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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.

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Looking Back: Nymph's World Soundtrack

By Joshua Iyer
March 3, 2013 11:18

In September, I released a series of articles over a weekend I slept over at my grandma's house (the 8th and 9th), and in one of them I wrote an autobiography of me playing. (If you want to read it, go to my entries for September (of 2012) or go to my official website and click the Violin tab.) Anyways, I talked about how every year me and my sister do a movie. Just now, starting around 11:30am, I rewatched Nymph's World, the film we created during August of 2011, and I decided I'd talk about the film's soundtrack. You're just going to have to take my word for it and/or look up some songs on YouTube (I'll explain); there is no way I can release the soundtrack, sorry. Also, the film is about two years old now. I promise I'll do more for this summer's possible movie concerning the soundtrack, even if the film itself isn't released to the public. :)

I remember the idea for the film first came up probably in June (we just decided not to start working until the middle of July). I had been playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, and my sister told me an idea she had which discussed fairies. I made a connection in how, in the game, you get a fairy which is your guide. We started drafting an idea where a hero (or heroine) goes on an adventure with a fairy guide, so I guess Nymph's World is kind of like The Legend of Zelda. Anyways, we settled on her playing the role of Nymph, and I was her brother, Oscar, as well as a bunch of monsters. The fairy, Naomi, was a stuffed Build-a-Bear with wings. Well, that's the essentials of the film's plot.

Most of the soundtrack was not my creation. I was still developing an enjoyment for the violin, music, and composition, as I now have. A lot of the themes were from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. When Nymph sneaks into her brother's room at night, an epic male choir sings The Temple of Time (from that game). The game's mini-boss theme is used during one of Nymph's battles. I also used Super Mario Galaxy 2 music. The Melty Monster Galaxy theme and the Hurry! theme are coupled together as a headless monster kidnaps Nymph; Lubba's Theme (I think) is used to demonstrate the Oracle.In any case, these songs, even if they aren't original, are still semi-orchestrated and work well with the film's plot.

The three songs I created are what I'm going to focus on in this entry. I'm going to attempt to walk you through the music. Of course, it would be a lot better if you had the music to listen to, but I hope you can kind of keep up with what's happening. Maybe also this blog post is more for Future Me to read and decipher... sorry about that... :)

The first song was a battle theme. In the film, Nymph and Naomi are inside of a tree, and an evil yellow bird has just stolen the key needed to, essentially, move on in their quest. Strings create an A minor chord, and then the organ comes in with a scale that ends with the raised seventh. The timpani also blasts out a rhythm to punctuate and barricade the music inside.

The second piece is actually two pieces combined to make one (I just recorded each separately). It's the final battle music for Nymph's stand against the evil Dark King. Upper strings take on a driving melody while drums punctuate the ends of phrases. Finally, the choir comes in, belting an epic series of notes with the violins creating a countermelody underneath. This is the point where Nymph is down, and is summoning courage. Finally, Nymph gets up and the last blow is attempted; the choir and violins compete for the melody, each insisting they have it, while Nymph and the King battle it out. (I still honestly have no clue who gets the melody and who gets the countermelody; I might have wrote it with the choir in mind but the violins still sort of have a melody, so...) Finally, the choir sings an E as the King's wand leaves his hand; the piece dies away.

The third piece plays right after this; it's the credits theme. A harp softly plays broken chords while the violins sing a pretty melody and the other strings add water underneath (soft chords in C major). Basically, that's the whole piece, although the second violin section comes in underneath the first violin after a bit. It's a pretty piece, and I think it would be nice to have an actual orchestra play.

So that's it! I think it sounds great for a first real soundtrack (at least the songs I did.) I'm really excited for whenever a film will be made this year. I really have no idea what's going on with it, if more friends will join, or anything, but we shall see. In any case, I'll try to upload the soundtrack. I'm just not sure if everyone will want the film itself on YouTube. But for me, the music is all that matters (and will matter when I make it to college, probably). So thanks for struggling through this article, and sorry about that. I promise I will do another article like this closer to the date I finish the film, and also I will try to upload the music so you can at least have an idea of what I'm talking about. That's all! Thanks for reading!

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[Video series] 6 Essentials for a playable and payable violin, viola or cello

By Zlata Brouwer
March 2, 2013 08:30

A video series to help you find a good violin, viola or cello with which you can have a lot of fun, play the music you love and realize your musical dreams.

I share with you valuable information so you can select your ideal (playable and payable!) instrument yourself and distinguish it from unplayable instruments.

With this information you can select a violin, viola or cello that supports and rewards you, not an instrument that hurts you.

Here you can find all the video’s in this series (click on the links):

Did you like it? Please let me know what you think in the comments below!


Violinist and Skype violin teacher at Violin Lounge

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Ten Ways To Make The Most of Your Music School Experience

By Claire Allen
March 1, 2013 20:38

1. Make building fundamental technique a priority. In music school, it's often overwhelming when you try to balance lessons, orchestra, chamber music, gigs, etc. No matter how much repertoire you have, make some time each day to focus on your fundamental skills, scales, and technique. It will pay off and make everything easier.

2. Schedule your practice time. With a full schedule of classes and rehearsal, making sure you have enough time to practice is key. Make appointments with yourself to practice, and don't break them.

3. Play chamber music. In addition to being some of the best music in the world, chamber music teaches you how to truly play with other people. Learning to be a good chamber musician will also help you in your solo playing and your orchestral playing. It also teaches you creative problem-solving skills and important social skills. It's also one of the most tremendously rewarding and fun things you can do. :-)

4. Take orchestra seriously. It's easy to let orchestra slide in music school. Sometimes people are overwhelmed by scheduling. Some people just want to be soloists and don't think orchestra is important. Most of us, however, will end up playing in orchestra at one time or another.

So do the following things: Show up to rehearsal at least ten minutes early. Listen to the music before the first rehearsal. Bring a pencil. Pay attention in rehearsal - be respectful to the conductor and your colleagues. Keep your phone on silent, and don't text during rehearsal. Even if the conductor doesn't notice, the people sitting around you definitely will, and it makes you look bad.

5. Make your health a priority. Get enough sleep. Eat healthy food. Get some form of physical activity, even if it's just going for a short walk every couple of days. Your body and your brain will work so much better if you are in good health.

6. Choose not to participate in drama. In a small, emotionally-charged, competitive environment, there will be drama. Choose not to participate. It takes your time and energy away from what's really important - your music. Don't complain about orchestra chairs. Don't say anything bad about anyone else's playing - ever. Find someone from home - a friend, a parent, a relative - that you can trust to rant to when you need to. At school, be positive and professional at all times.

7. Take classes in pedagogy, arts administration, music business and orchestral repertoire. Great for elective credits and future employment opportunities. Regardless of whether you will eventually work as an orchestra musician, a teacher, a soloist, or an administrator, these courses will help you gain a more complete picture of the music industry.

8. Take advantage of free counseling at the student health center. College is rough. Whether it's navigating living away from home for the first time, roommate troubles, dealing with all the stress, or wondering what direction to take your life in, you'll go through a lot during your college years. Most universities offer free counseling. Take advantage of that. This is a great safe space to speak freely about any issue going on in your life. It will help you manage your stress, and help you get to know yourself better.

9. Plan your summers. Whether it's attending a summer festival, studying abroad, or working, make sure you plan ahead. Auditions and job applications are usually due in January and February, so think about your summer early. This is a great way to supplement your college education. If you want more orchestra, look for an orchestra festival. Same for chamber music. A summer internship at an arts organization can count for college credit and give you valuable insights into the music world. Regardless of which direction you take, make your summers work for you!

10. Learn to multi-task, schedule, and plan ahead. If you don't keep a calendar or a personal schedule, learn to. Buy a planner or invest in any number of free calendar programs (like Google Calendar). Set them to alert you before things. Write down rehearsals, concerts, and other events as soon as you receive the dates. Show up to everything on time - create a reputation of responsibility for yourself. Respond to emails about gigs, rehearsals, or projects as soon as you possibly can. Learn to plan ahead - in your school life alone, you'll be juggling solo performances, orchestra concerts, homework, tests, and everything else. You can't wait for one thing to end before working on another. You might have to write a final paper for theory class the same week as your recital. Or any other imaginable combination of things. Learning to keep track of your schedule in an organized way will be one of your most valuable skills to survive music school.

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A V.com Lurker Materializes: After College

By Natasha Marsalli
February 28, 2013 09:12

Well, fellow V.commers, I have returned, after a four year hiatus from blogging. I've never really abandoned V.com, I've just resorted to the occasional lurking instead of actively contributing. When I started blogging here, I had only just discovered how much I loved playing. It was my first year of high school, I had a new teacher who was nothing short of a perfect fit for me, and I was just getting involved in a youth orchestra that would change my life. I started winning competitions all throughout the region, and ended up soloing three times with the Naples Philharmonic. When I wasn't subtlety (or not…) flirting with the clarinetist in the back of the youth orchestra, I loved logging on and sharing my success stories with the world in my over-dramatic high school way (by the way, that clarinetist? He's my husband now.)

Then college came. College was a mess for me. I was awarded a hefty academic scholarship and a very generous musical scholarship from my high school youth orchestra, and I had a year's worth of college credits since I had dual-enrolled in math and science classes through high school. Long story short, after the university making false promises, I ended up at Case Western Reserve University. Five days before I left, they took away a substantial amount of financial aid because I had "too much." Two weeks after classes began, they decided to refuse my transfer credits, even though I had emails where I had been told they would be accepted. Apparently the person who wrote those emails didn't have the authority to make such promises.

My one year in Cleveland was both stressful and amazing; in those two semesters, I took forty college credits, something like twenty four classes. About half of those (music theory, eurythmics, chamber music, lessons, etc.) were at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Those classes formed me as a musician more than any classes I would ever take again. But, on the whole, the situation was not a good fit for me. I made fantastic grades, in spite of getting swine flu and spending a month with pneumonia during the spring, but I felt like I fell between the cracks of being a "Conservatory kid" and a "CWRU kid." Furthermore, my private teacher and I were not a good fit, although we got along very well and I made good progress. At the end of the year, I decided I couldn't justify the hefty price tag.

I spent a year in limbo, taking classes at the university I had dual-enrolled at and studying with my teacher from high school. I don't regret that year at all. Ave Maria University has a small but excellent music program, centered around sacred music studies. I had some incredibly powerful musical experiences there, including singing the Durufle Requiem at a Latin High Mass and playing chamber music with one of the most amazing musicians I have ever encountered.

After running the audition circuit (again), I ended up at The Florida State University. I spent two years and a half years there, completing a B.M. in Violin and a B.M.E. in Instrumental Education. All of the faculty and staff there were amazing and bent over backwards to give me the best and most affordable education I could get. I did two full years (summers included) of coursework and a semester of student teaching through FSU and graduated just this last December with both degrees summa cum laude.

After six years of undergrad, I was more than burned out. My private teacher advised that I not apply for graduate school, and instead prepare on my own to take orchestra auditions. Right now I am working as a freelance violinist in the Southeast region. I live in Tallahassee, but I teach and perform throughout the Florida Panhandle and parts of Georgia and Alabama as well. I feel like there are huge amounts of musicians in my situation: a Bachelor's degree, but not good enough to win a really orchestra job yet. It's a difficult choice: do you go on to grad school? Take a non-music job? As I make my own discoveries about living the freelance lifestyle, I have decided to resume blogging at V.com so I can pass what I learn to other violinists in the same boat (and hopefully get some advice from the veterans along the way!)

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How to Use a Metronome

By Heather Broadbent
February 28, 2013 06:01

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How to use a metronome - It is not as easy as just turning it on and hearing the clicks while you play. It is a process of internalizing the metronome into your being.

The metronome can be very frustrating to work with at first and many students absolutely hate the metronome. The relationship between you and your metronome needs to be a positive one. How is this possible?  Start small and do only a measure at a time successfully and slowly build.

In this video, I discuss and demonstrate how to use a metronome. Like I mentioned earlier, it is not as easy as turning the metronome on while you are practicing and saying "Yeah, I practiced with the metronome." It can click away and you are playing, but there is a good chance you are not with the metronome:) Record yourself playing with the metronome and playback to double check you are truly with the metronome.

When you are looking to purchase a metronome you want to buy one with two different pitches. This way you can make the downbeat, otherwise known as the first beat of the measure, the higher pitched click and you know for sure you arrived on the right beat for the new measure.  This does not guaranty that everything in the measure was played rhythmically accurate but at least it is a good starting point.  After building the framework of the measure you can then start to internally dissect the measure.  The most important secret to excellent rhythm is...................are you ready?

To always SUBDIVIDE:)

Subdividing is basically rhythm division - breaking down the rhythm into smaller increments to increase rhythmic accuracy.

Enjoy the video and remember the metronome is your best friend!!!!

Happy practicing:)

A Dozen A Day - Book One
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A Dozen A Day - Book One
(Technical Exercises for the Piano to be done each day before practicing). For Piano/Keyboard. Willis. Technique. Instructional book. Introductory text, illustrations, standard notation and fingerings. 28 pages. Willis Music #6722. Published by Willis Music (HL.413366)Smp_stars50
...more info

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Thorny Music

By Kate Little
February 27, 2013 04:56

“What did you think of the double bass concerto?,” asked my friend. The contemporary (1966) piece by Hans Werner Henze was performed last weekend by Utah Symphony and our principal bassist.

“There was a lot to comprehend. I didn’t totally get it.”

“Would you listen to it again?”

“Umm . . . Yes. Yes, I would.”


Well, yes. I see it this way. First of all, it is contemporary, so it’s not easy listening. It’s angular and not particularly melodic, most of the time. It is thorny music, and it is hard to know what is going on in it and where it is going to. By contrast, Bach and Mozart are easy listening, not because it is simple music, but rather because it is familiar. We all know the context and where the music is coming from and going to and something about what it means and what it expresses. Familiarity breeds comfort. This double bass concerto was not familiar, so it was not comfortable. But I assume that repeated listening will help me feel comfortable with it, or at least lead to greater understanding, and as a listener, I owe it to myself and to music to make the effort. So, yes, I would listen to it again.

There is another reason, too. Our principal bass picked this piece in particular to share with us: his audience, his community. Obviously there is something about the piece that he likes, and would like us to like, also. Watching and listening to him play this complex piece, it was clear that he had put a lot of love and work into bringing it to life. Given the lengths to which he had gone, it would be wrong for me to summarily dismiss his efforts. There is something in this piece to like, and I owe him the mutual respect to look for it.

In today’s world in which everything is to be convenient, fast and easy, it is refreshing to pursue a reward that takes time and effort to obtain. So, yes, Mr. Principal Bass, I will gladly listen to your concerto again, and again, and again.

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Greetings from the 'Seasons'

By Andrew Sords
February 26, 2013 17:18

This week, I am playing the "Four Seasons" by Vivaldi - featuring one of the very first grown-up pieces I learned on the violin - "Summer". It was the summer of 1997, and I told my teacher at the Interlochen Arts Camp that "Summer" was, in fact, the next piece I would learn (I had a habit of doing that...a habit future teachers would quell). Forget the sonnets and dramatic dips and turns - I wanted to play the blistering Presto at top volume. 16 years later, I'm playing the set this Saturday (Vivaldi's 335th birthday weekend) with the Gulf Coast Symphony and Maestro John Strickler. Hopefully, my interpretation of the Red Priest's crowning achievement has changed in my advanced age.

The Vivaldi performance in Gulfport, MS is just one of three US coasts I'll be visiting in as many weeks. In about 8 days time, I will be collaborating with the darling mezzo-soprano Lara Nie in works of Strauss and Canteloube in Manhattan (the Polera Recital Series on the Lower East Side). The following week, I am performing in San Jose, CA with works of Suk (Fantasie) and Dvorak (Romance) - my maiden outing with both Czech pieces. Because I am a glutton for undesirable locales, I will be performing in St. Maarten (Caribbean) after the California trip. I'm bringing sonatas of Beethoven, Saint-Saens, and Franck to the island paradise - and getting an early start on my tan. In April, I have shows in Pennsylvania and DC (including an unaccompanied recital of Bach, Paganini, Ysaye and Kreisler for the Arts Club Series), and later in the spring, I am competing on Pittsburgh's "Dancing With The Stars" 2013. Whatever coordination I have with the violin isn't present in my dance rehearsals - and the routine (a sensual Paso Doble) kind of resembles a hop-skotch tournament. Thank goodness my charming partner, Sandra, is patient. Look for updates (and silly pictures).

Next season is beginning to shape up, and we'll post the calendar soon. Right now, it looks like I'll be performing in America's neighbors to the North and South; Mozart and Beethoven with chamber orchestras; a string of Tchaikovsky concerto appearances; and the Barber concerto for the first time. There may be an overseas trip or two, and local performances of the piano trio literature. Specifics will be announced when we're able! I've also started penning thoughts, ideas, and memories for a future book. Don't be expecting an expose of the classical music world, but--we'll see how and where that project ends up.

I've enjoyed keeping up with colleagues, audience members, and fans on social media - what a world we live in! I wonder if Heifetz, Oistrakh, and the other Olympians of yesteryear ever fathomed careers being scrutinized on the World Wide Web. Never a dull moment, I suppose. Looking forward to seeing everyone at the future concerts--and the next time you hear one of the "Seasons" in an elevator, a restaurant, or on a Muzak record, remember - it's actually legitimate, gorgeous music.

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On being an adult beginner.

By Krista Moyer
February 26, 2013 07:23

Sometimes I wonder if I’m not maybe just a tad crazy trying to learn to play the violin at this stage in my life. I’m not sure what to compare the experience to. Perhaps if you tried to learn how to speak Japanese while juggling chainsaws and hopping on one foot, that might compare. Only playing the violin doesn’t look as hard as it really is.

I wonder too, if I’m not being incredibly selfish. This takes time. There is at least one hour every single day where I’m struggling through playing exercises to the beat of a metronome, or trying to remember that the bow is supposed to go up, up,down-2-3-rest, slur-4; and not up, down, up-stop, lose-your-place. And memorizing music? Forget about it. I can’t even play entirely through a piece without getting stopped to “Look at this, Mommy”, or make a list for “Do you remember what we need from Target?”

I feel guilty wanting to buy a music stand, or for looking at violins online. It’s funny. When I mentioned that to my husband he pointed out that I haven’t really made that big an investment yet. After all, even my instrument is borrowed. Honestly, as hobbies go, the financial investment in this one has yet to approach what I’ve spent in yarn or glass supplies over the years. It’s mainly my ineptitude and the blow to my ego as a result that makes me feel as if I shouldn’t be doing this.

It’s temporary, I’m sure. Considering that I have been playing for all of nine months, I’m probably right on track. As long as I refrain from watching videos of 10 year olds playing solos on YouTube, I’ll be fine. Really.

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Advice for high school students applying to music colleges

By Rebecca Darnall
February 25, 2013 11:18

This handout will hopefully serve as a guide for those pursuing a music degree, as there are so many students who are applying for music colleges and are left with no clue how to proceed. Let it be known that these are my opinions, and everyone has a right to make the choices in the way he/she deems fit.

Some of you know I have been doing research on the topic of violinists pursuing the orchestral degree. Part of this research was looking at 100 music schools across the nation, specifically in regards to orchestral training for the violinist. However, as I have gone about my research, I realized that in a much more general sense students are not always aware of the important aspects to look for in a college, questions to ask, and what to be assertive about, regardless of their instrument.

Some teachers who teach in the studio setting are not up-to-date with what is going on around them in regards to music colleges unless they live in a metro area (ie Chicago) and/or live next to prominent music schools (ie Jacob School of Music in the middle of nowhere). And why would they be? They are focused on their studio, and sometimes get side-tracked with what they are doing, forgetting to guide their advancing (and almost out-the-door) student into their musical career in college. We also live in an age of technology, and many people my age have had lessons with those who did not have computers, and therefore do not know how to help their students research schools. My teacher pre-college fits this description; she would be the first to admit it, but she does not know how to get around the computer. Back when she applied for colleges, everyone had to fend for themselves and figure it out on their own. There was no internet, and not many printed resources on the matter; it was difficult to do the research. However, we have the blessed advantage of information immediately at our fingertips thanks to technology and authors writing about these topics.

Sounds simple, then. So if we have the internet and other resources, students will get all the information they need, right? No. Having the information out there is a completely different matter than knowing what information is needed. As a student I had internet, but I did not ask myself pertinent questions. I did not have a music student in college giving me advice about how to proceed, and I really didn't know anything about music school other than I would learn music there.

So~let's start off with me assuming a few things. Students, I'm going to assume that you:

a) have been taking lessons for quite sometime
b) have decided you definitely are applying for music school
c) you are going from high school to your undergraduate

There are universities and there are conservatories. Conservatories are (sometimes) smaller, and more like a trade-school (although academics are becoming a larger and larger emphasis, whereas some years ago it was a much lower priority). Universities can range in size, of course. Know that any college can have a "School of Music", so don't give it more credence until you look into it. Conservatories tend to be "hard-core", to put it in colloquial terms, but so can universities. Make no assumptions about a college until you've thoroughly researched it.

So, let's start with priorities. When you are looking into a school (and please don't wait until the last quarter of your senior year in high school), what should your priorities be?

1) TEACHER. Sounds obvious enough. But what about the teacher? Here are my criteria.

~a) Nice. Some people have this incredibly stupid notion that if you are fabulous at "x" instrument, you have the right to be a jerk. Uhm...no. You can learn a lot from a nice teacher. Really. I promise. So why waste your time in tears in the practice room? If this person cannot respect you as a person, forget it. Sure nice teachers might put stress on you from time to time, stretch you to your limits, and get frustrated at you on an occasion. They are also human, after all. I'm not telling you to take lessons from Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. But make sure this is a person who is not going to make you vomit in your mouth when you walk into their studio, no matter how famous they are.

~b) Personality. Yes, this is different than being nice. There are plenty of nice people out there who you may or may not click with. Important: visit the teacher in question months ahead of the audition. Is this expensive? Yes. Is it a risk? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes. If this part makes you feel sick to your stomach, reconsider your choice of career, because you will do this the rest of your life. I have to pay for my flight to audition? Yes. Is it a risk? Yes. Is it worth it? Of course! Experience is always worth it. Make sure the teacher will click with you. Within a lesson or two (so stay awhile to get in as much teacher time as you can), you will probably know. Take notes. Pay attention. This is your hard earned time and, yes, lesson money. However, most teachers will give the first lesson for free if you are considering their schools (this might not be the case in big name schools, however, so be prepared to pay just in case).

~c) Availability. Ok they're nice. They have the personality. Are they around? Don't let yourself be one of those students whose teacher is always on the go and never there for your lessons. There are those who are so busy with orchestral jobs, other schools, etc. that they do not have the time for you, sadly. They might wish to have all the time in the world with you, but in my opinion, they are over-committed. Make sure you are not abandoned by a teacher. On that same note, if your private teacher is leaving the school, talk to your teacher (and hopefully he or she will talk to you) and talk about possibilities of following him or her if you feel that is the best option, or explore other options. Just be aware: this does happen. I've seen it in both my degrees. Instructors come and go. This should not limit you. Yes this is difficult to go through, but once that instructor has made a choice, you have a choice to make too.

~d) Studio size. A large studio seems nice, right? Well, maybe. What might end up happening is if you are an undergraduate you will be studying with a graduate student. Now, that is not completely bad...but be aware that could happen. Many graduate students care; many don't. They aren't getting paid enough to care (unfortunately). A smaller sized studio indicates the teacher has more one-on-one time for you, and will make you more of a priority. Professors have so much on their plate I don't even know where to start, so make sure they have the time and individual attention for you. However, if the studio is really small, that also could be a red flag (recruitment is low, teacher isn't great, etc). These are also things you want to find out as you do your research.

~e) Credentials. I cannot stress this enough. Students, I'd like you to stop here and ask yourself a few questions:

1) Where do I see myself in my music in 5 years? 10 years?
2) What is my passion in music? Performing? Teaching? Business? Recording? Jamming? You get the idea.
3) Do I want to continue on after my Bachelors degree for a Masters? Perhaps a Doctorate?

If you cannot answer these questions right now, that's ok, but do give these questions serious thought before applying to colleges. It will make researching for colleges a lot easier. The answers to these questions can/will greatly determine where you end up.

Credentials...very important. Many teachers have them, obviously...but what do they specialize in? Most schools will have biographies for the faculty members, and you should scour them...take advantage and research them. Google their name--I dare you. You want to be an orchestral musician? Study with someone who is an excellent orchestral musician. You want to study pedagogy? Study with someone who is a masterful pedagogue. Some schools have classes, degrees, and teachers with emphases, so do yourself a favor and do your homework. When you do have that lesson with them, don't forget you are interviewing them as much as they are you, so don't be afraid to ask them questions. Figure out what they are like, what they've done musically, what they eat for breakfast...ok just kidding...maybe not the breakfast part, but certainly the rest. Not every teacher is going to be able to teach you what you want to learn, and no teacher can teach you everything. Period.

The teacher is by far the most important, primary priority. If you are miserable with your teacher, you aren't going to care that you have the fanciest gym in the world on campus, or that the food is A+. You are not.going.to.care. I promise.

2) School ensembles. Are they going to challenge you? If you have a great teacher and all the ensembles are poor, you may want to reconsider that school. Ensemble playing, large or small, is incredibly important to your growth as a blooming professional musician. Sometimes the ensembles will let you sit in with them when you visit, as I did at Central Washington University when they were rehearsing Stravinsky's Firebird Suite. I was completely in over my head, and that sealed the deal. I said to myself "Here is an ensemble I can grow in", and I did.

3) Music School reputation. When (not if) you visit these schools well ahead of time, talk to the students about the teachers and about the school in general. Usually they will be honest. The offices in the music departments should be able to hook you up with a few students.

4) Overall school size, location, weather, food, dorms...these things are important, but perhaps not as important as the priorities above. If you need sunshine, consider the schools where the sun shines. Seriously. If you are overwhelmed in a large school, don't overwhelm yourself and apply to large schools. If the food is green when it isn't supposed to be, you might consider your health.

5) Cost. "But Rebecca, why is cost at the bottom?" I'm so glad you asked. This priority is a moveable priority, depending on the situation. If you are like me, you do not have your pick of any school to go to. If you do, more power to you. Otherwise, please do not throw out the possibilities of scholarships. You know those relationships you formed over your junior and senior years with the teachers in question? Those relationships often equal in scholarships, so form them. Make the teacher want you. Present yourself professionally in all ways when you go in for trial lessons. It can carry you far...farther than the audition in some cases. I have no debt because of the scholarship help I received from Central Washington University. So, until you know a school is completely out of the financial range, do not discredit it. Talk to the School of Music office. See what scholarships the department offers.

**I would like to note that I do not believe going thousands upon thousands of dollars into debt is ever a smart thing. I will never advise a student to ball and chain themselves to their piece of paper, namely the degree. Small amounts that you know you can manage over time is fine, but I refuse to believe those who say it's worth it when they will never be able to pay off their debt. Sorry, it's not worth it in my opinion. I probably have a lot of colleagues who will disagree with me. But in the end, you are a musician, and unless you plan on being in the top 5 orchestras, you can forget about paying off the debt.

"So, Rebecca, what music degree should I get?"

Well, again that depends on what you want to do. Many colleges have a performance degree, an education degree (to work in the schools, not a studio situation), business degree, and/or a pedagogy degree (studio teaching). Expect any music degree to be between 4-6 years, especially the education degree which has a tremendous amount of classes. Even some summer study might be necessary. If you go the performance route, you will probably get a small smattering of pedagogy and performance. Whatever you do, make sure the degree will offer classes that will train you to do what you want to do. Want to know how to take auditions? Make sure there is an orchestral repertoire class. Want to be a fabulous teacher? Make sure there are plenty of pedagogy classes. Visit these classes if you can. How do you find this information out? Most will have class catalogues online, or you could get one when you visit the school (notice a pattern regarding visiting schools...that might be slightly important).

If you get there and want to switch music degrees (ie performance to education), that usually is doable. In fact, if you go into college still not knowing exactly what you want from the music, a great teacher should be a good advisor and be able to help you with that. If they don't know how to help you, they should point you in a direction where you can get help. It's ok to not know all the answers, but make sure you'll have access to them as best as possible when you need them.

"After my undergraduate degree, should I get a Masters and/or Doctorate?"

Listen to me carefully...the number of degrees you have is NOT what is important. What IS important is the QUALITY of training you are receiving. Do you want to teach in college? Ok, you have to get a Masters and Doctorate, so go knock yourself out. Do you have to get those degrees to be in a professional symphony orchestra? No. Do you have to get those degrees to be a fabulous teacher? No. I have many colleagues and friends who are great examples of this. However, I am not suggesting you throw college or any degree out the window. College teaches you many valuable things. BUT, the degree is not the end all be all. If you receive years of private instruction on becoming an orchestral musician, guess what? Your tuition is your lesson fee. You are paying for, and receiving, that training in lessons. Colleges sometimes provide this for you, but not always. In or out of college, your education is your education. Get what you need to do the job you want to do to the best of your ability. Please remember this if you remember anything from this guide.

"Ok Rebecca, I get the point, but how do I go about this?"

1) Get online. Look up schools. Spend hours researching them. Look at teachers bibliographies, who they studied with, their emphases, etc. Look up school location, size, cost, audition information, etc. Talk to your private teacher about the audition material and the teacher in question. The private teacher always needs to be involved.

2) Email the teachers in question. Be professional in the email. State who you are, your interest in studying with them at the college, ask if a trial lesson is an option. Say just enough, but not more. And don't do what I did: Do NOT email more than one teacher at a time, if the school has more than one teacher in your instrument. Sound obvious to you? It sure wasn't to me. I learned the hard way. Teachers can be VERY sensitive about you wanting them. They don't want students just looking for handouts. They want to know you want to study with THEM, not just anyone who is available (in hindsight, this makes perfect sense). If you are at a school with more than one professor in that instrument (this is particularly the case for violinists, pianists, and cellists), tread carefully. Perhaps they all have a good working dynamic, maybe they don't (sadly, this is more often the situation). In any case, when in doubt, assume the teachers are possessive of their students, especially big name school professors.

3) Do the calling and emailing and any other form of contact yourself. Schools will remember the young, inquisitive student that called up asking for information. Trust me--I worked in a music department school office and can verify this.

4) Create a profile for each school. Get a binder and dividers at the Dollar Tree, and make a section for each school you apply to. The audition info, the teacher, etc. Be organized and on top of it, because...well...that's the way you will be successful in life anyway, regardless of your career.

5) Apply to at least five schools. And unless you are completely confident in your ability to get in wherever you want, have A list schools and B list schools. Have a fallback. Don't apply to the "top 5" in the nation with no other option ahead of you. Safety schools are a must. I applied to 8. Got in all of them, none of them were the top, and one school offered me scholarships.

6) Get your resume' in order, as well as your essays, etc. Don't know how to build a resume'? If you didn't cover it or won't be covering it in high school, ask a trusted teacher or guidance counselor to help you, or your parents, whichever is the most viable option. My parents are pretty smart, as are my high school teachers. Hopefully you will have the same options. Have these people read over your essays and check for grammar, spelling, syntax and sentence structure, etc. Bad writing=turn off for a *great* school. The end.

7) Apply early. Don't procrastinate. This should be obvious enough, but if you want to be a successful music major the grass will grow under your feet quickly if you don't get on top of it. You don't have two years of gen ed classes to sit around until your major begins.

8) Get that audition material ready way in advanced. Most auditions, by the way, are a lot less scary than they sound. I know that seems trivial coming from someone who's already been through it twice, but those teachers want to help you succeed, not tear you down (and if they do, why are you auditioning for them?). They will usually be friendly and welcoming, and will help put your mind at ease. They know this is a fragile time for students; they went through it themselves at one time. Be confident, and know your hard work will pay off. Even with nerves, it will come through...I promise.

In the end, whatever your decision, be confident knowing you did your research and your practice. So many times students get the practice part, but not the research. Visit the school in its entirety and get a feel for the place; is this somewhere you can live for a handful of years?

The internet, mentors, and teachers are your most important assets when applying to music schools. Make the most of it. Printed resources are also available. You should take advantage of these. I highly recommend these resources:

Zoya, Leybin, Carmine Leo, Don Greene, Dr. Louise Montello, Barry Green,
Kathrin Kucharski, Virginia Houser, Wayne Markworth, Mary Gray,
Jim Eppolito, Rebecca Ramsey, ROber King, Steven M. Alper,
Andy Chase, and Tina Ward. Selected Audition Masterclasses:
Lessons You Can Use Today to Win Musical Auditions Tomorrow.
Malibu, CA: Windplayer Publications, 2004.

(This has a few specific articles I recommend, including but not limited to "Music Schools and Conservatories" by Mary Gray and "Student Musicians-Rising to the Top" by Wayne Markworth.)

Green, Barry, and W. Timothy Gallwey. The Inner Game of Music.
New York: Anchor Press, 1986.

Davis, Richard. Becoming an Orchestral Musician: A Guide for Aspiring
Professionals. London: Giles de la Mare Publishers, 2004.

(This is on orchestral matters, of course, and is written with the UK in mind, but still a fabulous book and I believe one of the best on this topic.)

Greene, Don. Audition Success: An Olympic Sports Psychologist Teaches
Performing Artists How to Win. New York: Routledge, 2001.

Last, but not least~best of luck and break a leg! ;)

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First Musical Memory - What is yours?

By Heather Broadbent
February 25, 2013 06:00

heather broadbent - how I started the violin

My very first musical memory is this clip from Sesame Street.

I absolutely loved this clip and was excited every time it was shown on Sesame Street.  I was even more excited when I found it on youtube a few years ago.

I remember between the ages of 3 and 5 walking past my great grandfather's violin every day.  My mom had it on display in the formal area of our house on a sideboard.  I would think every time I walked by how much I wanted to play the violin.  My parents did not know where I could study the violin at such a young age but they did know where I could study piano.  So off to piano lessons I went at 5 years old.  I loved the piano - absolutely loved it.  I would come home from my piano lessons and bring my favorite doll out to the piano and teach her how to play.  Without knowing it at the time, this was the best way to learn.  I was reinforcing what I learned at the lessons by teaching my doll.  I loved to read music - it was a new and exciting language.

My mom listened to classical music and she had the Readers' Digest records.  I do remember one that was Russian favorites.  I loved that album.  She would listen to classical music in the car and we would play a game of guessing the composer. While I was learning to read, my mom would watch opera on TV and have me read the opera subtitles out loud to her.  What an excellent educational tool combining music and reading.  Thanks Mom!!

When I was in first and second grade I had to get special permission at the school library to read the older grades books on the musical composers.  I couldn't get enough of this new world:)

My mom loved musicals.  I honestly cannot say how many times I watched South Pacific, The Sound of Music, Oklahoma, and Fiddler on the Roof just to name a few.  Camelot was her favorite so we watched that together many, many, many times:)  Summer of fourth grade came along and my school had a program where I could start violin.  I was so excited and my parents enrolled me in the program.  From that point on I studied violin and piano simultaneously.

What are your first musical memories?  Feel free to share your first musical memories in the comment box below.


Heather Broadbent

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