training

Setting Goals — by Jonathan Thomson

"The well-prepared marathoner looks after every detail of proper physical and mental training, nutrition, hydration, clothing, and equipment." — Amby Burfoot (running guru and winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon) Photo: Meb Keflezighi, who in 2014 became the first American to win the Boston Marathon since 1982 This attention to a wide range of details occurs over months of training, all with the ultimate goal of running 26.2 miles. Musicians should train for performance the same way runners train for marathons: with great organization and structure. Marathon training plans are highly detailed, with specific goals for each day. All facets of daily life become focused around achieving a personalized and realistic goal. This goal is set for one race, and is based on previous experience and current fitness. Both running [...]

Cello and Marathon Training — by Jonathan Thomson

Rule #1 and Rule #2 focus on the mental aspect of training: about setting your intention before working on a passage. This is necessary to practice effectively, and ultimately leads to better performances. Our experience playing the cello is a delicate interplay between mind and body, which is a balance that must be cultivated again and again as age, circumstances, and stakes change. Athletes face many of the same experiences in training and competition. Throughout my education, I found that my attitudes about the cello and the way I practiced stemmed from my experiences playing sports. Particularly during my graduate studies, running became a counterpoint to music. Running and cello both informed the other. Running helped relieve the stresses of performances, auditions, competitions, juries, and the ones made up by [...]

Sports and Cello: Starting the Discussion — by Jonathan Thomson

  We see the dramatic moment in sports all the time: with the game on the line, a player steps up to shoot the game-winning free throw, kick the field goal, or take the penalty kick. Make or miss, social and news media chatter about these moments for days afterward. Documentaries and TV series offer detailed views inside the lives of athletes and behind-the-scenes depictions of how teams practice and communicate throughout their seasons. An athlete's comments on any issue can reverberate through our society for weeks. Sport is everywhere—it is unavoidable. Though many musicians and teachers may see it as a competitor to practice time and music's place within the culture, athletes and musicians share many common experiences and can learn from each other. While athletes personal lives are [...]

Reflections from the Bleachers — by Melissa Kraut

I am not cut out to be a swimming mom.  Seriously.  I am a cellist, an artist that uses classical music to parse the profound issues of humankind.  I deal with emotions, both broad and subtle, grand and intimate.  I’m on a journey to refine a skill that I will spend my lifetime trying to achieve, and working on finding ways to convey my passion to others, to convey what is in my soul through my instrument.  I’m a professor at the Cleveland Institute of Music, how can I possibly take on the role of swimming mom?? My daughter, a freshman in high school, is an avid swimmer, so it came as no surprise when she tried out for the high school swimming team last October.  As much as I [...]

The Process of Unlearning Habits — by Selma Gokcen

“It is not the degree of ‘willing’ or ‘trying,’ but the way in which the energy is directed, that is going to make the ‘willing’ or ‘trying’ effective.” –F.M. Alexander   As professional musicians, we have a deeply trained muscle memory system, a network of learned movements which allows us to study and perform a huge number of works in any situation, often in a short space of time.  This system is a blessing when it is reliable and accurate and a burden when it does not serve us well. Confronted by unwanted tension or a repetitive stress injury such as tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome, some of us, as F.M. Alexander did, may ask: what is my part in this?  How have I brought about this condition? And it [...]

The Power of Quietness — by Selma Gokcen

The place to find is within yourself.  I learned a little about this in athletics.  The athlete who is in top form has a quiet place within himself, and it’s around this, somehow, that his action occurs...There’s a center of quietness within, which has to be known and held.  If you lose that center, you are in tension and begin to fall apart. – Joseph Campbell True quiet means keeping still when the time has come to keep still, and going forward when the time has come to go forward. In this way rest and movement are in agreement with the demands of the time, and thus there is light in life. The hexagram signifies the end and the beginning of all movement. The back is named because in the [...]

Behind the Scenes of a Music Festival (Part 1): The Vision Thing — by Aron Zelkowicz

By self-imposed annual tradition, recent weeks have been crunch time, when a year’s worth of planning comes to fruition.  My pet project, the Pittsburgh Jewish Music Festival, held sway in early June where, for the past several years, it has settled in the form of four concerts.  I thought it might serve as a useful case study to explore various behind-the-scenes topics. This is the season when myriad music festivals around the country are in full bloom.  What is the take-away experience from any one of these that makes it unique?  Even traditional chamber music festivals have their own trademark DNA that set them apart, from big issues (BUDGET, LOCATION) to small (I’m playing in a festival this summer that offers a cookbook featuring the players’ signature recipes—cool!).  Festival X [...]

Running After What is Behind You — by Selma Gokcen

Much of our training as cellists has us working long hours, working hard, but are we working smart? Do we know what is productive and what is counter-productive in our manner of working? How do we know? Is it possible to know? Many years after my cello study at the Juilliard School, I hit a wall. I could not go further in my work with the traditional methods of cello technique, cello etudes, additional lessons and hours of practice. It seemed I was going round in a circle.  I finally realised that solution to problems at the instrument might lie somewhere beyond the green pastures I had hitherto spent my life exploring.  I said to myself: Maybe the study of music is like science.  You have to go into the [...]