June 16th, 2015

Empyrean Quartet in Zion

My quartet (The Empyrean String Quartet) will be performing at the Canyon Community Center in Springdale next friday, June 26, 2015, at 7:00 pm as part of the Z-Arts Concert Series held at the edge of Zion National Park.

The program will consist of Mozart Quartet #3, Shostakovich Quartet #8, and Brahms Quartet #3. Tickets are $10 for Z-Arts members and $15 for non-members, and can be purchased by calling 435.772.3434 ext. 313 or by emailing zarts@springdaletown.com.

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May 4th, 2015

Master Class with Jenny Oaks Baker

JennyGrammy nominated violinist Jenny Oaks Baker will be in St. George this friday, May 8th, to perform with the Southwest Symphony in Concert “Etchings in Tone.” The performance begins at 7:30pm in the Cox Performing Arts Center (325 South 700 East). Click here for more information or to buy tickets.

She will be giving a free master class that afternoon (May 8th) at 3:30 at the same location (Abby Clark & Sariah Saltzman will be performing soloists in the class). Come and learn!

April 9th, 2015

Regional Music Sterling Scholar: Abby Wuehler

regional music sterling scholar abby wuehlerI am delighted to announce that Abby Wuehler has been chosen as the Regional Music Sterling Scholar.

She performed Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, 1st Mvt.

This award represents an enormous amount of dedication and devotion and is a well-deserved honor.

As Regional Music Sterling Scholar, Abby will automatically receive scholarship offers to universities throughout Utah, including BYU, the University of Utah, and Utah State University.

Congratulations Abby! I’m very proud of you and so pleased for you!

April 9th, 2015

Regional Music Sterling Scholar: Runner-up

regional music sterling scholar runner up kaelie gillespieI am also delighted to announce that Kaelie Gillespie has been chosen as the Regional Music Sterling Scholar Runner-up.

She performed Carmen Fantasy, 1st Mvt., by Sarasate.

As with Abby, this distinction was earned by a laudable amount of hard work and discipline over many months and years.

As runner-up, Kaelie will automatically receive scholarship offers to universities throughout Utah, including BYU, the University of Utah, and Utah State University.

Congratulations Kaelie! I am so proud of you, and am thrilled for your success!

April 5th, 2015

A Community of Love

furtwangler community of loveMy favorite conductor is Wilhelm Furtwängler, whom I consider to be the greatest conductor of Beethoven who has ever lived.

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, the great German baritone, who died in 2012, related to an interviewer a conversation he’d once had with Furtwängler, whom he himself admired deeply.

“He (Furtwängler) once said to me that the most important thing for a performing artist was to build up a community of love for the music with the audience, so as to create one fellow feeling among so many people who have come from so many different places and feelings. I have lived with that ideal all my life as a performer.”

This ideal, so beautiful in purpose and expression, was one of the reasons Furtwängler conducted so purely and beautifully and is something I would ask each of you to consider when you perform. It is an ideal to grow into over your the course of your life as a musician.

In fact, it is my aspiration to create this same community of love in my studio with my students and their parents. Real meaning and beauty is found in the love we share together, as teacher and student/parent, not just performer and audience.

Restating Furtwängler words more personally:

“The most important thing for a (violin teacher) is to build up a community of love for the music with (my students and their parents), so as to create one fellow feeling among so many people who have come from so many different places and feelings. I have lived with that ideal all my life as a (teacher).”

It is this community of love, this one fellow feeling, that is the most important aspect of everything we do together. It is the real music we make—the music behind the music. Without it, our notes—no matter how perfectly performed—are empty and without true meaning. It is only within a shared experience of fellowship and love that we are able to hear, feel, experience, and share the music that joins us all within the melody of its sweet embrace.

April 3rd, 2015

Utah Performing Arts Festivals: Award Recipients

susf gold cup winnersI’d like to congratulate all of my students who participated in SUPAF and SUSF this year. Your preparation and musicality was exemplary, and you all demonstrated significant growth as violinists and musicians!

For SUPAF, the Southern Utah Performing Arts Festival, adjudicators select the top performers from each session to receive a small scholarship to encourage further participation in the arts. Here are the 2015 SUPAF Award Recipients from our studio:

Abby Clark (Solo)
Alex Heizer (Solo)
Audrey Godfrey & Aly Candland (Duet)
Elly Winder (Solo)
Fiona Fackrell (Solo)
Genesis Gonzales (Solo)
Genesis & Matthew Gonzales (Duet)
Ian Fackrell (Solo)
Jill Gibson (Solo)
McKenzie Sampson (Solo)
Rylee Dalton (Solo)

For SUSF, the Southern Utah Strings Festival, a student who earns a “Superior” rating in three separate years is awarded a Gold Cup and asked to play in the Gold Cup Recital. Here are the 2015 SUSF Gold Cup Recipients from our studio:

Abby Clark (Solo)
Aly Candland (Duet, with Audrey Godfrey)
Audrey Godfrey (Solo)
Fiona Fackrell (Solo)
Sailor & West Mylroie (Duet)
Sandy Pulsipher (Duet, with Elly Winder)
Sariah Saltzman (Solo, Duet & Quartet—duet with McKenzie Sampson)

These awards represent hours and years of hard work; I admire your dedication and practice, and your love for the violin!

Reminder: Please come to support Rylee Dalton and Sariah Saltzman as they solo with the Southwest Symphony tonight in the Youth Concerto Classic Concert held at 7:30pm in the Cox Auditorium.

February 15th, 2015

Spirit of Hope Gala

spirit of hope gala

My quartet, The Empyrean String Quartet, will be performing at the Spirit of Hope Gala at the Dixie Convention Center Garden Room on the evening of March 28th in support of the Doctors’ Volunteer Clinic in Saint George, Utah.

The gala will feature performances by Emmy-award-winning composer, Kurt Bestor, and gifted vocalist and actor, Southern Utah’s Brodie Perry, and will include a chef-designed dinner by Heritage Catering.

Tickets are $125 and can be purchased online or by contacting Melissa at (435) 632-8645.

All proceeds benefit the Doctors’ Volunteer Clinic of Saint George, Utah.

The Doctors’ Volunteer Clinic, founded in 1999, is “a non-profit, non-government healthcare organization that provides access to affordable healthcare services for the uninsured, underinsured and low-income in Southern Utah by acting as a safety net of services that include primary medical care, mental health services, and dental care” and operates solely on donations and grants. Their motto is: Healthcare With Heart.

You can support the Doctors’ Volunteer Clinic through volunteering or by making a donation through their website.

February 12th, 2015

Kayenta Arts Foundation: String Soirée

kayenta-arts-foundationMy quartet, The Empyrean String Quartet, featuring violist Linda Ghidossi-DeLuca, violinist Urs Rutishauser, and cellist Jessika Soli, will be performing the works of Beethoven and Mozart at two concerts in beautiful Kayenta, on February 26th and 27th at 7:30pm to benefit the Kayenta Arts Foundation.

While both concerts are already sold out, you can support the Kayenta Arts Foundation, and the building of a Kayenta Center for the Arts, by visiting their website.

Their vision is “to build the premier venue in the greater southern Utah area for awareness, appreciation, education, and enjoyment of diverse artistic endeavors.”

The Kayenta Arts Foundation is a tax-exempt charitable organization.

February 9th, 2015

Online Violin Lessons: Questions & Answers

online-violin-lessons-questions-answersSkype has its advantages and disadvantages when compared to in person lessons. My goal, where possible, is to abolish the disadvantages completely; and where it is not possible, to continually find ways to lessen or mitigate the disadvantages to such a degree that the overall balance swings in favor of Skype lessons in terms of the student’s experience, progress and preference.

Here are some common questions and concerns about the disadvantages and some of my strategies to mitigate them.

I begin with technical questions and then address the five biggest concerns about online lessons.

What does it cost to set up Skype?

Skype is 100% free, and so are calls between Skype users. Please install or update to the lastest version for best video results.

Webcams and mics: Most newer computers/laptops/phones will already have a built-in camera and microphone that will work fine; otherwise, you can purchase an acceptable webcam for as little as $20 (or you can spend more for higher quality webcams).

For internet, you will want a high-quality broadband connection: minimum 1.5 Mbps or faster.

If concerned, here are the system requirements for Skype.

Is there lag with Skype?

If my student’s internet connection is strong almost never. (With 90% of my students I never experience lag.) If their connection is not strong there will be lag 1-3 times per lesson lasting 3-4 seconds. On the rare occasion that the connection drops, it’s okay — stay calm and simply call me back. (Have your phone handy just in case there is a lasting connectivity issue.)

Things you can do to foster a strong connection:

Instead of using wi-fi/wireless, access the internet directly (i.e. “hardwire”) by plugging an ethernet cable into your computer and the router.

If you are using wi-fi, try to be close to the modem. Also, ask others not to stream movies etc. during your lesson, restart your computer before each lesson, don’t have any extraneous programs open or software running, e.g., don’t have an anti-virus scan scheduled during a lesson. These suggestions will allow your computer resources and internet capability to be available for Skype.

How much experience do you have teaching violin via Skype?

I have been teaching violin via Skype since 2010, upwards of three thousand lessons in total. I myself have taken lessons via Skype from four different teachers, and presently study with a violin teacher who resides in New York, while my daughter takes cello lessons via Skype as well (many of which I have sat in on). For the past five years I have researched, developed, and fine-tuned my approach to overcome the inherent limitations of online teaching, and am now at the point where the progress of my online students equals that of my in-person students.

What are the limitations, or perceived limitations, of Skype and how have you overcome them? What is fact and what is myth?

1. Lack of personal connection between teacher and student: Part fact, part myth.

While everyone would prefer to be in the physical presence of a friend or teacher, I find I still have a deep connection and many heart-warming moments with my students while on camera. Sharing, love, kindness, kinship, happiness, and inspiration—the most important things in life—are conveyed and experienced through the heart.

It has always been my goal, whether in person or on camera, to be totally present to my students during a lesson, and I am keenly aware of its importance in online lessons. And even though I am on camera, I am still a human, and a lot of personal warmth can be conveyed and experienced between us.

2. I will lose the benefit of hearing you play in person, as well as playing along with you: Part fact, part myth.

 

While there are definitely shades and subtleties that are easier to hear in person, you become attuned to hearing over Skype and within the realm of that sound you can still hear dramatic differences in dynamics, feeling, and tone quality. As a Skype student myself I can easily hear when my teacher demonstrates dramatic opposites—more or less richness, more or less emotion, more or less depth—and can be taught and inspired by these fluctuations.

It is similar to listening to a recorded performance of Beethoven by, for example, The Budapest String Quartet. While it is not the same as a live concert, these recordings are still deeply moving and inspiring, and contain an unmistakable depth of musicality, sensitivity, and soulfulness—more than most artists ever achieve in a live performance.

And while I cannot play along with a student due to slight transmission delay which prevents dual synchronization, one person can synch with the other. For instance, I can play a piece or passage on violin, or its piano accompaniment, and the student can play right along with me. The limitation here is that I can’t hear them, but they can hear me, and follow my nuances and cues, so this is something we can do when they are struggling with rhythms, pitches or dynamics etc. and need some guidance.

To further mitigate this limitation, I make “practice recordings” for my students wherein I play their piece, or a difficult passage of their piece, to play along with during their weekly practice. This is very similar to playing along in person, with the added benefit of being able to use the recording over and over again, and play along with me many times throughout the week!

I also make practice recordings of the piano accompaniment—which most violin teachers aren’t able to do—which allows my students to collaborate with and experience the fullness of a piece through a different instrument. Usually students just learn the violin part of a piece (one half of the whole), and rarely experience it in the way the composer intended, with the violin and piano together. With a recording of the piano accompaniment a student can experience the true art and musicality of a piece again and again. Even years later!

(And, using software such as Evaer or Pamela (for PCs) or Call Recorder for Skype (for Macs), students can easily record entire lessons for further study.)

I also insist students practice with a metronome, and encourage them to play along with quality recordings of their piece. This is an accompaniment in itself with many musical benefits, and from there it is an easy transition to playing with a live accompanist.

Finally, playing “copycat style” during a lesson (I play a little, they copy me, imitating correct pitch and tone quality) makes them more independent, helps them listen more carefully to themselves, not just me, and requires that they figure out how to make their sound match mine.

Considering this topic—playing along with the student—is considered perhaps the biggest drawback of online lessons, the above strategies go a long way to lessening one of the inherent limitations and concerns people have about Skype lessons.

3. If you can’t touch a student you will have trouble making corrections and imparting technique: Myth.

Creative use of descriptive language and demonstration as well as specifically targeted exercises are just as effective as manipulating through touch. While touch is nice, I have not encountered a case I could not correct through the webcam in the same amount of time.

4. You can’t point to a starting point on the sheet music. This will waste a lot of time: Myth.

In orchestras (or quartets), for example, the conductor will say, “starting from bar 32” or “begin at rehearsal letter A.” I do the same thing. This trains them to be more musically aware and more independent and ready for ensemble playing, and is much more efficient and professional in the long run. It doesn’t take long for students to become adept at this.

 

5. Tuning my instrument on my own will be too difficult: Myth.

Teaching a student to tune their violin is exactly the same process in person or via video. I teach students to tune via verbal instruction because learning to do it themselves, learning to listen to their sound, is a skill they need to acquire and master. It doesn’t take long for most students to become proficient. In the meantime the student can use “fine tuners” or “perfection pegs” to assist until they have it mastered. The only exception is young children, in which case I teach the parent to do it until the child is ready.

What are some of the benefits of Skype?

Focus: Several recent studies have shown students are more focused and attentive on camera/online than in person. I have observed this in my own students as well. I notice less time is wasted, and that our time is spent more efficiently.

Technically: If they choose, students can record the lessons, both the audio and video. I can make practice recordings and transfer them to you during the lesson for immediate use post-lesson. There is instant access to online tools and materials which assist the learning process.

Logistically: No driving (saves time, gas money), no fighting traffic or the weather, you are in the comfort of your own home (can eat supper or hop into bed two minutes after your lesson!), if you move away I can still teach you.

• Can violin lessons via Skype work for kids?

Absolutely! I have taught many children under eight on Skype with great success. For younger children, having a parent present is crucial to help the child understand what is being asked, to help adjust their form and posture at my request, and to help walk them through the practice instructions during the week. As mentioned, I have noticed that on webcam all students tend to have better focus, and it is most noticeable in the younger ones, who seem to be enamored with the “TV” aspect of online lessons.

• Should the parent be present?

Most definitely for children under 8, and older than that, as needed. I will give detailed practice instructions that most students can easily follow by themselves, but every child and situation is different. As they become older, it is generally better for the student to be completely alone in a quiet room for the best sense of focus and attention.

• How do I get started?

Just send me an email detailing your background in violin, your specific goals, and your schedule availability. From there, we will set up a complimentary consultation to meet each other, answer quesions, check the connection and walk through the best webcam/lighting angles and set-up.


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