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Sam Rubin

Celebrate Classical Music: My First Blog

August 6, 2012 at 5:31 PM

History tends to repeat itself. Genocide and tyranny return continuously, and as humans we make the false promise of never again, a white lie to help a restless race into a deep slumber of ignorant comfort. We feel the need to stop the past from repeating itself, yet as a classical musician that is exactly my goal. To grace the strings with the same gracious ferocity of Primrose, to repeat the emotionally draining demise that Tchaikovsky intended in his 6th Symphonie’s final sayings, to re-create the flawless bliss that must have overcome Mozart’s audience. These moments are a destination in time, an exact moment of completely being alive, feeling the cosmos and science’s great harmony come together, and my journey is to find where my personal star, a creation of myself, fits into this gigantic universe of musical bliss. My adventure came through one five minute piece that changed my life, and my personal goal of repeating history at least once.

Although I have officially played viola since the 4th grade, close to eight years ago now, I never loved music. I never felt passion, fervor or a fiery alive feeling. To be honest, most ten year olds I meet don’t! For an embarrassing year I had a love of horrifically tiring and down right stupid hip hop, but haven’t we all. Orchestra class turned into a clowning escapade much to the dismay of my teachers (who I have made amends with and become friends with). A favorite activity of mine was to hide under the risers behind the first cello stand and pelt rosin chunks at my confused teacher’s feet. Regardless, for the first five or so years my music education was not much of an education, rather a beginning clown school. Going into High School brought me to my first of hopefully many “Coming of Ages”. High School is portrayed as a time to reinvent yourself, and Rock ‘N’ Roll encourages that rebellion. The guitar has been an international symbol of change, of rebellion, of revolution. After begging consistently much to the dismay of my parents, my first guitar was finally given to me. That moment when I took the guitar to my car and sat with it in my lap I knew my life would never be the same.I had never felt like that before, almost addicted to an object, unable to stop thinking about it or put it down --- I was hooked. From that point on I practiced constantly, never letting the guitar leave my hand. Every family event the guitar came with us, and I began to feel my first emotional love with music, the power behind an instrument to change your own life.

Fast forward 3 or so years and that is were the real story begins. Zoom Zoom

My first three years of high school changed my life more than could be imagined. I became enthralled in all things music related. I became only interested in musical findings, constantly seeking out mentors, immersing myself in the culture. Jazz spoke to me on a deep personal level, and I found a guitar teacher perfect to start my teaching in the art form. He is my current teacher still and if there is any one person who I have to owe my love of classical music too, or at least the start of my love at this very moment, it is him. Dario, my teacher, is unique in that he has exposed me to music as a non-discriminatory adventure. The ideology that all music deserves a chance and a listen has greatly enhanced my appreciation of every type of music. When I went in the first day ready to “Rock ‘N’ Roll” he set me down with Berklee’s beginner classical guitar book. From day one it was sheet music and theory, not exactly what I had in mind. As I progressed into jazz this training came in great help, but that’s a whole other story. These lessons showed me that there was more to music than “balls to the wall” rock guitar and distortion. I could channel my inner feelings through the guitar and what someone else composed. I quickly found that through classical music I could both express my more gentle feelings and my aggression.

At first I was skeptical of classical. The thought of it brought me back to my clown days, when I thought the music was stale and too old to be good. However now my opinions started to morph, I began to “see the light”. I began to pour through every YouTube video I could find; I was so drawn to the emotions that could be conveyed through classical music. I quickly developed favorite interpretations of works and instantly found an absolute love for Rostropovich. Jazz guitar opened up the world of classical music to me.

I began to realize I was missing an incredible opportunity into this world of music. Luckily, I attend an incredible public school, and our teachers are the best, bar none, especially in music education. After dragging up the courage I knocked on my tormented teacher’s door and explained my situation, my new found love. Although after all of my misbehaving she could have turned me down, if that would have happened I might be writing this blog on a site about weight lifting, instead she welcomed me warmly, my first encounter with my new musical community. So I dusted off an old friend and got to work, my goal, to do a solo piece of the highest level in our NYSMAA system just 3 months after I began playing viola again.

Fast forward one more year. Zoom Zoom

After a semi-successful NYSMAA solo the year before, this year I was ready to achieve a perfect score. I had another year of intense practicing and studying under my belt, and through my journey one piece in particular began to stick out to me. This piece connected with my heart and took me on an adventure, one that I had never felt before with music. Although Bach’s Solo Cello Suites were not intended for viola, for that matter I’ve heard they weren’t even intended for cello, in my personal opinion they really favor the viola. The viola’s haunting C string gives the counterpoint bass lines a whole new colour, a new timbre that the cello just doesn’t do justice too.

So with Bach in mind I fell in love with Suite 3’s Prelude. Personally, Bach Preludes are by far my favorite as a general form in comparison to the other movements of his Suites. For an unexplainable reason this piece in particular “pulled on my heart”. From the first luxurious descending scale I instantly fell in love with the grandeur of this piece. It seemed to describe a vibrant detailed conversation that couldn’t be put into words. An intense and emotional story shared upon one’s own thoughts, unexplainable to another human besides ones self. As the story progresses it speaks to me of a tender love, an innocent love. The lower three string crossing chords speak to one another, each tone telling of a smaller story of affection. However, like most innocent love, the tale begins to change to strife and conflict. Through a huge crescendo the story switches to the top strings, a thunderous fight, the innocents love first problems. The story continues, eventually descending down to the original theme, the love. In a way the ending grand chord speaks to the circular qualities of love. The Circle Of Life as coined in The Lion King shows itself in this piece as well. The piece starts with a grand love and ends with a grand love, similar to most peoples first loves. Similar to my own story as well. The Up’s and Down’s that come in my own musical life. The moments of grand greatness and the moments of utter defeat. The moments I’ve felt like a king and the moments I’ve felt like I don’t deserve to be in the presence of any musician. In someways, this was the perfect piece because it spoke of my life, not to say many others feel the same about the same piece. I guess therein lies the beauty of Classical Music.

This Prelude changed my view on what Classical music could be. What was originally “boring old rubbish” became this wonderful deep life telling spirit that opened up my own emotional thoughts. It taught me that lyrics don’t tell near as much as the music behind them can. It taught me to appreciate the power of chords to pull at the heart, to use progressions as a representation of your own personal changes. Most importantly it taught me to be in contact with my inner human, the personal choices and thoughts that make each one of us unique and beautiful.

I started off this piece talking about repeating the past, my goal of imitating the greats before me. I went in wanting to be Rostropovich or Primrose, to play with the same rigor and phrasing, to be exactly them. Many classical musicians I’ve met think like this as well, dead set on perfection, on exactness. However, I no longer think this way. I now wish to sound like Sam Rubin, to play with the rigor of Sam Rubin, too put Sam Rubin’s thoughts and emotions behind his playing. To never accept anything but my personal best, and to never want to be someone else.

Maybe history repeating itself is a bad thing, for every new person who approaches anything should do anything in aspirations of being themselves.

Thank you for reading such a long piece.

Sam Rubin is going to be a senior in High School and is looking to attend school to become a music teacher.

From Mischa S.
Posted on August 6, 2012 at 6:33 PM
Utterly sublime! Your pupils shall consider themselves lucky to have you as a teacher...!
From Sam Rubin
Posted on August 6, 2012 at 7:34 PM
Wow. Thank you, that is the nicest thing someone has ever said to me about anything music related...I'm not much of a teacher yet...with practice!
From Betsy Amos
Posted on August 7, 2012 at 12:08 PM
Your journey with guitar reminds me of my son's, who is a rising senior at Christopher Newport University with a major in classical guitar and a minor in jazz studies. I enjoyed your story and I feel certain your lucky future students will benefit from your experiences. The real reason I'm writing, though, is to applaud your writing skills. You should seriously consider using this blog, or some portion of it, for a college essay!
From Sam Rubin
Posted on August 7, 2012 at 12:13 PM
I hope your son is doing well. I seriously considered going Jazz Guitar for my major until about 5 months ago...the viola just grew on me. I still play in a jazz combo and those are the majority of my gigs though.

I think I'm going to use part of this for my college essay regardless of the topic. Thanks so much!

From Betsy Amos
Posted on August 7, 2012 at 12:47 PM
Thanks for your response and well-wishes. My son is doing great, visiting grad schools, and exploring other options, such as the Armed Forces bands. He has two buddies who are doing very well for themselves by playing jazz on a cruise line!
From Sam Rubin
Posted on August 7, 2012 at 1:03 PM
Cruise lines are the best! I met a singer that hired a trio to back him on a cruise...I'm convinced unless you can get a uni. job it's the best jazz job. Playing for 4 hours a day and all your expenses are paid. Air Force has a great swing group ala Glenn Miller. Hope he does well!
From Laurie Niles
Posted on August 8, 2012 at 3:09 AM
You are so right, after you immerse yourself in classical music -- or any kind of music -- the ultimate goal is to use what you know to play exactly like yourself!
From Sam Rubin
Posted on August 8, 2012 at 4:18 AM
I think that the most rewarding thing about learning viola and guitar for that matter is that I can hear my own thoughts and my personality come out through my playing
From Michael Snow
Posted on August 11, 2012 at 5:55 PM
Have you played jazz on the viola? It's a wonderful instrument for that style of music.

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