Violin Concert in Jail  border=0 align=

Violin Concert in Jail

June 25, 2017, 5:49 PM · Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to give a violin concert at the Ordnance Correctional Facility for the inmates and staff. I couldn’t help but feel excited as security checked my equipment and allowed me to wheel my violin on a cart through the checkpoints. As the Lieutenant and Activity Coordinator escorted me, I continued to debate in my mind which piece to begin the concert.

We entered the gymnasium and I only had a few minutes to tune and set up before the inmates entered the room. As I tuned my violin and saw people come in, I couldn’t help but smile because I’ve always wanted to play in a jail. I love bringing music to people. Especially in nursing homes, hospice, hospitals, and gyms because I feel as musicians we can make a positive impact through sharing our talents.

The Activity Coordinator told me that male and female inmates are not often allowed in the same room, so it was a treat for everyone to be together. After everyone sat down, I introduced myself and said that I would play a variety of music, ranging from Disney’s "Frozen" to Queen’s "We Are the Champions." I began the concert with "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess and could feel the atmosphere in the room change, as it does in nursing homes and hospitals. Initially I felt anxious, yet in that moment I felt peace and warmth.

As the concert continued, I could hear people singing as I played "Take Me Out to The Ballgame," and applause as I announced that I would play "Hey Jude" from the Beatles. Keep reading...

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Lara St. John Plays Free Concert Tuesday in Central Park border=0 align=

Lara St. John Plays Free Concert Tuesday in Central Park

June 25, 2017, 2:31 PM · It's summer, and if you are lucky enough to be in New York, that means free concerts in Central Park. Specifically, violinist Lara St. John will bring a mix of familiar and provocative works to the Naumburg Bandshell on Tuesday. And if you aren't in NYC, you can pretend to be, as it will be streamed live on the Internet through WQXR.

Lara will be playing the ever-popular "The Lark Ascending," Ralph Vaughan Williams' gorgeous song of the skylark; as well as the more intense "Maralinga" by Matthew Hindson, a lament over a series of post-WWII nuclear tests the British did in South Australia, to the great detriment of its aboriginal community.

It's hard to imagine a more pleasant piece for a summer evening than "The Lark Ascending."

"I was trying to figure out the other day, how is this piece so beautiful?" Lara said, speaking over the phone with me last week from New York. "It grabs everybody right away. You just kind of want to look away into the distance and dream...I'm not sure how he does it, but it's such a beautiful piece. We are doing a string version."

Lara's second work of the evening explores the fallout from a series of 1950s nuclear tests that the British did on an area of South Australia, which had devastating effects that were largely ignored. The work is called "Maralinga," by Australian composer named Matthew Hindson, whose violin concerto Lara recorded in 2008. Keep reading...

V.com weekend vote: Do you look at the score? border=0 align=

V.com weekend vote: Do you look at the score?

June 23, 2017, 10:23 AM · In an article earlier this week, violinist Nicholas Kitchen shared the system he has devised so that his entire quartet (the Borromeo Quartet) can read straight from the score of any given quartet they are playing. That means that at all times, they can see all four parts: violins, viola and cello. He said that this has absolutely revolutionized the way they work together, in a very positive way. They like it so much that now they always read straight from the score, whether in rehearsal or performance.

Is it necessary to look at the whole score of something you are playing, to see what the piano is doing or what other members of the chamber group or orchestra are doing? To be very honest, no. You can get by without doing that, and I certainly have.

But is it a far richer experience? Will you have a better sense of the music? Will you work better with a pianist or with a group, if you know what the other musicians are playing and have thought about why? Certainly.

You might be thinking, "Look, I'm a beginner. What score?" In many cases, it's simply the piano part, and it can be very enlightening to see the harmonies and other voices -- even if it's hard to process at first, the more you look, the more you will start to see.

If you are more advanced and playing a concerto, you might start with a piano part. But if you want to get more in-depth, you can try going to IMSLP and downloading the orchestra part. A few examples of what you can find: Seitz Concerto No. 5; the Accolay Concerto;the Bruch Concerto and hundreds more. Scroll down on this page and find a huge list of student concertos.

If you are studying something for a recital, competition or to be part of a concert repertoire, well just go buy the score, or download it in a way that you can mark it up and keep it. If you are new to score-reading, University of Texas violin professor Brian Lewis recommends beginning with Mozart Concertos: get the Dover score (or follow the score on IMSLP), then while listening, follow the solo part, then violin parts, other treble-clef instruments, then expand from there.

Please participate in the vote and share your experiences and thoughts about using a score and how you get to know the other parts in a piece you are playing.

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