ASTA highlights, and a little left hand technique too!

I got home from an exceptional conference on Saturday evening, and since then have really been enjoying my Spring Break. I'm being productive, yet resting. It is good. I really needed a break! It was tough, too, because I was asked to sub for two orchestras this week (!) but I said no to both, knowing that I wouldn't get any relaxing in if I had rehearsals and concerts. That was hard, but now that it's Thursday and I still have more to do, I am glad I said no. That is an art in and of itself-- learning to say no to wonderful opportunities! Very difficult, very difficult indeed.

The ASTA conference was really amazing. I can't believe I hadn't gone before! As a fairly new member of ASTA and first time conference attendee, I highly recommend string players join this wonderful organization. The conference was filled with fascinating sessions (and many of them happening at the same time! Argh! That's the hardest thing about conferences-- having to choose which sessions you attend!), pertinent vendors (I bought a boatload of obscure viola music from the Henle vendor, including the Khachaturian Sonata-Song for Solo Viola, which I've been looking for for years and have never been able to find!! This copy is from Japan!), and really wonderful people.

As I mentioned in my earlier ASTA post, I played with some excellent and vibrant viola pedagogues at their Music for Multiple Violas session. Turns out there is a ton of music either composed or transcribed for multiple violas. The presenters of this workshop are compiling a database of this music, that, among other things, includes where to get it. They have also assigned grade levels to each of the parts, so if you have an ensemble of mixed-level players, you can find appropriate pieces that will engage everyone. It is a really excellent resource!

Here is a photo from the last part of their session, which was essentially a big viola sight-reading party. It was fun! I'm in the back right corner. And yes, those are all violas! What a sound!! :)

The following day, Friday, I attended sessions all morning, and then met with a prospective student for a lesson. We were talking about tension in his hand, and seeing as we didn't have a mirror in the hotel conference room in which we met, I took photos. They turned out to be rather descriptive, so I'm going to include them here. Can you see the difference? In the tense hand, the poor pinky is even farther away from the string! It's a bizarre misconception that if you poke your wrist back towards the scroll it'll somehow be easier to play 4th finger. Definitely not. It's just farther away and in a more-tense hand frame. Ouch!

TENSION! :(

TENSION! :(

Aaah! Much better. Can you see the more natural, less tense shapes of the fingers and wrist?

Aaah! Much better. Can you see the more natural, less tense shapes of the fingers and wrist?

After that, I went to a violin masterclass taught by Paul Kantor. A Ball State doctoral student, Nataliya, performed the Ysaye Ballade. She actually studies viola with me too (as her secondary area). It was great to see such a strong violinist perform for a master teacher. It made me a proud Ball State teacher, for sure!

Right after the masterclass was the poster session, so off I went to talk to interested parties about my research.

And the day finished off with a mega viola dinner. There must have been 20 violists at the table, plus a few non-violist spouses! It was incredible. Violists truly are a fun, friendly, and supportive bunch. :-) 

Saturday morning was again filled with sessions. I think the most fascinating session I attended during the entire conference happened on Saturday morning. It was presented by Judy Bossuat-Gallic from the Suzuki Institute of Dallas, who talked about the scientific phenomena of vibrations and how addressing them with your students can help them internalize and understand the possibilities for music making when resonance and relaxation are at the fore of their thought processes. I'm looking forward to trying some of her "tricks" I learned from Judy when I start teaching again next week.

Phew! And with that, I'm going back to Spring Break. :)

Happy practicing!