Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Schumann cello concerto and ... Frankenweenie?

I had a cello lesson today in which we went through the Schumann concerto and discussed different ways to play all the hard bits. Near the end of the lesson, my teacher said what I need to do now is put it all together into a coherent whole. I said, "Yeah, it's kind of like Frankenstein right now." He started laughing and asked, "Have you ever seen the movie 'Frankenweenie'?" and mentioned in particular the bit at around 1:55 -- pasted here for your enjoyment:

"I can fix that!"

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Well, that was fast!

I uploaded the video of the Haydn on Wednesday night and received an email that I passed the audition on Friday. Two days instead of the two weeks they mentioned.

I am now officially qualified to teach Suzuki cello, Book 1.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Haydn concerto -- my version

So here I am, playing the first movement of the Haydn C major cello concerto, sans accompaniment. I wrote the cadenza.

I don't know why I always look so sad when I play. I guess this music thing must be serious business!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Haydn concerto -- listening

While trying to make my a capella video of the C major cello concerto to fufill the requirements for the class I just took, I've been listening to random different versions of it on YouTube. I find so many unsatisfying, inappropriate, show-offy but not musical, and so on. A few are horrifyingly harsh, as if the cellist thought what applies to Dvorak goes for Haydn, too.

But I love this one -- the best I've heard so far, even comparing with Rostropovich, Yo Yo Ma, et al. She has a lovely tone and plays with expression but in accordance with the period of the music. And it's live (in front of an audience).

Friday, July 12, 2013


Every time I start to learn a new piece, I seem to find it necessary to futz around with it for a while. The while could go on for a couple of months. I go at it from many rather useless angles -- try to play it up to tempo, try to memorize it before I can really play it, try to play it mechanically without thinking at all -- even though I know these things aren't going to work. Once, when I was at a piano lesson, my teacher had to tend to something in another room but told me to keep playing, so I started playing one of the pieces I was just starting, and when he came back in he said, "I hope you don't practice like that!" I responded with something snappy like, "No, but I sightread like that!" But that got me thinking that, uh, yeah, I do kind of practice like that. But it's more like a way of feeling my way around the piece, and eventually something clicks and I suddenly know exactly how to practice it and go from struggling to really being able to play it.

A couple of weeks ago, I brought this up in a lesson. I felt like an idiot -- I ought to know how to practice by now; I'm even teaching people how to practice! But hey, I'm not proud. If I need help, I'm not ashamed to ask for it. The advice was to focus on short sections, perhaps one page at a time, and apply various techniques to each. As an example, we worked on the last page of the Rondeux from the Bach C minor partita: slowly, hands together; then hands separate; then hands separate, staccato; then hands together, staccato; then hands separate using only one finger; and so on. This was all fine, and what I already knew. But the next  piece of advice? Put that piece or movement away and work on it again another day. This butts up against my natural impatience, wanting to get it all done NOW, despite my knowing that with practicing, you never get it all done NOW. And if you try, it almost always backfires and you end up getting nowhere.

Over the past two weeks, I have dutifully attempted to apply a more patient approach. At my lesson yesterday, I played the first movement of the Bach, and my teacher rather excitedly asked me to play the next movement -- and then the next -- and then the Brahms. He was hearing something different in my playing; he said I sounded like a different musician. These weeks also happened to coincide with my decision to resign from my job, so who's to say which had more of an effect? But it's encouraging. I hope whatever it is continues to develop.

Friday, July 5, 2013

What I've been up to

I see it's been almost two months since my last post! Lots going on but hard to focus my thoughts on it all.

Last week, I took a Book 1 Suzuki teacher training course offered at our local Suzuki association's summer institute. A Suzuki institute is a week-long series of classes for students, teachers, and parents. I took this same course in 1987 and 1990 (back then, you had to take Book 1 in two separate courses; now, they cram it into 8 rather long days so you can get it done all at once).

The course involves a series of lectures interspersed with observation of teaching and a little hands-on experience leading a group class of kids through one song in the book. I really don't remember what the earlier classes were like, but this time around, I enjoyed it very much -- the other  people in the class (there were 11 of us) were all interesting, of varied ages and levels of experience, and it was fun watching the kids interact with the teachers and their parents. I enjoyed it even though I had to get up at 6:00 every morning and drive to Virginia. It was like going back to music school.

My one regret is that I didn't take very good notes. I was too zonked from the change in my sleeping schedule to be thinking clearly and didn't devise a system for it. But there were lots of handouts, and a lot of it was similar to the material I learned the first time around.

And now I have lots more ideas about how to approach my own teaching, which was the main reason I took the class. I still need to make the required audition video -- they ask for it before the class starts, but they give you a month after to get it in. If I don't get the video in on time, I won't be able to register the class officially, which would be a shame, so I'm working on it. There is set repertoire; the most difficult piece fulfills all future requirements should you want to continue with the other books in the method (there are 10 of them), so that's the one I'm going to record -- the first movement of the Haydn C major concerto. So stay tuned for that. (Though I don't know yet if it's something I will want to share with the world.)

I have begun my teaching gig at the music school. So far, only two students signed up for the summer, but that's okay -- I get to ease into it.

I guess my biggest news is that I am resigning from my full-time day job. I may or may not continue there part time, but soon a lot more of my time will be my own. I'm a little scared and a little excited about this change. I hope I can make the best of it.