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Showing posts from September, 2015

Challenges - Reed Choice

Lately I've been writing a ton about my students.  It's fun to start the school year and really get to know the new ones and reconnect with the old ones and figure out what everyone needs to work on.  It takes a few weeks, sometimes, to find the nub of the issue for each one.  The crux of the matter.  The overarching thing that, no matter what piece of music they bring into their lesson, we wind up talking about and working on. Posture.  Air.  Vibrato.  Expressiveness.  Rhythm. Once we have that thing identified, we can focus on it until it's fixed, or at least until they REALLY understand how to work on it and how to tell when it's good.

In my own playing there are cruxes as well.  Of course there are. But without weekly feedback from outside myself it is sometimes challenging to identify them, or at least to identify them precisely. Particularly over the summer, when I'm playing outdoor concerts and practicing by myself at home, it's easy to lose track of th…


I'm playing with the Chicago Philharmonic for the Chicago Opera Theater's production of Lucio Silla, an early Mozart opera that I had truly never heard of before.  It's charming, in an early Mozart kind of way, and the singers sound wonderful and so does the orchestra.  If you like nearly incomprehensible historical storylines and impressive coloratura and light, elegant, beautifully played orchestral accompaniments, this show is for you.  We open next Saturday - details HERE.

But I wanted to talk about logistics.

Every week is different for a family of freelance musicians.  Sometimes we can take turns watching Zoe at home, sometimes we can hire sitters for a few hours as we work in town - and sometimes it's very complicated.

Often our gigs are nearby, or at venues with convenient parking lots, but sometimes they are not.

On Saturday I had a three hour opera rehearsal in Chicago.  It was the only thing on my calendar and the venue should have been less than two hours …

Upcoming Concert: Berlioz

I can hardly believe that we are starting the season up again!  I haven't played an indoor concert in months and hope I remember how.  We rehearse tonight for the first time and I am eager to see all of my South Bend Symphony friends again.

Annnnddddd... we're playing Symphonie Fantastique.  By Berlioz.  And I never get tired of that piece.

It's one of the first pieces that I "discovered" myself, as a high school student.  One of the first CDs I purchased for myself.  One of those that I would stay awake listening to in my room because it was just so thrilling.  And even if it's a little overly melodramatic for me now, my teenage heart still beats a little harder every time the English horn calls mournfully for her love and gets only the rumble of distant thunder in response...

I am a sucker for music that tells a story, particularly one of drug-addled hysteria and lost love and scaffolds and guillotines.

This will be a great concert.  Saturday night with t…

Learning a New Fingering

I love the beginning of a new teaching season.  New students, new energy. I'm feeling great about my teaching and in the mood to share some of my techniques.  Feel free to chime in with your own!

My new student didn't know the fingering for high C#.  We were still on a getting-to-know-you page in the book - something I chose to be intentionally too easy so we could talk about breathing and support and articulation in a non-panicky way, and at the bottom of the page it asked for a D Harmonic Minor scale and we got hung up right there.  This particular fingering isn't hard, but it is totally non-intuitive, and unlike any other finger pattern he'd learned up to that point.

So we started by just using brain power.  I spelled it out for him - 2, 3, 1, C.  His fingers found their way to where they belonged.  Then he tried putting it into the scale and it flopped- he got as far as the Bb before it, and then had to stop and mentally put 231C together again before he could prod…