1919 Presentation

I’m almost back home, waiting to board my flight to Atlanta after what was a surprisingly comfortable flight across the Atlantic. I was able to upgrade to an Economy Comfort seat (yay airline status!!), and was lucky enough to get an exit row window with tons of leg room, a wall to rest my head against, and a tiny neighbor. I slept a few hours and was pleasantly surprised when I woke up to learn we only had 2.5 hours left in the flight. I am definitely tired, but I feel somewhat human, which is more than I can say for how I felt when I woke up this morning!

The Viola Congress was really special. There were some really unique presentations and projects, and even though I am exhausted and viola-ed out, I am also invigorated and excited about new projects and the next Congress, which will be in Poznań, Poland at the end of September 2019. This works out REALLY well for the 1919 project on which I collaborated with Daphne Gerling, Hillary Herndon, Andrew Braddock, Bernadette Lo, and David Bynog. See, if you’re a violist, you probably know that the Rebecca Clarke Sonata and the Ernst Bloch Suite were tied for first place in a composition competition held in 1919. But do you know anything about that competition or why is came to pass?

Here’s a super watered-down version: The competition was the project of Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, a rich patroness of the arts. She held ten Berkshire Festivals between 1918 and 1938, through which many important works were composed. For the 1919 competition, entries were for Viola and Piano. Coolidge cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of Bloch’s Suite, thinking a man’s win would likely cause her competition to be taken more seriously than if a woman’s piece won. Sigh. But that was nearly 100 years ago, and the Clarke Sonata has certainly passed the test of time.

So, on September 25th, 1919, the Bloch and Clarke joined the viola repertoire. But what about the other entries to the competition? A total of 72 pieces were entered, and for the past several years, members of our team have been researching other possible entries (I have not done any of this research myself). All pieces were submitted anonymously, so there is some serious sleuthing required. At this point, a bunch of pieces have been discovered and added to the catalogue of possible entries, and what we did in Rotterdam (after talking about Coolidge and the Festival) is play excerpts of 11 of these entries. Some of the pieces are rather terrible, and some are really quite interesting.

I have enjoyed learning this forgotten music, and look forward to performing more (hopefully) on the exact 100-year anniversary of the competition in 1919 in Poznań.

In an interesting twist of fate, the number 1919 kept popping up while in Rotterdam, but I only took this one photo. Fun, huh?

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My flight is getting ready to board, so that’s it for now.

Happy practicing!

Viola Congress

It’s a grey, chilly afternoon in Rotterdam, and I am sitting in my Airbnb apartment on the 11th floor with huge, panoramic windows, overlooking a really cool city. I’m enjoying Rotterdam a lot, mostly because the International Viola Congress and its participants are so awesome!!

I was talking with my friend and colleague, Daphne Gerling, about IVCs, and she said one thing that makes each one really memorable is an event that can probably only happen in that year’s given location. Last night was such an event, titled “Music for Viola and Carillon.” The IVC Composer in Residence, Leo Samama, composed Cadenzas and Songs, which had its world premiere last night. The piece is written for amplified viola and church bells. It’s the coolest thing! I’ve definitely never heard anything like it. Here’s a short video clip I took.

Have you ever heard anything like that? Thanks, Rotterdam, for being so cool! I wish we could have seen the musicians while playing, but for obvious reasons that’s impossible with this instrumentation. But I kept looking up, half-hoping to see the amazing Karin Dolman perched near the top of the church tower, rocking out on her viola (it would have looked like a cross between the Batman light signal and the cover of Gil Shaham’s Devil’s Dance album).

But, alas, it was not to be. :-)

In addition to concerts, I’ve attended lectures, presentations, and a number of master classes so far this week. I was really impressed by Timothy Ridout, who at only 24, has already taken the viola world by storm. He taught a master class yesterday that was really special, especially because of his amazing demonstrations. The range of colors he’s able to achieve is stunning. Every stroke of his bow is special. It’s really something. If you haven’t heard him perform, please do. It is SO worth it.

I had my own master class this morning. The room was packed, which was really great, and I helped the three students who played for me sound better, and got a lot of positive feedback afterwards from friends and colleagues, and even strangers. That was really wonderful.

I was also incredibly happy to collaborate on a 1919 project with wonderful colleagues. We presented on Tuesday, but I’ll write more about that soon. I’m off to explore “Sound Images from Africa,” because I don’t know any viola repertoire from Africa, so of course I want to learn more. That’s really the best part about Viola Festivals and Congresses— all of the exposure to music I didn’t know existed. Whomever says there isn’t a lot of viola repertoire out there is misguided. There is SO much music! And I’m going to go hear some more of it now. :-)

I will write again soon, but in the meantime, here are some images from around Rotterdam and the IVC.

Happy practicing!

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!