September 2008

Masterclass Post-playing.

September 27, 2008 20:57

Well, the masterclass experience was even more than we had hoped it would be... the clinician was excellent, and the whole event was incredibly positive, even the 'not-so-positive' parts.

My daughter was given a few technical things to work on (the usual suspects...playing with too much tension, letting violin drop a bit, all exaggerated in performance by nervousness, etc.) She still has over 3 months before her first audition and has specific things now to focus on...it feels very helpful. The teacher told me that "she has a few technical issues, but apart from that, she has a gift. I can teach R and L hand techniques, but I can't teach what she has", referring to her musicality and sensitivity.

This violin teacher is connected with a school that we were already strongly looking at. She is still planning on applying and auditioning for several, but it is a relief to know that this would be a very good fit, regardless of what else transpires. It's also good to know that our own assessment was correct...that she can likely be accepted into the sorts of schools that she is applying to.

This feels like she has the opportunity to get a running start on correcting certain things(and it always has more impact when another teacher points out weaknesses). Now she will go into audition prep with an awareness of certain things that just weren't on her radar.

Bravo :)!

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A night at a masterclass.

September 26, 2008 08:54

Tonight's the night! Tonight my daughter is playing in a masterclass by a group that is artist-in-residence at one of the schools she is looking at. The violinist she'll be playing for tonight would be her violin prof. if she chooses that school.

She still has several schools as possibilities on her list... the one she has at the top of the list is a private school that would need to offer serious $$$ scholarships if it is to remain in the running. Luckily, her grades and ACT scores are high...that should help.

Tonight feels weighty because it will be our first 'real' interaction with a college professor, and thus will give us our first accurate assessment of her readiness from someone currently in the field. We know many musicians, who all assure her that she is more than ready, but it will be good to have a concrete assessment from a violin professor. Plus, her current teacher will be there, to help us evaluate...this will be really helpful as she continues to learn her audition pieces.

And yet, being a masterclass, it's also less weighty than an audition would be. A risk-free dry run, so to speak, a test-drive designed to furnish information for future decision-making.

I'm hoping that it feels very positive to her at the end of the day.

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College Search 101

September 17, 2008 06:52

The Opera is over, and was a big success...in fact, we all now want to quit our day jobs and become opera singers. Alas, it's time for real life to elbow itself in and insist on having attention lavished on it.

In addition to the real world duties of the season, it's time to begin the dreaded 'search' in earnest.
The college search, that is. My 17-yr. old violinist daughter is beginning her senior year, and it has sneaked up on us. It's time to begin submitting college applications, and looking ahead at audition dates for various schools.

I am realizing that the college search is a very different process when looking at music programs than it was for my older children. With my older daughter, she decided that wanted a good political science program, found a school she liked, and that was it! There was no need for me to research her poli. sci. profs, no 'sample classrooms' to visit, no major projects for her to submit to gain acceptance.

This, however, is a very different animal. I didn't realize just how different until we made a visit last spring to one of the state schools (in Michigan) with a reputation for excellence as a music ed. school. I sat in on the orchestra rehearsal at this school, and was horrified--- there were only 9 violins in the entire orchestra, and of those, it was obvious that only about 4 were in any music programs. One was a performance major, a couple more must have been music ed. majors and the rest were students of other disciplines. And it was pretty obvious that there was no real audition process to get into that orchestra....I saw 1 student in the back of the 1st violin section who literally didn't know how to hold the bow. She 'air-bowed' the entire rehearsal, and the bow never left the top 3 inches at that. This school is probably a really good choice for anything in music EXCEPT strings, but I left pretty shocked. My daughter would have gone into the first stand of 1st violins as an incoming freshman at that school, which seems to me to be not very productive from an educational standpoint.

So---now the search feels distressingly ponderous, as I realize that I need to personally visit every school we are looking at, and meet every teacher we are considering. What a lot of work!

My daughter is looking for a program that is fairly small. We come from a tiny area, and I think she really likes the personal feel in a smaller setting, where the students all get to know one another and the teacher is highly invested in the students. This rules out the bigger schools in MI (UofM, MSU, etc.) and leaves us looking for an excellent teacher in a smaller program that is known for excellence. Her plan is Performance major; however, we tend to vascillate depending on whom are talking to. (i.e. "You really should have that teacher's certification. You'll have work for sure that way".)


As a musician/teacher/parent it feels risky in a different way to me. I have invested 13 years of time, energy, cheerleading, nurturing and $$$$ in this kid, and have seen her arrive at a very neat place. She has had only 2 teachers thus far. I don't want to hand her over to a teacher who will be harsh with her, or who will, by temperament or personality, dismantle what we have built.

I know of a girl who was denied graduation because in her senior year, she had a falling-out with her teacher, who then refused to sign off on her senior recital. The falling out was personality and not based on her playing/performances. This was 2 years ago. This girl still doesn't have a degree (she was double-majoring in violin and viola) and is in limbo. This freaks me out....
this one-on-one relationship with a teacher that can either make the college experience a time of growth or a nightmare. One bad fit with a teacher can destroy what it has taken most of a lifetime to grow.

So....I plan to attend every initial meeting, go to rehearsals, sit in on sample lessons. It's all I can do. We live at least 5 hours away from any school with a music program, which makes visits, sample lessons and auditions etc. a bit challenging.

Money IS a consideration....we need her to earn some scholarship assistance. All in all, it sounds like a weighty endeavor. I'm trying to look at it in it's most positive light though....the search, as an experience that I can have with my daughter as we explore her future, looking with excitement to what is ahead. Still, it feels weighty.

One encouragment in this all is that I know that the market for employment is tight enough that there are some truly outstanding teachers in some smaller schools. I hope that we can find a perfect fit of teacher/school/program and student.

We begin in earnest next week as she is attending a masterclass by the Merling Trio (from WMU) who are visiting our area. She will be playing parts of the Schubert Sonata Duo and the Lalo. This will be our first one-on-one contact with a university violin professor, and should give us information.

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Quick thoughts

September 10, 2008 22:43

As I kick around the 'schedule time for ME to practice' plan, I find myself wondering if I might be more motivated if I chose some specific piece(s) to work on, like back in my lesson days. It seems that might help me regain the sense of playing for joy. Sounds ridiculously simple, but life has gotten so full that I am usually only practicing what I MUST (shows, concerts) instead of what I wish. How freeing.... I feel as though I'm wresting my violin back from captivity or something, and indulging myself.

There are so many wonderful sonatas out there...maybe a good starting place. I'm giving myself permission to find something that I LOVE.

And HOW did I manage to schedule my first full fall teaching day on opening night of the opera? Ten students, and THEN head for the pit. Wow.... What was I thinking?

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Thoughts from the Opera Pit:

September 7, 2008 20:49

We have begun final rehearsals for a performance of Die Fledermaus which runs later this week. As usual, I am far too busy in the pit (and seated with my back partially to the stage anyway) to see much of anything that is going on. This is a larger frustration than usual, as my 17-yr. old daughter is on the stage, in the chorus. I'm frustrated that I'll see so little of her debut in an opera. She will be playing the Csardas on her violin from the stage in the party scene though.... I just may have to peek one night.

I wonder how many shows I've seen little bits and pieces of from the pit, without having any idea of what is really going on on-stage. Musicals, operas.... everything from the Anastasia ballet to Annie are imprinted in my brain only as partial images, with giant holes in the action.

I am a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to instruments. (I play several at a fairly competent level, but I'll never be a touring soloist on any of them :). I play well enough that I did get hired by my local orchestra to play for Anne Murray last year when they hired the string section locally (though the individual mic velcroed behind the bridge was a bit of a shock!) but I am totally an ensemble musician, a team player.

Last year I played woodwinds (clar., sax and flute) when we did Annie, then viola for Magic flute. The 'applied flexibility' comes from being in a small area and working at an arts school. I know I'll be in the pit, the question is, which section? What do we need?

For this show, after attending one rehearsal on 2nd violin, I've been switched, and am now the viola section. :) There are some benefits to being flexible, but for the last 2 shows, I've not known until the last possible minute what I'm playing. That decision tends to wait to see where there is a hole that I am able to fill, though violin is the default setting.

It's kind of fun, the not knowing. Hmmm...clarinet or violin?? Because the viola parts are easy in this show, there is no stress to the last minute-ness of the decision to switch me. But, because I am the entire viola section, I don't know that I see it very likely that I can sit out a song and turn around and watch my girl. That's a bummer....

Still, fun to be able to do things like this with my daughter, especially with it being her last year at home. We open on Thursday...it will be a very busy week. :):)

As an adult beginner, I still have to stop and remind myself occasionally how awesome it is that I get to make my entire living with music. Be careful what you wish for...it may come true exponentially!!

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Welcoming myself to the world of blogging.

September 5, 2008 17:30

I discovered violinist.com earlier this summer, and since then have checked in most days. I've found the site to be a wealth of good information, as well as some just flat out entertaining reading. Many of the names of the 'regulars' have become familiar to me, and I so enjoy the diversity of experience, place and approach demonstrated. What a great place!

So.....mine will be entries from a tiny area in far northern Michigan (on the Canadian border) where the strings community is tiny but very busy.

As I look at the beginning of the teaching/practicing season again, I've found myself wondering if anyone else has the same dilemma that I do. I find that the busier that I get working as a musician, the less time I actually have for practicing. My student load (violin and piano) has grown to a studio of about 34, plus I have a youth orchestra. I play for 2 orchestras, and have a string quartet (working mostly summers). I am THE pianist for my church. My entire life is about music...and I hardly have a minute to actually practice. How do others manage this?

As I look at my year, and the structure I need (I'm also doing a distance Master's program as well as having a part time church job) I've decided that I absolutely MUST schedule and structure more than feels natural to me. So, as I sat down with my calendar and planner, a thought hit me. Could I, maybe, just maybe, actually SCHEDULE my own practice time?

This is a radical thought for me since it's just been a year since I lost my school job (another story, for another time, thank you NCLB). Last year, I was dealing with my new job situation plus a terminally-ill mother living 3000 miles away and a daughter getting married. No time for anything except dealing with the demands of the day.

My mom passed away about 6 weeks ago, and I am now adjusted to my new job situation. All of the traumatic adjustments of those hard things have been dealt with...or at least well-begun. It seems a good time to take a deep breath and see what shape the calm and more-predictable fall will assume.

So....the radical thought-- Practicing time for me in my schedule? Time, not grabbed between students or before rehearsals, but actually planned for? (Reminds me of a concert last spring where I was practicing tough spots for the Tchaikovsky Symphony 4 in my hotel room mere hours before the concert.)

I'll have to look at my planner and see what I can find..:)

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More entries: October 2008

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