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V.com weekend vote: What kind of exercise goes along best with violin-playing?

By The Weekend Vote
Published: November 21, 2014 at 15:04

Everyone needs to exercise to promote good health, but what are the most effective forms of exercise for someone who regularly plays the violin?

Even if you've reduced your playing to the most ergonomically efficient and pain-free set of motions, playing the violin still sets us up for some unequal muscle-building. Add to that the stress of performing and the repetitive, solitary and possibly fairly sedentary nature of practice, and you're in trouble if you don't find a good form of exercise.

But what kind of exercise best helps even muscle tone, or reduce stress, or add that cardio-vascular element that is missing from long days of practice, teaching or performing?

I've listed a few below, but I'm sure I'm missing quite a few forms of good exercise and I invite you to list more. You may do several of these forms of exercise, but choose the one that you feel is doing the most for you, or tell us in the comments what exercise you prefer.


Running: Definitely good for endurance and cardio-vascular health. Related to running: Walking. Walking is so underrated, and yet it is a wonderful form of exercise. Take 10,000 steps a day, says the doctor!

Weight-lifting: For a long time I thought this was a bad idea because of the potential to overdevelop certain muscles. What changed my mind? David Garrett! Here is someone who is in great shape and does high-energy stadium shows on a regular basis. He said he is careful to target particular muscle groups and not to push too hard. Seems to work for him!

Yoga: This can help both build muscles and stretch muscles, and the controlled-breathing element can help with reducing stress in situations of pressure.

Swimming: A number of famous string players swore by this low-impact form of exercise, among them, Janos Starker. Great for the lung, and it doesn't stress the joints.
Please let us know your favorite form of exercise, and add your comments.

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MARIACHI: What is it?

By Joe Baca
Orlando, Florida
Published: November 20, 2014 at 20:16


I am new to this site but I am happy to be connected to more string enthusiasts than ever. I will leave my personal story to those interested in reading my bio and cut right to the chase. I hate to say it this way but really there are three types of musicians I run across: those who don't know what Mariachi is, those who think they know what it is and Mariachis themselves.

Mariachi music just like any other style of music can be molded to fit whatever the Mariachi Musician wants or even needs it to be to satisfy their musical hunger, within certain parameters of course be it instrumentation or sticking to certain sub-styles within the genre (there is always debate within the mariachi circles about this; purists & non). Regardless though, Mariachi runs deep not only with folk roots but now more than ever it is infused with classical instrumental training and the songs themselves are arranged with much thought and complex musicality by those knowledgeable in music theory, arranging, composing and orchestrating. (In fact Mariachi kept me ahead in all of my theory classes in college.)

This music then must be internalized once read from the page and memorized so that the performance aspect can then be put into effect. The performance of Mariachi music is a whole other aspect in-and-of-itself that involves not only conveying emotional significance but stage techniques as well typically found in the Drama field. As you can see, there already may be a few things about Mariachi you may not have been really aware of.

My blogs will primarily cover my main musical interest, which is the Mariachi genre. (I may throw in a few other things here and there.) However, my hope is that I can enlighten and excite more and more people about this genre that is ‘famous but fuzzy’ so that the next time you think of Mariachi Music only the best thoughts come to mind because remember just like there are great and poor bands, orchestras, singers, etc. the same goes for Mariachis.

I hope you enjoy what I have to say and do remember that what I say in my blog, unless stated as fact, is only my opinion and does not necessarily reflect the ideology and opinions of any of my associations.

It is nice to informally meet you all and feel free to message me anytime.

Your brother in music,

Joe Baca
Mariachi Cobre

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The Fiddle Contest

By Kate Little
Salt Lake City, Utah
Published: November 19, 2014 at 14:55

It wasn’t an epic fail. But it certainly wasn’t a performance to be proud of. And yet, I am.

Last Saturday I placed third in the grey-hair category of the Utah State Fiddle Contest. Third place was also, coincidently, last place. But I still won $80, enough for beer with friends that night. Sometimes it pays just to show up.

Here’s what happened: First tune was Red-Haired Boy. I kept getting lost, as in who’s-fingers-are-these-anyway?, and had to restart several phrases, negating any sense of musical flow. Second tune was Saturday Waltz. I hit several wrong notes, but did keep going without interrupting the tempo. Third tune was Pig Ankle Rag. This one felt good and had no mistakes, or at least none that I recall. It was basically in tune, with a solid beat, consistent tempo, and had flow.

Going into the performance, all three tunes were as good as Pig Ankle Rag, and I was feeling confident. But facing that audience of 30, something happened. My left-hand fingers and right-arm shoulder froze. I felt it happen, and it took me by surprise. At least I was aware and fought to get my body to relax. And it worked. By the last song I was actually playing. This is the part that I was proud of: that I eventually found a groove, despite all the distraction.

It was amazingly hard to stand up in front of a crowd of strangers and play. Knowing that the first note has to be right-on with everything flowing from that point of sound, I remain astounded that it can be done. Performing music seems an impossible task. Yet musicians do it. Time after time. Regardless of circumstances. My respect grows with every attempt I make. They do what I cannot.

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The Week in Reviews, Op. 57: The Atlanta Symphony is Back!

By Robert Niles
Published: November 19, 2014 at 08:26

In an effort to promote the coverage of live violin performance, Violinist.com each week presents links to reviews of notable concerts and recitals around the world.

David Coucheron Robert Spano
Atlanta Symphony concertmaster David Coucheron and conductor Robert Spano

David Coucheron performed Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in the orchestra's first concert back after its board locked it out.

  • Atlanta Journal Constitution: "There was a joyful reunion of audience and performer Thursday night as the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra played its long-delayed first concert of the new season to an ecstatic sold-out crowd...The challenges of the evening seemed to bring out the best in the performers, including Coucheron."
  • ArtsATL: "The audience exploded wildly into a thunderous standing ovation for the musicians as the orchestra took the stage together, then kicked off the concert with “The Star Spangled Banner,” the long-standing tradition of opening-night performances. The capacity audience boldly joined in singing what seemed not only the National Anthem, but also a fervent statement by the people assembled in support of the ASO musicians and their return to Symphony Hall....Coucheron’s sound is not exceptionally large but is a sweetly focused one that suits Mozart’s concerto well. He was tasteful and introspective with the cadenzas, choosing to play those by Joseph Joachim, which had sufficient elements of velocity but left Coucheron much room for thoughtful playing."

Augustin Hadelich performed the Mendelssohn with the Seattle Symphony.

  • Seattle Times: "Eloquent and unforced, Hadelich’s violin lines were shaped by a technique as fine as anything you’ll hear on today’s concert stages."

Hilary Hahn performed the Beethoven with the Luxembourg Philharmonic after a four-month injury absence from performing.

  • Mittelbayerische: the review (in German) praises her elegance, bow arm and musical poetry.

Nicola Benedetti performed Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

  • The Scotsman: "From Benedetti, there was a delicious stillness and introspection in the opening Nocturne; demonic brilliance in the Scherzo; deep, penetrating conviction of the focal Passacaglia and electrifying bravado in the burlesque finale. Peter Oundjian’s RSNO went all the way with her."
  • The Courier: "Thursday night’s performance of Shostakovich’s first violin concerto surpassed anything I’ve heard her perform before – and that takes some doing!"

Tasmin Little performed the Korngold with Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

  • Straight.com: "British violinist Tasmin Little scored a respectable triple with the VSO, but failed to bring home the run."

Jennifer Koh performed the Sibelius with the Waco Symphony Orchestra.

  • Waco Tribune-Herald: "Koh, the evening’s guest artist, showed a stunning sense of line in her performance of the Sibelius Violin Concerto, seamlessly connecting a singing tone, double-stop play that at times felt like two musical voices and an intensity that had her shaking her head and stamping her foot."

Renaud Capucon performed Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3 with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.

  • The Straits Times: "Capucon's more sparing use of vibrato and a novel, almost avant garde cadenza made it memorable."

Joshua Bell performed the Glazunov with the New York Philharmonic.

  • The New York Times: "Joshua Bell, usually a charismatic performer with an effortless technique and sweet tone, seemed less at ease than usual both technically and musically."
  • ConcertoNet: "...this is the kind of music in which Joshua Bell excels. Starting off after a half-measure from the orchestra, Mr. Bell–almost as youthful looking as the conductor–gave an almost nonchalant opening, eschewing whatever “Russian-ness” Glazunov half-heartedly inserted. Once he came to the cadenza, at the end of these two joined movements, he was in his element. Some fiddlers get their thrills by making a cadenza like this seem difficult. Joshua Bell tossed it off, like he was playing scales."

Simone Lamsma performed Prokofiev's Second Violin Concerto with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

  • The Pioneer Press: "Dutch violinist Simone Lamsma delivered an involving interpretation of Prokofiev's Second Violin Concerto with the SPCO, lending it haunting lyricism and folksy fury, but also finding an oasis of calm at its center."

Lu Siqing performed the Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto with the National Centre for the Performing Arts Orchestra.

  • Montreal Gazette: "The work is a bit predictable and it extravagantly repeats its famous theme, but violinist Lu Siqing livened it with an intelligent and unexaggerated performance. His cool tone survived a blistering Paganini encore, (Sonata in A) but he retained some old school poise even through that catalogue of virtuoso tricks."

Also in violin news:

Congratulations to Danielle Belen, who was named one of three recipients of the 4th annual Sphinx Medals of Excellence, awarded to artists of color who demonstrate artistic excellence, outstanding work ethic, a spirit of determination, and great potential for leadership. (Other recipients were soprano Janai Brugger and flutist Demarre McGill.) Each will receive Medals of Excellence and a $50,000 Artist Grant at a luncheon in Washington, D.C. on March 18, 2015. Danielle, winner of the 2008 Sphinx Competition, recently became Professor of Violin at the University of Michigan. She also Artistic Director and founder of Center Stage Strings summer camp and festival.

Please support live music in your community by attending a concert or recital whenever you can!

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