A week filled with Dr. Gerling!

The week before last was filled with Dr. Daphne Gerling-- so it was a very good week! Daphne is a fantastic pedagogue, violist, and best of all, friend. She came to Ball State on Wednesday, March 22nd, and gave an inspirational and energetic master class, filled with Hindemith and Zombies. Eh? Well, two of my students are working on a piece called Viola Zombie, composed by Michael Daugherty. Ironically, shortly after that portion of the master class had ended and we were on to our last Hindemith performance, the emergency loud speaker in the hall piped up that a man had been spotted on campus with a rifle. I locked the doors to the hall, we took a few minutes to gather our wits and make sure everyone was okay and we were secure, and continued with the master class (a very practical and violistic approach). Later we found out that it was a toy rifle and that the person was playing a game, Humans vs. Zombies. Ironic, that the only viola piece about zombies was performed and taught while a game of Humans vs. Zombies raged nearby!

Unfortunately I forgot to get a picture of the students with Dr. Gerling, but here she and I are (albeit a bit fuzzy).

Daphne and I had a nice dinner Wednesday evening, and enjoyed some down time on my couch before we headed off to our respective beds for the night. She left on Thursday morning, after we had breakfast and read a viola duo that we'll be playing together at the International Viola Congress in September (stay tuned for more on that later). But then I got to see Daphne again a few days later, in Illinois!

It was Redbird Viola Day, at Illinois State University. Dr. Kate Lewis invited me to be a guest performer and faculty member, along with the legendary Jeff Irvine, Dr. Gerling, Dr. Wendy Richman, and more. I invited my own students to attend the day, but only two were able to come. We all got up very early on Saturday morning and drove out to Illinois, where all of us had a fantastic time, and then drove home. It was fun hanging out with Anthony and Julie in the car, and then at Viola Day to spend time with friends, new and old, with colleagues, violists, and of course to play and teach lots of viola. I enjoyed performing Daniel Sitler's composition again, and as happens every time I perform it, got lots of positive feedback about it. Here are some photos from the day.

Just a note-- you don't HAVE to be tall to play viola. So all of you out there who aren't as tall as me or the other folks in the photos, don't despair! :-)

Happy practicing!

Gregg Goodhart: The Learning Coach

I've taken an inadvertent hiatus from blogging, and now am woefully behind. ASTA in Pittsburg was very informative and a lot of fun, and from there I went straight to Spring Break. A week of lying on a beach was exactly what my mind and body needed to get ready to finish out the rest of the semester! It was fantastic, but I think I might have slipped a little too much into enjoying the lack of schedule and emails. Though it's now been more than two weeks since Spring Break ended, I feel like I'm only now getting back into the swing of things.

Where to begin? It's been one exciting thing after another, so I think I'll start with the most recent event. Today in Studio Class, I had the pleasure of bringing Gregg Goodhardt, The Learning Coach, in for a Skype conference call. He taught my students about learning: how the brain does it, and how to systematically develop their skills. Then he had three "victims" demonstrate tricky spots, and with coaching, worked them to a much higher level than they were presenting when they first played. It was very cool to see, and though a lot of the information was what I already know and teach, it was great to see it organized and presented in a clear, concise, and approachable way. When I was young, I wasn't exactly taught HOW to practice-- I had to figure out a lot of that on my own. Now we have books and websites and learning coaches who do just that, and to be able to have one "in" class today was very cool. I hope Gregg's approaches will help my students trust in the slow and (somewhat unfortunately) laborious process. I've been telling them the same kinds of things from day one, but sometimes hearing it from another source is exactly what you need. I suggest you check out his research, especially if you're struggling with certain tricky passages! He has all of the answers.

Happy practicing!

Snowstorm in Beantown

I'm back in Muncie after a very exciting and snow-filled adventure on the East Coast. I can hardly believe that only a week ago at this time I was getting ready to perform at Boston University. It already feels like a month has gone by since then!! It's amazing how much STUFF you can pack into a week, such that it feels so very much longer.

My adventure to Boston began with a canceled flight (due to a gargantuan snow storm). I ended up arriving nearly two days later than originally anticipated, which made rehearsals compressed and a bit stressful. I'm SO glad Ketty and I performed the same program in Muncie last month. Because of that, we were able to put together a very convincing recital in almost no time. Usually I like to take a performance day easy, but I didn't have the chance to do that here (or in Colorado the prior week, incidentally), and though it was difficult to get on stage after a long day, I managed in both places, and I think performed quite well. I'm very happy with how the recital went. And I even got to see some wonderful old friends, and make some new ones. Unfortunately, we neglected to take a picture after the recital. Sheesh. Here's one from downtown, though.

Being back home was surreal and wonderful. I guess it really isn't home anymore, but I will always have a very large place in my heart for Boston. It's a wonderful city, full of culture, life, adventures, and history. If you haven't been, I heartily suggest you go at some point (though, wait for Spring!). It was fun to see the way the city has developed, and the ways in which it has stayed the same. A lot changed in nine years, but it still very much has that same Boston vibe I remember from when I lived there. It was so great to be back, even in the super cold, and the sidewalks filled with dirty, slushy, snow.

On Monday afternoon, I had the wonderful experience of teaching a master class at Boston University. I worked with three graduate students, and got some very positive feedback about my teaching (including an email from one of the students a few days later). Yay! And then, to finish out my Beantown adventure, I had dinner with my very first viola teacher, Michelle LaCourse. How wonderful to see her again!! We chatted about everything from viola to work to houses to life, and it was just fantastic. To be able to share a meal with someone who has had a direct impact on how your entire life turned out, is pretty amazing. I owe so very very much to Michelle.

A big huge thank you to Ketty Nez for organizing this amazing adventure. I am so fortunate to be in a profession where so many people are excited about what they do, and are interested in collaborating and taking on logistically-complicated endeavors. Most times they end up leading to exciting and musically-fulfilling experiences. Thank you Ketty!!!! And thank you Michelle!! And to my super awesome friend, Kiera, with whom I stayed-- it was so much fun.

Now it's back to the regular grind for a few weeks. Coming up next: the ASTA conference in Pittsburg!! I'm collaborating with five others to present a pre-conference workshop on the day before the conference officially begins, and then get to enjoy the conference before finally relaxing during Spring Break. Phew! I've packed a lot into the first part of this semester, for sure!

Happy practicing!

Homeward Bound

I'm writing from the Houston airport. Had I known the Superbowl was going to be played here tomorrow, I probably wouldn't have booked a ticket home that takes me through IAH. But, here I am, and I had the happy accident of running in to Nick Kendall and Ranaan Meyer of Time for Three, so that was fun. I have one of those lack-of-sleep colds, though, and that is not fun. It started in Colorado, and only got worse at we traveled to California. Our already late-night flight was delayed, so we didn't get in to our hotel until 3 AM Friday morning! Somehow we managed to play a really good recital last night anyway. Then this morning I had to get up at 4:45 AM to catch the Super Shuttle back to the airport. It's been a grueling schedule, but the music-making has been totally worth it.

Playing really good music with really good musicians in wonderful spaces really can't be beat. Last night was especially lovely. We played in the Fireside Room at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto. It smelled like cedar, and there were a lot of young people, who were all very well-behaved and clearly engaged in the music, in the audience. It was fantastic. Our second performance was much stronger than the first (which, in all honestly, also went pretty well!), and we were all sad that we didn't have a third and fourth concert to really blow it out of the park! But, we had a wonderful time together, and I hope we'll be able to do a repeat tour (with more sleep) in the future.

Here we are after our two concerts.

It was wonderful to play again with Patricia Surman, and to meet and work with Jooeun Pak, who is a phenomenal pianist. What a wonderful week. I just need to get healthy in the next few days, as I travel to Boston on Thursday, and the adventure continues.

Phew! It's a busy start to the semester for sure!

Happy practicing!

Chamber Music in Colorado and California

In my last post I wrote about going to Boston in the second week of February. I'm still really excited about that (particularly to see friends and make fantastic music!), but before then, I have a little more traveling to do... On Tuesday I'm heading to Denver, Colorado, where I'll collaborate with the amazing Dr. Patricia Surman, with whom I was in school at the University of North Texas. We're going to be performing trios for flute, viola, and piano, along with Dr. Jooeun Pak, with whom I'm very much looking forward to collaborating. Our recital is on Wednesday, 1 February at 7:30 at the King Center (755 Lawrence Drive) of Metropolitan State University of Denver. The following day, the three of us will fly to San Francisco, and give the recital again on February 3rd in the Fireside Room at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto (505 E Charleston Roard), in Palo Alto, CA.

My concertizing this semester has gotten me thinking about how far I've come since my student days. Back then (and as most students still do), I would work on a piece for a semester or longer, meeting several times a week with my chamber group and getting weekly coachings and other feedback. Now I have one to three rehearsals, and boom, a concert. It's kind of crazy, but also really cool. It's so satisfying to have gotten to a point where you can meet up with other professional musicians, work hard for a few hours, then give a convincing and emotional performance. It's empowering to realize that I've truly made it to "the other side of the desk" (as I like to describe being a professional, instead of a student).

It reminds me of a rehearsal I attended several years ago. It was when I was still living in Denton, TX, and I learned that Kim Kashkashian was going to be giving a trio recital at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas. I had a gig the night of the concert, so I emailed Kim and asked if I could attend a rehearsal instead, to which she agreed. I don't recall all of the pieces on the program (or even the other performers!), but they were performing the Debussy Trio (for flute, viola, and harp). I sat quietly in the audience, and listened carefully to the exchanges the musicians had with each other, talking about phrasing and various musical ideas, and the quick pace at which they rehearsed and fixed any small problems. It was so enthralling, I decided it was worth it to get a parking ticket (I was only able to put 2 hours on the meter), and stayed for the entire rehearsal, which I think lasted about 3 hours, though to me it seemed to fly past. I distinctly remember the feeling I had as I walked back to my car. It felt like I'd been a part of a really special musical moment in time. I learned so much from the way the musicians interacted, and the things they said to each other and how that changed the music they were making. It was absolutely fascinating, and I was so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from Kim and her companions. I was truly inspired, and moved by the power of good music made by exceptional musicians. I strongly urge you to attend rehearsals of amazing musicians, if you are able. There's so much to learn, and on a completely different level than what you get from attending concerts.

I hope those of you in the Denver and Bay Areas will join me and my friends for one of our concerts next week. Happy practicing!