Healing and Hope

In the 24 years that I've been involved with making music, I understand the healing it can bring. I've seen it in my life personally, in a hospital bed, in a refuge home for beaten women and children, and I've seen the hope it provides. Even if it means that someone won't have to think about the abuse for one more night, or they survive one more day before their inevitable demise, their is hope in music.

That hope can be colored in many different ways, but for me it's the clarinet that paints the clearest picture in a certain piece. In the 3rd movement of Rachmaninoff's symphony #2 in e minor, The clarinet is the epitomy of hope. Throughout this movement, you can hear the clarinet show strength through the sostenutos. You hear beauty as it floats ever so delicately in the clouds of romance. You hear some vulnerability as it gets enveloped in the thick, lush harmonies that the Great Russian Romantic builds throughout. At the end of the movement you finally here peace.

I would honestly suggest to continue on and listen to the last movement as that is what we want to look towards. You see, Rachmaninoff composed the second symphony after his first symphony was not a huge success. The lack of enthusiasm that the audience received the first symphony with, sent the composer to a dark place that he could not get out of. The devastation he had to deal with after his failure, forced him to dig deep and further than he ever had in order to create the masterpiece that he did with his second symphony.

As I was saying before, the last movement is what you want to listen to once you have let the beauty of the third movement sink in. The joy, the celebration, and the triumph come together in such a glorious way did it just sends jubilant feelings to your heart. It's as though the darkness allowed Rachmaninoff to imagine what real triumph was about and the man captures it so perfectly. This composition truly captures everything about the romanticism so well, that it can really be depicted as a great example of music from the romantic era.

In the current condition that we find ourselves, it will be important to understand that if we stay vigilant and true to our convictions, we will overcome any mess that comes our way. Love and respect one another and just remember the golden rule. Is that not taught anymore? I truly feel inspired to offer music as a way of healing and finding hope. If you click and listen to the link below, this is the 3rd movement I spoke of.

We can all use a little hope in our lives as we all are having to deal with our own personal battles. Don't allow yourself to feel defeated by those things, remember why we have music. Although it may be an idealistic view, music tends to touch lives at the right moment. You just need to open your ears and listen.

Peace and Love everyone.

Source: https://youtu.be/59cLZSkkjPA

Let's chat for a minute...

So I think it's finally time to tell you guys how interesting the past several months have been. Since I'm a type a person that likes to keep some things private, only those who work with me and those that are close to me really know what's been going on. Quite frankly as things are getting a little more complicated especially very recently, I feel it's time to break the silence and share a little bit about the whirlwind that has been tossing me around. I have to warn you this is not written in search of pity for what's happening, but more of a statement as to why I've been quieter on social media and why the performing engagements have gone a little quiet.

To come right out with it, I'm in need of a cornea transplant in order to function normally again. The Silverlining of course is that this procedure will provide the fix necessary to restore my vision to its fullest. The bad news is that I feel differently from day to day because so many factors go into my vision problems. For one, I depend fully on my left eye for my vision because the cornea in the right eye is so beat up and scarred, hence the need for a transplant. The second factor is that I have photophobia in my eyes which is incredible sensitivity to light. On top of that I can only wear contacts because a previous surgery requires something (a contact lens) to be pushing up against the cornea for stability. Combine the problem of seeing out of one eye, having extreme sensitivity to light, and a dependency on contacts that get super itchy, and it equates to a very bad struggle when it's sunny (which is 90% of the time in Texas).

Having that problem really stinks when you depend on your vision so heavily as part of your income. Through all of this, my specialist recommended to stay off contacts as much as possible which means no serious performing. I can't put on my contacts long enough to practice for serious engagements because it perpetuates the problem. I'm limited to the quick "one and done" sort of gig and that's killing me. Musicals which I love to perform, are out of the question right now for sure. What really kills me is the fact that our trio can't move forward just yet with some of the great things we wanted to plan. I know we can still work towards our goals as a group, but I feel heavily disconnected when I simply can't perform with my friends.

It never crossed my mind as a child that "playing with your friends" could mean so much. I remember how much time I would spend with my friends outside playing football or baseball or whatever was in season until nightfall. It seems like the only thing that could stop us from having fun was when it was time to get home or worse, when you were punished by your parents and weren't allowed to play. It was never fun when you were deprived from your routine of hanging out with your buddies, running around and just being kids. I was never a fan of being punished. However, there was a sense of euphoria when you served your punishment and were able to get back out there "where you belonged".

Since May, I have felt very much like that punished child that has not been able to play with his friends. I've only been able to do what's required and even then I feel like I can't do that to my very best. It might be an ego thing (as all musicians have an ego those that say they don't are lying to your face) but I don't feel like myself when I don't play music for audiences. I know that beautiful music can transform lives or simply make people happy. I truly feel like I understand my purpose on this planet and right now it feels like I'm not equipped for it.

There is an end to this problem in sight(no pun intended) and hope that at my next appointment on November 29, we can set a date for this surgery to happen. As my doctor said, "if we do this procedure you'll be reading music very well and you'll be enjoying those baseball games a lot more". If things go as planned then I should be back at it soon after my surgery. In the meantime, prayers, good thoughts, and good vibes are always welcome. I'm realizing that Patience truly is a virtue, and that good things are worth waiting for. This process was going to be a marathon from the get go and there haven't been any shortcuts available to take. This has certainly provided perspective as to how not all things are accomplished on OUR timeline and we have to be ok with it.

This "punishment" will be over soon and I'll be out there playing with my friends once again, just promise me that you'll come hear us.

Hard to Speak

For those of us who make music, it's very easy to express what is in our hearts as we just allow our instrument to speak for us. At that moment we are vulnerable and at the mercy of our instrument, the elements, our psyche. Though we practice so hard to deliver a passage or a piece in a certain way, at the moment of truth anything can happen. There are so many things that we can plan for, but after all we have no control over so many things in this world.

It's one thing to have that feeling in the concert hall but something entirely different if we live our daily lives that way. In this country we've grown up with the ability to be free because so many brave men and women in the past sacrificed their lives so that we can enjoy freedom. When somebody infringes on the right to be who you are, it's difficult to just go on like everything will be OK.

The tragic events of Orlando forces me to take a long look at what I have seen throughout my life and makes me contemplate on what I can anticipate moving forward. I did not have relatives that were directly injured, nor am I a gay man seeking answers on why the LGBT community suffers another hateful attack. Im simply a skeptic who wonders, "what is happening around us?" Why did a perfectly normal ending to a night out, take a turn for the worst? I mean, I was out listening to music in a club on Friday night, was I lucky to survive? It was just another night out with friends, why would some crazy thought like that cross my mind?

The truth is we can't go through life thinking "Will it happen here?" We need to live our lives with purpose. I'm not going to offer answers on how to stop this. I'm simply a man who goes through life wanting to be treated just as nicely as I treat everyone else, just like "The Golden Rule" taught us. I'm a musician who seeks to help people escape for a moment from what seems to be s pretty unstable world. I'm a teacher who thinks, "will the things I teach my students help them become a better member of society?" While I feel that I'm leading my students in the right direction, I can't provide them with the answers on why people do Such horrible things.

It's an awful feeling when you know that you can't provide answers on a subject after your students have depended on your guidance for all things music. It brings me back to 9/11 and the days that followed. At my lesson that week, my teacher and I simply discussed how we felt about the events that had occurred. While I remember not offering very much to the conversation because I was still in disbelief, my teacher offered a unique point of view. Since he was Russian I got the feeling that he was desensitized to tragedy, to a certain extent. His perspective just made me realize how lucky I was to have a mentor like that in my life but also the importance of simply talking about what is going on.

It's important sometimes to express what is on your mind. It's not a matter of someone agreeing or disagreeing, sometimes it's just a matter of getting something off your chest.

1 Day to Give Thanks?

Every November on the last Thursday, it is American tradition to celebrate Thanksgiving Day. A day where people plan an elaborate feast with friends, family, and significant others. Of course there are many who aren't fortunate enough to be around loved ones or even enjoy a meal on that day. I'm incredibly blessed that I was able to celebrate for several days, with family members, relatives, and really close friends. I had such a good time that I decided to stay an extra day because I really wasn't ready to leave.

I'm a person that likes to plan ahead and follow a routine, so making a spontaneous decision like that is not in my wheel house. This decision was made the day before I was supposed to leave, when I was having great conversation with my brother. We reflected on the great Thanksgiving Day we had spent together and were able to just talk life. Something that's hard to do considering we only talk on the phone due to distance and he's typically having to call me back due to the high volume of phone calls he receives.

The topic that sparked such great conversation was actually the impromptu visit that my godmother made on Thanksgiving morning in which we chatted over coffee, laughed hysterically, and shared breakfast together. Although we don't live near each other, social media has allowed us to be involved in each other's lives so as soon as she arrived, we didn't miss a beat. The thing that stood out with my brother and me was that even though she has gone through some incredibly difficult times, raising 3 kids on her own and putting them through college, she didn't resent anything or anyone for it. She just got after it; Resilience at its finest. She just flat out told us that she really likes to reflect on and talk about the good times, despite her struggle.

This really set the table for the Thanksgiving we had and the Friday cousin hang that we planned. Quite frankly, it opened up my eyes to what I've been closing myself off to and how I make excuses for not reaching out to family more often. It's truly a blessing to have the family I have because though some of us have had our rifts, we are still family and we should have each other's back. I was so thankful that we came together because we certainly don't do it enough. Our cousins had so much fun together that they've already planned another get together after Christmas in which unfortunately, I will not be at. It makes me very happy that this can become a regular event and not just an annual function since we don't know when we will all be together again.

My point to writing this blurb was not only to express my Thank You to the family and friends that helped me appreciate life this week, but to encourage others to be Thankful for what you have everyday. Though tradition dictates that we give thanks once a year, it's important to do it daily. We should quit thinking about the things we don't have and start counting our blessings as some people literally have nothing. So while this holiday may come and go, it's important to know that our Thankfulness should remain a daily happening. Considering our family has lost 2 of my cousins in the past 2 years, I'm very thankful that we were able to create beautiful memories together that will always remain with us. Don't let another day go by without saying Thanks for what you have and for the people in your life that love you.

Of course I couldn't close without sharing a song that is incredibly beautiful and sums up this week of vacation for me. Enjoy.

Source: http://youtu.be/Ovb_iRWcqsc

Thoughts

It occurred to me that I haven't posted a blog in a while. Needless to say life has been hectic with the usual teaching and a more beefed up performing schedule. With December (seemingly) fast approaching there's even more performing and less time for decompressing.

The fact is though, some of us cannot function without a busy schedule or a full plate. A dear friend said that to me last week as I was filling her in on what's been going on in my life. Having a constantly busy schedule seems to be a driving force in successful people and success is something I strive for. As a perspicacious person, I like offering answers and solutions so the more I do, the more I feel I grow.

While I agree that it's important to find something you enjoy and be good at it, I also feel it's important to try different things, be it hobbies, new foods, or even something you have never done before. Taking risks is an important part of learning.

In lessons with my 2nd or 3rd year students and beyond, I often challenge them to show me different options on how to execute certain passages. We help them understand that there can be times where there are more than one way to the solution. Having a clear understanding of all the options allows you to be better prepared. Most importantly, knowing all the options allows you to know the ideal one for you. It's the "Ice cream shop" analogy. You are allowed to sample different flavors before you commit to the one that's best suited for you.

With music, my palette is quite extensive and truthfully I listen to whatever the mood strikes me to listen to. A song that I enjoy, not only because of the video but because it's a great song is a classic. I'd rather not tell you what it is and simply encourage you to click the link. Enjoy :)

Source: http://youtu.be/DohRa9lsx0Q

100 Cello Warm-Ups

I have ran across a very insightful blog that will be happening every Monday. It is presented by Robert Jesselson, a fantastic cello professor. I will post these here so that we can all learn some very helpful cello ideas. I have heard of and tried some of the things he talks about here but some are new things for me! I'm very excited to follow this blog and include you in this great learning experience. Enjoy!

Source: http://cellobello.com/blog/index.php/100-c...

Making a Cello

It's always a fun process when you're ready to purchase your instrument. You get the pleasure of trying out just about any instrument in front of you to make an informed decision. It's like a buffet for your musical appetite. What you don't actually get to check out is what exactly went into the construction of a cello. The hours and detail put into every single step of the process is incredible. It's no secret why instruments are priced the way they are. Making an instrumentation is truly a work of art. The video below will allow you to admire the process. It's about 20 minutes, but worth every second. Check it out and learn something new. Enjoy

Source: http://youtu.be/5dgAJur6of4

Back-To-School

As the summer draws to its end and the New School Year gets going, there's always a great feeling of optimism in the air. Positivity, happy thoughts, good vibes, and just a sense of freshness that once again we get to put our craft to practice and strive to make it a better year than the previous. For educators and students alike, the start of a new school year means we will learn new things about ourselves and life in general. Our limits will be tested, challenges will be met, and sometimes obstacles will push right back. The important thing is to "Keep your eye on the prize" as they say, and keep moving forward.

I feel it necessary to mention that during times of adversity, always look back on your basics. Break things down and understand that you can only solve 1 problem at a time. You will certainly be faced with many problems to solve or overcome, but don't get caught up in "how much you have left to do" but focus on "what can I solve today, so I can make tomorrow a little easier". This means that if you chip away at things on a consistent basis, you will never feel overwhelmed. This means working on homework assignments while the information is fresh on your mind, as opposed to the night before it's due. It also means practicing what you learned in your lesson, on the same evening or the very next day.

Believe me, breaking things down and keeping things simple will allow you to "Keep your eye on the prize" as opposed to treading water and feeling like you're trying to keep your head above water. In order to meet your goals and achieve your dreams, it's important to work hard, believe in yourself and be motivated to better yourself each day so that you get one day closer to that goal. To put things in perspective, listen closely to Kermit the Frog's beautiful message on the link below. I wish all my friends, colleagues, and students a great start to this new school year. I look forward to being a part of your successes. All the Best!

Source: http://youtu.be/r3Va6aLbLHk

Stage Presence

This topic is so important to performers, especially if you're performing your own recital, as guest soloist, or (for students)at a Solo & Ensemble contest. Few people like Piatigorsky, Rostropovich, or Yo-Yo Ma have the presence and charisma on stage like these great cellists. That doesn't mean that your performance cannot be impactful. In fact, the link below gives you a few pointers on how to grip your audience when you play. Check it out, this short read is a must! Enjoy.

Source: http://www.allthingsstrings.com/Technique/...

Just Feel the Music

Here's a video of my favorite living conductor, Gustavo Dudamel. He's conducting the Venezuela Youth Symphony, from where he stemmed! This is s fun piece that these musicians clearly enjoy playing. To truly enjoy a piece the way these guys so, it takes really knowing your music. It takes an of understanding how your part fits in the grand scheme of things. The fact is, when we make music, we are painting a picture. The amount of color, the types of shapes that we form in our heads are what we ultimately try to achieve on our instrument. By immersing yourself in the music you are working with, you're doing yourself the favor of ultimately enjoying your performances. For now, enjoy this link!

Source: http://youtu.be/PA7vEIj6Lzk

It's Summer and I'm Bored

Parents, I know you have heard this phrase before especially during the summer months. Unless they are on vacation, with friends, or on the computer, your kids have "nothing"" to do". We all know this is a complete load of Bologna, since there's plenty of activities to do especially if you're taking lessons.

Those who have taken lessons from me know that I can always give you something to work on especially when I'm teaching you a new piece. While I do my best to present techniques in a fun way the truth of the matter is that practicing is the not-so-fun part of it. Students usually see practice time as a time to play through their music on their instrument. Fact is, playing your instrument is fun! When you practice, you're actually CONSTANTLY starting and stopping so you have the ability to fix and improve things that are not sounding good. You don't really play through things until practice has been achieved. This can be a lengthy process that actually allows you to resolve things much quicker in the long run.

The article on the link below is incredibly insightful and I approve 100% of this approach. I actually teach a good portion of these techniques to my students already. Interestingly enough, Robert Jesselson is a Professor I respect very much and I Love the fact this article states so many things that I have told my students.

Enjoy the read, it's incredibly insightful.

Source: http://www.allthingsstrings.com/Article-In...

One Last Time

While I can't say that I was an avid viewer of The Late Show with David Letterman, I can definitely remember watching the show fairly regularly growing up. I can't say it was a staple in my life, but I do remember many funny bits including The Top 10 lists, Stupid Human and Pet tricks and of course they rolled out Paul Schaffer and the late night band.

As Dave's career came to an end last night, it was inevitable to not hear about all of the shows leading up to the grand finale. Along the way, actors, comedians, and many other guests were expressing their gratitude to Dave for the style of comedy he introduced. He was constantly being recognized as a pioneer for this whole new style, because Dave inspired so many successful guys in the industry like Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Norm McDonald... Shall I continue?

What he did for those guys is what the best people in their industries do. They break ground, they lead, and they inspire. It's easy to imagine what a successful career can be, but not everyone has the courage to follow through. Dave did exactly that, he followed through even during times of adversity (being passed over for Jay Leno). I'm sure it wasn't easy, but he faced the challenge, stepped up and became the best at his craft.

Success shouldn't be measured by what we achieve, but perhaps by what we overcome. Every single one of us has a challenge or challenges that will present themselves as we journey through life. If you walk away from such challenges then you will never know what you could have achieved. If you face them straight on, you may discover what you're capable of and perhaps inspire a few or a whole drove of people along the way. Just think about what would be different in late night entertainment if Dave Letterman would have called it quits when NBC passed him over. Does it now make sense as to why it's important to face challenges as opposed to shying away from them?

To finish, all I need to say is "Thank You, Dave" for always being you and never compromising. Your boldness is to be admired and your career is something to strive for. Although my career path isn't towards the late night route, it is certainly inspiring to practice your craft for 33 years. Thanks for the memories and may others follow in your footsteps.

Summer Camp

Last year I had the great opportunity to work with fantastic people at the University of Arkansas summer strings camp. Not only was it a great teaching experience, but I learned so much because I was surrounded by excellent educators. As I wait out the crazy rain, I look forward to the summer because I love the sun, but I will once again have the opportunity to teach there. If you're interested in coming, it would be great to have you! From the looks on their faces at the end of the week, every kid had a great time and learned a lot. After plenty of hard work from everyone involved, they performed a very nice concert for a lot of people. Check out the link below so you can see what a good time everyone had! Enjoy.

Source: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B95M0j06r...