Thursday, January 24, 2008

Scratch That...

So forget what I said about lack of passion... I dunno what happened, whether it's just because I pushed myself back into things, or because of all the underclassmen I've been meeting, but seriously, I'm having my expectations pushed way up here & loving it! My classes are challenging (particularly Jazz Improv, which I'm in the advanced section & Piano for the Classroom Teacher - everything I could hope for in a piano class...)

MIDI Band is rocking this year!! I definitely miss Sam Crawford a lot (he was the guitarist last year, and I worked with him on some other stuff... that kid is such an inspiration... he took a leave of absence to go work on music and do the things he needed to) ... on the other hand though, there's such a diverse combination of kids in MIDI Band this year, and I've improved a lot thanks to the jazz improv class (and my metronome work!!). We start out classes with a free improv session now & have talked a bit more about the theory of some stuff and doing projects with electronics... it's all quite cool!!

Speaking of Jazz Improv, it's really pushing me... got lots of theory and practicing to do for that... we're writing solos & working with modes... it's basically really amazing... I'm so lucky to get to study with Jay (Azzolina) can't wait for Small Ensemble...

Chamber's going awesome too... Dvorak & Weber & possibly Rorem... if not, then Beethoven... either way, cool shit...

In other news, I'm working towards recording that cd (making up a set list & hopefully recording all of it in the next week or two).

I've been playing a lot of Rock Band lately - it's amazing!! It's great to play a video game where the focus is music performance, b/c I can play and work on my music skills at the same time (not to mention, it's fun!!)

Recent Music Purchases:

I started a list recently to keep track of what's going through my musical consciousness... here's some stuff I've bought recently:

Blackfield - Blackfield II
Yes - The Yes Album
Queen - Night at the Opera
Ozzy Osbourne - Blizzard of Ozz

Blackfield - Live in NYC
Black Sabbath - The Last Supper
Testament - Live in London

Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal - Ian Christe

Queen & Testament are the only ones I haven't gotten around to listening to yet... otherwise, I'm really enjoying everything else I've picked up... gonna need to get some staff paper soon... I watched the Sabbath DVD the other night - man was that a trip!! I feel like I learned so much about what their music actualy is & about music itself from watching it!! And Blackfield... Let me say, I love Steve Wilson & Aviv Geffen... they're both amazing, and so is this project ... the songwriting, the lyrics, the music, the production, everything's perfect about it... it's been so great to watch the DVD of the concert I was at & to listen to the album almost non-stop...also, they have a really cool cover of "Thank You" - by Alannis Morisette...' I'm gonna go find thereal version at some point...

Finally, as recommended by Jordan Rudess (because he's that damn cool & actually posts on his forums.

Artist: Kiln
Album: Duster

Great electronic music...

Actually last finally... I had a solo gig last thursday.. it went well, I got a few people interested in my music... unfortunately, there was barely anyone at the restaurant b/c of the snow... hopeflly I'll do another one soon...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

City of Angels & School...

So City of Angels is done and over... I go to meet a few more of the band (though I really didn't get to chat with the other side of the pit at all)
It was a fun, but also very stressful show. The commute was quite stress-inducing (particularly getting lost the first two rehearsals). Also, all the other players around me were way better than I was (which was really cool, but also stress-inducing because it meant I had to really step stuff up - which I think I could have done a bit more). The last day was particularly fulfilling because I got a bit more comfortable with the music by that point.

To look at the broader picture, it was really inspiring that I was able to actually read through this music fairly well and stay with everyone (most of the time) ... a year ago, this music would have been way over my head

I need to work on memorizing things more efficiently (I'm still amazed by: Amit peled who can memoriz new music in a week & Jacqueline DuPre who memorized the entire Elgar Concerto the day she got it - can we say meant for each other?!)

Now on to school. I've been back at school for a few days now, and of course am kind of mixed about it. I've got some really cool stuff lined up that I'm working on (making a cd, working on modern composers music - a faculty member and an outside composer - Dumky Trio, probably a Beethoven Cello/Piano sonata, Jazz Improv & Ensemble & Piano for the classroom teacher). So I'm thrilled about all that, not to mention my psych classes (Adolescent Psych & Physiological Bases of Behavior).

What I am worried about however, is the lack of passion here, the lack of everybody being better than me, or going at the same pace or faster... I'm worried that I'm gonna lose my drive and my vision. What I have to combat that however, is the fact that I'm playing for Julia Lichten sometime soon (I have to call her about that) & my own will & my vow to myself that I'm not going to slip, that I'm going to stay organized & continue to progress at the rate I'm going. So far that's a really inspiring rate! I played cello yesterday & for the first time in a long time I really heard myself playing a lot better! I was making music out of things things I had been struggling with ... I still feel like I haven't reached the rate of progression I had in high school, but I'm getting damn close to it.. So here's to more practicing!!

In other news, I'm working on a 3rd piece for solo cello, and am going to be commissioning one from Jen Castellano (who's music I've played before). I'm thinking that I want to write something for cello/clarinet soon...

Guess that's all for now...

Thursday, January 10, 2008


"As far as I'm concerned, If you look down, you've already missed the note"
- Steven Isserlis

So that quote may not be 100% verbatim, but it popped into my mind as I was practicing recently. For whatever reason, I had been thinking about the Alexander technique & stressing & muscle tension, and so I started my practice by trying to play relaxed (because I've been doing lots of technical work lately). Immediately, I started listening to my playing (and let me tell you, the things I discovered that needed improvement... I could go on forever!!)

which brings me to my next point: Focus... truly making progress on a string instrument (well musically in general) involves extreme amounts of focus. First of all, you always have to find something to improve, but second, you have to manage multiple things at once (in my case, 2 hands, plus tone and articulation for each hand, at the bare minimum). In order to do this, you have to be able to listen to multiple things at the same time & then connect them with the physical sensation. I do this when I listen to music (try to listen to multiple parts at once & sing one part while "thinking" the other). It's nice to apply it to my musical work again.

I'me working on 2 musicals currently (well, one's an operetta). First, I'm working on "Amahl & the Night Visitors" by Gian Carlo Menotti with New Rochelle High School. This is loads of fun. Besides getting to hang out with some cool high school kids, I also get to play along David Jutt & David Toby (is that his first name??) & both of them are very amazing players. On top of that, the music is absolutely beautiful.

Next (and showing this weekend), I'm working on City of Angels, with Hastings High School. What an awesome gig!! I got it from randomly adding musicians (aka networking) on facebook. One of the people I added (Remy Kurs) had posted an ad that he needed a cello for a musical (this was long past), so I told him that if he ever needed a cellist, to drop me a message. Well, turns out he needed one!! It sucked getting lost the first time or two I went up there, but the rehearsals have well been worth it.

For one, I've met a couple of new people:
Insia Malik - a violinist who goes to school with Remy & knows a friend of mine at Manhattanville. She's got a really unique name & is very nice (not to mention a really good violinist!!)
Helen Hess - Goes to Boston Conservatory, and is into fantasy novels. I sat next to her at the 2nd rehearsal & during the break she was reading "The Amber Spyglass" (if you're not familiar w/ the His Dark Materials Trilogy, go pick up the Golden Compass now). Interestingly enough, her main instrument is actually viola (which is insanely cool... as much as I'll make fun of violists, I think the instrument is insanely beautiful... and better than the violin...), but she's playing violin for the show. There's some really nice moments where the cello & violin parts come together (unfortunately, it's next to impossible to see on stage... hmmm...)
Becky Riss - A sax/flute player & a friend of Helen's. Seems very nice.
Rob Statell - a brass player, also formerly taught in the New Rochelle School District. When I first met him, he was reading a book about Christianity that his mother had given him (much to the dissapointment of his mother, he's not quite Christian... was quite exciting, as neither am I!)
Michaelangelo Quirinale - Awesome guitarist from New England. Went to school at Berkley & now lives/teaches in Brooklyn. Apparently he taught Remy in music camp!! Was very interesting to talk to. Can't quite hear his playing from over where I am.
Remy Kurs - The music director. Cool kid, goes to NYU, really haven't gotten to know him too well. He's very good about not keeping the musicians past scheduled time... it's different than what I'm used to.
Todd Olson - Keyboard player, also goes to school with Remy. Todd sits with the strings & is fun to make jokes with, he also feels free to tell me when I'm playing something wrong or throw in helpful reminders (like that there is in fact an A sharp in the number we're doing!). It's quite cool.

And that's not even the whole pit!! It's nuts... also, very tight (but hey, that's the fun of it, right?!)...

In other news, I had a very good lesson with Hillary the other day. I don't fully remember what we worked on, but I remember doing quite a bit! She seems much more motivated, almost out of nowhere. It's quite exciting! She asked if we could have a scale due for each lesson (that is Major Scale + relative minor + Broken 3rds & Arpeggios), and I think it sounds like an amazing idea! More structure is good. So we're working with C Major & A Minor ... Next week G!

Some technical things I thought of while playing:
1. Efficiency! This means economy of motion (if there's one thing I should have absorbed from my current teacher, this is it!). The smaller the motions & the efforts involved, the cleaner & more rewarding the sound.
2. Hug the string with the bow - ties in with #1. A great way of being efficient... makes string crossings substantially easier & helps eliminate that surge I tend to get on open strings
3. Breathe & Listen... if I were to write two words on top of every piece of sheet music I own, it would be these two!! So important & helpful
4. Double Stops!! Think of as many inventive things as you can do with them - they are quite rewarding & help with callous building, as does sliding & wide vibrato
5. Practice everything Forte - if you can make a big sound (relaxed), you can make a small one!!

Think that's all for now.. tomorrow is the first show of City of Angels, which is really interesting, b/c we haven't even run through the whole thing with the cast (and we have a dress rehearsal after!!) ... the first real showing though is friday evening.

By the way, for all you cellists out there, Emily Wright is doing a "Does your Bow-Grip Work?" seesion through her blog, go check it out:

Thursday, January 3, 2008

2008 Cello Goals

A long list, but this is all stuff I hope to achieve... ideally, I'll go far beyond this in the new year


1. To consistently practice 3 hours or more a day.
2. To record a cd with a combination of acoustic and electric cello material that I can be proud of, and can sell commercially (on a small/local level... we're not talking getting signed to a label or anything). Also, to make good use of facebook and myspace for networking (check my profile for links...)
3. To get technically in shape & play at the top of my potential. Particularly to be able to play at fast tempi with ease & to have a relaxed, controlled vibrato, along with very strong bow technique
4. To get a good tube amplifier & a good carbon fiber bow.
5. To develop a solid understanding of jazz & to be able to to improvise and play well in a jazz band setting
6. To continue to write music for acoustic/electric cello & to expand to include other instruments (particularly clarinet, violin & piano)
7. To continue to work on and promote music by living composers
8. To start playing in clubs/getting gigs that are outside of my school
9. To continue to transition from being a student studying the cello to doing professional work, and to eventually quit my retail job
10. To play acoustic/electric cello in a band
11. To make at least 3 times as much progress as I made in 2007
12. To work through the entire Elgar concerto on a very high level, and to win my school's concerto competition with the first movement. Then to rework the Haydn C and possibly move on to either Saint-Saens, Schumann, Dvorak or all three...
13. To take on one or two more students
14. To inspire others and continue to meet new and interesting musicians
15. To impress my first cello teacher
16. To learn Bach Suites 3 & 4 (ideally to learn all of them)
17. (AND MOST IMPORTANT) To have fun!!

Some reflections and comments about the musicals I'm involved in probably to follow... if I can stay awake that is...