A Week in Charleston and Savannah

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Earlier this month I was in Charleston and Savannah for a week-long recital tour.  The trip coincided with P’s school holiday, so he was able to join me, which was awesome.  It’s so nice to have someone around to help with concert logistics!  During the 8 days I was there, I was working a ton: I performed 9 times, taught master classes, met lots of great people, and even did a live-broadcast interview for South Carolina Public Radio, but I also ate delicious food, wandered around looking at all of the gorgeous houses and gardens and squares and completely fell in love with both cities.  If anyone offered us jobs there, we’d be hard-pressed to say no!

What we did

(When I didn’t have a cello in my hand)

Charleston:

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Walked along the Battery and zig-zagged through the neighborhoods south of Broad street.  These houses are amazing and the window boxes!  Must be steep competition around these parts, but that’s good for the rest of us!

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window boxes in charleston

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The Pink House-built out of Bermuda Limestone, and the oldest house in Charleston!

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Rainbow Row, Charleston

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window boxes in Charleston

Middleton Place Plantation.  This place is enormous, and I would recommend having at least a couple of hours there to wander around and not feel rushed.  There are plenty of little benches and areas to sit and have a picnic, though I wouldn’t recommend the butterfly lakes as a picnic spot ‘cause there are alligators walking around in the grass. Little ones, well–at least they were little last week–fair warning for anyone who goes there 6 months from now! They (the Middleton Place people, not the alligators) give you a little map with a self-guided walking trail around the property and there are little numbered markers throughout so you can read about what everything is.  Don’t miss the stable area with the horses, sheep, cows, chickens, rabbits, etc.  They are very sweet.

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Middleton Place

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Fort Sumpter.  Where the Civil War started.  There is a great museum in Charleston-at the end of Calhoun street, and then you take the ferry over to the fort where there is another (different-and also great) museum, and you can walk around the grounds.  I learned a lot of things that I probably learned in 6th grade, but had forgotten.  Tell me again why I didn’t take US History in High School? Hmmmm.

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(Side note: as soon as we got of the ferry, it started to rain a bit.  P and I figured it wasn’t too bad and we started walking over to 167 Raw–about a 10 minute walk–but the the drizzle turned into a monsoon, and there is NO SHELTER over there-nowhere to hide.  The streets flooded, we were soaked to the bone, and of course, no one inside of Raw 167 was going to leave, so there we were—no room at the inn—and finally found shelter a few blocks down at Cane, which is a super fun rum bar.  Dark and Stormies were ordered, and we sat by the fake fireplace and pretended to dry off.)

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Our Shelter in a Storm. Skip the food, drink all the rum.

Savannah:

I was so charmed by the city of Savannah!  It’s small and quaint, and has a wider variety of Architectural styles than Charleston, so there was a lot to look at and drool over.  The main “downtown” section of the city is dotted with little squares every few blocks and everywhere you went, you’d see people sitting on a bench with a friend having a bite to eat or sipping a coffee.  It was all very fun and civilized.  We spent all of our free time walking around the squares, Forsyth park, the river front, shopping on Boughton Street, so many cafes there!  Bonaventure Cemetery was beautiful too.

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E. Shaver Booksellers. Hands down the best bookstore I have seen. Lounging cats, sofas, nooks to settle in with a book, a tea shop, what more could you want?

Other than that, I was pretty busy with concerts and school visits.  Friday, I went to College of Charleston and met with Natalia Khoma, Tchaikovsky Competition winner, and the cello teacher over there.  She introduced me to some of the faculty, I got to hear some of her wonderful students play for me, and she gave me a tour of the campus.

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in front of the Arts Center at College of Charleston

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With Natalia Khoma and her student, Maria Savalyeva

Monday, we drove up to Columbia, S.C. where I was a guest on Sonatas and Soundscapes, on South Carolina Public Radio’s Classical Station.

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With Bradley Fuller, host of Sonatas and Soundscapes

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In front of the South Carolina Public Radio Building

Tuesday and Wednesday, I did a two-day mini-residency at the Savannah Arts Academy.  I performed for them, and got to work with the orchestra and with some of the cellists.  What an amazing school!  I had so much fun working with everyone there.  The kids were kind, warm, welcoming, curious and funny.  There is a lot of talent in Savannah, GA!

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Some of the Savannah Arts Academy Orchestra

Concerts:

It is always such a fun experience to play the same program multiple times in a week.  While I think I will always feel that adrenaline rush before I go on stage, doing it day after day (and sometimes multiple times a day) means that you stop doubting whether you can do it, and that whole “how does this piece start?” feeling goes away too (yessss!) I did a wide variety of performances over the week: from big featured recitals in gorgeous venues to private house concerts to outreach concerts in schools and assisted living homes.  One thing they all had in common, was that I was able to talk with each audience, share what I love about the pieces I was playing for them, and then talk with them individually after the concert.

Where we ate:

There are so many great restaurants in Charleston, and to be honest, it was a bit overwhelming. By the end of the week, our favorite thing to do was to grab a seat at the bar and order a glass of wine and an appetizer or two.  That way we could check out more than one place.  We were also prone to having a dinner of wine and cheese over at Bin 152 because it’s our most favorite place in the world.  Huge selection, with a knowledgeable and friendly staff and delicious cheese.  ALSO: they actually give you an appropriate amount of bread to serve with the cheese you ordered because I don’t get why other places hand you a platter of cheese with 3 tiny little toasted crisps.

Charleston:

Basic Kitchen

McCrady’s Tavern

S.N.OB. (Slightly North of Broad)

Husk

Bin 152

Caviar and Bananas

Rise

Black Tap Coffee

Savannah:

Hitch

The Collins Quarter

Foxy Loxy/Coffee Fox

Perc Coffee Roasters

All in all, it was a fantastic trip, and I am excited to be going back to both cities for more concerts next season.  Let me know if you try any of these restaurants, or if you find new ones to add to the list!

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Me and Cello at Husk after my last performance in Charleston. Feeling so grateful for all of it.

A Few Friday Favorites

Happy Weekend, Everyone!  This is the only weekend all month that I will be at home in Bermuda with Paul.  International Race Week is starting up, so P will be out on the water (his happy place).  I’ll be cheering him on, teaching and doing some practice coaching, and catching up on some gardening and reading.  I can’t wait.  I’ll be in Boston the next 3 weekends for various things.  Crazy! Here are a few things I’ve been enjoying lately. If you’re in a browsing mood, take a look.

My friend Miriam turned me onto this podcast, and it is SO interesting!

This rug would be so cute for a back patio or a screened in porch.

She had me at Cardamom

It was a big week for Armenians everywhere.

Apparently, culottes are big this spring.  Thankfully, they are extremely cello-friendly!  I like these, these and these.

This is perfect for picnics in the park, beach bonfire nights, and music festival noshing! It would make an excellent Mother’s Day gift, don’t ya think?

And speaking of Mother’s Day, this mug cracked me up.

What a great gift for a high school graduate!  I love the idea of filling it with starbucks and chipotle gift cards!

The Bahamian Government has just announced a major initiative to ban all single-use plastics from the island by 2020.  Here’s hoping Bermuda (and the rest of the world) follows suit!

I needed to get a new A String when I was in Boston, and they were out of my usuals.  I decided to give this new one a try, and I am totally in love.  Clear, strong, and just right for my instrument.

 

Biking at Grape Bay Beach

Have a great one!  Cheers!

~Kate

 

 

 

Teaching According to The Four Tendencies

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By now we all understand that people have different learning styles.  I’m definitely a visual learner-if I can see it or imagine it, it sticks.  Others find that they learn best if they hear it, or if something is put into a list, etc.  But Gretchen Rubin, whose Happiness Project book provided the inspiration for my own 12-month focus project wrote another book called The Four Tendencies, that takes a look at the 4 different ways people react towards inner and outer expectations.  I’m guessing she didn’t write it with classical music students and teachers in mind, but her theories have been a huge game changer in how I work with my students.

You should read the book, and you can get it here, but the gist of it is that when it comes to meeting deadlines, having self-discipline, and basically living their lives, people gravitate towards 1 of 4 general tendencies: Upholder, Questioner, Obliger or Rebel.

  1. The Upholder: This student is very good at meeting both inner and outer expectations. They are the goody-two-shoes who not only always practice, but always practice exactly what I asked them to practice, exactly how I asked them to practice it.  I can feel confident that if they set a goal for themselves (they want to do a particular competition, or audition for a festival) I won’t need to nag them about the approaching deadline.  These students make us wonder why our other students make things so difficult, and they are the reason that other parents think their kids should quit because they have a hard time getting them to practice.  Upholders make for dreamy students.  As adults, they are a little annoying because nobody should be allowed to be that perfect.  #inmynextlifeiwanttobeanupholder.

 

     2. The Questioner: This student CAN meet both inner and outer expectations, but           only if they have a full understanding of WHY they are doing what is being asked.  This is the student that wants to know what, exactly, that etude is going to do to improve their playing, or why, exactly, going to festival x is better than going to festival y.  when I have identified a student as a questioner, I know that I am going to need to explain everything in great detail, and make sure they understand why something needs to be done.  As far as their practicing goes, they will question whether they should tackle a passage the way I asked them to, and will come to their next lesson saying that they looked it up on youtube and found a different way of doing it, and shouldn’t they maybe do it that way instead?   I used to think that these students were a little annoying.  Why didn’t they just trust that I knew what I was doing?  But now I realize that they do trust me–  It’s just that they need to do research ALWAYS.  FOR EVERYTHING.  As adults, these are the folks who will do a side-by-side comparison of every vacuum cleaner every made before they decide which one to buy.  But they’ll be very happy once they get it.

 

  1. The Obliger: This student can easily meet outer expectations, but has trouble meeting inner ones. This is the student who is so enthusiastic in their lessons, leaves feeling completely inspired that THIS is the week that they are going to turn things around, and have the absolute best of intentions to do everything you have suggested/assigned, but then a week goes by and they have barely touched the instrument.  They haven’t watched that clip on youtube that you told them to watch, and they feel miserable and ashamed.  Thing is, they need to be held accountable for everything, or it doesn’t get done.  This is the track team member that successfully runs and wins races year after year while in school, but then as an adult, can’t get themselves to get out the door and go for a jog (because there is no coach and no team waiting for them).  For my Obliger students, I have them text me at the end of each day and tell me how much they practiced.  Knowing that they are going to have to answer to me at the end of the day seems to do the trick.  They don’t want to have to say “none”.  Other tricks include having them make little videos of their etude or a section of a piece and send it to me every couple of days, etc.  More work on my part, yes, but seeing how proud they are that they didn’t let yet another week go by without making progress makes it all worth it.

 

  1. The Rebel: Oh, the rebel.  Are you imagining a kid in a leather jacket with a nose ring (actually, that was me in high school—maybe I’m a rebel?). This is a bit more subtle than that.  The rebel tendency is when a person can meet inner and outer expectations, but only if it’s what they feel like.  They might practice one thing, but not the other.  You might assign popper 15, but they do Popper 18 instead.  These students, as sweet and enthusiastic as they are, simply have a hard time doing something that someone else has told them to do.  My work-around?  I give these kids multiple options.  I tell them a few different ways they could work on a particular passage or issue, and tell them that they can decide which one works best.  Rebels need to be the ones making the decisions.  I’ll give them the choice of three different etudes (all of which deal with the same thing) and they get to choose which one they want to do.  They feel in charge, and I know that they are doing what I need them to do.

 

If you’re curious about what your tendency might be, you can do this quiz and find out!

Has anyone else read this and applied it to their teaching methods?  I’d love to hear what other “tricks” you have come up with!

Cheers!

Kate

 

April Reading List

Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what happened to March.  It was February, and now all of a sudden it’s April. Let’s just pretend it didn’t happen this year, okay? At any rate, here are my four book choices for April.  The Rules: a new-to-me novel, a work by Shakespeare, a book that has to do with my career and a “fun” book.  Often the “fun” book will have something to do with that month’s focus, but this month, that one fits into the “career” slot.  I’m off to Charleston and Savannah tomorrow, and I’m excited to settle into my seat on the plane and Just Read for a little while. I hope you’ll check out these titles and read along with me.  We’ll dish about them next month!

 

  1. Pachinko.jpgA New-to-me Novel: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.  My Korean friend, Yun, suggested this book for our Boston book group.  Everyone who has finished it has been raving about it non-stop, so I’m reading this one first before they let out any spoilers!

*”In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant–and that her lover is married–she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son’s powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations.

Richly told and profoundly moving, Pachinko is a story of love, sacrifice, ambition, and loyalty. From bustling street markets to the halls of Japan’s finest universities to the pachinko parlors of the criminal underworld, Lee’s complex and passionate characters–strong, stubborn women, devoted sisters and sons, fathers shaken by moral crisis–survive and thrive against the indifferent arc of history.”

2.  81jOEgMffrL.jpgThe Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare.  Because “The Shew” is named Kate, and I need to see if she gets her way or not 😉

“Love and marriage are the concerns of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Lucentio’s marriage to Bianca is prompted by his idealized love of an apparently ideal woman. Petruchio’s wooing of Katherine, however, is free of idealism. Petruchio takes money from Bianca’s suitors to woo her, since Katherine must marry before her sister by her father’s decree; he also arranges the dowry with her father. Petruchio is then ready to marry Katherine, even against her will.  Katherine, the shrew of the play’s title, certainly acts much changed. But have she and Petruchio learned to love each other? Or is the marriage based on terror and deception?”

51zoPxOK2EL.jpg3. Theoretical and Practical Treatise on the Violoncello by Diran Alexanian.  I remember dipping into a copy of this at the NEC Library when I was in College, and I’m excited to dive into it once and for all.  This is the be-all end-all book on cello playing, written by a very smart Armenian man.  Enough said.

“The Classic Treatise on Cello Theory and Practice, by one of the revolutionaries of the 20th century. This republication of Diran Alexanian’s classic, “Traite Theorique et Pratique du Violoncelle” published in Paris by A. Z. Mathot, 1922 is one of the stellar examples of cello pedagogy in one volume. This volume represents one of the most thorough explorations of cello playing and technique in the literature. When Pablo Casals first held it, he acknowledged that it not only did it mirror how he saw the technique, but he found it to be the best treatise since Duport.”

414ceeoO6mL.jpg4. Your Best Year Ever by Michael Hyatt.  Admittedly, I’m reading this one because I got a free copy of it.  It might be brilliant, it might be a bit woo-woo.  But it is definitely aligned with my desire to make the most of my time, and to keep the different parts of my life in balance, so let’s give it a whirl, shall we?

“We all want to live a life that matters. We all want to reach our full potential. But too often we find ourselves overwhelmed by the day-to-day. Our big goals get pushed to the back burner–and then, more often than not, they get forgotten. New York Times bestselling author Michael Hyatt wants readers to know that it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, he thinks that this is the year readers can finally close the gap between reality and their dreams.”

A little of everything, I’d say.  Some heartfelt drama, a little clever humor, an Epic book on playing and teaching the cello, and a dash of life-improvement.

*All quotes are from the publishers.

Happy Reading, Everyone!

-Kate

 

April Focus: Teaching and Being Taught

 

Slava and Rose

I’ve never met a (classical) musician who didn’t also teach.  Sure, there are times when teaching is put on the back-burner for a time, or maybe even stopped completely. But It is virtually unheard of for a musician to go their entire career without sharing their passion, experience and knowledge with others who are eager to learn their craft. To me, it also seems like it is our duty to pass on what our teachers learned from their teachers.  My first cello teacher, Gilda Barston, studied at Juilliard with Leonard Rose, who had studied with Felix Salmond, whose mother studied piano with Clara Schumann.  I mean, what a legacy.  The musical thoughts and ideas that were taught to me, come from some pretty steep places!  So, yes-I’d better continue to pass them on to the next generation.

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I taught my first lesson when I was around 10. It wasn’t my own student, of course, but a younger student of Mrs. Barston who lived in my neighborhood, and whose parents both worked long hours and didn’t have time to help him practice.  They paid me to come to the house 2-3 days a week and help him.  I will never forget that feeling of pride I felt when I was able to help him play something that had been giving him trouble, or how happy he would get when he saw he was making progress.  Mrs. Barston gave my name to a few other students over the years, and by the time I landed as a freshman at NEC, I had been “teaching” for 8 years.

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I’ve become fascinated by how we work with students in the classical music world these days, in how things have evolved over the generations, and how they might be changing in the future.  It used to be that if you showed a certain amount of talent, you would be taken to live in Paris or New York or wherever, and your mother would rent an apartment for you or send you to live with relatives and you would have daily lessons with a great master.  These days,  people find a teacher who lives near them and they meet with them every week–same day, same time, for the same length of time. In between those lessons, the students are expected to work on their own, and make a certain amount of improvement.  To be honest, I’m not sure that is the most effective way of doing things.  I have been doing some (very unscientific!) research amongst my colleagues and my students this past year, and I have been thinking about what the best ratio of coached/self-practice is.  Whether it depends on the student and what other, outside factors are involved.  With the technological advances we have seen with Skype and Facetime, what is the future of teaching and does location need to be a consideration anymore?

 

 

Casals

I’m looking forward to doing some deep dives into these questions this month, the idea of a music teacher as a coach, and what the ideal conditions are for learning.  I am lucky to be standing on the shoulders of musical giants, and so, while I will be spending the majority of this month on the road, and perhaps BECAUSE I will be spending the majority of this month on the road performing, I am dedicating this month’s focus to my teachers: Gilda Barston, Nell Novak, Colin Carr, Ralph Kirshbaum, Michael Tilson Thomas and all of the other brilliant musicians who have taken the time to share their passion, experience and knowledge with me.  I would be neither the musician, nor the teacher I am today if it weren’t for them, and I am eternally grateful.

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