Beyond the Traditional

Épaulement: Cello Playing Through a Dancer’s Lens

Not counting a negligible number of tap classes when I was 5 years old or so, my first real dance classes were at Indiana University, as a sophomore majoring in cello performance. I had long since forgotten my first fumbling steps as a cellist when I was not quite 3, but the struggle of learning a new skill was all too real as I would wiggle into my leotard and tights at 7:30 in the morning to make 8 A.M. beginner ballet class where I would, with my fellow well-intentioned classmates, attempt to contort myself into an elegant swan, but mainly try not to fall down. My teacher was beautiful; everything about her, her hairstyle, her smile, her hands, her long legs, even her voice, was the epitome of grace. [...]

What “Posture” Looks Like on the Inside — by Vanessa Mulvey

The perfect posture can feel like an illusive goal. It has the power to empower the performer and fuel expression or it can limit every aspect of a performance.  What is “posture” and how can it be perfect? The problem is that posture is often assessed by one’s appearance as they sit and play. This is far from a perfect or repeatable science. I offer you another way to understand and assess posture, and that is from inside the body.  From the inside, we can utilize the body’s amazing design for being upright and for movement. Forget Posture The first thing I want to do is remove ‘posture’ for your musical vocabulary.  Why you ask? According to dictionary.com, the definition of posture is “the position of the limbs or the carriage of the body as a whole.” Playing the cello or any [...]

By |2018-07-10T05:40:07+00:00March 21st, 2018|Categories: Self Discovery, Beyond the Traditional, Playing Healthy|Tags: , , , , , |

The Amit Peled Peabody Cello Gang: Closing the Circle — by Amit Peled

Originally posted on Violinist.com. As a student, I was fortunate enough to experience the magic of performing music on stage with my great mentors Bernard Greenhouse, Boris Pergamenschikow, and Laurence Lesser, as well as see how each of them balanced their performing and teaching careers. The difference between listening to them explain how to create a phrase and actually forming that phrase with them on stage was huge and significant. Performing with my teachers was a vastly more effective lesson than a one-on-one in a studio, teaching me “on-the-spot” artistic decision-making, amending each performance to fit the energy of the hall. Ever since those transformative and magical moments, I knew that I would become a teacher and pass on the tradition of sharing music with my own students on stage. [...]

LA Story: A Recital of New & Unusual Works for Cello & Piano from Hollywood’s Golden Age — by Brinton Averil Smith

Like many string players I grew up loving the Heifetz recording of the Korngold Violin Concerto, and a general obsession with Heifetz led to an interest in the composers he championed, in particular composers like Korngold, Rózsa, Castelnuovo-Tedesco and others who lived in Los Angeles during the mid-20th century. This inspired a project last April to revive the Castelnuovo-Tedesco cello concerto for its first performance since its 1930s debut performances with Piatigorsky and Toscanini. The recording of our 'reboot' will be released this June on Naxos, but reading and studying about Castelnuovo-Tedesco's relationships with the film studios, Heifetz, Piatigorsky, and the other musicians and composers living in LA gave me a new appreciation for the incredible depth of musical talent that existed in Los Angeles in the middle of the [...]

Introducing: Impossible Etudes and Possible Etudes for Cello! — by Gregory Beaver

Etudes that fill a hole in the rep that are actually fun to play. In the world of etudes for cello, there are many great etudes to choose from, whether it is the Duport, Popper, or my personal favorite, the Piatti. The Popper High School Op. 73 is particularly amazing for the range of cello technique it encompasses. In addition, its focus on chromaticism makes it very useful for developing the ear. However, there are some holes in the etude literature that keep popping up. For example, the idea of finger independence while playing double stops is partially found in Piatti Caprices, but true finger independence is elusive for many of my students even after playing these etudes. Polyrhythms are a perfect vehicle for this challenge. Many contemporary works require [...]

By |2018-02-15T05:56:19+00:00December 20th, 2017|Categories: In the Practice Room, Beyond the Traditional, Repertoire|

Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Forgotten Masterpiece — by Brinton Averil Smith

With over 200 film scores to his name, it's more likely that you've heard Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco's music than his name. Castelnuovo-Tedesco was born in Florence in 1895 into a family that had been in Italy for generations, since the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492. His career as a composer began with conservatory study in Italy, and by the 1920s he was beginning to garner attention in greater Europe. In 1932 Mario began a lifelong friendship with the guitarist Andres Segovia, who inspired perhaps his most famous work, the Guitar Concerto No.1, and became an important champion of his music. It is largely due to Segovia's influence that Mario wrote over 100 works for the guitar, which today form an important and frequently heard part of that instrument's repertoire. [...]

The Bach Suites as You Have Never Seen Them Before — by Antonio Lysy

Hundreds of scholars have studied and written about the Bach Suites, yet we can only speculate about how or when they were first performed. The original manuscript is lost, leaving us with various facsimiles to decipher, and there are no written accounts by Bach’s contemporaries. The one advantage of this predicament is the wide spectrum of artistic decisions on which a cellist is compelled to ruminate, in order to make them “their own.” Apparently the suites were not intended to be performed as a cycle, although this approach has become increasingly common in the last couple of decades. My current perspective, developed over many years of performing and teaching the suites, is that each of the six tells a distinctive story. And, like a series of books or films, each [...]

The Spine: Our Very Own Superhighway — by Selma Gokcen

I only learned about the importance of the spinal column to cello playing as I was introduced more deeply into the Alexander Technique. Of course I knew the superficial facts about the spine and especially how vital it is to the health of the nervous system. But its particular relevance to cellists was not brought home until I began training in the work of teaching the Technique. Here are a few interesting facts about the spine to start off 1: The spinal cord is surrounded by rings of bone called vertebrae. Both are covered by a protective membrane. Together, the vertebrae and the membrane make up the spinal column, or backbone. The backbone, which protects the spinal cord, starts at the base of the skull and ends just above the hips. The spinal cord [...]

Great Chamber Music Reading and Watching — by Thomas Rosenberg

Besides enormously enhancing listening skills, chamber music study also develops a players’ ability to sight-read, note read and watch. These are skills that are vital in orchestral situations as well. However, this is not about that kind of reading and watching! This is about books, movies and videos that will also greatly enhance the skills of anyone playing chamber music. READING: There are some great books out there about chamber music. None of these are long (300 pages or less) and are relatively quick and easy reading. I hope this will spur the interest of those reading this article to check some of them out. Con Brio: Four Russians Called The Budapest String Quartet by Nat Brandt The Budapest Quartet was perhaps the greatest quartet ever…or certainly one of the most important. They existed for nearly [...]

So Why is Improvisation so Important? — by Jeffrey Zeigler

Like so many classically trained cellists, improvising was never something that I felt very comfortable trying. And although most of my professional life has been in the world of new music, improvisation was not something that I had explored in depth until a few years ago. My improvisational journey began literally the day after my final day with the Kronos Quartet when I played a concert at The Stone in New York with John Zorn and several others on one of his monthly improv nights. For those of you who have never been to one, the way that these concerts work is that everyone sits downstairs in the basement and one by one people decide in the moment who plays with whom. It can be duos, trios or quartets—you literally [...]

The Feldenkrais Method Helps Cellists! — by Uri Vardi

The Feldenkrais Method is a modality used to improve body awareness that has proven to be highly effective in alleviating pain, anxiety, and movement difficulties. The Method involves the use of movement, touch and imagery as tools for learning new ways of functioning. The heightened awareness that develops through the use of this method leads to improved body image, organization and function. Musicians benefit from this enhanced awareness with an increase in artistic vocabulary, in the ability to more efficiently express artistic intention, in the prevention of pain and injury, and in expedient healing from current injury. Unlike the medical model, which prescribes ways to achieve the correct state, the Feldenkrais Method leads the participant to discover his or her own solution. It is based on theoretical knowledge about the [...]

Improve Your Talent: Breathing Awareness and Control — by Gregory Beaver

In "Developing a Technique to Improve Your Talent," I laid out 6 things that I have been using actively in my teaching to improve my students’ talent.  This post will investigate the first of these, Breathing awareness and control. “I am so totes aware of my breathing!” you might be thinking, especially if you are a vocalist or a woodwind/brass player.  However, in my experience, there are very few people who are truly aware of their breath.  Breath awareness is not just about being able to breathe in and out and notice it.  It is the ability to do something very complicated and still notice your breathing.  For those who do not use their breath to create the music, it is about using your breath to provide energy and power when needed, and [...]

Cultivating Softness, Strength, Clarity, and Calm: 3 Basic Yoga Techniques for Musicians — by Elana Katz

There are many yoga techniques that one can use to cultivate heightened awareness, calm the nervous system, center one’s thoughts, and achieve increased mental clarity. As an artist and performer myself, I can testify that yoga can help to foster creative and artistic clarity as well. What follows is a brief introduction to a few basic principals and practices in yoga that can be useful for musicians, with the instrument and in daily life. 1. Breathing  Deepening the breath calms the nervous system and oxygenates the blood. In physical yoga positions, which are called “asanas”, deep breath is used continuously over the course of the whole practice. "Deepening the breath" means an elongation of both the inhale and the exhale. When we are nervous, the breath becomes shallow. Some people [...]

Reflections from the Bleachers — by Melissa Kraut

I am not cut out to be a swimming mom.  Seriously.  I am a cellist, an artist that uses classical music to parse the profound issues of humankind.  I deal with emotions, both broad and subtle, grand and intimate.  I’m on a journey to refine a skill that I will spend my lifetime trying to achieve, and working on finding ways to convey my passion to others, to convey what is in my soul through my instrument.  I’m a professor at the Cleveland Institute of Music, how can I possibly take on the role of swimming mom?? My daughter, a freshman in high school, is an avid swimmer, so it came as no surprise when she tried out for the high school swimming team last October.  As much as I [...]

Hare Krishna, KickStarter and Fundraising in the 21st Century — by Jeffrey Zeigler

Last November, I was driving in my car listening to NPR. I became fascinated by a story by Alix Spiegel regarding the Rule of Reciprocation. Citing the work of Robert Cialdini, an emeritus psychologist at Arizona State University, Spiegel writes that, in a nutshell, the rule of reciprocation is: “If someone passes you in the hall and says hello, you feel compelled to return their greeting. When you don't, you notice it. It makes you uncomfortable, out of balance. That's the rule of reciprocation.” Spiegel goes on to write: “Cialdini noticed a similar phenomenon when he studied Hare Krishnas. In airports, they would…give…people passing by what they described as a gift: a flower, a book, a magazine. Then, after the person had the gift in…hand, they would ask for a [...]