Saturday, December 3, 2011

London, Here I Come!

Hello everyone!

Last week I returned to Bloomington from New York, where I spent Thanksgiving break getting to know Prokofiev's Violin Duo, seeing old friends, and of course, doing lots of cooking for the holiday. Even though it was nice to spend a few peaceful days at home, the feeling of quiet was spiked by some very exciting news - I have received a Marshall Scholarship! The application process began during the summer, culminating in a final interview at the British Consulate in Chicago last week. I am so happy to be free of the paperwork and off to a new chapter of my musical life! The Marshall Scholarship will fund my Masters degree at the Royal Academy starting next fall, which means I will be moving to LONDON this summer! I am so excited to join and explore the incredibly vibrant music world of this phenomenal city. And for an Austen-reading, Shakespeare-reciting, BBC-watching fan like me, this is truly nothing short of a dream come true.

To say that November was a very busy month is an understatement. On the 1st, I performed my third Artist Diploma recital - only one more to go! - and afterwards I literally ran to Auer Hall to play Matthew Peterson's solo violin piece, Nacken, for one of the composition department recitals, and then made a beeline for the Indianapolis airport; I flew to London, where I auditioned for the Royal Academy and got to spend some time becoming acquainted with this beautiful conservatory. Before leaving for my final Marshall interview in Chicago and ultimately my "home for the holiday" vacation, I played twelve concerts! Four of these were part of the Midwest Composers Symposium, which is a coming together of composers from the universities of Michigan, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. What an amazing event! It was so exciting to see so many talented composers sharing their music together. Meanwhile that week, I also played three chamber music concerts for some of my friends' doctoral recitals; Beethoven's Septet is now one of my favorite chamber music works. :)

With only a few weeks of the semester left, I look forward to our final round of performances and projects at the Jacobs School. Cicely and I have two more duo recording sessions coming up in a few weeks, so we are steadily making progress with our new music CD project, In Real Time. After this month, there will only be one more session left before just the recording portion of the project is finished! This is truly a marvelous collection of modern duos, and working with the composers themselves like Bill Bolcom, Lera Auerbach, and Paul Moravec continues to be an amazing opportunity.

All for now. There is SNOW in Bloomington!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Return to Bloomington

Bloomington once again!

Such an astounding amount of activity, concerts, traveling, and adventures have taken place in between last September and the present one, and yet it somehow feels as though no time has passed since I walked into the Jacobs School for the first time. I didn't realize just how much I had missed our campus until I started seeing all of the familiar faces of friends and colleagues and started to settle into the school routine once more. The IU opera, ballet, and orchestras have such a tremendously exciting year of programs lined up, and it is rumored we have the largest incoming class of freshmen yet. A quiet summer certainly has its charms, but I thrive on the excitement of such a bustling university!

I am very glad to say that I am performing with the New Music Ensemble again this year, and in addition to working on fantastic piano quartet chamber music with Cicely, Tim Kantor, and Kati Gleiser, I am also taking a New Music Conducting class; no doubt this last one will prove a challenging project, but what a great opportunity to learn something new - in more ways than one!

Since the semester has only just begun, this serves as more of an introduction to the year, so to end today's entry, I've attached a link to a very moving and exciting article I found from last spring; every time I hear of the success classical music has found in the lives of children, I can't help but feel more and more convinced this is an essential part of being an ambassador of art!

All for now.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Summer Music

Hello everyone,

After a thrilling first year at the Jacobs School which was immediately followed by a whirlwind, month-long Parnas/Kohlberg Trio tour in Europe and Israel, it is a relief to be in one place this summer! I often feel this time of year presents a conflict of objectives; for me it seems a special opportunity to rest and rejuvenate oneself following the endless, though invigorating, demands of the school year and concert season, but it can also be the ideal time to work intensively and accomplish many more things in preparation for the year ahead. Thanks to a quieter schedule, there is more time for me to broaden and manage my activities, so I have had the luxury of completing both objectives!

One of these projects which has served as an important musical focus for my summer has been continued preparation for recording sessions in the fall with Cicely; our exciting new music CD, “Present Tense” is going to be sensational! First of all, we have been doing some groovin'! One of our duos was written by Frank Bennett, a great composer/percussionist/veena player, and orchestrator/arranger for countless big-time Hollywood movies, including everything from The Wedding Planner to Predator to Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Well, his duo, Three Sketches for Violin and Cello, and the third movement in particular, features a rather jazzy and difficult-to-notate rhythm, which for classical string players like Cicely and me poses a bit of a challenge. So, we went to an expert for some advice. Lincoln Mayorga, our good friend and master of the bridge between classical and jazz approaches, got us thinking in terms of "feeling" a rhythm rather than calculating it, and after some chuckling and more than a few repetitions, I think we got it! A word of advice to all classical musicians who have not had the most robust instruction in their non-classical backgrounds: make friends with the jazz players!

As I may have touched upon in previous posts, one of the joys afforded by playing new music is the chance to work and communicate directly with the creator. Once again, this immensely edifying and enjoyable opportunity arose when we traveled to New York City last month to meet with the amazing Lera Auerbach, composer of Three Dances in the Old Style for violin and cello. This bewitching little suite of mischievous dances, so ostensibly simple and unassuming, is filled with the witty nuances of a personality amused by her own work, and it was incredibly entertaining and exciting to explore these intricacies together with Lera. Indeed, there can be no doubt that her entirely original and captivating musical fingerprint will be attracting some much –deserved attention on our track listing!

All for now; the return to Bloomington swiftly approaches and more musical adventures along with it! Stay tuned for more new music updates as we continue exploring the duos of living composers William Bolcom, Paul Moravec, Charles Wuorinen, Joel Feigin, and more.


Monday, April 4, 2011

The Salon Concert

Hello and Happy Spring!

What an amazingly busy March for Cicely and I; today seemed like the first "normal" school routine in nearly a month! We had a great recording session for "Living in 2010" during spring break, followed by two duo concerts in New York, and soon after returning to Bloomington it was Artist Diploma Solo Recital time! Though exciting (and a little nerve-wracking!) to prepare entirely different repertoire (and lots of it!) for performances within days of each other, as always, the challenge of the experience taught me many things. I will not say "glad that's over!" but I must admit it is a relief to once again begin fresh with something new.

One of the performances we gave this month stood out for me. It was a duo concert for the Mt. Kisco Chamber Music Association in Armonk, NY. By now we have been able to experiment with many types of programs, repertoire, and formats for our duo performances, which also benefit greatly from some added discussion along the way. Incorporating all of these different elements together in a coherent, enjoyable way has been a fun and interesting process for me, but there is one important variable which we usually cannot control: the performance venue.

Well, what a perfect environment this was! Thanks to the great generosity of one of the Association's board members who hosted the event, we had an absolutely lovely space in which to play - a spacious, beautiful living room with room enough to seat at least 60. The front row was close enough to read the music off of our stands, but while in days past I might have found this disconcerting, now I couldn't have pictured it any other way. We've now done a few of these salon-type concerts, and I honestly hope the appeal of them continues to catch on because as a performer (and speaker), I sense that this kind of intimate, but formal setting is truly one of the most effective and positive ways to share music with an audience. So, for me it became very clear at this particular concert that no matter how wonderful and carefully designed the program is, the result is impacted tremendously by the nature of the setting - thank you, Mt. Kisco Concert Association, for the enormously special afternoon!

All for now. Off to Arizona in only a couple of weeks!


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Ad Hoc: Music for Music's Sake

Hello there,

Have you ever heard of a musical "ad hoc?" I had not until I came to the Jacobs School, but now that I do, I think it is something that deserves some special recognition. This was a truly incredible musical experience unlike any other I have ever had!

An ad hoc, as the name implies, is a concert that is arranged with a pick-up group of musicians who rehearse a few times before giving a performance, usually including a solo concerto with another orchestral work. The idea is for students to create their own opportunities to gain experience performing concertos with orchestra; but the trick, of course, is to assemble the players. But how do you get an entire symphony-sized group of musicians and a conductor to all volunteer a weekend?

To me, it seems a tremendously daunting task; after all, finding even one or two people to commit to various projects has, from my experience elsewhere, been a complicated enough affair. Well, I was shocked by what I saw when I agreed to participate in one of these ad hocs last month - there we were, a very large, full orchestra all coming together on a Sunday afternoon to give a concert of the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 3 and Beethoven's Leonore Overture. Eighty-some people! After playing, working, and practicing all week in endless rehearsals, lessons, coachings, extra projects, and not to mention homework, these students had more music-making to do!

But in addition to the sheer number of people who generously came to play and support their colleagues, there was an enthusiasm and mutual love of music-making that resulted in a concert which, although was not perfect, was entirely unique and held a special joy. This ideal of music being made simply for music's sake.....where one is not playing for remuneration, course credits, recognition, or career advancement, but rather because one must make music. I couldn’t help but hear George Balanchine’s well-known quote in my head, “I don't want people who want to dance; I want people who have to dance.” Here we were, creators of music who have to play!

Ad hocs are going on all the time here. It’s something which, at the time of my own experience, I found to be deeply touching and inspiring; once again, it made me feel so proud to be a part of JSoM! Cicely calls it a “musicians’ paradise.” It is!

All for now.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy New Year: Resolutions For A Struggling Arts World and the Musicians Who Need to Survive in It!

Happy New Year!

Somehow, the New Year never fails to inspire many of us to resolve to “change” the way we've been doing particular things - both big and small. I can’t say I’ve ever really been one of those people who declares "New Year resolutions," but this time I suddenly found that there were indeed aspects of my life I felt compelled to, well, change; and the more I considered this, the more apparent it became why many people honestly consider the start of the year an opportunity to, in a way, "begin fresh."

New approaches and ideas that can lead to positive changes reminded me of links I recently received from a friend; these really ought to be read and heard by anyone who calls himself a music lover, especially those who recognize the importance of the change needed to ensure the future of classical music and jobs for musicians. The links lead to the video and text version of a very interesting discussion given by arts leader and speaker, Diane Ragsdale. You may have heard of her; she's become rather well-known for her compelling addresses concerning the economic impact that society's changes have had upon culture, and she has presented these speeches both in the US and abroad. Here are links to the one my friend sent me, entitled "Surviving the Culture Change:" Video (or click here for the text version).

The fact of the matter is that, yes, we are failing to produce a generation of listeners, attendees, and fans of art. Perhaps this can simply be attributed to the fact that its role as an underpinning of early education is no longer in existence. But meanwhile, beyond the financial implications of a waning population of fans and supporters (like musicians losing their jobs and competing against each other in a rapidly diminishing market), we are facing something even more difficult; something Ms. Ragsdale calls “the culture change.”

At this point, the challenge doesn’t appear to lie primarily in a lack of resources; Americans spend their money in all kinds of ways. Rather, the core issue is that people seem untouched, indeed entirely immune, to the discovery of meaning, significance, profundity, and aesthetic pleasure of art in all forms. In other words, it no longer provides that go-to for feeding one’s soul. "The arts can't declare mission accomplished just because they get people in the door. It is not sufficient to create artistic experiences and sell or give them away without regard for the capacity of people to receive them and find meaning in them." And I truly believe it is our job (the musicians, the arts leaders, etc.) to make our own discoveries that lead to, yes, changes, so that we may once again recapture the public’s appreciation and desire for the profoundly special work that we create.

Every paragraph of this discussion contains something of value and interest; I hope that you may read it (I do suggest reading the text version) and perhaps take away something relevant to your life in context with the arts.

Here's to 2011!

All for now.


P.S. Here is a photo of us with composer Seymour Barab last week in NYC - we performed his delightful duo at our concert for the New York Musician’s Club (aka “The Bohemians”) in NYC!