connection

THINKING IN A NEW WAY—Overcoming Habits (Part 5 of 6): Fleet Fingers — by Selma Gokcen

"The body is like an instrument; it depends who is playing it."  —F.M. Alexander In the Alexander work I do, I consider there are five stages in learning to let go of the left hand fingers in cello playing so they can be free to race around the fingerboard, as well as play expressively. The hand must be soft and empty of all intention in approaching the string. If it has preconceived form and shape, then it cannot function except within the confines of this preconception. In connection with this work, I often ask my students the meaning in Zen Buddhism of "the empty hand that holds the spade." We can think of the fingers as the end of a long chain of joints starting with the upper arm ball [...]

When the Music Stops — by Brant Taylor

For those of us for whom a musicians’ work stoppage in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was something we’d read about in histories of the orchestra but had never experienced in real life, the e-mail message we received last Saturday was a bit of a shock: we were on strike. Much of the "what" and "how" has already been disclosed elsewhere by both sides, so I won't go over that here. Fortunately, the work stoppage was short-lived—about 48 hours—and the musicians have now ratified a new contract that will allow our season to proceed without further disruption. Any orchestral musician who has been through tough negotiations will agree that they’re strange times.  An orchestral organization is tiny compared to the global business corporations in the for-profit world that deal with large [...]

Raising the Arms (Part 2) — by Selma Gokcen

A wheel needs a central point of contact, an axis, in order to turn and spin. One never loses touch with one's central point—the spine—as one moves through life. But society today has lost that core. It has no idea where it is going. - Svami Purna When I was well into my studies as a young cellist, I became fascinated with the question: How does one raise the arms to play? My naive mind wondered: is there a wrong way and a right way, and how does one distinguish between the two?  I read a great many books on cello technique and for years I asked this question of my teachers. It seemed to me to be a very important gesture that most people took for granted, and my [...]

Three Cellos are Better Than One — by Lluís Claret

Greetings from Spain to all CelloBello people! This is a big honor and I am full of excitement to be joining your community! I would like to begin my first blog with some personal thoughts about: three cellists living together at home! Yes, my family is made up of 3 cellists: my wife Anna, a former student and assistant; our son Daniel, also a former student; and myself. (Our daughter Aina "just" plays piano...!) Some of my colleagues may find it hard to believe we could have a successful, "peaceful" family life when there are 3 different cello personalities sharing practice space and time under the same roof. But I can tell you, it works. So, what makes it possible? Gÿorgy Sebök, the great pianist, pedagogue, and one of my main musical [...]

Defining the Intangible — by Melissa Kraut

Several years ago I was asked to contribute to an article for Strings Magazine on "what teachers look for in an incoming student."  I was excited about the article—what a fantastic idea—a compilation of suggestions from teachers who listen to 100+ cellists a year auditioning for music schools!  Despite my best intentions, I still haven't crafted a contribution. (Here is where I should publicly apologize to the cellist, who is no doubt reading this entry, for the 3 year delay in responding to your request).  My neglect  was not for lack of interest, or lack of knowledge or experience on the subject.  It came down to the difficulty in putting words to something that  is so nebulous—defining the intangible.  The title for this entry popped into my head during audition [...]

Putting Your Best Foot Forward in Auditions — by Yeesun Kim

Let's face it. A musicians life is full of auditions.  Even when you might not be taking a formal audition, each concert may turn out to be an audition for your next project. For many students, February in particular is a busy, stressful month filled with college auditions, summer festival auditions, recital juries and so forth. When you are a beginner, auditions generally represent a relatively encouraging nudge of  "Do your best." Later, they have greater consequences, and dealing with the pressure can become quite torturous.  Some are more at ease than others, but I believe it is safe to say that auditions are not activities anyone particularly enjoys doing. Of course listening to auditions is not so easy either.  One is asked to sit through 7-8 hours per day [...]