IVC Master Class

Last season was a very good year for me, professionally. Not only did my students do Super Well (see below), but I was awarded a fantastic teaching position at an incredible music program (and so far, I am so happy at the Schwob School of Music!), and learned I had been chosen to teach a master class at the next International Viola Congress. It's in Rotterdam, Netherlands, in November, and I have to admit, it's really something to see my name amongst the other names of those teaching master classes at the 2018 IVC.

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I'm one of four "normal" teachers from the US (while Kim Kashkashian is on the list, she's in a slightly different league than I...), and I'm excited about sharing my viola love and knowledge with budding musicians in Europe. What follows is a teaser from a master class I taught at the University of North Texas. My teaching style varies depending on student and repertoire, but this video highlights a method that keeps the student at ease while delivering quality substance.

While my approach to teaching might sometimes be deemed untraditional, it is definitely effective (and fun!). Three notable student successes from last season include: a concerto competition winner; admittance to and awarding of the only viola teaching assistantship at a very strong program; and my viola ensemble being one of three groups nationally chosen to perform at the American Viola Society Festival in Los Angeles, June 2018.
So, who's signing up? Do YOU have what it takes to survive a master class with Dr. M?!

Happy practicing!

The first weeks

Greetings Readers!

I'm back. I had a wonderful summer, broken into several different chunks by moving and the AVS Festival, but around those events, I hiked and camped in National Parks and explored other beautiful corners of the US, mostly in Colorado and Wyoming. Besides the obvious annoyances of moving, it was an amazingly stress-free summer. Having finished my job at Ball State and not having yet started at Schwob, I had very little job-wise to occupy my mind, and for the first time in a very long time, I had a legitimately vacated vacation. Here's a photo of one of my new favorite spots, Rocky Mountain National Park.

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I also had the immense pleasure of going to the American Viola Society Festival at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. I got to reconnect with extended family outside of LA, as well as see six of my amazing BSU students perform at the Festival. Five of us stayed in a condo together, with Dr. Crawford coming in one night as well. I had a lot of fun. At the Festival, Violet performed the world premiere of Benjamin Fuhrman's Study after Hokusai, which was met with rave reviews. I presented with colleagues on a collegiate teaching panel; about the 1919 Berkshire Competition (for which the Bloch Suite and Clarke Sonata were written); and about CV and Resume writing. It was a busy week! The best part, though, was my students' performance at the Festival. The BSUVC was one of three viola ensembles nationally invited to perform at the Festival, and they worked really hard and got to a really high level of artistry. I am still so incredibly proud of them. After their performance (notice the BSU colors!) I gave knitted jellyfish to all of them who hadn't yet gotten theirs. (I started knitting jellyfish for my students as graduation presents a few years ago-- I hope it'll inspire them to remember "jellyfish fingers." If you don't know what that means, come have a lesson and I'll tell you.) :-)

Here are some more photos from my time in LA.

And now it's September first and I've already been at my new job for two full weeks. And I am SO very happy to be here. Columbus is an exciting and vibrant city. While it is still pretty hot down here, there is fantastic energy in the air, and the students at Schwob are motivated and hard-working and eager to learn. While I miss my Ball State family, I'm enjoying growing a new one here.

I hit the ground running, and feel good about how things are going so far. I even had the immense pleasure of collaborating with new colleagues on a recital the other day. Dr. Rob Murray, the trumpet professor at Schwob, invited me to perform the Saint-Saens Septet, and it was a total blast. He even introduced me to the audience before we began playing, which I wasn't expecting. It is really wonderful to feel so appreciated. So far, this job is turning out to be everything I had hoped.

Happy practicing!

The Best Students

In my five years of teaching at Ball State University, I often blogged about how amazing my students were. Today I write from a place of humbled awe, again, about how amazing my students are.

We had an end of year party last week, which was a lot of fun. I think one of the best parts of "my kids" is that they are super warm and accepting-- see, not everyone is a viola major. We have voice majors and pre-med and sociology majors, and even (gasp!) violin majors, but the thing that ties them all together is... me.

They made that pretty apparent when a bunch of them insisted we meet again for breakfast on Monday this week. I was confused-- we'd done the goodbye thing at the party, and then again at graduation on Saturday, but okay. Breakfast it was.

Turns out they'd banded together and made a book. It's filled with photos and testimonials from current and former students, and it melted my heart. I don't think I've ever been so touched. The book was supposed to be ready for the party, but it wasn't, hence, breakfast. It's an amazing book, and it completely melts my heart. I can't stop looking at it. I am going to miss these amazing people so very very very very much. Apparently I made an impression on them too.

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Thank you my wonderful students, friends, and colleagues.

Here are some photos from the end of the year.

Happy practicing!

A door closes...

I taught my last lesson at Ball State today.

I am excited about the opportunities my new position at Schwob will bring, and am overall very happy to be moving, but... right now I am quite sad. I will miss my students so very much. These incredible younger people who have opened themselves to me, let me in, and let me share myself and my love of music with them... I will miss them more than I know how to express.

To you, my wonderful young friends-- you have made the last five years of my life so very memorable. Thank you for being such a warm and caring group of students. I will treasure my time with you always.

Happy practicing doesn't feel like the right salutation tonight. So happy memories...

Happy memories.

Poznań, Part 3

Here it is, the LONG AWAITED conclusion to last night's post!

BUT-- before I get to the juicy dinner details, I'd like to tell you about today.

It was a Very Good day. I slept well and through the night (which is always a blessing when traveling overseas and battling jet lag), and woke up to a shower, a coffee at Soho Cafe, and a brisk walk to the Academy. Anna (the pianist) met me there, and we had a very good rehearsal of the Clarke pieces at 9 AM. We were interrupted by The Man Who Sets Up AV Equipment, but that was good too, because it taught me that Poland (and apparently a lot of Europe) is not comfortable with Apple systems. It took a while, but we got to a solution (we thought) that would work with my Mac-based presentation.

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I left shortly after the morning lectures started (re-read yesterday's blog-- I do NOT understand Polish!) to find a lovely cafe where I had breakfast. After that, I went back to the Academy and listened to a few Polish lectures (and though I definitely didn't understand everything, I did take some information away from each), until it was my turn. SURPRISE!! The equipment didn't work! Thankfully Marcin and his handy-dandy zip drive were in the audience, and I was able to present my topic, "How Loud is Too Loud?" without too much headache.

Do YOU know "How loud is too loud?" Loudness is a psychological concept-- but decibels (sound intensity) aren't. I spoke about the human auditory system and how it works, what we do to damage it, and how we can protect it. I saw a lot of shocked faces after my presentation, so hope I helped this audience to consider the things they do that might put their hearing in danger (and seriously, folks-- for musicians, it is SUPER important to maintain our hearing skills!!). The one, super easy take-home-message is, WEAR EARPLUGS! If you have any questions about that, send me an email: info@katrinmeidell.com.

After my presentation, we all had lunch at the Academy Cafeteria, and then I began my marathon 3-hour master class. I met with 6 students for a half hour each. In a completely bizarre turn of events, I had only heard or played two of the pieces I was presented (usually you know all the pieces played), yet I feel like I was still effective with all of the students. The very cool thing is, you don't have to talk about the notes on the page to be a useful instructor (that's an Insider Secret!). With almost all of them I talked about technique, and different ways to approach their instruments and what they were playing. Thankfully most of the students were (or at least seemed!) comfortable enough with English to understand what I was saying, and I do hope I gave each of them something to think about. Whether or not they adapt my ideas into their regular viola lives is completely up to them and their teachers, but either way, I'm pretty sure I gave them some ideas to stretch their understanding of viola playing.

After that, I was blessed to be able to share my interpretation of Rebecca Clarke's Shorter Pieces for Viola and Piano with pianist Anna Starzec-Makandasis. She was an absolute joy to work with these past few days, and performing with her in front of an audience was no different. THANK YOU Anna!!! I'm very happy with how I played, and feel like I was well-able to project how I feel about these six shorter works. I got some really nice comments afterwards, and look forward to sharing with you the audio recording I know was made at the concert.

After that, Spencer and Nicholas played THREE (yes, THREE) full sonatas back-to-back without a break!!! They were all Romantic-style/era pieces I'd never heard before, and they are all completely worthy of being a staple in the Viola Repertoire. Kudos to Spencer for finding these Gems, and to him and Nicholas for giving a Seriously Killer performance!

Then, finally, we were off to dinner. It was quite lovely, with lots of laughter and many languages (mostly Polish and English, with a bit of Italian, Russian, and French thrown in), and a LOT of light.

Wait....... HUH???

Well see... now we've finally come to the Very Memorable Dinner I shared with Spencer and Nicholas last night...

We went to DARK RESTAURANT. Unwittingly (seriously) we ended up at the only completely blacked-out restaurant in Poznań (and I believe Poland). What? Well-- we arrived (after having read a few reviews and being attracted by their vegetarian- and vegan-friendly options (we'd eaten a LOT of meat in the last few days)) at a place that looked a bit spooky. But it was raining and we were hungry and tired and we could understand the language on the sign... so we went in and waited for a while at a long table in a dim room, listening to other customers chatting and laughing in another room...

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Eventually, an employee came over to educate us about where we'd unwittingly turned up-- Turns out DARK Restaurant isn't lying. It was a COMPLETE black-out experience. For those of us who had cell or data service, we had to turn off phones, and off we marched (hands on one-anothers'-shoulders) into a completely pitch-black space. We were guided to a table and chairs, all the while hearing the other diners around us and being unable to see ANYTHING. It was COMPLETELY DARK. When our plates arrived, it was difficult to use utensils. I kept being surprised by what I found on my plate (OMG!! It's a GREEN BEAN!!!), and after dinner and the full-light debriefing learned that only about a third of what I thought I was eating was actually what I turned out to be eating!! It was a CRAZY and VERY MEMORABLE experience. Seriously-- when is the last time you went out to eat and didn't check your cell phone at least once? Or glace at a TV screen? Or notice that person over yonder? Or any number of things we ALL DO when we can see? It was wild. Nicholas and Spencer and I had really great conversation-- there was no other option. Some of us reverted to "cave-man style" eating (seriously-- if you can't see what's on your fork, let alone your plate, how are you going to get it into your mouth??), and ALL of us had a really great time. I think we were all a little nervous about it once we realized where we were and what we were about to experience, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. It was SERIOUSLY the most memorable dining experience I've ever had.

Have you ever been to a dark restaurant?

After we got back, Spencer sent this funny text:  "Selfie From Dinner"

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:-)

Happy practicing!