This morning I was feeling like I could do anything.  We started our day with Brad doing school at home with Calder in the studio space and I was outside with Adeladie.  Adelaide and I were spreading wildflower seeds in the patch of dirt we prepared yesterday and I watched her little hands flinging seeds with glee.  We had an abundance of seeds, so she could really go crazy with them. I love the way the dirt looks when it’s freshly turned and slightly wetted from the spray of the hose.  She and I moved on to the container plants we were planning, and I couldn’t help but pull Calder out of his school time. The temperature was that perfect mix of cool with just enough sunshine to be warmed.  As we transferred the dirt from last year’s containers to deeper pots this year, I marveled at how my children were working together and building each other up. Carrot seeds were planted and watered. I couldn’t help but notice a side of the house that rarely gets attention was full of all kinds of weeds and undesirable plants, but as we pushed our wheelbarrow full of compost past it I thought to myself, “we’ll get to it later”.  

When we bought our home, the outside area was a complete mess.  We spent countless hours on three sides of the beds weeding, planting, mixing richer soil, taking out rock that made it impossible to shovel and again, more weeding.  All that effort has made it so each year, while there is still lots to do, most of what we do in the garden is maintenance.  

Maintenance.  This looks different for us depending on the season.  There is planting to do in the Spring and leaves to rake in the fall.  It wouldn’t make sense to mow the grass in the winter, that’s a summer thing.  These seasons, I believe, are easier to identify than some of our life seasons.  Oftentimes when I’m in a season of life, I forget there is most likely going to be an end to it.  What does this have to do with the violin?  

There are going to be seasons of development where we really spend lots of time developing a certain technique.  This part can be tedious, and even potentially frustrating. We will also come into seasons in which we can’t get enough playing and performing.  Maybe during this season or another we spend copious amounts of time enjoying pieces we previously toiled over. These seasons can be long or short.  Sure, we do some of each of these things during our daily or weekly practice, but it is okay for one to dominate more of the scene than another, depending on where we are.  

I don’t know how many of the hundreds of seeds we planted will come up.  However, I know the process of planting them, watering them daily and watching them grow will be life changing for me.  The persistence I will pursue with my garden is not unlike the persistence we need in all endeavors – artistic and otherwise.  Carry on!

Technique Focus: Curved, Round Fingers!

Playing a stringed instrument requires so, so many fine motor skills and attention to the smallest of details.  One group of these skills involves the correct setting and lifting of the left hand fingers on the strings of the instrument.  We often use words like, “curved” and “round” for the fingers themselves, and talk about placing the fingertips on their “inside” or “thumb-side” corners.  All of this is to facilitate ease, accuracy, speed, and the ability to shift and vibrato as technique develops.

When I think of this aspect of technique in action, no better example comes to mind than that of Shlomo Mintz playing Paganini Caprice No. 5.  The Paganini Caprices are known to be among the most difficult of violin repertoire for many reasons, each of the 24 with its own unique challenges.  Speed is a particular challenge in Caprice No. 5, which Mr. Mintz makes easy work of in part by keeping his violin fingers curved, round, and close to the strings throughout the piece.  Watch, learn, and enjoy!

Learning to Meet Our Children Where They Are

This process of development is not linear.  Wouldn’t it be easier if it was?

Unfortunately, children (and we) are not math problems.  There is no such thing as 2+2 always = 4 when it comes to children. There are so many variables in them and us that are conscious or unconscious. 

My takeaway today is the importance of meeting our children where they are.  Maybe they are in a phase where they are dying to learn some new repertoire, or just to spend a lot of time playing.  That is absolutely okay.  If we stop to think about our common goals – character development, love of music, organizing the brain, growing fine muscles – we can let go of some of the small stuff.  Isn’t the small stuff important?  Of course. However, let’s not forget to really tune into where our children are today, in this hour, in this moment.

That should always come first. The rest will follow.

Technique Focus: Elbow Swings!

Ms. Kirby and I preach “elbow swings” all the time, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a better example of it at work than in this performance by one of our former chamber coaches, Masumi Rostad.  Fluid movement in the left arm is a necessity for playing with consistently accurate intonation, enabling ringing 3rd and 4th fingers, tuning double stops, and setting the fingers up for relaxed vibrato.  So, enjoy this Caprice, and pay extra attention to Mr. Rostad’s exceptional viola elbow technique!

Spring (La Primavera) by Antonio Vivaldi

Back in 2017, our Ensemble performed the 1st Movement of Vivaldi’s Concerto No. 1 in E Major, Op. 8, RV 269, more commonly known as “Spring.”  This week, it’s finally felt like spring, with sunshine, warmer weather, and budding flowers and trees, so I thought I’d share a performance of this classic Vivaldi concerto that I particularly enjoy.  I love the Baroque tuning (a half step lower than the tuning we use today), the Baroque tempo and articulations, and the implementation of Baroque-period instruments throughout the ensemble.  Enjoy!

Community Building Assignment #2

Before continuing on with Community Assignment #2, make sure you’ve completed Community Assignment #1 – Practice Tip Videos!  Here’s a snapshot from Abby G.’s submission – clip your fingernails!  A simple, but super important element of being able to practice effectively and with good technique.  Thanks, Abby! 


Now, once you’ve done that, on to Assignment #2:

All over the world, people are in their homes and physically apart from one another.  So many people are choosing to connect with one another through music.  I am loving some of the music coming from Italy.  Let’s check them out together.  I encourage you to watch the next few videos.  

A powerful opera singer

A whole neighborhood of Italians

A lone saxophonist (and a dog)

A fabulous violist 

I’d like you to think of one thing:  WHY are these musicians choosing to express themselves in this way.  WHY are they playing from their balconies? *Please write your responses to me via email.  I would love to share your responses next week in class. 

*If you already answered this in group class last night, please take the time to write out your thoughts and share them with me in an email.  

After you listen to the videos and share your thoughts, it’s YOUR TURN.  Think of some creative way to share your music with others. This could be people in your home, a driveway (or balcony) concert for passersby, a FaceTime call with a loved one, a facebook live, a youtube video sent to friends, or whatever you can think of!  Please record in some way and share with me. If there is a reason your form of sharing does not allow recording, let me know.  

Happy listening, and we will see you SOON!

Summer ’20 Registration Now Open!

Hello Everyone! 

The 2019-2020 school year got off to an incredible start, and has been filled with some truly inspiring and memorable lessons, group classes, recital performances, and accomplishments by our students.  The past month has unquestionably been filled with unforeseeable and unprecedented challenges, but the learning, growing, connecting, and sharing have continued nonetheless, and I can honestly say that Ms. Kirby and I have never been more thankful for our relationship with each and every one of our students and their families and more proud of the creativity and adaptability of our community, which has allowed deep learning to continue on unhindered! 

So, it is with great excitement that we can now share with you that registration for our Summer ’20 Semester is now open!  As always registration for the summer is flexible, and you can choose to sign up for only the weeks you know you will be in available.  With that said, consistency and continuity over the summer are vitally important to maintaining progress from school year to school year, and we always look forward to seeing each of our students for as many lessons as possible over the summer.  


This year, there is one unique factor to consider: As we have seen more and more music camps, academic programs, and activities of every kind cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ms. Kirby and I are saddened for the loss of enrichment opportunities for our students and our community at large.  More than ever before, we see children in front of us who are eager to learn and have a void of time, energy, and interest to fill. Throughout the world, there are people turning to music as a comfort and strength during this time when character, beauty, and expression are especially needed. With this in mind, Ms. Kirby and I encourage you to make lessons a priority this summer, and we are committed to continuing to create as engaging and creative a learning environment and as much community for our students and their families as possible.  To help make this all possible for all of our students, and in light of the economic impacts of the coronavirus, we have decided to keep tuition rates the same this summer, instead of giving them their scheduled annual increase. We hope this helps provide some relief! 

Registration will be open from April 1 – April 30, at which point Ms. Kirby and I will sit down and create our summer teaching schedule, which we plan to have back to you by May 15.  The Summer ’20 Semester will kick off on May 26 and run through August 21.  We will be in touch with each of you individually as soon as possible to discuss what lesson length best suits your child’s age and level of advancement, as many of you have graduated to new heights this school year!  We’re incredibly optimistic about what the future holds for each of our students, and look forward to taking the next step in that journey of learning, discovering, and growing together this summer. 

SU20 Registration