"Usually when we play, nobody dies."
Hi from ARIA!
It's been a fun and intense few days, and I'm about halfway through camp now! It's getting a bit warm here, but I've been enjoying the getaway from real Oklahoma heat! All of our classes have been interesting and quite eye opening.
Our afternoon violin technique teacher Ms. Keyes has been graciously providing us with fascinating, eye-opening, and wonderfully prepared classes to improve our understanding of violin technique. She's taught us about how all the muscles of the body contribute to producing sound on our violins, from our legs to our back to our arms. She's taught us practice techniques for improving almost every aspect of our playing. And one of her favorite teaching methods is inviting a student to play a snippet of music for the class, in order to help them apply the current subject to performance. I've been called on a few times to play something as simple as a small finger pattern exercise, or a beautiful line from a piece. Each time, I benefited from Ms. Keyes' assistance in utilizing all the information she taught!
One student who was called on to perform inspired Ms. Keyes to tell one of her many interesting stories. As she helped the student control his slightly anxious and shaky bowing arm, she launched into a tale from when she was a student herself. She had given what she considered disappointing and subpar performance, and had complained dramatically of her 'failure' to her teacher. He merely told her that whenever one feels like an utter failure after a performance, "it was probably only five percent worse than normal." That, she said, stopped her crying as she pondered his meaning. She explained that the truth was that her mistakes in performance seemed much more catastrophic than they really were!
This impromtu subject was a memorable and necessary lesson for all those who give any type of performance. We tend to over-criticize ourselves, even as the audience continues to enjoy what we're doing! Ms. Keyes boiled it down in one priceless statement:
"When we play, usually nobody dies." In that one statement, she encouraged us to relax about performance. After all, mistakes aren't the end of the world!
On another day, Ms. Keyes began a class on intonation by highlighting the basic difficulty of playing a stringed instrument without frets: violinists don't have convenient lines across our instruments guiding our fingers to the right spots! So she asked each of us students to play a specific note without allowing us to make sure before hand that the note would be in tune (usually we secretly pluck or tap the string to listen to the note we're about to play). More often than not, our first attempts at playing the note were inaccurate, with the note sounding too high or too low, no matter how simple her request! It was comically difficult to accomplish this simple task, even though all of us had been studying the violin for years! Ms. Keyes then taught us how to improve our technique and find notes without checking their accuracy beforehand.
I've also enjoyed an opportunity to play in a masterclass about musciality. I performed a musical "phrase" from the Mendelssohn concerto as our teacher Mr. Grossman gave comments, both advising me on how to bring out the lyrical melody and inquiring the rest of the onlooking students to provide their own ideas. One student, a college graduate violinist, shared an excellent idea that I've incorporated into my interpretation! She suggested adding more variety to my playing of a repetitive musical motif. I greatly enjoyed both learning and improving my playing in the masterclass!
Thanks for reading! I can't wait to write about my next masterclass performance coming up in two days!