concentration

Stage-dreaming — by Mickey Katz

A few days ago I was on the Symphony Hall stage, playing Brahms’s A German Requiem in concert.  While playing the second movement, I started thinking about what I was going to make for dinner the following night. The last time I cooked it, I thought, it came out a little dry. Maybe this time I should… But wait a second, I was playing one of my favorite pieces in one of the world’s best halls, with a great orchestra and a great conductor, how could I not be completely absorbed in what I was doing? Was I the only one on stage whose mind was wandering, and if not—did anyone in the audience notice? I was aware that I was a part of a great concert, and the audience [...]

Behind the Scenes of a Music Festival (Part 3): The Rehearsal Mine Field — by Aron Zelkowicz

Quartet rehearsal, 10 am! Which means you show up at 10:04, but then decide to make a quick Starbucks run with the second violinist because the violist is parking his car anyway and seriously, who can be expected to tackle Shostakovich at 10am without their Grande Vanilla Double Soy Macchiato? You return to discuss next week’s rehearsal schedule because there have been just too many e-mails lately (and of course, what are we wearing for the concert?). You take the opportunity to xerox that missing page of your part, unfold your stands, rosin your bows, and then, finally, you’re ready….to tune. It’s ok, no big deal—10:27 is plenty early to start rehearsing. There is always tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. Such may be the way of the [...]

The Eyes Have It (Part 1) — by Selma Gokcen

One of the most valuable indicators of well-functioning coordination is eye movement.  I have noticed for a long time now that there are different types of gaze in musicians. The "well-trained" musician of today often exhibits what I call blinkered attention, the result of years of too much effortful practice. The strain around the eyes is visible and often accompanied by laboured breathing. Caught by inward feelings and sensations, this musician is "concentrating." In the words of my Alexander teacher, the original meaning of concentration used to be: to relate a set of factors to a central point. It has been increasingly misused in our educational system to encourage the shutting out of everything else out to focus on a single thing. Concentration therefore as a useful aim has been [...]

Finesse — by Brant Taylor

Any musician who has interests outside the realm of music has probably discovered ideas and concepts important to other disciplines which are directly applicable to the study and performance of music.  The lessons we can learn about greatness from outside our own field are often very powerful because the underlying principles tend to be universal and not confined to any single discipline.  For the famed American chef Thomas Keller, there is one word he uses to describe his entire philosophy of approaching his craft at the highest level: finesse.  Chef Keller apparently doesn't want anyone who works for him to forget it—the word and its dictionary definition are emblazoned directly on the tiles above the entrance to the kitchen at Per Se, his high-end (and delicious) New York City restaurant: [...]

Airplane Diaries — by Alisa Weilerstein

I think it's appropriate that I'm writing my first blog (ever—not only on this site) while flying between Madrid and Copenhagen. I've taken to telling people I live on airplanes lately, which is sort of true since I catch up on sleep most often while I'm in the air, and I've only been in my actual apartment for four days so far this year. I've been in Europe for a few days and for the first time in awhile am experiencing some serious transatlantic jetlag. I can't sleep before 4:30 a.m. and waking up in the morning (in other words, when the sun is up...) has been difficult, to put it mildly. I just finished three concerts in Madrid, playing Osvaldo Golijov's incredible Azul. Given my perpetually bleary-eyed state each [...]

Raising Your Self-Awareness — by Brandon Vamos

I recently worked with a student preparing a Bach suite for his recital. In his lesson, he was struggling with the many challenges one faces when playing Bach. A week later he performed the entire suite in studio class and I was taken aback by the dramatic improvement. He played the work with great poise, clarity, and a much higher level of solidity and intonation. I was curious about this sudden jump in playing level and asked him what his focus had been during that weeks’ preparation. His answer was that he had become much more self-aware and objective of his playing. He had made a conscious effort to sit back and get a true sense of what was coming from his instrument. The result? He was better able to [...]

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