March ’19 Update

It’s been a long, cold St. Louis winter, but spring is just around the corner, as is Spring Break at West County Strings.  Our Spring Break will run from Sunday, March 17 – Sunday, March 24, during which time there will be no private lessons or group classes.  We hope you all enjoy a little bit of rest and relaxation, particularly because when we come back from break, things get busy!

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Following break, we will have 1 more Tuesday-evening group class prior to the Spring Festival dress rehearsal and group performance on Sunday, March 31.  Dress rehearsal will begin at 1:00 p.m. and run until 3:00 p.m. and run in reverse concert order, meaning Ensemble will rehearse first and Pre-Twinklers will not need to arrive until closer to 3:00.  The concert will begin at 3:30.  Both rehearsal and the concert will be held in the sanctuary of Chesterfield Presbyterian Church, 15037 Clayton Rd.  And just in case you’re unsure what all repertoire you need to know, here’s the rep list.

Two weeks following the Spring Festival, students who have opted to participate in the Missouri Federation of Music Clubs’ festival will have their performances at St. Charles Community College.  Schedules for the event have yet to be released, but based on prior years students should expect their performances to be held in the afternoon of Sunday, April 14.  Rehearsals will be available with accompanist Daniel Fry on the afternoons of Tuesday April 2 or 9 in preparation for the festival.  Details will be sent to participating families in the near future.

And finally, Spring Solo Recitals will be held on the afternoon of Sunday, April 28.  Pieces for the solo recitals must be memorized no later than one month prior to the performance, or in this case roughly the end of March.  Your teacher will be helping you select your piece in the next few weeks.  Recitals are tentatively scheduled to be held in the KREW Room of Chesterfield Presbyterian Church, 15037 Clayton Rd.  

On a personal note, I want to share how encouraged I am by the number of students and families who are putting in consistent, careful practice this school year.  Many have been consistent – even daily – practicers for years, and are reaping the rewards of developing such wonderful habits.  Many more are putting in the hard work of developing new, productive habits this school year and this semester, and I am seeing the transformation.  You may be familiar with Dr. Suzuki’s mantra, “Practice only on the days you eat!”  When I was a child, I thought that this must surely be hyperbole, intended to scare students in the right direction.  As an adult, however, I increasingly see that the practice of a daily routine is something very fundamental to the way our bodies and our minds are wired, and this doesn’t just apply to building skill at a musical instrument, but any skill we want to develop (if you haven’t had a chance, take a look at the book The Talent Code on the coffee table in the studio).  So, know that your hard work is making a difference, and it is noticed.  And let’s continue to build even more successes on top of your current success!

And last but certainly not least, I want to thank all of you for the way that you have supported each other as a studio and a program this school year in switching lesson times with one another when a scheduling conflict has arisen for a student or their family.  I think we may have had a record number of needs arise thus far this school year, and yet I think fewer lessons have been missed than ever before.  This consistency has certainly paid off in a level of quality across the studio.  Thank you all for lending each other a helping hand.

See you all this week, for our final lessons and group classes before break!

Spring Festival ’19 Repertoire List

As you all hopefully know, our Spring Festival group performance is just around the corner, on Sunday, March 31.  For details about the day and location, please see our March studio update.  But, for the repertoire that you need to know for that day by heart, and should be able to play at 2 a.m. if a bucket of cold water got splashed in your face, read below!  If you have any questions at all about whether you are responsible for a particular piece, ask your teacher as soon as possible.

A Majors
Chicken on a Fencepost Variations
Paw Paw Patch
Hoedown
Old Brass Wagon Variations
Happy Fiddling
Take a Turn Twinkle

G Majors
Twinkles
Lightly Row
Song of the Wind
Allegro
Long, Long Ago
Happy Farmer
Minuet (Bk. 3)
Gavotte in G minor
Humoresque

Viola Choir
Minuet 1
Chorus from Judas Maccabeaus

Circle of 5ths
All G Majors repertoire +
Vivaldi A minor, 1st, 2nd, & 3rd mvmts

Ensemble
Seitz No. 5, 1st mvmt (w/ orchestra)
Serenade
Millionaire’s Hoedown (pull out group)
Mystery Waltz (Karen, Jemuel, Tarini)

Happy practicing!

Virtuoso Club Festival ’19

The Spring Semester is well underway, and one of the events we look forward to this spring is the Virtuoso Club’s Festival on the weekend of April 13-14 at St. Charles Community College.

The Virtuoso Club is a St. Louis-based chapter of the National Federation of Music Clubs, and holds events and provides opportunities for young musicians in the St. Louis area throughout the year.  Their Festival is their annual highlight, with a variety of events and performances throughout the weekend.

At the Festival, students ages 7 and up have the opportunity to play their selected pieces for a judge, receive feedback on their playing, earn points towards prizes, win the opportunity to be featured on a recital, and even compete for college scholarships.  Kirby and I can help you figure out what pieces would be best to prepare, and help you work toward this goal.

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Registration is $27 per student, and your entry must be submitted by your teacher no later than February 14.  So, if you’re interested, please let Kirby or I know as soon as possible so we can work out the details with you and make sure everything is in order.  We’ll try to ask each of you individually in lessons, as well.  I think it’s great to take these kinds of opportunity to perform “under pressure,” but in an environment that is very intentionally student-friendly and positive.  We look forward to having you join us this year!

January ’19 Update

This week, we begin a new year at West County Strings, which means for each and every one of us an opportunity to reflect on everything that took place in the past year, and also an opportunity to set goals for ourselves for this new year.  We’ll be setting goals with each student in lessons, but we encourage you all to take a moment beforehand and reflect:

What in your musical journey did you do well this past year?  What could you have done better?

What came to you easily in your musical studies?  What was difficult for you?

What do you consider your greatest strength as a musician?  How about your greatest weakness?  What would you most like to improve?

Where do you see yourself musically at the end of this month?  This semester?  This year?

The more clearly you can envision what you want your future self to be, the more capable you’ll be of becoming that person as we work together this year!

As we prepare to warm up after a bit of rest and get back into the swing of things, here are a few important dates and pieces of information to keep in mind:

  • Private lessons resume this Friday, January 4.  We look forward to seeing you all again, and bringing some fresh ideas, approaches, and inspirations into our work together!
  • Group classes resume next Tuesday, January 8.  Group classes are a part of what sets us apart, and a major factor in a well-rounded musical development.  We’re very much looking forward to seeing you all in groups again!
  • Tuition for the spring semester (or payment 1 of 4 for the spring semester if you have opted to pay for the school year in installments) is due by Tuesday, January 15.  Please let us know if you need reminded of your remaining balance or installment amount.

And finally, I know it’s a bit cliché, but I really do love the list of “10 Things That Require 0 Talent” that seems to pop up around the beginning of the year every year.  Perhaps you’ve seen this a million times, or perhaps it’s new to you.

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As food for thought, Time did an article on these arguing that they are indeed talents that can be cultivated, and I think there’s certainly some validity to that.   These are all areas in which we can – and should – aim to improve in 2019, along with our tone, intonation, posture, bow hold, shifting, vibrato, bow strokes, dynamics, phrasing, musicality, and everything else that goes into our playing!

And with that, we’ll look forward to seeing you all within the next week!

Prokofiev – Romeo & Juliet: Montagues and Capulets

I can remember few more powerful moments in my life than being on stage performing Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, particularly the first selection from the second Suite: Montagues and Capulets.

The music is intended to accompany a ballet, which in turn tells the story of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  Montagues and Capulets are two warring families, which this music conveys quite well.

From the driving power of the basses, to the dissonance in the strings, the staccato attacks of the percussion, and the volume of the brass, the tension is palpable.  Make sure you listen from 1:25 to the end!

Holiday ’18 Update

It seems like as each semester at West County Strings comes to a close, I say to myself, “This was our best semester ever!”  And yet, seemingly without fail, the next semester is even better, filled with even more learning, growth, development, and wonderful memories than the last.  And so, with the Fall ’18 Semester now behind us, I find myself saying once again, “This was our best semester ever!”

A few factors stick out that made this past semester so great:

  1. Consistent Practice.  No one wants to feel “stuck in a rut” with their playing – not students, not their parents, and certainly not Kirby or me as your teachers!  Moving forward and making progress feels good for everyone involved, but it can only be done when the practice is frequent, and done with great care.  So THANK YOU for all the days, hours, and minutes that you all put in practicing this semester!
  2. Group Class Attendance.   If practicing is to developing ability on a stringed instrument what water is to a plant, then group class might best be described as the fertilizer.  Group class allows us to develop so many things that are hard to do in individual lessons, and all in a fun way.  THANK YOU to everyone who made the effort to regularly attend Tuesday night group classes.  Know that those make all the difference in your child’s continued musical development.
  3. Participation In Extracurriculars.  Kirby and I are daily reminded what a special community of families we’re privileged to work with at West County Strings.  THANK YOU to everyone who played in community concerts throughout the semester or came to the Holiday Play-Along Party last weekend.  It is these little and not-so-little things that help make music such a special part of our lives and our children’s lives, and that make West County Strings a special place to be.

We wish you all a happy Holiday Season and safe travels to see family and friends.  Lessons will resume Friday, January 4 and group classes will resume Tuesday, January 8.  Encourage your children to enjoy some much-needed time of rest and relaxation, but also to keep their strings singing throughout the holidays.  I’m sure a few minutes can be found here or there to do some scales, etudes, and review!

Thanks again for a great 2018, and we’ll see you in 2019!

Wieniawski Polonaise No. 1 – Jascha Heifetz

No study of violin repertoire would be complete without an understanding of the life and career of one Jashca Heitfetz who, in the early 1900s, set the standard for violin playing for decades to come.

Heifetz is known now for his technical mastery, attention to detail, and precision, which have led some to label his sound as being too “robotic” and lacking in “soul.”  While there may be merit to this argument, none can deny his place among the pantheon of all-time great violinists.  It’s a shame he didn’t live when we had better recording equipment to capture his incredible catalogue of performances!

Today’s selection performed by Heifetz is Henryk Wieniawski’s Polonaise No. 1 in D Major.  A polonaise is a slow dance in 3 time.  While nothing may seem slow about the violin part in this polonaise, you can hear that the underlying beat is a steady and relatively slow 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3… particularly in the piano.

Aspiring violin virtuosos, take a listen!