cello trials at William Harris Lee

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The story of my current cello:

Growing up, my mother knew it would be important for me to study piano to be good at school (and just a good human being.) So I did, and I loved it. In fourth grade, one of my best friends said I looked like a “cello person” so I joined the orchestra and played a school instrument. Cello was something that came easier to me at that time, and I asked for a cello of my own so I didn’t have to play one of the severely loved cellos owned by the school. And my mom’s response was “no problem – when you are 17.”

She assumed it was a passing fancy, but didn’t count on me dogging her to switch my lessons from piano to cello for years. Once I was able to drive, she finally agreed to drop piano lessons and let me drive myself to Carol Work’s every Saturday morning. Before my senior year I turned 17 and asked her how we went about getting this cello, and she admitted she hoped I had forgotten. (Don’t cry for my piano – I still have it and play it regularly!)

At the All-State conference in the fall of my senior year, I wandered through the exhibits and happened upon the William Harris Lee Co. booth. The 5 string cello was a big draw for a lot of us students, and we each took our turns drooling over it. But then I tried a few others, and fell in love with this Claus Deutscher cello that just sounded so aggressive. Being wonderful salesmen, they offered to let me keep it for the weekend and if I didn’t like it I was welcome to send it back to them in Chicago.

My incredibly giving mother agreed it was miles better than anything she had heard and we figured out how to pay for it, and knew I would grow into it a bit more and it would sound even better.

Fast forward 17 years later, and I didn’t grow an inch. My cello sounds even better today than it did when it was brand new in 1999, but my hands stayed as tiny so my ability to get around the fingerboard and to thumb position has been a challenge. I didn’t even know a 7/8ths sized-cello was a thing until years later. So now that I’ve been able to try a smaller size and things feel miles easier, I have committed to finding a cello I love as much as my own that fits me better. (Talk about an emotional change, y’all.)

Cody and I trekked to Michigan Ave in Chicago (a block south of where I used to work!) to the Fine Arts building to their shop and showroom. The building is seriously old-school – look at the elevator that needs to be operated manually:

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Whl 1Having 7/8ths or small full-size cellos on hand isn’t something most people just have lying around, so they only had a partially finished cello currently. As they finish it (and others) they will be sending them to me to try, and I can’t wait.

Given this rare opportunity I, of course, played nearly everything they had in stock of their full-size cellos and fell in love with a beautiful and powerful Gary Garavaglia cello that had such a beautiful tone and, if I’m being honest, almost had me saying “well, I’ve dealt with big cellos this long – I think I can just deal with it forever so I can buy this one” but luckily my pragmatic husband helped me keep my focus. But isn’t she pretty?

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(photo from whlee.com)

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They did give us a tour of the shop, including seeing the smaller cello in-process and getting to meet Gary who is meticulous in his work. Here are a few other pictures from our exploration:

I am lucky to also know a few great local luthiers in Nebraska, so I am excited to see what they have in their shops and on their benches that may work. So stay tuned, fellow cellos – I’m hoping to add a new member to the family soon 🙂

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

halloween studio fun

img_1641Motivation comes in many forms, and one of the whimsical ways it currently shows itself is the “Ninja Hunt” in the studio.

Each week ninjas show up in random (and hidden) places and the students get a chance to look for them at the end of the lesson – if they didn’t locate them already. Sometimes it is easy, other days is hard. The fascinating thing is that the older students are equally invested in the fun (maybe even helping the ninjas hide some weeks.)

These “Practice Ninjas” look at the students from all angles, checking the bow hold, bow path, posture, and those hidden thumbs that students can conceal if you aren’t careful.

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With recitals this Friday, it has been helpful to inject a bit of posture-oriented-fun into the lesson without having to be the teacher that is the enforcer 🙂 Enjoy the day everyone, and Ms. Ella Fitzgerald (or Lobster Fitzgerald) wishes you a happy and safe all- hallow’s eve!
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upcoming concert (playlist #2)

Concert hallGOAL:

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

HOW?

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

 

wonderfully terrible christmas music days 1-5

Christmas music is wonderful – truly, I am one of it’s biggest cheerleaders! But every once in a while you get that song over the store radio that makes you wish for an ear infection or swimmer’s ear to avoid the painful sound waves attacking your poor, innocent sound receptors.

Thus #25daysofwonderfullyterriblechristmasmusic was born. See the full playlist from the last 2 years:

spotify:user:128173400:playlist:1CTKGpgVv13mZHo85dlqvT

 

This year I have even received requests, so if you have anything you wish to submit, I’d be willing to subject myself to the torture 🙂 Here is this year so far:

#1: Anna Kendrick and Snoop Dogg mash-up (a new classic.)

#2: RuPaul’s newest gem “Christmas Cookies” (much love to RuPaul though, just not my jam.)

#3: Switch it up with the terribly wonderful Muppets!

#4 Revamp of the Chipmunk Song where they awkwardly flirt in Spanish…

#5 A new release from Phoenix featuring Bill Murray and I believe a theremin (?)

Christmas music

If you have any wonderfully terrible ideas to submit, comment below!

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!