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

epic twinkles!

twinkle-marathon-dayY’all. It has been an INCREDIBLE 24 hours in the studio. In order for one of my students to graduate from Twinkles, they have to finish the Twinkle Marathon: play all 6 Twinkle variations, in a row, with me accompanying them. It’s like 8 minutes straight of playing, so a huge feat for a tiny cellist.


Students work on this with their parents for quite some time; they practice a few in a row at home over weeks/months, and then like marathon training play 6 in a row. (Come on, marathon runners don’t run 26.2 miles to prepare for it…) But seriously, that much music is almost the same length as a sonata movement. Oh, and while I play a harmony part, so add 30% confusion as they can’t visually watch me at all.

So I wanted to shout their stellar accomplishment from the rooftops! There’s something in the air in my studio – and I can’t wait to see what we can do with it.  I know it is Groundhog Day, but I feel like we lived the perfect day on our first try.

Big shout out to littles K, C, and L – stellar job, tiny cellos!







upcoming concert (playlist #2)

Concert hallGOAL:

  1. Help my students to attend more concerts and
  2. Encourage students to listen to more orchestral music


I’m going to post some playlists to help get us pumped up to explore new musical events! Welcome to the first one.

Saturday, October 1: Conservatory Camerata and Orchestra Omaha present Coming to America.

This is a beautiful show of an introspective Bloch Concerto Grosso no. 2, the roiling Dvorak Symphony no 6, and featuring my lovely colleage Yulia Kalashnikova on Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto no 1.

See you Saturday!


>> photos by @creativecoffee, filters by color story & afterlight



You prepare. Hours of practice, shift-to-shift management, phrasing focus, and so VERY memorized, you take your piece to contest – – and do well. Then perform at school, and everyone is raving! Then it happens. During a performance you forget everything.

What cruel twist of fate has occurred to punish you in such a way? We all know that if we don’t focus and prepare our pieces well enough unthinkable things can happen. But what we tend to forget is how we perform it after the first performance goes well. Here is the hard truth:

If you don’t keep you piece up, it fades away.

Scary and terrifying, but if you think about it you can’t honestly say that you work up a new and sparklingly amazing piece to just play it for one day, right? You learned for the love of it (and because your teacher thinks you should) and have the obligation to let it live in your life for the year on your season program of Pieces I Can Rock In My Sleep. Just because you played a piece in performance well once or twice, doesn’t mean you stop practicing it or you rely on muscle memory alone as it will fail you eventually. A brain empty of notes will trump your muscle memory given the chance, so don’t let it.

Concert hallHere are a few practice techniques I have students utilize when they are still trying to keep a program fresh:

  • Practice jumping to the next section (never jump back – you will just encounter the same section that blanked out on you)
  • Focus on the easy spots, as this tends to be the part we forget
  • Make it harder – practice amongst distractions, or if that is too easy practice with someone saying nothing but watching your every move
  • Have someone ask you questions (not yes or no answers) that you have to answer while playing

Cellists prepping to playHere is the best part of the whole story: even if you bomb, you will survive. Your cello value doesn’t go down, friends and family will still love you, and you will not be struck down by lightening (unless you are hanging out somewhere stupid, so don’t do that.)

Life goes on. Prepare more, perform more, and it gets better. (And more coffee helps.)

Coffee working

oh the holidays…

CHRISTMAS! I am an inclusive lover of this holiday, no matter which direction you are coming from. Musically I do this in many different ways, and I will be sharing them with you this month!

#1: Gift of Gratitude concert

I am so lucky we have had incredible faculty here at my school that have paved the way for this tradition. Each year I have gotten my students together and paired them in duets of Christmas music! A requirement is that each person needs to bring someone they are grateful for and dedicate their performance to.

Gratefulness is something I encourage my studio to show, as we are so lucky to be supported in this life by our family, loved ones, and even strangers that just want to improve this world.

Plus, holiday music is just so pretty!

Gift 2014