Sunday, September 26, 2010


Hi Everyone,

It has been just one month since our first semester here at IU began, but Bloomington is starting to feel like home! The past few weeks have truly flown by, and as we prepare to go home next weekend for our concert with the Schenectady Symphony, it makes it seem like just yesterday that we arrived. We have gotten to know some wonderful people, and this amazing school has provided us with truly fertile ground to continue to learn and develop as musicians. I will have to post more later because there are so many people and possibilities to tell you about, but for now, here are a few highlights of things that have been going on in our new home!

First, Cicely and I are both playing in a fantastic ensemble called the New Music Ensemble, directed by Professor David Dzubay. As you may know from our recent CD #3 announcement (see, we are both very passionate about playing contemporary music, so we were really excited to find out that we would have the opportunity to do just that outside of the duo world. It is a small group of about 20 players, all of whom are outstanding. Our first concert is coming up this week!

We love our teachers! Mr. Laredo is a great inspiration for me, and I am having a great time working with him on the extremely large amount of repertoire I have to do these days. Besides being a tremendously supportive and inspiring teacher, he is an incredible human being. I feel so honored to be studying with him. Also, I got the chance to meet for the first time and have a lesson with Josh Bell when he came to the Jacob's School for a couple of days last week; what a special opportunity.

Finally, we have formed a quartet! Despite all of the chamber music Cicely and I have played together, it has been primarily of the duo and piano trio genre and not the string quartet. We are very lucky to have met violinist Tim Kantor, a doctorate student here at IU, and violist Gerry Varona who is working on his Master's. We are very compatible musically and share a common creative vision, but everyone’s unique perspective is always heard. Our coach is violinist Ik-Hwan Bae, who has been working with us on some phenomenal music, including Schubert's "Death and the Maiden" quartet and Quartet No. 5 by Bartok. I grew up listening to the Schubert, so it is a piece which is very special to me; how fulfilling to finally have the opportunity to play it with wonderful musicians like Cicely, Tim, and Gerry!

This is just a snapshot of our many latest activities, but I will be back soon. Speaking of snapshots, I've attached a photo from the duo concert we performed the weekend before school started; this took place at the Kerrytown Concert House in Ann Arbor, MI. In addition to the Bolcom Suite for Violin and Cello, Cicely performed Bolcom's Unaccompanied Cello Suite, and the composer himself and his wife Ms. Morris were there to hear it!

All for now. Enjoy autumn - it is a beautiful season.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Final Installment: Berlin

Hi there,

I must begin by apologizing for the lengthy delay since my last post; Cicely and I have moved to Bloomington, Indiana! Even though we have been here a short two weeks, we have already fallen in love with our new surroundings and are extremely excited about what this year will bring. We will of course send updates in this regard, but for now, suffice it to say that the town, the school, and the people are all fantastic. This is a special place indeed.

While the present excitement of being in a new place makes our visit to Germany last June seem far away, it still remains a vivid highlight of our entire European trip. We made a short detour to the city of Bonn before continuing to Berlin, and it was there that we got the chance to see the Beethoven House. I can hardly believe I was there, and even at the time it was too overwhelming to fully absorb.

Though we stayed for only a few days in Berlin, we took advantage of the time and explored many of the different neighborhoods that one can find in this very sprawling city. Indeed there is a striking distinction between them, which in some cases serves as a vivid reminder of the profound upheaval that took place there. For example, while there are very beautiful, leafy residential neighborhoods and modern-looking commercial sections where tourists go for shopping, there are also entire blocks which remain bare aside from small piles of concrete rubble.

Coincidentally, the date of our trip landed during the heat of the World Cup playoffs, and we were actually lucky enough to take part in the excitement; we met a good friend of Yaron's who took us to one of Berlin's outdoor sports bars to watch the match between England and Germany - what an exciting football game!

While our explorations in London and Paris kept us primarily outside and on the street, in Berlin we got the chance to attend an opera! Thanks to a very kind friend, we were given tickets to see "Carmen" performed by the Deutsche Oper, which was my first opportunity to see this masterpiece performed live - what an exciting evening! Afterwards, we were all surprised to see the hundreds of audience members flock to the subway rather than to individual cars; public transportation once again proved to be the preferred alternative.

In thinking over the entire European trip, it is incredible to me how little it takes to be transported to a country entirely unique from the others which surround it. Indeed, the world of Paris is so completely different from Berlin, and yet all that separates the two is a short train ride. In this sense, Europe is tremendously rich culturally, and for a musician, this is one of the most exciting aspects of all.

And so, as I welcome the arrival of my favorite month of the year, September, I cannot help but look to the future with great anticipation; there is much to be discovered and learned here at the Jacob's School, and I also cannot wait for my next chance to return to the other side of the Atlantic.

All for now.