Author: Emily Wright

lookin' good (soundin' bad) (for a while)

Other possible blog titles include: Acting the partAll for showTest yer gesture (ha) As many of you know, I am in the business of teaching how to play the cello. I was about to write, “I teach the cello” but then I thought, “Teach it what? How to be a human? Latvian history? Roller skating?” (backwards and forwards) So early for a digression! Anyway, I teach people of just about every level how to play the cello. I also get called upon every so often to consult on films, commercials and other showbiz type shebangs to either teach someone how to look as if they are playing the cello, or to fake it, myself. Even before I did my first consulting job, I knew that going for the gestures, the simple physical look of confident playing, was important to actual proficiency. Talking about it with some of my regular readers generated some interest, so I thought I would go a little more in-depth with this idea. You know how I like lists, so here we go: 1) Think digital. 0 or 1. On or off. Moving or not. One of the hallmarks of an introspective, well-meaning, struggling student is dithering. Hesitation out of habit, fear, self consciousness. Over preparing. Pre-preparing. Post analyzing, blah blah. One thing you notice about the movements of successful instrumentalists is that they are singular....

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keepin' it real

I live a dangerous life. Cave diving? No. Ebola specialist at the CDC? Nope! Sword swallower? Nah. No, I base my income on the wispy whims of people whose ability to pay me is a direct reflection of sentiment about the economy. Sure, I have a few dedicated students who are going to be cellists as adults. And I have a few nearly-professionals who take maintenance and polish lessons too. But the majority are people who are half-assedly checking it out, and if the financial tango we all dance gets a little too risky, cello lessons are the first thing to get the hatchet. Tis the nature of the beast. How is it that the people who are dedicated somehow manage to budget for the cello even though 9 times out of 10 they are in much lower tax brackets than the people who bail? Sometimes I think that the economy is an excuse. I had a kid drop out this week and cancel last week because of school “burn out”. The last lesson we had, I made his eyes well up with tears because I had to give him a talking-to after he was disrespectful. Coincidence? Hmm. Another student quit after 3 lessons, none of which he practiced for. His dad wrote me a note, saying that I would be contacted about his son’s intentions. After an unpleasant...

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So you wanna go to music school?

This list, like the last one, is drawn directly from my experience. This is hopfully going to be the emphasis of my next book, tentatively entitled something like, “Ignore This Book if You Want to Go to Your 9th Choice Music School”. You get my drift. Some things to do when you are certain you want to go to music school: 1) practice better. Don’t just throw yourself at the instrument for an hour or two a day. Have a look through your lesson books from past years and see what habits haunt you. Then do some serious woodshedding on those things. Do it now, or wait until later. You know, when you’re surrounded by people who have killer technique and you can’t quite hit that note… 2) Take some lessons from a name brand teacher.Doors will open for you. These people tend to be connected to colleges anyway, and if you have your heart set on a particular school, it would do you good to take some lessons with a prospective teacher. This may involve hopping on a plane for a master class, or going to a summer music festival (like Fairbanks, Idyllwild, Aspen, or Interlochen) for the sole purpose of taking a few weeks worth of lessons. At the very least, seek out the big gun closest to you. It makes a huge difference, even if your...

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Excalibow

The 2nd movement of Beethoven 5 has claimed many a victim at symphonic auditions. It seems to be custom made to sound great in a section, but like utter chaos when played alone. Same with Don Juan, as magnificently put by Blake Oliver in this blog entry. For years and years, I have chipped away at this thing. I have changed fingerings, hand shape, bow style. Practiced it dotted, reversed, slurred, single, odd groupings, metronome, freeform…you get the picture. I even went through a period of going to sleep with Ron Leonard’s excerpt CD on, hoping for some sort of middle of the night osmosis. My efforts reached their zenith last week, and in abject frustration, I called Matt Cooker, a friend, colleague, and generally amazing cello guy, to listen to my rep for an upcoming meeting I have with the principal cellist of an orchestra I hope to play with. It was good. Really good. First off, he laid some Galamian and Starker techniques on me. Worked on unusual joint flexibility. Sorted out fingerings. It was sounding better. But then… ….I used this bow. And it sounded like a different cello. I am the first to say that good gear gets you far. But I am also in favor of students amassing years of solid technique before going the quick and dirty route of an instrument or bow...

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