upcoming news…

As a lot of my students have been seeing in their lessons, we may have a new non-human addition to the studio soon! Stay tuned…

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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.

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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

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

happy birthday, yo-yo!

ma-yo-yo-eventSure, a child prodigy that attended the Juilliard School, Columbia, and Harvard, befriended Pablo Casals, and performed on 17 grammy-award-winning tracks – that is a person that should be celebrated. From the professional musician perspective, there isn’t much that Yo-Yo Ma hasn’t done.

yo-to-elmoWhat I enjoy about his career is how he has worked to make classical music accessible to everyone. Bach becomes less intimidating if you look at it through visual arts. Collaborations within many musical nationalities have changed how we view the soundtrack of our lives.

To the cellist that has helped to make our instrument more accessible to the world, happy 61st birthday! See below for an eclectic playlist of his discography…

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

new year, new…1’s..?

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There are plenty of people that have already broken their resolutions, and I even know a faction of friends that make a serious number of resolutions  for each area of their lives. (Talk about serious achievers.) But I haven’t had luck with either of these tactics as things then to fall off the rails as soon as mid-January occurs.

So instead I am making list of things I wish to accomplish this year, not just generic ideas that could come or go. Something I can measure. After all, that what teachers do right? We measure to assess progress, and then adjust. And so…

Things I will do in 2016

  • learn 1 new flashy cello piece
  • re-learn 1 old piano piece (from back in the day, which was a Wednesday)
  • spend 1 night each week being a homebody, doing whatever makes me happy
  • discover 1 new favorite cocktail
  • send 1 encouragement to someone each month
  • take 1 picture each day that I am proud of
  • go on 1 vacation (at least)
  • update 1 medium thing in my house

After putting this down in writing, I am noticing that it is just 1 thing. Aiming for 1 thing seems small and doable, right? It even seems to even out, as 1 big cello piece kind of equals 1 focused moment each day (sort of…) so it also doesn’t feel like cheating.

What will you plan this year?

wonderfully terrible christmas music finale 2015

 

Friend gatherings, cookie decorating, Muppet Christmas Carol…man, I love the holidays! Here is the complete installation of the #25daysofwonderfullyterriblechristmasmusic and a few fun shots from this crazy month. Peace and joy to you and yours!

Ella the reindeer

Ella Fitzgerald the cold-nosed reindeer!

Spelling stockings

A loving in-law forgot how to spell my name 🙂

Holiday piano

Time to jam!