October 2005

the costume debate

October 30, 2005 10:22

Today I'm performing in a student recital both as a student and with a bunch of my own students! I have 3 Suzuki groups playing and one of my students is also doing a solo. Because it's the day before halloween the kids all get to dress up in costumes if they want. I've given the warning to everyone that they must test their violins out in their costumes before showing up to play. Now all my students have asked me what I'm going to dress up as. I've declined to give them an answer beyond "we'll see." So I'm thinking, now that I have about 3.5 hours left to either come up with a costume or not, I'm thinking the response when "what are you?" is asked is "I'm a piano teacher!"which isn't all-together lying.....or "I'm a violist!" which is also in fact true. But then a couple nights ago a friend of mine suggested I should be Paganini. Hmm....*ponders* I don't know yet if I'll do that, but "we'll see." The last time I went trick-or-treating (11 or 12) I was Beethoven so Paganini wouldn't be too far fetched, especially for a recital.

So today, I will be playing May Song, Chorus from Judas Maccabaeus, Three Twinkle Variations and will also get to play a gorgeaus Eckhardt-Gramatte Caprice I've been working on for a couple of weeks now. I'll upload a recording of the Caprice to this blog entry.

One week of school has gone by now and it really does feel good to be back. My one English teacher appears to have aquired a new samurai type sword which he hasn't demonstrated in my particular class yet but there's still a few months left in the year to see it yet.....

There isn't a whole lot that's new happening with me, just getting back to the grind of getting up early instead of sleeping in and attending classes and turning in assignment. Happy Halloween everyone!

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Babblings of the day......

October 26, 2005 20:27

It feels good to be back at school. It's only the second day back but it feels good. Thankfully the 2 week strike won't have made things too impossible to catch up on due to my courses and how they are laid out so that's a relief. In one of my English classes to day we did a Robbie Burns poem and had to analyze it. First the teacher read it out to the class (complete with phony Scottish accent) and then we had to analyze it and how it is signifigant to the novella we had read right before the strike, John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. I really liked Steinbeck's writing in Of Mice and Men. It's very effective and it nearly brought me to tears at the end. Very well written.

I was at the music school I work at today, practicing in the morning after school and before I started teaching and my teacher was practicing down the hall. She was practicing Firebird which is an orchestral work I dearly love and have wanted to play for years. I was supposed to play it last year with the Okanagan Symphony but the typical last minute program change and cancelling of concerts proved to not be in my favour. This year, the year I've decided to have a "me" year where I focus on my solo stuff, teaching and school is sure enough the year where the opening concerts of the season include Firebird in the program. So I will have to attend the concert when it comes to the city nearest me and sit in the audience and feel gipped about not playing but at the same time enjoy the experience of hearing it performed live. A pianist I played with a couple years ago in the symphony is coming back from Switzerland to play a Chopin concerto as well so that will be fun to watch from the front and not the back.

The past week or so has been partially consumed with some stress over an instrument purchase. I've never actually bought my own violin since I was 11 or 12 and that violin I haven't played since I was 14. I by chance came across a Vuillaume in basicly perfect condition for an extremely reasonable price (in sound anyways....I haven't yet played the instrument). In the e-mail in response to my questions the instrument has no cracks and has had no major repair work done above the usual matinence, and the sound is described as being big, open, clear and even across all ranges. Buying an instrument is so stressful. I can't really afford to get an instrument but within the next year to 18 months I need an instrument that is mine, that I own and isn't loaned to me. If I do decide to purchase an instrument in the next few months all my money saved for school is basicly gone and I'd need to get a loan so I'm doing some major thinking and re-thinking and thinking over again running all the possible scenerios and options in my mind as to how I could make it possible to try some instruments out and be able to make a managable purchase and decision I'm happy with. This is the instrument that will spend the rest of it's life with me so I want to be absolutely sure I'm making the right decision.

Among other things, I managed to get in 3 hours or so of practicing today between school and teaching. I was very satisfied with what I accomplished. I'm performing a very new work for me on Sunday, the Eckhardt-Gramatte Caprice No.10 and it has a really nast stretch in it that is starting to become more natural. I also got some nice work done on a Rode Caprice and the last mvt of the Barber concerto, my Bach Fugue and a nice chunk of technique, so it was a satisfying day in the world of practicing!

Now I need to go and veg and enjoy my evening with no studying pressures.....I'm thinking a nice hot bubble bath might be in order.....

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October 20, 2005 13:57

I was having trouble getting to sleep last night. I've been rather sore and achey the last few days and my mind was just so full and cluttered with things to remember and ideas that I had that I couldn't sleep. I could actually feel the tenseness in my body and determined that I needed to relax and somehow turn off my mind so I could get to sleep. After lying under the warm covers and my cd player had shut itself off I was debating getting up and getting a hot drink to try and relax. I soon abandoned this thought after remembering that feeling of trying to stay awake from an Alexander Technique class I took while I was at Domaine Forget. I remembered that feeling of lying on a hardwood floor with my head supported by a firm sponge and feeling how my body just completely melded into the floor. It was more comfortable than just about any bed. After thinking about the class and private lesson on the Alexander Technique that I had had I remembered how to turn my mind off - the constant story or train of thought that is running in your mind constantly. Instantly, when I applied this thought process or rather lack of it, I could feel my whole body relax. It didn't take very long to fall asleep after that! I'm going to make a concious effort when I'm on the bus or just sitting around waiting for something/someone to try and do that because I feel more relaxed and refreshed today then I have felt in weeks yet I actually got less sleep last night than I've had in many days.

Well the deed is done! I'm signed up for my exam. Now I have some serious crunch time to work under to be prepared. I feel pretty good about it right now though there are definetly going to be some major challenges with this exam. The exam can be as early as January 9th and the last possible day is January 21st. I'm going to do a program I'm pretty comfortable with and excited to play but it's not just about the repertoire so it should be interesting!

Today, on CBC radio they played a work that I was very excited to hear. Delius' violin concerto played by Philippe Djokic with Symphony Nova Scotia under Georg Titner. I studied with Philippe at Domaine Forget and have heard him play live and in person so it was exciting to hear him on the radio! The Delius is a concerto I wish was heard more. It's incrediably beautiful, not very flashy or virtuosic but incrediably beautiful. Parts of it remind me a lot of the Korngold Concerto in how it's orchestrated and how the texture is. I think I'm going to have to go out and find that recording and buy it for my collection!

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October 17, 2005 20:45

This past week I have managed to get in a lot more practicing. It feels really good! I have a big violin exam coming up in January so I'm excited to be getting caught up and ahead in my practicing for that. I've been more focused on technique (there is a very large technical requirement for the exam) and been dilligently working through all the scales in the book and double stops etc. Fingering patterns for some of things, mainly chromatic scales are really frustrating me but my teacher helped me get 3 different patterns worked out that can be applied to a "cycle" of them. It's helping lots.

One thing that's really nice to have back is the CBC's regular programming! There was a lockout that lasted around 8 weeks and I was really missing they're programming. The stuff that was replacing CBC's usual programs was all of the really popular pieces and I was getting really bored of hearing 100% classical that was all the famous stuff. CBC has so much variety, jazz, classical, new music and popular and unpopular in each of the genres, plus there's announcers, live performances, artist interviews and such. So YAY to the CBC being back!

I'm finally getting a bit more time to practice piano these days. I've been working on some Bach, Haydn and Debussy again. It feels good to play again.The past month has been fairly sparse in time spent at the keyboard so it really does feel good to get back to it. I'll be starting lessons again in November too!!

I'm truly in love with Ysaye's 4th sonata. I don't know if my teacher will let me but maybe after my exam in January I can learn it! *crosses fingers* It would be something a little different from unaccompanied Bach and challenge me in different ways. I did the Ysaye sonata No.2 before but I was not nearly as competent or comfortable with the violin and my technique as I am now so it would be valueable for me to do one of those sonatas again.

And that's my short and sweet blog entry for today.

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"Mind Game"

October 10, 2005 11:37

Composing has always been something I've really enjoyed but never done seriously with any goals in mind. In 2001, when I joined a youth orchestra in my area the conductor (also a well known composer) proposed a challenge to all of us eager musicians, we could write a piece for any combination of the orchestra and the youth symphony would not only play it in rehearsal and work out the bugs but the orchestra would also perform the work(s) as part of their annual spring tour! This sounded really exciting and interesting to me. I wasn't sure it was something I could do though so I didn't seriously think about it until a little later. That season started going by and a couple of pieces were submitted to be played, one written by a good friend of mine who was only a couple of months older than I. After hearing these student works (which to me sounded like really amazing compositions!) I got inspired to work on one over the summer for the following season. And so my love affair with composing began. That season the youth symphony premiered a piece I wrote for the strings section of the orchestra and I even got to conduct it! I did some more composing and actually completed a few works over that year (one of which included a suite for solo violin) and come the 03/04 symphony season I had my second work, "Mind Game" completed and ready to try. I was a little more adventurous with this work than I was with the one for string orchestra. It got it's title for several tempo, meter and key changes. I jump lines around different instruments and like to build ideas. The piece, because of the time constraints on the work and the wealth of ideas and things I had in my mind ended up becoming a mish-mash of ideas that all added to the "game." I got to conduct this piece (and it is me who is conducting in this recording) and I actually had to practice it! There's not simple, straight-forward 4/4 or 3/4 time signatures, I had to make it a little more complicated. The piece was a lot of fun to write and I really enjoyed the experience of putting it together.

There's a link for Mind Game in my media section and to the right of this screen.

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October 9, 2005 21:49

I have never in my life had to sign an autograph for turning pages. I don't mind being a page turner, I actually quite enjoy it, you get to be close up with the musicians and meet them and how cool is it to be sitting a foot away from an amazing pianist or amazing violinist while they are playing? It's neat, right? But why do I get recognition for turning the pages? Why was I asked to autograph a cd that I don't even know where it's produced, nevermind I wasn't present at the recording or even competent enough to turn pages at the time of it's production. Aren't page turners supposed to be unnoticed people who are just there to aid in the ease of a performance?

The concert itself that I turned pages for was fun. It didn't consist of pieces that were ones that made me say "I want to go see that concert!" but for the average, classical music loving (and even not!) person it was a really fun way to hear some classical music. The violinist and pianist wrote a script for their own story about this "Golden Violin" and it's travels around the world and the composers and pieces played on it. Probably my favorite part of the program was the FAE sonata. The set up was a lot of fun though, lots of short-ish, approachable, fun pieces to listen to. The performers had colorful costumes to suit the theme and time in which the violin was currently at in it's travels (along with music to match) and it was all aided by a couple of stage props and some really neat pictures put up on a projection screen. Classical purists I'm sure are going... AH! How can you do that to classical music but I thought it was done with a lot of taste and professionalism and the performers were really enthusiastic, genuine and approachable musicians.

The next morning the violinist did a masterclass that I participated in. I opted to play the Bach G minor fugue. That was a little scary having not played the piece for very long and only having had a couple of lessons on it. I was suprisingly not nervous though, probably partially because of having met the violinist the night before and knowing he was a really nice person. My performance went pretty well all factors considered and I got a couple of good suggestions.

It's a long weekend here and school has been cut short for the moment while teachers are on strike which has bidded well for practicing. I've managed to get a lot more done this weekend than I have for awhile. Last weekend I was really dissappointed about being sick and not feeling well enough to practice so I'm happy to have gotten as much done this weekend as I have. I really have missed the hard-core practice lately so it feels good to get back into it!

We had some family over last night for Thanksgiving dinner and that of course means an opportunity to play so one of the things I tried out was the Barber concerto. I've been working on it obsessively almost trying to get rid of every little blemish in sound and clean all the shifts and strokes up as best as I can. It went really well and felt so easy to play and that was a really rewarding feeling. I felt pretty motivated today in terms of practicing so decided to tackle the last movement of the Barber again and work on some of it. I haven't worked on it hardly at all since being at Domaine so I thought it deserved another look at, I did have it to 160 at one point so it would be a shame to lose too much of that just because it had been a long time since I practiced it. After doing some rhythm practice on the first page I for fun set the metronome at 185. Ouch! I managed to get about 5 lines in but that is hard to be so cooridinated and articulated at such a tempo nevermind shifting or string crossings.

I am going to take off here now!

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October 1, 2005 11:55

(the audio file is the 1st mvt from the Martinu sonata for cello and piano played by Denise Djokic and David Jalbert)

It's been a week...time to update my blog again. How did they even come up with the word "blog" anyways? Why not "journal" "diary" or what it's derived from "weblog" ? How did it become the BLOG? Then there are all the spinoff's of "blog" such as "blogger" "blogged" "blogging." Blog....sounds like some you shout when you're hiking and come across a fallen tree........oh wait....that's a log. Anyways....if anyone has the answer to the "blog" please feel free to let me know.

Now onto something a little more dense in content.

I am really enjoying working at the local music school. I've been there for a month as an official faculty member and it's proving to be a lot of fun! I have 7 private students and 3 Suzuki groups which along with school and my own practicing keeps me very busy. It's good practice in learning how to balance things though and it allows me to be able to save up a bit of money for my own lessons and endeavors. I have kids from as young as 4 to adults in their 50's and a couple in between so I have a nice variety in ages! Some students are really motivated, others are not so motivated. Some students have great parental and family involvement others do not. It's so interesting to see all the different personalities and types of people who are taking lessons with me this year!

It was my birthday this past week and to my great suprise some friends got my icecream cake and brought it to school! I was not expecting it at all and it was a really nice thing for them to do for me! I got a digital recorder from my parents which was greatly appreciated. I can use it to record lessons and for practice purposes. It's going to be super helpeful as I prepare for my upcoming violin exam. I can record myself playing through a piece and hear better where I bump notes out a little bit or where there are messier spots or extra noises that don't enhance the piece.

One thing that doesn't make me the happiest person this weekend is I have the house basicly to myself and don't have to be going places at all, nobody coming to visit - I can practice! And do homework.... I have a cold though so I'm not feeling quite as productive in the practice department. Don't you hate that congested, stuffed up head, plugged ears thing going on while you practice? Oh well....I've gotten a lot of homework done so far which is good. That all has to be done at some point so now is as good a time as any. My personal goal for today is to get all my homework done so that tomorrow I can do whatever I want without having to be saying to myself "you have an assignment due tomorrow morning at 8" "you have a test tomorrow - you should really finish your review sheet." We'll see if I can actually accomplish that.

Last night I went to a concert. I got to be in the audience for a change! It was really good! I had bought the tickets for this concert months and months and months ago. Cellist Denise Djokic and pianist David Jalbert. I had picked out my tickets to this concert a long time ago so I made sure I was sitting in the perfect spot to see the pianist and the cellist with no obtrusions. I was suceessful on my choice! I had one of the best seats you could have asked for in the whole theatre for that type of concert. I had studied with the cellist's dad, Philippe in the summer so it was kind of cool to hear his daughter perform!

Have you ever been jealous of a players intonation or bow arm? I was last night. I was jealous of the pianist too! Djokic had an incrediably seamless sound. No bumps or scratches or impurities in sound. Her technique and intonation were of extremely high quality and when I've heard people say that she reminds them of Jacqueline du Pre I can definetly see why! Her musicality and sensitivity towards the music was engaging and she made everything look effortless. I was completely drawn in for the whole thing. They played a Brahms sonata, Prokofiev sonata, Louie's Bringing the Tiger Down from the Mountain II and Denise Djokic also played a Bach cello suite, No. 4 in E flat. Talk about a huge program! Jalbert, the pianist was also incrediably engaging and fun to watch. There'd be this myriad of notes coming out of the piano at insane speeds but you'd look at his hands and they just delicately floated over the keys. You can tell these two players have played together for a long time too, the ensemble was really incrediable. It was just a really great evening!


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