In the Practice Room

Wellness Retreats for Musicians: Why are they on the rise?

I knew there was no way I could practice the amount I needed and not just completely destroy my body. I wondered how other people did it. It never occurred to me in college that it was something I could learn - University of Denver, USA, 1989   On line, or off, pandemic or no, wellness retreats for musicians are all the rage. With so much more now on offer in music colleges and schools in terms of a holistic approach, I set out to find out why so many young musicians are drawn to finding alternative support.   In a survey I recently conducted about wellness as experienced by students in music schools and colleges over the last fifty years, it became apparent that, from the beginning of this [...]

“Back to the Breath” —Mindfulness for Cellists

While we are all facing a new reality with the Covid-19 pandemic spreading all over the globe, our way of experiencing life has taken on a new reality in the present moment. Each day, we are presented with innumerable challenges, from following the sobering news on TV and social media, being bombarded with worries, anxiety and panic about what is next to come in your country, your city, within yourself and for your loved ones. It is important to create a positive outlet in the midst of this uncertain time. As a musician and cellist, you have a way to create a positive outlet by playing the cello. Another positive outlet is to quiet the mind through breathing exercises and meditation. I created “Back to the Breath” Mindfulness and Visualization [...]

Exiles in Paradise: on the “Hollywood Renaissance” and Finding New Repertoire for the Cello: Part 2

This article is the second installment in a two-part series   As we discussed in part 1,  war and persecution in Europe created an unprecedented gathering of émigré musical talent in Los Angeles in the mid-20th century,  including Jascha Heifetz, William Primrose, Artur Rubinstein, Otto Klemperer, Bruno Walter, and Lotte Lehmann. Of particular interest to cellists, Los Angeles in this era was also home to top cellists including Gregor Piatigorsky, Emanuel Feuermann (for the last several summers of his life), Kurt Reher, Eleanor Aller (Slatkin), Gabor Rejto, Edgar Lustgarten and Ray Kramer, to name just a few, and the hometown of future stars such as Paul Katz, Laurence Lesser and Nathaniel Rosen.   But perhaps most remarkably, Los Angeles was the home of arguably the greatest collection of composers to [...]

By |2020-03-25T20:51:52+00:00March 24th, 2020|Categories: Featured, Artistic Vision, In the Practice Room, Repertoire|Tags: , , |

The “Instead” List

While the list of pieces that appear in cello-piano recitals is incredibly short - same 10 pieces keep circulating in different order - we cellists actually have very large repertoire. Orchestras don't program much more than 10 Concertos and apart the Bach Suites there are maybe 5 pieces that make their way to concert programs. There are always multiple reasons for great music falling out of general attention. It may have to do with style, gender, origin, problems of notation, lack of publisher, wrong publisher, fashion, lack of social skill, too keen self promotion or any combination of these. Often the reasons have nothing to do with the quality of the music. And the quality itself is totally dependent on who is the messenger, in the wrong hands most music [...]

Shifting from Judging to Observation During Practice

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By |2020-02-09T18:32:18+00:00December 8th, 2019|Categories: In the Practice Room, Self Discovery, Teaching|

Conversation with Stephen Kates (September, 2002)

Interview by Tim Janof Stephen Kates studied with Gregor Piatigorsky, Leonard Rose, Claus Adam, Laszlo Varga, and Marie Roemaet-Rosanoff. He was awarded the Silver Medal at the Third International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1966 in Moscow, where he returned as the American juror in 1986. He has made solo appearances with the world's greatest orchestras in New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Atlanta, Baltimore, Leningrad, and Los Angeles. He is a former President of the Violoncello Society in New York. For seven summers he was a member of the faculty of the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California, and has taught at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore for almost 30 years. He has recorded for the RCA, Denon, Melodiya, Orion, CRI, and Bainbridge labels.   [...]

Straight vs. Angled Bowing: A Visual Experiment

This past summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to study at the Bowdoin International Music Festival. One of the pieces that I brought to the festival was the Prelude to Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3. The main goal I had for the piece was to sound less “choppy” and play with a smoother legato sound. After trying everything I could think of to solve the problem on my own, I brought the issue to my teacher, Paul Katz, who like a skilled doctor immediately saw what the problem was and fixed it! The problem turned out to be that rather than keeping my bow straight, i.e., perpendicular to the strings, I bowed in a semicircle. As soon as I started to bow in a straight line, I was able to [...]

By |2019-11-03T18:42:04+00:00September 11th, 2019|Categories: In the Practice Room, Teaching|Tags: , , , , , |

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 34 – Feuillard No. 36 – Variations #39-42)

  This will be the final Blog in this series on using the Feuilliard "Daily Exercises" to teach bow technique.   Variations #39 and #40:         Variations #39 and #40 address chords over four strings. For #39 we have to use the full bow with the bottom two notes as grace notes. That means that they are played before the beat, with the top two notes on the beat. If playing with a piano, the pianist would probably play on the downbeat with the top of the chords. The string crossing is not too difficult at the frog, but playing the grace notes at the tip and then getting the main notes to sound strong is harder at the tip. I addressed two other important issues with [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 33 – Feuillard No. 36 – Variations #30-38)

  Today we will continue with Feuillard No. 36, Variations #30-#38. Most of these variations work on double stops with string crossings, and legato strokes involving the upper arm versus wrist/fingers over four strings.   Variation #30: This Variation again involves both the Up-bow Staccato and Flying Spiccato strokes, which we have seen before dispersed throughout all the bowing exercises on these pages. It is one more opportunity to review the different ways of producing these two strokes - and George was able to verbalize the technical information required. Even though he had not practiced the Flying Spiccato as fast as I got him to play it here, it is always interesting to me that if one has absorbed the technique it is possible to speed up the tempos easily. [...]

By |2019-05-20T20:46:32+00:00April 29th, 2019|Categories: In the Practice Room, The Joy of Feuillard, Teaching|Tags: , , |

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 32 – Feuillard No. 36 – Variations #10-29)

  Today we will continue our journey through Feuillard with No. 36, Variations #10 - #29 on string crossings over four strings. Many of these variations are about sustaining the sound with legato or detaché strokes. As mentioned before it is very helpful to use the left/right motion in order to make it easier to get a big sound in the upper half of the bow. It is also helpful to use the "twist" motion of the upper torso in order to release tension from the arm and fingers, and to keep the vibrato going. Rather than lifting fingers, the twist in the upper body automatically helps to release the fingers. Variations #10 and #11: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7Rh2uf9f-I&w=560&h=315   Variations #12, #13, and #14 The arm levels that I mentioned here were [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 31 – Feuillard No. 36 – Variations #1-9)

  The final Theme and set of bowing variations in Feuillard is No. 36. This page deals with string crossings involving four strings. There are double stops, chords, various bowings, articulation issues, and different strokes. I use No.36 to reinforce many of the concepts from the earlier pages, and especially the "twist motion". The student should be aware of how the left arm moves in tandem with the string crossings, so that the elbow is higher on the C-string and lowest on the A-string. The student must also be aware that the contact point needs to change when going from the lower strings to the higher strings.  The "rule" is: "The Higher the String, the Lower the Contact Point" If we don't pay attention to the contact point, the intonation [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 30 – Collé)

  I am "interrupting" my blog series on Feuillard with today's post dealing with collé. I usually wait with working on collé in the private lessons until other technical aspects of the bow are internalized and solid. Part of the reason I do this is that I have found that students sometimes get confused by the use of the fingers for the vertical motion in string crossings as opposed to the use of the fingers in the horizontal collé motion.  I find that it is better to solidify the string crossing motion before explaining the collé motion, since they are so similar and yet completely different. I do sometimes teach collé to all the students in my Saturday Pre-college classes. However, that is in a large group situation and I can [...]

By |2019-04-08T04:27:03+00:00April 8th, 2019|Categories: In the Practice Room, The Joy of Feuillard, Teaching|Tags: , , , |

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 29 – Feuillard No. 35 – Variations #52-59)

  Today's Blog will deal with the last variations on this page of Feuillard's theme No. 35. Although Feuillard indicates these to be played in the middle of the bow, I prefer to use Variations #52 - #57 to work on a heavy spiccato stroke at the frog. This involves using an active upper arm and a "passive" wrist to create a brushy off-the-string stroke with a very ringy sound. A light version of this stroke might be used in Mozart symphonies or quartets, while the heavier version might be in Wagner or many contemporary works.   Variation #53: The model for these variations is #53 with its two arm levels, and I like to have the students play this before going sequentially through the other variations (see below). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65Ax1NoMr0Y&w=560&h=315 [...]

By |2019-04-01T01:32:54+00:00April 1st, 2019|Categories: In the Practice Room, The Joy of Feuillard, Teaching|Tags: , , , , |

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 28 – Feuillard No. 35 – Variations #42-51)

  Today's Blog will deal with Feuillard No. 35, Variations #42 - #51, which all deal with legato string crossings using the upper arm and the wrist/fingers. As we started working on these variations I first reminded Zach about the Seven Arm Levels that we had discussed earlier (the four open strings and the three double stops), and we reviewed the "Seven Arm Level Exercise". Then I explained how these variations will involve a combination of the various arm levels and the use of the wrist/fingers to go between the double-stop levels.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZ6jTDH0etE&w=560&h=315   So, the model for these next variations is #45 - using the upper arm on the double stop level, and the wrist moving between the two strings. I often have the students play Variation #45 [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 27 – Feuillard No. 35 – Variations #26-41)

The Variations in today's Blog all deal with staccato and legato strokes across three strings in various combinations. The string crossings should all be executed with the upper arm. Because they are to be played in the middle of the bow the staccato strokes should be played with the lower arm. We should pay attention to the "catch and float" on all these staccato strokes: "catch" the string at the beginning of each note, and then "float" to release the sound for resonance. Each note should have a nice starting "k" sound. Variations #26 - #31: After he played Variation #26 fully (with four beats per measure) I asked Zach to only play two beats for each chord in order to save a bit of time in the lesson. By now [...]