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Mendy Smith

Adventures in Viola Music

April 17, 2008 at 6:16 AM

I took The Pirates of the Carribean to lessons tonight for a little professional help hoping for a trick to make those darned triplets just a little easier. Here is how it went (roughly):

Joel: (opens door, I enter, previous student prepares to leave)

Joel: (tells a viola joke that I actually NEVER heard before)

Mendy & Other Student: (groans at joke)

Mendy & Joel: (heads upstairs to begin lessons)

Joel: "So, did you bring your orchestra music? You never told me which piece it was that was giving you problems."

Mendy: (flipping through music, find Carribean, put it on stand) "Yup, here it is." (flip to page with triplets and point to passage)

Joel: (starts playing passage) "What tempo are you all playing this at?" (plays a demo tempo)

Mendy: "No, faster than that. About this fast" (taps out tempo...gets viola out of case, and start setting up. Hear Joel restart same measure several times at tempo)

Joel: "This is NOT viola friendly!!!"

Mendy: "You're telling me!!!"

Joel: (tries same measure a few different ways)

Mendy: (put shoulder rest on viola, tighten bow)

Joel: "This is one of those pieces that you want to run and hide from. Let's start at this measure." (points to the most difficult measure)

Mendy: "What? This is going to be my warm-up?!?!?!"

We jumped straight into my CO viola section's nightmare passage. After deeming that there was no way to make this section any easier (just many many hours of wood shedding time), he started looking through my stack of music I brought with me again. We played some of the Borodin and Schubert quartet movements.

Joel: (flips through the stack some more...) "Did you bring the Clarke?"

Mendy: (digs through stack, and finds the Sonata). "Yup! Here it is!"

About half way through playing the first page of this piece, I stop.

Mendy: "Oh, I got something for you" (present my teacher with a set of earplugs)

I threatened to do this once before when first learning to play past 5th position a few weeks ago. This time I felt that he could really use them.

The Clarke Sonata is one of those pieces that I had bought years ago after hearing a recording of it but never even attempted to play it on my own after taking one look at the notes on the page. The first movement has Sul C, G, and D and notes on the A that takes you close to where there is rosin on the strings. The second movement has many harmonics and fingered harmonics. For years the Clarke Sonata has been in my "Bucket Stack" of music. I'm so excited that I'm finally starting to work on pieces in this stack.

Then at the end of lessons, my sense of accomplishment at getting to this point of my life musically was dampened. The next student came upstairs. He's a VERY young man, going to Aspen this summer and will be playing on-air on the radio.

I still wonder why Joel keeps me on as a student. I have nowhere near the talent that his other students have and I have no desire to make music my profession like his other students. The only thing I have going for me is a true love and enthusiasm for playing viola. I can only guess at why he continues to subject his ears to my viola playing.

From Patricia Baser
Posted on April 17, 2008 at 9:35 AM
That viola spot in Pirates is very awkward!
From Neil Cameron
Posted on April 17, 2008 at 1:34 PM
I'm glad there are teachers like Joel around who put up with us adult amateurs.

Neil

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on April 17, 2008 at 9:25 PM
I bet he likes your attitude and your enthusiasm, which shine through everything you write.
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on April 18, 2008 at 3:48 AM
Greetings,
>I still wonder why Joel keeps me on as a student. I have nowhere near the talent that his other students have and I have no desire to make music my profession like his other students. The only thing I have going for me is a true love and enthusiasm for playing viola.

UYYou answered oyur own question.That is my only criteria for accepting studnets. Others i kick out. You can come to Japan anytime!
Cheers,
Buri

From Mendy Smith
Posted on April 19, 2008 at 3:57 AM
Buri - If I ever have a layover in Japan when I go to Hong Kong or China, I'll take you up on that offer.

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