Want to Learn Vibrato?

In my experience teaching, I admit that teaching vibrato has been a weakness of mine. There are several ideas I have used, but every kid learns differently and the more tips one can gather on the subject, the more successful teacher and student will be. I ran across this article below which shed a lot of light on how to teach vibrato and for my students, how to achieve success with it.

Something that Phyllis Young (World-renowned Cello teacher and author of the article)mentions in this article is something I've shared with all of my students. Whatever obstacle you are dealing with, make sure that you approach it slowly first before you attempt anything fast. This allows you to achieve more success and allows your brain to process things better. Students, I really hope you read this. While it is geared towards cellists, violins and violas will highly benefit from these ideas. Enjoy.

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

Work Smart, Not Hard

If I had a nickel for every time I used the phrases "Work smart, Not Hard" or "Practice smart, Not hard" when my students give me the excuse that they didn't have enough time. Practice is not about punching a time card and logging the minutes or hours you spent with your instrument. Notice how I worded the end of the previous sentence? A time card doesn't reflect your "practice" time, it only reflects the time you spent with your instrument. Students often misinterpret the two and it's time to put this issue to rest.

If you ever listened to your child or yourself "practice", I have 1 question for you. Have you paid close attention to what's really going on? If the sounds you hear, are somewhat continuous, yet inconsistent, without corrections or slowing down, then you're listening to some inefficient (Not Smart) things going on. As someone who was the world's least efficient person, I know what it takes to turn it around. Making good use of your time is very important, especially when you are a professional with very limited practice time. Your goal for your practice time should be to solve a problem. If it's a particular measure, an odd shift, or several measures that give you trouble on a piece, it's important to correct the problem. You don't need to practice the stuff that sounds good, if you sound good that means the issue was resolved, Move on! How much time it takes to resolve the particular issue you have for that practice session, is on you. We are all different types of learners, which is why I don't ask for practice log cards.

If you read the article on the link below, you will find some very insightful information in this issue of practice. This subject is very important to understand, especially to the people who ask how long it takes to "get good". It depends on your definition of good. I've been playing for over twenty years and am still trying to "get good". I will say, these are all practice tips that I teach and use consistently. They have worked for me, and now researchers have evidence to solidify it. Very interesting correlation, I would say.

Source: http://www.creativitypost.com/psychology/8...

Master Teacher

Like any ambitious human, I'm always eager to learn new things especially when it comes to cello teaching and playing. The great English Master Teacher, William Pleeth is someone who passed on so much knowledge. One of his best known protégés was the great Jacqueline DuPre, who referred to Pleeth as her "cello daddy" as he was the man who jump-started her career. In this condensed interview below, you can see what refreshing point of views he had. Every music teacher and student should take a look at this. There's so much to learn from such a small write-up. If you're a "my way or the highway" type of person, I wish you the best of luck. Enjoy the read.

Source: http://www.thestrad.com/cpt-latests/5-view...

A New Chapter

Over spring break, I had the great pleasure of driving up to Nashville, TN to stay a couple of days with my first ever cello teacher and his family. They hosted me in their beautiful home right by a small pond surrounded by nature and deer, as I was there to shop for a cello. See, Dustin Williams (teacher) left the profession to study violin making in Salt Lake City. Long story short, he opened up "Williams Fine Violins" in Nashville, so he wanted to set me up with my new instrument.

Like any good shopper, I was able to play every single cello in my budget and found a beautiful golden cello that I named "Aurelia" which means "The Golden One". It's only been one week since I tried the instrument and I'm incredibly happy to have found it. Fact is, a better quality instrument allows musicians to improve. The cello I previously had, is an instrument that I came to college with. Needless to say that my skill had long surpassed the instrument's abilities and playing my new cello really exposes that.

What I was really Thankful for is all the wonderful people that contributed to my "GoFundMe" project, those who spread the word, and those who had been cheering me on for this to happen. I'm very thankful for Dustin who have me the VIP treatment and sent me home with a beautiful cello. I'm happy to say that up next is a recital to show off my new instrument. You can count on that happening as I have already been looking at the literature. More info on that will be coming soon. I will be posting pictures of my cello in the picture section.

Trust Me

As this winter weather has you making plans for the summer, keep in mind that lessons need to be on the schedule. It is no doubt a great way to keep students engaged and working on something (diminishing the "I'm bored" excuse). Plus, my schedule opens up a little, allowing us to schedule twice a week if you so desire! I offer plenty of options for you this summer so be sure to take advantage! Sign up for summer lessons on the "lessons" tab or come join us at the Cello camp, July 27-31. Visit the "Summer Camp" tab for details and registration of our 3rd Annual cello camp. Regardless which option you choose, lessons, camps, or both, the fact is that you will become smarter! No joke, here below is the article to support it. It's a very insightful thing to know, especially if you're finding excuses to NOT take lessons. Enjoy.

Source: http://m.mic.com/articles/110628/13-scient...

Makes Perfect Sense

If you are under the misconception that it's not possible to make a living as a musician, I would challenge you with this article on the link below. As someone who is happily making a living as a musician, I feel it is important to share this information that you may not have thought of before. We are supposed to think critically or outside the box as good musicians, so a little creativity goes a long way when it comes to surviving. Quit thinking that you can't make it as a musician,and think about the happiness that creating things gives you. I promise after you take a look at this article, you will be willing to work for it. Believe me, it's totally worth taking this advice!

Source: http://blog.sonicbids.com/15-unexpectedly-...

Must Watch

You will have to set aside 90 minutes, but the end result will be so worth it! The link you will click on below, will allow you to watch one of the best documentaries I have seen in awhile. It's about the late cellist Mstislav Rostropovich "Slava", who changed cello playing due to his abilities as a cellist. It's a great depiction of his greatness, suffering, and his ability to captivate people with his powerful voice... The Cello.

Around the 10 minute mark of this video, they talk about a historic performance in which Slava "Spoke" his most powerful words with the help of the Dvorak cello concerto. As a musician, this moment is very inspirational as it is an example of how powerful our words can be when we allow ourselves to be expressive with our instruments. Sometimes those words may not be so eloquent or technically perfect, but when they come from the heart, they can change the world.

Sure, we spend hours and hours trying to figure out the most perfect bowing, or phrasing so we can play it as perfectly as possible. Just don't get so caught up in the exactness of things, that you start losing your love for it. Absolutely, set high standards for yourself to achieve better things, but don't make perfection your priority, say something when you play. Work hard and regularly, but loosen up, have fun, and make music.

Students, colleagues, and lovers of music, I encourage you to watch this video as it will inspire you to be sincere with your craft. It might even make you jealous if you don't play cello (but of course we can change that if you take lessons with me). Most importantly, it will empower you to make a statement when you perform. If nothing else, it will take you into the life of one of the most beautiful artists that walked the planet. By all means let me know if you want to discuss it with me at some point. I hardly ever turn down a cup of coffee :) Enjoy.

Source: http://youtu.be/3DVtT20tGiE

What Have I Said About Slowing Down When You Practice?

Pretty much the same thing any other professional would advise.... SLOW DOWN!!! Your brain and body are able to process things much quicker when you simply chill and take your time! On top of that, the opening statement literally uses the gorilla as an inspiration, just like I tell my students about using "gorilla arm" with the bow hand to relax and get a big sound. As many times as I have repeated this to my students, I have a feeling it will be more insightful and profound if the message is delivered by someone else. So I'm just going to go ahead and leave this link below for you to check out. DEFINITELY READ THIS!!!

Source: http://www.thestrad.com/cpt-latests/cellis...

Music Stats

For those that know my love for stats in sports, you would think there may be stats for music too, Right? Indeed there are, according to "Bachtrack". If you have ever been to a symphony concert or an opera, have you ever made these observations? 1) That's a young looking conductor 2) How many times have they played works by _ composer this year? 3) Why did they program this composer?

To answer a few of these questions, I have provided a link below that sheds light on these observations. Just a side note, Beethoven's popularity did not surprise me at all. Enjoy!

Source: http://bachtrack.com/classical-music-stati...

The Star Will Live On

This seems to be a very obvious segue from my last blog because it's about sports. This time however, I'm bragging about my friend and old College roommate, Jonathan Thorn who was recently hired as the Dallas Cowboys' archivist. It's too bad the author of this article called him Joshua, but the fact is there's only one archivist, and it's my bud Jonathan. Enjoy this very cool article about him and what he has in store for Dallas Cowboys fans all across the world, literally!

Source: http://www.dallasnews.com/sports/dallas-co...

Sports and Music

As some of you may know, I'm a big sports fan. When it comes to the Cowboys, Spurs, and Rangers I'm ready to watch if I'm given the opportunity. Last night, watching Sunday Night Football was a night that will be difficult to forget as my friend Michael and I witnessed possibly the BEST CATCH EVER by a football player and it wasn't a Cowboy.

Before I direct you to the video (link below) it's important to understand why I'm bringing this up. It's important to understand that musicians and athletes put themselves through the ringer when it comes to preparation. Athletes just like musicians, are expected to perform at a high level the moment they are called upon. Obviously, it's the preparation leading up to that moment that will allow you to respond. This is why repetition is part of what we do as professionals. We don't do things until we get it right, we do things until we don't get them wrong, this is called Mastery!

Truth is, this is necessary because the time you spend preparing will far surpass the time it takes for you to perform a given task. An example of this is preparing a 5 minute solo piece. While the piece may seem like an eternity as you perform it, chances are it took you even longer to figure out and execute everything on the page with great accuracy. If you prepared correctly, you must have tried different ways of playing a certain passage, with different bowings or different fingerings. For me, it means spending a fair amount of time focusing on one measure or several measures. While the problem passage may take 5-10 seconds to perform, the preparation leading up to it takes way longer.

Case in point, Sunday night's game. The Cowboys played against the Giants in a bitter division matchup. This game was a little too close for comfort especially since the Giants have been on a bad losing streak. Since they are long-time rivals, records went out the door and really good competition ensued. Throughout the game and before commercial breaks, it's customary for player highlights to be shown. One of these warm-up segments was quite impressive as they featured the phenom Rookie wide receiver that plays for the Giants, Odell Beckham Jr. He played college ball at LSU and quite frankly, is someone to be feared. The guy possesses great hands and speed that every defender NEEDS to be aware of him. This one segment showed him warming up, making impressive one-handed catches as if they were routine. It appeared as though the network planned to demonstrate what it takes to be a professional, as a few plays later, THE CATCH happened.

It's hard not to over-sell this display of athleticism, but I've never seen such a play. As much football as I watch, I will be lucky to see something like this again, I'm sure you will agree.

To sum it up, professionals have an attitude that sets them apart from amateurs. You don't complain, you just DO. This guy plays on a team that has NO SHOT at the playoffs and is in disarray. He didn't complain about the preparation, he just did it. This catch is the culmination of being prepared when you're called upon. Enjoy.

Source: http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nfl-shutdown...

First Book

Over the weekend, I was able to celebrate the release of my friend's first book "Social Studies". Author Benjamin Lewis is a teacher in Brenham, TX who I met at the University of North Texas. He has gone through quite the journey to get his book published and here it is! He will have it available in stores and Amazon on December 16th. I have posted a link below so you can get your copy pre-ordered for the holidays! I already have my copy and it's signed by the author. This book is not meant for kids, there is some heavy content, so please do not buy this as a children's book.

Source: Social Studies ...

Quality Over Quantity

When it comes to practicing, students are not always taught exactly how to go about practicing from one minute to the next. They are given some tips on how to resolve certain issues and are told to practice. As teachers however, many of us have hit some key points on how to practice, but that all depends on what the problem happens to be at a given point. It's simply impossible to practice with our students during their lesson, we help them resolve issues that allow them to break through and get better.

The article below is a very useful tool on how to practice effectively. I can guarantee you with 100% certainty that I have hit most, if not all of these points with every single one of my students. Parents this will answer the ever so famous question about how much time your child should be practicing. Remember that Quality over Quantity is a very important concept especially when it comes to our practicing. As always, I'm more than happy to help resolve my students' problems when it comes to their playing. In regards to practicing problems, the solution is right here. Keep it handy and please be sure that both parents and students read this article. It will help with solidifying a good practice regimen. Enjoy.

Source: http://www.allthingsstrings.com/How-To/Stu...

Parents, This is Absolutely Insightful.

There have been many times I have wondered about the popular kids in middle school/high school and where they ended up. They obviously worked incredibly hard to reach popular status that surely, that same work ethic was transferred over to the professional world, Right? Much to nobody's surprise, this is definitely not the case. The last paragraph of the article is phenomenal! Enjoy

Source: http://mobile.nytimes.com/blogs/well/2014/...

A Worthy Mission

The best band in Late Night is making headlines by saving their Alma Mater. "The Roots" who are the house band for Jimmy Fallon's show, have entertained many people with their fantastic music. Like many professionals, they sharpened their skills growing up by taking lessons. The performing arts school these guys attended, currently finds itself in serious financial distress after major budget cuts have eliminated the arts. Sadly, this happens everywhere and its a horrible thing to imagine. This short article outlines the project these guys have up their sleeves snd I think it's phenomenal! Please don't allow the arts to die off. They are an essential part of a well rounded education. Enjoy the short read.

Source: http://m.mic.com/articles/103468/the-roots...