make sure that at least half of my performing is through orchestra…so that would be at least 25 percent of my total work time.  Balance is a tricky thing, and the orchestral opportunities here (unless you are a symphony member) are few and far between.

I am a substitute player with the Columbus Symphony, but so far this fall I haven’t been able to play any of their concerts.  I love playing with the group, but it’s a trek from here to there, and it means canceling/missing everything I am doing here.  Between teaching, my pedagogy class, weddings, and other commitments in town, I just can’t make a trip out of town at this point (other than my already scheduled ProMusica concerts, of course).  I’m hoping in the spring that might be more possible.  Perhaps other orchestral opportunities closer to home will appear!
On a similar note, I recently was appointed Concertmaster of New Opera St. Louis (Winter Opera St. Louis) and I look forward to the season beginning in November.  It’s a very small orchestra, but I relish the thought that even in this economy,  new arts groups can survive, and hopefully thrive and grow.

Being myself

I’ve been observing quite a few other teachers recently, (and also taking a Suzuki pedagogy class) and have gotten so many great ideas.  The more I see other people teaching, the more I start to doubt myself and feel that I have been doing things wrong.  After all, these other teachers seem to be so much more organized, seem to know exactly what they want their students to do, and it seems that their students actually follow their directions and practice what they ask them to.

I definitely could be more organized.  I am working on putting together some practice charts or at least truly insisting that my students bring notebooks to lessons, rather than crudely scribbling things in the margins.

I also could be more insistent on control in the lessons.  I have a hard time getting some of my students to follow my directions, sometimes even a direction so simple as, “listen to me play, then repeat.”  I need to make more of an effort to train them to stop when I want them to so that we don’t waste as much time in the lessons.

However, as I was reading my notes tonight (and naturally beating myself up over what I didn’t think of), I realized that I am my own teacher, and my own person.  No matter what I observe other teachers doing, or other teachers’ students doing, I will be who I am in the lessons, and I’m sure I’ve been doing many things correct.  I need to take what I am learning and use it to complement what I have been doing rather than trying to start all over.  I need to stop second guessing myself and keep moving, and trust that I do know what I am doing at least, oh, 75 percent of the time.  And perhaps the next 25 percent will come, either this year, or in the next few decades.

And I really will print out some practice charts and give that a whirl.  I think that will be my goal for the next month–to be more specific with my students, whether that includes more specific practice assignments, or more specific within their piece.  That seems doable!  If any of my students are reading this, ask me about your chart next week, I’ll have a pile of them 🙂