Category Archives: Uncategorized

2021 Halloween Group Performance & Party Recap!

Hello WCS Students & Families!

Thank you so, so much to everyone who came out and joined us for our 2021 Halloween Group Performance & Party. Thank you to all the families who helped set up and tear down. Thank you to all the families who brought treats and drinks. Thank you to everyone who has attended group classes throughout the fall semester thus far (don’t forget – there are still more!). And a special thank you to one of our studio families, Ziggy & Darren @luckyfunentertainment for doing all the balloon decorations that made the evening extra fun! Every time we have a studio event like this, Kirby and I are both reminded what a truly, incredibly special community of families we are privileged to have at West County Strings!

These group events are always such a wonderful opportunity to see just how much progress students have made from the start of the school year, but even more than that, how much progress they’ve made from the last time we saw them in their Halloween costumes for our annual Group Performance & Party. Some of the high schoolers in the back row playing Telemann Canonic Sonatas and the Kabelevsky Waltz were once the preschoolers in the front row playing Chicken on a Fencepost Variations and Paw Paw Patch! It’s always so exciting to think back over all of that development.

So, thank you once again for everyone who made this annual studio event possible, and we’ll see you for 2 more group classes this fall, and of course our Fall Solo Recitals coming up on the afternoon of Sunday, November 14!

Paganini Caprice No. 5

We’ve listened to Paganini’s Caprice No. 5 in A Minor here before. It’s a piece that’s often on my mind, as it’s one of the more “accessible” (obviously that’s a relative term, as it is still rather difficult!) of Paganini’s 24 Caprices to students. It’s built on a series of arpeggios and sequences that are not unlike the Wohlfahrt or Kreutzer Etudes that students will have studied by this point in their playing – it’s just more challenging!

Today, I wanted to take a look at two very different versions of the same piece. Both are extremely virtuosic, excellent, and exemplary. But from tempo, to bow stroke, to character and style, the two could hardly be more dissimilar. One is Sumina Studer’s amazing recording, in which she displays incredible technique in using the extraordinarily difficult ricochet bowing that most performers opt not to use for this Caprice. The other is Leonidas Kavakos’, which he approaches with raw power and prowess. Which do you prefer?

Committing to Fill our “Ability Buckets”

A few years ago, the one of the faucets in our house developed what I would have described as a “little drip.” Nothing particularly serious. A little drip every few seconds. Certainly not worth putting right at the top of my to-do list. I’d get around to fixing it when I had the time, I thought.

And then the water bill for that month came in. I don’t recall exactly what it was, but I do remember that it was over ten times our normal monthly bill! I won’t soon forget that part.

So, I went straight to Home Depot, picked up the part needed to fix the leaking seal for, and with about 15 minutes of work, I had the problem solved. Next month, the water bill was back to its normal range.

My point? Even a little drip can add up to a whole lot of water when it drips steadily over time. In this case, the result was not so positive. But let’s turn it around and apply it to something productive.

I hesitate to refer to anything from the ’20-’21 school year as a “silver lining,” because it was such a difficult year for so many people. One of the realities for us at West County Strings, though, was that violin or viola lessons was in many cases the only activity that students were able to stay involved in, as sports and other extracurriculars had to take a break until they could be done safely again.

The result? Students had a lot fewer things vying for their time and attention, and a lot more time to practice! I dare say that a lot of the exceptional results we saw from students during the ’20-’21 school year were due to this reality.

And now, as things increasingly return to “normal,” we are also seeing students and families returning to balancing more and more activities and events, and practicing sometimes getting lost in the mix.

So why did I begin by mentioning our leaky shower and the water bill that ensued?

Because just as even little drip can add up to a whole lot of water, so too can a little bit of careful, consistent, thoughtful, focused practice add up to a whole lot of ability.

I’ve been thinking about it like this:

We’re all trying to fill up what we’ll call our “buckets of ability.” We try to fill them up before coming to each lesson. We try to fill them up on a larger scale over the course of a semester before recitals. And we try to fill them up on an even larger scale over the course of a whole school year, and over the course of many years of practice.

The problem is that all too often – and especially this year as we all get back to more and more different types of activities and events – we try to turn that metaphorical “faucet” on all the way and fill up our bucket in one or two big efforts over the course of the week.

And I suppose that would be okay, if our bodies and brains worked that way. But for better or worse, they don’t. Our bodies and brains work best, learn best, and develop best with high-frequency, moderate-intensity efforts.

Dr. Suzuki didn’t have all the science that we have today to back this fact up when he started teaching, but he knew it from observing life. And he wrote about it a lot. In the preface to Suzuki Violin Book 1 (Revised Edition, pg. 5), he says:

“It is the daily practice at home that leads to ability development. The key is how much and how well the student practices the teachers’ instructions.” (emphasis mine)

So, as we find ourselves roughly a quarter of the way into the Fall ’21 Semester, I’d like to encourage each of our students, and each of their families, to commit to this idea of a steady, daily filling of our “buckets of ability” through practice.

Ideally, this would mean focusing on the materials assigned in each students’ private lesson. It may be necessary to practice music for school or community orchestras, as well, but these should not be considered replacements for developing individual skill on lesson assignments.

Given that we are only human, not all days will be of the same length or quality, and some days it may feel utterly impossible to practice (Dr. Suzuki would remind you, “Only practice on the days you eat!”). On the most difficult days, it may be a good idea to simply practice a scale or review piece and relax with the Suzuki CD or recording of another work you are learning.

There is more we can all talk about individually in lessons as the school year goes on, but I’d like to think of West County Strings as a place where each and every student is slowly, steadily filling their “bucket of ability,” and will eventually find it overflowing!

’21-’22 Play-In & Ice Cream Social Recap

Thank you to everyone who joined us for our annual Play-In & Ice Cream Social to kick off the ’21-’22 school year! It was so nice to see so many familiar faces, and to get to put new names and faces together for the first time, as well. And it’s always fun to shake the rust off of some Suzuki review pieces, get a feel for our starting point for the school year, and then think ahead to where we’ll be by the time our Halloween Group Performance, Fall Solo Recitals, Spring Festival Group Performance, and Spring Solo Recitals all come around.

Group classes begin at their regularly-scheduled times next week, so be sure to double-check the group class rosters for your child’s class time, and plan to arrive 5-10 minutes early to unpack and get ready to tune. Brahms and Bartok classes, don’t forget to bring your technique and/or repertoire packets that you picked up this evening from Ms. Kirby with you next week, along with a stand. We’re looking forward to all the ways we can learn and grow this school year in group class alongside your weekly private lessons!

Spring ’21 Solo Recitals Recap

Hello WCS Students & Families!

Thank you so, so much to all of our students who performed on yesterdays recitals, and to the parents, family, and friends who came out to show their support to them and enjoy the performances. Truly, from both Kirby and me – our most heartfelt thanks. It was an incredible feeling to see so many of you again in person for the first time in many, many months, to see conversations going on between accompanist and performers, between teachers and students, and between families, and between friends. We’re thankful to have had such a wonderful hall to perform in, that did the students’ wonderful performances justice with its sound. As always, we wanted to share some photos that captured the joy of the afternoon. And again, to all of our students who performed – bravo! You should all feel extremely proud, and we’re looking forward to everything that comes next!

MFMC ’21 Competition Results!

Every spring, we look forward to the opportunities afforded to our students by the Missouri Federation of Music Clubs Virtuoso Club. Whether to give students the opportunity to prepare and perform for ribbons, trophies, and judges feedback, or for camp scholarships, district and state honors, or even college scholarships and scholarships to major summer institutes, the Missouri Federation of Music Clubs is a great organization that we love participating in. This year, we want to congratulate our students who took home honors in the Camp Scholarship and District Competitions.

District Competition

The Missouri Federation of Music Clubs Virtuoso Club’s District Competition is open only to 10th – 12th grade students, and affords the winner the opportunity to continue on to compete at the State Competition in May. With only one winner from all string entrants, the competition is stiff, and this year we want to congratulate Nathan Zhou for coming in 1st Runner Up in the District Competition, performing Mozart’s Concerto No. 3 in G Major, 1st movement – a huge accomplishment! Nathan As only a 10th grader, participating in this competition for the first time, we’re sure the future is bright for Nathan and have high hopes for him next year, as well. Many congratulations for your hard work and a job well done, Nathan!

Camp Scholarship Competition

The Missouri Federation of Music Clubs Virtuoso Club’s Camp Scholarship Competition is open to two divisions of students – those in 7th – 9th grade, and those in 10th – 12th grade. This year, we want to congratulate Christien Fanta and Andrew Kang, who both won scholarships in the 7th – 9th grade division of this competition. Both Christien and Andrew performed Haydn’s Concerto No. 2 in G Major, 1st movement, earning themselves scholarships to use towards furthering their music education. Congratulations, Christien and Andrew! And with last year’s Camp Scholarship Competition winners eligible to reenter the competition next year and even more of you growing and maturing in your musical ability who could enter for the first time, we look forward to a great presence in the Camp Scholarship Competition in 2022!

It’s always wonderful for students to have a concrete goal to work hard towards. The progress they make, the self-discipline they cultivate, and the overall improvement to their level of playing that they achieve simply by going through the process of preparing over weeks and months to be ready to compete is the real reward. Winning is simply an added bonus. We’re so thankful for the Missouri Federation of Music Clubs Virtuoso Club and all the opportunities it affords to students, and we hope that even more of you will participate in the Festival, Camp Scholarship Competition, District Competition, or College Music Major Scholarship Competition next year!