On Tour: Chicago, Seattle and Victoria

Last month, I went on a little mini recital tour to Seattle and Victoria, and I stopped in Boston and Chicago on the way.  I got to see dear friends that I had not seen in years (and meet their children!) and I finally got to see the PNW for the first time (spoiler alert: it’s gorgeous).  The trip was a lot of fun, but also a lot of work.  Without a pianist or my very helpful husband to pitch in with the driving and other logistical matters, I was exhausted when I got back home.

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Because I often have to check my cello (in its extra heavy-duty Stevenson flight case), I try to do direct flights whenever I can.  In this case, I needed to stop in Boston for a couple of days anyway.  I taught some lessons, caught up with a good friend over dinner, rehearsed with the always-lovely Craft Ensemble ladies for an upcoming concert and helped a student make her supplemental audition recording for her Nov. 1 college applications.  I managed to cram a lot into a short amount of time, but I also got to soak up some fall colors and enjoy the changing leaves (because I had NO idea what I was about to witness in Seattle).  Continue reading

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.

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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!

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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.

 

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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.

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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!

A Week in Charleston and Savannah

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

What we did

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

Charleston:

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

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window boxes in charleston

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

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Rainbow Row, Charleston

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window boxes in Charleston

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

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Middleton Place

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

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

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

Savannah:

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

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

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

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in front of the Arts Center at College of Charleston

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With Natalia Khoma and her student, Maria Savalyeva

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

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With Bradley Fuller, host of Sonatas and Soundscapes

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In front of the South Carolina Public Radio Building

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

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Some of the Savannah Arts Academy Orchestra

Concerts:

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

Where we ate:

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

Charleston:

Basic Kitchen

McCrady’s Tavern

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

Husk

Bin 152

Caviar and Bananas

Rise

Black Tap Coffee

Savannah:

Hitch

The Collins Quarter

Foxy Loxy/Coffee Fox

Perc Coffee Roasters

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

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

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

January 30-Day Focus: Blogging

 

I can’t believe I’m already on month 5 (F-I-V-E!!!) of my (year-long) 30-Day Focus Project, and I have to say, it has been an AMAZING experiment for me.  The clarity I have found in identifying the 12 most important areas of my life has been profoundly helpful in improving my ability to make plans, decisions, and set goals for my work, my relationships and in basically every area of my life.  I feel like I have accomplished more in the last 4 months than I have in the last 4 years!  I’ve been announcing each one as they come, but here is the full list in case you’ve been curious: Continue reading

Chicago!

Remember that little trip to Chicago I took in October?  It was just last week, but it feels like it was a gazillion years ago!  It was exciting, exhausting, exhilarating, and everything you would expect.  Overall, my experiment of going to a city and playing as many concerts as I could for as many different groups of people as possible worked.  I learned a hella lotta stuff about the whole process of sending press releases, booking concerts and venues and more importantly, I learned a lot about myself and what I need in terms of concert prep. Continue reading

Happy October!

Happy October! Month of fall foliage, Halloween costumes, apple picking and pumpkin spice lattes.  I will have none of those things in Bermuda; here, October means hurricanes, getting the garden planted (and then losing it all to the afore-mentioned hurricanes) and finding lightweight clothing in fall colors.  Bermudians love their Fall Fashion, even though it’s 85 degrees and sunny!  Bless them.  But don’t worry, I’ll be spending a lovely 9 days in Chicago playing concerts and working with various student groups.  I’m so excited for all of that, but I’m also excited to take a few walks around Lake Michigan, oohi-ng and ahh-ing over the changing leaves, and I will probably bribe my nephews to hit-up starbucks with me once or twice a day for a PSL fix.

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After an awesomely productive and enlightening September, I’m excited to move onto my next 30-Day Project.  September was “Health” and if you are curious, you can read about it here and here.  October is going to be…….drumroll, please….. “Career”.  Specifically, my performance career.  (Spoiler alert: the “Teaching” and “Youth Orchestra” aspects of my career will each have their own month).  I’m looking forward to booking some more concerts for this year and next (and the next—I’m already booking concerts for the 2019-2020 season!) cleaning up and updating my website, maybe getting some new headshots done, and learning how to write and send a good press-release, amongother things. I’m looking forward to ending the month with new kinds of content and a lot more of it to choose from.  Obviously I’ll be practicing a ton gearing up for my week of concerts in Chicago, and I’m curious to see how playing so many recitals in 1 week will feel.  I’m starting things off with my brand new business cards that the mother of one of my students designed.  Didn’t she do an incredible job?

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designed by @mercedesigns

business cards

designed by @mercedesigns

Again, the name of the game here is to make a little bit of progress in this area each day.  Make necessary investments and read whatever I can find on the subject.  If you have any ideas, please send them along in the comments.  And in the meantime, Enjoy a caramel apple and a cider doughnut for me, please.

 

We’re going to Mexico!

Guys, this year has been a whirlwind of activity over at Sundeck.  A new home, new website, cd release, new blog, and a whole lotta flights and concerts.   P has also been working like a dog-teaching an overloaded schedule, designing the sets over at the community theater, sanding and repainting his boat and building/refinishing various pieces of furniture at home.  We are both ready for a reboot, and are pretty psyched that our spring breaks actually coincide this year.  In past years when we were doing the long-distance relationship thing, we were grateful that, because our breaks DIDN’T line up, we got to spend about 4 weeks in a row together–I spent my two weeks in Bermuda, and he spent his 2 weeks in Boston. But because of that, we could never “go on vacation”together; one of us was always working.

So THIS year, we are going on a real live vacation to Oaxaca and Huatulco Mexico.  We often travel during the summer months because as a musician and a teacher, we are “off” the month of July, and I have always traveled for work, but to take a week in the middle of the “work year” and get away from it all feels like the ultimate luxury to me.  It feels like we are going to be playing hooky for 8 days!

We are planning on staying at a bnb in the center of Oaxaca city and exploring Monte Alban, the markets and the amazing restaurants that I have been reading about.  And then we are going to fly down to Huatulco for a couple of days of sand, surf and utter relaxation.  Have any of you been to either place?  Any recommendations?  What are the “not-to-be-missed” spots?