March 2004

March 30, 2004 02:23

I have been horribly depressed for the last two weeks. That's why I haven't written. The only times I don't feel depressed are when I'm playing music, especially with friends, and when I'm doing photography. Thank God for Bach, Mozart, Paul Simon, and Nikon.

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March 15, 2004 02:03

I am encouraged by one of Tracy's recent posts, in which she talked of calling a "squillion" schools to ask whether she could give them fliers about a music school she works for. I'll start calling schools near me and let them know that I teach violin. I find that geography is a big factor in getting students. People don't want to spend a lot of time driving. In fact, you can get more students if you go to their homes. Unfortunately, I don't have a car.

I just love playing Mozart's Symphony #40. It's so sweet and light, and the second violins even get to play melody, a real treat. It has been one of my favorite pieces since childhood. I still remember the LP (vinyl disc) it was on, with Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony on the other side. My mother loved it, too. My mother and I did not get along, were not close, and music that we both loved provides me with rare opportunities to feel connected with her. Our conductor had us try somthing startling and fun when we played this Mozart piece. We changed our seating onstage to be like that of orchestras of Mozart's time. The second violins sat where the cellos now sit, and the cellos sat next to the violas. It was incredible what a big difference it made in an unexpected way. I was totally disoriented! I had my standmate change seats with me because the "inside" and "outside" were reversed, but I was still confused. Seeing the conductor on my left was confusing somehow. I just didn't feel quite right. I don't know whether the orchestra sounded different to me because of the seating since I hadn't played this piece before. Other people said that they heard the orchestra quite differently. The violas, for instance, were right near the concertmaster and the first violins, instead of the second violins. Even the conductor, who initiated the change, found himself cuing the second violins on his left, when we were really on his right. It's amazing how disorienting a small change like this can be.

Thanks to Scott and the others on this site who wrote about the joy of playing Bach's sonatas and partitas. I had never even seriously considered trying them since they're so difficult. Scott gave me suggestions on relatively easy parts to try. Equally important, many people wrote that this music is challenging but also rewarding. You're all right. I've started playing the slow parts (none of this "double presto" stuff) of partita #3 (E major), and I'm having so much fun. I'm hooked. Yes, it's challenging, but it's so very pretty. Every little increment of progress feels so good, just like exercising. I "choked" on the dissonant doublestops at first, but now I've discovered their charm. The dichotomy makes them feel like they're "My Funny Valentine."

It is now almost exactly one year since my relationship with my beloved significant other ended in tragedy and violence. I cry so often and have so much trouble sleeping. He loved music, too, and much of my music reminds me of him, for better or worse. I have a long way to go before I'm healed. I suppose I'll know that I've healed when I can listen to music he loved and still feel good.

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March 9, 2004 01:40

I am feeling really bummed. Three of my six students have quit, and the conductor of my community symphony orchestra announced plans to change seating, which means kick some of us out. He has the nerve to brag that he is not going to do this by auditions! Grrr. )-: I'm glad that Laurie keeps telling us not to be discouraged.

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March 1, 2004 21:09

It's so exciting when a student "gets it." Most of my students had been on their respective plateaus until about a week and a half ago. Then, bravo! The drudgery of practice paid off for one fellow. Suddenly, his muscle skills with both hands were good enough that he sounded like he was making music, not just playing notes. I was so excited. He wasn't and neither was his father. They couldn't hear the difference. At his next lesson, he made another quantum jump in the quality of his sound. This time, I took credit. I haven't felt quite right about the way he holds his violin. His body build is beefy, with short, strong fingers and neck. He has been tilting his head back when he played and I thought he needed a lower chinrest. At his last lesson, I had him remove the chinrest. Voila! I had been telling him to move his left arm this way, his right hand that way, the fingers of his left hand...etc. Now his arms, hands, and fingers fell into place. The bow was so much easier for him to control that it made a smooth, warm sound, not at all like the screeching that often comes from the violin of a beginner. I followed up by having him tighten and rosin his bow, and he sounded even better. His father heard and saw the difference and got excited. The student didn't. He's so overwhelmed with so many things to think about while he's playing, and now the workings of both of his hands feel strange and different to him. I kept telling him excitedly that he sounds so much better and will play so much better. His father echoed my sentiments. I hope the student can hear the difference himself soon. It's so much more rewarding to play when you sound good and you know it.

I was inspired to try something similar with another student. Voila again! His violin started to sing. Even when he played slowly and on the E string, it sounded so sweet. He could hear the difference, and he grinned as he struggled. Wow! He, like the other student, is quite talented, and soon he'll make sounds like the ones he hears in his head.

Teaching has had a good effect on my own playing. I see my students work hard to get a small improvement in playing, and I encourage and praise them. Then I appreciate my own small improvements after hard work. Then I practice more and have more fun. It's contagious. It's great.

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