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July 2005

July 24, 2005 22:49

Well, that was fun. After weeks of working on nothing but artificial harmonics and spiccato, my teacher said, "Let's do some schmaltz, just for a change." So I played the first part of Csardas for her, which I haven't done in a long time. We talked about vibrato and shifting and playing around with tempo. I realized that I'm kind of self-conscious about being too expressive. When I'm practicing alone it's okay, but I feel silly swaying and waving my instrument around.

This leads me to wonder how much of violin playing is or ought to be visual. When I go to a concert, it's primarily for the visual experience, whereas my husband frequently closes his eyes; for him it's mostly an enhanced auditory experience. And while excessive movement can be distracting (like in the case of Joshua Bell, even though I love him), in gypsy works and such I feel like the grand movements are a big part of the performance. What does everyone else think about this?

My lesson was last Wednesday, but tonight was the first time I've practiced since then. Not for lack of wanting to, but other things took precedence, like work and practicing piano for the church service I was playing in this morning. The latter was a waste, though; I still performed badly, partly due to insufficient practice and partly due to my husband (and page-turner) arriving late with our two-year-old, who insisted on sitting in Mommy's lap on the piano bench when I wasn't playing, then spit water out all over the floor and shrieked while she was removed from the sanctuary. Ah, motherhood. :)

I'm slowly building up my practice time. It was hard just to do half an hour when I started violin again a few months ago, but tonight I went for 45 minutes without too much difficulty. Yes, I'm aware of all you young ones out there who are logging 4+ hours a day, but progress is progress and accomplishments are relative. While I have lost---wasted---many years, I also know that I'm playing violin now for all the right reasons. Every moment I can spend with my instrument is a gift to myself. Being a violinist is no longer a burden, but a privilege.

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July 19, 2005 13:06

A question for all the working moms out there, or anyone else who finds it tremendously difficult to work practice time into his or her schedule: how do you do it? And when? I leave for work at 8:30 a.m., get home 7-8 pm, then spend an hour or two with my young daughters before they go to bed. So the only time I have for practice is after 9:30 pm, and then I'm usually too exhausted to concentrate. The weekends are better, but my teacher says it's more important to practice many times a week than it is to practice for a long time. My experience leads me to agree.

I'm trying to build a habit of exercising a bit during my lunch hour, since that's something else that's fallen by the wayside, but I can't very well bring my violin to work and practice in the park in the middle of the day. (Well, I could, but that would draw more attention that I really care to have!)

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July 15, 2005 22:55

I love my violin teacher. I'm always in such a good mood after my lesson, no matter how crappy a workday I've had. She's like a therapist, but cheaper and more effective. :)

I'm constantly astounded at how poor my practicing skills are, given that I've developed very good study skills (after going to school for 21 years straight) and many of the concepts are similar. When there's something I can't play (like going from a 1st position natural harmonic on the A string to a 3rd position artificial harmonic on the G string), I tend to be afraid of it, pray it comes out---not very effective, since I'm an atheist!---and beat myself up if it doesn't. But Virginia teaches me to analyze what's going on: figure out where the problem is, and attack it one step at a time. Is it my left or right hand? Is it the first finger or the fourth finger? Suddenly, the problem doesn't seem so insurmountable.
This is exactly how I approach things in an academic environment; I just need to learn to apply that to my violin studies.

No practicing tonight, since I'm way behind on a work project and will be in deep doo-doo if I don't catch up this weekend. But I've made it my goal never to skip more than one day of practice without a really good reason. So I'm back on it, tomorrow.

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July 10, 2005 22:55

It's always really nice to have independent confirmation of your progress.

I did manage to get through the awful week at work, but I only practiced once, last Wednesday. For me, practicing is sort of like exercise, or dieting; it's hard to get back on track once you've fallen off the wagon. I really didn't feel like practicing tonight, but I knew I needed to. Once I got started, of course, it was fun.

I was rewarded when my husband of eight years said, "You know, you've gotten a lot better." I respect his musical opinions tremendously, so even though I know I've gotten better, it was really nice to hear him agree.

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July 6, 2005 18:00

It hasn't been such a great week for me and my violin playing. Despite all my good intentions after my lesson last Friday, I haven't touched my instrument since then. I also cancelled this week's lesson in anticipation of a very busy week at work which will leave me no time to practice.

On a good note, however, I and my family went to the Stern Grove Festival last Sunday, where the San Francisco Symphony gives a free concert every summer. I think we're going to make it an annual tradition for the girls. This year's program was typically audience-pleasing: Shostakovich's Festive Overture, Saint-Saƫns' Piano Concerto No. 3, and Dvorak's New World Symphony. As an added treat, the concert was directed by SFS Resident Conductor Edwin Outwater, of whom I am a big fan. Not only is he talented and good-looking, he's also a really nice guy. I met him way back in 1991 when he was the music director of the Bach Society Orchestra at Harvard. I auditioned for him, and although he didn't take me, he was so kind and professional that I wasn't the least bit hurt. I think that experience may have been the only failed audition I ever had where I didn't feel terrible afterwards.

And, last night I was too tired to actually play, but I did finally watch some of my "The Art of the Violin" DVD, which I'd ordered something like a month ago but hadn't had time to watch until now. Very, very inspiring indeed. I'm going to make the effort and actually practice tonight, no matter how late it is or how tired I am.

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July 1, 2005 22:43

Well, that's kind of a disappointing discovery. Good day at work = not-so-good violin lesson.

I think it's because Virginia makes violin playing such a left-brained activity. We analyze everything in tremendous detail, figuring out exactly why doing this makes this sound. It's effective, because I'm such an analytical person. But after a day of heavy concentration at work, I was just too tired to think. I didn't want to figure out how all my arm joints need to coordinate their movements to get my bow going in a straight line. I didn't want to practice passages repeating each note nine times---I couldn't even count to nine without tremendous effort. I guess, I just really didn't want to work any more. ;-)

Fortunately, I've developed the habit of taking copious notes during my lesson. After a good night's sleep, I'll be ready to make the most of the long weekend.

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