A Few Friday Favorites

 

Happy Friday, Everyone!  What are you up to this weekend?  I have a rehearsal tonight, a wedding tomorrow, and then on Sunday afternoon, I have my last concert of the 2017-2018 Season!  It’s been an incredible year of major growth for me as a cellist, and now I am ready for a bit of a rest.  If you’re looking for something fun to do, read, see, or shop, here are a few of my picks for this week.

IMG_9052.jpg

King Street Cookies….mmmm

 

1. With this past week’s horrible news regarding the suicides of  both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, let’s all hug our loved ones tight and do our best to be open and available to anyone who might be in need of a friend, a hug or even just a kind word.  If you or anyone you know is struggling, call contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting 741741

2. Speaking of depression, and other mental illnesses, I’m fascinated by Michael Pollan’s latest book about the use of psychedelics as a treatment for depression, anxiety and addiction.  I hope this newly re-opened dialogue will bring about more funding for much-needed research.  I just listened to a great podcast with him about it, and I can’t wait to dive into the book.

3. For something a little bit lighter, how about this?  The Sequel to The Devil Wears Prada.  FINALLY!  It looks deliciously hilarious.

4. As a woman who was single until she was 40, and who decided not to have children, I can definitely relate to this new campaign by SK-II titled #ineverexpire.  It was created to bring awareness to age-related pressures put upon women around the globe.  You can see the short film here, and Grace Atwood wrote a fantastic blog post about it as well.  The comments were amazing.

5. Are you in NYC this weekend?  If you are, you should go see this concert.  I mean, Brahms Clarinet Quintet AND the Brahms B-flat Sextet in one sitting?  I can’t imagine a more luxurious and indulgent concert to get to listen to.  Oh, and it’s the Orchestra of St. Luke’s so you know it’s going to be amazing.

6. Anthropologie is having a big sale this weekend.  Here are a few of my favorites. This crisp white dress, this super fun red one, or this one with just the right kind of flow (also a great cello dress!)

7. Saturday is National Rosé Day!  (Wait, isn’t EVERY DAY Nat’l Rosé day?….)  Uncorked Bermuda is having an epic event in the Botanic Gardens.  Everyone will be wearing various shades of pink.  I have to work, but I might do a sneaky drive by just to see it.  And I already have my bottle of Bermuda’s finest chilling in the fridge.  For those of you who can’t get here to celebrate, here are a few ways you can join in the fun.

this book

this hat

the T-shirt

8. For anyone in or near Charleston, tonight is the last night to hear Pia de’ Tolomei at the Spoleto USA Festival.  It’s being conducted by Lidiya Yankovskaya, who many of you met here on Tales From the Lane a few weeks ago.  It’s getting rave reviews, so go and check it out!

9. Summer is upon us, and the humidity is rising.  Protect your instrument with a silk cello/viola/violin bag.  I couldn’t find anyone who made them for cello, so I asked my mom to make me one.  Now she sells them on etsy and through private orders.  The organic silk keeps the moisture level around the instrument consistent, so even if you are moving between an air-conditioned house, outside, and back into an A/C’d hall, your instrument won’t feel the changes as much.  I highly recommend them!

10.  For those of you (ahem…us?) who were not quite as on the ball about pimping out our outdoor spaces as the clock struck Memorial Day, we have been rewarded by Crate and Barrel with a 50% off  outdoor furniture sale!  YAY!

images

Cheers!

~Kate

My Dirty Little Secret for Effective Practicing

I know how it goes.  You leave a lesson and, because you had had a busy week, felt completely unprepared and played much worse than you know you are capable of, and now you are determined to change things around.  Oozing commitment from every pore of your body, you swear that THIS is going to be the week that you get your act together, practice 3 hours every day, and do all of the things your teacher set out for you to do.  You’re going to practice that out-of-tune passage slowly, you’re going to practice that fast passage with all of the rhythms you can think of, do your scales, arpeggios and octaves, and you are going to finally, FINALLY, FINALLY, learn that etude that was assigned to you 4 weeks ago, and has been re-assigned to you at every lesson since.

But not tonight, since you practiced a bit before your lesson, and really, lesson days don’t count as practice days, right?  And then tomorrow comes, and you have to study for that big, important test, but the next day will be totally clear, and you can totally do 6 hours that day (except that when you get home, you find out that you have to go to your little sister’s play that night) and by that fourth day, you have lost that momentum, and all sense of inspiration, and you’re tired out from your big, important test and your sister’s play and you don’t practice much that day either, and all of a sudden, it’s your lesson day again, and you still can’t play that passage in tune, and you still can’t get your fingers to move fast enough for that tricky passage, and you still haven’t gotten past the first 2 lines of that etude.

 

 

baby and piano

You feel disappointed in yourself, your parents are threatening to stop paying for lessons, and your beloved teacher just sighs and tries to do the best they can with what you are giving them. Meanwhile, your peers are gaining more and more momentum, learning repertoire faster, performing more concerts, winning auditions and competitions and coveted festival spots.  Why can’t you just get it together, you ask? You know you are just as talented as they are.

Have you ever considered how lucky professional athletes are, in that from day one, and all the way through to their high-profile competitions on the world stage, they get to work with their coach on a regular basis?  It’s not like they see their coach once a week and then are left to their own devices until game day!  Their coaches are there at every practice with them (or at least most of them) measuring progress, setting different drills, and basically forcing them to do the right work, the right way.  I suppose there are a few people in the world who are so utterly self-motivated that they can do all of the work on their own, but let’s be honest, those people are few and far between.  The vast majority of people out there work best and accomplish the most when there is some sort of immediate accountability in front of them.

 

download-1 copy

Years ago, I was hired to work with a new young student of a prominent Boston teacher.  Being a bit messy in his “practice” habits, this teacher agreed to take him on if they hired someone to be a practice coach, and handed them my information, knowing I had recently moved back to town and was looking for work anyway.  I drove to this kid’s house once, twice, sometimes 4 times a week if he had something coming up and sat there helping him practice.  I didn’t “teach” him, I just took what his teacher had told him to do and helped him do it. If his teacher had written 25x! for a passage, I sat there and counted to 25 while he did it.  Week after week, this student showed up to his lessons completely prepared-having done all of the exercises laid out for him, making progress on his repertoire and improving his technique.  In 4 years, he went from being a scrappy, out of tune disaster to winning a spot in a Juilliard studio for undergrad.  I loved working with this kid and his family, and always looked forward to going over there, but the very best moment for me, was when his mom said to me (equal parts tearful and proud) “He thinks he can start practicing on his own this year.”  And he did.  By working with a coach for a period of time, he had been building solid practice techniques–and, through the consistency of our sessions, had built in the habit of working that way.  He had everything he needed to do the work on his own.

images copy

Since that time, I have done a little more coaching, and I have run week-long practice camps at various places during school vacation weeks, and those are always my favorite way to work with students.  As I began to establish myself in town, I built up my own teaching studio, which, due to logistical constraints, meant that I was only seeing them the traditional once weekly, and I felt that frustration of wanting to see them every day to help them practice.  My students who had musician parents holding them accountable held a distinct advantage over the others and it didn’t seem fair.

Now that I am traveling and concertizing more, I’ve been taking full advantage of the new online technologies of Skype and FaceTime. In addition to my teaching,  I have found myself moving back to doing more practice coaching again-with both students and young professionals, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it.  I constantly wonder what the classical music world would look like if everyone was practicing well and consistently.  People would have less stress, less self-loathing, and a lot more confidence to get up on stage and love the experience of playing their instrument.

IMG_9557

What do you think?  Have you ever worked with a practice coach? Or, if you’re a teacher, have you ever sent your students to work with one? I’d love to get a dialogue started about the usefulness of coaching in the classical music world, so please leave a comment below with your thoughts on the matter.  If you’d prefer to chat with me directly, you can find me here: https://katekayaian.com/teaching/

Cheers!

~Kate

Spotlight Series: Lidiya Yankovskaya

Recenly, I wrote about the new direction I am taking with this space, and as a part of that, I am excited to introduce my new Spotlight Series.  One Wednesday each month, I will interview a totally fierce, ultra-talented female who is taking the music world by storm. I am going to have a mix of performers, composers, conductors, managers, and other lady bosses who are involved in the classical music world in some way.

 

9844695.jpg

Today, we have conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya.   Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, I had the pleasure of meeting Lidiya in Boston a few years ago when we were both doing some work with the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras.  It wasn’t long before she was whisked away to do project after project–collecting kudos and rave reviews everywhere she went.  She is currently serving as Music Director of Chicago Opera Theater, Artistic Director of The Refugee Orchestra Project, and Artistic Director Emeritus/Conductor of Juventus New Music Ensemble.  Here, she talks to us how she prepares for a performance, shares her tips of the trade for traveling and practicing, what advice she would give her 18-year old self, and tells a terrifying story of life in an opera pit!

What is your morning ritual or routine?

LY: Since my schedule varies wildly from day to day, I don’t have a routine (and don’t particularly enjoy having one). However, I generally plan out my schedule (including score study time, etc.) at the beginning of a week for that week or at least for the next few days.  If I don’t have a morning rehearsal, I will generally go jogging, go to the gym or do something else active in the morning.

Must-haves for air-travel?

LY: Scores—airplanes are great for score study.  Bring a big warm scarf/sweater in case the plane is super cold.  Comfortable clothing. Airborne in case I end up next to someone who is sneezing and coughing. Generally, I try to pack as little as humanly possible while traveling.

What was your scariest moment on stage?

LY: Last season, I conducted an opera in which a chorus of women was ‘gathering water’ by scooping clay pitchers over the pit.  Someone in props decided to give them pitchers made out of actual clay, and at one point, the handle of a pitcher broke off as a woman in the chorus did the scooping motion.  The pitcher fell into the pit and shattered directly between a cello and a violist—a few inches to the left or right and it would have fallen on someone’s head or someone’s instrument!!

What has been your most rewarding moment as a musician?

LY: There are so many.  I really love my job and there is nothing like the magic of everything coming together the way you mean for it to in a performance.  Luckily, I get to have this feeling often!

LY conducting.jpg

Practicing: Love it or Hate it?

LY: There are things I love about the study and rehearsal process even more than performances.  It’s exciting to discover something the composer put into the score for the first time, or to come up with a new way to shape a phrase.  Of course, it’s also very rewarding to bring the final product to the audience, but I really love the discovery and musical shaping that takes place as I learn a new piece (or rediscover an old one).

What about when you were a kid?

LY: I liked to practice, but was also very impatient about sitting still for long periods of time.  I would want to work very intensively for about 20 minutes, then get up and do something else, then come back to work.  I came from a musical culture where I was asked to sit at the piano patiently for 3+ hours in order for the practicing to be seen as effective, and I learned to do this over time.  Of course, we now know that it’s actually much more productive to work in shorter spurts.  I do wish someone recognized this when I was a kid and allowed me to take full advantage of the practicing style that was most natural for me.  These days, I find that I’m most productive in 45-minute increments.  Work intensely for 45 mins, take a stretch or grab some water or thing about something else; get back to work.

Who were some of your role models as a young musician?

LY: I had some spectacular teachers.  Probably the most important were my high school piano teachers, the duo-piano pair Vladimir Pleshakov and Elena Winther.  They didn’t really have other students and, after a long solo career in Europe, retired to upstate New York, where they occasionally concertized in their piano museum and concert hall.  Each weekend, I would drive an hour and a half to their home in Hudson, NY and spend an hour with one and then an hour with the other.  They approached music making in an incredibly deep, nuanced, and cross-disciplinary way that has stuck with me throughout my career.  They also had this huge collection of pianos from different periods and different places and had me play all my repertoire on the instrument of that time, which gave incredible insight into the work.

6084366.jpg

How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a professional musician?

LY: Although I studied music very seriously my entire childhood, I didn’t think I would pursue it professionally.  I toyed with the idea of getting a conservatory piano degree, but realized that I wanted to study other things and also that sitting alone in a practice room for so many hours a day was not for me.  In college, I studied music, philosophy and languages, but realized that music was the one thing I couldn’t live without.  By the end of my time in college, I realized that conducting was the most natural path for me, and a perfect way to combine my various skills and interests.

Have any pre-concert rituals?

LY: Relax, stretch, eat lots of food and drink lots of water to energize for a performance. When possible, I like to go for a long jog or do something else active to clear my head in the afternoon the day of a concert.

Favorite city to perform in?

LY: I like variety.  Each city has something different to offer, and it’s often the city you least expect that is the best place to stay for a short while and that has the most enthusiastic audience.

What is the hardest part of being on the road?

LY: Not having loved ones with you.

569791.jpg

What advice would you give to your 18-year old self?

LY: You have lots of time—don’t feel that you have to have everything figured out now.  Also, sometimes, sleep is more important than fitting in every single thing you want to learn and accomplish; sometimes resting more will allow you to take more advantage of what life has to offer, not less!

If you could have dinner with any classical musician, dead or alive, who would you choose, and what would you ask them about?

LY: Mendelssohn—he was such an incredible overall musician and human being.  Mahler—how did he really want his symphonies to sound?  Wagner—I’d be curious to learn how such a seemingly horrible person could be reconciled with such superb music.  Anton Rubinshteyn—he accomplished so much in his lifetime, basically building a classical music tradition in Russia.  Obviously, choosing just one is hard for me!

Where can people find you?

www.LidiyaConductor.com (where you can also sign up for my mailing list!) @LidiyaConductor on FB Twitter, instagram, etc.

lidiya_30_small (1).jpg

Thank you so much, Lidiya, for this glimpse into your amazing life!

Photos by Kate Lemmon.

A Few Friday Favorites

Happy Friday! From what I can see on Instagram, it looks like winter has FINALLY ended for us all, and the beautiful weather has perked everyone right up.  April showers, it seems, really do bring May flowers.  I’m off to Boston today and will spend the weekend trying out cellos with a student, running the year-end concerts for my chamber music program, and then starting off the year’s annual auditions for the youth orchestra.  My article on taking auditions seems to have resonated with lots of folks-musicians and non-musicians alike.  As one friend who spent her entire career working in HR pointed out–this all applies perfectly to job interviews as well!  If you missed it, you can read it here. For some other fun tidbits that have caught my eye this week, here are a few things I have rounded up for you.

1 Since we are all outside collectively beautifying the world with plants and flowers, check out these great planters.  I love the color palette.

2. May is Cello Month over at Johnson Strings!  This is a great string shop located outside of Boston, but the sale applies to online orders as well!  If you’re in need of cello -specific instruments, gear, music, etc.  You won’t find better deals!

3. Every month, TheEveryGirl posts some free tech backgrounds.  I love starting off a new month with a new desktop photo or screen saver.

4. I used to have to wait until I went to France to pick this stuff up.  Now you can get it without a plane ticket (though, I’m still happy to go to Paris if I absolutely MUST! 😉

5.  This beautiful weather has me thinking about sandals.  Specifically, these sandals.

6. This phone case is gorgeous!  The birds remind me of my friend Colleen.

7. This article on living abroad really resonated with me.  I do love that I get to return to the states so regularly (hello, Amazon!  hello, whole foods! hello, strawberries that don’t cost $16 a pint!) but living elsewhere definitely has it’s perks.

8. OMG, these earrings are the greatest!  I wish they had been around when I first got my ears pierced, and I still want them now, and I want to give them to every young girl I know!

9. Apparently, this is the greatest stuff on the planet and cures everything from stomach problems to stubby eyelashes. Who knew? My formerly long luxurious lashes have turned stubby, so I’ll be picking some of this stuff up asap.

10. Hahaha! McSweeney’s nails the Myers-Briggs test.

IMG_9037

Have a great weekend!

~ Kate

 

Ten Things I Wish I Had Known About Auditions When I Was a Kid

Audition season is just around the corner.  In fact, I am flying to Boston on Friday to do 10 days of cello auditions for one of the youth orchestras there.  All around the country, young musicians are gearing up to audition for various ensembles and getting their audition video materials ready for last-minute summer festival admission.  I remember those days well, and I mostly remember that I did not have a clue what was being asked of me, how these things worked, or how I needed to prepare.  So I thought I would compile a list of things I wish I had known when I was taking auditions.

1. The judges want you to play your best.

We really, truly do.  We are 100% on your side.  If we sense that you are nervous, we might make small talk with you or crack some jokes to try to put you at ease.  We are NOT trying to trip you up, we are NOT testing you, and we are NOT sitting there counting your mistakes.  We are always looking for the good in your playing, so you should focus on that too.

2. It is far better to play an “old” piece really well, than to play a “new” piece that hasn’t settled.

When I was growing up, my teacher had a clear progression.  Suzuki books–Haydn C Major Concerto–Boccherini–Saint Saens–Kabelevsky–Lalo–Rococo–Elgar–Shostakovich–Dvorak–Prokofief.  So I thought that playing a scrappy Saint-Saens was better than playing a solid Boccherini, because the Saint-Saens meant I was more advanced, and therefore, a better player.  That is ridiculous.  Saint-Saens didn’t sit down looking at the Boccherini score, and set out to write a piece “a bit more difficult”.  So, while it might seem like a momentary disappointment to play a piece that you thought you had “retired”, it will serve you better to audition with a piece that you are comfortable with and will allow you to focus on the musicality, rather than “omg, I hope I make this shift!”.

3. You’re not being asked for scales for the sake of the scales.

I don’t know what fingering your teacher taught you and I don’t care if you accidentally used a different fingering.  I want to see that you have a fluid bow arm and can make a gorgeous, full, rich sound on your instrument.  And no, you do NOT win extra points for playing your scale as fast as you can.  That tells me that you are impatient and that you don’t care about your sound, and that you really want this audition to be over as soon as possible :-).

4. Dynamics will get you far.

Insta-musicality.  The death of any performance (and particularly an audition performance!) is to be boring.  Dynamic contrasts will help create different colors and will create shape and interest in your playing.  Dynamics are your friends.  See #6 below for more on this.

5. Figure out the essence of each excerpt/piece and really go for that.

It is fairly standard practice to ask for “two contrasting pieces” in an audition.  And those contrasts are usually going to be fast/slow, baroque/romantic, etc.  Figure out what makes each piece.  Is it a slow, lyrical piece?  Then go for sustained sound, smooth bow changes and long phrasing.  is it a rustic peasant dance?  Then really go for that kind of character in your articulations and dynamics.

baby and piano

6. Sight-reading: it’s not a speed test.  it’s a “can you follow instructions” test.

I was raised to not ever keep people waiting, so whenever I was handed that dreaded sheet of sight-reading, I would try to dive in immediately, so as not to waste my judges time with my petty “thinking”.  Oh, poor little me.  Don’t be like that. We judges are testing whether you can look at a bunch of black dots and foreign words and translate them into music.  It would behoove you to take a moment and look through the entire thing.  take note of the key, meter, clef, how high and low it is going to go, and locate and count out any tricky rhythms.  Bonus points for actually playing the dynamics as well! You want to have an idea of how it goes before you play a single note. Take your time.  I have, a few times, had to tell an auditionee that they had taken long enough, and we needed them to start playing, but I have NEVER faulted them for it.  If anything, they have shown that they care, and that they want to play it well.

7. Dressing up helps

I have seen auditionees come in wearing their pajamas.  We want you to be comfortable, but also, have a little respect. Even if you are going to be behind a screen, dress as if you are going to a job interview.  Because essentially you are. More importantly, when you are dressed for a performance, you focus for a performance.  It really does help you play better.

8. Be friendly, but don’t lose your focus.

I have always been a pretty outgoing person, and I never wanted to be perceived as being a diva.  So, if I was in a warm-up room, I would find myself chatting it up with the staff, the other auditionees, parents, ANYONE.  The problem was not in my friendliness, nor did I really need another 5 minutes of practicing, but I would walk into my audition, and I would be in social mode, not in cello mode, and I would find myself making silly mistakes because I was distracted.  In hindsight, it would have been far better for me to just smile, say hello, and then sit in a corner going over my pieces slowly–just to stay in the right mind frame.

9. Practice playing something from memory in front of people (or your dog).  take note of where your eyes go.

Do you practice in front of a mirror? (like you should!).  I do too.  But then you show up to a performance or an audition, and not only is the mirror not there, but instead of a mirror, there are judges.  It’s amazing how different it feels to go from playing something and seeing the mirror image straight ahead of you, to suddenly looking DOWN at your hands.  Everything is in a different place!  So I would be sure to practice your piece a few times without a mirror and with people in front of you.  Figure out where you want your eyes to focus on (sometimes I just close my eyes) and start getting accustomed to how it feels.

10. The results are totally out of your control (and often out of our control too).

Sometimes, there are tons of kids graduating, or moving up, or have moved away, etc. and for whatever reason, there are PLENTY of spots for all of the people who audition.  Sometimes that is NOT the case, and the competition is stiffer that year.  A person can play the EXACT SAME AUDITION, and have completely different results based on random factors that have nothing to do with their abilities.  This is where life lessons come in.  Sometimes you will be pleasantly surprised, and sometimes in life, you will be disappointed.  I promise you, you’ll get over it, life will go on, and give you more pleasant surprises.  All you can do is play your best, and if you use your audition date as a practice goal, and then learn as much as you possibly can from every moment of the process so that the next one can be even better?  Well, then you’ve come out ahead in so many ways, no matter what the result is.

If you are taking an audition this spring, best of luck to you!  Keep the above information in mind and let me know how it all goes!  If you’re auditioning for me, please know that I am so excited to hear you play, and I hope that you have a really great experience.  Colleagues, what other tips/advice would you add to this list? Have any of you readers had any particularly amusing audition experiences?

keep calm

A Week in Charleston and Savannah

IMG_9136

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:

IMG_9093

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!

IMG_9088

window boxes in charleston

IMG_9106

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

IMG_9089

Rainbow Row, Charleston

IMG_9099

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.

IMG_9123

Middleton Place

IMG_9131IMG_9136

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.

IMG_9116IMG_9122

(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.)

Cane

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.

IMG_9165

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.

IMG_9053

in front of the Arts Center at College of Charleston

IMG_9056

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.

IMG_9160

With Bradley Fuller, host of Sonatas and Soundscapes

IMG_9144

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!

IMG_9224

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!

IMG_9240

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

download

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.

download-1.jpg

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.

images.jpg

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.

IMG_1562