Musical Meanderings

This is a blog centered around some of the musical encounters and experiences that I come upon in my daily life as a musician.

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Location: Alameda, California

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Hello from the Colorado Suzuki Institute, where my five year old girl did her first big concert last night! It was something else. There were maybe sixty cellist on stage, all lined up, the littlest ones in the front. They play the hardest pieces first, and the little ones have to sit through these pieces until it's their turn to play. It's not so easy for a five year old to be sitting on stage in the spotlight in the front for eight pieces, waiting to play French Folk Song and Twinkle.

Isabelle got up about four times and tried to come down and sit with us in the audience. We had to motion for her to sit down. She bowed after the first three songs that she wasn't even playing on. She played with her belly button a little bit.

But she played like a pro and we were all thrilled! Go Isabelle! After the concert, I gave her a special necklace with a cello charm on it. She was very proud and showed it to all the cellists at the cello pizza party afterwards.

She loves her teacher here, David Evancheck. I do to. He has been my teacher trainer for Suzuki Book 1. Today is my last class for six hours (uggh!). But I have thoroughly enjoyed it.

In the Suzuki teacher training course, we have eight cellists, ranging in age from 15-48, of varying levels but mostly professionals. We sit around in a class room and talk about which bow stroke to teach on which piece, and how to size a cello on a little one, and what the philosophy of Suzuki really is. It's kind of fun, to be having all kinds of musical discussions with these cellists.
I haven't been in a group of cellists like this in ages, it seems.

Anyway, we will rent a house near here for the next week and try to explore the Vail area a little bit, and then, back to the Bay Area next Friday.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Colorado Suzuki Institute

We are in Vail, at the Colorado Suzuki Institute. I am taking nine intense days of teacher training, and Isabelle is studying Suzuki cello for five days at cello camp. Wow---I can't believe how tired I am from this teacher training. We have six hours of class daily and then we have to go back to our condo and watch two hours of videos each night.

Is it lovely outside? I don't even know. Is it nice in Colorado?

This afternoon I took Isabelle to do her first "play in", which is a big gathering of all the cellists of all levels. They play selections from all the Suzuki repertoire and everyone plays the pieces that they know, together. At first when the teacher was chekcing all the student bow grips, Isabelle noticed that her bowgrip was not a "Suzuki" bowgrip like everybody else's, and she started to cry. She was panicking in front of the class, saying, "mom, where's my bowgrip? Mom!???" I felt so helpless and guilty because I've let her slide on bowgrip and her bwgrip isn't good---she just would always refuse to learn a good bowgrip---so she hadn't gotten there yet.

After that she tried to imitate their bowgrip and came up with this really bizarre looking configuration of her hand on the bow that made me cringe. She used it for awhile. They played a few of the easier tunes that she knows and then they totally went into the harder pieces. Isabelle was crying for about a third of this "play in", because she only can play the first half of Suzuki Book One, and they were playing all kinds of music that she doesn't know. She also would cry if I played on the pieces that she doesn't know, so I didn't play.

It was kind of a nightmare for me, to get through this. I felt really guilty and like I'm a bad teacher...but we went home and we practiced together a little and we went swimming and we felt better.

So she doesn't seem that traumatized by this experience. (I am, however.) But she starts her classes tomorrow morning, and I am very excited about this as I will go with her and we will get some great teaching from the man who is my teacher here also, David Evancheck. He is really great with the little ones, and so I am hoping that he can straighten out this bowarm trauma gently. Good luck David! Let's put it on you for now, and I'll be the at home parent/teacher.

In other news, Isabelle went ice skating for the first time last night! She was stubborn as an ox and would not hold on to anything. Her balance is great and she only fell a few times.

We have another week of the Suzuki Institute, and I am looking forward to observing her classes as a part of my teacher training. This teacher training is really giving me some good ideas for teaching the little ones. Teaching 3-5 year olds is definitely an art within itself.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Sick Weekend Survival

Well, first of all, I would like to announce that the Druid Sister's Tea Trio Recital is not happening on July 27th at Jack London Square. Our singer is doing a festival in New York, so we had to postpone it. And, I don't know how to update the performances page of my website. Does anyone want to help me with this? Anyway, that Druid's concert will not be happening.

And now I would like to talk about the weekend from Hell. Last weekend. I had four gigs lined up. And on Monday, I got some terrible form of food poisoning, or something, and I was not able to get up out of bed. Not even to make a phone call to cancel the things that I needed to cancel. But that should have been no problem, right? I had all week to recover until the weekend, when I would be performing.

It turns out that I did not recover all week, and on Saturday afternoon, I was dragging myself out of bed and into black clothing to go and play a wedding at the Berkeley City Club. I really didn't know if I could do it as I had a sick stomach and a foggy head. But it was only an hour long wedding ceremony and the guitarist and flutist were great. So it was not so bad. After the wedding, I hurried home to lay down.

Sunday was not so easy. I considered cancelling my students, but I felt kind of okay in the morning so I decided to give it a shot and teach them. I was a little shaky, but I got through four students. Then I had to run out to play a show at the Altarena Playhouse, in Alameda, called "The Last Five Years". I was just filling in on one show, and so I didn't know the music, but it was really fun. When music is new like this sometimes it's a blast to play. It's kind of like a roller-coaster ride. You have to be on the edge of your chair, waiting for cues, trying to feel the music and understand the score all at once, listening to the parts that your fellow musicians are playing beside you. It was really fun. I was playing with keyboard, violin, another cello, and guitar and bass. FellowAlameda Josh Cohen was playing the violin on this. I loved playing beside him, as some of the music had some klezmer flavor to it, and Josh can nail that style.

After the show, I was feeling kind of euphoric. I hadn't played a broadway type show in a long time, maybe since my 600 performances with the Cirque du Soleil "O" show in Las Vegas in 2002-2003. So I was kind of in this strange space, feeling kind of sick and weak from the food poisoning, but kind of exhillarated from the great music and the live performance, and I was thinking thoughts like, "Hey, why am I not playing shows? I love shows. This was so much fun. And I live just outside of San Francisco. There must be tons of shows in San Francisco that I could play. I wonder how I could get some of that work. I should be playing tons of shows in San Francisco and everywhere else..." It was a typical euphoric conversation that I was having with myself during an upside in my manic personality, as I was maneuvering with my cello through a really tight space, down the steps and out of the musician's loft, when suddenly, "crack!". I heard this loud and awful sound and realized that I had somehow banged my cello against the wall there.

This is a terrible, terrible thing, to hear this kind of a sound. This is really, the kind of sound, for a string player, that comes sometimes in nightmares, and you wake up shaking and in a cold sweat, and then you wipe your hand across your dampened brow, and lay back against your pillow, and you say, "Phew. It was only a bad dream..." It's that kind of thing.

Oh man! My stomach tightened into knots right then and I was afraid to look at the damage. Armando, our conductor, was very kind and he looked at it for me. Ouch!

So, there is a crack now in the side of my new and previously perfect Polish cello. This cello is called the Alabama Slammer, because it gets such a big and beautiful sound, and because I purchase it, believe it or not, on e-bay, from a man in Alabama. But that's another story.

I packed up the cello and headed for a wedding at the Brazilian Room in Tilden Park. Mary Tanios and I played cello and violin duos at this lovely venue. It was kind of fun. It's always a joy to work with Mary. By this time, my stomach was feeling better and I was not whoosy anymore, although I was still feeling very tired from the week of food poisoning.

I forgot about this awful crack, (conveniently blocked it out?), until last night when several friends and I were playing trios at a Phillipino Catholic High School reunion somewhere in the Presidio in San Francisco. After playing for an hour, I saw the crack and showed it to my friends, and we "oohed", and "ahhed", about it for awhile. We all decided that my cello needs to be taken in and adjusted and looked at.

So---that's the story of the weekend from Hell, and I am just thankful that I lived through it to tell about it. This weekend, there are more weddings and shows to play. (Carmina Burana with the Masterworks Chorale in San Mateo, and a wedding in Los Gatos.) Hopefully, it will turn out to be better than the last weekend. I'll let you know!