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Blog #18: Stability and Mobility — by Selma Gokcen

"Freedom, freedom, but with order." —Pablo Casals In our work in the Alexander Technique, we teachers are constantly addressing the simultaneous need to stabilise and mobilise the body, to make sure the back remains firm and strong (but without stiffening), and the pelvis stable, all in order to move the arms and legs freely. In my recent reading, I came across this little chart: Foot — Stability Ankle — Mobility Knee — Stability Hip — Mobility Lumbar Spine — Stability Thoracic Spine — Mobility Scapula — Stability Glenohumeral Joint — Mobility Elbow — Stability So what does this have to do with cello playing?  Well, a fair bit! I'll start from the bottom and work up, along the lines of how a tree grows, just because trees are a great example [...]

The Holy Sextet (Part 2) — by Brant Taylor

Part 1 began an exploration of three bow variables that—in addition to the three well-known concepts of weight, speed, and contact point—make up a sextet of basics that should be known and practiced to maximize your control over the string with the bow.  We discussed the first and most important, bow angle, in Part 1. The remaining two variables may seem relatively minor, but they are by no means unimportant. If practicing means attempting to find solutions to the challenges of successful instrumental control, you should attempt to understand every potential reason for success or failure with the bow. FLATNESS OF HAIR, or how much of the hair makes contact with the string. Many cellists hold the bow with the stick tilted up (toward the fingerboard) to some degree. This means that [...]

The Holy Sextet (Part 1) — by Brant Taylor

Think back to when you were shown how to use the bow to successfully produce different sounds on the cello. In all likelihood, you learned that there is a trio of "variables" that are combined in certain ways to achieve a desired result: WEIGHT, or how much of the right arm's heft is placed into the string from above (I prefer the term "weight" to "pressure," though they refer to the same idea). SPEED, or how quickly the bow is moved laterally. CONTACT POINT, or where the bow hair makes contact with the string relative to the bridge (or fingerboard). While each of these variables is critically important to sound production, the complete recipe for successfully controlling the string with the bow involves more. There are at least three other basics [...]

Best Public Response Letters to WestJet Bumping the Cello — by Paul Katz

I want to thank the 200 or so people who have emailed me in support of my dispute with WestJet Airlines and I apologize if your comments were not used below. Don't want this blog to be too, too long! Only 1 email was critical of me and I include it below. The responses are worth reading...illuminating, useful...and a couple are  hilarious! —Paul Katz ------------------------------ Dear Paul, I felt absolutely sick when I read your story. I am a flight attendant for  XXX Airlines and my husband a Captain of 32 years. I am dumbstruck by the stupidity of airline staff and ultimately airline management when it comes to the handling of priceless instruments on flights. Our twins, a cellist and violinist, experienced similar treatment at the Canadian National Music Competition in [...]

Bumping the Cello: An Exchange Between WestJet’s Robert Barron and Paul Katz

Shortly after my "Airline Nightmare" story appeared in the Boston Globe, WestJet representative Robert Barron wrote a letter of explanation to the Globe.  It is reprinted here, with my personal reactions injected. – PK Robert Barron - West Jet Customer Service Agent: First of all, I'd like to say to Mr. Katz that I'm sorry he had such an unpleasant experience flying with us. All of us at WestJet are very proud of our company and its caring culture so we take it personally when we hear people are unhappy with us. The second-last thing I would want to do is cause a guest any upset, but the very last thing I want to do is to jeopardize anyone's safety. While many airlines do permit musical instruments to fly in the cabin, [...]

NPR Podcast of Paul Katz Interview: Skies Less-Than Friendly When Packing A Cello

Reprinted from NPR - National Public Radio Paul Katz bought two tickets — one for himself and one for his cello — in the cabin of a flight from Calgary to Los Angeles. But the captain told him his centuries-old cello had to fly as checked baggage. After an agonizing flight, Katz cried when the captain returned his cello, unharmed. Listen to the Podcast on National Public Radio TRANSCRIPT Copyright © 2012 National Public Radio. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required. NEAL CONAN, HOST: On a flight from Calgary to Los Angeles, cellist Paul Katz did everything right. He bought two tickets: one for him, one for his instrument, just the same as thousands of flights before. When he showed up [...]

Flying with Your Cello? Print the FAA Passenger’s Bill of Rights to Carry With You

WHEN TRAVELING WITH AN INSTRUMENT, BE SURE TO PRINT THE FOLLOWING  PASSENGER'S BILL OF RIGHTS  AND CARRY IT ONBOARD WITH YOU! DOWNLOAD PDF   The United States’ FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act - SEC. 403 § 41724, adopted by the US Congress on 6 February 2012: H.R.658 - FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011 SEC. 403. MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS. (a) In General- Subchapter I of chapter 417 is amended by adding at the end the following: ‘Sec. 41724. Musical instruments ‘(a) In General- ‘(1) SMALL INSTRUMENTS AS CARRY-ON BAGGAGE- An air carrier providing air transportation shall permit a passenger to carry a violin, guitar, or other musical instrument in the aircraft cabin, without charging the passenger a fee in addition to any standard fee that carrier may require for comparable carry-on baggage, [...]

WQXR Podcast of Paul Katz Interview: the Pitfalls of Taking Musical Instruments on Planes

Listen:  Reprinted from WQXR.org U.S. airlines are more punctual and less likely to lose your bag than at any time in more than two decades, according to a recent Associated Press analysis of Bureau of Transportation data. Fewer than three suitcases per 1,000 passengers were reported lost, damaged or delayed from January through June, a record low. But a recent spate of stories concerning musical instruments on airplanes suggests that the skies aren't always friendly for musicians. Paul Katz, a former member of the Cleveland Quartet, recently experienced a particularly dramatic incident involving his 1669 Andrea Guarneri cello and a flight from Calgary to Los Angeles operated by WestJet, which partners with American and Delta, among other carriers. "I was even pre-boarded. I got the royal treatment,” Katz tells host Naomi [...]

Finesse — by Brant Taylor

Any musician who has interests outside the realm of music has probably discovered ideas and concepts important to other disciplines which are directly applicable to the study and performance of music.  The lessons we can learn about greatness from outside our own field are often very powerful because the underlying principles tend to be universal and not confined to any single discipline.  For the famed American chef Thomas Keller, there is one word he uses to describe his entire philosophy of approaching his craft at the highest level: finesse.  Chef Keller apparently doesn't want anyone who works for him to forget it—the word and its dictionary definition are emblazoned directly on the tiles above the entrance to the kitchen at Per Se, his high-end (and delicious) New York City restaurant: [...]

Bernard Greenhouse: January 3, 1916-May 13, 2011

Bernard Greenhouse left us May 13, 2011. Please scroll to the bottom of this posting and add your personal recollections and tributes for Bernie in the comment box. Bernard Greenhouse, one of my true cello heros and a man I loved and admired, passed away this morning in the middle of his 96th year. It was a peaceful death, middle of the night, in his sleep. It was not unexpected, yet it is so hard to accept. Thousands of friends, family and colleagues, generations of students will be saddened by this loss, for his music, his teaching, the legendary warmth of both his cello sound and his personality, have truly inspired the love and devotion of untold numbers. I had been eagerly looking forward to an upcoming visit to Bernie’s home on [...]