Quartet

Teaching at Cello: An American Experience — by Mark Summer

As a founding member of the Turtle Island Quartet, I am grateful to Paul Katz for asking me to contribute to CelloBello. As a conservatory-trained, improvising cellist, I hope I can bring a unique perspective to this forum with thoughts on performing, teaching, and traveling with my cello. This past summer I enjoyed five days of intensely rewarding teaching and performing at the summer music program, Cello: An American Experience. The program attracted 18 young cellists from around the country, and is held at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, 44 miles south of Minneapolis. Left to right: Avery Johnson and Mark Summer My introduction to Cello: An American Experience began with a Facebook message sent to me from the director, and my old colleague, Anna Clift. Anna [...]

Passing It On — by Brant Taylor

A few weeks back, I was having a post-concert drink with my friend and colleague Joshua Gindele, cellist of the Miro Quartet, and the conversation turned to teaching. Though we are both associated with ensembles that perform dozens of concerts every season, teaching the cello is an important component of both of our musical lives. (Josh teaches at the University of Texas at Austin, and I teach at DePaul University.) Discussions on the general relationship between performing and teaching often give rise to interesting questions, some without straightforward answers. Many performers teach even though the skill sets required for good teaching and good performing are far from identical. If great teaching is something that is learned, when and how are the skills acquired? If a performer is a big star [...]

K-Bow (Part 1) — by Jeffrey Zeigler

A few weeks ago my quartet traveled to Syracuse University for a week long residency. While there we had many interesting and thought provoking interactions with the student body. Our activities ranged from giving a standard string master class to a screening and discussion about the film Requiem for a Dream to a discussion about how one could navigate their way through the music industry. We also worked with a team of film students for a music television show called Loud and Clear. But perhaps the most distinctive activity of the week involved our concert that utilized a new and extremely innovative technology. The new device that we used is called the K-Bow. Before we continue I need to answer the question: what is the K-Bow? In the simplest terms, [...]

Sound Designer — by Jeffrey Zeigler

As we continue our discussion about the various ways to integrate a sophisticated approach to sound design, there is one point that I would like to make before we get to far into the equipment nitty-gritty. That is of the need for your own sound designer. I think that the person in this role has both the most important as well as the most unsung job in a given concert. Important because they have complete responsibility for how you actually will sound in the hall. You may play wonderfully, but it could all be for nothing if, for example, the sound person has set you up to sound brash and tinny. But I also say unsung because the audience will only see them as the person standing at the mixing [...]

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 [...]

Cycles, Shostakovich, and the Final Four — Brandon Vamos

I often get asked about performing cycles. I am a member of a Quartet that is passionate about performing cycles of music, including the complete string quartets of Beethoven, Carter, Mendelssohn, and Shostakovich (among others). But why bother with cycles? What do they have to offer us a musicians or audience members? I like to think of it like I think of my Vikings (in case you didn’t know, I’m a huge fan). Why bother following a team game to game or season to season? Well for one, you start to learn the language of the game. Not just the game of football itself, but how that TEAM plays the game. The aggressive way they run plays or their team personality, what feeling they leave with you at the end [...]

Cello Is My Co-Pilot (Part 1) — by Jeffrey Zeigler

Several years back I was flying out of the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. My cello was strapped into the seat next to me and I was ready to go. Lost in my own thoughts, a flight attendant leaned over and asked me very nicely if I was flying with an oboe. Now, I have flown a great deal with my cello over the years and have conditioned myself to be ready for whatever excuses the flight attendant brings in order to hassle me. But I had never ever heard of a cello being confused with an oboe! In complete shock, my only reaction was a nervous laugh. It was right then that I realized that she was actually quite serious and I immediately apologized. But honestly, where had she thought up [...]

To Mic, or Not to Mic — by Jeffrey Zeigler

I must admit that I myself am relatively new to the use of sound design. Previous to joining Kronos I had only dabbled here and there, and even then only in small amounts. Like so many cellists that graduate from conservatory, it really wasn’t something that I encountered very much except in specific 20th century works that required its use. In fact, I would say that, like so many, I viewed the use of amplification as a form of cheating.   To some degree, I do not completely disagree with this notion. Like all tools, it isn’t the tool itself that is the problem, but what one chooses to use it for.  If one uses amplification simply in order to play louder, then you are in fact cheating. However, like any [...]