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Tai chi, a scythe, and a violin

Hi from ARIA! I'm feeling great after another stimulating day of classes and practice. Today we learned how a number of interesting subjects are unified on the violin.

Our first class of the day was taught by the wonderful Bayla Keyes, violin professor at Boston University. Warm and engaging, Ms. Keyes brought a whole repertoire of excercises which she taught us to perform in order to achieve a more relaxed, efficient body while we play.

The first thing she demonstrated was fun to watch. She asked a student to come up and hold onto her forearms as she stood and pushed her weight toward the student. The student was asked to resist the pressure, and not fall over no matter how hard Ms. Keyes leaned toward her. She demonstrated that the strongest way to push forward was with bent knees and "tai chi" fists, which are formed by sweeping one's hands together in a downward curve, turning them palms up, before clenching the fingers into a secure fist. A few laughs were drawn from the students. It's not every day that you watch a sort of physical "match" between teacher and student. What did this have to do with the violin? It showed us that unexpected ways of moving muscles can have an impact on the strength we are capable of using.

Ms. Keyes continued the rest of the class with many more techniques for sensing the positions of the shoulder blades, moving the arms in relaxed circles, and even a technique she observed by way of a famed violist. This bow technique was called "scything", after the curved scythe that was once used for cutting grassy crops. The association comes from the technique's emphasis on the forward circle motion used to handle a scythe. When parts of that motion are used with the bow, a powerful, yet sensitive tone can be produced. I was extremely excited to hear her discuss this technique, as it was something I had already begun to try out on my own, though I didn't know it was a real technique! She encouraged some of us to perform a section of music that could benefit from this, and I played a section of the Mendelssohn concerto. I was happy to hear a full, yet round and singing tone project from my violin.

It's been a lot of work at ARIA so far, and it's only been a few days! I've even taken a few naps so far to re-energize for the evenings! Hanging out and sharing stories with other violinists has been really fun, as we all have common experiences and unique ones to share. The ages of students vary as well: some, like me, are still in high school, while others are in undergraduate or graduate study at college. Coming together in the midst of all these different "paths" has been very enjoyable.

Thanks for reading, I'll share more soon!


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