April Reading List

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*All quotes are from the publishers.

Happy Reading, Everyone!

-Kate

 

April Focus: Teaching and Being Taught

 

Slava and Rose

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

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

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

 

 

Casals

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

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My Week in Florida

Hi Everyone,

Sorry I have been a bit MIA as of late.  February was insane, and then March got even crazier.  I’ve missed writing, but then you know how it goes….the longer you wait, the harder it is to get going again.  I realized that I hadn’t even posted about last month’s trip to Florida, so that’s where I’ll start.

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I had planned this week of concerts around South Florida to coincide with Paul’s February School Holidays, so he was able to join me for for the trip.  I had been in Boston for some recording sessions and a concert the week before, so we met up in Miami for a little sight-seeing and relaxation, and then moved our way up and down between Ft. Lauderdale and Palm Beach.  I had a mix of public and private recitals, school workshops and master classes scheduled for the latter half of the week.  Over our 8 days there, we caught up with dear friends, met some new ones, and I got to perform my solo program for a whole bunch of people. We explored the Wynwood area in Miami, checked out the Museum of Science, and went to the New World Symphony Gala.  We walked the Riverwalk in Ft. Lauderdale and hit up the shopping strip in Palm Beach, spent time with my uncle and time at the beach. It was lovely.

But we were also there on Valentine’s Day, and what should have been (especially during marriage month!) our über romantic get-away, ended up being a horrible, horrible, awful, mind-numbing day when 17 innocent kids were gunned down at their own high school a couple of miles from where we were at the time.  Needless to say, it lent a bit of a grayish tint on my memories of the week.  Everyone was distracted.  I showed up to play my concert the following day and they had completely forgotten about me.  I do strongly believe that music heals the soul, but in truth, no one was really in the mood for a concert, least of all me.  The concerts all happened (except one, but that’s a whole different story….!) but we were all walking around in a bit of a daze–at times pretending that everything was fine, and at other times, depressed and uninterested in doing anything at all.

It was, however, good to be in some warmer weather, and as I mentioned, we got to spend time with relatives and dear old friends – some of whom I had not seen in over a decade.  We ate delicious meals and went on romantic walks. I got to see Paul get excited over geeky things at the science museum and he got to catch a glimpse into my former life in Miami Beach.

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So, there you have it.  It was a strange and bizarre trip, and while it wasn’t the luxurious get-away I was hoping for, I am so grateful that Paul was there with me.  I’m not sure I could have done it without him.  Logistically and emotionally, I needed him there.  He drove me to concerts so that I wouldn’t arrive exhausted, he chatted up audience members and convinced them to buy cds, and he let me snap at him (sorry!) when I didn’t really know how to answer his questions that were generally along the lines of “what the hell is wrong with your country?” and “Why can’t you guys solve your gun problem the way the rest of the world has?”

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It was in Miami, actually, many moons ago, when Gary Hoffman gave me some advice that I have never forgotten.  When I asked him what it was like to travel around the world as a concert cellist, he looked at me, and said “Well, you just have to accept that 85% of the time you’re going to feel like shit.  You’re going to be jet-lagged, or have a headache, or have caught a cold on the airplane, or some weird thing is going to be going on in your life or around you, but you have to learn how to just show up and do it anyway.”  That week in Florida definitely tested me in a lot of ways, but overall, I think will come away with fond memories of the people I met and got to play for, the talented and enthusiastic students I worked with, of renewed friendships and tender moments. And on Saturday, I will be thinking of all of those people marching in the States, I’ll be going for a long walk around the island in solidarity.

-Kate

Holiday Gift Guide for Your Kid’s Music Teacher

I get asked about 50 times a year by my non-musician friends and family members what an appropriate gift would be for their child’s violin/piano/clarinet teacher, so I thought I would post a few ideas.  You will notice one entire category that is missing from this list, and that is: ANYTHING that has music notes, treble clefs, or any music joke on it  (Like a magnetic fridge pad that says “Chopin Liszt”).  As I said to one disappointed friend who had sent me a link to a website dedicated to such atrocities: You’re an accountant; would you be psyched to get a pair of cheap mini-calculator earrings? No? Well, there you have it.  Just remember, when the piano teacher in your life isn’t patiently teaching kids how to find inner discipline, listen critically and build the character skills necessary to bring about world peace, they are actually perfectly normal people.  And please remember, as always, it is truly the thought that counts.  It’s nice to mark this mid-point of the year with a show of appreciation and as a way to reflect on accomplishments thus far.  That can be in the form of a heartfelt note and a hand drawn picture from the student, or it can be a purchased gift.   Below, I have compiled a list that covers a large range of price points, and of course, gift cards are always adjustable according to one’s budget.  Hope it helps, and please feel free to pass it around! Continue reading

The $100 Bill

What would you do if I handed you a $100 bill?  

I once had a student who started cello lessons with me when he was 5 years old, and he LOVED the cello.  He loved playing the cello, he loved practicing the cello (as soon as he woke up-at 5am! Much to his parents’ dismay).  But he had this weird thing he did–He only used about 3 inches of bow–ever (probably due to the fact that he was trying not to wake his parents up!).  And every week he would come into his lesson, sad about his lack of tone, and I would say “Use your whole bow!  Use more arm weight! Yes!!!! Just like that! Do it again!  Terrific!  Okay.  Practice this piece like that, with big bows, and you’ll always sound like that”.  And he would leave his lesson super excited about knowing exactly what to do to get that great big cello sound he was after.  And then he would come in a week later, using only 3 inches of bow, and sad that he sounded so wimpy.  And we would repeat the cycle. Continue reading