Preparation

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 [...]

Seeing a Bigger Picture — by Yeesun Kim

As a young cellist, I gratefully accepted my teachers' generous offers of bowings, fingerings and phrasing suggestions to many  pieces I studied. These suggestions were well tested in numerous performances, were given thoughtful evaluation that took into account the personal convictions of many great musicians. At that time, I was not particularly in the habit of questioning and reasoning for myself. In a sense,  other than what I HAD to contribute, I trusted that all this work would and should settle into a successful interpretation. Since becoming the cellist of a professional string quartet (the Borromeo String Quartet), my attitude HAD to change completely. Now, it was not possible to participate in making music without evaluating ALL that was in the score. The pieces in the repertoire of the string [...]

Two Minutes of Your Time — by Brant Taylor

Early in 2011, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will hold auditions hoping to fill two vacancies in our cello section.  In my twelve years of hearing auditions as a member of this ensemble, hundreds of cellists have presented themselves on our stage. Some have done so several times. Their audience is a committee of nine members of the orchestra who sit behind a screen in our otherwise-empty hall.  Some of us take notes during the performances, but the only thing that matters to the process is the simple "yes" or "no" each committee member marks on a blank index card after every player has finished. If a candidate receives at least six "yes" votes in a preliminary audition, he or she advances to the final round.  To those unfamiliar with the [...]

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 [...]