Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dear 1999

This is in response to the public blogging event that is doing: "If you could go back to 1999 and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?"

I'm hesitant to write this, because I feel every moment in our lives is important & we each follow our own path in getting to wherever we were today (and wherever we're going). Changing one event or one path really changes everything in so many ways that we couldn't begin to conceive ... In general, I'm very happy with where I've wound up in life & what I've made out of it ... I really value the choices I've made - even the mistakes!

So, anyway, in 1999, I was 12 and about to enter the 9th grade (or in 8th grade, depending on what point in the year). Here's the advice I would give myself

Dear Mike in 1999,

There is an instrument you've never heard of and don't know anything about, called the cello. Along with discovering heavy metal music, the cello will be the single biggest defining factor of your life. You have the potential to become an amazing cellist & a successful professional musician, though you will have a lot of work ahead of you and not a lot of time to accomplish it. You are already behind a lot of people who are on the same track as you, but if you put the time into it, you have the power to catch up & maybe even one day (in the far off future) to pass some of them. The cello is going to become the closest thing to you in your life & you are going to find new things to do with it that very few have done before. But you can only do this if you become really amazing ... don't get distracted & learn from everyone around you and from all the different music you can take in.

So drop the trumpet and go ask the orchestra teacher if you can play cello (you'll even get to use one over the summer) & become an amazing musician...

Good luck!


Now I suppose that at 12, this may not have been the advice I needed & maybe I wouldn't have loved the cello so much if I had started it then ... I had a lot of family problems & went through some pretty bad depression for the next year or two & failed classes in high school & stuff of that sort ... but as I said, these all helped me form into the person I was today ... 12 was a very special year for me ... it was the year I discovered heavy metal for the first time and the year I became an atheist... it had a lot of other things in it too, many of them not so positive... Discovering heavy metal music was probably the most influential thing in my life because of the musical sophistication, energy & intellectual depth that I found in that tradition & because of the world it opened up for me & the values I formed based on it...

I also suppose that advice like "do well in high school so you can go to any college you want to go to" & "don't cut gym in high school, because it will cause you to form some terrible academic habits" might be more practical ... but I would have missed out on quite a bit of life experience

For those who don't already know my history ... I started cello at the age of 16 and became completely obsessed with it & went on to study music in college & now am in the process of trying to do it professionally. I also compose & improvise & make videos/recordings & play through FX Pedals/amp & blog as well...

So that's my piece I suppose ...

Edit: if you go here: you can read everyone else's responses ... they're quite fascinating!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dotzauer #3

Youtube Link:
Grade: D
Specific Comments: Bow distribution/speed/pressure was considered, but not achieved. Would benefit from slow practice, as well as more bow work. Dynamics were sometimes present. Only 1 attempt was necessary to record. Tempo is still on the slower side of Allegro.

This was a very different experience from the last one. To start with, this etude is a lot shorter and a lot more redundant & a lot more scalar (as opposed to 3rds and 6ths) - what a relief! I didn't quite get to spend as much time with it as I would have liked unfortunately. I definitely benefited from #2 though, because the LH part was easily within my grasp from the very beginning. This had some good consequences (namely that I was able to work with within larger groups/sections and that I wasn't as stressed), but also some bad consequences (I really didn't do much slow work, which I think could have benefited both of my hands).

I also approached this one a bit differently than #2 by working backwards in larger phrases and by relying on the music more (as opposed to trying to play from memory right away). I found this to be beneficial, because it meant that there was less room for error in the initial learning process. I also found that looking at the music helped me be more considerate of the dynamics, which I failed to memorize (and in general, fail to pay attention to - it's a huge flaw in my playing, but this etude got me to start considering it a bit more) ... I still think it's really important to perform from memory, but I think it will generally be worth it to work with the music more in the future. I also think in general when working on music, I could benefit from being more analytical (though there obviously has to be a balance between analysis and physical performance, since playing cello is ultimately about the latter).

Generally, I feel good about the progress I'm making & am really looking forward to #4. I'm going to try to put more time into cello in general so I can put more time into this...

F - Failed to memorize notes and bowings within one week.
D - Notes and bowings are memorized, and piece is performed completely through without any stops or wrong notes (multiple attempts are acceptable).
C - Notes and bowings are memorized, and piece is performed completely through without any stops or wrong notes (multiple attempts are acceptable). Correct Bow Distribution is present.
B - Notes and bowings are memorized, and piece is performed completely through without any stops or wrong notes (multiple attempts are acceptable). Correct Bow Distribution and Articulation & Dynamics are present.
A - Notes and bowings are memorized, and piece is performed completely through without any stops or wrong notes on First Try. Correct Bow Distribution and Articulation & Dynamics are present.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Dotzauer #2

Youtube Link:
Grade: F
Specific Comments: Failed to memorize within one week due to sickness. Bow is very stiff & the Upper Half/Middle of the bow direction is ignored, partially defeating the point of the Etude. Left hand fingers still do not move as a unit.

Alright, so to start with, I got a horrible ear infection the weekend after Dotzauer #1 ... so horrible that I was often in pain, couldn't hear properly for about 2 weeks & actually went to a doctor & got antibiotics for the first time in 3 years!

Having already played this Etude, I mostly remembered the first section (of the 3 larger sections), but I still had to work it in to shape & then up to tempo. This time around, I really worked in larger sections/phrases/patterns, as opposed to so much measure by measure work (though I would sometimes go by measure or by note within the larger sections). The third section was really the only section I hadn't gone over much before, and at that point I went note by note, which I found really helpful. This has to be done while repeating the note names to oneself for full effect.

I think in general, I should have forced myself to always practice this further up the bow, and to think about the left finger groupings from very start. I found myself very able to hone in on patterns & harmonic rhythm. One thing this etude is great for is very subtle pattern variations, and those were a big challenge. I also needed to practice the tempos in between mm 144-184 more. As a final note, I really discounted the endurance factor of playing this at full speed. It's really at the edge of my technique (at 184), which means I needed to have it memorized by about the halfway point, so I could just repeat & develop the muscles for playing it straight-through. Not achieving my goal tempo is ok, because the act of preparing this has upped my general technical ability and I will be more likely to achieve those tempos in the future.

F - Failed to memorize notes and bowings within one week.
D - Notes and bowings are memorized, and piece is performed completely through without any stops or wrong notes (multiple attempts are acceptable).
C - Notes and bowings are memorized, and piece is performed completely through without any stops or wrong notes (multiple attempts are acceptable). Correct Bow Distribution is present.
B - Notes and bowings are memorized, and piece is performed completely through without any stops or wrong notes (multiple attempts are acceptable). Correct Bow Distribution and Articulation & Dynamics are present.
A - Notes and bowings are memorized, and piece is performed completely through without any stops or wrong notes on First Try. Correct Bow Distribution and Articulation & Dynamics are present.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

In Sickness & In Health

So, I've had a horrible ear infection for a little over a week now ... I've barely touched my cello at all during this time, which of course has thrown off my Dotzauer Project, which Brian so kindly referenced here:

I'm going to be picking this up again on tuesday & just starting fresh w/ #2 ... in the future, I will try to hold myself more stringently to this schedule ... this is something I need to work on professionally in general.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dotzauer Etude #1

My approach to memorizing was essentially:

-Play the piece few a through times to get it in my ear
-Start at the beginning and go measure by measure, adding one each time
-Work on solidifying sections/phrases before moving on
-Assess for trouble spots
-Fix trouble spots
-Repeat Larger section
-Run from beginning again
-Repeat the last few steps until whole piece is memorized

-After a while I started memorizing 2 measures at a time (because the harmonic rhythm changed)
-I memorize the Etude very quickly (I also have read through it in the past), but it takes longer to play the Etude from memory
-I tend to rely mostly on Aural Memory and Kinesthetic/Muscle Memory. Initially I visualized the notes as I played them, and this was in some ways helpful, but I'm not sure how directly helpful it was.
-I find that saying the note names to myself, as I play them, really makes me thing about each note and the intervals & this helps me memorize the entire sequence
-It may be more useful to do Add-A-Note instead of Add-A-Measure - this ensures that each part of the "Dance" has been practiced and connected. It should mean that all motions are more efficient and solidified
-It may also be worth it to do it from the End, backwards with the same method
-I barely managed to memorize this etude in time, but I also did not work on it every day.
-Initially, I did not pay attention to bow distribution/dynamics, but soon realized that I needed to. I think the earlier I do this, the better
-It is easier to memorize notes with full/on-the-string strokes than it is to memorize staccato strokes. Of course, memorizing with the wrong bowing means that I'll need to go back and re-memorize with the right bowing.
-My memory gets affected when I'm hungry or exhausted & often the best way to recall things is to not think about them ... essentially, to quiet one's mind ... it's very meditative & simultaneously very risky, because if it's broken, then one has to rely on conscious thinking or muscle memory. This same meditative state is where one wants to be when performing.

So that's it for now ... Dotzauer #2 starts tomorrow. It will be really interesting to see how I do once I start getting to the Etudes I've never played through before...

The Dotzauer Challenge Introduction

This is in response to:

I loved the idea of what he's doing, because I love working on Etudes (and technique in general) & I love memorizing, so introducing some structure to these activities is great & beneficial to me, because it forces me to focus on one thing for an extended period of time!

I'm doing it slightly differently than his Popper Project though ... I'm memorizing 1 Etude a week (after all, this is Dotzauer, not Popper we're talking about), I'm not limiting myself to 45 minutes a day & I have come up with a rubric to grade myself each week. I am also recording a video of me playing each memorized Etude at the end of the week.

I've already gone through week one.

Youtube Link:
Grade: D
Specific Comments: Open A string very clunky, Bow distribution not always correct, Contact point should be reconsidered at times. Left hand fingers could use improvement in the areas of staying in alignment & moving as a unit.

F - Failed to memorize notes and bowings within one week.
D - Notes and bowings are memorized, and piece is performed completely through without any stops or wrong notes (multiple attempts are acceptable).
C - Notes and bowings are memorized, and piece is performed completely through without any stops or wrong notes (multiple attempts are acceptable). Correct Bow Distribution is present.
B - Notes and bowings are memorized, and piece is performed completely through without any stops or wrong notes (multiple attempts are acceptable). Correct Bow Distribution and Articulation & Dynamics are present.
A - Notes and bowings are memorized, and piece is performed completely through without any stops or wrong notes on First Try. Correct Bow Distribution and Articulation & Dynamics are present.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Discovering Secrets

I learned 4 very important things in the last 2 days of cello playing

1. I needed to "let go" of the bow & stop using so much downward pressure/trying to force the bow & use my upper arm muscles to increase the bow speed instead. I had had this pointed out to me before & had lessened the pressure from what it was then, but I didn't really understand it until now.
2. Which leades me to my next point - Cello is a physical task & no matter how important the mental side of things is, the body has to learn & feel how things should be. The cello and bow are really just extensions of your body while you're playing them.
3. Which leads me to my next point - "practice makes permanent". Countless repetition (until consistent perfection) is the essence of what it means to prepare something on cello. Learning cello is like any other creative process - it's a tension & release cycle & in order to get the most out of it, one must put in as much effort/analysis/repetition as possible & then let go & take a break and then come back to it & repeat the process
4. Which leads me to my next point - Every single motion is linked to and is a preparation for the following motion. I learned this from watching Julia Lichten play at Purchase tonight. There literally is no excess in her playing, every single motion was connected to the next one with such meticulous detail. Instead of hindering or subtracting from the music, this in fact added to it substantially. It's this level of preparation that allows someone to actually express themselves/the music's intent fully.

Ultimately, this all could be boiled down to this: "Your cello practice is a temple. What you put into it is what you get out of it."

It's all about how many hours you put in all the time & how much more you ask of yourself in your focus & persistence. I finally feel like I'm beginning to grow into being a real player, as a result of these realizations & all my recent experiences. The Journey is just beginning.

A lot of these realizations came as the indirect result of the interviews I was reading with Howard Shore & Douglas Adams - for any who discover this post: It is so important to have interests outside of your main discipline. There is so much to learn & so much that can be applied to cello...

The Etude Project

I *really wish* that more advanced cellists/musicians would do things like this (post about their learning/practice process)

In general, I wish that more college or post-college players would blog - there is so much to learn - especially with all the different teachers out there ... this seems to be a really under-represented group in the blogging community.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Music of the Lord of the Rings

Here's another source of musical inspiration: The Lord of the Rings Scores. Both the music itself & people talking about the music from a theoretical & experiental viewpoint. This blog in particular has some really great interviews with Howard Shore & Douglas Adams (who's written a soon-to-be-published book about the music of the films). Film music has always been something I've been into (since I discovered it) & it often receives very little substantive/informative press, so this is really great to read. Particularly, it's inspiring since the music is so large-scale and so classically-influenced. (It also means I'm really going to have to start exploring Wagner & the rest of Opera soon ... this is going to be a very big journey!).

Howard Shore talks a lot about his musical development & the fact that he'd been composing music since he was ten (I find that to be so cool!) & what he was influenced by & stuff like that ... go check out the interview transcripts ...

Musical & Personal Growth

I've learned an incredible amount over the last few months (and particularly over the last week) & wanted to take some time to reflect upon that.

I think my main source of growth has been the Sound Shore Chorale. I've just about always liked singing (except in early high school when I was way too nervous to sing for anybody), but SSC has really just been a tremendous experience. I've met all sorts of different people (all older than me - I'm the youngest in the ensemble) & that in itself has been great. However, the real growth has been musically. My sense of pitch (well, really my ability to sight-sing/read) has developed a lot more (from having to prepare the parts on my own) & my listening has improved as well. Through preparing the pieces & having to really internalize & analyze them in a way that you don't always necessarily have to (but should) when reading something on a physical instrument has done wonders for my understanding. I've also started working on learning the accompaniments to the songs we performed & will keep working on that ... I'll talk a bit more about that later. One thing I've learned is that I have a very under-developed sense of pitch (relative to the rest of my sense of pitch) in my lowest register (between 1 & 2 octaves below middle C) - both on cello & voice. This has been improving lately as well.

In addition to that, I've grown a lot as an ensemble member - both in terms of my commitment to an ensemble & learning to be in sync with the ensemble and the conductor. I still need more work on the second (because I tend to work by ear, rather than visually) & need to look up more (because I usually know the music to the point of memorization anyway), but I've really progressed with it a lot.

In addition to all that, I've got a chance to watch Richard Slade as a conductor/musical director & have learned from that. There are two aspects to this position: the musical & the people-management. Musically it involves picking repertoire, rehearsing it on a weekly basis, knowing what your group can handle musically, having an incredible ear, being able to conduct & having/being able to communicate a musical vision. As a manager, it involves having rehearsals & concerts scheduled in advance & spaces reserved, it involves telling everybody the order of pieces over, it involves planning multiple concerts a year, being the most-organized person at the concert & all sorts of other things.

My experience with SSC leads me to my next source of growth - playing in a string quartet. We performed the 3rd (thanksgiving) movement of Beethoven's Op. 132 Quartet (Richard asked me to put this together as part of the program). This was a brand new experience for me. The only other time I've been able to play in a quartet has been playing christmas music & that is hardly even close to the same thing. I've done a fair amount of chamber music before (not an incredible amount, but a good amount for how long I've been playing), but it has always been for other combinations (largely piano trios). Those formats all have their own lessons, but there are things you can only learn through playing a string quartet with other advanced players.

In addition to my musical growth from that quartet, I also learned about the organizational side of putting a quartet together for a performance. This was a very challenging activity! First, it takes time to find players (which proved to be particularly difficult in this instance), who will most likely be very busy, then you have to schedule rehearsals (which is always a challenge). Then add in the difficulty of the work & last-minute problems/illnesses & making sure everyone is on the same page with everything & everything goes according to plan... and there you have it. At the end of the day, everything works out & it's on to the next thing. The whole experience made me think of tour managers and stuff like that for bands & what their experience must be like. In my case, I need to plan things a little bit more in advance & account for time better (I'm usually getting to things just when I need to - unless they're in NYC, in which case, I'm always early b/c I never know how trains will work out)

Another source of growth has been the St. Thomas Orchestra. We performed Harold in Italy & Mendelssohn's Scottish Symphony. I have performed Harold in Italy before. I didn't have either piece fully prepared & one thing I have learned is that I need to start working on parts much earlier - even when I have a ton of other activities going on. I need to create a schedule/deadline for working on things & I need to get to a point where I know all the notes by the second or third rehearsal so that in rehearsal I'm actually working on musical things & on following the conductor a lot better. One thing I have gotten much better about is listening to the other parts and fitting my part in with them. Orchestra playing is really just a huge chamber ensemble, and that makes it *incredibly difficult*. I could still do a better/more frequent job of listening, though.

It's also caused me to grow, because I am the weakest cellist in my section. The gap isn't overwhelming, but everyone else has a much more secure technique/knowledge of the parts & it's been great to be around that & watch and learn from them. Particularly, I had one rehearsal where I sat in the first stand (because a lot of people were out) & playing next to Claire was just really inspirational - she is a very strong player. One important thing I've learned from St. Thomas is that it's much easier to dislike the way someone does something than it is to do it well yourself. In the future, I'm going to do things better & make it much more of a point to find things to like/learn from when observing other people (while still being critical).

One thing I've been getting into lately is accompaniment. Not that I've been doing any, but I've been reading about accompanists & working on piano parts for the choral music I'm working on. In general, I'm hoping to develop my piano skills more so that I can start to do accompaniment work & maybe even some day play keyboard in a pit. This will help things financially, but also musically & compositionally. I came to realize from various playing I've been doing that accompaniment is something I really like doing (regardless of what instrument I'm on). It's an enjoyable challenge, and I find it very fulfilling.

So there are some sources of recent musical growth ... there have been more too, which I'll write about soon.


One last thing. One of the major ways I've grown over the last few months is that I've developed a lot more self-confidence & comfort in my playing/musicianship. To accompany that, I've also begun to think less of my individual accomplishments (not in a demeaning way) and to start to see the bigger picture & look at how my experience compares to other players'. So in short: more confidence, less ego.

Another thing, it's a little scary to write so openly about my playing on a blog, but I think it's an important part of who I am as a person, so I will always continue to do it to the fullest extent possible.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Gig/Activities Summary!

In the last month or two, I've done a ton of different stuff. Here's a summary:

1. Topsy Turvey Loves - a 2 wk. Gilbert & Sullivan (sorta) show ... wasn't the best experience, but I did get to network & meet some awesome musicians. It received mixed press.
2. December's Fall at Flushing Library Halloween Show - this was awesome. Really, the best rock gig I've done! We had a full stage & the audience was mostly kids (I mean kids!) who got really excited over our music & some wanted our autographs & stuff like that after the show - it was so cool! Such a great energy. Tony Baptist was on drums after learning the tunes in *2 days* It was so great to get to play with him again!
3. Brigadoon - My idea of an ideal musical - cello book was great, I got some players involved & met a ton of new ones. The production was with Blue Hill Troupe, who are a great bunch to work with & everything about it was awesome. Low pay, because Blue Hill gives their money to charity, but more than worth it. I wish every gig could be like this.
4. Music Career Workshop at Manhattanville - this was useful & helped me feel like I'm on the right path/doing things well. I knew a lot of the info already, but that's because I've been reading up on this stuff & have a huge variety of interests. I think this was a great step forward for Manhattanville, which I didn't really feel helped me out career-wise very much. Presenters were: Melvin Stecher & Norman Horowitz, Laurie Jakobsen, Justin DiCioccio, Michael Anesta & Christianne Orto.
5. Pam Devenport Masterclass - I watched her teach a masterclass at Hoff (to 12 & under students) & learned a bit from watching it. The most interesting thing was to see how much she emphasized tone & getting a good ringing sound out of the cello. It was also great to see the level of the kids, who are more advanced than my students (and have been doing this longer)
6. Sound Shore Chorale performance at the New Rochelle Public Library - went well, I learned a lot of my parts somewhat last minute, but sang what I knew with confidence & I learned more about what I need to do to develop further as a performer.
7. Photo Shoot - I forgot the artists name, but I did a photo shoot earlier today & will be recording in the future. More details when this materializes more & when I know that I'm allowed to give more info
8. Metallica concert - this deserves its own post ... here's the short version: They kicked my ass & actually improved substantially from last year!
9. I BUILT MY OWN WEBSITE! Please check it out at:

That's all for now... I have a recording gig tomorrow morning & 2 more concerts + a quartet movement all within the next week ... can't wait till this is all done!


I feel so insufficient when I meet other cellists & tell them I'm working on Haydn C & when I meet other players who have very easy technique/intonation ... I feel like it's such a struggle for me & not for them ... I was getting to that point, but then a lot of personal & work stuff started to get in the way of me practicing enough & not practicing enough really makes me feel insufficient ... I wish I was in an environment where I could just practice 4+ hours a day & everybody around me was doing that ... it's so hard at home when people want things from me & I have to clean stuff up & go to work & people get annoyed at me for not saying hi to them for 4 hours, b/c I've been busy practicing ... I feel insufficient when I get up and play a gig & a song I've played on multiple gigs & rehearsals is out of tune

The insufficiency is a good thing, but the fact that I got to a point where I feel like that at all is not so good ... I just need to get through this next week so I can get to a point where I really just have time to work on my own rep. & music

I also hate not being able to take gigs b/c of work - particularly when it actually looks like something cool/career-useful. I am definitely only going to hold this job through the end of december ... even if it means going back to taxis ... I like B&N better, but the nights/weekends thing is just completely killing me.

Ideally, I'll have more students by then & this won't be necessary (I will be promoting heavily in december)

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I realized: I can't do them.

I don't think I had blogged about this too much, but I had a band with my brother & 2 college friends: Max & Josh. We hadn't rehearsed in 3 weeks because I had this musical (which I think I still need to write up a post about). So Josh & Max had been writing stuff on their own & when I got in touch with them about scheduling rehearsals, they told me that based on the fact that my schedule didn't really match theirs & that they had been writing stuff together that had really been taking off, they wanted to do their own thing.

I am totally cool with that, and actually happy the band split, because it will free up my time slightly & it gives them the chance to do what they want creatively (because they really jelled with each other in a way that I don't with either of them - at least in that project). Also, I still have Pejoratively Yours with Josh and I'm still good friends with both of them. So this is for the better, and that makes me happy.

It also taught me something: I can't be in a band permanently. Possibly ever, but certainly not right now. I have spent almost all of the last 4 years developing as a freelancer & that has always been my goal and the way I've looked at and molded things. I just never realized what that meant in terms of commitment to something long-term. I'm able to do it with orchestra & chorus & teaching, but because I'm doing all those & because I do things like 3 week musicals and other gigs, I can't commit to a band - it's just too much. To really do a band, it would have to be my main thing, and while I enjoy it enough to do that, it doesn't do the things I need career-wise, so I can't ever make it into my main thing (or at least now I can't). That was a really important lesson to learn.

I've committed myself to being a freelancer - with all the crazy turns and inconsistent income and experiences that come with it ...

So much music to work on right now ... and I'm really behind on my solo album (but my playing has gone way up and is really improving!)

Busking Attempt #1 - Grade: C

So, today I tried busking in the subway in NYC for the first time. It's something I've wanted to do for a bit & a couple of folks encouraged me to, so I finally bit the bullet.

I tried playing in times square today. It took me a couple of tries to find a good spot. In terms of making money, it was a completely failure. I busked from 12:30-4:30. Over the course of the day, a few people took pictures of me, a few people talked to me about Apocalyptica (I was wearing their t-shirt) & I generally really got people's interest when I was playing double stops/droning against open strings. At the beginning of the day, I met Juan Castillo who is in an Andes Fusion band that busks (and is a member of MUNY) & we talked about maybe playing together. He was very encouraging and said I should join MUNY. While playing, somebody asked me about doing an R&B session & someone else asked me about writing/playing music for a film they were working on. I really hope those go through & I'm definitely going to try busking again - it's a lot of fun. I need to get a better stool to play on though - the one I have is too tall & this makes the whole thing very physically exhausting...

When I got home, I started looking to see if I could find leads for good spots/times to busk ... I haven't found much of use yet, but I did find this: It's a fun/interesting read.

I haven't written much about technical stuff lately ... I'm planning to start doing so again - I've been really making some good progress. I need to practice more though, and I'm behind on my solo tunes (that's not good!) & I really need to learn Brigadoon by sunday - kind of scary!

I also have started to apply for non-music jobs ... wish I didn't have to, but I really need reliable money.

That's all for now...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Breaking the Silence

I don't remember the last time I was under so much pressure/stress/fear. The last 2 months have been something of a nightmare in that sense. This almost all boils down to financial stress - I stopped driving taxis & was left with teaching as my only income - which seemed ok, but then I got some unexpected bills & it's just sorta set all the wheels of questioning & emotional turmoil in motion.

Now, I've added a new level to things. I started looking into Grad school audition requirements. There is basically 1 teacher I want to study with (that's Julia Lichten), which leaves me with two schools I'm applying to - SUNY Purchase & Manhattan School of Music. As of right now, I have zero confidence that I'm going to get in to either. I really just don't think it looks possible, and that's scary. But, that fear is really pushing me to practice and play seriously in a way that I've never done before & I'm starting to see the improvements already.

Despite the improvements though, this has been one of the most confusing and frustrating times in my life. I don't have a teacher, and consequently am struggling to give myself a direction & choose audition pieces & technical exercises and all that. Now add a timetable into this. Purchase pre-screens their auditions (I think MSM does too) & I have to have a cd ready by January 1st - Fuck! I seriously dropped the ball on this. I should have been preparing for this since Summit, working the way I am now. Looking back on things, I've dropped the ball with cello and practicing so many times already, I'm lucky to be where I am.

I also started looking at competitions and stuff like that & I realized how much I dropped the ball with even having the opportunity to do something like that (which ultimately I think is ok in the long run). I'm not really looking to do a traditional classical career, but having the option of entering these things would have been a good thing.

But, that's only 1 part of the whole picture of the last few months. I've been really busy with a lot of things. First of all, I bought the book "Beyond Talent: Creating a Successful Career in Music" by Angela Myles Beeching. What an amazingly helpful, practical and well-written book. I've been learning from that & am getting some good ideas for building my music career from it. But, that of course takes time.

One thing I've started (as of 2 weeks ago) is writing a solo cello album. This kind of just clicked as something I needed to do. I was thinking about the things I'm good at & what I like to do, and thinking about improvisation & realized that I could make a bunch of improv. tracks to sell on Snocap (Myspace's music store). While that idea then turned into "hey, I'm going to write my own album", I'm still very partial to the idea of recording an improv track once a week and selling it on myspace. It's the type of thing that I don't really expect a lot of money to come out of, but maybe some would here & there & at the very least, it makes it look like I have something more to offer as an artist (there are some great examples in Beeching's book about CDs/Demos being used to further peoples' careers despite not paying for themselves in sales).

Which brings me to the next thing I'm planning to develop. Well things: 2 workshops. First, I'm going to develop a Youtube Improvisation series, which I can also make workshops out of. Next, I'm going to develop a Career Advice for Classical Musicians series, which will draw on my experience from the next two years & well everything after that. Beeching's book mentioned that people booking classical shows often are more likely to book artists offering workshops/lectures/etc.

Which brings me to a weak spot of mine: Prepared concert rep. This is getting solved right now by the following: I have to put together a Beethoven Quartet movement for Nov. 22, I have to prepare for Grad. auditions, I will be playing in a Piano Trio at the New Rochelle Public Library in the spring & I will most likely be playing at Beth El at a currently undetermined date in February. This is causing me to really work on all of this repertoire & actually have pieces prepared so that I can put concerts together. Also, I'm realizing that putting together this type of concert is so different than putting together a recital at school - much less academic/pedagogical & much more about the audience.

One of the big things holding me back right now from a career perspective is that I don't know where I can get booked for paying gigs/concerts or how or who to get in touch with. Slowly, but surely, I'm learning all of this & gaining new information bit by bit. I'm also planning to record Pejoratively Yours material in the near future & start marketing that to various clubs & whatever else I can.

So I have a lot of the big plans set up ... I just don't know how I'm going to pay my bills right now. Here are my current options:

1. Work at Barnes & Noble again as a seasonal employee - this is beginning to look tempting
2. Work at taxis - this is the last thing I want to do. I can be non-committal and only work 1 day a week & while that freedom's nice, I also will be lazy about working & thus not earn money. Plus, it's not the social circle I want to expand into.
3. Extra work - I keep seeing this advertised on Craigslist & am seriously considering it ... I could make somewhere around $100 a day or maybe more doing this & that sounds very worth it, even if it probably means giving up my whole day.
4. Temp Agency - this was recommended to me & I just don't know anything about getting involved with one, but am considering it
5. Find some kind of regular paying gig - like a church job. This is exactly the thing I don't know how to look for. Every church is looking for an organist/pianist & my piano skills are just not there.
6. Get 1-3 more students. - this is ideal & part of what's holding me back from doing this has been being lazy/not having much time & even if I put the work in, there's no telling how long it will take to get more students, not to mention that teaching can be a bit inconsistent (with students cancelling). I also would really like to find my own teaching space (I can use my apartment now, but honestly, it's a gross mess & I'd feel so much more professional in a set space somewhere).
7. Get a part time teaching gig - I would *love* this, but there just doesn't seem to be a lot out there & I haven't gotten a response from the little I've replied to. There does seem to be a lot of "In Home Lessons" & I would honestly really like to get out of that rather than get further into it, because it just does not pay as well & eats up a chunk of my time & always involves logging lessons, which is just frustrating.

Other recent activities include:
Playing shows with December's Fall - always fun
Creating a mailing list (if you'd like to be included on this, just email me your email at
Topsy Turvy Loves - a 3 wk off-off broadway musical (this merits a whole journal entry by itself & may get one if I can find the time, though I may also have to wait until the production ends this saturday.)
Brigadoon - A 1 wk. musical with Blue Hill Troupe that I'm doing at the end of the month

Current Regular activities include:
Sound Shore Chorale
St. Thomas Orchestra
Writing 1 tune a week (2 completed so far)

Alright ... that's just a slice of the pie so far, but all I'm gonna write for this moment.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Music is 90% Mental & 10% Physical

Or another way of saying the title is that there are two types of technique - mental & physical. The physical side of practicing could basically be compared to weight-lifting - you need a certain minimum physical strength & dexterity in order to to play the instrument - things like finger independence, finger speed, being able to produce a loud sound, proper posture. Those things are incredibly important. The rest is mental. One must first have a concept of what they want something to sound like (whether you do that through visual, textural, aural adjectives/metaphors, doesn't matter - you just have to have some goal) & then the rest of practice becomes about 2 things: trying to create that sound & trying to find the least demanding (most-tension free) way of consistently doing it.

That revelation/realization seems incredibly significant and fundamental to me at this point and addresses progression on any instrument. You can do all the technique in the world, but it has to have a purpose.

One thing I've noticed is that a lot of musicians tend to discount other musicians who can play very fast ... I think this is pointless - it is simply one aspect of technique (and an important one)

On another note, a musician friend recently pointed out to me that English has very little adjectives to describe sound, and consequently, we use a lot of visual imagery - I thought that was an interesting point.

I'd write more, but I think that hits the heart of it, and I'm not feeling so well at the moment...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Recent Happenings

So, I still haven't had a chance to type up Post-Summit Reflections or masterclass notes or stuff like that ... hopefully I will ...

A ton has happened since then:

1. I quit Soapbox Army to focus more on classical studies
2. Manhattanville College informed me that I needed to return my cello by the end of the month
3. I managed to get a very nice cello to play on for the next few weeks, courtesy of Bernie Tamosaitis - I may eventually buy this cello, but it would likely be in the distant future
4. I'm doing Copland's Appalachian Spring for 13 instruments on 2 rehearsal (had the first one last night) - it's cool. This gig's in Danbury - quite a drive!
5. I'm going to be doing both an Off-Broadway musical & an Opera - this will be good playing & career-wise & also a good test of my abilities

I played for Bernie earlier - it was very helpful. In general I need to:

-Emphasize notes less
-lighten up w/ my bow strokes
-create the sound w/ the bow & not the left hand
-lighten up before shifting
-think more about style & practice slowly
-practice technique w/ specific intents/make exercises out of things
-analyze for excess tension & find the easiest ways to play things

I got to play on a couple of different cellos of his - it was very cool to see how they all respond differently & have different characters - he seems to know a good deal about the worksmanship and history of them, which is great, because I don't really know much of that.

Anyway, so I got some really great advice & experience from it, and I have this church gig in the morning that involves improv'ing over really simple chord changes

I'm thinking of starting a set of "How to Improvise" vids. on youtube - I think it would be helpful for folks who are interested & might help a little in getting my name out as a teacher - I need to send flyers/resumes out to school teachers soon ...

Anyway, sleepytime ...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Played the Brahms Trio earlier ... it went ok ... it had good moments & not good moments ... the concert was poorly scheduled (15 minutes after orchestra), so I didn't get a chance to run to the bathroom or eat or do any of my usual pre-stage rituals/routines ... so all in all, it went ok ...

Just, I'm really sick of performing pieces in a half-assed kind of way ... Nothing I've played on any performance has really been up to standard & I've never really been in control of it & fully making music out of all of it ... this needs to change ... from now on, I need to really have a piece down long before I'm going to perform it & be more than comfortable with it. The main thing that needs to happen is that my learning curve & planning need to be steeper in the early stages of work .. and I need more time of course.

Orchestra later ... gonna be lazy for a bit ...

More differences

Soloists always have an incredibly thorough definition of the piece they are playing, both in terms of musical structure & in terms of the technical means to realize that interpretation.

They also have a holistic awareness of the composer's life, cello, theory (well, not always), the score, history & everything else. They have thought deeply about these things and have applied them to the piece.


Today I noticed:

1. I am often not breathing during my chamber piece.
2. I was not using my shoulder blades in my bowing, which meant I wasn't making circles w/ my shoulders or opening them up.
3. I'm often not holding the string all the way down with my left hand ...

These were all useful realizations.


In other news, I got to see Alma play twice today ...

First, in a masterclass ... As if the fact that she plays incredibly well weren't enough, she also picks things up incredibly fast ... I forget what she was playing at this point ... I think maybe some Liszt thing ...

Second, in the chamber concert as part of the Trout Quintet. ... Um, Wow!! First of all, it was so great to see that piece live & performed by other students. They all did an amazing job .... Alma in particular had the whole score memorized & did an incredible job of playing what is essentially always a 2 voice part (it's practically written as if it's two instruments really). There was this perfect clarity between the voices, and you could always hear them both.

Her playing is really inspiring & I can't wait till I've developed my mind and technique to a point where it's that focused ...

I'm getting a lot more analytical about practicing in general, and have decided that I'm going to devote the first half hour of my practice every day to basic fundamental & kinesthetic work & making sure that all of that is really-well set & reinforce ... so the first hour will be a bit of an exploration really ...

I've improved so much in the really short time since my lesson yesterday, and it's really encouraging (but also makes me want to practice more, so I can improve more!)

I need to go to sleep now ... two concerts tomorrow!

Edit: We had a bit of a Jam session afterwards, though it turned into a read Jazz Charts session after a bit, which is much less fun ... Sytske knows all sorts of cool fiddle stuff ... I really need to catch up on that!

Also, there were some other really cool pieces at the concert & lots of other stuff/people I want to write about ... I'll probably spend all my free time thursday practicing & writing up all the things I didn't have time for ...

Monday, August 10, 2009

So about that classical stuff

I realized that there are two pretty significant difference between really amazing players/soloists & the rest of us:

1. Volume/Tone - The really great players have a tremendously large sound
2. Clarity - The really great players have incredibly clear technique & musical expression ... every note is connected to the others & does specifically what they want.

I've noticed the two are related ... if you play with a really big sound, you build more muscles & everything becomes clearer ... and that's the final missing piece between where I was before & where I am now ... well that plus the constant immersion in music & analysis, which I'm really getting back into.

The other thing I realized is that every practice sessions needs to be a really intense lesson (self-taught), where I'm giving myself constant criticism/instructions on how to do better ... words like ... basically taking a really intense lesson/coaching & making myself the coach & holding myself to the highest standard. I've been progressing a lot, but I'm still so far behind, so I need to push even harder ... I'm really looking forward to being done w/ Summit so I can really focus on the things I need to & dive in to some analysis, while doing 3 hours of technique every day.

I've also realized that I know a whole total of zero concertos (well, I've actually learned 1 - the Vivaldi Double Concerto, but I can't just whip that out) ... So, my next piece goal once summit is over is to learn the whole Haydn C really well & then to move on to something else ... all the while, I'll be really working on technique, and improving on that end, so I'll actually play something well instead of mediocre for once.

This last realization was prompted by the concerto competition, which was really inspiring to watch, because it really hit me over the head with how much basic stuff I haven't done yet.

My goal for next year (assuming I do Summit) is to have learned at least 1 concerto very well (so I can enter the competition) & to be at a point technically where the orchestra music is not beyond me at the beginning. I'm still struggling to play all the notes/play it really well ... though nowhere near as much as last year.

I also realized that I need to do a technical analysis of pieces from now on & make sure my technical development matches what I need to know in order to play the piece.

I've designed a technique routine, which I'm tweaking a little bit right now ... After Summit, I'll write it up.

Sleep time now...

Dream Theater & Zappa Plays Zappa

I just got back from an absolutely amazing concert (so refreshing!)

I missed the first two bands of Progressive Nation 09, but did get to see Zappa Plays Zappa & Dream Theater ... Zappa was beyond incredible ... first of all, there was this girl in the band playing Flute, Saxes, Keys & Singing ... A Drummer, A percussionist, Dweedle (sp?) & another guitar & bassist. Second, the giant variety of musical styles within their music is all kinds of awesome ... It really blew me away .. I can't believe how much I've been missing not having listened to them.

Dream Theater was great ... they've improved tremendously as a live band since I last saw them ... full of energy & doing a lot of great musical things w/ a well put together set-list & great transitions ... lots of jamming this time. They're so inspirational technically, but also as composers because of what they do w/ form/orchestration ... so amazing to watch & listen to.

I'm really glad to have gone to that concert, though I wish I had gotten to see Scale the Summit & BigElf ... oh well, I did get a Porcupine Tree sticker for my cello case! It's yet another affirmation for me of how much better progressive rock & heavy metal are than classical. I say better because there is more in them and they are so much more interesting & developed & have so much more sounds. And in terms of presentation there is so much more to experience at a concert ... it's a multi-media thing that really encompasses so many different areas, where as classical is this really narrow kind of setting, and while it's really expressive within its area ... we're still talking about a small area. Also, classical music was groundbreaking & transforming 200 years ago ... we've moved so far forward since then.

That being said, I'm planning to do some hardcore analysis/score reading of both Dream Theater & Classical stuff (starting w/ Bach/Mozart/Beethoven piano stuff).

There's some more I want to write, but now is not the time...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Summit 8/8

Sometimes you just need a break ...

and so I took one ... yesterday, after the concert I didn't practice & hung out w/ Alma instead ... it was incredibly relaxing/a much needed break. We talked about a ton of different things, including practicing & our conversation made me think of Jordan Rudess (because she was talking about the warmups she does & that they're partially intended to develop finger strength/independence & how much of a difference it's made in her playing), which made me think of this: - some amazing music!!

Today I didn't practice quite as much as I ought to have (only 3 hrs. instead of 5) ... so I'm gonna have to make up for it tomorrow & do 6, because I *really* need to shed both my orchestra pieces and my chamber stuff ...

What I did do however, was come up with a 3 hour technical routine that I'm planning on starting very soon & on doing every day once I get out of Summit ... unfortunately, I also left it in the car & so I can't write about it now (I can't wait till I have internet at home again!)

Otherwise, I went w/ Eric into White Plains & then picked up Michael Klotz - the viola teacher. I managed to watch part of Berlinsky's masterclass & part of Michael's ... missed Bong-Shin Ko's, which was unfortunate, because I would have really liked to have heard some of the pieces ... I'm sure I'll get to at Matt Haimovitz's classes though (he's doing two this year!!!)

I thankfully didn't have chamber today (I needed a break from it) & missed most of the 6 pm concert ... I did watch the 8PM though (which was originally supposed to be Aaron Rosand, but became a Student Gala instead!) ... There was a really amazing performance of Ravel's Tzigane on it (what a freakin' cool piece!) .. also, Elliot Mallard played Elgar mov. 1, and though we have an incredibly different idea of the piece, it's great to watch the way he plays ...

Speaking of cool performances, last night's performance by Dmitry Berlinsky was absolutely incredible ... it's been the first concert that really 100% grabbed me ... and you could really feel the energy in the room ... can't wait for Matt Haimovitz

After the concert, I watched Rita, Maria & Alma try the piano that they're going to play the concerto competition on (I really hope I can have a whole concerto together by next year ... I doubt it though ... I absolutely will have the first movement of the Elgar together in really amazing shape though ... that's a promise to myself ... I want to perform that and make some amazing music out of it) ... that was a nice treat ...

I got a very interesting point out of talking w/ Eric earlier ... he mentioned that when he performs he looks at something else, but thinks about what he needs to do on cello in his head & so I tried out doing that (because I'm trying to fix my problem where I keep looking down at my cello) & it was so incredibly helpful ...

My lesson w/ David went well yesterday ... I played for Jeff Solow's masterclass the day before (not well) & so we talked about some of what Jeff brought up, and some postural/set up issues (which I think I'm getting the hang of, but really want to ask him about again in our last lesson. This way, I'll be able to work on them on my own a little bit).

I also ended up talking w/ Jeff for about an hour or so after the concert this night ... it was great ... I haven't done enough of that this year ... I think If I do Summit next year, I'm going to go to less of the concerts or masterclasses, because I still need to practice more, but I also need time to be a human being & I realized that there's only so much one can actually get from listening to masterclasses.

I'm tired of the pressure of all the different musical things I have to do ... I kinda just want a break, so it will be nice when summit will be over, because instead of trying to split my practicing between too many things I can concentrate on doing a few things really solidly

I am also 100% planning on asking Mr. O to take regular lessons with him ... I've been wanting to for so long & lately I'm feeling more and more lost with cello and how to practice and what to do & just so overwhelmed and general, and I feel like he'd be the right teacher to really solve that. There's a certain instinct in his teaching & playing that I just so naturally trust & that seems to work, and having started the instrument under him, he has a really good understanding of my background & me as a person & I think we work well together.

Working on Bach has been really frustrating on a very good way (I'm really finding all my flaws) ... I wish I had time to write more in general ... lots of stuff I'd like to write about ... I need to get home and go to sleep now...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Summit 8/6

Today, I had Orchestra (like every other day), which I was actually doing pretty well in (minus the parts that are too fast for me to play at this moment) ... but in terms of watching/counting/making corrections and making some kind of music, I'm doing a decent job
... could be better of course ... and it will be once I have the music more under my fingers... now if only I could find more time so I could practice it...

Richard Clark has emphasized a few times that playing in Orchestra is like a big chamber ensemble ... I couldn't agree more.

So anyway, after orchestra I practiced for 3 hours & then played in Jeff Solow's masterclass, which was incredibly helpful & educational. One of the highlights of it was getting to watch Elliot Mallard play ... he has the most fluid left hand technique I've ever seen from a student cellist ... it's pretty incredible

In my case, Jeff suggested the following:
-Pick up the Tempo
-Start firmly ... the D F A triad starts on D, not a...
-Re-examine my fingerings to eliminate undesired transportational slides
-Slant my forearm back (is this called pronating)?? He used different words for it, but basically what he pointed out to me was that I was always balancing on my fourth finger, because of the way I rotate my hand forward. He also mentioned that I wanted a slightly concave wrist. So far, I have found this suggestion incredibly helpful ... also alarming, b/c I've been teaching people the exact opposite (yikes!)

In general, I was hungry/nervous during my performance, and my bow arm got very stiff ... I have to find ways to loosen it up & I have to find ways to counter-balance nerves/focus on telling a story before starting/being in the zone/meditative state. I also need to stop looking down when I play ... practicing w/ my eyes closed helps a bit, but it doesn't really ... I just need to practice looking elsewhere (and remember Steven Isserlis' masterclass w/ the Dvorak).

Then I had Brahms rehearsal (which I have 3 of tomorrow ...) & then I needed about 2 hours of me time to chill out & de-stress and eat & not be depressed (was dissatisfied from my performance at the masterclass)

Then there was the 8:00 concert ... many kinds of cool ...

Beethoven Violin Sonata
Brahms F Major - Bong-Shin Ko was the cellist
Schumann Fantasiestucke on violin (this sounds so much cooler on cello!)
Mozart Clarinet Quintet (which played 2 tunes orchestrated by Benny Goodman afterwards)

Then I practiced another 2 hours (making a total of 5) ... now it's time for sleep...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Summit Days x-y - the super condensed version!

I learnt something very important today ... in order to prepare for a performance (or a masterclass in my case), you have to practice something in as many different ways as possible (interpretationally, dynamically, with your eyes closed, with a story line or mono/dialogue running through your head & any other way you can think of!). Playing with your eyes closed is easily the most revealing of technical insecurities ... playing everything at full volume helps with that too.

In other news, today I:

Had orchestra
Practiced for 2.5 hours
Attended Emanuel Gruber's Masterclass
Practiced for a half hour
Had a 2 chamber coachings
went to the concert (first half Julian Milkis, second half, Beethoven Septet!)
Improv'd outside (this was nice - despite the humidity - full moon & I ended up w/ a very small audience)
Practied for an hour

So, 4 hours of progress ... I had some absolutely amazing musical experiences in the last couple of days, including: getting to play for Emmanuel Feldman in a masterclass (He told me to open up my shoulder when bowing & to move around a bit & to not hold extensions); getting to see Alma play her Liszt piece (Transcendental Etude 10) on one of the Student Galas (she played with so much energy & force that it really reminded me of Jacqueline DuPre, except on piano ... but anyway, I had no clue that one could get that much sound out of a piano); getting to see Eugene Osadchy & the rest of his trio play Tchaickovsky ... I'm sure there's other stuff ... I'm going to try really hard to do some full posts about the previous days by the end of the week...

So far Summit has been an incredibly transforming and inspiring experience ... I've generally been tremendously happy in a way that I haven't been in longer than I can remember. I'm smiling & learning & spending time with people & it's all been so great! Been getting some great stuff from the masterclasses too...

Now I have to go to sleep...

Friday, July 31, 2009

Summit Day 5-7


Hopefully I'll be able to remember most of this ... I haven't had any time to get on a computer lately ... I've been trying to really practice (and also trying to beat out Alma who so far seems to be practicing more than me ... I've been getting about 3 hrs. a day ... today I got 3.5

So here's a recap:

Tuesday (Day 5):
Tuesday I practiced all morning (3 hrs), then there was the Adam Kent Masterclass, which was disappointingly less interesting than his lecture, but still fairly cool. Can't say I remember much about it at this point ...

Then later there was the Young Artists concert, which featured a former Summit participant named Kristin Stephenson. She was a Juilliard graduate & seemed like a cool person. I enjoyed her performance & I probably should have chatted w/ her a bit & asked her what she thought of being a classical pianist & how it compared to her epxpectations & other stuff ... I was a bit out of it at the time or something.

In the evening was Suren Bagratuni & Max Mainolfi's concert ... this was all kinds of cool ... Suren is an amazing cellist & has the left hand technique I want to develop (which is so exciting ... there's so few cellists I see who really bring that out for me) ... Mr. O is another who has that ... I funortunately don't have the program on me & can't remember what he played at this point, but it was amazing. Apparently he studied w/ Danilli Schafran a lot, which was interesting, given how much Steven Isserlis idolizes Schafran ... cool little connection. This concert was particularly important for me for two reasons. First, because I was reminded that you are in fact allowed to lift your thumb off the neck & that it is sometimes beneficial. Two, because it reminded me of how important it is to use the fleshy part of your fingertipe to really get a good tone & nice, wide vibrato - this is the way I used to play back when I was really practicing in high school & I've started incorporating it into my slow scales & it's made a huge difference.

Wednesday (Day 6):
Busy day!

I only managed to get in 2 hrs. of practice, b/c I had rehearsal & then my performance for the 3rd movement of the Beethoven Op. 11 ... I played pretty horribly, b/c I wasn't feeling well that day, which really sucks, because I generally have this abundant self-confidence & sense of fun about performance, and instead I was depressed... I just kinda needed another day or at least a few hours with the piece too ... At one point I looked up & noticed David Krieger was there, which was cool, but also makes me nervous ... that's good though. If I had been playing better, I wouldn't have been nervous ... on the other hand, by the end of this festival, I'll be in such good shape that I could play that piece really well. My playing has already improved a lot, though I've been really pushing myself too. It also clicked in my head that I practice scales w/ slurs too much & not enough w/ separate bows - this is part of why my bowing technique isn't good.

Then there was the Rosand masterclass & the Tcheckmazov masterclass ... given that I'm not really crazy about Aaron Rosand, I decided to go to the cello masterclass ... the only reason I stayed was because I actually wanted to hear everybody who was playing ... Cyntia played Bach 3, Inna's other student played the Breval sonata & the little kid w/ the orange case played Haydn C. I really did not like his teaching ... he taught almost solely by rote & dictated interpretation. Those are two things that really bother me, because they are not giving the student the tools they need to progress on their own. I'm ok w/ guiding interpretation & sharing information & asking pointed questions, but not telling people how to play - that's their decision. The only useful things I got out of the class were that I finally understand what the hell people are talking about with Figure 8 bowing (it is also the way David Krieger explained it to me, though he didn't use that term), and he mentioned using weight w/ the first finger on the bow & that was just a good reminder. One thing that was interesting was when Checkamazov played something on Cyntia's cello ... the difference in sound was incredible ... it's amazing how much difference an instrument can make ... I wonder how much better I might sound if I had a better instrument... (not that I'm complaining about the one I have) ... speaking of which, Bernie mentioned letting me try a Carbon Fibre cello that someone gave him ... can't wait to do that once Summit's over.

Then, there was the Student Gala concert, which I had heard most of the pieces on from attending the masterclasses ... though the last girl (and one of the youngest) was absolutely incredible. Not only did she play her piece flawlessly, but she was practically dancing on stage while doing it & really looked like she was having fun to a level that we generally don't while doing classical music. It really made me smile.

The 8:00 concert was 1/2 a Russian Pianist (who clearly used to be really amazing, but has very unfortunately hit a point where her age is interfering with her playing ... she was still pretty damn good though & I thought she had a great sense of dynamics & volume & managed to do a lot w/ loudness in a way that most people can't). The other half was a Brahms Trio w/ Adam Kent, Jeff Solo & Elena Peres ... according to Adam it was the first & last trio he wrote (Brahms revised it) & was all kinds of cool ... I've heard it somewhere before & I'd love to play it someday.

Thursday (Day 7)
Today was busy & fun!

I got in 3.5 hrs of practice (a half hour short of what I was shooting for ... I forgot my rock stop & my bloody cello kept slipping, so I gave up at the end...). I got to practicing later than I wanted, because I had to pick up strings for Anna, but that's alright... So I practiced, then helped w/ check-in, which involved hanging out w/ Alma, Maria, Alessandra & Jessica & showing folks to their room as they showed up ... it was great getting so see some folks from previous years ... it was particularly interesting to see Drew (chamber partner from the first year I did Summit) ... he seems to have grown up a bit, which is good. Also, it was really interesting to see Elliot ... he lost a *lot* of weight & seems generally very happy and all. He's studying w/ David Soyer at Juilliard atm...

I skipped orientation to practice a bit, then had dinner, then went to the concert, which I was somewhat surprisingly disappointed by. Nathaniel Rosen was the performer & the entire first half seemed very off - like he wasn't in control or like he wasn't warmed up or something of that sort. It got better as he went ... also, the Hindemith concerto is kind of an iffy piece for me. The second half, he played Bach 4 (which I was not thrilled about ... it's hard to watch people play bach though ... it's so individual, but he really just made a very bizarre way through it - from my perspective). Then he played this really cool Granados piece (is there any uncool Granados piece? That name makes me want to go watch that Jackie documentary). He also did the Fire Dance for an encore ... that was cool too.

Afterwards, I trained Amery to do the lights (and am hoping to get a 3rd person) & that's the story for now. I've gotten over most of the social anxiety/insecurity I was feeling in the first few days & seem to be fitting in generally pretty well & practicing a good amt. & Summit's been very therapeutic in terms of giving me reasons to smile & giving me the chance to talk with a lot of new folks about my schooling and where I am in life now & all that ... I need to find more folks I feel generally comfortable talking to ... Jenny Wu was great for that (particularly, b/c she was 30 and had a PhD, so was very mature) ... it's too bad she's not here for the rest of the festival ...

Anyway, sleep time ... have to be up in less than 7 hours for orchestra (which I'm excited for!)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Summit Day 4

A busy & productive day!

I was pretty energetic early in the day (thankfully!)

Had practice w/ Jenny, then coaching w/ Flora ... David couldn't make it ... but we got the part between us pretty squared away.

Afterwards, we went to lunch & then to the cello masterclass, which was all kinds of cool. The teacher was this amazing cellist from Armenia (though I think he lives in detroit now or something). Leonard played Bach 3, Cyntia played Saint-Saens & the other girl played Bach 3. It was a real treat getting to watch Cyntia, because even though her piece has a long way to go, she's made a huge improvement since last year in her playing, which is great!

After that, I got in a small amount of practice, and then there was the Composer's Roundtable. A fairly interesting, but poorly attended event (it was competing with dinner unfortunately). For me the most interesting parts were hearing the polytones (is that the name for it) in Geoff. Kidde's piece (this technique was originally invented by Robert Dick), and hearing the difference in the 2 orchestrations of Mary-Anne Joyce's piece (which I got to keep a copy of). She described her music as a film score without a film & it was really cool, because I had that exact same thought as I was listening to it. These people are my former teachers as well, so it was great to get to talk with them before & after. Binette Liper presented as well & then there was a Q&A afterwards. I tried to ask questions that I thought would be interesting for folks/that would stimulate discussion ... tricky considering the lack of people though. Another interesting point was Geoff. Kidde's point about modern music. He said that he would tell people to let go of their expectations & just try listening to the sounds. It's weird for me, because I actually get a lot of modern classical music ... it just makes sense to me (which doesn't mean I like it all) ... maybe it's because I started so late, so I didn't get trapped in the Common Practice/Romantic sound-world. Maybe not. This event plus the original music from last night has motivated me to compose another solo cello piece soon ... I'm looking forward to it whenever it's ready to come out!

After that, I decided to skip dinner (because I was still full from lunch & had food in my backpack) & got in a little bit of practicing before Adam Kent's concert lecture. I think the concert lecture format - particularly the way he does it - is probably the best way to present classical music. or at least talking about the piece prior to playing it. It really gets you into it & gives you the opportunity to see things you never saw before, even on a first listen. I was really shocked when an older audience member started talking about the harmony in her comments - I just do not listen that well on a first listen in live music. Though part of the reason for this is because I often listen emotionally as opposed to intellectually to live music (though I suppose it's possible to do both). His lecture was all kinds of cool: combining history with musical storyline & theoretical analysis. Reminds me a lot of Steven Isserlis, though Isserlis is more charismatic & compelling for me (probably because he's British!).

In practicing, I improved a lot, but during Adam Kent's lecture, I had a bit of a breakthrough - I finally found a meaning of my own for the second prelude. This was because somebody asked about the balance between emotions & interpretation, and also because he was talking about Schubert's "My Dream" story & about his sense of isolation. One of the things I go through whenever I do Summit (and in general, whenever I'm in a new environment) is social pressure/a sense of isolation from others. I take a bit to feel comfortable & like I belong within a group - particularly when part of what determines your status within these groups is how musically skilled you are .. I'm definitely on the lower end of that. But I realized the 2nd prelude could be summed up in the word "Longing" for me ... and particularly the VNV Nation lyric "my restless soul is longing" from the song Beloved came to mind. I read through the rest of the suite ... the Prelude & Allemande are in decent shape & any of the others are do-able (in terms of preparing for a masterclass). Haven't decided which third movement I'm gonna pick, but I'm thinking of the Gigue. The courante or Sarabande might be better, because I need more help with them ... not sure.

The other big breakthrough I've been having with my playing is in regards to bow distribution & precision & technique. I've been improving worlds on that. I also started practicing the Bb major scale instead of my recent usual C# Phrygian). This has the advantage that in order to do 3 octaves, I have to go all the way up the fingerboard. Also, it matches the pieces I'm playing. On top of that, I did some shifting exercises & worked on holding the bow out for 15 counts at 1/4=40.

That's where I'm at right now ... If I can find the time at any point, I'm gonna type up masterclass notes, but as of right now, I don't have it ... I might have to type them all up after the festival.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Summit Day 3

Today was its own kind of hard ... but a very good day!

I woke up feeling absolutely awful ... like another 3 hours of sleep were necessary (basically I woke up the way I went to sleep). That continued for about the first 4 hrs. of the day ... finally, after I ate lunch & chilled out for a bit, things got a bit better.

Today, I didn't have my metronome or my laptop, which meant I couldn't practice the way I usually do. It turned out to be a blessing! I worked on double stops & on the Beethoven Op. 11 (clarinet trio). .. When one practices with a metronome, it's very easy to listen to the metronome & not to what you're actually playing. Working on the Beethoven, the progress I made today was great. I did a lot of very focused work & while there are some spots that I will need the metronome to work on, I really worked on playing it well, and am currently playing it a lot better than I could at my recital (though still not well enough). I also noticed there are some spots I'm not breathing in! I think my biggest progress with practicing was my bow distribution. I've been practicing in the dance studio, which is a room of mirrors & a wood floor basically ... many kinds of helpful. My goal is for it to sound incredible consistently. Then I can let go and enjoy it & make music out of it. My biggest problem right now tends to be fast staccato passages and shifting into intermediate positions ... also, self-confidence ... but I'm working on that.

After lunch, I watched the first 2 students of Irina's masterclass. She's a good teacher. They were younger students & I was really surprised at how well the first one played considering she hadn't done much in the way of technical work ... Irina went through. It was really great for me to see the two kids play (well, one was 17 & the other was much younger). In many ways, I'm much closer to them (technically) than people my age. As Irina was relating her experiences and stories about the Moscow Conservatory & Jascha Heifetz, I came to a realization. 1 hour a day is not enough to work on technique. I need 2 at minimum. Here's what I think I need to work on:

(A half hour to each topic)
Slow Scales (Standard & Ladder) 6/4 at 1/4=40
Fast scales - 4/4 at 184
Sevcik/1 Finger Scales

That's what I feel should be my bare minimum. I may have to make that 3 hours so I can start including etudes. This is a big general problem I'm having right now ... I am not finding enough time to practice every day, but this stuff is all essential & I need to learn it as soon as possible. That's the main difference between me and all these other players - I have the potential to be like them (in terms of skill), but I am not, because I don't have the technical foundation. It is something I can build largely on my own at this point. It just needs the appropriate amount of time put in. I need to make those my gospel basically.

After Irina's masterclass, I practiced some more, started analyzing the Beethoven (which has made things so much clearer) and then had rehearsal - only to find out that David Gale has pink eye & so we had a new violinist, drafted from the masterclass. Possibly David will still play with us. Rehearsal was productive & we've decided to get together as a group tomorrow morning (which is going to multiply the craziness of my tomorrow!). I'm scared/under pressure that this piece is being performed on wednesday at 12. That really gives me 2 days to get it down really well.

After rehearsal was dinner, and then a little bit of time before the concert. Prior to the concert, David Krieger asked me if I wanted to play in one of the masterclasses. We talked about what I could play & came up with Bach 2 or 4. I could do either, but after playing them on my own, I've decided I'm going to do a few movements of Bach 2, because it is actually within my technical reach. This means I'm going to have to find an additional hour to practice (I did 3 today) somehow. It also means I need to dig up my barenreiter & get another movement or two really solid (which should not be a problem). I want to play for Andrey Tchekamazov, but I'm not sure if I'll be ready by then ... we'll see.

The concert was all kinds of amazing ... particularly Andrey Tchekamozov's pieces ... one was distinctly American, and the other was a modern solo cello piece (I don't think there is anything more powerful for me in music). I think I was one of the only people who was really into it ... others didn't like it or found it hard to stay isterested... I'm forgetting the pianist's name, but he played his own (really long multi-movement) piece & then a Liszt piece. His piece & playing had a style very similar to Liszt - it was very cool. I'd write more, but don't have the program in front of me & also need to get sleep ...

I'll try to type up Irina's Masterclass notes in the morning... but maybe I should try to practice instead ...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Summit Day 2

So day 2 was also an adventure - a less stressful one!

I got there a bit early to get some practicing in & got in about an hour ... I need to buy a 9v battery so I don't need to use my laptop (though if I leave that home, then I need to write out my practice log ... ). Then I had to pickup Irina & this time her son Pasha came along (he was doing the slide show for her concert. I then also managed to get him to do the sound effects too, which effectively minimized my part, putting me back on the lights (which was enough work in itself!). Anyway, by the time we all got over there & working on stuff, we had probably about an hour to an hour and a half before Vladamir Viardo's masterclass started. So we did what we could, but had to come back later (both to rehearse the circus piece with sound effects & to get the projector working properly - a matter of getting the display settings right on Vista & hacking around with those plus realizing that we could shift the image on the screen via a little shift knob on the podium). Initially we couldn't get the projector to work, but that was because some genius had unplugged it (and left all the other connectors plugged in - so I didn't realize it was unplugged).

So after that frantic technical rehearsal, I stayed to watch the first student for Viardo's masterclass ... what an amazing teacher! I really wish I had thought to bring paper to write on, b/c those would have been great masterclass notes. I largely agreed with his philosophies & viewpoints. He commented that the girl was very involved with her playing & that that was rare & that she needed to hold onto it. He also told her to try to use arm weight instead of pushing (it's amazing how many principles of instrumental playing are the same regardless of instrument). Then he started talking philosophy of music - Questions like why do we play? Whether the written piece is finished or not (he considers it to not be finished & I agree). He also talked about the Mozartians or Chopinists or w/e (the people who insist they knew the right way to play these composers). He dropped the infamous "if there's any chance you can not play piano, please don't" line. Wish I could remember more specifically what else he talked about ... I do remember him stressing that one had to go through the score & find the melody and learn the melody first (he compared this to speaking - you have to know what you're going to say). He also then brought up improvising within the melody & asking if it's a monologue or dialogue. Similar to Steven Isserlis, he talked about needing to be a detective & decoding the music (it's a message throughout the centuries).

After that, I had to leave to practice & went over to Pius to work on Brahms & Beethoven (both of which need some serious work!). At this point, I made up my mind that I wanted to drop the Beethoven Op. 72 in the second 2 weeks (I had been given the option by Flora Kuan, my chamber coach, because I was already doing 2 other pieces). Despite the fact that I had performed the Beethoven previously, there's much work (musical and technical to be done). After that, I had rehearsal for that piece w/ Jenny Wu & David Gale. It was great to play with David. He graduated MSM, is 22 & is studying with Aaron Rosand. He sight-read that piece better than I played it (embarassing, but also a good push). I realized the main difference between where I was and where he was is that I sometimes hit the notes, where as he always hits the notes (there are some other pretty substantial differences, but that's the biggest). My bowing is also in need of a lot more attention (mostly in the area of planning & bow distribution) & I realized that I really have to focus on releasing my weight a lot more.

I almost forgot one of the most important stories. I met this incredibly cool girl from Texas (I think her name might have been Anna?). She's been playing for 3 yearsa & this is her first year doing the festival (like me when I started). She just finished 2 year college & is gonna get an undergrad degree in music. She's a pianist if I remember correctly, but I'm fuzzy on that. Anyway, I talked w/ her & she was cool. I can't wait to start meeting more folks, because that's one of the most fun things about doing this festival.

Now for Day 3 ...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Summit 09 Day 1

Day 1 was pretty fun, but also really hectic and exhausting ...

It actually all started last night when after working from 5-4 I had to come in to Summit to work on some stuff for one of the concerts that is utilizing a powerpoint & sound effects.

So of course, I walked into a nightmare: The projector wasn't working (I tried two laptops), the lightboard wasn't working, etc., etc. Did my best, didn't get it fixed.

So this morning I go to radio shack to get a DVI to VGA Adaptor ... they of course don't have it, meaning I have to waste time/money & go to the Apple store, who did have it (considering they're probably the only company whose laptops have this problem!). So then I get to Summit & help w/ check-in a little bit & then Brandon comes over to help me out w/ the theater & discovers basically what I discovered. We called Mike Loundsberry - the only faculty member who actually knows how this stuff works & the two of us spent the next hour or two working to get it solved ... only to finally discover that a router wasn't working. (which is an example of really poor setup, b/c the board should have just had a DMX cable running to the Dimmers & that would be that). We had even tried rebooting the Dimmers at one point ... even he thinks that place & setup is a complete mess!

So prior to this, I had been working on the projector w/ Brandon interrupting the poor (and very amazing) pianist who was practicing there & I did manage to get the key from him for the projector screen & finally got someone over from media services & we discovered that the input & output on the device that routes the projector wasn't correct & that was fixed finally.

In between all that, I was showing people to their rooms & managed to miss my rehearsal (oi), but it all worked out cool in the end ...

After all that however, I then had to design a light cue for general concert use & managed to figure out how to use the submasters (after discovering that all my previous cues were as good as useless, because people wrote over them!). So now I have a general cue (that may still need some minor modification due to heat) & groups of lights related to the map, which works great for me!

Of course, then I show up before the concert & realize that with 2 pianos there is some *serious* glare off of the lid pointed towards the audience ... I got 2 of the lights off, but one I just could not find with an audience there ... turned out ok though & I found it afterwards (when I could turn all the lights off).

All in all, it was incredibly long ... I met a few people including Jenny Wu, who was surprisingly 30 & is a PhD in biology & I now have Jeong-Bo doing lights w/ me ... hopefully Andy actually is coming back ... wish I could have met more folks, but the lights sucked up all my time ... I'm sure I'll meet them throughout the week.

I think that's it for the day 1 adventures ... tomorrow I'll actually get to practice!

I now have to trigger sound effects (aka perform) on a faculty piece tomorrow & get 1 rehearsal to do this in (can we say nerve-racking??) ... can't wait till that's over ... though very interested to hear the whole thing ... let's see what day 2 has in store ...

Monday, June 29, 2009


I'm not even done practice for the day, but I had a really important breakthrough today. I finally realized what's been missing from my playing that I used to have in high school. I used to push the string all the way down & I used to practice as loud as I could. This is also why I had really good callouses in high school (which I've never had since). Also, exercising outside of cello makes the biggest positive difference in the world!

I also recently found this great list on Irene Sharp's website:

I've been really pushing my technique the last few days, and my intonation is getting a lot better/closer to where it was. This bit about fully pressing the string down makes a huge difference in clarity of the pitch & tone & all that.

I also realized that all my bow strokes/changes need to be deliberate, and that this makes a huge difference in tone quality.

I also started doing "long tones" ... right now I can hold the bow consistently for 10 seconds ... my goal is to get up to 15 soon & then keep going up ... I've heard there are people who can hold it out for 45s to a minute ... wow!

Finally, I started doing the Galamian exercises again, and they are coming along much better keeping all of the above things I mentioned in mind ... right now, I'm doing the triplets at 120 in G maj. & am almost very solid on that (that 3rd 8v gets a little iffy, but I should have it by the end of the week!)

That's all for now.

Friday, June 26, 2009

I need someone to push me

Band practice tonight was a good kick in the ass (a little bit for all of us, but particularly for me) ... my tone has really improved lately, and my ease of motion & vibrato, but my intonation and bow control are pretty horrible right now & my intonation was getting to be spot on for a bit ... anyway, I didn't do as well in band practice as I felt I needed to, and it was a good kick in the ass, and it occurred to me that I really need someone to be tough on me right now & I really need to be tough on myself - In 2 ways.

First of all, I need to practice more every day. This has been really hard because I've been driving taxis & doing a lot of rehearsals/shows, so I'm generally not getting enough sleep & also having about 3 hours between work & getting on the train to go to the city. The solution is simply that I need to pull out my internet & get off the computer until I've practiced for the day & if that means I don't get to use it that day or I don't get to use it until 12:30 at night, then I need to do that.

Second, I need to practice better ... by this I mean I need to hold myself to a much higher standard of playing - one that involves having perfect intonation & getting everything very precise and controlled. I've been getting there more & more in my playing, but I need to really do it in my practicing too ... I just need to push myself more.

It would be so helpful if I had someone else to push me - a teacher or another musician who actually practiced for 3+ hours a day (why don't I know any of these people/why don't the live near me?) ... I really wish I was taking lessons right now ... I don't have the time or the money (money has been unbelievably scarce lately). The next 2-5 years are so important in terms of the progress I need to make ... I need to do a lot better than I am now ... all it takes is for me to stop being lazy about it ...

Besides that, there's been some really cool stuff going on in my life lately including playing in a huge cello ensemble as part of "Make Music NY" ... I wish I had more time to write about it ... I will soon...

Marty Steinberg recommended I take lessons w/ Irene Sharp after the summer ... this sounds like exactly what I need and want to do ... just again, run into the money thing ...

Anyway, tomorrow's my first show w/ Soapbox Army at the Bitter End & I have to work in the morning, so sleep now...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Gig Reviews

First let me say, I just played a show that was God Awful & it was maybe 50% my fault, because I didn't know the tunes/chord progressions & didn't play from charts. That was dumb and irresponsible, and there is no excusse for it, and I am absolutely *never* going to do that again. It's not right to me, to the audience, or to the other people I'm performing with ...

besides that:

-Gig at the Knitting Factory w/ Lachi went awesome.
-I'm doing 2 gigs w/ December's Fall (holy shit I'm excited)
-Band rehearsal today went really well & we got a good portion of a song written. So far, sounds kinda cool ... definitely needs work, but it's a start. It felt really good to write ... also doesn't have a cello part yet ... but still ... this is really what I'm looking for band-wise ... it's great

Got rehearsal for Jekyll tomorrow (which is being advertised on!) and then The Creation & band rehearsal (Soapbox Army)

I don't think I wrote about it here, but I'm officially a full time member of Soapbox and it's fucking awesome so far! ... I'll write more about it another time when I'm not really bummed out about a messed up gig.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

It's been a while...

So, the other day I had a realization. Not only do I have to continue to study classical music ... I want to.

I was working on the Bach 2 Prelude for NRHS PAVE Alumni Show, and I was really working on playing it well by doing things like having structured phrases & consistent intonation and clean playing, in addition to my own personal musical inclinations. Not only was it so satisfying to work on this piece on a higher level, but it also made it clear that if I want to progress as a cellist, it's not enough for me to just work on scales and technique, because that type of work only makes up a portion of the required skills.

The PAVE show was incredibly cool. I got to meet some very awesome musicians and actors who were a couple of years ahead of me and who were apparently impressed with my playing. I played the Bach 2 prelude through the delay on my amp ... forgot part of it as I was playing, but connected things in a way that nobody noticed. Afterwards, we all went out to dinner & I got to sit next to an old (art) teacher of mine who, in addition to having a large impact on my development, is an incredibly interesting and fascinating person. We stayed at the diner until 2am! Talk about fun!

The next day I had rehearsal with Lachi ( for our upcoming gig at the Knitting Factory (um, holy shit, I'm playing at the Knitting Factory! This is beyond cool!). I've got a solo set tomorrow, Jekyll and Hyde in the near future, and Haydn's The Creation, as well as a set w/ Jason Fresta ( Some more things coming up after that...

I don't think I wrote about A New Brain/Sweeney ... they were both awesome, though made my last days at school much more stressful. For Sweeney, the commute really sucked, but I met some awesome people.

Anyway, here's what actually prompted this post:

Summer Practice Goals:
-30 hrs. a week (this will be achieved successively - 15, 20, 25, 30)
-Ability to play most metallica songs w/ ease
-Proficiency in thumb position
-Being able to play very fast with ease
-Reworking all of the classical pieces I've studied so that they sound good (Bach 1, 2, 4, Haydn C, Elgar mov. 1)
-Getting through as many Dotzauer and Popper Etudes as possible
-To be able to play on the level of conservatory graduates
-Progressing further than I think is possible

That's all for now ... tomorrow determines if I met my 15 hr. goal for this week.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


1. Quad Jam - my school's outdoor band festival ... played 2 sets & got some really positive feedback. Used delay & flange on my amp & did some very cool stuff w/ it.
2. Recently formed a band w/ my brother & a school friend, named Josh. We're going to start rehearsing in June. May have a bass player joining soon.
3. May be joining a band in Queens in the near future. I will post more about this if/when it actually happens.
4. A New Brain - great, fun musical ... doing a 3 weekend run. This coming weekend is the last weekend.
5. Sweeney Todd - as soon as A New Brain is over, I start rehearsals for Sweeney & then do a 2 weekend run.
6. Just saw The Birthday Massacre ( - check em out, they're awesome
7. I might jam with this band (Remedy: over the summer.
8. I just created a myspace for a music project I've got going on, check it out:

Basically, I've really got some stuff that's ready to explode & develop the second I'm out of school ... can't wait!

Friday, March 27, 2009


So I have my recital on Sunday ... I had my dress rehearsal today ... it sucked!

Like seriously, it's great to know the worst that it could come out:

Why did it suck:
1. I'm on the verge of getting sick (thank you to my 9 yr. old student for having a cold 2 wks. in a row!! Ah well, I love my students so much! All of them!)
2. I took a *long* shower last night ... this is bad for callouses ...

And that's what's weird ... my playing went down for the first time in weeks, btwn. my inability to concentrate & all the extra muscle tension that comes w/ getting sick + my missing callouses ... it was all so strange.

Anyway, lesson + rehearsals + practicing means my technique's back up & in good shape ... just got some more note learning and crystallizing to do!

I'll get there & it's gonna be awesome!