June 2015

Empowerment in the Studio

June 8, 2015 07:46

13 year old violinist, Jackson performing Mozart Adagio in E

A few years ago I gave a seminar at the University of Maryland entitled Practice to Performance. One of the things I discussed was the need for empowerment in a musician’s life while they are building their artistry and career.

As I spend most of my time running a competitive studio, I see this need for empowerment increasing. The kids are practicing 3-5 hours a day across the board. The pieces are sometimes grueling in difficulty. They are in the studio every day, face countless pressures, have moments of genuine disappointment in competitions, and strive hard to reach their goals. My job is to mix that with a good dose of empowerment and joy.

The music was not written to bring us angst and negative emotions! The audience and the compositions are what are most important but in my studio I am finding that we need to work as a team to feel this every day. It is so easy to lose perspective when you are practicing fervently, struggling in rehearsals, and attempting to reach higher and higher levels of playing. The kids here move fast and it is hard to keep up. Sometimes we need to just take a second and enjoy their current level and the journey they have had so far. We need to stop the progress wheel from turning and feel the empowerment that comes from our playing today, in the NOW. When we do this, we can see an immediate benefit. They feel how powerful and touching their music making is to their spirits, our communities, and this serves as a beautiful reminder that this is what the music was written for! It even reconnects the students with why it is they chose to play violin in the first place.

For the second year in a row, we held a benefit for a wonderful organization in our community, Food & Friends. They serve families in need who are battling terminal illnesses by delivering meals every day and offering nutritional support. The kids always have a reason to perform but this one was very special. They know that my own career halted to take care of my mom during her illness when I was straight out of conservatory. The audience was full of families and studio parents and the students wore formal dresses and tuxes to put on a brilliant recital full of some of our most beautiful literature. Some of the students raised money on their own and contributed it at the event!

14 year old violinist, Sabrina performing Wieniawski Polonaise No. 2

From my perspective, I have had studio traditional recitals in the past and of course charged a fee per student to cover pianist, hall rental, programs, rehearsal fees, etc. For there to be a benefit recital at no cost, I submitted a proposal to the church commission and they approved the charity organization of our choice and our program. The hall rental was waived, and the pianist even waived his performance fee for the cause. With the student cost of the event at zero we were able to make a suggested donation for the benefit and the parents paid no more than they would have for a standard studio recital but received the benefits of their child participating through their art in helping the community around them. The looks on their faces show the pride in their performances. We raised nearly 2000 dollars that evening and the donations are still coming in online. Best of all, in doing this we have taught these young musicians that music and their talents are powerful, that THEY are powerful, and that they can make a difference in a way that extends way past the practice room.

Next year I am inspired to do more performing in retirement homes, schools, and for a cause.

(left to right, front row: Jian- Trio Etoile cello student of John Kaboff, Carina - Trio Etoile piano student of Anna Ouspenskaya, Daphne, Kayleigh, Miyabi, Olivia, second row: Aimee - Trio Nuage piano student of Anna Ouspenskaya, Manya, Hsnnahlise, Amy Beth Horman with her daughter Freya, Jackson, Masato, Michelle, Sabrina, back row: Colin - Trio Nuage cello student of John Kaboff, pianist Brad Clark)

pictures by studio parent extraordinaire, Sam Chang

Take a listen to 13 year old Olivia playing her heart out on Paganini Concerto No. 1 at the benefit.
Olivia Paganini Concerto No. 1


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