May 2004

May 24, 2004 12:38

Everything related to the violin has strong emotional content for me. I was really moved recently when one of my students told me that she would no longer come for lessons. She had played the violin in fourth grade but could not continue it because her family couldn't afford it. Now a senior in college, she returned to violin lessons. She was so happy. She even remembered some of the little pieces she had played in fourth grade. She is quite talented. She learned quickly and enjoyed continuing a dream that had been interrupted long ago. Money is still tight for her. She is going to school full time and working part time to pay for her education. She lives with her parents to save money, although she would prefer to be on her own.

She sent me an email telling me that she had good news and bad news. The good news was that she had been accepted by a very good, but very expensive, graduate school. The bad news was that her expenditures would increase; she would have to work longer hours to earn more money; and she would not be able to afford violin lessons. I remembered my experiences growing up in a family without much money, and I felt so bad. I sent her an email saying:

"I would hate for you to give up the violin now. You waited so many years to return to it. You have talent, and you obviously enjoy playing it. Let's try to work something out. I could give you lessons as a "scholarship" student as long as I have an available time slot not taken up by a paying student. Do you think you will find time to practice? The other financial concern is renting the violin. Can you manage the $20 per month? It is a good instrument and a very good investment. If not, you can get a junky one for very little money, but, in the long run, you're better off with the one [you are renting now].

"My family was always on the edge financially. My father paid for my violin lessons anyway, somehow. My violin teacher lent me one of his violins. After I had played it for years, I told my father that I would be sad when I had to give it back. My father said, "It's your violin now." He had been paying my teacher a few bucks a week for years to buy the violin, and I'm so glad that he did. I sympathize with you because I went through something similar. I don't have any money to help you pay for your violin, but I can offer you a "scholarship" to pay for the lessons. My father and my violin teacher would be happy about it."

She turned down my offer, as I had expected. She has her pride and strong feelings of fairness. I dearly hope that she can return to the violin before long.

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May 18, 2004 23:09

Looking for a unique storage case for your CDs? Try this: (with apologies to anyone who got confused by my original, dysfunctional link)

Stolen Stradivarius Cello Found Damaged in L.A.

from Yahoo News, May "04
By Gina Keating
A Los Angeles nurse found a stolen $3.5 million Stradivarius cello next to a dumpster and was going to
have it turned into a CD cabinet until she learned it was an instrument the whole town was searching
for, officials said on Tuesday

The "General Kyd" cello, made in 1684 and named for the man who brought it to England, suffered only
minor damage and will be returned to the musician who lost it three weeks ago after forgetting
it on his front porch, Los Angeles Philharmonic Association officials said. The cello was stolen
from the porch of the Philharmonic's principal cellist Peter Stumpf by a thief riding a bicycle,
police said. Three days later, nurse Melanie Stevens found it beside a dumpster about a mile from
Stumpf's home on her way to visit a patient. Stevens, 30, turned the cello over to police last weekend
after seeing a TV news report about the theft -- the first in the Los Angeles Philharmonic's history,
police said.

"Last night, the Los Angeles Philharmonic was reunited with a member of its family, our
great General Kyd Stradivarius," Philharmonic president Deborah Borda said at a Tuesday news conference
at Walt Disney Hall. "When I announced this to the orchestra there was an enormous cheer that went up."
Stumpf said General Kyd's return made him "probably the happiest man in Los Angeles today." "I'm just
incredibly relieved the cello has been found. It's been an enormous weight on me for the last three weeks,"
he said. Stumpf, the orchestra's tenured cellist, will continue playing General Kyd as soon as it is
repaired, Borda said.

The cello was returned with cracks that string repair technician Robert Cauer called "routine." Cauer,
who has worked on the cello for 20 years and helped identify it at the police station, said the
instrument would be restored to health by October. "There's no reason it can't be restored to the way
it was," Cauer said. "The sound will be as good as before."

Stevens remains eligible for the $50,000 reward offered by the Philharmonic but LAPD Assistant Chief
Jim McDonnell warned that the "case is by no means solved." After rescuing the cello from the garbage heap,
Stevens took it home and asked her cabinetmaker boyfriend, Igal Asseraf, to fix it or hinge the top to turn
it into a CD case, her attorney Ronald Hoffman said. "We are very lucky that Igal was not a person that
works real quickly," Hoffman said.

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May 18, 2004 00:43

One of my students is getting married in June, and I'm having so much fun collecting tunes about weddings and brides for her. Most of them are in the folk genre, but I finally found, after much searching, a version of the wedding march from Lohengrin which is playable by a beginner. I comb the Internet for free sheet music and have so much fun. I really enjoy teaching violin. It gives me an excuse to do fun things like this.

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May 1, 2004 22:45

I heard a really good concert the other night. It was good partly because of the music and partly because of the things said by one of the performers. I went to this concert mainly because it was free and I knew that a lot of my friends would be there. I had never heard of the performers, and the genre, old time music from W. Va., is not one of my favorites. The music was so good!

The performers were two real down-homey senior gents who played fiddle and/or banjo and/or guitar and/or sang. Dwight Diller was the star fiddler and conversationalist, in my opinion. He spoke right from the heart about his own experiences. He told of the musicians who became his friends and mentors many years ago. He said that they accepted him for who he was, not for what he had accomplished. Bravo! I have a few friends like that, and they are very precious. He went on to explain that he was feeling bad about himself when he met these friends. He had been unemployed for a long time because of problems with his health. I can relate to that. Our society so often determines our worth by our accomplishments, and particularly by those accomplishments which are financial. He said that the way you learn to play music well is to sit on the back porch, play a while, talk a while, and play some more. You don't get to be a good musician by showing off. Again, I can relate to this, not only on the back porch, but also in the orchestra rehearsal hall. Prima donnas don't contribute anywhere near as much as they think they do. Every player has to subordinate his or her ego to the totality of sound of the whole orchestra.

Dwight had this to say about his instruments: He started learning to play fiddle and banjo at about the same time. He said he could play the banjo pretty well after two years, but it took him 30 years to be able to play the fiddle pretty well. I made a note to tell my students about this when they become discouraged. After the concert, I spoke to Dwight personally. I wanted to know how he "caught on" to playing the fiddle. He responded by asking me where the movement of the bowing arm originates. "Here?" he asked several times, tapping me sequentially on the upper back, shoulder, upper arm, forearm, wrist, and hand. People are often sensitive about touching a stranger, especially one of the opposite gender, but this felt good to me. He answered his own question by telling me that the movement of the bowing arm must originate from the heart of your being. So true! There is a lot of technique to learn before you can play the fiddle/violin well, but the most important part comes from the heart.

Thank you so much, Dwight.

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