Alex Pate
Status: Member
Member Since: February 17, 2013
Last Visit:May 7, 2017
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Alex Pate

Violinist of some (very small) repute. How small? A few people. I play in the first sections of the New Philharmonic Orchestra of Irving, and Northeast Orchestra of Tarrant county. If you're looking for help or advice on getting started with the violin, or if you're more advanced, feel free to reach out to me.

Background: BA Philosophy, Rhodes College, Managing Partner at MCIS, an insurance brokerage in the Dallas/Ft Worth area. My musical background is one which was frustrated, and stalled, due to lack of access- my first violin teacher was an upright bass player in the Waco symphony, and I was becoming frustrated at what seemed like an effort to run over the same beginner material for what I reasoned was his unfamiliarity with teaching advanced violinists.

In these bygone days where string programs were not extant, we couldn't figure out where to get a talented kiddo lessons. I fiddled around with it on my own, no orchestra, no lessons, and several years later put it down. I picked up the instrument again 7 years ago (25) and resolved to learn it, at no expense to my ego, or my ear drums. In 2014, at the encouragement of my better half, I contacted a professional orchestra with the intent to audition. Unsurprisingly, with no credentials or referrals, this did not happen, but they were kind enough to refer me to a well-respected community orchestra which combines students, professionals, and a lot of talented avocationalists (like myself). I conned my way through the first rehearsal and they let me back (I'd played a summer concert a few years prior with a hodge podge pops orchestra in Austin- a lot of faking in that one too). Towards the end of the season I realized the most talented player in there seemed very well informed on a wide range of styles, was helpful, and knocked the socks off the music. This was important to me, and she teaches, so I found a teacher (I took a few lessons in 2011 at a university in central Texas and it was obvious I was as well off on my own). As a result of the lessons my tone is increasingly more focused, my bowing more balanced, and she's helped me develop a style; all of this while working diligently to get rid of the bad habits of unobserved playing. Instead of hoping to play the majority of the music in front of me, I'm disappointed and challenged to not play every note. A huge difference. I would be happy to refer to her if you've read all this and live in the Dallas/Ft Worth area.

In the course of this, and being self-taught, I've run over countless ways to inform oneself online. If you want advice on what videos to watch, where the online resources are, I'm happy to help you. This is no substitute for lessons, but it's an essential way to gauge the quality of your lessons/teacher, and to supplement them. I honestly believe this is critical for any player, anywhere; or a complete waste of the cataloguing of the great virtuosi-- as Heifetz said, there is no limit, there is always a further form of perfection, and so it makes sense (and develops playing) to watch and listen to all of these great masters, and to surmise the gifts of their teachers and violin schools, the Russians (Heifetz, Seidel, Sitkovetsky, Korsakov) the French (Francescatti, Thibaud, Ferras)- these are approaches which are not touched on in the course of accepted learning in the United States, and they are worth watching (the old masters had the best tones and phrasing!)

Style: My playing style is informed by the great masters of the instrument, and by my relatively short arms and athletic background. I stand there, without a shoulder rest, leaning slightly into the instrument, and I pretend I'm Toscha Seidel. I'm not, but style begins with imagination. Why not? A basic idea to grow into. The violin requires confidence, a direct approach, a clean line into the instrument; an angular but restrained approach which wastes no motion should be sought as the ideal, and the proportions of the body shape the line. Above all else, my style translates in advice to this: don't be afraid of the awful sounds this instrument can make. In that ugliness is the beauty of the instrument-- its range of tones and expressive potential. It has to sound out to obtain that distilled, crystalline quality; the sound is literally pushed toward and refined through a process of understanding the most guttural inflections the instrument offers. Leopold Auer used to poke his students in the ribs to get more "gut (heart)" out of them. My conclusion, the same as Heifetz, you have one week to get rid of the shoulder rest; when the aim is expression of your individual soul through this instrument, how little sense it makes to stick a prosthetic between you and the violin is outmatched as nonsense only to the degree that this poor advice goes everywhere unquestioned, in all places, and is de facto THE way to begin learning this instrument. Heifetz said no, so do I, and a quiet but well-informed minority.