Sunday, August 28, 2011

An Update From the Studio

So I've been in the studio for a little over a week now ... Finished tracking for 6 and a half songs & eaten way too much pizza.

I'd orignally been intending to do some more updating, include some cool photos & vid. & all that, but honestly, I've had my hands completely full with trying to record everything as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

We lost our first day to technical issues, which was a real drag & I've had a few days where I've had to go back into NYC for gigs (including for the Steampunk Anachronism, which was tremendous fun & awesome), but otherwise, I've basically been recording from wake to sleep most days.

There have been some fun moments, some tense moments, some stupid moments (lots of stupid moments) & lots of exhausted moments ... I've learned about how I can better prepare for next time I go in the studio (the obvious way is learning all parts before hand, but also having a map/notes of how many times things repeat, where they line up w/ each other, etc, helps too).

I've had periods where I've been flying solo, but mostly Sean Harty has been engineering this ... it's a tremendous help having an engineer ... it's just too much to manage recording & engineering (not to mention, having someone with an instantaneous knowledge of mics & setup & all that is tremendously helpful) ... I've learned a bit more on the engineering side from doing this.

I've encountered lots of weird things like loops not quite lining up, like having to put my cello out of tune to make open strings work with a pre-recorded part, like there are certain 1/4 inch cables you don't put into a DI...

Mid-way through recording, we discovered that Sean actually had the original Garage Band files from when I wrote the album (which I lost due to partial Hard Drive failure) ... that has been both exciting and tremendously helpful ... moral of the story - always back things up ...

Anyway, so that's where I'm at ... really looking forward to getting to editing & mixing (and not working against a clock)

It's probably gonna be a bit before I write again ...

Thursday, July 7, 2011


I mentioned in my last post that there had been some success in addition to the failures ... perhaps the most significant effect of that success has been finding a new sense of Humility.

I need to clarify, I DO NOT MEAN SELF-DEPRECATION or any other similar destructive thinking.

I just mean that I've got a better sense of where I fit ... I've met/befriended/been complimented by people who are better than me, who I admire... I've met cellists my age or younger who are better ... I've met cellists who are worse. I've had some more success as a performer & like everything else in life, the more you learn, the more you realize how little you know.

That humility is enabling me to grow (as a person and as a cellist). I've also gained self-confidence to go along with it & some level of security that I didn't have before.

It's cool :)

Failure & Success

It's been about 5 months since I moved to New York City ... I've had some serious failures, but also some cool successes ... if that's not bloody confusing, I don't know what is... Having a series of successes, and then failing at something can be a tremendous confidence-blow ...

The biggest failure has been my inability to financially support myself in a secure way. Every month, I've been barely paying my bills & every month, the margin has gotten smaller and smaller. Some of this could have been solved by more frugality or better planning, but honestly that seems like a short-sighted/growth-deterring solution.

Honestly, the solution is having a higher income. For a long time (despite the advice of a cellist-friend who I have immense respect for), I thought busking could be the solution to that. It seemed like a nice way to balance things - flexible, only required a few hours a day, involved getting to talk to people & get my music "out there" and network/get gig offers ... but there's been less and less of all of that lately, and the money is just not there. Despite my stubbornness and determination, I finally have to accept that this isn't the way I get to write my ticket to a better life. It's not going to get me there. On the other hand, it's immensely improved my playing & performing abilities & helped me develop some of my acoustic repertoire. I even managed to get into MUNY - an accomplishment for sure (I get to book my first performance through them very soon & am definitely looking forward to it!).

So busking has failed in that regard ... I've also failed at generating enough performance gigs to really provide good income. I've had some success doing solo or chamber performances at coffee houses or stuff like that (but I also had one absolutely terrible depressing & hurtful experience too). But I've stalled on where else I can start to play at or how to build up more of those. Also, my following is only so big .. I can only bug people to come see me play so often ... I guess in a way, I'm a little afraid from trying out a place cold, because of my failure at the previously mentioned gig ...

I've barely been able to get into the classical world of gigging at all ... it's sorta been like the really attractive & intelligent and amazing girl/guy that you see everyday from a distance and really wish you could get to know, but have no way of doing so ... the truth is though, I think deep inside, I've never really wanted to be a part of the classical world. I feel part of that is because I never felt invited & often, when around classical people I didn't really feel like I clicked with them ... I felt like they were very uptight or very narrow-minded & I just felt like I wasn't in that box (now to be fair, I've met & even been friends with some really awesome classical people) ... I also felt like I was at the bottom of the totem pole so to speak & I'm sure some of that has to do with my being a lesser cello player than most of the other people doing it professionally & some of it has to do with me going to a less connected, less prestigious school than most of the other people doing it professionally (and there may even be other factors I'm not aware of). For a while I thought going to a prestigious grad school and studying with an amazing cello teacher there would be the solution (and I think in some alternate universe, there must be a Mike who started cello at age 8 or something and became a really amazing cellist & went to a really famous school, etc, etc)... In this universe, I realized that I want to build a career based off of creating and performing my own original music in the rock/heavy metal vein? Can we say cool????!!! Can we also say Crappy Way to Pay the Bills?? Anyway, whatever the reasons, I've generated a small amount of performance work for myself & I'm really grateful for it & for everyone who's worked with me or told me they admired my playing or asked me back or whatever ... but still, it's small ...

I knew it was going to be fucking hard when I made the decision to be a professional musician (and kept re-making that decision) ... hell, hard was mostly what I knew, so it didn't really seem like a big deal ... just more of the same ... I knew that I'd have to build my own career ... I've even read up on how to do this ... but honestly, I've failed so far at it ... I am a good cellist, I am a good teacher, I'm not a good freelancer/business person. I don't have that skill set ... the inroads I've made have been just from general enthusiasm & sharing and persistence ... I feel because I have that, in the long-term I'll be successful, but in the short term it's not working ...

Another area I've failed hardcore in is building up a private student base. I didn't realize when I started teaching that I just really didn't have a good setup to do it. My first teaching experience was through an In-Home Lessons company (that later turned out to be sketchy and got investigated by the FBI) & some students I found through craigslist. In the time since then, I've never had more than 5 or 6 students at a time. I couldn't really teach out of home ... home was just hell in a lot of ways (and I mean that more than emotionally) and it was just a really unsuitable teaching space. I didn't have an internet connection that could handle doing skype lessons & I didn't live in the right area of westchester where driving for lessons made sense. So then I got a job at a music school 10 minutes away from where I lived - exciting, but not many students just yet ... definitely seemed hopeful. Unexpectedly, I had to move from home & even more unexpectedly (after having given up the dream of doing this for the time being), I ended up moving to New York City. All of a sudden this music school was really far away ... I stuck out the year, but decided to quit after that, because the money for the time just didn't make sense. In retrospect, I should have reached out to the local school teachers & tried to recruit students. I gained a lot of confidence as a teacher from the last year of teaching (at that music school and otherwise), which is something I didn't have. But still, I have not developed studio-building skills ...

There''s been a lot of successes over the last 5 months too (and the fact that I've even managed to keep paying my bills doing this is one of them) ... but right now I need to focus on the failures and bringing myself to the next level before things really get out of control. I've come to terms with the fact that right now I can not support myself just on a musical income. What must be balanced with that though is that music is still the most important thing in my life & I need the time to continue to develop my skills & to perform. I need the flexibility to be able to do local gigs, to go away to weekend gigs/events & network & hopefully at some point, tour.

I think temping is going to be the avenue ... temping and some small goal setting so that I keep building the career things that are going on for me, so maybe in another year or two I can actually have an income just based on music ...

I think one thing I have to learn to control is my amount of leisure time ... I've taken some very generous amounts right now (and sometimes I'll use that for networking, etc.) & that's been very important/useful to me in a lot of ways, but I think I have to learn that being an adult means that sometimes I just need to work more & be happy less, so at the end of the day, the ship is still floating.

This is where I am right now ... I know that where I am right now is worlds better than where I was 5 months ago ... I'm a fool, but a brave one ... I've had so many things to knock my confidence down & point me to pick something more sensible to do with my life ... but I love doing music too much ... I love reaching deep into someone's soul/psyche/whatever and causing them to smile or bob their head or move a bit or stare and watch in awe ... I love sharing with them, I love the feeling I get, I love the feedback they give ... I will make this work

But first, I will get some financial security, because this ship can't run on empty...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ghosts of Greyhame - The Journey Has Just Begun

Yesterday Morning, Ghosts of Greyhame reached full funding!

Needless to say, this is one of the most exciting things that has ever happened to me in my life!

The support I got from friends, family, fans & people I met over the internet is absolutely incredible.

Recording is tentatively set to begin on June 1st & there's a ton of work to do between now and then.

I learned a lot about creating an album & making it a reality from this & I'm sure I've got a ton more to learn about recording over the next few months.

I have recently started re-reading The Lord of the Rings (something I used to do every year). I have reached the point where Frodo & company have finished the journey to Rivendell, sat through the council of Elrond & are now about to begin the true journey to Mordor to destroy the ring.

I feel that I am largely in the same place (though my journey is a much happier one) ... I feel like everything I've done until now in my life has only been leading up to the true journey ...

I'm so honored & excited to share it with all of you!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Ghosts of Greyhame - My first solo album

Life has been a complete whirlwind lately. I've been living in Queens for 2 months now & have been busy every second of it, which has been absolutely amazing ... I wish I had the time and energy to write about all of the amazing things I've gotten to do and see and be involved in ...

I'm going to have even less time pretty soon ...

The stars have finally aligned and I have solid plans to get into the recording studio in mid-June to record my solo album ... the album that I wrote a year and a half ago and have been telling people about ever since!

In order to do this, I am funding the album through Kickstarter, which is amazing, but scary at the same time. For anyone not familiar with Kickstarter, it's a crowd-sourcing/fundraising site that works on an all or nothing model. So I have to raise my total amount or I don't get a penny ...

Talk about incentive!!

I wrote once or twice in this blog about my solo album, but never went into much detail about it ...

"Ghosts of Greyhame" is a concept/story album that fuses most of my different musical influences ... heavy metal, rock, classical, film music, folk music, improvisation, etc & puts them together in a way that tells a story through music ... It's almost exclusively layered/solo cello & even involves some electric cello (and who knows what else by the end) ... it's my way of making a movie or writing a novel through music... I want to go into the concept a bit more, but I think that's going to take another blog post...

It's going to take a huge push to get the album funded (sometime in the future, I'm going to write up a post about the financial side of making an album as a solo artist ... it is not a pretty picture! I think I eventually need to make a book or a class "Things they don't tell you in Music School") ... but this is easily the biggest thing in my creative life and career (or at least I think it will be) ...

As Mr. Lundie says in Brigadoon: "It's the hardest thing in the world to give everything; even though it's usually the only way to get everything"

So over the next two months, on top of the extra cello work/gigs that I've got, I'll be pouring energy in every second to re-familiarizing myself with/perfecting all of these parts, and to telling everybody about this project. I need to make this album a reality & I want to share it with as many people as possible.

I'm going to put together a small CD release tour once the album's done, and I've already got plans for a second album, but those things can't happen without this CD ...

It's my first Do or Die moment ... I plan to Live...

(My next blog post in this series will talk about some of my specific influences)

By the way, Here's that Kickstarter Link:

Please consider a donation (or if you don't have money, clicking the "Like" button helps tremendously!!)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What place does classical music have in my life?

This seems to be the nagging question that won't stop following me or leave me alone...

Classical music is inherently anachronistic ... for a while I hated that anacrhonism and wanted nothing to do with it ... It's not my world. Since then I've grown a bit and am able to appreciate this world where the focus is all about following an out-dated ettiquete where, even in live performance, the sounds are overwhelmingly more important than the visual. I'm able to accept that the genius of this music lies in subtleties that are probably actually just imagined/created by the observer/listener/writer rather than intended by the creator. ... Another way to put it: That rock is beautiful and I could probably find a million different ways to describe its beauties and magic ... at the end of the day it's just a rock. I'm willing to accept that going to see classical concerts & listening to classical music is an important part of my musical education - there is always something to learn ... often a lot to learn & it's nice to have a venue where you can just observe and be completely academic about the experience. I think it's crucially important for music students too. That's not what this post is about.

In a way, I guess I should have titled this post "What place does learning and performing Classical Music have in my life". I can answer the second part easily ... as long as I can get a gig and network and meet people and learn from playing it, performing classical music always has a place in my life. It's part of a freelancer's life in the same way the doing recording sessions or musical theater pits or whatever else is.

The first part of the question however is what I can't seem to figure out. By classical standards I have achieved a very low level of study. I know very little of the classical standard repertoire - I've only ever learned 3 bach suites to completion and have not even fully learned 2 concertos. There is a part of me that really loves working on this material. Especially everytime I watch Steven Isserlis or Jacqueline DuPre. I also know that practicing it makes me a better cellist & it is a path to technical development (not the only one). But at the same time I need to focus on something in life. It is hard to play all the music I do and do classical music on top of that. So I wonder, is classical music the thread that lies beneath all of this ... do I keep it going for the sake of socializing myself? For the sake of technical and musical development? Because I love it? If so, how much time do I devote to it. What do I do with it.

Yesterday 3/21, I participated in Bach in the Subways Day in honor of Bach's 326th Birthday (maybe we could do this for modern composers as well??). It was a real treat, especially because I felt stressed out and tired and exhausted all day. In my spare moments throughout the day, I practiced to try and get these pieces back under my fingers ... I don't even remember when the last time I played Bach was. I know that the maybe hour of practicing and the hour and a half of performing I did worked wonders for my Left & Right Hand technique. But more importantly, it inspired me to become better and to practice more. It also really cheered me up. The real treat though was when Eric Edberg came along ... playing in the subways gets a bit lonely sometimes - particularly in the spot I was in, so it was great to have some company & then to go around and get to watch and meet Dale Henderson (who is the originator of Bach in the Subways) & Lindsey Horner (a Jazz Bassist with a very different take on Bach - much more focused on improvisation). I wish I had had a chance to see the earlier performances as well, but I was teaching.

When I first started playing the cello, I fell in love with classical music. I loved listening to Yo-Yo Ma & Rostropovich & the Bach Suites & the Haydn Concerto & The Swan, etc. I loved playing them. My first teacher was one of those people who basically only did classical music (and some freelancing, but basically just classical). He really inspired me and made me love it though. I kept feeding that attachment as I went through college (I mean how do you go through music school without doing that??)

As a result, I've always got this tug of war inside between doing classical and doing everything else. I'm disinterested in classical, but at the same time I love playing it ...

So the question is... what place does classical music have in my life?

I wonder if I'll ever find the answer.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Are You Going to Scarborough Fair

Last night I had one of the most magical experiences of my entire life. I went to my very first Irish Session at the Landmark Tavern on 11th Ave. I came in very nervously and not wanting to be disruptive. I know a few Irish Tunes, but I knew I'd be way out of my league in this circle. Everybody in the circle was very friendly/welcoming and they made space for me to join them. I didn't know most of the tunes that were played, so it was a real treat for me to get to watch and listen a lot of the time and try to figure things out as people played them.

I was invited to start Road to Lisdonvarnia at one point, which was really cool! I also got to play some of my favorite fiddle tunes from Master & Commander throughout the night (which are of course originally not from the movie). There was tin whistle, pipes, flute, guitar, banjo, some small diaphragm instrument I've never seen/heard and violins. There was just this absolute magic in everybody coming together during the tunes. Most people playing the melody ... there was just this joy and power that I've never felt in playing with other people ... even with jamming or chamber music. It's almost as if the tunes had their own magic because of their age & because of the sounds of all the instruments.

One thing I found really interesting was that tunes often went from one to the other in a segue kind of fashion & people seemed to always know when it was going to happen (despite not knowing in advance what the tune would be). Throughout the night, I cautiously began to add in some accompaniment and harmony lines. About an hour and a half into the session, this Irish Band from Australia showed up and started adding in some tunes ... everything just went up a whole level from there ... it was a good deal of fun ... before they arrived I had started Road to Lisdonvarnia, Swallow Tail Jig & Moorlough Shore (which only a few people knew, but was really nice ... I was incredibly nervous). They played for at least another few hours. At one point, after improvising along with one of their tunes, they asked me to play a tune (which I was really honored by) ... so I played Scarborough Fair and people loved it (I also discovered that I didn't have a very good sense of the timing with it) ... I played some more with the group, but the original group began to pack up and so did I ..

I stayed to watch the band play for another hour or so & got to witness one of the members wet his tin whistle (finish half a pint of beer with it before playing The Lonesome Boatman) & got to witness one of their gang tap dance something crazy fast (which was so cool!!!) & in general just had a ton of fun! The whole thing really felt like musical home to me. I've got some serious tune learning to do now & good reason to do it. I'm going to another session tonight & it will be a while before I can go to another monday session, but I can't wait to go back!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Lessons From Bronxville

I had what I would call a good, pleasurable show earlier in Bronxville. I also learned a few things.

1. I still have a lot to learn about how to promote my shows. Of the people there, 3 were old friends who I reached through facebook. (one of the primary self-promotion tools...). I am currently compiling a New York list for publications/blogs/calendars, etc. I can submit event listings to. This list will become doubly important when I finally get to releasing my solo album, as I'll have to get it reviewed and talked about in order to get it anywhere.

2. I need to know my material cold & be able to play it in my sleep. I've been doing a lot of work. I played generally well & a friend commented that my intonation had improved greatly since the last time he heard me play. Despite that, I had a lot of moments of missed notes or faulty intonation or memory slips, etc. There is only so much time I can practice in any given day. Since I don't have another solo show for almost a month, I'm going to really hone in on everything here. The thing I played best (from a purely technical/ease standpoint) was my Pirates of the Caribbean Medley. This is because I've been doing it in some form for years and I've just internalized it enough to be able to perform it.

3. I need to be able to play without looking at the cello (this has been such a common theme in my practice - I really need to pay attention to this!!). This allows me to connect visually with the audience instead of having my head buried in the cello.

4. I need to talk less (I had a good balance of it last gig ... this one, not so much). It may be worth it to find a way to engage the audience more (though I had some people talking back on their own at this, so that counts for something).

5. I still have lots of work to do on correcting my hand position and freeing my vibrato (vibrating with the arm instead of the forearm)

6. Don't leave the recorder at home - I was really hoping to get some video of this ... now I'll have to wait for April :(

I plan from now on to keep a practice log again and set practice goals ... the last time I did this, it did wonders ... I'm reading to make the next leap ...

I think that's all for now. I had most of my plans cancelled for tomorrow, so I'm looking forward to a full day of practicing and hopefully getting some flyers hung up as well!

I need to start booking more of these sorts of gigs ... if you can recommend a place I can play, please let me know!

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Lesson Every Time I Practice

Right now I do not have the money to afford cello lessons. I have not had the money for a long time and unless things change, I won't. What I do have are years of training and skill and professional experience as a performer and teacher. This means that to a certain extent I can teach myself. A good private lesson is about raising awareness while pushing the student further & being supportive at the same time.

Some people set goals before they practice. I usually look for something that's wrong or not working and then try to fix it. At previous points I've set goals and used practice routines. It may be helpful to start doing that again.

Today my practice focused very heavily on the alignment of my left arm to the cello & keeping it consistent (particularly when playing on the 4th finger or shifting) & on using the whole arm for vibrato instead of just the forearm.

I started out watching and trying to imitate Amit Peled's video of the prayer. I learned a ton from this ... it led me to work on the alignment and vibrato. This has in turn helped my shifting, intonation & connecting notes. A lot of the work I did was slow & step by step (going at the speed of thought) & a lot of it involved going back and checking and re-checking (because the whole aim of this is consistency & the ability to do anything on command).

Some general tips and thoughts that came out of this lesson:
-Vibrato with the Arm, not the wrist
-Vibrato with forearm for quieter passages (generally requires more tension)
-Always play with a big sound/project
-Don't get stuck
-Every practice has to be a lesson
-I have to be my own teacher
-Left Hand has to down before the right hand can act

I have a list of cello technical exercises that I've kept for a while (mostly areas I want to work on or skills I want to develop), I'm going to make sure to refer in future lessons.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Technical Talk

As a result of video myself, I discovered something pretty interesting that explains some of the trouble and insecurity I have with playing the cello:

I break the alignment of my arm to the cello a lot. Particularly when I play on my 4th finger or shift. This is something I had pointed out to me very quickly a while ago, but recently I discovered vampyresonata ( girl & after watching her & every other cellist out there & notice that they all had this consistent position and ease/strength/directness of playing, I finally put 2 & 2 together ...

I love the way Vampyre Sonata plays, especially with her left hand - it's so direct and structured and accurate & it produces a great sound

Teaching advice for Masterclasses or private lessons: Mirrors are great tools. What I think I'm doing from behind the cello and what I'm actually doing are often different. A mirror shows me what I'm actually doing. Had somebody explained this to me with a mirror and taken 5 minutes to go over it with me, it would have stuck much, much more.

Some other things I've noticed are that my left hand thumb is often unbalanced or behind the first finger - particularly after shifting, my bow hand fingers are not bending enough. I'm also learning that there are times to tense more and times to relax more (particularl with the left hand).

Also, playing a piano dynamic still requires a firm left hand that fully stops the string ... this is what Irene Sharp means by left hand doesn't do dynamics (I think) ... What the left hand does alter is the tone.

I've discovered part of the secret to playing in tune (and this is something I was taught long ago) ... I need to hear/sing the part in my head *before* I'm playing it. This means I'm constantly thinking ahead (something I was telling a student in a lesson the other day & something Amit Peled talks about in his ICS interview)

Also, I have to start thinking about bow distribution as a means of expression a lot more & start mimicking other cellist's bow distribution, as well as their left hand.

Today I tried a new method of practicing, which basically meant that when learning a new piece, I stopped after sections and wrote down the problems and then continued (I would have then worked on them, but I only had an hour for this particular session & lots of tunes to get through).

I'm going to make it a point to blog regularly & discover new Youtube regularly and start reading peoples' blogs again (because I have to confess, Emily's is really the only one I've been reading regularly).

I am very stressed out (compared to my usual level of complete non-stressiness), but it's the kind that comes from working hard ... I need that right now!

Is There No Standard Anymore?

I've been learning a lot over the past month or so since I've moved to New York.

A lot about people, about music, about myself, life, etc. Many of those lessons have come in the past 2 weeks through financial difficulty.

One of the most important ones came a few nights ago after seeing Zoe Keating & Todd Reynolds play. This lesson has actually been coming for a while & it started with me actually practicing again & actually recording some of my practice. However, the LPR show was really the catalyst of it. Meeting a lot of buskers has also been essential to this change.

I've learned that I need to hold myself to a higher standard - musically and as a person. I've accomplished a lot in the almost 7 years I've been playing cello. I have a lot to be proud of and a lot to value. I've affected and inspired and moved people in all sorts of settings. I've created music, I've learned to improvise and play different styles, I've written a solo album, which I'm going to record soon, played in orchestras, musicals, etc, etc. BUT there's a lot I haven't done ... there's still a ton I have to learn. I've met and watched so many talented people recently and there is a level of musicality and technical proficiency I have not achieved yet. I've met a lot of "amateurs" who actually have a better technique than me or are better sight-readers or whatever. They arent' quite so boasty about what they do.

So I've realized, I need to hold myself to a higher standard. I need to practice more, I need to practice better, I need to record myself all the time & all in all I need to output higher than I do now. This includes things like always showing up early & being prepared for gigs a week or two in advance (and having played my show or at least recorded it before getting up to play it). This means being able to play everything I'm doing in my sleep, with fluency and perfection. This includes developing serious chops.

On a non-musical level, this also includes aggressively booking myself at venues (open mics, coffee houses, libraries, concert halls whatever) and aggressively looking for students & aggressively promoting shows and aggressively networking & communicating with the people who communicate with me.

I've been doing a good job about some of that over the last few weeks, but I have much more. I'm taking all the right steps, but I need to take more of them & take them better. I want to have a world-class technique some day ... I want to be exceptional & push the limits ... I have many hours of practicing before I can do that. I have to push my own limits.

My ultimate goal is to reach as many people in a meaningful way with my music as possible.

Time to get to work.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Maybe I don't need to be the same ...

I realized something in between the time I watched Zoe Keating play & now ...

Maybe I don't need to play cello the same as everybody else. I've always been really frustrated because my left hand technique barely looks anything like the really exceptional cellists I know ...

On the other hand, I'm able to play very expressively & able to move people (whether it's through my videos or live in a coffee house or at an Edensong show, etc.) ...

I also am progressively developing more and more precision/accuracy.

It's particularly when I improv that my technique goes kind of wonky ... it's also particularly when I improv that I feel free and able to be expressive (though at times I feel like I say the same thing over) ...

maybe it's ok to have a different technique ...

I'm not sure. What I do know is that I'm starting to improve & I'm really happy about that!

Going to sleep now so I can busk in the morning!

Out of the Box & Future Plans

This blog post is a bit overdue ...

I put together a demo cd a few weeks called Out of the Box (available here: ... It's a combination of songs I've written over the last few years, 2 Irish tunes, 1 song from my upcoming solo album & 1 guitar/cello duet from a short-lived ensemble called Pejoratively Yours.

It's called Out of the Box, because I've never really fit into any box as a cellist, as a creator, as a person ... I always don't quite fit the mold/I always march to my own drum.

Some of the songs on it are part of a "Mythology Suite", which I'll some day complete ... the 2 irish tunes are two of my favorite tunes to play (I only heard The Moorlough Shore for the first time last month ... Sinead O'Connor's performance is incredibly inspiring)...

Anyway, if you record a cd it makes sense to tell people ... so here I am telling all of you!

I'm also planning on recording a few more demo cds to represent the different things that define me as a solo cellist.

These will be:
Single Track Acoustic/Electric Improvisations
Irish Tunes
Guitar/Chapman Stick & Cello Duets
Maybe other stuff ...

The point of these all is to start to get my music out there (and also to have some merch to sell at shows & have something to show to people for booking purposes)

Any money I make from these will go towards affording recording equipment, FX pedals, lessons, etc.

Any support is appreciated :)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Zoe Keating & Todd Reynolds at Le Poisson Rouge

So first of all, it was raining ... second of all, there was a gigantic line that stretched all the way around the corner ... I've *never* seen like that before at LPR ... Thankfully the show started sufficiently late that I didn't miss anything.

LPR is one of my favorite venues, but the way they set things up was frustrating ... the tables in the middle were awesome, but that forces people to stand *behind* the tables ... no problem .. until you put couches behind the standing area. I spent most of the show moving out of the waitresses' ways or moving out of the couches way, it was annoying (also a result of combining two wildly different concert cultures ... rock music & classical). Besides that, it was really the perfect venue for this concert.

Let me start with Todd Reynolds. Todd's set really blew me away. The guy has a real virtuosic technique (but not in a show-off sort of way) & his music fused classical & blues & gypsyish styles & mixed looping with different FX, which really created a great result ... I've seen a ton of players play with a loop station & mostly, it's cool, but not thrilling ... this was thrilling ... not to mention, the lighting was amazing! I wish I could make it for his cd release at Issue Project Room next week, but I've got rehearsal. I really felt like he went beyond the loop station & really, truly created music. One thing that was really interesting to me was that in addition to using the loop station, he was triggering samples.

This was particularly interesting to me, because I have this solo album of music that I've demo'd and will record within the next 6 months (that is a promise) ... a lot of it is loop based or has multiple cello parts & I've debated whether I'd want to try to perform the songs live using sampling ... still not sure how I feel ... I'm going to start work on a 3rd solo cello piece in the very near future.

The lighting was also really amazing for his set!

Zoe Keating was a treat to get to see (and meet) ... it was cool to see her watching Todd play during his set ... it was also interesting to watching a performer who communicates with the audience, but doesn't necessarily have an extroverted stage presence. Zoe's music has been a big influence on me ... particularly on that album that I am going to be recording & I know most of her backstory that she's expressed in interviews, because I've read 'em all. It's really incredibly cool stuff & I'm long overdue to purchase a good loop station. it was also interesting to see the contrast in sound ... Zoe's sound was a straight-ahead pure cello sound while Todd used FX ... I think the use of FX may have something to do with why Todd's music grabbed me so much.

Still, there's something about a cello that reaches a deep part of me in a way that nothing else does ... especially about layered, harmonizing cello. It was also interesting seeing the parallels between Zoe's music & Break of Reality (who are also a big influence of mine) ... I have to say, it really impressed me a lot to see Zoe create some very similar music despite being one person.

A piece of her backstory I didn't know was that Zoe always wanted to be in an orchestra & that she always wanted to conduct. Also, when she worked an IT job and lived in a warehouse, she'd stay up really late playing cello and experimenting & developing her style. One of the things I find most intriguing is that Zoe plays into microphones live, she does not use a pickup. This results in really great cello sound (and is of course impossible to do in a rock band setting).

One of the most intriguing aspects of the show (and this is true anytime I go to see a cellist) was watching the way Zoe plays cello. The first thing that's apparent is the control and accuracy/solidness/fluidity of her playing ... a solidness that every cellist I see seems to have ... largely what separates the pros from the not-quite-pros (As Janos Starker once said, the thing that defines a professional is consistency). The next thing that caught my interest is that there are some parallels in our technique. First is that neither of us really plays terribly advanced thumb position stuff or incredibly complex fast stuff. Instead, we both make use of what the lower positions have to offer. Second is that both of us lift our fingers somewhat high off the fingerboard (though she has an accuracy with them that I can only dream of).

I think that's where the parallels end ... it's interesting to see the way she uses vibrato and the often lack of a legato melody in her compositions ... her playing and improvisation has definitely been tempered by the use of looping & it's amazing to see all the different ideas and motives she can put together in one song. In a way, she uses a very narrow (minimalist?) palette, yet she uses all the tools of that palette in a way that creates her completely unique style. It might be interesting to see her really tear into/wail on the cello one day, but she expresses herself in a much more refined way than that.

As I mentioned above, cellos really move me in a very deep way and Zoe's playing really stirred up a lot of deep emotions (some positive and some negative) ... it inspired me & reminded me that this is what I want to be doing, this is what I want to be: a performer & a writer ... it called my shortcomings and failings to mind and inspired me to try harder ... it also showed me new things that could be done that I hadn't considered ... mostly though, it uncovered the deep ugly, depressive stuff that's been holding me back and brought it to the top ... (which is great - music is supposed to do that ... that's where its healing power comes from ... it's also why it's so important to our world and society)

In a way, for me, Zoe's success is a beacon of hope ... all of my favorite performers had careers by now ... Metallica, Jackie DuPre, Steven Isserlis, Epica, so many others ... it's often hard to watch where I am and compare it to where my musical gods were at this time ... It's hard to accept that my path is different while simultaneously believing that it leads to the same place ... but here's Zoe, her career took a lot of time to develop & become what it is now ... she's in her 40s and it's just taking off in a big way... but more than that, she's been incredibly DIY about all of it (out of necessity) ... she's just gotten a booking agent for the first time (after 2 cds and a small US tour) ... she's had hard times, she's had good times, etc ... it makes me think that I can still achieve some sort of greatness and I can still build a career like this ...

Most of all, it inspired me to create and practice & this is what I need to feed myself on a regular basis ... I need to be a sponge & a hard-working sponge just like I was a few years ago.

(By the way, you should stop over at: & read Eric Edberg's take on the whole night ... he has some really great, interesting & important things to say ... the thing that stuck with me most out of his post was:

" And that the lesson for us is that we cello teachers, and those of other instruments, need to spend more time developing our students’ imaginations and sense of possibility and less time pressuring them to learn concertos they will never perform."

I believe the same thing.

So, thank you Zoe Keating for the inspiration :)

Nowhere To Set My Aim .. So I'm Everywhere

It's time to set some things straight with myself:

I am a performer/creator first! This is what really matters to me in my heart ... I like teaching a lot ... I'd even say I love it, but there is *nothing* like getting up and playing in front of people & writing songs & playing gigs & doing sessions & improvising, etc., etc.

I feel very stuck and frustrated about 2 things right now:
1. I'm poor! Maybe poor is the wrong word ... but I'm damn low-income ...
2. I have a solo cd that is the most important thing of my life. It needs to be recorded and released ... right now, there is a big damn read light in front of it ... it's been put on a shelf in a closet that's blocked by storage bins ... it's long overdue & it hasn't gone anywhere ... I don't have the money or the equipment right now

I need that cd to happen ... I need it in order to build a career as a performer/creator playing original music ... I need that cd to start booking and selling and doing the things I really want to do and believe in.

Right now, I'm just stalling & trying to survive ... my cello playing is barely progressing at all ... I play frequently, but rarely get to practice. I am working on changing this. Along with this change needs to come creation ... I need to write new songs, new pieces, I need to stretch the limits of the cello

I have some really deep important things I want to say and some worlds I want to create & that needs to happen ... but I need to make some very substantial technical progress or I know I have no hope making a career out of this - as a teacher or as a performer ...

I've had the privilege of seeing some great players over the last week or so ... I need to achieve what they've achieved & I used to work damn hard at achieving it ... ever since my dad died though, ever since I've needed to really pay my own bills & now having my own rent, I have been utterly directionless with cello (except in some small, meaningful ways) ... it's time to move past that now.

I put a lot of time into networking and promoting my music/playing, but that's meaningless if I don't have solid music to start with ... and by solid I mean high-level (because everything professional is high-level), well put-together music that blows people away.

That's all for now ... I need to blog about Zoe Keating/Todd Reynolds soon ... that show was *amazing* ...

I've started forming a cello plan ... long overdue.

Also, this means I need to really push myself to network and book as hard as I can ...

I have a demo cd up at ... and it sorta represents me, but I don't feel like it really does ... maybe I'm crazy!

Also, I think from now on, I'm going to call myself a Cellist/Songwriter/Teacher ... I think that covers what I do... I'm not really a composer.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Inertia regarding Dotzauer

So, for almost a year I have struggled with a cellistic goal ...

The Dotzauer Etude vids. I posted have received an unbelievable (from my perspective) amount of attention ... I really don't know what to make of it ... but obviously there's some power to them ... I stopped after problems with tendinitis & then after my father died ...

I think I'd like to restart them ... but it's so hard to go backwards ... I need to find a way to go forwards to them & incorporate them into my busy life and studies ...

Also, I think there's value in me making vids. of Bach ... I've had some people comment that my vid. of the Bach 2 prelude has helped them in some way ... My playing in the vid. really isn't even that developed (technically or musically) ... I'm worlds better now ... If I was able to affect people from a vid. that poorly recorded, I know I can do so much more if I make them now ...

Food for thought ... but I also think it's the beginning of a plan ...

I need to build a career and this may be one way to help myself do so ...

So I think goals for the next week:

1. Record a demo cd
2. Record the Bach 2 Allemande vid.
3. Pull out the Dotzauer Etudes again ...

Part of the problem is that initially I was doing this 1-2 weeks thing ... I wonder if that's what attracted people or if it's just that it was a vid. of the Dotzauer Etude ...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Irish/Celtic Fiddle Music

Now that I'm all moved to Queens and have regularly functioning internet, one of the things I'm making it a point to do is always learn ... musically, I'm pursuing one of my oldest and deepest passions: Celtic Fiddle Music ...

I love this stuff like no other!

I feel really connected to it for some reason (I guess in part b/c I'm half Irish) ... but I love the reptition & variation nature of it & just the sound and feel of it all, especially with the ornaments and little stylistic quirks... there's so many great resources on YouTube & the internet for learning this stuff...

There's also a bar right next to me that has an Irish Music night on Fridays ... I'm going to go check it out ...

It's so cool becoming a part of an underground tradition of music that really resonates with me ...

that's what I'm going to do ... it's going to define my musical style in a very strong way & I will record a cd of Celtic music one day!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Cello/Guitar/Piano Lessons in Westchester & NYC

So, to go along with some busking, I've decided that I'm going to start expanding my teaching into NYC as well ... Particularly Manhattan ... I figure if I can combine the two, then I'm really making the most out of my city trips & just generally improving my income & making my name known more & more ... I hope someday that somebody will upload a vid. of me busking onto YouTube & it will get popular ... that would be so cool ...

Niche Markets...

I think I've discovered two things I can start to carve myself into:

1. Coffee Houses, Cafes, etc. I think I can start to do these like once a month ... already have 1 or 2 set up & it's totally my kind of setting ...

2. Ren Faires & the like ... I feel like the universe is pointing me in this direction & all I need to do is write a few medieval-y/folky tunes & then take a few cool photos in a forest or something and throw together a demo cd ... but anyway, I feel like I'd fit in very much with this kinda crowd/thing ...

Also, just started with 2 new students (piano & cello) & the lesson went awesomely well ... it's amazing what comes out of being able to teach people how to learn!

I'm tired...


3. Library Concert Series ... I've already done one of these with Trio, must get on this!