Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Five hours a day?

I had the opportunity on Sunday to attend a masterclass with award-winning cellist Arnold Choi and his (on loan) $11,000,000 "Bonjour" Stradivarius cello.  The students ranged from age 9 to about 15, so much of his teaching was in the range of what I teach.  He had some similar ideas that I had regarding how to address the students' playing (nice to get that reinforcement) and I got some new ideas from him, too.  Even a few tips I can use myself in my own playing!

He also did a short Q & A session afterwards.  One question was regarding his comments to a 12 year old student who didn't have his piece memorized.  The student explained, "I've only had it for three weeks."  Arnold's reaction to that was, "Three weeks is a lifetime!"  That was news to most of us in the audience, so someone asked about that.  For Arnold, at that age he would learn the notes to a piece in one week, and of course work longer to refine it.  But he was practicing five hours a day from the time he was five years old, and this student was usually practicing one hour a day. 

So another comment from the audience about how self-motivated he must have been to practice five hours a day.  "Oh no!  My parents MADE me!  I wanted to be outside playing!"  And he added how thankful he is for that now.  He said the ages 5 - 12 are the golden years for learning to play.  All those hours of practice then make all the difference for him now.  Some of his peers didn't begin until they were 8 or 11, and they now have to work much harder than he does.

Does one HAVE to practice five hours a day at five years old to be a professional cellist?  No, but it helps!  It would take very dedicated and probably creative parents to undertake such a venture.  When older, yes, five hours would probably be recommended.  I have heard that one should not practice more than five hours a day, or it becomes counter-productive.  No worries on that happening here....

Here is a short video regarding the young musicians chosen to receive instruments from the Canada Council, in which you can here Arnold Choi at the end.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Off on Offenbach!

Thanks, Edi, for recommending these!  Listening to Offenbach often these days!

 Jacques OFFENBACH: "Concerto Militaire" in G major (1848) for Cello and Orchestra -complete-
0:10 / I. Allegro maestoso [12'06'']
12:20 / II. Andante [9'08'']
21:32 / III. Rondò [7'30'']
Catalin ILEA, cello - Romanian Radio Symphony Orchestra - Emil SIMON, conductor - (Live rec: June 1991, Bucharest Radio Concert Hall - (p) 1992 Olympia)

Les Larmes de Jacqueline (Jacqueline's Tears) Op.76 No.2 / Harmonies du soir Op.68 composed by Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880) and dedicated to Arsène Houssaye.
The performance is by Werner Thomas with Münchener Kammerorchester and it's dedicated to Jacqueline Du Pre.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Professional development... Life long learning

Summer of 2012 began with a long drive to Idaho to take two core Suzuki courses for cello instructors.  The completion of these making me now a registered teacher. Prerequisites for these courses were reading Dr. Suzuki's Nurtured by Love and Ability Development from Age Zero.  Yes, I have read them before.  But it was good to review them... just as we continue to review much of our repertoire in order to keep it fresh in our minds, and to know the material better and better, and also because when we learn anything, we are hanging that new knowledge on what we already know (the argument for not depending on Google, but for actually remembering things!).  The courses included Suzuki's philosophy and teaching methods, and a basic "how-to-teach" run down of the first book of Suzuki repertoire.

In preparation for my "Check out the Cello" course at the community centre, I also reviewed Charlene Wilson's Sing a Song of Twinkle and [Ideas for] Teaching Suzuki Cello for great beginner activities and songs.

While in Idaho, I bought three books which supplied my summer (and beyond!) with reading:

Resource Packet for Suzuki Cello Teacher Training compiled by the Suzuki Association of the Americas. (~150 pages, spiral bound) This book is outlined with articles in the categories of: Philosophy, method, profession for teachers; planning, structure, pacing of and ideas for lessons; orientation, tips and advice for practice, and motivation for parents. I think this can only be purchased through Suzuki teacher trainers.

Teaching from the Balance Point and Teaching with an Open Heart by Ed Kreitman 
Ed speaks from over 20 years of Suzuki violin teaching experience.  The subtitle for the first is A Guide for Suzuki Parents, Teachers, and Students, and for the second is A Guide to Developing Conscious Musicianship for Suzuki Parents, Teachers, and Students.  I found the first one full of very hands-on practical ideas, and the second somewhat more philosophical.. though there are also some very good practical ideas in it, too!  While much of the hands-on is directly written regarding violin playing, there is a lot which translates to the cello.  If I had to only recommend ONE book to a new strings teacher or violin parent (not sure how easily a parent could translate violin to cello... we need the book "translated"!), it would be Teaching from the Balance Point.

While traveling across the continent to Suzuki conferences is out of my budget, I was very happy to learn that the SAA is providing a Mini Online Conference.  By subscription, I am able to watch several videos filmed at the 2012 Minnesota Conference, and download the handouts provided by the presenters.  Already I have been able to use some ideas presented by Pamela Devenport regarding cello thumbs to help one of my students!

One of my students asked me one time, "Do grown up cellists keep taking lessons?"  My answer was,  "Pretty much, yes."  Maybe not in the same way as during our "student days," but there is always more to learn.  I did not pursue a performing (or teaching) career when young, so I have LOTS more to learn!  Regular lessons would mean travel, and I did consider this several years ago, but the developing arthritis discouraged me from continuing.  However, I am still playing, and getting some help here and there is, well, helpful!  Though I have not had a lot of cello lessons since moving to this area, I have continued to learn with each lesson I have had with George Kiraly, retired principal cellist of the Okanagan Symphony and the Kamloops Symphony, and I have recently had another lesson.

Teachers who studied with Dr. Suzuki were asked to take a Teacher's Pledge*.  One part of the pledge was, "We will continue to study teaching in the future with much reflection, and through this continuing study we will be better able to concentrate energies toward better teaching."  I heartily agree!

*(Follow the link to an 11 minute video regarding life-long learning.)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Elgar Cello Concerto in E minor - Jacqueline Du Pre

Conducted by Daniel Barenboim EDIT: This time it should be the entire concerto!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Free Magic Rosin sample!

Magic Rosin™ 3G Free Sample (limit one--pay s/h)Are you a rosin connoisseur?  Have you got your free sample of the new Magic Rosin 3G?  You can get a promo code HERE for the free sample (and also 15% off your next order). You just pay shipping and handling on the free rosin, and there's a limit of one per customer.

For that price, why not try a new one?  Well, I had mine shipped to a relative in the States which I'll pick up next time I'm in that neighbourhood so that I wouldn't have to pay the higher shipping cost to Canada... that was reasonable.  Especially for a rosin that's clear with cool designs showing through. Their first generation rosin was good - hoping the 3rd generation is even better!

EDIT: Hey, I was late in noticing on their ad that you can request ULTRA Magic Rosin 3G (described as giving even more "pop") by using the comment box on the order!

Monday, October 15, 2012

And on the lighter side - Dorothy!

Okay, I admit it, I've been sucked into following the CBC Over the Rainbow competition for choosing Dorothy for Andrew Lloyd Weber's musical.

Down to the top six - they are all great in their own way.  I've favored Cassandra over the weeks, as she's a strong singer, spunky, and good on stage, but I wasn't convinced by her performance last night - I still voted for her, but didn't give her the bulk of my votes.  She's outstanding, but I'm not sure she's a Dorothy.  Jessie has a fantastic, strong voice - maybe one of the best in the upper range, but her low range is weak.  I gave her votes to keep her in a few weeks ago when she was in the bottom two spot two weeks in a row, but because of her difficulty with the low notes, I didn't support her this week.  I did give Stephanie a good portion of my votes. She wowed me with her performance this week, and I think she is quite versatile.  She was in the bottom two last week, and I wanted to do what I could to keep that from happening again.

So what happened? Tonight Jessie and Cassandra were in the sing-off!  The judges saved Cassandra. Sad to see Jessie go...  but in the sing off, Cassandra was stronger.

I'm not a big fan of this kind of contest where the audience chooses.  I think they really are largely popularity contests.  Early on, the judges were clear that two people who didn't deserve it were the bottom two in the sing-off. Probably it would be more fair if the judges narrowed it to two and the audience saved one of those two.  I think one reason I decided to participate in watching and voting was because I did not have any allegiance based on family, friends, location, etc., and would offer a "real" vote!

Jessie did give what I think was the best parting "Somewhere over the Rainbow" performance so far on her way out tonight.  It IS good to have shows like this to give exposure to the great young talent out there!

Cello Lineage and Heritage

Here are a few of my cello lines, with thanks to cellist.nl. (Leaving out some of the multiple teachers.)

Romberg - Dotzauer - Shuberth & Dreschler:
Shuberth - Davidov- Klengel & vonGlenn - Piatigorsky
Dreschler - Grutzmacher - Klengel - Piatigorsky - Barton Frank - Me

Also: Merighi - Piatti - Whitehouse - Salmond - Barton Frank - Me

Others have traced Dotzauer's line back to Bach, and Romberg's line back to Corelli - not as cello lines necessarily, but other instruments or composition. Dotzauer's line also goes back to gambist Kozecz.

That's pretty impressive, I think... why don't I play better?? :-)

Truly, though, I AM attempting to pass on some of what I got from Barton to my own students, like the importance of TONE. Perhaps he got this from Felix Salmond? Here's an excerpt from an interview with cellist Bernhard Greenhouse (also a student of Salmond):
BG: Felix Salmond was enormously gifted when it came to &34;sound.&34; Frank Miller, Victor Gotlieb, Leonard Rose -- some of the best talents in America at the time -- came away from him with a beautiful sound. Unfortunately, Salmond was not a truly great cellist himself. He was a wonderful musician and a fine artist, but his technique was very limited. Consequently, his repertoire was very limited too.

TJ: If he wasn't a great cellist, then how did he teach so many first rate cellists?

BG: You don't have to be a first class cellist to be an effective teacher. He kept us in line by insisting that we use all of his fingerings and bowings. You could not come into his room and make changes because you thought you had a better idea. I now think this approach was wrong because it prevented us from learning how to think for ourselves. As a result, many of his students never went beyond using his editions, and weren't terribly creative artists.
Well, the first sentence of that last paragraph is reassuring to me for my teaching career! :-)

I don't recall every being "kept in line" by Barton in regards to fingerings and bowings... though he re-wrote the odd bowing in whatever edition I was using, and didn't encourage me to figure out fingerings and bowings for myself. I encourage my students, after a point, to think for themselves where there are fingering and bowing options.

Here is part of an online Salmond Biography. I didn't realize the modern bow hold originated with him. And you can check my lesson notes - Barton urged me to SING with my cello, also, comparing it to a voice:
Salmond developed a different bowing technique. Instead of spreading the fingers over the bow, with a rigid thumb, Salmond bent the thumb and placed the middle fingers together, more like a violinist. He stressed use of the arm rather than the wrist in crossing strings, again, a violin-like technique. He used the thumb, not pressure from the arm, as the source of power in the bow-stroke. This resulted in a less nasal, much more beautiful tone, and he consistently urged the student to strive for a beautiful tone. His recordings do show a lovely, singing tone. Not surprisingly, as the son of a professional baritone, he used reference to singing as his ideal. He called the cello the "singer par excellence of the [piano] trio, more able to sing than the violin or piano, and unequaled by them in its range of tone color. The violoncello can sing soprano, contralto, tenor, and bass, and it is capable of equal beauty of tone in all of these registers."

We'll look at Piatigorsky another time!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I've done it!

Progress to date
Or at least I have VIRTUALLY done it.  Our recreation society and my pedometer tell me "You have walked approximately 318.1 km so far!" (Since sometime last spring.)Larch HillsEast ShuswapNorth ShuswapSouth ShuswapInner ShuswapSalmon Arm Bay That is equivalent to taking the trails marked by the footprints around Shuswap Lake.  What a long hike!  I think it shouldn't have taken me quite so long, though....

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Practice Tips: Charts

Leslie Thackeray offers many varieties of free downloadable practice charts on her website The Practice Shoppe. My own students have a customized guide for weekly assignments and for review, and we also keep charts in the studio to record the number of days practiced for our "100 Days of Practice Club" but some of these charts Leslie offers can also be utilized for making repetitions or review more fun.

A few sample ideas:

"This week, let's see if you can do one scale for each Lego Man!  Let's see... there are 20 here, so you could do 4 scales every day for 5 days or 3 scales every day for 6 days plus 2 on the 7th."

"Here's a bullseye chart! Let's take those two measures you are working on.  Each time you play it, decide if you were right on target, or somewhere else on the bullseye.  Mark one of the targets each time you practice it. She wanted you to repeat it 6 times every practice day, so we should be able to mark 36 this week.  Next week we'll continue with a different project your teacher assigns and it will be filled up before we know it!"

"We are going to color in one star every time you play Twinkle, and show it to your teacher when every star is colored.  That's 100 times!"

This is what I'm going to do myself:

Using the "Fall in Love with Practicing" chart - 30 leaves - I will color one in every time I review one Suzuki book.  Tonight I played through books two and three.  Two leaves colored!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Me and Joshua Bell

Wow, I have something in common with virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell!  We both played the same first instrument.  No, I'm not talking about violin.  Before that.

"When I was four, I was stringing rubber bands across my dresser drawers and plucking them to create different tensions and pitches, and trying to copy tunes I heard my mother play on the piano, and so...I don't know how it started but, I think it... I guess music was just sort of in my system and I was trying to find a way to play with it." http://www.prx.org/pieces/15015-virtuoso-voices-joshua-bell-rubber-band-man#description

Well, I'm sure I wasn't copying any classical piano pieces. And I'm sure I didn't figure it out myself.  I think my brother inspired those early performances. Any family members want to weigh in? Who was the first to play the rubber bands stretched between dresser drawer knobs?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Information is not transformation

Shawn Achor (The Happiness Advantage) said that.

Sounds a lot like Dr. Suzuki's "Knowledge is not ability". 

Mr. Achor was talking about applying what we know to our behavior: do it for 21 days and it becomes a habit.

Dr. Suzuki said, "Knowledge plus 10,000 times is ability."  Application of information.


I finally figured out how to customize "reactions" for the posts.  These are a way for readers to leave a little feedback without necessarily commenting.  I've changed them to "like", "interesting", and "I'm going to try this".  Do you have any other ideas for reaction options?  Please comment if you do!

Oh, and if you are a blogger and want to know how... let's see... Template -> Customize -> Layout-> Edit (middle of page under "blog posts"). Scroll down to reactions, and click edit again.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Meet Ruth!

Ruth is part of the Mully Children's Family in Kenya.  I am sponsoring her through the Mully Children's Family Charitable Foundation.

She is eight years old, is in grade two, and reported to be a hard working girl in class. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Fall Fair

Putting an entry in our Fall Fair gets one an exhibitor's weekend pass for the same price as one day admission.  And as a bonus, there is a chance to win a few dollars back, or a prize of some kind.  A few years ago (see my very first post on this blog) I entered compost and won a third prize.  I decided to enter three classes this year. 

One clean jar well-rotted compost

Carrot cake (frosted) small loaf-pan size

All white flower arrangement - greenery accepted

I really was surprised to get a first and two seconds!  My personal vote would have switched first/second on the flowers - I could not have argued if I had received third (there were only three entries), and I was disappointed with how my cake turned out.  There were four carrot cakes in all - no way for me to taste the others, but I made two cakes from my batter and tested one at home. The compost is probably the easiest class they have!  Only five entered, so it wasn't too hard to get a ribbon there, either.

I made note of a few other classes with few entries for next year.  :-) Might even branch into textile and needle arts division.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Why Teach?

Why do I teach cello?

The easy answer is because I was asked to.  But the reason I finally said yes was because the cello is such a joy and I wanted to share that.  To take others on the journey.

Why do I teach Suzuki cello?

First, I decided to use the Suzuki literature.  It is a well laid out series of pieces which build on each other.  I surveyed other adult cello students to see what they were using, as well as teachers of children.  They all used and recommended the Suzuki literature as the basis for studies.  Also, I was familiar with the beginning Suzuki books as I learned violin with the first four books before switching to cello.  (The Suzuki method had not yet been adapted for cello at that time.)  But using the Suzuki books does not make a Suzuki teacher.

My philosophy of teaching and learning has grown mostly over the years of homeschooling our children, having started in studying education at university.  And for teaching cello specifically, I went into my memory banks and borrowed from my violin teacher, Rodger Alexander.  The main thing I took from him was to make it fun and positive for the kids.  I had learned using the Suzuki method adapted for use in schools, and was using an adaptation, myself, based on what I knew about the method picked up over the years from my own experience and elsewhere.

I found the community of Suzuki teachers to be quite helpful in sharing of ideas for teaching, and began to research more about the method.  I found that the main philosophies espoused by Dr. Suzuki match my own more than I realized.  A positive and supportive atmosphere, moving each student at their own speed - no special aptitude required to begin (though it's easier to develop musical aptitude, the same as learning a language, at a young age), developing proper technique and a good tone as a primary foundation prior to reading and music theory, developing the ear and becoming familiar with the sound of the cello by listening to recordings, creating a community for my students and playing music together...

There was one key ingredient to the Suzuki method I had not emphasized: the parents.  As well as reading about this and talking with other teachers, I also looked at my own students.  I had some students who were really blossoming and learning quickly, and I had some who lagged.  What was the difference?  The parents' involvement with practice time.  Of course each student is different and the degree of parent involvement needed may vary child to child and as they grow,  but there it was.  And it made sense.  What young child can take instruction about a fairly complex physical activity once, and follow through with this for the next week at home alone?  So now I provide parents with some training.  This includes the basics of playing the instrument to the point of playing Twinkle for the very beginners, information on the Suzuki philosophy, and helps and ideas for structuring practice time, motivating their child, etc.  I had never expected the kids to do it on their own at home, but neither had I previously provided the parents with the training and support they needed. 

I decided to embrace the full Suzuki method in my teaching, and have taken the basic training to become a registered Suzuki cello instructor.  It mirrors my own philosophies, and most importantly: it works!  Being able to play the cello has been a gift in my life, and I love seeing others finding this same enjoyment.  This is why I teach, and why I teach using the Suzuki method.

Read more about the Suzuki Method here: http://suzukiassociation.org/teachers/twinkler/

Monday, August 27, 2012

Waiting for adoption

A Little Bit About Me

Murdock is a middle aged Border Collie who has the heart of a younger dog but the manners of a mature dog. A great all around dog, Murdock is looking for an active life with a fun family who will treat him like he is one of them. Good with other dogs he may be the companion your own pet is looking for. If you are interested in Murdock come and meet him at the Shelter and see just how great he is!
Where can you find me?
I am at the Shuswap location.
You can contact me by
Email shuswap@spca.bc.ca
Phone 250-832-7376
Address 5850 Auto Road SE, Salmon Arm, BC V1E 2X2

 This poor lost dog spent one night on our front step.  Before we got out to give him breakfast and a taxi ride he hit the road again.  He ended up just where we would have taken him, and no one has come forward to claim him, so he is now up for adoption.  I wish we had a suitable home for him, but we don't.  Do you?