By: Jasmine Reese
Famous author David Halberstam was killed in a car accident April 23rd. A young graduate student of journalism at the University who drove the car made an illegal turn which caused the collision of another in to the side where Halberstam was seated. Halberstam died instantly, a rib punctured his heart, for he never made it to his interview with football legend Y.A. The student will be charged with Vehicular manslaughter.
After reading this sad piece of news, I could not help but meditate over the importance of slowing down. Life may go by pretty fast, but the greatest tragedy would be missing out on the sunrise, a butterfly fluttering in the sky, the sound of the ocean after dark, or the chirp of crickets in a corn field all because we were too busy rushing. And worse sometimes we do not even know why we act like anxious bees.
Applying this same principal to violin playing, I take to heart once again what Clayton Haslop told me about cherishing the journey. Why go on an adventure if you can not enjoy the ride? And of course as professional musicians, we really must be careful as to how we drive, walk, or run to avoid serious injury.
I guess this may seem overcautious to some and uneccessary, but the truth is—would not life be ten times better if we sat down and listened and watched, instead of racing through it to the next point with out taking in the air?
By: Jasmine Reese
Yesterday, I had a violin lesson with violinist extraordinaire Clayton Haslop.
A couple of days before, he generously set aside time out of his busy schedule to meet me. My head overflowed with possibilities and exaggerations that an inexperienced person in any trade usually thinks up when given the chance to brush up with their superiors in their fields of wanted expertise. I felt like a mere servant girl called by the King himself into the castle—his territory.
My mind even more so bustled with confusion as I thought of how this man who had the power to play all Paganini caprices straight through with flawless capacity enthusiastically invited me to come and learn from him. Me, this broke, late-starter mind you. Maybe you are wasting this man’s time, I thought.
On the big day, I awoke at 7 a.m. I jumped onto the bus, violin, purse and all, and sat down feeling so special inside. I wondered to myself, how many other people talked to their so-called idols?
I arrived at the Los Angeles Union Station. From there, I caught the Santa Monica Freeway express bus. I knew I approached my destination when I saw Walt Disney Concert Hall. It stood like the entrance courtyards to the royal leader’s kitchen and beyond that a feast of musical venues presented themselves: Dorothy Chandler Pavillion, Los Angeles Opera Company, and so much more.
After transferring to a new bus, we finally arrived on Avenue of the Stars—one hour early. My nerves vibrated happily as I saw the hotel across the street where the one and only Mr. Haslop resided. What would the moment be like when I saw him in the person for the first time? And even more important, what would this master of the violin think of my playing?
I bought a little food at the nearby store, keeping my eyes closely stuck on the clock when finally the time had come to walk over to the hotel.
Two years ago, I would have embarrassed myself while trying to stall this momentous event. But, no, I calmly told the receptionist to let his majesty know that I waited for him in the lobby.
A few minutes later, he exited the elevator with his violin in his left hand and coffee cup in the other. And I felt a sense of shock, not because he was everything I had envisioned but because he was normal. An ordinary man with flesh and, although I could not see past his skin, I am sure he had bones. He told me of his work while here in LA and the food he ate (his whole family is Vegan), and I just could not believe it. What happened to the magical moment, the red carpet, the shooting stars and the Hollywood violins? Well, I guess he literally had the Hollywood violin.
By the time I took out my instrument and started to play for him, I was calm and my altered perceptions soon began to accept the reality. Although I learned so much from the lesson he gave me, the true moral to this story is that I placed something I loved on such a high pedestal that by the end of the day I forgot it was just a piece of wood, and the people who handle it are humans who work hard to master it. I am a human and if I labor and put time and patience in to this instrument maybe someday I could be in the same place. Because in the end, we are all people who must live our lives carefully with the blood that pumps through the organ that we all have—our hearts.
Today, I had a very eye opening lesson with the renowned violinist Mr. Clayton Haslop. Some of you may know the name from his successful violin DVDs, Kreutzer for Violin Mastery. Also, you may have seen his name floating around on some of your favorite movie soundtracks such as on The Village.
Since he was in LA, he generously set aside time out of his busy schedule to meet a direct and high-spirited late-starter and give her tips on her playing since she could not afford any of his DVDs—me. I awoke at 7am, dressed, prepared my violin materials, and set out on the journey to Century City.
The bus in the morning was late, but I made it to the metrolink station five minutes before the train was set to arrive. I sat next to a talkative, yet nice, young lady who discussed every aspect of her life in the forty-five minute ride and then she directed me to the Santa Monica commuter. I enjoyed the first bus I rode which took me pass the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Walt Disney Concert Hall, and The Los Angeles Opera Company. Traffic seemed non-existent to my chagrin.
I arrived on Avenue of the Stars one hour early. The location where Mr. Haslop stayed was right across the street and there were no eating places in sight. So, I went to the Ralph’s Grocery Company and pretended like I was an anxious shopper, all the while my violin hung off my back and my purse started to make a dent in my shoulder.
But my excitement could not be cooled with these little trivialities. Even though I had no money and I began playing late, this great violinist was about to give me a lesson in the person. Even better, not one nerve in my body jiggled or shook nor did one butterfly flutter in my stomach. I stood confident in Ralph’s while holding the can of sliced pineapples that I contemplated buying.
I bought a little food and decided it was time to walk over to the hotel and wait in the lobby. By this time, the clock read 12:45pm. I looked over a couple of magazines and newspapers. I fiddled with my shirt and stared off in to space, hoping time would speed up. My patience waning, I phoned Mr. Haslop to let him know that I arrived. Two years ago, I would have embarrassed myself for trying to stall the momentous event.
Finally, Mr. Haslop exited the elevator with his violin in his left hand and coffee cup in the other. We introduced ourselves and I think I smiled just a little too bright for my own eyes because suddenly my self-reassurance became blurred. I asked what he was doing in LA in which he answered, “I am going in to the studio for Car Wash or something about cars. Or no, Rush Hour is the name.” I laughed and told him about the movie. “Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan are hilarious. You got to go see it.”
We went to the breakfast room. I took out my violin and warmed up while he went to get a stand. People came in occasionally and listened, but I just could not seem to get nervous. My bow did not shake when I drew it across the strings. Well, maybe a little but not as much as it used to.
Mr. Haslop came in and the lesson began. I played part of Kreutzer thirty-six. He stopped me and told me to go to number two. With my ego a tad bit bruised, I turned solemnly back thirty-four or so pages. I played through it and missed four notes. My sound pleased me greatly until Mr. Haslop pulled out his violin. My face dropped in anticipation of the coming disappointment. And sure enough, he drew a few down and up bows, his changes completely silent, while explaining that I used too much of my upper arm and my tone was uneven. He said, “You need to feel the connection between your bow and forearm—as if moving through the universe. Let the bone in your arm do the work, not your shoulder and fingers.”
He instructed me to play two again while thinking about what he just said. I pulled the bow, trying to feel the bond with my arm but my mind was on speed drive. “Slow down, Jasmine. You have to go slow and experience the journey in between, and then you will be able to go fast. But you have to know what is going on in the meantime.” The goal he wanted to achieve was for me to pull even bow strokes while my upper arm relaxed in complete peaceful quietness. He told me to inhale and exhale with my diaphragm and with every stroke. As much as I tried to sound like a tranquil flow through the universe, I could not help but feel I sounded more like a barefooted woman painfully struggling through a hot desert.
As I did a few more strokes, my noise began to turn into the quiet beaches of the Hawaiian Islands, not the flow of the universe, but hey, I’ll take Kauai any day. I was close.
We moved on to Kreutzer number six. He explained, “The pressure comes from the arm, you release and instantly relax, holding out the note and completely stopping before going on to the next note.” He demonstrated. I followed suit. Yes, something I could do. He said, “Good, but your fingers need to stay positioned over the finger board.” I could not keep my pinky over that board no matter how hard I tried. He gave me a finger placement exercise that he said might help. Play an open string half note and drop the first finger down also a half note all in one bow—go on to the next string. Drop all fingers, keeping them in their respective places over the fingerboard.
All throughout my lesson, he preached the significance of calmness and meditation. Which he said would be hard for me since I am so “high-spirited.” He suggested laying flat on the floor and doing breathing exercises before each practice session.
“You have to learn to slow down and enjoy the process,” he repeated.
Although I was not expecting to go to my lesson today playing like young Milestein or girl Paganini, I still gained so much knowledge in to my playing that I did not recognize before. You may remember a while back, I started a discussion called “Wah Wah Bow.” Mr. Haslop gave me many tips to fix that. He said the problem was “a trained reflex that you become used to doing as a beginner. You play a note quietly until you actually get the correct pitch and then soar in to it with confident bow speed and pressure, which creates this quiet/loud effect. As you transform into a more advanced musician, your brain conditions itself to continue that motion. So, just play a note out and evenly from the start. Do not hesitate.”
The three hour ride on the bus to and back was way worth the exertion. Even though I was broke and my spirit during the lesson could not be tamed, I gleamed so much; I wonder what I would learn from the DVDs. In fact, I implore everyone to give his program a try.
Do not forget to go see Rush Hour 3 and Ratatouille!
I am pretty glad that I started the Your Real Life discussion. I needed to see for myself how other people live on the side of the violin. Sometimes I feel so passionate about the violin that I do not know if it is possible to live another life outside of it. But it is possible and that makes me happy, because what if I do not succeed in violin? Now I know that I can still enjoy life playing the violin and hopefully doing something else I love like so many other members on this site. What an inspiration you all are!
In our world today, professional musicians have become apart of the ever growing commercialism of business and music. Forgetting the human soul which music is supposed to gratify and heal, we strive to please unappreciative or conceited ears when really we should try to bring joy and soundness of mind to those who are less fortunate than ourselves. I hope that one day we will find the true meaning of being performers again.
One day, when I finally feel that my playing will not further the ailments of the people I play for, I will visit hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, and mentally-ill wards to play and hopefully touch the heart of someone who longed and only wished to hear a little Bach amidst all their problems.
Today, I had an audition. I played a piece which I had not played for a whole year, the second movement of the Mozart 3 plus the cadenza (Francko). Knowing the acoustics of the building which I would be auditioning in, I went an hour early to get used to the horrendous sound that the rooms revealed in my relatively cheap violin. But I noticed a marvelous improvement as I warmed up; I sounded way better than I did a year ago. I have not only grown in my playing but also in my confidence thus able to cope with a bad rooms.
When I went in to the actual auditioning room, the acoustics were different. Unfortunately for me, this room was worse than the other. Not having time to adjust like I did to the practice room, my nerves kicked in. Despite that, I missed only a couple of notes and nailed a really hard part in the cadenza that I could not do a year ago. So, long story short. I feel that I have succeeded even though my perfectionist side yells,"Why didn't you play that perfectly?"
For now, I am just happy to be able to see my improvement as a musician. I can not wait until next year to hear whether or not I will excel again.
P.S. Goal for next year:
No missed notes
In a world today where prodigy is now commonality instead of rare and proficient/excellent violinists come in great waves, I take delight in hearing a different sound. Which leads me to my profound love and respect for the great violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter. She has the ability to create a tone which no one has duplicated in the world of classical music where all violinist are starting to sound alike.
What makes these artist great today:
Anne-Sophie Mutter-Slow, sensual vibrato and thick syrupy sound.
Maxim Vengrov-Great Performer and excellent violinist.
Itzhak Perlman-Also an exceptional performer with a smile that lightens the burdens of the audience he performs to.
Sarah Chang-Also has a different and strong tone, but she is the only violinist I have seen who has a great relationship with the conductor and orchestra, always looking to them. She also has a glowing smile. Not to mention, the twentieth century's most outstanding prodigy.
I am sure there are more great violinist today who are undiscovered, but what makes them great?
The ability to stand out in a world that is starting to lack diversity, a world that follows a code of commercialism, and a world that now overlooks talent and worships the idea of images through idolatry.
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