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
The origins of the violin were likely rooted in India or the Far East. In fact, musical instruments that are played with a bow appear in centuries-old paintings and pottery from many different civilizations. But there is no doubt that the violin we recognize today originated in mid-1500 Cremona, Italy, more specifically from the hand of Andrea Amati. Andrea’s grandson, Nicola Amati, enlarged the pattern and refined the violin, passing his knowledge to Stradivari and Guarneri. In short order, other famous makers emerged in Cremona, Carlo Bergonzi being the most prominent. Cremona had quickly become famous throughout Europe and elsewhere. Indeed, this Golden Age of violin making produced the greatest violins the world has ever known.
Violinist Teagan Faran’s unique vision combines great music, virtuosic performance, artistic collaboration and community involvement. Red Shoe Company is the product of this vision. SHAR is proud to support this incredible ensemble of talented and dedicated musicians, in concert on Sunday, November 19. Don’t miss it! Read more about Teagan Faran’s Mission of Happiness, in her own words...
Learning to play an instrument is about hand positioning, technique, practice, and hard work. This careful training leads to muscle memory and tonal recognition. Mastery in playing an instrument requires additional skills well beyond even these. Dr. Melissa Gerber Knecht, our guest blogger, is Professor of Music at Hillsdale College. Dr. Gerber has studied the development of pattern recognition in the human brain and the critical role this plays in achieving mastery of the instrument. Her recent book, Developing Your Musical Mental Map, is based on this research, and provides a useful guide for teachers and students seeking to achieve breakthrough improvement.
It’s time for a new school year, an opportunity for a fresh start in your studio. A new crop of students is arriving, and many of your students are returning. And each student is different, with different strengths and weaknesses, different commitment levels, and different motivations. You’ve got lots of students to teach, and they need to cover a lot of ground quickly. Fortunately, you have your method books, your supplements, and especially your own experience and good sense, and that has always served you well. For most of your students.