ocmi 2018: professional presentations class

ocmi18 ppI had the extreme privilege to teach a course that is very near and dear to my heart during our OCMI camp this year: professional presentations. What is it, you ask? Really it changes each year, so my focus this year was about helping students prepare for what life as a musician looks like, as well as how to earn money as a musician right now – even at their young age.

ocmi18 chris and macMy incredible colleagues from our camp joined me to help inspire and challenge our preconceived thoughts about life as a musician, and I am so proud of the intelligent questions and ideas our students brought to the table.

A HUGE thank you to my colleagues for opening your stories to these students:

  • Maestro Ernest Richardson, Omaha Symphony
  • Dani Meier, Omaha Symphony
  • Jeremy Powell, NYC
  • Ellen Sommer, KU
  • Tal McGee, Manhattan School of Music
  • Chris Holtmeier, Foton-Foto
  • Jay Wise, Omaha Chamber Music Society
  • Diane Owens, Creighton University
  • Melissa Holtmeier, MAHR Quartet
  • Yulia Koloshonikova, Omaha Conservatory of Music
  • Rachael Griggs, Omaha Conservatory of Music
  • Cody Jorgensen, Omaha Conservatory of Music

Ocmi18 Ellen            ocmi18 Ellen and cody

Students heard about the logistics of choosing a major and career path, how auditions really work, what a casting director is thinking, how to work with a collaborative pianist, how to manage your emotional well-being, how to program a gig, and oodles more.

Students, per my promise, please reach out to the professionals that shared their time with you, as well as your new colleagues you met in class! You can find the presentation HERE.

Thanks, everyone, and see you next time!ocmi18 pp kids


today’s music history

Ear budsOld dead white guys. Guidonian hand. Sturm and Drang. WAGNER. Every professional musician must go through what usually seems to be wading through hundreds of years of probably-important-but-I-just-don’t-see-why details called Music History. This collection of information is supposed to teach us where we are going based on where we have been, but we get so lost in “sacred music of the 17th century” that we fall asleep and forget to ask how this helps us to be better musicians. Knowing when Mozart died only helps you slightly.

What I want is more knowledge about why they did what they did. For example, when Rossini wrote lyrics to “Di Tanti Palpiti” and says “It will be happy – my heart says, my destiny – near you” does it help you understand it more knowing he wrote the lyrics while waiting for risotto at a restaurant? I think it would. History books

So after years of complaining that music history classes haven’t found a way to connect music of today that all humans understand and connect it to music history of years past I just about fell off my chair when I came across Switched On Pop – a podcast of a songwriter and musicologist that did just that.

The first episode I listened to really struck a chord (ha!) because a few months ago a student complained that her middle school music history class was just so boring and I said “wouldn’t it be great if they could explain it to you and connect it to current artists students today like, such as Taylor Swift?” And what was the first episode I listened to by these two smarty-pants? The Oeuvre of Taylor Swift. At a later episode they equate how primal dance beats of “boom, boom, pow” can be traced back to a French renaissance composition of a cappella. (Insert mind blown emoji here.)

So I thought I would list a few podcasts that I currently love learning things from, in hopes that something sparks that “what? I have to tell someone this random fact!”

I’d love to hear if there are any other hidden gems I’m missing out on in this new (to me) world of podcasts! Here I’m listing a fun one about the evolution of the Star Spangled Banner (origins up through Beyonce!)

Star Spangled Banner


Texas strings camp

**Just to be clear, check for any explicit language if you are concerned (should be marked on each episode.)

>> photos by @creativecoffee, filters by color storyafterlight

synco-pa-tion (CSI 2016)

Ayumi, Jess and I are finding a million little tips and tricks this week! 

A quote of yesterday (oldie but goodie): 

A good cellist practices until they get it right. A great cellists practices until they can’t get it wrong. 

And a little video on how to practice syncopation: ​

epic week

This week I hosted a concert where nearly 700 tiny cellists and violinists age 3-6 to play in an arena with the Omaha Symphony. TRULY AMAZING. What is even more amazing is that I have 0 photos from the actual event, only this delightful one of all the lead teachers getting ready for the kids.


Huge day, full of proud smiles and beautiful music. How to improve the week? Have our last Sprouting Up concert with my cello kiddos! They are beyond adorable, and have learned so many wonderful cello (and non-cello) things this year.

Cello y1 2016

Good week, right? But then…it was my birthday! Life is good, guys. Especially when you  have students that know you so well that you are given a coffee mug that is a camera lens.

Finish that off with losing rhythm shoots and snakes to a student when I was a ninja and she was a moose. #worthit

Lost game

3D printed violin – for real.

So, we know Omaha is so lucky and tremendously grateful for the support it gives it’s non-profits to boss places (such as, oh, maybe something called the Omaha Conservatory of Music!) and so much good is coming out of it.

Last month I finally visited the Do Space, a new technology library that is FREE! Great classes, cool tech, and 3D printing for just the cost of materials. Seriously rad.

Multiple sources said I needed to attend this 3D-printed violin exhibition they were holding and it did sound cool, but I’m picky about instruments for my students. I mean, I pay decent money and have a tricky time purchasing instruments that don’t fall apart in the first year. (Stringed instruments are finicky, kids.) But I went and watched Matt and Kaitlyn Hova give their very fun and unique presentation about their journey making a 3D printed violin, the Hovalin.Hovalin .jpegTheir mission was 3 fold: create something that is better than a normal beginning violin; Sturdier. More affordable. Doesn’t screech. And you know what? They totally did it. If I’m being totally honest I was prepared for it to sound like mud, but amplified it sounded like a regular electric violin. And if played acoustically it just sounded like it had a slight mute on, which many parents of beginning strings players would find very welcome. (We don’t all sound like Yo-Yo Ma at 5 years old.)

It turns out we have mutual friends in common as the Hovas are originally from Omaha, and they couldn’t have been warmer or more hilarious individuals. If that wasn’t enough, they are giving the instructions away to make your own 3D printed violin FOR FREE. In combination with the Do Space you can use their equipment and print the entire project for around $70. That’s unreal. Katelyn hova .jpeg

I will of course keep bugging them until they make the smaller sizes of instruments so we can try these out for my kiddos. And of course I want a 3D printed cello myself.

They also just announced their new 2.0 version – check them out!

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why summer camps are important to musicians

I know my families can zone out when I start talking about how wonderful summer camps and institutes are, mostly due to my inability to articulate the insane benefits. BUT THEY ARE IMPORTANT. To clear up any fogginess, here is are more succinct explanations:

Why Music Summer Camps are Vital to Student Growth:

  1. All students have FUN. Even the shy ones. Even the ones that think they aren’t good enough to hang with everyone in the ensemble, they all have fun.
  2. Your confidence will never be boosted until you find your little spot of the world in a music community. Rocking out in your room on the cello until 3am each morning can only go so far – if you have a fear of not measuring up to others the only way is to enroll in something like this and see you CAN HANG WITH EVERYONE. I don’t care if you started at 3 or 33, you fit in at a camp and bring something special to the table. (And to be honest, everyone is so much more concerned with how they sound/what they are doing no one has time to compare themselves to you. So calm down.)
  3. Your private cello teacher is amazing – I’m sure of it. But sometimes you need another teacher to say it in a different way and that one technique thing you have been working on for months FINALLY STICKS. This teacher is no better or worse than your teacher, you just needed it said from a fresh perspective.
  4. Teachers at camps are ridiculously fun. We pull out all the stops for these camps, and even I love to sit in on other teacher’s putting on the most elaborate song and dance for their classes.
  5. You hear amazing sounds being created, and that inspires you to try them as well. HUGE motivator.
  6. Private lessons are essential, but they need to be supported by group class. Having your student in a fun tech/rep class with other cellists having the time of their lives shows them they are a part of a community that values exactly what they do, and they are not the only 5 year-old cellists that thinks Happy Farmer is tricky (because they all think that until they get it.)
  7. Parents use this time to talk to other parents and exchange inspirational and hilarious tips! Other parents have been in your shoes – use them to your advantage as they truly want to help.
  8. OCMI has a teacher vs. student dodgeball tournament. ‘Nuf said.
  9. Students get to play music they would never otherwise see! OCMI 2015 is filled with video game music, so if you can’t respect using the theme of Zelda to get kids excited to practice, then I don’t know if we can be friends.
  10. Because your teacher knows you and what you need to grow, so do what your teacher says.

Me at campSo…go! You know it is worth it. Most camps have financial aid. And kids remember this family time you gave them, so reason #46: do it to look like a Super Parent!

Here is a photo of me in between classes at a camp last year. Those eyes are 60% camp adrenaline and 40% coffee. If you want to attend a camp that I teach at, visit OCMI 2015 at the Omaha Conservatory of Music in July!