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David France

Mr. Vamos and I (Part 1)

January 18, 2010 at 6:55 PM

I find myself flirting with the idea of writing a blog and like so many other things I commit for a short period and then my motivation fizzles like so many New Year’s resolutions of years past.     But I’m back and excited to start a new series chronicling my lessons with the renowned teacher Roland Vamos.      2009 was a pivotal year for me in my journey as a violinist.   I won the highly publicized Youtube Symphony Competition and had the honor of being one of the Orchestras five Concertmasters.   


My year long excitement and motivation began when I first heard the announcement for the audition.     The deadline for submission was a little less than two months away and I soberly came to the conclusion that I could  spend the time it took to make a quality video if I only had to work hard for 6 or 7  weeks.     I could put aside my lazy tendencies and make the effort.   My practice equation for the audition consisted of the following thought process.  


  1. A good student at a conservatory practices at least 6 hours a day
  2. In that period they have Orchestra, Chamber, and lesson material to prepare
  3. There is a limited amount of time in a 6 hour schedule that someone can devote to the youtube audition.


I then guessed what I thought that amount of time would be and practiced that amount and more over the 6-7 weeks.     The added element of being able to see everyone else’s audition also spurred me to practice more.   I would daily watch the auditions of the people that inspired me most and then asked myself the question: “How much did they have to practice to play that well.”    I would then turn the computer off and go back to the practice room.     After making a few practice videos I could see some basic violin technique problems that I had getting in the way of how I sounded.    So I put extra mental energy into fixing a few of these issues to make the best video possible at the time.  One of the “simple” things I was trying to fix was trying to draw a straight bow on the string.    


A few months down the road I won!    I was flown to New York with the other 90+ winners from around the world and we embarked on a rigorous 2 ½ day rehearsal schedule.     Those short days of playing alongside the people whose videos inspired me to push myself was a remarkable experience.   One of the members that I had the chance to talk to studied violin with the World Famous teaching duo the Vamos’.     My brain began to churn and I over time came to the conclusion that the Youtube Symphony was not my endgame but one stop along the road of a lifetime of learning.    I asked my new friend what would be the best way to try to get an opportunity to study with them.  She simply said, “Email them.”    So I wrote Mrs. Vamos and sent her my youtube audition and asked if I could study with them in the summer wherever in the world they might be.    Her positive reply would be the beginning of my tenure with them.


In the era of the famous pedagogue Dorothy Delay I would listen to the CD’s of Perlman and Cho Liang Lin and wonder what was it like behind closed doors with Ms. Delay.   I hope that writing this blog will provide insight into the behind the scenes of the progress of a musician through lessons with a great teacher.


Why Mr. Vamos?   Studying with the Vamos’ is a package.   I study my repertoire with Mrs. Vamos and I do my technical studies with Mr. Vamos.   Everyone wants to know about the fingerings, phrasing ideas, and other exciting information gained from a lesson studying the great literature of the violin repertoire.  Yes, this information would be useful and helpful, but fewer people want to sit and listen while you talk about how you worked on lifting your fingers properly in a Schradiek exercise which is the reason you can play that phrase in the Tchaikovsky Concerto.     So I chose Mr. Vamos for this blog because so many aspiring musicians who do not have access to teachers like Sally O’Reilly, Charles Castleman, John Gilbert, or the other amazing teachers of technique focus only on the product and not on the process.   


I hope you enjoy my journey along with me.


From Bill Busen
Posted on January 19, 2010 at 6:03 AM

I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to this, David.  My respect for the Vamos' is heightened by knowing the students of their son, Brandon, and hearing their feedback.

This has the potential to be one of the more valuable chronicles on the web about violin pedagogy, as you know.  Enjoy your time with them!

From David Rowland
Posted on January 21, 2010 at 1:07 AM

Best of luck with your studies. I look forward to your blogs.

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