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Orchestra: A Love Story — by Martha Baldwin

Solo playing, chamber music, orchestra, teaching—I loved them all in college but at some point, we all must start to narrow our focus and work to establish a career that is dominated by one or two of these.  I think the most often over-looked aspect of choosing what direction to take your musical talents (insert LeBron goes to Miami joke here), is thoughtful consideration of the daily life. Happiness in life and career is so often not determined by money or status but by how closely our lives conform to our personal ideals and individual quirks. Young cellists often ask me “Why did you choose to play in an orchestra?” This is my answer. I’m a planner. I am happiest with a stable structured day with a decent amount of routine [...]

Self-Motivation and Summer Vacation — by Brandon Vamos

As I helped my students over the last few weeks in preparation for their juries and looked through my calendar to discover how many recitals I will be attending before the middle of May, it suddenly hit me. The end of the school year is upon us once again. That time when there’s one final burst of juries and lessons, tests and papers before summer vacation hits. And after a long academic year, summer vacation can offer a welcome change. I remember those summers I was attending summer programs, and had three or four weeks off, or those students who sometimes have the entire summer devoted to working or relaxation. But regardless of what your summer plans may look like this year, I’d encourage you to remember one very important [...]

Practicing What You Preach: Some Thoughts on Balancing Performing and Teaching — by Natasha Brofsky

During my preparation for playing a faculty recital at NEC’s Jordan Hall at the end of March, I found myself thinking a lot about the challenges of maintaining a teaching and performing career.  I always find it the most challenging to play for the “home crowd,” especially students and colleagues, because I hope that I will in some way be able to “practice what I preach.” As a cello teacher my listening is focused on how a phrase could be played in a different, more compelling way, and how technique can serve the music. I find that turning my critical teaching ear on myself can inspire me but also paralyze me, because while I am playing I am hearing all the possibilities for doing it better: all the ways I have taught [...]

Doing More with Less — by Brant Taylor

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Havana, Cuba, accompanying a jazz band that was invited to perform at the Havana International Jazz Festival.  Considered a “cultural exchange,” the trip was approved by the U. S. Department of the Treasury and we made the short flight to Havana from Miami. (Because our embargo is a financial one, the U.S. Treasury oversees all travel between the U.S. and Cuba.  A full report on my impressions of Havana or on the 50 years of economic strangulation the Cuban people have experienced is far outside the scope and purpose of this space!) Among many other activities, we visited Havana’s Amadeo Roldan Conservatory, which teaches music to high school students.  While I am aware that Cuba has a vibrant, colorful musical tradition and [...]

In the Zone — by Talya Buckbinder

I received my most memorable lesson in distraction during my first year of playing the cello.  My teacher sat me down one day, instructed me to play the Gavotte from Suzuki Book 2, and then proceeded to demonstrate the most amusing display of histrionics I'd ever seen, even going as far as to caterwaul loudly and spill her coffee down the front of her dress.  My teacher thought she could train me to focus on the music if she presented me with an array of possible distractions. At the Perlman Music Program, Toby Perlman would tell us the story of how Mr. P played a concert through an earthquake and continued performing, completely unaware that the earth was trembling below the concert hall.  We all laughed incredulously, though I couldn't [...]

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 [...]

Thirds, Thirds, Thirds… — by Lev Mamuya

Practice your thirds.  As well as improving your technique, it can be…sigh…well, even a little bit fun. Many people give thirds an unfair label: they’re boring, they’re tedious, and they’re hard… Thirds are hard at first, and require daily repetition to maintain to the fullest, but never fear! A good daily method can change you from someone who hates thirds, to someone who can look forward to practicing thirds every day. Scales are always good. Thirds scales are even better. Practicing thirds scales slowly and repetitively is an important way to improve technique such as left hand finger rounding and intonation. Plus, a slow tempo can give you more time to focus on right hand/arm technique. This may not be the most fun part of practicing thirds, but JUST DO [...]