Dr. Gerling

Last week Dr. Daphne Gerling came to Lubbock and taught a masterclass to some of my students. Daphne teaches at the University of North Texas (though she didn't start there until after I had graduated, so I didn't know her until later), and is the State-side mastermind behind the Festival of Strings: Nathan Schwartzman in Uberlandia, Brazil that I attended in October. You can read my first blog about my amazing trip to Brazil here

It was wonderful to see Daphne again! What an incredible woman she is... And a great teacher and violist! In my experience, violists are a good bunch. :)

Daphne heard the Rachmaninov Vocalise, the Hummel Fantasia, the second movement of Schumann's Fairy Tales, and the first movement of the Brahms G major viola quintet. Lots of great music, and of course she had some excellent comments. I wish I'd blogged about it last week, because now the details are fuzzy, and so very much has happened since then, including my last trip to play with the Abilene Philharmonic, and another performance of the Abbie Betinis piece I performed with the TTU Women's Chorale, this time in Odessa, TX. More on that later.

My goodness, the end of the semester is fast approaching, yet there is still SO much to get done.

Thank you Dr. Gerling for coming to Lubbock! Unfortunately I neglected to have someone take a picture of us together last week, but here's one from Brazil.

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Happy practicing!

Bow Balance, not Hold

Every single one of my students that had a lesson today, had an excellent lesson. It is wonderful to see them progressing, each in their own way. There is one particular student who, after months of misgivings, finally had a breakthrough concerning correct bow technique.

See, the bow is not meant to be held, per se-- it should balance between the fingers. An analogy I often use is to imagine a tree without leaves-- if a plastic bag gets blown into the tree, the branches do not hold on to the bag, but rather the bag gets stuck. The tree does not exert effort to keep the bag in place, yet the bag stays within the branches of the tree. "Holding" a bow is actually a delicate transfer of weight between the pinky and index finger, while balanced on the thumb. This balance is necessary for an excellent bow hold that will allow the violist to perform staccato and legato alike, and is necessary for producing the richest tone possible. 

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See? Relaxed and balanced, with little effort but amazing results.

Happy practicing!

Wrapping up.

Yesterday I taught my last lesson of this semester. It was a very good lesson, where one of my undergraduates came with her pianist and we worked on the first movement of the Rebecca Clarke sonata. I love that piece, so it was a lot of fun to teach.

And then in the evening, there was a chamber music concert that featured the student groups the faculty put together at the beginning of the semester. I coached a quartet that performed the second movement of the Ravel quartet, and they were brilliant! Great performances all around-- I was especially moved by the Telemann viola quartet (transcribed from violin) that featured three of my freshman, as well as an older undergraduate. They played so well! It was a really nice way to end the day.

So today is "Dead Day," which sounds horrible to me, but it means that there are no classes or lessons today, the last day before exams start. Tomorrow I will listen to juries all day, and then my semester is truly over. It has flown by, and been really wonderful.

Happy practicing!

Master Class

This afternoon Dr. Susan Dubois came to Tech and taught a viola master class. It was fantastic. Four of my students played, and Dr. Dubois touched on a lot of the same topics I talk about with them, plus she was entertaining and knowledgeable and overall wonderful. She talked a lot about physical freedom in viola playing-- which, having studied with her and other amazing "Tuttle-ites," is one of my biggest topics-- and I think it was really great for my students to hear a lot of the same materials from someone else, with a slightly different take on things. All of the time we spend talking about physical freedom really makes sense when you see a student finally be able to let go and you HEAR the change in their sound. Physical freedom means round, open, warm, wonderful tone. Plus it is easier to play, and you can do it for longer and you don't hurt. Win win win win!

It was also really great to see one of my most significant mentors again. I studied with her for my doctoral degree at the University of North Texas, and frankly, I've missed her. It was great to have her give me a hard time again. :) She even sat in on one of my lessons this afternoon, and had some really positive comments about my teaching. That was really rewarding.

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Here we are after the MC. I'm standing a step below her-- she's not actually 6'3". :)

And as a special thank you, I knit her a UNT-colored jack russell terrier. Susan likes dogs.

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How can you go wrong? Today, life is exceedingly good.

Happy practicing!

Octet

My massage this morning was AMAZING, and so SO needed. Jo Ann Hunt is a great massage therapist. What a wonderful way to start the day (though I did take my recycling to the recycling center first-- Booo on Lubbock for not having curb-side recycling!). Then I headed to school, where I met with two new private students-- sisters who recently started playing viola. We met for the first time last week, and now they're well on their way to overcoming their violinistic tendencies and starting to sound like real violists. 

I also had a real breakthrough with one of my doctoral students this afternoon-- I asked her to use more arm weight, and all of the sudden she had a rich, singing tone... All of this time I thought her instrument just couldn't do it, and then today she started to sound AMAZING. It was really great!

And then, finally, I rehearsed with Annie Chalex Boyle and five talented Texas Tech students (Jeffrey Lastrapes is out of town, but he'll be playing too) on two movements of Mendelssohn's Octet, which we will perform on Sunday and Monday. It was a lot of fun, though surprisingly challenging to play the Viola 2 part after having recently played the Violin 4 part in Brazil! Funny that. But it was a good time and I'm looking forward to tomorrow's rehearsal.

Happy practicing!