Spotlight Series: Sarah Whitney

To continue our monthly series on kick-ass women of the classical music world, this month we have violinist, blogger and all-around music entrepreneur Sarah Whitney.  A native of Concord, MA (She’s a GBYSO alumna!) and currently residing in NYC, Sarah has been taking the classical music world by storm as a member of the acclaimed ensemble, SYBARITE5, as well as running her own unique concert series titled “Beyond the Notes”.  She performs regularly as a duo, AND a trio, is a regular on the recording session circuit and is passionate about creating innovative concert experiences.  As if being on the road almost half the year isn’t enough, she has also recently launched her own blog, The Productive Musician, where she gives great advice on time management and basic life hacks for the artistic soul.  Today, she is giving us a little insight into how she gets it all done,  the valuable lessons she has learned while on the road as a touring musician, and how the biggest risks are always the ones worth taking.

thumbnail-4

 

What are your morning rituals or routines?

SW: In the past year or so my morning time has become very sacred. I’ve found that it’s the only way for me to have any sort of routine amidst my ever changing schedule. Ideally, I like to have 1 1/2 hours of “me time” BEFORE I check my email. During this time I will do the basics – make my espresso, eat breakfast, shower, get ready, etc. I will also spend time to plan my day, set my daily goals, read something inspiring and do a short meditation. I’m currently using a planner called the Panda Planner which I love and helps outline much of my planning. This pre-email time has helped me immensely. Most emails are “asks” and although they are things that I need to tend to, most of the time they are other people’s priorities to be fulfilled. By setting my priorities first thing in the morning before checking email, I’ve found I have a better chance of keeping track of and completing my most important tasks.

Any Must-Haves for air-travel? 

SW: A pashmina scarf! The temperature can always be unpredictable on planes so a scarf is something small and lightweight to carry that can be a great way to keep warm and double as a blanket. Also, I oftentimes roll the scarf up and use it as a makeshift lumbar back support which I’ve found makes longs flights SO much more comfortable.

I also only travel wearing jersey and never leave for the airport without my refillable water bottle!

What has been your scariest moment on stage? 

SW: A few years go my quintet, SYBARITE5, premiered a brand new concerto for string quintet and orchestra with the South Carolina Philharmonic. We had been mumbling about switching to iPads for music reading for a while and thought this would be a great time since we wanted to read off of scores. So, we took the plunge. During the performance, all seemed to be going well until I turned the page with my foot pedal only to see I had flipped from page 1 to page 3. I turned back thinking I had skipped a page only to find myself toggling between pages 1 and 3 with no page 2 in sight at all! Mild panic ensued and since there wasn’t much I could do, I slapped on a big smile and did a little improvising to get me through the missing page! Luckily, all the pages were in impeccable order moving forward, but my heart definitely skipped a few beats – no, MANY beats – during that performance!

IMG_0884

What has been your most rewarding moment as a musician?

SW: One of my favorite things is performing at retirement and nursing homes. When my grandparents were living, I would visit their retirement home and grew up frequently performing at these communities. Sometimes they were formal concerts and other times they weren’t but I loved sharing my music this way. Throughout my career, I’ve continued to play at retirement homes all over the country; a few years ago, I was playing at an intensive care unit where many of the residents were not 100% cognitively aware. I was playing Moon River and all of the sudden one of the residents started humming along. This created a chain reaction and before I knew it, I had a choir of residents singing along! It was an extremely rewarding and magical experience. Although we couldn’t really speak to one another, we could connect through our music.

Practicing: Love it or Hate it?

SW: Practicing is a very precious time for me and it’s something that I have grown to sincerely love. Between all of the necessary admin work, travel and life events, it can be quite challenging to find a lot of practice time. I miss those days at grad school when practice hours were a plenty! I have, however, learned to be much more effective with my practice time and can accomplish more in less time than I used to.

What about when you were a kid?

SW: Probably the exact opposite of how I feel about it now! There was usually lots of negotiating about practice time and I was constantly looking for ways to put it off. My parents probably have a laundry list of excuses I used!

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

SW: Gidon Kremer was a huge role model to me. He was one of the first violinists I learned about that pushed the boundaries of being a classical musician. I was fascinated and inspired by his creativity, artistry and fearlessness to be different. This opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking about what it meant to be a violinist.

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

SW: I didn’t actually grow up always knowing 100% that I wanted to pursue music professionally. It was a large part of my life and I was very serious about it, but I had a lot of interests and ideas about the future as a young child. When college “discussions” came along my junior year of high school, the prospect of music school was appealing and seemed to make a lot of sense. In some ways you could say the decision to become professional was during my junior year when I applied to music schools for college, but honestly, there really wasn’t a “moment” and in hindsight, it actually happened very organically.

 

thumbnail-5

Have any pre-concert rituals? 

SW: Tea! I’m very sensitive to temperature when I perform and get cold very easily. Even in warmer climates, the air conditioning in concert halls can often be very fierce. I’ve found the best and most consistent way to keep my body temperature warm is with a hot beverage so I’m usually sipping on tea or hot water before a show!

Do you have a favorite city to perform in?

SW: One of my favorite places to perform was in Fairbanks, Alaska with SYBARITE5. It was March and indescribably cold, but the the warm reception and hospitality of the community was amazing. We also got to see the northern lights and had one of the most memorable back stage riders consisting of an entire Alaskan salmon!

 

What do you find to be the hardest part of being on the road?

SW: The hardest part about being on the road is being sure to make time for myself. I travel mostly with SYBARITE5 and sometimes it’s very convenient to do everything together as a quintet. Although I love my colleagues, it took me a while to realize how essential my “me time” was. I’ve had to find ways to make sure that that happens and make sure I’m disciplined about my time management on the road.

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

SW: All of the musicians you are around now will become your colleagues in the real world! Keep in touch with these people – they will be incredible resources for advice, collaborations and support.

thumbnail-3

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

SW: Prokofiev! I would ask him if he was going to write one more piece of music what would it be, and who would it be for?

What is the biggest risk you have taken in your career? 

SW: The biggest risk I have taken is probably moving to NYC …without a job! In 2008, my last year of graduate school at the Cleveland Institute of Music, I realized that I did not want to be in an orchestra and therefore had no exact idea about what I WANTED to do after I graduated. I had met Louis, founder of SYBARITE5, at the Aspen Music Festival and School and he called me with a proposal: Would I be interested in moving to NYC after I graduated to help grow SYBARITE5 into a professional chamber ensemble even though there wasn’t any concrete work or financial guarantee yet? Crazy, right?! Well, I took the plunge and I’m so glad I did. Almost 10 years later I have established quite a career in NYC and toured the country and the world with SYBARITE5!

Where can people find you? (website, IG, FB, Twitter, etc.) 

www.sarahwhitney.com

Blog: www.theproductivemusician.com

IG: @sarahwhitneyistall

FB: https://www.facebook.com/sarahwhitneyistall

Thank you so much, Sarah!  Safe Travels!

Ten Things to Know About Making a Supplemental Recording

Happy October!  Having lived most of my life in the Midwest and in New England, fall to me means changing leaves, cider doughnuts, apple picking, and of course, a few decorative gourds.  But for a lot of us, Fall also means School Application Time.  Whether you are an 8th grader applying to private high schools or a Senior applying to college….. the application process as a whole can be overwhelming and stressful, and while school guidance counselors can help with the academic side of things, for many young musicians, the question of sending in a supplemental recording can leave them and their parents scratching their heads.

Wanting to be able to give the best information to my own students, I had the pleasure of sitting down for a chat with Dave Jamrog (check him out here!)– Boston-based recording engineer and videographer extraordinaire (he recorded my CD, the French Cello!)– about the ins and outs of the supplemental recording process.  Over the last five years, Dave has worked with hundreds of student musicians and helped them get their materials together.  With his help, I have put together the 10 things you need to know about making (and sending) a supplemental recording.

F43AF2EB-4DD3-4BB4-9AC5-33EA06CAC318

1)There is a big difference between sending something in for high school, college as a non music-major, and for those of you who are applying to colleges or conservatories as a music major.

High School:  This one is pretty easy and pretty basic.  Having once held the dual positions of Strings Director and Admissions officer at a prestigious NE Prep School, I can tell you:  I just want to know what level player you are.  I’m thrilled if you are an extremely advanced player because you will likely be one of my principal players, will be able to perform solos and will probably do some chamber music.  I’m thrilled if you are a “decent” player because you will fill out my section and be an enthusiastic member of the group, and I’m thrilled if you’re a relative beginner, because you will grow and become a better one. You should send a recording of yourself performing a work for your instrument, either solo, or accompanied by piano.  This one can be an iphone or home-made video.  What is NOT helpful, is a full length video of your latest orchestra concert.  You’re sitting somewhere in the middle of the violins, but I have no idea who you are, or how well you are playing. Save that one for the grandparents.   And please, I beg of you: DO NOT send in a recording of you playing an instrument as part of your application and then show up to the school having decided not to continue playing “in order to focus on your studies”.  Your oboe playing helped get you into that school, not because it showed what discipline you had, but because that school needed an oboe player! If you are sending something in, you need to be committed to lending that talent to the school.

College (non-major):  This one is slightly similar in that the repertoire is going to be your choice.  You should send in a couple of pieces that show a good contrast in style, tempo or genre.  As a trumpet player, you could play a little Haydn and then some jazz, for instance, or a slow piece and a fast piece.  Again, this college is looking to fill its orchestra, chamber music and private lesson program.  If they don’t have players, there is no point in paying for the faculty or the facilities, and colleges know that people who play instruments are smart, creative and on track to be successful students, so they need to have the program in place to attract that kind of student.  While it might be less competitive than going in as a music major or applying to a music school/conservatory, your financial aid might be affected by whether you are the best cellist applying, or just an okay, half-decent player.  Believe me, they’ll want both of you, but program directors can only submit a short list in order for it to hold any weight with admissions.

College/Conservatory (music major): Okay, this one is the biggie.  You’re not just going up against other random students applying to said school with varying interests and talents.  You are going up against all of the other talented 17 yr-olds who play YOUR INSTRUMENT.  You need to show your strengths and show them that they should pick you. It is imperative that you send in your absolute best, most polished looking recording.  For most, if not all, of these programs, you will need to submit a preliminary recording in the late fall/winter, along with your application, and if that is accepted, you will fly to the school in Feb/Mar and play a live audition for the faculty.  Each school has their own repertoire lists for the preliminary rounds, but for strings, it is usually one or two movements of solo Bach, and the 1st movement of a standard concerto. If you are a Junior in High School, and you even THINK you might want to go into music, this is a great time to hop onto the websites of a few schools you are interested in, and look up the repertoire lists so that your teacher can start you on those pieces now.

2) You should listen to your teacher and do exactly what they suggest regarding your recordings. 

High School students are told time and time again that they should start taking initiative in their lives.  Trust me, this is NOT the moment to do that.  Your private teacher knows your playing inside and out.  They know your strengths and they know your weaknesses.  They know how important this recording is, and they have undoubtedly chosen pieces that will show off said strengths and hide said weaknesses.  Just because your friend is sending in his Dvorak concerto doesn’t mean that you should whip up some Prokofief Sinfonia Concertante in the next couple of weeks just to make sure you’re playing something harder than the competition.  It’s not about how difficult the piece is: it’s about how well you play, and the longer you have known a piece, the better you will sound playing it.

3) Book your time in advance

Take a look at your calendar now and take note of all of your deadlines Book your recording for two to three weeks before the first deadline.  Bear in mind that your recording engineer is dealing with 100 high school seniors who all share the same deadlines.  Your deadline is their deadline.  YOU might have the time three days before you need to hit send to deal with post-production and finalizing your recording, but your engineer might NOT.  While we’re on the subject of deadlines, please be sure to let your private teacher know ALL of your deadlines as well.  Give them one spreadsheet with each school, the pieces needed, prelim deadlines, recommendation letter deadlines, etc.

4) Book a long-enough window of time (Yes, 2 hours IS needed to record 15 minutes of music)

A lot of young musicians (and their parents) underestimate the amount of time it takes to make a good recording, and a lot of parents wonder why they need to book (and pay for!) two hours in order to record 10 minutes of music.  Well, here’s why.  When you’re booking time with a recording engineer, you are booking their time.  That’s two hours of them being there (usually, they don’t charge for travel time, but they should if you are asking them to travel a far distance to come to you).  Part of that 2 hours is spent setting up microphones according to the space (every space’s acoustics are different, and the engineer knows how to set things up to get you sounding amazing).  Then you need time to tune, warm up, and get comfortable.  It’s nerve-wracking to play in front of strangers/microphones/cameras in your face.  You will also want to stop after your first couple of takes and listen back to yourself to make sure YOU like the balance, and so you can hear for yourself how the dynamics are coming through the microphone).  Besides, if you’re going to bother doing it at all, you want to make sure you get exactly everything you need, rather than feel like, after all that, you still never got a good take of that last page.

5) Audio vs. Video. Dress the part, make sure you have figured out page turns, and that your stand isn’t covering you completely.

Certainly, for video, you need to be sure that you are dressed as if you are playing a concert.  Doesn’t have to be a concert gown or a tuxedo, but definitely dress trousers and a button-down shirt, Long skirt and dressy top, or a long dress. Wear your hair in a way that doesn’t cover your face, get in the way of your instrument, etc.  I once had a student who ALWAYS wore her hair up in a bun.  For her senior recital, her mom took her to get her hair professionally done and wore it down in gorgeous, flowing curls. Well, she had a hell of a time playing with her hair suddenly getting caught between her fingers and the fingerboard, in the pegs, in front of her face so she couldn’t see the music.  Not surprisingly, she came out for the 2nd piece with her hair pulled up in her usual bun!  Page turns!  Photocopy pages and tape them out so that you can avoid turning the page if you can (or make sure everything is memorized). If you are recording at home, make sure that the space around you is clean and not too distracting.

6) Piano accompanist vs. solo:

Pianists always make us sound better, but they also help us  to actually play better.  You’ll hear the harmonies better and make better dynamic contrasts, and because they are professionals, their high level of playing will help you to boost your own level of playing–even just in that moment.  It’s for this reason that Dave recommends doing the  pieces with your accompanist first (if you have a mix of accompanied and unaccompanied repertoire.) That energy will carry over into solo stuff (he’s seen it happen a million times!) Get an accompanist that you trust and allow them to help coach you.  They probably have a lot of experience doing this, have figured out a few tricks of the trade,  and they are there to make you sound your best.

7EAAC644-72FD-410E-A11C-08C84F1A1577

7) Make sure you are recording something that you feel very comfortable with, and that you are as prepared as you possibly can be.  

Ideally, you should be recording pieces that you have already performed, either in a recital or an audition.  This is where trusting the teacher comes in again.  I have had students decide (on their own, 3 days before their recording) that they wanted to record their NEW piece instead of their “OLD” piece because they felt that the “NEW” piece would be more impressive.  Don’t underestimate how different it will feel to have that camera and those mics in front of you, when you are trying to get a “perfect” take.  If you miss something once in the practice room, you’ll miss it 10 times in the recording space.  You want tried and true.  One way to get more comfortable with the process as a whole, is to practice doing recordings on your phone in the week prior.  See how it feels to “just keep going” and then be sure to listen back and take note of what went well and what you want to fix.

8) Don’t stop too often. 

It’s never going to be 100% perfect.  Dave said that this is one of the biggest and most common mistakes he sees. In an attempt to get everything absolutely perfect, a student will stop every time something small goes wrong.  A good rule of thumb is that if something goes HORRIBLY wrong in the first 30 seconds, then go back and start from the beginning, but once you get into the piece–keep going.  It is far better to have three complete “less-than-perfect” takes that you can choose from, than 68 “perfect” snippets that are completely useless to you.  I like to have my students start with one “no matter what” run-through of each piece.  Psychologically, they are under less pressure to “get through it” because they know they already “have one in the can”.  Then, we can take the time to get better takes.

9) This one is for the parents:

Please trust the other adults in the room and know that they all want the best outcome for your child.  From the recording engineer, to the teacher or the accompanist.  If you start trying to micro-manage your child’s session, you are going to add to their stress and cause unnecessary tension for everyone.  If the teacher is not there, and you are not a musician yourself, you can ask the accompanist or the engineer to help keep tabs on their takes.

10) What happens after the recording session:

Your engineer will send you all of the files of your various takes, and you (and possibly your teacher) will listen to them, take notes, and decide which one(s) are the “keepers”. You won’t be doing any editing or splicing  (never allowed for this kind of thing!) so you can disregard any partial takes.  You’ll tell your engineer which takes you want to use, as well as all of the information the schools have given you about how they want the files submitted (they often want different sizes, formats, etc.).  The engineer will then send you all of your neat and tidy files labled and ready to send off to your schools.  Make sure you listen to it before you send it in. and please, please, please, don’t forget to put your name and instrument on the file or in case of a hardcopy, on the case and the CD/DVD itself.  Also, be sure to save those files to your computer, dropbox, or an external hard drive.  Check with your engineer about their file management.  Dave keeps all of your files for 6 months so if you need to send something in for another audition later, he can format it however you need and you don’t need to re-record.

11) Bonus:  What to do if you really cannot afford a professional engineer? 

I get it!  Between lessons, chamber music, orchestra, summer festivals and application fees, sometimes it’s difficult to find the few hundred dollars that a supplemental recording generally costs. Here are some alternatives for those times when you’re in a bind.

  • Dave had a great suggestion, which was to book a group session for several of your friends/studio mates/school peers.  And split up a shorter time.  Since there would be zero/minimal set up time between players, you wouldn’t all need a full two hours and if you hired one accompanist, you might get a deal of that as well.
  • Ask you school A/V department if they have any good recording equipment, and see if they have a student who knows how to use it. Maybe you can help tutor them in AP Bio in return :-).
  • Call Berklee and see if they can suggest a talented music production/recording engineer student.
  • If you have no other choice, Røde makes a $50 microphone that works with an iphone that will help with the quality.  You’ll still have to figure out the file compression/uploading logistics, but if you are particularly tech savvy, this might work for you.

From the bottom of my heart, I am wishing all of you the absolute best.  Prepare well, go in with confidence, trust your teachers, and this should be an enjoyable experience for you.  If you are interested in setting up a session with Dave, you can find him here.  Thanks so much, Dave, for your input and stories!

19EB7370-4699-47F3-B6BD-FDE0C3FF4D65

Photos of our recording sessions for The French Cello.

 

 

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