I had an amazing opportunity to have a photo session with Jimmy Ienner Jr. last week. It was about time to get new headshots! Many many thanks to Jimmy for amazing photos!
Last week I had a pleasure of visiting Childcare Learning Centers in Stamford to play for and with their students. It's an instrument petting zoo through Stamford Young Artists Philharmonic and we reached over 300 students (ages 3-5) at three locations.
The kids came in small groups and we opened each session with a demonstration. The CLC has posted our video clip here. We played our instruments individually, showing the differences between violin, viola and cello. And then played an excerpt from Ode to Joy as a trio. The students learned about high and low pitches, loud and soft volume.
One funny memory: after I played a bit of Yankee Doodle, one boy screamed "Mamma mia!" and everyone laughed.
Now it's the kids' turn to try the instruments! We were so lucky to have those tiny tiny violins and cellos from Connecticut School of Music. The violins are 1/16 to 1/4 size!
I let each child hold the violin by the rim and hold the bow, and I fingered pieces like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Mary Had a Little Lamb, London Bridge etc while I hold the bow over child's hand and move it.
At each location we had lots of fun meeting the curious young talents. Regardless their young age, some of them seemed ready to take private lessons. And I hope that they enjoyed the experience.
At the end we had a photo taken with tiny instruments. That's a 1/16 that I'm holding!
It was a busy March. The two student orchestras I coach had concerts during the first two weeks (luckily with just one rehearsal conflict!) and I was so proud of the students for their preparation and performances!
After School Arts Program, based in Washington, CT, has been working with Waterbury Symphony and I have been one of the teaching artists. String playing students from the nearby towns spend about four months preparing themselves to play side-by-side with Waterbury Symphony. This was my fourth year coaching them. On March 3, we performed at the Warner Theater in Torrington, CT, for local school children. Here's the ASAP blog about that event.
The Warner Theater is probably one of the most gorgeous theaters in CT and it is rumored that it's haunted by a ghost named Murphy.
Anyway, the following week, the ASAP Inter-district String Project joined Waterbury Symphony's subscription concert on one piece called "Ludwig van Robot", written for this occasion by Thomas Duffy.
It was a four-month journey with the biggest number of students ever (about 30!) but all the teaching artists felt that it was one of the most successful seasons and we were so proud of the outcome of those concerts. Kudos to all the participants! And many many thanks to ASAP, Waterbury Symphony and the participants' family members!
The other student orchestra I coach, Stamford Young Artists Philharmonic had had a bad luck; almost all rehearsals had to be canceled due to snow. We had a concert on March 8 and all we had gotten was two rehearsals in January, one in February and then three in March. But the students really worked hard during the "prep week" and got so much done in each rehearsal. Even though we had to cut movements out of a symphony it was great that they accomplished so much in such a short time. Bravi, SYAP!
The journey continues on for SYAP, the season final concert is on May 17. We have gotten some new musicians and I am proud to say that my private student, Jovita Li made her audition for YAP, the top orchestra (she is one of the youngests in the group)!
After visiting Bartok house museum, I went straight to Museum of Music History in the castle district.
The museum has the Bartok Archives section and also shows Hungarian folk instruments and you get to try playing a few of them. It also features Haydn (because he worked for a Hungarian aristocrat family) and Liszt (I think he is the most famous Hungarian composer) and other lesser known composers.
In the first room folk instruments are exhibited and there is a computer which plays the sound and performance of these instruments. You can also listen to them on their website.
I was especially curious about this instrument called Hurdy-gurdy (Bartok owned one) : http://www.zti.hu/museum/Events/2012_Folk&Bartok/folk_web/12_Hurdy-gurdies.htm
It looks like it is a combination of a violin, keyboard and maybe a barrel organ. According to the museum, this instrument was originally played by two people (naturally... it's too complicated!) back in the 12th century.
I had seen a similar instrument at Musée de la Musique in Paris, which is called Vielle à loue. I just learned that it is the same thing, hurdy-gurdy. Here is its photo from Paris.
The next room is the Bartok Archives. Bela Bartok and his best friend, Zoltan Kodaly went to regions of Hungary, Rumania and beyond to collect folk tunes. The most interesting exhibition for me was a few notebooks of Bartok. It's in Hungarian but you see how meticulously he made notes on music and folk instruments.
These are two of the instruments you get to try there:
I'm glad I got to visit this museum as well. Now onto Liszt Memorial Museum in Budapest...
Lately I have been re-posting from my Facebook page and I write in Japanese as well for my Facebook fans back in my country so here you go. Today's post is about my new carbon fiber bow.
I can't risk my bow for the US ivory ban law (I've heard too many horror stories about bows with an ivory tip being seized, even with proper documents) and I got myself a carbon fiber bow with a plastic tip for upcoming concerts in Austria. This bow plays surprisingly well. I was especially happy to find out that it's very easy to play Stravinsky pieces with this bow. I should go back to my "Stravinsky phase"!
アメリカの新しい法律で、象牙や鼈甲などを国内に持ち込めなくなりました。国外に出る前に登録すれば良いらしいのですが、それでも象牙や鼈甲付きの楽器や 弓を空港で取られてしまうケースが多いそうです。と言う訳でこれからオーストリアでのコンサートの為にカーボンファイバーの弓を購入。象牙の代わりに、プ ラスチックが使われています。意外と弾きやすく、 特にストラヴィンスキーの苦手な箇所がとても弾きやすくなりました! また弾こうかな〜。
Speaking of carbon fiber instruments... you might enjoy this video:
I'm playing my favorite piece, Mahler's first symphony this weekend. Yay! But wait...
5th finger! I have to grow an extra finger then.
On violin and viola we only use four fingers to play (index finger is numbered first finger, pinky is the fourth finger) so there's no "fifth finger". I'm sure whoever penciled that in was a pianist -- their pinky is the fifth finger.
In any case, I love Mahler 1. The third movement, the funeral march, is just out of this world... I want this to be played at my funeral! When I played it with Waterbury Symphony about a year ago, tears came to my eyes because of the beauty and sadness of this movement. That doesn't happen very often (or almost never), I think the experience with WSO was almost a once-in-life-time event.
Recently I had great opportunities to hear/play with instrumentalists of what we normally don't get to hear live.
About two weeks ago, when the After School Arts Program Strings Project played its concerts, we had guest musicians, Alturas Duo. They play chamber music with classical guitar and viola/charango. Charango is a South American guitar-like instrument. During the ASAP-Waterbury Symphony concert, they showed the instrument to the audience and explained;
when the Spanish immigrated to South American they couldn't take big instruments like piano and harp with them so they brought guitars. But the technology and technique to make guitars was not found in South America so they decided to KILL ARMADILLOS and use their back skin to make instruments. So, here it is, a CHARANGO! :-O
It's got a interesting sound and I enjoyed playing with them. Visit the Duo's website and find their videos!
About a week ago, I got to catch Baltimore Consort's last concert of their Cupid's Cabinet tour. They play early and Renaissance music (from the 16th to early 17th century) on period instruments. Look for their videos, too. I'm glad I was able to attend this concert -- the best part was that it was very obvious that they were really enjoying playing with each other. Their stage presence was engaging and there were things I learned from them. I don't know how much of the music was actually written and how much was improvised but it looked to me that they sometimes played by ear, copying each other so there's a good unity.
So, a bit away from my usual classical music time period and regions, these two opportunities were really fun and interesting. I do have an interest in learning early instruments and Baroque styles and unfortunately I haven't found a good time and place to do so yet...
At Long Ridge Music Center, the faculty and staff will be dressed up and I'm very excited about that. It was all very last minute (we did costume shopping today!). We are also looking forward to our students in creative costumes!
There are many pieces of music that's appropriate for Halloween. I have to say my most favorite is "Danse Macabre" by Saint-Saens. I would love to perform it again...
Here's a YouTube video. I believe this is a recording of Gil Shaham. Enjoy!
It came up in a conversation with one of my lovely students that she had just learned about this piece in her music class. You can read about the piece and the poem that the music is based on here.
One technique that's used here to make a sound of skeletons is called col legno. Instead of the bow hair, you hit strings with the bow stick. Listen for the sound effect.
It's about time, everyone! The Dampit season has come. One of old my teachers used to say "A week before your heater turns on, that's when you need to start using Dampits".
For those who are not familiar with Dampit, visit their website here. In the green tube there is a sponge that keeps humidity in an instrument. Around this time of a year violin pegs start to go loose because of the dryness (the pegs shrink and the peg holes expands).
That's not the only reason to use dampits though. String instruments are very sensitive to humidity and dryness. Basically, both are bad for them. Once it gets too dry or too humid, instruments can have open seams which usually keeps widening. Luckily my violin has been very strong against such issues (considering the age of my violin, I have to say I'm very lucky)
You can see how to use dampits on the website.
Sometimes I immerse mine in water this way. You only need to give it water when it dries up. Depending on the humidity, I usually do that once or twice a day.
Turn your instrument upside down to insert a dampit. This way it won't touch or possibly move the sound post.
When I use one dampit I put it in the hole of the G-string side. It could come out of the hole while you play due to some vibration on the instrument. When that happens from the E-string side hole, it will be in your way to bow.
For a week or two, remember to take it out when it rains. That would be too much humidity.
This was a gift and I had fun with 61 composers! Some were hard to recognize but I was able to identify most of them. My favorite is this angry Gustav (Mahler):
I know... this is very nerdy :-P