goals

Developing a Technique to Improve Your Talent

  In the United States, there has been a strong push to reform our general education in recent years, with federal initiatives like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top capturing headlines as innovative ways to improve the worst-performing schools in our country.  On the other extreme are teachers like me who are working primarily with students one on one in intensive hour-long lessons on a weekly basis to achieve the pinnacle of possibility.  One thing that has always fascinated me is the question of talent: is it innate, or can one learn it?  Many of my teachers have made statements such as “anyone can be taught how to play the cello, but there are some things that are innate and cannot be taught,” “That’s god-given talent” and so on.  I have [...]

A New Year’s Goal-Setting Session — by Mark Summer

As the New Year dawns bright and full of possibilities, (the financial cliff not withstanding), this is a useful time to contemplate where we stand on our path of development as musicians, and to think thoughtfully about where we’d like to be in the coming year. My wife and I make it a priority to take turns, voicing our goals, and writing down each other’s dreams and aspirations for the coming year. It gives us a supportive place to dream big and to begin to put into practice what we are imagining for ourselves. Even if you don’t put much credence in books like “The Secret”, which posits that positive thinking brings us what we think about, I think that we can all agree that it’s useful to know what [...]

Playing Audition Excerpts: Yes, the Devil’s in Them — by Brant Taylor

Although the collection of excerpts on an audition repertoire list may seem arbitrary, each one has a purpose: giving the audition candidate an opportunity to demonstrate certain things about his or her playing and artistry. Audition success involves showing a command of certain basic elements—such as rhythm, dynamics, intonation and articulations—as well as conveying a nuanced understanding of the music and the composer. A well crafted audition list will include excerpts that emphasize each of these elements, and a candidate’s ability to demonstrate control and understanding of them will determine his or her chance for success. Let's put these goals into concrete terms using a common cello audition excerpt as an illustration—the opening of the second movement of Brahms' Symphony No. 2:   Brahms Second Symphony, 2nd Mvt. [...]

A New Look at Sight-Reading (Part 1) — by Robert Battey

As a teacher who specializes in adult amateurs, and who coaches at chamber music workshops catering to the amateur demographic, I have been struck by the differences of approach between these players and the “serious” conservatory students. By definition, “amateurs” are those who pursue the art form simply because they love it, and without the goal of becoming a professional. Conservatory students pursue the goal of professionalism even when, in a few cases, they don’t actually love the art form that much. But inherent in that pursuit are the thousands of hours slaving away on exercises, scales and etudes, always with an eye on the competition lurking in the next practice room or the impending juries. Amateurs “just want to play.” They have no illusions about ever sounding like the [...]

I Found my “Dream Quartet” in an Unexpected Industry — by Margo Drakos

My love for string quartets drew me to the cello, or rather, it motivated me to practice. It isn’t just the repertoire—I was hooked by the music the first time I ever heard the early Guarneri recording of the Cavatina and Grosse Fuge.  I love the idealist concept of a quartet, and the feeling of playing an individual voice that joins together with three other voices to form a single interdependent expression.   I also love the cellist’s role in a quartet, as it requires a multitude of skills.  At once the quartet cellist is the anchor, sometimes quietly without notice, sometimes with declarative strength, sometimes a supportive counterpart, yet at other times is the prominent, docile melody.  I have taken great pride in seeking the seemingly unattainable perfection of [...]

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 [...]

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