Author: Emily Wright

them there…

…is a new mini-podcast. Or, rather a picture of the player at the bottom of the page, where you can download the real thing. The great and talented Akihiko sugested the topic, and I am more than happy to oblige. It’s about the phenomenon of faltering during simple passages of a performance and possible causes and solutions. I apologize for a few bumps in volume that occur: I fixed them in GarageBand, but something goes funky in the export to iTunes (maybe compression issues) and they are still there, though not in as extreme a form. Still, I would start at a lower volume and miss my opening “Hello this is Emily” so you don’t blast your ears out during the...

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The recital

It went well. First off, lots of people attended, though not too many performed. My lovely cousin Natalie, who I have always felt lucky to be related to, showed up, as did my dad and a near stranger (a lapsed cellist, himself) who I had met earlier that day while buying party favors. Most people had at least 1 supporting guest, and one of my youngest had a whole flock of people to cheer her on as she nailed a pizzicato version of “Long Long Ago”. I’m sure you’re sick and tired of the whole Emily drumbeat of “approach, approach, approach”, but it’s what I got: The people who performed were all extremely successful in very important ways. They showed up, were vulnerable enough to use their new techniques and tweaks from the last lessons, and were absolutely gracious when the applause would erupt. Sometimes this is the hardest part: to accept praise after a monumental effort! The only disappointment I suffered was related to the few students who did not perform. A handful had real reasons to be absent, but the remainder are walking that line between making excuses and stalling out altogether. I don’t get as upset about it as I used to: I need to husband my emotional investment for the students who warrant it, and cultivate a cheerful detachment for those who do not. But...

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100th post: The Sound and The Fury

It’s spring, so you know what that means. Baseball is underway, open season has been declared on the LA roadways, and my students are dropping like flies, starting with the recital. I like to have at least 2 recitals a year for my students. As taxing as they are for me, I know that giving my students an opportunity to perform (and hence prepare to perform) is important. Many teachers give lessons in a vacuum and then marvel at the collective plateau in progress and interest their students display. At the very least, an upcoming performance adds fire to the routine and makes a seemingly solitary practice relevant. So I organize recitals. And students go insane. They quit, or self-sabotage, or wrestle with their darkest personal demons, right in front of me. I have one student who is at a very high level. His technique is clean, and his devotion to the cello spans nearly a lifetime. He is active in lots of ensembles, where he usually ends up taking a leadership role. I wish I could take credit for his proficiency, but he came to me with a whole lot of ability, and the work we do is the impossibly time consuming and nearly inarticulable combination of polishing his technique and massaging his approach. It’s hard for my advanced students; they come to me to improve, to be...

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nailing it

Hahaa! I bet you didn’t expect a technical post today! Well, I enjoy the element of surprise now and again. One of my newer readers, Eigen voiced a pretty common question about left hand technique: What is up with 1st finger in thumb position? It seems improbable that we should have to practically play on the nail to accomplish some of the chord shapes and dextrous scalar passages composers throw at us. But that is, by and large, exactly what we have to do. I am a huge proponent of playing in position. That means that the arm should put the hand in a place where the notes are readily accessible and the fingers fall over the notes. Many students, even those of an advanced level, hold their arm (and thus, their hand) at an angle such that each finger they put on the fingerboard requires some sort of movement in the arm and often, a rotation in the wrist. So the arm is in one place when playing 1st finger, and a very different place when playing 3rd in the same position. Not only does this equate to the musical version of pin the tail on the donkey, but it also creates a certain frenetic energy of sound, technique, and approach in general. I, of course, am very sensitive to that because I am a recovering maniac myself...

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