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Story of my violins

By George Mitrou
December 8, 2012 12:28

I'm 16 and I really like the violin. To tell the truth at the very beginning I had a choice between a violin or a piano, and I chose the violin, and I don't regret it. Actually it was pretty fast to actually "connect" with this instrument, and learnt "Happy Birthday to you" on the 1st week I got it (with some false notes of course). My first violin was a fancy coloured stagg vso (Chose it only and only because of its colours, unfortunately) which actually sounded pretty decent. Unfortunately, the fingerboard wasn't made of ebony and it was thiner than it should, plus the bridge was poorly made (common vso issue). Okay, I started private lessons for summer. My teacher was impressed, but when September arrived, I started lessons what one of my town's music school. During my 1st meet with the new teacher, I played him a small piece. He was pleasantly surprised, especially with my vibrato. He said, that if I continued that way, I would take special exams the next year, to jump, pass, whatever, 2-3 years! I was pleasantly shocked when I heard this! But after a month, I decided to start again with my old teacher (Cause she can't stand losing one of her best students xD). So I showed where me and the teacher beforehand stopped on the Laureux method, and continued improving. A week later, I saw her old violin forgotten, and asked:

"Could I please have a look on that violin that is standing by the piano?"

"Yes of course!"

So she took the case, and opened it. She handed me the violin. It was a slightly damaged, 1999 Otto Jos. Klier, 700 euro valued violin, with its strings needing replacement.

"Can I try it?"

The sound was gorgeous! And actually, she gave it to me for a few days!
Had so much fun playing with it! The next time I met her, she asked if I want it forever to be mine, for a set of cash of course, so that she could send it for repairs. I talked with my mother and she agreed! So she sent the violin for repairs, and within the next days, she took it back, and showed me the repaired sections. And from then on, that violin belonged to me, and did not use my older vso for once.

Later on, my fingers were getting used to the right positions, and now, I'm improving my vibrato.

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Winning NaNoWriMo

By Karen Allendoerfer
December 8, 2012 09:00

I blogged last month that I was going to spend the month of November doing National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as "NaNoWriMo." The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days, which breaks down to 1667 words per day. Participants are sometimes called "Wrimos."

I had an eventful month in more ways than one. First, I'll kvell: I finished! I hit the 50K mark on the last day, which counts as "winning." I had a number of obstacles to overcome to get there, the worst of which were some health challenges: bronchitis and a bad GI reaction to the antibiotics used to treat the bronchitis. But it turns out that it isn't that bad to sit in bed and work on a laptop. In fact, if you have bronchitis, NaNoWriMo is a lot easier to do than, say, violin practice. The other way that I made my NaNoWriMo life difficult was that I wrote a future fantasy set in the year 2074. It's science fiction with utopic and dystopic elements. This is the story I wanted to write: science fiction without space aliens is my genre, I like to extrapolate from current trends and events and see where that takes me. But it meant a complicated chronology: my main character, Hallie, was born under the return of Halley's comet in 2061-2. This is where she got her name. Then I needed to know when Thanksgiving would take place in 2074. I needed to know whether the winter solstice would fall on a weekend. And one of the characters was pregnant and I wanted the timing of that to be realistic. I had windows with a calendar website and a the Baby Center pregnancy calculator open pretty much the whole time.

Writing 50K words in a month has both good and challenging consequences. On the good side, having this defined numerical goal helped me to push through and get to the end. I have been interested in writing since back in my college days, when I wrote a couple of short stories for the campus science fiction magazine. I took a handful of creative writing classes at that time, and I even participated in Clarion West, a 6-week summer workshop for aspiring SF writers, between college and graduate school. But my problem back then, which I've never really addressed, let alone solved, was my inability to finish anything. I tended to start out strong with a lot of ideas that were all over the place. I would write them all down and then have no idea where to go next. Readers would say, helpfully, "there's a lot there--this could be a novel!" I'd agree, think "well, gee, I don't have time to write a novel," and then put it away. Then I'd start something else. Or, more often as the years went by, I'd get discouraged about my lack of follow-through and not even start. Characters and situations just piled up in my brain, imprisoned there, talking to an audience of one.

This time, however, they got out. However imperfectly, they are now described, and "living" out there in pixels, in the cloud on the Google Drive. Their names are Hallie, Luke, Roberta, Flora, Daniel, Lorelei, Calvin, and Chris. Hallie plays the violin/fiddle, and Luke plays keyboards. Daniel never got a chance to learn/play music.

Between the bronchitis, the Thanksgiving holiday, and having to put aside the novel entirely for several days in order to write a proposal for a course I am teaching in January, I almost didn't make it anyway. The last 3 days of November were kind of tough. I didn't exercise, didn't play my violin, didn't do much of anything except sit with my laptop and type. When, early in the afternoon on November 30, I saw my word count hit 50,151, I teared up. I then uploaded my document to the NaNoWriMo site to have it verified. They gave me a couple hundred extra words, verified me as a winner, and then played a video of the NaNoWriMo staff cheering. I started to cry in earnest. I realized then that I'd been up writing since 5 a.m. and hadn't had anything to eat. Hypoglycemia can do that.

On the challenging side, writing that fast and trying to meet a word count goal, meant that something was sacrificed in terms of quality. I'm grappling that now. There are whole scenes that I wrote mostly for word count that probably just need to go. There is dialog that needs to be cleaned up and made into something more interesting than one character asking the other, "what's going on?" and the other character holding forth didactically in an expository lump. But most difficult, there are characters who need fleshing out and who need to find their voices. Chris, in particular, is a problem child. He's the antagonist, but I'm still sympathetic to him. But right now, in this version, his motivations simply don't make sense. He does things for the sole reason of advancing the plot to the finish line. Luke, his son, desperately wants an answer from him, and I, the author, still don't have one. Whereas I'm probably a little too close to Hallie, a 12-year-old with big dreams but a lackadaisical work ethic.

NaNoWriMo encourages you to put your inner editor away for a month. Now I have to let her out again.

Comments (5) | Archive Link

Stage Fright Tips: How to Overcome Performance Anxiety

By Liz Lambson
December 7, 2012 16:46

Photo by schleikmeister

Studies show that amongst a general list of “greatest fears,” there’s one in particular that consistently takes the cake. Surpassing a fear of spiders, heights, and even death, the act of public speaking (or performance) leaves most people shaking in their boots.

“So, you're telling me that at a funeral, most people would rather be the guy in the coffin than have to stand up and give a eulogy,” says Jerry Seinfeld.


So what is it about performing for a crowd that makes us so nervous we physically react? Shaking hands, dry mouth, stomach butterflies, sweating, an increased heart rate, the rush of adrenaline. You would think this fight-or-flight reaction would be in response to a rhinoceros threatening to run you down.

And yet, instead, all you’ll find is a group of strangers, colleagues, family, friends, and even your sweet grandmother happily anticipating your rendition of “Vocalise.” And check this out: 99% of them (unless you have very evil friends), are hoping--and knowing--you’ll succeed. No one wants you to see you fail.

The most common reasons for stage fright are a fear of failure or criticism, uncertainty, self-consciousness, and social phobia. Trouble is, most of us deal with some combination of these fears, desperately hoping to impress or please the people around us--strangers or not.

So while it may take a little more to cure you of your fear of failure (you might also try a few hundred hours of counseling), here are a few tips to battle stage fright and have a truly exceptional--and even rewarding!--performance.


1. Prepare and Practice.

If you’re afraid of biffing that difficult cadenza, don’t avoid it; instead, face it. Practice the most difficult passages to a point where you don’t worry about them anymore. There’s nothing worse than walking on stage knowing you aren’t prepared. You’d be setting yourself up for failure, which is the root fear that causes stage fright.

2. Be Confident.

Easier said than done, right? But seriously, give yourself some credit! Embrace your ego and let yourself feel strong and capable--because you are. Hours and hours and years of years of your hard work and experience have prepared you for success in this moment. Take pride in the skills you have. Be empowered.

3. Remember, No One’s Perfect.

In fact, the majority of the people in your audience probably have zero experience with your instrument. Some have maybe never touched a violin, viola, cello, or bass in their life. So if you’re fretting over your vibrato in that one phrase being less than perfect, remember that there are people in the audience who don’t even know what vibrato is. It’s like picturing the audience in their underwear as if you have something going for you that they don’t. Truth is, you do.

4. Don’t Dwell on Mistakes.

Along with remembering that no one is perfect, keep in mind that that includes yourself. Everyone makes mistakes. The “perfect” performance doesn’t exist. So if you stumble a little, don’t just stop and give up or stew over what just happened. Instantly move on and get back to the music. Dwelling on your mistakes will lead to making even more mistakes because you’ve lost focus. And speaking of focus . . .

5. Focus.

In the performance setting, there are a lot of details to distract you from the task at hand: the lighting, who’s out in the audience, your accompanist’s polka dot tie. Tune all of it out and focus on what you’ve practiced. There will be time to talk to that cute guy or girl in the audience after you’ve taken your bows.

6. Perform Before You Perform.

Don’t let your big performance be the first time you’ve played for anyone besides your teacher. Take every opportunity possible to play your repertoire before the scheduled performance date. Play for your friends, spouse, family, strangers, or even your cat. Schedule a small house concert or go play on a street corner if you have to.

7. Dress Comfortably.

What to wear might be a concern before your performance, but once you’re actually playing, it shouldn’t be. Avoid tight corsets, uncomfortable shoes, strangling neckties, or hot tuxedos. Some people even perform barefoot! Just make sure your clothing doesn’t distract from your focus while you play. Try on and practice your program in your performance-wear beforehand to be sure shifting, moving, or breathing isn’t more difficult than it needs to be.

8. Relax.

I remember before playing a house concert once, I went to the back room and screamed my lungs out to relieve my nerves. Do something to get the adrenaline out of your system: jump up and down, run in a few circles, shake out your limbs. And once you’ve done that, calm yourself down. Deep, slow breathing and some stretching also helps release the tension that’s been building up in anticipation of your performance.

9. Be Familiar with the Venue.

If at all possible, run through your program at least once in the recital hall, auditorium, or performance space where you’ll be playing. You don’t want any surprises on performance day, like blinding stage lights, no piano for your accompanist, or weird acoustics that throw you off.

10. Enjoy Yourself.

Remind yourself why you love music and what this is all about. Then go ahead and let yourself go. Enjoy the spotlight and the support of your audience. Have a good time! After all, isn’t that what’s it’s all about?

Comments (2) | Archive Link

Young violinists, welcome to Montreal!

By Rosalie Larouche
December 7, 2012 12:20

To young violinists of all nationalities who are 29 years old or younger on January 1, 2013.

Did you know that the Montreal International Musical Competition offers free transportation and accommodation for the candidates selected? You can read all the rules and conditions of participation on the Website. Then fill in the online form, but first, here are a few tips to help you to do so successfully:

1. Print the rules and application document, as well as the required repertoire and read them carefully;

2. Choose your repertoire;

3. Create a file on your computer where you can put :
* Two (2) different photographs (approximately 15 cm X 20 cm) for use in the official programme (if you only have print photos, you can send them by post)
* A biography (between 250 and 300 words) in English or French;
* A list of upcoming professional performances for the 2013-2014 season.
(As a word document. Don’t worry if you don’t have professional performances you won’t be penalized);

4. You will also need to prepare (and send by post)
* Two (2) letters of reference in English or in French (original copies, no emails);
* One (1) photocopy of your passport;
* A recording of the programme selected for the preliminary step (only CDs will be accepted). Note: The recording must have been made within the 18 months preceding the deadline.

Now, you’re ready to fill in the online form! Don’t wait too long to send in your application, as the deadline is approaching (January 18, 2013).

Tip: Don’t forget to keep the access number that will appear on your own form, so you can come back later if needed.

Besides having the opportunity to participate in the competition, you will get a chance to see Maxim Vengerov conduct the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal for the Finals on May 14 and 15 and at the Gala concert on May 17!

Feel free to contact me if you have questions, I’ll be pleased to help you!


Rosalie Larouche
Artistic coordinator
Montreal International Musical Competition

Archive Link

Music Theory Basics (Part 1)

By Rachel Davis
December 7, 2012 10:33

Music is a language and like any other language it has a written form. The parts that make up the written form of music and the rules for writing is are know as music theory. No matter your age or experience level, reading music and understanding music theory is a valuable skill.

Not yet music literate? Now is the perfect time to learn!

Let's dive in!

Staff: The musical staff is the foundation of modern musical notation. The staff is made up of five lines and four spaces. Each line and space represents a specific note.

Note: Short for "notation". Depicts the pitch and duration of a musical sound.

Pitch: represents the perceived fundamental frequency of a sound.

Clef: A clef is what assigns individual notes to certain lines or spaces. There are several type of clefs, but the most common are the Treble clef (aka G clef) and the Bass clef (aka F clef).

Treble clef: Treble is a term for higher sounding notes. The treble clef gets its name because it represents the high notes.

Bass clef: Bass is a term for lower sounding notes. The bass clef gets its name because it represents the low notes.

Note names: In modern music, there are 7 letters that make up the musical alphabet. A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. The letters are used to denote the pitch of each note. The note names are assigned in alphabetical order (i.e. B comes before C, etc.) and once you reach a G the alphabet starts over again (i.e. A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C...). This patten can repeat an infinite number of times.
Let's put this all together with this handy chart!

Since this handy chart won’t always be available, let’s go over how to remember note names. The best way, that I have found, is to use mnemonic devices.

On the treble clef, the notes in the spaces (from bottom to top) spell FACE. The note names spell a word, so that’s easy enough to remember. The notes on the lines (from bottom to top) are E, G, B, D, and F. To remember these note names, most people make up a sentence like: Every Good Boy Does Fine.
On the bass clef, the notes in the spaces (from bottom to top) are A, C, E, and G. The sentence All Cows Eat Grass is a handy way to remember that. The notes on the lines (from bottom to top) are G, B, D, F, and A. I like to use the sentence Green Bananas Don’t Fool Anybody.

If this seems complicated to you, throw away the sentences and just remember two things. The treble clef is also called a G clef because it indicates where the G is located on the staff. If you look closely, the line that intersects the clef the most is the second line from the bottom. That line is G. Likewise, on the bass clef is also called an F clef because is indicated where the F is located. The F can be found between the two dots that are to the side of the clef. This is the second line from the top. Music scholars believe that the current style of the clefs evolved from stylized G’s and F’s that composers and publishers included in the music.

In Music Theory Basics (Part 2) we will cover Rhythm and Note Duration. Inspired and can’t wait? 8notes.com has a useful Beginner Music Theory section with easy to read slide shows. You can also find music theory in some of the most popular violin method books like Suzuki.

Comments (6) | Archive Link

Svendsen Romance + Ave Maria for violin + organ

By Bram Heemskerk
December 7, 2012 02:53

Violinist Pieter Schippers plays Ave Maria of Bach/Gounod + the Romance of Svendsen with organ.

Comments (1) | Archive Link

I love to study violin because . . .

By Kate Little
December 6, 2012 15:18

I love to study violin because its luscious tones enfold me.
I love to study violin because practice is peaceful and meditative.
I love to study violin because it opens to me new ways of thinking and being.
I love to study violin because its challenge gives me interesting problems to solve.
I love to study violin because it takes time and patience.
I love to study violin because there are no shortcuts.
I love to study violin because I will never fully master it and will always have something to do.
I love to study violin because one day it will sing my voice.

Comments (5) | Archive Link

Take Five for Dave Brubeck

By Laurie Niles
December 6, 2012 12:40

My favorite tune from Dave Brubeck's seminal album, Take Five. Dave Brubeck died Wednesday at age nearly-92. Take a few minutes and listen to a little jazz this morning:

Comments (4) | Archive Link

A Christmas Gift?

By Cheyne Winterthieme
December 6, 2012 08:14

It was just last year a couple weeks from Christmas that one of my newest violin student's mom called me and said she wanted to get her daughter a violin for Christmas. She was wondering if I would help her. Sure! There are a lot of beginner's violins out there...! We looked though quite a few but she really wanted to get one from Ebay. I didn't think it was such a good idea. Finally she thought she had her mind made up and it seemed like a good choice. We had planned that it would be shipped to my home so it had no chance of being discovered before time. A day later she called me up and announced that she had changed her mind and, with some last minute bidding she had a $100 4/4 violin on its way! I wasn't sure what to expect, but I already had some misgivings. When it arrived, the package was alright, but looking at the instrument I pulled out of the beat up case, I was a bit disappointed. This violin had no chin rest and no bow. And, it felt strange. It just felt different. I went to tune it up and wouldn't you know it- I broke the first string. I couldn't even get close to the E! Now I really didn't know what to think! I hadn't broke a string in a long time and had never had any problem tuning. I went next to cleaning it up. It was pretty dirty. Looking on the inside, I saw it had two tags and then I made my discovery. She'd bought a 3/4 viola! lol. I called her up and we had a good laugh. Now, what to do with it? She wanted me to still try it out and she'd see if her daughter wanted a viola instead. I tried it out and was pleasantly surprised! I loved the feeling of the vibration under my chin and the low notes; it had a very pleasant sound. After playing just a few songs, my right arm was already tired... you try playing a viola with a violin bow and you'll know what I mean! It was enough, though, and I decided that if she didn't want it, I'd buy it from her. Christmas came and went and my student still wanted a violin. So this is how I ended up with a viola. I love playing it and have found it so much easier (for me) to play than the violin. That is, after I got a viola bow and a new chin rest. But playing is a different thing than reading alto clef... If I didn't love my violin so very much, I would be a violist today!

Comments (9) | Archive Link

Rudolf Koelman, pays a special tribute to Jascha Heifetz and will be touring in Asia and Australia

By Irma de Jong
December 5, 2012 05:06

On December 10th, 2012 it will be 25 years ago that the great Jascha Heifetz passed away. One of his last students, Rudolf Koelman, wishes to pay a special tribute to remember this great musician and will be touring in Asia and Australia.

Rudolf Koelman is former concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra; Professor of violin at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK); winner of the Edison Award 2010 and a frequently worldwide invited soloist. During this tour the favorites of the Master will resound. Masterclasses and workshops will be added to most of the concerts (tour dates are marked below).

We’ve been asking Rudolf Koelman why he wants to do this tour.
“To me it is a tribute to a great Master. Heifetz was a very dedicated teacher, twice a week lessons, once a month chamber music day; he would always go for: What do you want to express with the music? Technique was secondary but if you had some problems he would show you 3 different ways to solve it instantly!”

Why was Heifetz such a great teacher?
“He always would grab his violin at certain moments and show me in a few notes a whole story, incredible poetic sound and musicality. He was and unequaled, genius, magic violinist; from another world!”

‘No strings attached’
Koelman’s most memorable moment:
“He must have heard from some one I had money troubles. One day he called me after the lesson in his office (I thought I was kicked out of the class!), surprisingly he gave me some money. “No strings attached," he said, I replied: what does that mean? He said: when people give you something they often expect something back in return......I don't....”

Tour dates and more:


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