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Friendship and Love of Music: An Interview with Hayley Murks

  
  
  
Hayley Murks

Each year, Strings Magazine awards a $3,000 scholarship (plus $1,000 to spend at SHAR) to a deserving young musician. The Edith Eisler Scholarship is a much-needed and generous award, one named in memory of a dedicated musician and contributor to Strings Magazine. When I heard that this year's winner, Hayley Murks, was from Gulfport, Mississippi, I was excited to connect with a fellow Mississippian. I'm so grateful, however, that Hayley and I ended up talking about more than her home state; Hayley generously shared her story, what drives her to make music, and her passion for a Gulfport outreach program, the Magnolia Chamber Orchestra.   


Joe Chapman:
Tell me how you first started playing the viola. What drew you to the instrument? What has kept you going?

Hayley Murks:
Well, I always wanted to play the double bass, but I am only 5'1'' and I have the hand size of a five-year-old! I fell in love with the sound of the viola when I was in the fourth grade. I was a part of my public school's strings program from that point on.
            I had a really great strings teacher in middle school who was a very caring individual. At the time I was still participating in competition dance, and found it difficult to keep up in the class. He truly inspired me to stay passionate about viola and music.  
            My father's love for music has always given me a sense of direction too. He had a record room in our house. There must have been thousands of records in it! He was very supportive of me becoming a musician and thought that it was the coolest job on earth. He would always quietly listen to me practice outside my bedroom door in high school.  
            He became very ill my senior year of high school and passed away a few weeks before my first college jury. My memories of him give me the strength to continue on this journey.

JC:
That's such a moving and beautiful answer, Hayley. It's strange how the givens of our lives—your height, for instance!—direct our choices. And then there are the circumstances, like your father's death, that inspire us to continue. I guess I have two follow-up questions here. What do you love about the sound of the viola? And which records in your father's record room did you find yourself listening to?

HM: Having my double bass fantasy shattered in elementary school, I found comfort in the C string on my viola. I suppose I am naturally drawn to deep tones.
            The music of Bob Dylan fascinated my father to the point that he named his daughter Dylan—before my mother ruined it all by naming me Hayley. True story. And the music of the Beatles was like our family soundtrack.  

JC: Oh, Hayley is a good name! Although Dylan would have been pretty cool, too. (I can't say the same for Bob!) Tell our readers a little about Gulfport, Mississippi. What’s the town like? How long have you lived there?


HM: Gulfport is on the coast of Mississippi. It’s a beautiful beach town, although Hurricane Katrina and the oil spill have certainly done their part to set us back. But we are coming back strong!
            I have been born and raised on the coast, and as I’m planning my move to Cambridge, Massachusetts to attend Longy School of Music, I realize just what a special place Gulfport is to me.
            I’m one of the founding members of the coast's Magnolia Chamber Orchestra, an ensemble specializing in early music performance under the fearless direction of Tomas Fajardo. Our concerts are a gift to our community; they’re free for all to attend, and through our performances we strive to impact the quality of life and the cultural diversity of the Mississippi coast.
            I feel privileged to be a part of Magnolia Chamber Orchestra and to have an opportunity to enrich the experience of the younger audiences on the Mississippi coast. I truly believe in the mission of the group: to inspire the youth, provoking the creativity in them and igniting a genuine interest for the arts through community outreach.  

JC: My younger brothers and parents lived in Jackson, Mississippi when Katrina hit. Folks from the gulf and from Louisiana stayed in Jackson for a bit while their homes and businesses were repaired. So, you were you in Gulfport for Katrina? And during the oil spill? How have those disasters impacted you, your family, and your town?


HM: I was fourteen when Hurricane Katrina hit, living about six blocks from the beach with my dad. We stayed through the storm, even though a tree crashed into our house, and our neighborhood flooded.
            I was so young, I'm afraid that I almost thought that the storm was fun. I have a sick appreciation for bad weather!
            My father did a rescue swim for our elderly neighbor and her cat. I don't think he shared my love for storms. He became pretty sick from swimming in the flood waters. Dysentery was rampant in Gulfport at the time. 
            I recall that two years after the storm we were still volunteering to do beach clean-up in parts of the coast. The fishing and tourism industry suffered greatly from the oil spill. I feel like people on the coast are mentally very strong and the towns are blooming again. 

JC: I don't think the seriousness of the storm really impacted my younger brothers at the time, either. (They were also around your age.) Their school hosted an influx of storm refugees, and I remember we saw the Sugar Bowl in a barely functional New Orleans soon after Katrina. That's amazing, though, that your father rescued a neighbor and the neighbor's cat: an act of heroism!
            I want to get back to your previous answer, though, and hear a little more about the Magnolia Chamber Orchestra—that sounds like an amazing group! Do you hope to inspire others to play string instruments, or just to get people excited about art in general? And are you good friends with most of your fellow orchestra members? Are most of your friends also string players?


HM: I definitely hope to inspire others, of all ages, to play any instrument and to get involved in the understanding of all arts.
            We just held an event in collaboration with the Ohr-O'keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi. Magnolia Chamber Orchestra had a rehearsal in one of the creative spaces provided by the museum, with a view of the Gulf of Mexico. Anyone under the age of eighteen was invited to paint to our music and to learn a little about the compositions we were preparing to perform at the concert later that evening—selections by Purcell and Telemann. All of us had such a blast playing for the kids and taking pictures with them and their little creations after the rehearsal!            
  Magnolia Chamber Orchestra is an ensemble created by friendship and love of music.I am friends with all of the members and I continue to make more as we expand our circle throughnew collaborations. I just had half of the orchestra stay at our modest living space for our annual Magnolia Chamber Orchestra SummerFest 2013, a creation of our artistic director, Mr. Fajardo. The rest of the group stayed in his studio apartment. As you can tell, we go to great lengths to create music together and to perform for our community!

JC: Wow! That's awesome. I have one last question for you, one I feel I have to ask. The Edith Eisler Scholarship includes $1,000 to use on purchases from SHAR. Do you know what you’re going to buy?

HM: Mr. Chapman, this is the hardest question of them all! Maybe I will start with getting some new strings for my viola.  Honestly, I have no idea. I have never won a shopping spree before! I feel like I'm going to have a panic attack. Anyways, I am so excited and grateful!








































A Suzuki Teacher Training Journal: Day Two

  
  
  
Alexandra

Most SHAR employees are players in addition to being luthiers, salespeople, purchasers, or web developers. So when one of our senior customer care specialists asked to attend the Phoenix Phest Grande Suzuki Teacher Training Workshop, we said, "Sure! But can you also blog about it?" Not only has Alexandra Ostroff sent us dispatches from her training workshops, she's generously shared her reflections on the Suzuki Method, allowing us to witness the discoveries and challenges of this week-long session at Phoenix Phest Grande.

August 4, 2013: Suzuki Violin Unit 1 Teacher Training

Yesterday, I’d resolved to memorize Suzuki Book 1 as quickly as possible. With that goal in mind, I spent the morning car ride listening through Suzuki CD Volume 1 as an attempt to refresh the material – it was a rather lucky coincidence that the car ride was just the right length to make it through the disc! My extra listening seemed to make a difference when we played the pieces in our group sessions today. Although I still can’t make it all the way through every piece, I did not need to pull out my music for reference. When our Teacher Trainer had us answering questions while we were playing, I realized how much more work there was to be done with memorization and internalization of the music. The reality of leading a group class is that you need to be able to play while giving instruction – something that is not possible without having the repertoire internalized entirely.

Last night, one of the reading assignments was Teaching From the Balance Point by Edward Kreitman. It is a wonderful guide for parents, teachers and students that highlights some of the skills that a Suzuki teacher will be teaching their student and explains them in a fashion that anyone can understand. The highlight of this book for me was the chapter entitled Rote Versus Note. This was eye-opening to me in that with the appropriate skills in place a child can work out how to play a piece on his own. When the teacher instills in their student the knowledge of their instrument’s geography and the skill of being able to verbalize and understand if a note is the same, higher, lower or a skip away from the one preceding it, the child can organically work out how to play a piece. This also requires a great deal of listening by the student (which I’ve already mentioned is leading me to success in my memorization goal for the week).  

With the addition of a great deal of lecture on the appropriate posture and bow-hold set-up and the outlines to the first lessons that a “Pre-Twinkler” will experience, the puzzle pieces of the Suzuki Method are coming together for me. This process, when done correctly, and with excellence in mind, organically produces a mastery of a truly perplexing instrument. 









A Suzuki Teacher Training Journal: Day One

  
  
  
Alexandra Ostroff

Most SHAR employees are players in addition to being luthiers, salespeople, purchasers, or web developers. So when one of our senior customer care specialists asked to attend the Phoenix Phest Grande Suzuki Teacher Training Workshop, we said, "Sure! But can you also blog about it?" Not only has Alexandra Ostroff sent us dispatches from her training workshops, she's generously shared her reflections on the Suzuki Method, allowing us to witness the discoveries and challenges of this week-long session at Phoenix Phest Grande.   

August 3, 2013

Today I started my one-week course to be a registered Suzuki Violin Unit 1 teacher. Each day I will be blogging updates with some of the ideas and concepts I am learning and detail the experience of becoming trained in the Suzuki Method. I must admit - although I’ve completed the prerequisite steps of reading Nurtured By Love (by Dr. Suzuki) and attending the Every Child Can seminar, the internal mechanisms of the Suzuki method remain a mystery to me.  In my learning of the violin, the written music part has played so strong a role that I can honestly say at this point it is a crutch; the idea of learning a piece completely by listening to it is somewhat foreign.

Our teacher began the week with an overview of the weeklong course. Afterward, we unpacked our instruments and began to play through the pieces in Book 1 together. I was not a “Suzuki kid” growing up, so this was the first time that I had ever experienced playing in a group setting outside of an orchestra section.  It’s difficult to find the right words for how it feels to play in this group, but I might describe it as a “musical hug”!

Memorization is not something that I excel at, and I was proud of myself to successfully make it through Perpetual Motion before I had to pull out my music and follow along in spots -  I’ll have to do a lot of listening and practicing this week to obtain my goal: to be able to play the whole book from memory.

In our lecture portion of the course, we started at the end; that is, we began by viewing the end results of the Suzuki process. We watched my Teacher Trainer’s student’s first recital, then fast forwarded to their Senior Recital - and saw the incredible results of a team comprised of teacher, student and parent. There was a wide range of high-level repertoire selected by the students and each piece was played with a high degree of musicality and technical ability that made the reticent 18-year-old in me jealous. The grace and ease of the playing on this recital is something that I did not have as I entered the collegiate world. How did they obtain this high level of playing?

Their teacher had this level of excellence in sight when they first taught them how to stand on their Twinkle Mat with a bow and hold their violin on day one of their education. As she lectured, we went over the fundamental concepts that need to be in place to create the foundation for success of a beginning student; among other things, the daily listening by the parent and child, daily practicing by child with a parent’s guidance, and the importance of giving the parent and child clear goals for their practice time at home.

I’m anxious and excited to learn and to push some of my own personal boundaries this week.  I’m looking forward to doing more observation throughout the week, especially of the group classes and of young players. I plan on becoming a stronger teacher as the week progresses.  Please follow with me on this journey!















"Tom" by Arnold Steinhardt

  
  
  
Arnold and CA

The Guarneri String Quartet (photo by Erwin Fischer) and Charles Avsharian

Remembering David Crowder

  
  
  
David Crowder

On a Friday morning at the end of June, everyone at SHAR was saddened to hear that our master bow restorationist David Crowder had passed away after a lengthy battle with emphysema. Aaron Johnson, the Repair Shop Coordinator, shares his memories of David in this brief blog, remembering especially David's intelligence, humor, and eclectic interests. We'll miss you, David! 

The end of June was a surreal time for us in the Repair Shop. Our master bow restorationist, David Crowder, passed away after a lengthy battle with emphysema. David was 75. While it may not have come as a surprise to someone objectively looking at his health condition, it still managed to catch us off guard.

Before his career in bow making began, he was a code breaker in the US Navy, and then a college professor. As I got to know him over the past couple of years, he would occasionally share one of a number of crazy stories from his past life. Over time, I learned that even though David had a rather gruff exterior, he was an incredibly interesting man who held himself to a very high standard of quality in his work. In addition to bow restoration, David also had a great love of languages, logical deduction puzzles and, oddly enough, video games. One of the biggest surprises I’ve had during my time at SHAR was when David visited me on a Saturday and we proceeded to have a lengthy discussion of Zelda, different gaming platforms, and Call of Duty. I drove home and had a genuine “You will not believe what happened today” story for my wife.

David joined our staff in 1996 after working as an independent bow maker in Pittsburgh and Nashville. For 17 years he worked servicing SHAR’s customer, consignment and high end bow work. His attention to detail and excellence in his craft will be missed. I, however, will miss his stories even more.







Revolution Strings in China, Days Nine and Ten

  
  
  
Arrival

Think back to your high school days. You may have played an instrument, and you have been quite good at it. But did you ever get the chance to tour China with thirteen violinists, two guitarists, a cellist, and a bass player? And this was after you released your first album? Allow me to introduce you to Revolution Strings, an alternative strings group culled from Abilene High School and Cooper High School in Abilene, Texas. Although each member has a strong classical background, these string players aren't afraid to dabble in jazz, country, Celtic and more. Revolution Strings has just embarked on their tour of China and they've kindly agreed to blog about their experience for the SHAR Music Blog. Justin Radcliffe, Theatre Director for Cooper High School, guest blogs for Revolution Strings.

Day Nine

Shanghai, China is as iconic a place as China has to offer. This city is home to twenty-five million people, with an expanded population of thirty-five million when the outlying area is included. Another two-and-a-half million migrant workers live in the city at any given time. History made Shanghai the prototype city for China's expansion into western trade, and it seems like just about everything in and around Shanghai has experienced growth. On Friday, The League of Astonishing Strings pulled into town and in true tour fashion saw as much of Shanghai as could be fit into a day.


The Old City is a part of Shanghai that was rebuilt in the style of ancient Chinese architecture. Though these beautiful buildings now house shops full of knock-off goods such as Rolex, Coach and Nike, they also provide local merchants the opportunity to sell items like Chinese script calligraphy and hand-carved figurines. A couple of hours in the neighborhood and one can truly feel the heritage of a beautiful culture emanating from the these traditional buildings. 


Then there's the other side of Shanghai: The Bund and Nanjing Road. Here, we saw a futuristic, dream-up city, especially at night. The skyline is a constant light show of Jetson-age skyscrapers, and The Bund is a tourist-filled overlook where, from across the water, you can see the truly awesome skyline. Nanjing road brings to mind the Las Vegas strip, with its neon signs, enormous LED screens and shop after expensive shop. Revolution members breezed through the streets with student performers from three other performing groups from the States, making memories and enjoying the sites.



The day ended with a special dinner treat of traditional Chinese Hot Pot. Attributed to Ghengis Khan, this dining style has taken on a relaxed, social pace, quite unlike its military origins! Similar to fondue, you cook your own food in a boiling pot of soup. Sharing a hot pot, the students celebrated an excellent tour and anticipated a final performance on Saturday.


Day Ten
The League of Astonishing Strings tour of China drew to a close on Saturday after a sold-out Shanghai show. The audience couldn't get enough of these talented Abilene students! 

Revolution Strings put on their best show of the tour, and the crowd adored the performance. The Shanghai Oriental Art Center has three performance theaters, and the sight of a capacity crowd in one of them cheering on our Abilene students was inspiring. Intent on finishing on a high note, Revolution held nothing back and wrapped up their China tour in style. 


After the performance, Revolution students greeted audience members in the foyer. Hundreds of Chinese concert-goers cheered for our students as they entered the foyer. Parents thrust their children into photographs with these high school orchestra students and several parents and grandparents even scrambled to get a photograph with them. This was undoubtedly an unforgettable opportunity for Revolution performers, as well as life-changing encouragement in their choice to be musicians. One Chinese father communicated that most Chinese children are forced to study music to better their chances for higher education. In The League of Astonishing Strings, Chinese students saw the joy music can bring into one's own life. 


On Sunday, Revolution left their Shanghai hotel at 8am for Shanghai's Pudong Airport. The following 24 hours of travel brought them safely back home to Abilene and a warm welcome from friends and family. Junior violinist Abby Fortson said it best: "I am just so deeply full of gratitude that I was a part of this wonderful group of people and this incredible experience." 


Revolution Strings

Directors:
Darcy Radcliffe and Dave Keown

The China Troupe
Violins: Candi Davidson, Jesenia Navejas, Alex Martinez, Nathaniel Pigott, Keila Salinas, Abby Fortson, Kenneth Menard, Adine DeLeon, Julia Taylor and Kiley Harris,
Viola: Logan McFall
Cello: Kenny Waldrop
Bass: Brendan Acosta
Drums: Joe Regalado






































Revolution Strings in China, Day Four and Five

  
  
  
Ferris Wheel Park

Think back to your high school days. You may have played an instrument, and you have been quite good at it. But did you ever get the chance to tour China with thirteen violinists, two guitarists, a cellist, and a bass player? And this was after you released your first album? Allow me to introduce you to Revolution Strings, an alternative strings group culled from Abilene High School and Cooper High School in Abilene, Texas. Although each member has a strong classical background, these string players aren't afraid to dabble in jazz, country, Celtic and more. Revolution Strings has just embarked on their tour of China and they've kindly agreed to blog about their experience for the SHAR Music Blog. Justin Radcliffe, Theatre Director for Cooper High School, guest blogs for Revolution Strings.

DAY FOUR
Revolution started another day aboard a bullet train in China, arriving in a hotel to quickly drop their belongings and head out to a new kind of venue. Ferris Wheel Park stands as a Chinese tip-of-the-hat to Disneyland on a much smaller scale. (Ferris Wheel Park is located in Suzhou, in a southern province of China.)


After a sweltering afternoon, the performers waited as storm clouds built over the park. Once two of the four groups had performed, the clouds broke open and torrents of rain precluded the final act which was to be Revolution. But even as the group missed a performance opportunity, spirits remained high. After all of the travel and a demanding schedule of rehearsals and performances, students were given an unexpected respite with the evening off to recuperate for the tasks ahead.

DAY FIVE
Revolution welcomed our fifth day in China; it brought the first day off for the tour, which came just in time as the routine of the road and the demands of a professional performance tour had exhausted the League of Astonishing Strings performers. The League was begun by John Crozman and Dean Marshall, both directors of the Canadian based string ensemble Barrage. In addition to Revolution, this tour includes The Tremper Golden Strings of Kenosha, Wisconsin; Allegro of Chicago, Illinois, and The Wire Choir from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Students in these groups range in age from ten to twenty-one years old.


For a day of recreation the entire league was taken to the Suzhou No. 1 Silk Factory to see how silk is made. Students were given a full tour of one of China's most iconic industries and saw the process from the silk worm egg all the way to fine Chinese silk garments and artwork.

Suzhou, a city of seven million people, is considered one of China's most beautiful cities. It's known especially for its ancient canal system. An evening cruise along the canal showcased the city's ancient architecture, and Revolution members were treated to a performance of traditional Chinese music along the way.















Revolution Strings in China, Day Three

  
  
  
China

Think back to your high school days. You may have played an instrument, and you have been quite good at it. But did you ever get the chance to tour China with thirteen violinists, two guitarists, a cellist, and a bass player? And this was after you released your first album? Allow me to introduce you to Revolution Strings, an alternative strings group culled from Abilene High School and Cooper High School in Abilene, Texas. Although each member has a strong classical background, these string players aren't afraid to dabble in jazz, country, Celtic and more. Revolution Strings has just embarked on their tour of China and they've kindly agreed to blog about their experience for the SHAR Music Blog. Justin Radcliffe, Theater Director for Cooper High School, guest blogs for Revolution Strings.


Abilene's Revolution Strings performing ensemble has created quite a buzz in China.

We woke early on Saturday. Although we were excited to travel on China's new high speed train system, we were also leaving a (now) much-loved Beijing behind; the troupe of violinists loaded onto he new high speed and we were off to the southern city of Xuzhou (pronounced shoo-jo). Xouhou is a small city in China of 5 million, and the two hour ride at 180 miles-per-hour provided an opportunity to bond and laugh with like-minded students from some of the other performing groups on the tour. Serious work began when we arrived.


We set up in the spectacular Xuzhou Concert Hall. Surprisingly enough, it was less difficult than Friday's gig, and the group spent only a short amount of time in sound check. After a whirlwind bus ride to the hotel to eat and get in costume, the band was back at the hall to play for an eager audience. The audience was in for a treat as all four groups on the tour had excellent performances. Revolution, always an audience favorite, brought the house down for their second of six major performances in this beautiful country.









Revolution Strings in China, Day Two

  
  
  
revolution china

Think back to your high school days. You may have played an instrument, and you have been quite good at it. But did you ever get the chance to tour China with thirteen violinists, two guitarists, a cellist, and a bass player? And this was after you released your first album? Allow me to introduce you to Revolution Strings, an alternative strings group culled from Abilene and Cooper High School in Abilene, Texas. Although each member has a strong classical background, these string players aren't afraid to dabble in jazz, country, Celtic and more. Revolution Strings has just embarked on their tour of China and they've kindly agreed to blog about their experience for the SHAR Music Blog. The second blog is also from Justin Radcliffe.

On the first performance day, Revolution found that the excitement and fatigue of a professional tour cannot compare to the thrill of a great performance. They quickly rallied!



While in China, the tour managers have made sure to provide cultural opportunities. Today, the group toured Tiennaman square and the Forbidden City. The vastness of these spaces is remarkable and has surely left a permanent impression on these students from Abilene, Texas. 


Revolution's first performance was held in the performance hall of the Forbidden City, home of the Beijing Symphony Orchestra, which happened to be rehearsing upon our arrival. The day was filled with challenges as Revolution worked to adapt their sound equipment to the electrical requirements of China. Despite some pre-show glitches, such as a cello breaking moments before walking on stage and a performer becoming ill, these students persevered with great spirit and deeply impressed their first Chinese audience.

Saturday brings new adventures as a high speed train will take the performing ensemble to Xuzhou. More soon from Xuzhou!











Revolution Strings in China

  
  
  
welcome

Think back to your high school days. You may have played an instrument, and you have been quite good at it. But did you ever get the chance to tour China with thirteen violinists, two guitarists, a cellist, and a bass player? And this was after you released your first album? Allow me to introduce you to Revolution Strings, an alternative strings group culled from Abilene and Cooper High School in Abilene, Texas. Although each member has a strong classical background, these string players aren't afraid to dabble in jazz, country, Celtic and more. Revolution Strings has just embarked on their tour of China and they've kindly agreed to blog about their experience for the SHAR Music Blog. The first blog is from Justin Radcliffe.
 


Revolution Strings has arrived in China and the day has been full. After traveling for a straight 50 hours our team was warmly greeted in the stunning Beijing Airport by the director of the performance tour, John Crozman. The traveling experience was full of the usual new challenges for young travelers including the adjustment to small spaces over extended periods of time but Abilenians would be proud of their students and the way they have responded to the stresses of such a lengthy travel experience. As a reward we were treated to a morning at the Great Wall of China at Badaling, a famous entry point to the wall.


Tonight ended after two hour rehearsal with the creators of the performance tour. Dean Marshall, the artistic director of Canada's famous fiddle group Barrage, oversaw 120 student performers playing together in their first and only rehearsal prior to performances. While in China, Revolution Strings joins three other classical crossover student groups from Chicago and Wisconsin. Show promoters are billing the concert as a performance by the four best alternative string groups in America! The six performances are expected to sell out in Beijing, The Forbidden City Concert Hall, Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou, and Ningbo...

Stay tuned for more from Revolution Strings!











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