Sunday, April 27, 2014

2014 Adjudicator's Words of Wisdom

Once again, I was able to enjoy several string adjudications in our music festival. Sharon Stanis was wonderful with the students!  Much warmth and humour and many complements.  I have fewer notes to share this year, as her teaching style was less "lecture", more kinesthetic.   Each student got a lesson on their instrument as part of their adjudication.  Also, I probably attended fewer of the adjudications - or maybe my pen just wasn't as energetic this year.  :-)

I will share a few of her general ideas which she repeated for more than one student, and then a few other gems.

She suggested to several violin students to try a deeper bow hold - get the middle fingers down over the frog more for a deeper tone.  [I changed my cello bow hold in this way and experienced this some years ago.]

She likes to use the word "Watermelon" to say along with notes in groups of four to help organize them.  ("Strawberry" would be good for groups of three.) The emphasis on the first syllable helps to put emphasis on the first note of the group.  For the older students, as well as using "watermelon," she said that they should know for each note in passage sections four things:
  • up or down bow?
  • which string is it on?
  • which finger are you using? (say "O" for open [or name of string] to keep it one syllable)
  • what position are you in?
We should know each note as well as we know our best friends!

Practice in four note sections - wait for the brain to be ready for the next section, repeat if unsure.  This is less overwhelming than practicing through the whole passage.  The hard stuff becomes easy when organized.

When shifting, keep the bow deeply into the string.

Use a strong, confident bow - the left hand will follow.

Mistakes happen between the notes.

Know the history of your piece.

Air bowing is a great way to practice.

On a singing piece such as The Swan, look at the score with the piano and sing along, listen to recordings, learn to avoid strict counting.

Put stories to your songs to give them character. Think of an adjective for each section.

Play with love - impart that to your audience.

"Failure breeds success."  Perfectionism leads to stiff shoulders.  Let the shoulder be boring - scoop the sound out with "smile" bows. (Baroque piece.)

Smiling is part of being entertainers.  Smile after you bow!!!

We need to "exercise" our instruments!  If it is never played nearer the bridge it will not respond well - we need to work it in.  She told a story of a teacher loaning a violin to a student.  When it was returned it no longer worked well near to the bridge - it had to be worked in again.

[A new instrument, a new bridge, and often new strings ... all need to be "played in" to some degree in order to develop their optimal tone.  I was very interested to learn that this also applied to bow placement!]

If you think of the tone, you will not go wrong.  Tone = beauty. 

Even rests and ends of notes need beauty.

Be a good salesperson - play your music like you love it!

Bach Suites are the cellists' Mt. Everest.  To make them look easy is the cellist's job.  Analyzing the keys of sections will help with memory.

Before performing, a cellist needs to check set up and be 500% comfortable!  Chair height, endpin length, strap length... [and make sure the endpin is tight to prevent slipping!  Heel height, too - practice in the clothing and shoes you will perform in!]  

There were many, many wonderful performances... and I only attended two of the three strings days!  Look for some of the best and most fun ones at the Night of Stars wrap up concert (follow link for details - May 2). 

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