Music NB Awards

Music NB AwardsThere is a great scene in the movie “In and Out” in which Cameron Drake (an actor) is at the academy awards. He is on the red carpet headed in and is talking to an interviewer about how he feels that artists should not be forced to compete against each other like dogs. The interviewer says to him “Then why are you here?” The answer? “In case I win!” I love this scene in the movie and kind of feel that way myself.

I just won the “Classical Artist of the Year” from Music NB, and wanted to share the story with you of the awards gala. The night of the gala it was rainy and I had just finished a day of teaching. It seemed like a long way to drive just to go to a gala. I really didn’t want to go, and considered staying home, but decided that I should go to network with other musicians and industry professionals. I hadn’t considered winning to be an actual possibility, so networking was the only real reason to go.

Kim and I drove to Moncton through the rain, and I talked to a few other musicians. We sat down at a table to watch the ceremony and Kim asked if I had prepared my speech. “I don’t need a speech!” I replied.

We got to the point in the evening where the winner for “classical artist of the year” was going to be announced. I was really surprised when my name was called! David Adams, my violin teacher from high school was also up for the same award, and I had assumed he would win.

I was really excited to have won this award! I am actually better known for my fiddling in this area than for my work as a classical musician, so it is really nice to be recognized for this part of what I do. I was really pleased to have Richard Hornsby presenting the award as much of my work as a classical musician has been with him, and it was really nice to have David Adams there to see me receive the award.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me and thanks to everyone who has helped me to get where I am!

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Tips & Tricks: How to make the most of your lesson

How to make the most of your lessonThe other day as a student was leaving my studio her Mom asked her if we had worked on the part of her piece where she had been having trouble. “Oh yeah,” she said to me, “My violin keeps squeaking when I change my bow over to the e-string.” This made me think about how we tend to avoid anything we find hard and how much that does not serve us as we are trying to learn. Here are some ideas for how to make the most of your lessons:

  1. Warm up before your lesson. Often students arrive without having played violin earlier that day, so during the first 5-10 minutes you are not getting the most out of your lesson, but are simply warming up.
  2. Practice as soon as you can after your lesson, ideally on the same day, but at the latest, the next day. Sometimes after a lesson it is tempting to relax and not practice right away, but later in the week when you do practice, you won’t necessarily remember what you were supposed to be doing.
  3. Take notes during your lesson. When I was a child my teacher would write notes about what I was supposed to work on, and when I was older, I would write my own notes. With notes you can refer to them during the week to make sure that you are on the right track.
  4. If you are having a problem with something, mention it to your teacher so you can work on it. I know that it is tempting to hope that your teacher won’t ask you to play the things that you can’t do. I know that I am guilty of this one for sure! I can’t count how many times my students have said to me “I was hoping that you wouldn’t asked me to play that!” It is human nature, but not the best use of your time, and you are really just holding yourself back.

I hope these tips are helpful! Go out and make the most of your lessons!

Learning a second instrument

Learning a second instrumentI have been taking cello lessons for the past couple of years, and have really been enjoying it! I love learning, and learning new instruments is a natural direction for me. I have tried many other instruments, but the cello has really stuck! I love the sound of it, and talked about learning it when I was a kid (although that was just because they didn’t have to stand up when we played the national anthem), and now am following that dream!

I think that for me as a teacher it has been a really good exercise to try a new instrument. I have been playing the violin since I was six years old, so many aspects of it seem completely natural to me. It is good for me to experience the frustration that my students experience at learning aspects of the instrument. I do have an advantage though, as there are certain similarities between the violin and the cello.

Here is what I have noticed. Things that are very different include how you hold your left hand, and interestingly, the bow hold. I have really struggled with getting my left hand to be shaped like a cellist’s instead of a violinist’s, so that has been hard. Even though the bow grip is different, it has not been as much of a challenge.

The big place that I have an advantage is in the bowing. I have a feel for bowing from the violin, and even though the angle is different, the feel still carries over. Learning a stringed instrument, that head start is really handy!

I have noticed that my violin playing has been improving as an added bonus. The biggest place it has improved has been in my shifting (when you move your hand up the neck of the instrument). There is a lot more shifting on cello, even in more basic pieces, than on violin, so it is really hard to avoid. Also, my violin feels really tiny after I have been playing the cello, so it all seems a bit easier.

All in all, I have been enjoying learning a new instrument. I have played other instruments before (most notably oboe all through junior high and high school), but this has been my most recent foray, and I would strongly encourage anyone who already plays an instrument and is tempted to try out another to go ahead and do so! Stop thinking about it, and get out there to try it!

Tips & Tricks: Am I too old to learn the fiddle?

Am I too old to learn the fiddle?The most common question I am asked by adults when they call me for lessons is “Am I too old?” My answer is “Of course not!” I believe that you can learn an instrument at any age!

As time has gone on, I have been teaching more adults. There are three stories that I often hear:

Scenario Number 1:
These people have always wanted to learn to fiddle and never had a chance as a child. Often they are now at a point in their lives where their children have moved out, maybe they are retired (although not necessarily) and now have time to pursue their own interests.

Scenario Number 2:
These people are very interesting. These are people who hated the fiddle when they were kids, often because it was something that their parents loved and that they were subjected to against their will. Now that these people are adults, they have developed a taste for the music they heard as children and want to pursue it.

Scenario Number 3:
These people did take lessons as a kid and now want to start up again. Often they took classical violin lessons as children and now really want to play fiddle music.

You will run into people who feel that you should not start at a late age as you will not learn as fast as a child, and you likely will never be as comfortable with the instrument. These things are true, but as I tell my students, if you want to play at Carnegie Hall, it might be too late, but if you want to improve, play for your own pleasure and join a group, you can do that at any age!

No matter what your scenario is, it is never too late to start playing the fiddle! It will take time and dedication to improve your playing, but it will also be rewarding!

The change of musical seasons

The Change of Musical SeasonsI love the change of seasons. I love seeing the first snow fall of winter, the first daffodil of spring, the sunny days of summer, but most of all, I love the arrival of autumn! Autumn is my favourite season for so many reasons! To me, it is almost like a second new year. There is a change in the weather and there is a corresponding change in the focus of my musical career. Fall marks the beginning of the school year, the beginning of my teaching season, a return to classical music and also a time to think about what is coming up next.

I am fortunate to be able to play many styles of music, and I find that my career is highly seasonal. My summers are usually spent playing fiddle music for summer concerts and at festivals. My main outlet for classical music through the summer is playing at weddings, again, often outdoors. Once autumn hits, I return to my classical music roots and start preparing to play with ensembles such as Symphony NB and the Atlantic Sinfonia. I also start up my baroque string ensemble and schedule regular rehearsals with my string quartet. I really enjoy the fact of playing these different styles of music and would not have it any other way!

The return to teaching is always nice. I enjoy seeing the kids again after the summer and am constantly amazed at how much my students have grown over the summer! One of the many great things about this change for me is that it locks me into a schedule. I have the best of intentions for getting lots of things done over the summer, but once fall returns and I set up a regular teaching schedule, that is when I get the bulk of my work done.

This time of year also always sets me to thinking about what is coming up next and setting new goals. I am working on some new plans, but have nothing ready to share just yet. I think 2013 will be a great year though!

Unrelated to music, I love the colours of the leaves and the cool crisp feeling in the air in autumn. It is the time of year where you need to wear a sweatshirt or sweater, but not a jacket just yet. I am always amazed at how the seasons seem to change over night. One day it feels like summer, and the next morning it feels like fall.

I hope that you all share my joy and enthusiasm about this time of year and are out enjoying the weather!