SHAR is excited to announce a new partnership with Associated Chamber Music Players, encouraging everyone to experience the joys of playing chamber music while enjoying special benefits from SHAR. The following blog describes one violinist’s experience with chamber music, his journey away from his violin, and back again.
The performing arts are quite unique. They require both formal knowledge and skilled technique, both converging in pursuit of creation. When it comes to learning to play the violin, some say that only all-in focus on theory and technical training will bring success. Others advocate for immersion in playing itself, “getting to the heart of the music”, keeping formality in the background. University of Michigan professor of violin Andrew Jennings, in his response to a blog post about the value of a music degree, provides a deeper perspective, well worth sharing again in advance of the upcoming graduation season.
Dear loyal users of the Shirley Givens "Adventures In Violinland" book series,
As many of you may know, our beloved Shirley passed away peacefully on January 10 after a lingering illness, teaching to the very end.
Last month, writing for SHAR’s blog series, “The Lives of Artists . . . In Their Own Words”, Formosa Quartet violinist Jasmine Lin explained that being open to an unclear future is what enabled four individuals to coalesce into one ensemble fifteen years ago. Trusting their own intuitions, and each other’s, has allowed them to continually renew themselves artistically, engaging deeply with their audience in the process.
But sometimes a change is needed. Artists are explorers at heart, and since they trust their own intuitions, they develop the courage to venture out. This is not the same as fearlessness. It’s quite the opposite: It’s venturing into the unknown despite their fear. For violinist Rebecca Fischer, that meant giving up something that she still loves and that still brings her joy, as her beloved Chiara Quartet lovingly disbands after 25 years together. As Rebecca passionately puts it in her blog article, “What I want to do in this next stage of my life is both clear and completely open to me.” And that’s how “The Afield” was born . . .
About a decade ago, perhaps in a masterclass during my undergrad as a violin performance major, I recall the discussion of what was required to be a violinist in the 21st Century. Something about the very wide range of technique needed to perform today's expansive repertoire and how being able to "do it all" these days, from baroque to contemporary, is nearly impossible... This vague recollection came back to me upon hearing the title of a discussion led by the Formosa Quartet entitled "What Does It Take To Be A 21st Century Musician?" Only ten years later, there was a lot less talk of technique and repertoire, and much more about social media, local and global communities, and crowd funding!
Last month, in the inaugural article for SHAR's blog series, "The Lives of Artists . . . In Their Own Words", New York City concert violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins explained how her career blossomed when she decided to "follow her bliss". Once Kelly experienced this epiphany, doors started to open for her. Kelly's natural openness to new experiences and opportunities enabled her to have this realization.
That openness is a hallmark of artists. In this same spirit, Formosa Quartet violinist Jasmine Lin explains how her ensemble emerged 15 years ago. Without any goal except to enjoy their upcoming concert series, a group of friends was able to create and nurture something special and sustaining. 15 years later, Formosa Quartet is widely acknowledged as one of the world's finest ensembles. Trusting their intuition is what started them on this path. Today, they generously share the lessons they've learned, focusing not just on offering a great performance, but also on stewarding great music for the next generation.
New York City concert violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins, by any measure, enjoys a fulfilling and rewarding career. From her busy solo touring schedule, to serving as concertmaster for some of Broadway’s biggest shows, to her recording work, including her own arrangements, to her humanitarian work, Kelly’s career as a professional musician is completely integrated into every facet of her life. But it wasn’t this way until she decided to pursue her own vision and voice. And that’s how Kelly became the artist that she is today.
Years of lessons. Constant practice. Starting a new etude book and moving up to the next level. Running to rehearsals. Auditions. Performing on stage. Playing with others. The sacrifice and toil of gaining mastery on your instrument can seem daunting and off-putting. Is it worth it? Where is it all going? Why do it?
It's a scenario every beginner or intermediate string player finds themselves in at some point: either a string broke, the metal winding is unraveling, or they've simply decided better strings will make them finally sound like Anne-Sophie Mutter. I can tune my strings by now; I'm sure changing my strings is simple enough! With headstrong independence they place an order for the set they heard are really great and wait patiently for their new strings to arrive. In a few days, they tear open the package, sit down with their instrument and get started...
“. . . a master violin is an accumulation of many small steps, each carried out with painstaking care”
~ Rainer W. Leonhardt, Master Violin Maker, Mittenwald, Germany