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Mendy Smith

Day number 10237

February 17, 2007 at 8:03 AM

This blog is inspired by the discussion thread on how long does it take until you are not so bad.

Day number 10235 - lesson day was REALLY BAD! I never had a chance to eat lunch with all of the Oracle ERP meetings and development sessions we had that day. CRP3 is 2 weeks away. By the time I rushed (stuck in traffic really) to downtown Portland for lessons I was shakey. Not a single note was in-tune, and I could not get relaxed or adjusted right. What a way to start a lesson, and it didn't end much better! At least I still got my Valentine's Day cupcake after the lesson was over (dinner). I had a very hard time with my incredibly short 4th finger. I couldn't relax enough to pivot on my third finger to so the stretch to the 4th. We started some vibrato exercises. Go figure - I do vibrato well enough on the cello but can't manage it for the life of me on the viola!

I put Bach aside for awhile and started working on Bruch Romanze for Viola. My father and I bought it on Saturday (my V-Day gift). I worked through it a bit on Sunday with the fingerings already noted on the sheet music. When we began this piece during lessons on Wednesday, my teacher re-did all the fingerings! It was a disaster after that. Any ear/hand relationship that I managed to scratch out during the 30 minutes I spent on this piece Sunday disappeard with the flash of a pencil. Back to fingerboard studies....

Day 10236 - I only practiced for 30 minutes and gave it up in disgust. The viola sounded raspy, I was unable to relax. So instead I watched Survivor and Grey's Anatomy then went to bed and almost slept through my alram clock the next morning.

Today was Day number 10237 - started off REALLY BAD, but ended REALLY good. I'm starting to get this feeling that if the room is under 72 degrees, my viola gets raspy - almost like an undertone that is a whisper or a hiss. Once the heater kicked in and the house warmed up, so did the sound - and so did my fingers. I could pivot on my 3rd finger and hit the note on the dot with my 4th no matter which position I played. The viola sung to itelf on the sympathetic strings. Notes that did not have a sympathetic string resonated. Even the dreaded 3rd - 5th on the C string had a richness to the tone. Haydn's 101st Symphony Finale was a breeze. I ended up marking my viola where the "perfect" shoulder rest position is. On my old viola - that sweet spot has worn through the varnish a bit.

I lament - why can I never play like this during lessons? I think I'm going to get a recording device so I can record these "better at home vs. lessons" sessions to see if I *really* do play better at home than in lessons - or orchestra practice for that matter. Is it a false perception or is it real? If it is real, how can I duplicate this elsewhere - do I need to warm up before lessons? Does it has something to do with the acoustics of my practice room or just comfort in my own space?

I recently joined a soon-to-be quartet. Right now it is a trio. I recieved the viola part in mail yesterday - Bartok's Terzetto. I played it through front to back once, then worked though the first movement for awhile. Not so bad. But then again, I played it in a moderate tempo, not the noted allegro. Our first attempt at this as a group will be this Thursday.

Back in 1979-81 I took lessons from a woman named Barbara at UTC. It was a year after my parents bought me my first viola - a 75 year old-ish at the time, 15" German made E.Martin. It is now about 100 years old. Recently my parents and I were trying to remember Barbara's last name and wondering what had become of her. Was she still teaching? What has she been up to? She would be about my parent's age. So, I e-mailed to university's music department to see if I could find anything out.

I recieved a reply today. Her last name is Crider. I also was given the e-mail address of one of her former students who is now the university's current viola teacher who could possibly know of her where-abouts. When I spoke to my mother tonight about this, she got very excited and confirmed that Crider was indeed her last name. She thought that Barbara would be suprised and happy to know that I still play viola 28 years later, and up until last year, on the same viola that I had when I was taking lessons with her. Mom spent the next 30 minutes reminiscing on those early viola years. She remembered more than I had forgotten!

I wonder what will day number 10238 bring?

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on February 17, 2007 at 10:14 PM
What was day 0?
From Mendy Smith
Posted on February 18, 2007 at 8:04 AM
Day zero was "I really wanted to play violin - what is this viola thing that my teacher gave me?!?! It looks like a violin... Let's try the Star Wars Theme song!" It was a good day.
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on February 18, 2007 at 11:45 PM
My students frequently tell me that they play better at home than at a lesson, even that they play better at a lesson when I leave the room to go to the bathroom. I think it's because they get tense at a lesson, although I don't know why. I'm such a softie.

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