all-state auditions


It seriously is the best. When I was in high school, playing cello in a medium-sized school with a smaller-sized orchestra, I lived for the opportunity to play with other musicians that loved doing the same things I did. Honor orchestras were awesome, and the friends you make at these events are vital to enjoying the process.

But All-State – that was the JAM. It was truly a competition to get the best players in one room, and then ask them to make blissful < real > music together with 3 days to really dig into it. I loved (and sometimes feared) getting to know other cellists and the spurts of freedom in downtown Lincoln that we could steal. Bagels and Juice Stop for breakfast – #adulting.

For any string students that are looking to get a leg up on the audition and see the scales, etudes, and excerpts broken down, my friends at the University of Nebraska – Omaha created some quick videos to point out how to practice and then what they should sound like in the end.

You can find all the cello videos for UNO here. Enjoy Greg and his colleagues walking through this year’s challenge course, and happy practicing!

Video playlists are here for violinviolabass


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

lessons begin this week!

Prep for lessonCan you believe it’s that time again! I can – it has felt like ages since I’ve seen all my favorite cello pals. To get ready, let’s be sure to update your checklist:

  • Practice what we mutually agreed on
  • Fill out your practice chart
  • List questions to ask during lesson
  • Trim yo’ nails
  • Bathroom break before lesson
  • Wash your hands
  • Get ready to be positive and creative!
  • Keep an open mind
  • Don’t forget to take notes!Desk

see you this week! gray smaller

joshua roman masterclass

Jr mc ivargasHe may look like a cello rock star, but don’t let his headshots fool you. I mean, he is – totally – but he’s also a giant cello nerd just like the rest of us.

This past February my studio was lucky enough to watch and participate in a masterclass with the famous Joshua Roman. After seeing him perform the Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations in a velvet suit the evening before, students were sufficiently nervous to impress him.

Jr mc asmith

Intermediate through advanced students walked nervously in front of the crowd and Mr. Roman and put themselves out there – which is a victory in itself. He worked with them on Beethoven, Breval, and Bach (as well as a few other non B-composers).

It was an incredible two hours to spend together, and I am so proud of the students for the work they did that day – and beyond. Here are a few notes from the day:Jr mc aruiz

  • Improvisation makes you a better cellist. Sometimes things get forgotten, and you must get through so make it up until you can find it again.
  • You MUST hear your piece in your head. Some of Mr. Roman’s practice time is sitting and hearing it in his head exactly how he wants to execute it.
  • Pitch accuracy is paramount. Drone it up.
  • If you are concerned about something, it will go wrong. Being worried about forgetting a portion of your piece or intonation of a specific shift means it will happen. (My addition: because you didn’t work it enough to feel like you conquered it.)
  • Bonus tip: avoid greasy foods right before a performance. It makes your fingers feel like they turned into curly fries.

There were many more wonderful moments and quotes from the day, but to save the students I’ll just say you had to be there. So be sure to come to the next one!

I leave you with this wonderful artistic rendering of Mr. Roman that my student Ariana created! Special thanks to the incredible Omaha Conservatory of Music and the Omaha Symphony for making this possible for the students!

Roman drawing

>> photos by @creativecoffee, filters by a color story and afterlight

conservatory camerata vol. 2

ArenskyPoems of roses and thorns told alongside stories of fated lovers accidentally dying. And unfated lovers making the ultimate sacrifice. All highlighted by a brilliant young mind studying at the Manhattan School of Music. On April 22nd, concertgoers are in for the ultimate exploration of love, accidents, and loss.

The Conservatory Camerata and Orchestra Omaha have a beautiful concert planned for April 22nd, 2017 featuring alumna Jennifer Ahn on violin as she ends the second year of study at Manhattan School of Music.

These pieces are so emotive and fulfilling to practice and rehearse, so I can’t recommend this free concert enough! Below is a taste of what you will hear next week:



These two great non-profits work hard to bring you incredible music throughout the year, so please also keep them in mind on the very special Omaha Gives day coming up on May 24th and share the musical love.

See you there!

>> photos by @creativecoffee, filters by a color story and afterlight