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March 2010

Bad News

March 30, 2010 17:14

 I just got a letter from the music school where I take violin lessons telling me that my teacher has been laid off and won't be teaching there anymore in the fall.  I don't know if she even knows yet.  We didn't discuss the possibility at my lesson last week, and I had no idea this was coming.  

I don't want to switch teachers!  I like my teacher and I'm still learning a lot from her, I know sometimes a change is good, or necessary, but I don't think this is one of those times.  

Maybe I can keep taking lessons from her privately.  It might even be better for me financially if I don't have to pay the music school overhead.  But her home is not nearly as conveniently located for me as the music school.  I don't understand the economics of all this, but it just doesn't sound good. :(

13 replies | Archive link

Giving up the viola (for a while)

March 25, 2010 06:14

I didn't want to write this, and I didn't want to do this.  But I think that, for now, it's best.  

I am committed to a viola recital on April 11.  After that is over, I'm going to put the viola away for an indefinite period and focus on the violin only.

When I started playing again 3 years ago, I was really excited about the viola.  My daughter was picking up the violin, and I wanted to give her some space.  I also had some baggage from childhood about the violin, some bad memories and some bad choices that I wanted to leave behind.  The viola was a chance for a fresh start.

I found a voice on the viola that I didn't know I had.  I discovered that I enjoyed playing solo, and busking.  I transcribed a cello piece, and I found a little-known concerto that I'd once played for in the accompanying orchestra, back when I lived in Germany.  And I bought a viola, who I would come home to and play Bach on in the evenings while my husband listened and said, approvingly, "less screechy."

So why on earth would I give it up?  Well, I guess because the viola brought me back to my first instrument, the violin.  I bought a new violin last year, and since then the viola has lost some of its freshness and charm.  It's feeling big and unwieldy and sounds a bit nasal.  And I have to admit, 1st violin orchestral parts are just more fun.  I also am part of a chamber music community that has enough violists but needs violins!

And then there are all the inconveniences of switching back and forth.  I don't have time to practice two instruments, and I don't have time to keep getting used to one and then the other.  I also am more prone to back, neck, and elbow pain with the viola.  I only take lessons every other week, and I feel like I'm not making enough progress on either instrument.  

I've been in the process of paring down in other areas of my life:  I quit my church RE committee, I've decided that walk-to-school activities are on hold while the kids are in temporary units.  

It seems like this paring down process has to happen every so often, because if you aren't careful, everything expands to fill the time available.  Will it ever get any easier?

15 replies | Archive link

Too much coffee

March 12, 2010 15:46

 Or maybe it's not enough coffee to get through those evening rehearsals that end at 9:45.  

Does anyone else have trouble with pieces that are conducted in 1?  I'm starting to see a pattern.  In the fall it was Schumann, now in the spring it's Mozart.  I get very caught up in the moment, the adrenaline flows, my heart races, and I forget to watch the conductor.  Then I rush.  But, let's look on the bright side.  Fortunately, my problem is *not* that I can't play the piece fast enough . . .  

It still seems to be hard for me to keep an internal beat going in my head.  When it's in 1, it's just too long between one beat and the next one.  

I've started working with the metronome, first in 2, double time.  I don't rush then, but it sounds "beaty."  I go to 1 and I isolate the passages where it seems like I pick up speed.  There are 2:  both have arpeggios with string crossings followed by a descending scale.  I think it's the descending scale, I just can't wait to get to the bottom of it, or something.  It'll be okay, I just have to settle in, get more comfortable.

I had originally planned to play viola for this concert.  People switch in and out of concerts; we had enough violas but the 1st violin section was a little thin, so I'm back.  And having sat in the viola section for the 1st rehearsal, I'm a little behind, especially with the bowings.  More coffee, please.

Then there is the mysterious phenomenon called "scrubbing."  I used to think that in violin terms it had to do with putting too much pressure on the bow, and getting a scratchy, or "scrubby" sound.  I mean, when I scrub with a sponge, I usually press pretty hard especially if I have to clean something off.  But in my lesson, my teacher used this term to refer to using too much bow.

Among other things, Mozart is famous for needing to be played with a "light" touch.  So, here I am, trying to be "light" but still play forte (the conductor did ask for more sound out of the 1st violins).  I'm also threatening to get behind and having to rush to catch up.  And apparently, I'm "scrubbing."  Ugh.  

I play it again, after a demonstration, using less than an inch of bow for the 8th notes (all 6 of them having to fit into this single beat).  And I do use more pressure, just a bit more, to get the forte.  It's much better--no more "scrubbing," no more getting behind and rushing to catch up.  It's another example, to me, of how words are completely inadequate to describe what needs to be done to play Mozart.


7 replies | Archive link

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