I’m back in town, and now I’m running around like a chicken with its head cut off.  I am playing with Quincy Symphony this week, which is just a big trek.  Between that, my class, my teaching, the gym (personal training ftw), practicing (hopefully!) and my pottery class (more later), I am just Miss Busy Bee.  Unfortunately my bank account doesn’t reflect all of my hard work 🙁

Chris is getting ready to go to California with the SLSO tomorrow!  Originally I was planning to go along, but I decided they were just too busy traveling for us to have a fun trip.  He got offered another one-year with the Symphony (4!), so I hope I can do New York with them next year instead (annual trip).

Off to class I go, ready to learn how to teach the Veracini Sonata from Book 8.

Lessons to learn for myself

Those are the delicious Chocolate Hot Cross Buns I made for my classes!  Originally hot cross buns contain such things as raisins and currants, but that sounded gross to me.  I wanted chocolate … and I discovered that in Australia and New Zealand, Hot cross buns (I can’t for the life of me figure out how I really should be capitalizing this…probably NOT doing so, but it just doesn’t seem right any way) can contain chocolate chips.  Needless to say, they were fantastic, AND my students loved them.

Today I played for Heidi Harris.  She gave me a lot of fantastic information to think about.  One of the things that struck me is how much she seems to practice using just open strings to get the proper bow feeling.  I have never been an open string type of practicer, but in my Suzuki pedagogy class Vera teaches us to teach our kids various passages with open strings, so why NOT do that myself?  Nobody ever really taught me how to practice, and since I’m not really that introspective with my own playing (I am more of a doer than a thinker) I just keep plugging away at the same things.  It’s funny, one would think I would give more thought to my practicing, (as I give lots of thought to many other things), but I don’t.  Probably because I really do dislike practicing.  It’s one of those things I DO (well, not regularly 😉 ) because I know I need to, but I have never been a huge practicer, nor have I ever enjoyed it.  The results are nice however! To sum up today’s lesson:  work on intonation, work on tone quality, and solidify rhythm.  Sounds an awful lot like what everybody tells me…just gotta do it now!  But the open string practicing is a new thing that I will be testing out.

Looking at today from a pedagogy standpoint, I really loved Heidi’s teaching style.  She was a positive yet critical teacher.  She made me feel good about myself and my playing, yet was able to be very critical and point out what (many things!) needed to be improved.  She told me HOW to improve them, HOW to practice, what I should be aiming for, and made me feel like this was all very possible with practice.  I feel like that really covered everything I needed today!

I’m going to bug a few more people in the next month to listen to me.  I also recorded today’s lesson on my new recording toy.  We’ll see how things go!

Solo Violin for Weddings

A potential client asked me the other day if it was better to have more than one player for a wedding.  For instance, is a solo violin enough?  My answer is that it really depends on what you want.  I can play by myself and I’m sure it will be fantastic–I have certainly received many compliments on solo violin performances.  However, if your budget can manage, I think it’s better to have two or more players.  Think of it like this:  would you prefer solo singer, or a singer with guitar or piano?  Melodies are great, but melody with harmony is even better.  However, better to have that nice melody than nothing (or that “canned” sound from a recording;)  ).  So that’s my two cents.  In the next month, I have two solo weddings booked right now, so that certainly says something!  And yes, I can play pretty much anything on solo violin that a group can do, and if not, I’ll make it work.

Finger troubles/recording

I have been plagued all week by a hurt left index finger.  This happened to me about a year ago, and I don’t know why.  I assume I am producing too much tension in that finger, perhaps from my vibrato, but it seems to just come on suddenly with no warning.  I was hoping to be back into a practicing schedule by today, but I made a small effort and decided I shouldn’t push it.  I feel like this is the story of my life…practice, make some progress, oops, injury time, take four steps back.

After putting away the old fiddle, I decided I really needed to just DO IT and ordered a digital recorder from Amazon.com.  I have been meaning to get something to record myself for several years.  Previously I used a tape recorder, but in this day and age, there is no excuse to NOT have a digital recorder, particularly when the prices are just not that bad for what you get.  I think this will help my playing, and also just be great to have on hand for a variety of reasons.  Nothing tells me I sound terrible better than listening to myself!

Yesterday I taught for about five hours up at SIUE.  I was a sub for the tour group (a fabulous group of advanced Suzuki students, high schoolers) and several private students.  It was a nice change from the beginners I am used to at home (no offense, guys!!).  I think I relate to teenagers better than young children–I assume it is because I recall being a teenager easier than I recall being a child…and since most of what I do is based on my own experiences, that makes sense.  In any case, I had been sort of dreading the morning, thinking it would be both exhausted and terrifying, I ended up really enjoying myself, and the rest of the day really felt like a real, useful member of society again!  Next week I am subbing for a different teacher, but for less time.  I will be teaching a bona fide Suzuki group class again, however, so I’ll be a bit terrified about that, as my loyal readers know!

I haven’t been watching as much NCAA basketball as I sometimes do, but I must say I enjoyed the Kansas upset last night!  I didn’t do a bracket this year because I just really hadn’t been following the regular season, but I wonder if I would have put Kansas in final four?  Either way, I certainly wouldn’t have predicted what happened.  On a related note, what if orchestra auditions were done via bracket style, single elimination?  Or…are they?

Musicians are great cooks!

I wanted to show off my fantastic bacon, egg, and cheese bread.  I made this for a potluck the other day.  It was time consuming yet delicious.  My trainer wanted the recipe after hearing me describe it, that’s how good it sounds!  (I told him it was NOT my fault if he ended up getting fat from it.)  Caveat:  I am not that great at taking photographs.  I need to figure out some settings on my camera.  (puts on to-do list….)

Musicians are great at eating and cooking, and the potluck was a great success.  In addition to my bacon bread, there was macaroni and cheese, a delicious beet salad with feta cheese, and quite a few other things.  For dessert we had cupcakes, shortbread espresso cookies, brownies, and angel food cake.  WOW!

Tonight was the Stephen Prina concert at the Contemporary Art Museum with Chamber Project St. Louis.  It was a success, I think?  I enjoyed playing with the group, and perhaps will do so in the future again, if they ever need a violinist again 😉

I signed up for a pottery class with a few friends.  I am looking forward to getting my hands dirty and doing something artistic away from music!  We musicians generally have trouble finding the time for hobbies, but many of my friends and colleagues here have fantastic hobbies and lives outside of music, and I find them very inspiring!  Now I just need to return to my mandolin practice…or buy a better mandolin (step one?)

We got a great review for the most recent Winter Opera St. Louis performance!  Granted, what do they know 😉  but it’s still nice to have good publicity.  Our season is done for now (as the Winter is over…well in a few days at least), but good reviews are good for business.  Crazy world we live in…(tongue in cheek, of course, dear Readers!).  I had a great time playing, and look forward to next season.

thoughts about violin, teaching, running, life.