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Violin Blogs

Violinist.com members may keep personal journals on the website. Violinist.com's editor selects the best entries for the column below. Links to all other recent blog posts may be found in the column on the right.

Top Blogs

Laurie's Violin School: What Violin Should You Buy?

By Laurie Niles
October 20, 2014 12:25

Why get a nice violin for your student, if you aren't sure that he or she is "serious" about the violin?

If you enroll your child (or yourself!) in violin lessons, you should be serious enough about the endeavor to try to ensure success, and having a decent instrument is one part of that equation (along with adequate practice time and space, and a good teacher).

All violins are NOT created equal. One can see that just from the price range: about $20 for the cheapest Internet imports vs. tens of millions of dollars for an old Italian Stradivarius. There is a lot in between! Price does not always correlate with the "best" violin for you, particularly when one gets into the $10,000+ range. But below a certain point, a lower price does point to a certain amount of corner-cutting. Anything below about $1,000 for a full-size, and you need to watch what you are buying. Actually, no matter what, you need to watch what you are buying!

First, what's the problem with a cheap violin? If you'd like the long answer, here is the article I wrote about it. In short, if the violin is of bad quality, it's not very fun to play. It's nearly impossible to use the pegs and fine tuners. So it's out-of-tune most of the time. You put your fingers in the right places, and it's still out of tune. You try to use the bow the way your teacher says, and the sound is still squeaky, thin, tinny. The pitch bends. It's not pretty to look at. It smells funny. It feels funny. You try really, really hard to make it sound nice, and it never does, because it's impossible to make it sound nice.

What makes for a "good" violin?

1. Sound. Does it have a pleasing tone; does it respond to vibrato; does it resonate?

2. Fit. For a child, make sure you are getting the right size violin. (Here is more information on determining that.) More advanced students will want to consider: Does it fit your hand? How thick is the neck; can you get around the fingerboard easily? Does it feel particularly heavy or unwieldy? Not all violins are exactly the same shape, so it's important to get the right one for you.

3. Ease of tuning. Do the pegs work? Are they made of plastic or wood? Do they turn easily, or do they stick and slip? Are the fine-tuners metal or plastic? Do they work? Do they appear like they'll hold up under hundreds of tunings?

3. Set-up. Is the bridge set up properly? Is the bridge well-crafted or does it look thick and cheap? Is the soundpost in the right place? This greatly affects how the sound functions. You may need the help of your teacher or of a trusted violin maker to determine this.

4. Composition of the violin. Is the bottom made of spruce, the top made of maple? Is the fingerboard made of ebony or something similar? Those are the basics, and there are variations. But a violin made of cheap, improperly seasoned wood will not sound as good or hold up in the same way.

5. Craftsmanship. Is it made well? Are the seams glued properly? Is the purfling inlaid or just painted on? Is the finish and varnish attractive? Does it smell weird? Sure, some of this is cosmetic. But year-over-year, the sturdiness and beauty of good craftsmanship makes a difference.

How about a cheap violin that is old? Or one that you found in the attic? Keep in mind, when it comes to violins, old is very often (but not always) better than new. Time helps weed out really bad violins -- if it is a truly horrible instrument, people tend not to bother keeping it. You may be able to fix up an old violin and have it sound very nice. You may be able to buy an old violin for cheap, but still wind up having a nice violin. But watch out: you also may have to spend a lot of money to fix it. If the violin has cracks or open seams, you'll need to have a violin maker repair them. You'll need new strings, possibly a new bridge, have the soundpost checked, get new tuners or pegs, etc. So be prepared to pay something for repairs if you want to use the fiddle in the attic, and have a violin teacher or maker look it over and tell you if this will really be worthwhile before you commit.

I hope this helps, and I invite you to add any more considerations to the above list!

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What's in your head as you hear?

By Kate Little
October 18, 2014 12:00

My ability to hear classical music has evolved with time. It used to be that I could not really make sense of music. A symphony was an overwhelming wash of undifferentiated energy, akin to being caught and tumbled about by an ocean wave. Chamber music sounded like irritating static noise. Solo piano or violin sounded like cat scratch and screech. Yet, I was certain that there was something of value in the sound that abused my ears, so I kept listening.

Eventually music turned into a string of black dots. Some dots were bigger, some smaller, some higher, some lower, but otherwise undifferentiated as they continued their march through my ears. The dots’ music was not particularly interesting, but at least it was a step toward differentiated sound.

With time, the black dots turned into shapes (still colorless), and their string became a surface. This added definition and a 2nd dimension to what I heard, but the music still seemed boring. However, increased visualization led to an ability to verbally narrate (silently) a musical piece as it played out. In my head music sounded like: “A sequence. It’s going up. Hear the swell. And there the phrase ended. Oh! A new section beginning. The clarinet and flute are intertwined. Strings providing underlying harmony . . .” A new skill, simultaneous verbal description was developing more detailed and specific hearing, and music was becoming interesting.

By and by, architectural, sculptural and kinetic qualities supplemented the analytical narration. As if I were again a child playing with blocks, a symphony can now feel like a building under construction, as I tour the edifice building a mental map of the size and location of rooms, running a hand over wall surfaces to feel their varied textures. Sometimes this imagery morphs into waves of fabric undulating with the music, defining sonic space with motion, color, and light.


Photo courtesy of Mercedes Smith

It is with these physical interpretations and sensations that music has evolved from interesting to evocative.

Considering the tools my imagination uses to perceive and process music, verbalization is the one which brings specific meaning to what I hear. However, physical and emotional interpretation is what brings enjoyment. For me, the verbal perception of music dominates and it is gnawing at me lately as I now want to feel music. So, at a recent concert by Mercedes Smith, flute, and Karlyn Bond, piano, I decided to turn off the verbal spigot. Surprisingly, the other ways of processing dissipated along with it, and I was left hearing pure sound in my head: Sound with auditory color, shape, form, motion; Sound with dimension, sense and meaning; Sound inducing physical and emotional sensation; Sound carrying me on a journey from beginning to end. Sometimes beautiful, sometimes dark, sometimes melancholy, sometimes boisterous. But moving! And, happily, a long way from the static noise of when I first started listening.

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Nostalgia for 'Hedwig's Theme'!

By Joshua Iyer
October 18, 2014 09:22

I just found this really neat video on the evolution of "Hedwig's Theme". I was a late bloomer to all the Harry Potter fandom, but still, this video is fantastic, as it takes you through the titles of tracks, the films, the pictures, the four composers' takes on William's theme, and the various orchestrations used for the LSO to play this theme all throughout the Harry Potter Decade of 2001 - 2011. Obviously all the instruments change roles, but I think the violins do especially, going from quick runs to having the actual melody of the theme. So anyways, enjoy! Just wanted to share this. :P

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Competitions: A Competitor's Perspective

By Daniel Tan
October 18, 2014 05:46

Up until recently I have only really been an observer of all the major violin competitions; Menuhin, Indianapolis etc. avidly following the coverage, the articles, the debate and of course the performances. Violin (and musical) competitions seem to get an interesting rap among the community. Some people think they're necessary, some people don't; some people don't like the judging, others do... the list goes on. So I was no doubt very curious to see it all for myself when I found myself short-listed as a semi-finalist for the Kendall National Violin Competition (Australia) (August 2014).

For starters, to be honest I have no idea how I managed to make it into the final eight in the first place. Armed will little recording experience and no pianist to record with (up until the week beforehand), I was somewhat surprised when I was informed of my progression into the semi-final round. Nonetheless, it is exciting in itself to see your playing and work validated in this manner (that said I could have been 8 out of 8 applicants for all I know) and I looked forward to the semi-finals greatly.

The competition day began early at Melbourne Airport amid the usual chaos and confusion that air travel often elicits. Sydney is only an hour of flying away from Melbourne so nothing too serious or taxing, and air travel always conjures a sense of excitement for me personally anyway! Despite the jet lag and tiredness, having arrived back from New York less than a week earlier (another story for another time); I hardly noticed due to my anticipation of the day ahead (not to mention my personal machinations regarding getting my violin on and off the plane in one piece).

Despite a temperamental plane door, arriving in Sydney and at the Con was no issue and my Dad and I enjoyed the time we did have to go for a walk around the gardens and Opera House beforehand. Despite being a proud Melburnian, I love Sydney and every opportunity to visit the city.

I had opted not to fly into Sydney the day before because unfortunately university orchestra dealt me a 7 hour rehearsal call the day before the competition. I would just have to manage my performance with one rehearsal before the competition on the day, with the official pianist for the competition. I arrived at the Con around 10:30am just before the first session commenced and was warmly greeted by the organisers and some other competitors before being shown a room to warm up in. Shortly after I enjoyed a smooth rehearsal with the wonderful pianist who also took the liberty to show me around the incredibly large music school that is Sydney Con.

It is worth pausing here to say that despite our best intentions, it is almost always impossible to come into these performances feeling prepared. As I mentioned previously, I had only recently arrived back from a month of study in the US, and was in the thick of a rehearsal period for an orchestral program the following week. As such, in the warm up room and with the pianist, I could feel my lack of preparedness showing. Be it in dodgy intonation, or just a general lack of musical refinement. However, whilst these things add to nerves no doubt, I had resolved myself earlier that day to just fully enjoy the new experience and do my best to make the best music I possibly could on stage later that day.

Thankfully for the semi-final, Kendall's repertoire requirements are not hugely onerous, requiring a movement from any of the solo Bach Sonatas or Partitas, a movement from a major violin sonata, and a show piece. I had chosen to play the following:

Bach, Partita No.2 in D Min, Sarabande
C. Franck, Sonata in A Maj, 2nd Movement
F. Kreisler, Tambourin Chinois (brought in last minute to replace a horrendously under-prepared Introduction and Tarantella)

After warming up, rehearsals, some fresh air and lunch, the second half of the semi-finals commenced. Playing second in this session, I watched one of the following competitors go on and off from back stage whilst trying to direct my own attention to something non-violin related (as I often do to keep nerves in check).

My performance flew by in a blur. I remember having to contend with a shaky bow all through my Bach, before settling much more through my final two pieces. Personally, I often ruminate over technical concerns too much as a violinist, and as such I tried to focus heavily on the music and the gesture of the performance. Whilst it definitely wasn't the most flawless or refined performance I have ever given, I would like to think I achieved the character and musicality I was aiming for that day. To me though, what I most fondly remember of that performance is how much I enjoyed it, and how genuinely lucky and alive I felt to be on that stage that day. Upon talking to some audience members later, I was glad to hear that came across.

However, the highlight of my day came when I finally got to sit down and listen to the two remaining competitors. To cut a long story short, I was absolutely blown away by what I heard. Both had such wonderful sound and suppleness of tone, incredible senses of virtuosity and colour, but above all, great generosity of musical intent. I left those performances feeling thoroughly inspired and renewed in my own quest to better my ability on the instrument.

In general, that is how I felt about the whole day. I didn't get through to the finals in the end (unsurprisingly), but I didn't feel like I had lost either. I had just experienced an inspiring day of music making, welcomed openly and warmly into a new environment by its lovely organisers and stakeholders. I cannot speak highly enough of the competition. I felt incredibly welcome the entire time, and the environment cultivated was nothing but open and friendly. My only regret was honestly not being able to see more of the performances, or to meet more of the competitors properly. I flew home that evening utterly exhausted (I fell asleep against the window, which made me glad I chose that seat) but entirely renewed in my focus and desire to become a better musician.

I hope that I can make it into such competitions in the future, and enjoy more of what other violinists are capable of. With a lot of work, a new program and a bit more new found experience under my belt, hopefully Kendall will welcome back with open arms in 2015.

This can also be read here at my personal blog.

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The Making of A Violin: The Making of A Luthier -- The Template

By Ray Nichol
October 18, 2014 03:22

by: Ray Nichol (Luthier in Training)

In making the violin I will be working with tolerances of tenths of a millimetre or less. Go ahead and take out 2 credit cards and stack them on top of each other. This is the average thickness of the top and back plates of most violins. The ribs are Even less than one credit card! But a violin is made Up of more than 60 pieces of wood and from the inside out and so lets get to the heart of the matter.

Making A Template

Before one line is cut or one line is even drawn, I needed to ask myself a few basic questions which will determine how I will start. Will I be using my own design? Will I be buying a ready-made pattern? How accurate is that pattern? Sometimes, you will be able to get your dimensions from a plaster cast. Like the one in the picture, below, which I made on my first day in the shop.

 photo 2b615c29-8ddf-4ecc-9f16-b58e1bc4bab5_zps3da00ff0.jpg


Or, if you are like me, you will be lucky enough to be taking the measurements And profiles directly from the violin, a 7/8ths Amati violin.

 photo 9a7f19b8-6c2f-4847-9ae2-b55c3608d58c_zpsd010ddd7.jpg


When I walked into the shop, on the very first day, John wanted to know if I wanted to build the violin to the best of my abilities or did I want to build the violin as though HE was doing the building. I guess you know what my answer was and all I can say is, 'be very careful For what you ask for.'

The first week was taken up by making three plaster casts from existing plaster casts and relearned how to sharpen. (which went into the following week!)

In making the plaster casts, I first had to clean and scrape anything that through the profile of the top/back off of the existing mould. Next I warmed the mould with a hair dryer so that the Vaseline would melt. The Vaseline will help when it comes time to remove my mould. I next made a cardboard boarder, sealed any spaces, and poured in the plaster. One day later I was able to remove my mould and set it aside to dry for a week or two.

When it comes to sharpening a chisel there are two cardinal rules: first flatten the back edge of the chisel and second never lift your right (or left hand if you are left handed)as this will result in an edge which will also be rounded and this will of course throw everything you want flat to be rounded. Not good. The trouble is that if you are right/left handed that is the hand which wants to lift that chisel. Which is why it takes so long to learn how to sharpen at the beginning.

When John asked me which side of the drawing did I want to use as my standard design. I choose the base side and John agreed.

I then transferred half the pattern, including the center line, by poking a series of holes through the paper and into the pexiglass. John made sure that I filed just past the marks. If I had of kept the line on on each successive transfer I would have ended up with a viola by the end of 6 months. Just kidding, but it certainly would not have been the size I had wanted.

As it was, in most areas I was bang on but there were a couple of stubborn areas. This template helped give me the dimensions and shape for the inside template. This will be exactly 2.5 mm inside the first template. I began to see why it was important which side of the line you file down to.

 photo ccf7b23e-b2a7-4501-9605-579fe6941ecc_zpsc0dc2137.jpg


Making a Mould

 photo c2efa9ce-82d7-4525-9cc5-cf73bd149b3f_zps344643f9.jpg

The mould is the piece of flat wood usually 12 mm thick that is used to keep the corner and end blocks, perfectly at 90 degrees, while you (I) glue the ribs in place. The mould will eventually be removed.

However, ...... if I make a mistake in the making of the mould, such as not having the sides perfectly at 90 degrees, then this will throughout the entire shape of the violin, no matter how careful I am (will be) every where else.

We getting closer to the fun part, Of actually working on the violin, but first I have to get past filing and sanding those sides of the mould. And if it is one thing I do not like to do is sanding. Which is why it took me a day and a half.

Holes still need to be drilled along the edge of the mould and then cutting out the spaces for the four corner and two end blocks Will complete the making of the mould.


John's comment on the mould, "Well done, your work is now spot on. What you unto next?"

Next week I'll be working on shaping the corner blocks, making the ribs, and perhaps even begin working on the neck. Cool.


Buyer's Tip of the Week

If you are in the market for a violin be sure to look at the side of the nut. If its corners blends into the fingerboard and the peg box, nicely, chances are good the luthier has also paid attention to most of other finer details as well.

Thanks for pulling up a chair, sharing a cup of tea, and I will see you all in a couple of weeks.

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V.com weekend vote: Do you make funny faces when you play?

By The Weekend Vote
October 17, 2014 18:12

Do you make funny faces when you play? This was a question raised by Graham Emberton's blog about mirrors this week, and I thought it would make a fun weekend vote.

I certainly used to make faces, when I was a child. In fact, after those early concerts my family often had more to say about my grimaces and facial contortions than about anything else! These were of the inadvertent kind, expressions that come from concentrating very hard. These days, I probably make some funny faces, but I think they tend to be more about the music than about my physical struggles with the violin. I hope, at least!

Many people are quite poker-faced and stoic when they play. Remember the cellist, Janos Starker? Gorgeous music came from his cello, with emotional content running the full range, but his face remained fairly unchanged as he played.

How about you?

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When Pigs Fly...But Musical Instruments Don't

By Karen Rile
October 17, 2014 01:17

When-Pigs-Fly-500-px

Carry a baby down the aisle of an airplane and passengers look at you as if you were toting a machine gun. Imagine, then, what it’s like travelling with a one-year-old pig who oinks, grunts, and screams, and who, at twenty-six pounds, is six pounds heavier than the average carry-on baggage allowance and would barely fit in the overhead compartment of the aircraft that she and I took from Newark to Boston. Or maybe you can’t imagine this. —Patricia Marx, from "Pets Allowed"

Riding downtown on a crowded commuter train the other day I was snorting and snuffling with barely controllable laughter. The man beside me edged away; then he got up and changed to an empty seat. What a sourpuss. Well, he should be glad at least I left my alpaca at home.

I was reading Patricia Marx's essay, "Pets Allowed" in the current issue of The New Yorker. Marx, a humorist, is one of the magazine's best writers. In this piece, as a social experiment, she successfully escorts a series of increasingly ridiculous creatures to increasingly absurd venues claiming that they are Emotional Support Animals (E.S.A.s).

She totes a turtle to see the Vermeers at the Frick Collection, where I once had to practically stand on my head to get my calm, serious, tall-for-her-age 9 1/2 year-old admitted. (The minimum age for the Frick turns out to be 10.) A turkey gets seated at a table in a New York delicatessen. An alpaca scores an Amtrak ticket. The clincher, of course, is Daphne, the 26 lb baby pig (too big for the overhead compartment) who gets VIP treatment—she sails through TSA—on a plane trip to Boston.

You can see where this is going. It was easy for Marx because her pig didn't bring its viola.

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Mirror, mirror

By Graham Emberton
October 15, 2014 18:31

“Wow, I really need to get a haircut soon…” A desultory glance in the mirror produced profound thoughts such as this when I first entered the practice room this evening. The primary purpose of a mirror has always been to reveal our exterior self as it appears to others, so my inclination to preen was not unusual. Musicians, however, can glean much more practical information than this from our reflections. So, after taking some centering breaths, unpacking, and tuning, I began to play some scales while looking in the mirror, vanity set aside.

Today I used the mirror to monitor tension. I had recently taken some video footage of my practice and noticed my mouth was twitching involuntarily as the difficulty of the music (a Bach fugue) increased. One of the myriad challenges presented by Bach’s fugues are the double, triple, and quadruple stop passages. These sections were causing me particular grief, and my quivering mouth exhibited clearly the stress I was feeling within. Once I knew what I wanted to address, I didn't need a high-tech recording device to check on my progress; mirrors provide the opportunity to receive real-time, visual feedback. I began by practicing double stop scales, making sure my mouth was uninvolved in the process. After going through 3rds, 6ths, and octaves, I returned to the Bach. Selecting excerpts from a few heavily-textured sections, I got to work. Before diving right into the chords, I sought ease by first isolating and playing only the leading voice in each passage (Simon Fischer suggests thinking of fugues as written for choir, with SATB voicing). Then I added double stops, and finally the whole chord (I left the quadruple stop passages for later). All the while I was frequently watching my face in the mirror, checking to see if I was doing anything bizarre. While I wish I could say I completely cured my twitching, I did notice vestiges of it when I had to play several triple stops in a row. But, I was much more at ease than before, and now I know specifically where I tense up (a.k.a where my practice spots are!) Another result of my mirror work (which was a happy surprise) was that my listening improved when I was watching my face. I think this might be because I over-focus on my left hand visually when I’m playing normally. Tonight was a good reminder that my left hand can, in fact, play in tune without me glaring at it all the time. A relaxed gaze opens up the ears.

The way I used the mirror in this practice session was a departure from my norm. Usually I use the mirror to check up on my bowing, ensuring that my bow is traveling parallel to the bridge from frog to tip and back. This is very handy, and something I’d recommend to anyone whose bow likes to wander toward the fingerboard (or bridge) when you’d rather it not. When doing this, make sure you stand in such a way that when you look in the mirror (peripherally), your bridge appears as a straight line and you can’t see its front or back. After delighting in the feedback mirrors can give (notwithstanding bad hair days), I’m curious- what are your favorite ways to use the mirror while practicing?

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Interview with Samuel Thompson: Weathering the Storm

By Laurie Niles
October 15, 2014 15:22

It's no surprise that Samuel Thompson is fascinated by the way literary ideas mix with musical ones in Vivaldi's "Winter" from the Four Seasons.

Samuel is both a violinist and a writer, not to mention that he's weathered some serious storms. Samuel is the violinist who took out his violin and soothed a weary crowd with Bach during Hurricane Katrina, after he, along with some 20,000 others storm refugees, were trapped in the Louisiana Superdome and later at the New Orleans Arena during the storm. The terror of those nights 2005 took their toll, as did the strange fame that follows being written up in the widely read LA Times account of the storm.

"A lot of it I can't remember," Samuel said to me last week, speaking over the phone from Baltimore.. "Someone described it like a Hieronymus Bosch painting -- and that's the only thing I can say, it was surreal."

In the years since, Samuel has derived strength and inspiration from the constancy of words and the beauty of music. Though he's played the violin since he was a young child and has a Master of Music degree from Rice, Samuel's writing came post-Katrina, encouraged by a violin mentor, Jorja Fleezanis.

"First it was a personal thing, but then it turned into writing about people doing fantastic things, paying attention to some really great things that are happening in the world and in music," Samuel said. "For me, it's been an opportunity to interact."

Samuel Thompson

A member of Violinist.com since 2003, Samuel has been blogging on Violinist.com since 2005 and has written for numerous online and print publications, including Strings Magazine and the San Jose Chamber Orchestra's "Other Notes".

On the musical side of things, Katrina gave him some opportunities. "I'm grateful for so much of it. In one year, I had the opportunity to do things and play concerts -- and consequently meet some amazing people who are doing wonderful things in the world in music, theater and social justice," Samuel said. "But that was also a very strange time, going even up to 2008. I remember thinking, this is great, but at the end of the day, I'm still a violinist, I'm still a musician. I want to make sure that I'm playing well. When it comes to recovery and reintegration, it's been a long road, but I'm finally starting to feel like I'm in a place where I can really do that."

And that's where Vivaldi comes in. On Oct. 22, Samuel will play "Winter" with the Colour of Music Virtuosi as part of the second annual Colour of Music Festival in Charleston, S.C., with other seasons played by other violinists: Brendon Elliott (Spring), Edward Wellington Hardy (Summer) and Charlene Bishop (Autumn). It's one of many concerts and events scheduled during the 10-day festival, running Oct. 17-26, which celebrates black classical musicians in solo recitals, chamber concerts, orchestra concerts, and at the end, a Verdi Requiem. The festival also features many works by black classical composers, past and present.

For Samuel, the upcoming performance is a chance to look anew at a set of works familiar to us all, The Seasons, and to revel in their imagery.

"These aren't concerti, they're more like musical paintings," Samuel said. Though he learned the music years ago, he is discovering it anew and enjoying re-reading the poems that Vivaldi wrote as his own inspiration. "He did such a wonderful job of translating these words into music. The score says, 'Shivering, frozen, amid the frosty snow and biting stinging winds.' When the solo violin comes in at the beginning with the 32nd notes, that's supposed to be a blast of stinging wind. The double stops at the end of the first movement are teeth chattering in the bitter chill. The third movement: walking on thin ice, slowly and cautiously for fear of tripping and falling. If we move quickly -- then it's scales going down, with words in the score, 'falling to the earth.'"

The Colour of Music Festival was founded by Lee Pringle and music director Marlon Daniel, who dreamed for 10 years of creating a festival to highlight the achievements and contributions by black musicians to Western Classical Music.

"Lee did a really great thing, and I'm proud to be a part of this," Samuel said. Events such as this, and the Sphinx Competition, help unite black classical musicians and shine a spotlight on black composers such as Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Edmund Thornton Jenkins, William Grant Still, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Fred Onovwerosuoke, Dominique Le Gendre, Nkeiru Okoye, Joyce Solomon Moorman, Trevor Weston and many others.

The festival gives its participants the chance to increase their awareness of historical figures of African descent and to gain a much larger perspective on the scope and significance of black participation in this field. A common reaction: "We didn't know we existed!"

"It is helpful; it's inspiring, There are a lot of people doing a lot of great things, all across the country," Samuel said. "One's eyes are opened to so many things in American history, and world history and musical history and the contributions that so many people have made that we don't know very much about."

That spirit of discovery and exploration -- for all aspects of music -- is what has kept Samuel on the musical path.

"I love the instrument, I love the craft. There is nothing better than being in the lab, being in the practice room, making sure that the strokes are even and that the bow is not skating. What a great feeling," Samuel said. "But what I love about being a musician, even more than I love playing, is that there's always a chance to look at everything with new eyes -- to hear different things, and to go deeper."

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Second Chances

By Krista Moyer
October 14, 2014 20:57

A little over a week ago my teacher mentioned to me that there is a festival coming up at the end of the month. The kids attend it each year and are tested on their playing. At any rate, there's a recital at the end for adult students. Only they rarely have any, so usually the high schoolers take part. Oh, and hey, why don't you play something?

I was engulfed with a sick sense of panic. The last time I played in public was at the spring recital. With less than 48 hours notice, I dragged out a piece from Suzuki book three and tried to dust it off. I got exactly one run through with the pianist five minutes before the recital. Almost needless to say, I bombed terribly. If it could go wrong, it did - every shift missed, shaky bow, wrong notes. It was dreadful. At least I didn't cry.

And here we are, five months later, being asked to commit to another public shaming opportunity. However, we don't learn performance without practicing performance; and as an adult, those opportunities are far and few between. With that in mind, I hesitantly said yes, figuring I could probably warm up one of the Seitz movements in time.

Instead, my teacher asked me to pick from something in Suzuki book two. Book two? Really? I'm playing the Vivaldi A minor for heaven's sake! But then I remembered the recital in May and grudgingly chose Two Grenadiers. We went over it a few times and yes, it's still there. This one I can do.

This morning I got an email that listed what each of my teacher's students are playing. There are three others, all high schoolers. Each one of them is playing multiple pieces from Suzuki book 6 and beyond.

Talk about intimidating! Sure, they have been playing since they were tiny, but I'll bet they have vibrato, and confidence and great bowing skills. I'm older than their parents and am playing a piece from "the baby book" sans vibrato or confidence. The bowing skills are debatable.

Then I remembered that this opportunity is a gift. It's a gift of trust, and one of encouragement. As I said earlier, chances to perform are severely limited for middle aged desk jockeys. So what if I'm playing "Two Grenadiers"? I should go out there and play the best darn "Two Grenadiers" ever. After all, if it wasn't beneath David Nadien, who am I to turn my nose up at it?

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Suzuki Violin School

"Where did the Suzuki CD go?"

Good news! All the Suzuki Violin School CDs are available now as digital downloads on Amazon.com. But why take the time to search for them all? We've collected links to each album for Suzuki Violin Books 1 - 8.

Get them now! Vol. 1 | Vol. 2 | Vol. 3
Vol. 4 | Vol. 5 | Vol. 6 | Vol. 7 | Vol. 8