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...
This is to all those who gig, teach, travel, and play - who have changed a tire in a dress or tux, who know no distance too far, no venue too unusual, and no coffee unwelcome. If you've ever glanced in the backseat to make sure you instrument and music were still there, then this list is for you.
There's a lot that can go wrong at a wedding, so wedding music should be the last thing the couple has to fret over. However, if you're the musician gigging at a wedding, it is your temporary raison d’etre. Besides the wedding party and the officiant, the musicians are the only other people on display, visible and involved in the proceedings of the ceremony. You have to showcase your talent and musicianship while at the same time tailoring the music to fit the timing at the altar; you must perform in an unusual space, and sometimes sight-read with musicians with whom you've never worked before; and you have to account for the weather and changes in programming. Luckily, having the right accessories can help you avoid minor and major embarrassments at your next wedding gig. Below are some music accessories (and tips) that are, simply put, essential to having a successful wedding season.
We recently published a blog on traveling with your cello. SHAR has long been the go-to shop for violinists and violists, but we've often failed to provide useful content and products for our cellists and bassists. Here's our second blog to remedy that! In the blog below, you'll find all sorts of tips and advice on how to minimize travel stress if you're a bassist.
Today we have a marvelous story from SHAR Apprentice James Engman. James shares with us his discovery, in the musty, dank corners of the University of Wisconsin's School of Music Library, two Fritz Kreisler pieces composed for the UW football team. Not only does James's story remind us to keep our eyes and ears open for what's wondrous and overlooked, it shows us how James's eclectism -- a love of old pipes, arrowheads, football, classical music -- has as much to do with his discovery as his determination to find the perfect performance piece to end his undergraduate career.
Several hours after taking my dog for a long walk last weekend, I was on my way to the local Ypsilanti Historical Museum with a 175 year-old ceramic tobacco pipe. It had apparently been dropped into the Huron River by An early 19th Century fur trader, where it remained caked in mud through the Civil War, the entire 20th Century, the birth and death of 15 US Presidents, and the blossoming and conclusion of Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez’s relationship. Finally, I came upon it sticking out of the silty river bank in the spring of 2013. My propensity to pick up interesting looking garbage is finally paying off, yet this is not the first time that I found something that hasn’t been gazed upon for many years. I once found a flawless arrowhead on my uncle’s property in Northern Wisconsin, and came upon some nickels from 1905 while replacing drywall in my childhood home. While reflecting on the excitement of finding the old pipe this weekend, I remembered another discovery from about a year ago. So far, it ranks as probably the most meaningful and exciting of my discoveries, and it was actually a piece of music.
While preparing for my senior recital last spring, I decided that there was room for a short “dessert” piece at the end of the program. I was intent on playing a piece by each of my favorite violinist-composers, Pablo de Sarasate and Fritz Kreisler. Since I had already chosen Sarasate’s “Jota Narvarra” to conclude the first half of the recital, I was in the market for a charming piece by Kreisler. Clicking through countless YouTube videos, exhausting myself through countless Naxos albums, and finally letting my Fritz Kreisler Pandora station do the work as I folded laundry, I was full of ideas. Still, nothing was speaking to me on a deep personal level – the way I wanted to conclude my undergraduate performance career. I decided to do some reading about Fritz Kreisler to learn more about his music, and I began with a short biography by Eric Wen at the beginning of The Fritz Kreisler Collection, the first book in a fantastic series of Kreisler sheet music compilations from the publisher Carl Fischer.(Note: If you have a chance to read about Kreisler’s early composing career, you will certainly find the circumstances of his success inspirational.) There was one sentence in that short biography that caught my eye. I suddenly knew exactly what I was going to play at the end of my recital, though I didn’t know the title or what the piece even sounded like.
The sentence that caught my eye was the conclusion of a paragraph about Kreisler’sversatility. Wen wrote, “At the request of a friend, [Fritz Kreisler] even composed two football songs for the University of Wisconsin.” My recital was the conclusion of my undergraduate studies at that very University. At first I simply sat and stared inquisitively at that line, reading and rereading it until it made sense. It was as if God himself inserted that coincidental nugget into the universe for the sole purpose of me finding it. Old posters in the Union Theater told me that Kreisler had performed for UW, but I had never heard of a piece written by him for Wisconsin. I immediately scoured the internet for information. Google didn’t bring up a single hit for anything about a UW football song by Kreisler. I even asked my professor, Tyrone Greive, who knows everything else you could possibly know about the violin and our University, and he had never heard of Kreisler writing a piece for the UW. Without the help of the internet or music scholars who had been at the University for years, there was only one option remaining: to search the depths of the musty catacombs that is the School of Music’s sheet music library.
After hours of paging through old songbooks from Kreisler’s time, I finally came upon a section of thin paperback books inside hard green folders entitled “Songs to Thee, Wisconsin.” They were printed in 1948, the year my grandfather returned from the War and enrolled in the University of Wisconsin as a freshman. In them were two songs with Fritz Kreisler’s name at the top: Pioneers of Wisonsin and Valiants of Wisconsin. The words were written below the melody, and below that was a piano accompaniment also written by Kreisler (who was an accomplished pianist). According to the songbook, Kreisler was a good friend of UW’s President Clarence A. Dykstra, who had written the words to Pioneers of Wisconsin and wished for Kreisler to write a melody and accompaniment for them. The piece was first performed at the 1943 homecoming game with a marching band arrangement by conductor Raymond Dvorak.
While both of the pieces certainly had all the gaudy charm of a football fight song, I chose Pioneers of Wisconsin, being that it was in D major, had a lyrical introduction, and a refrain that led itself to be easily turned into a theme and variation. I composed two variations to showcase double stops, harmonics, arpeggios, and barriolage, and had a few days to get them under my finders and memorized. My recital was a few months after the Rose Bowl, in which the Badgers ended their fantastic season with an unfortunate loss. While only a few members of my recital audience were avid Badger Football fans, of those, only one or two had any idea of the importance of Fritz Kreisler and his repertoire. Regardless, I felt that I had brushed of some lost artifact, and while it may not have awed anyone much more than a washed-up old tobacco pipe, it bridged two eras and united two very different pastimes. I imagine my grandfather singing these pieces at his first UW homecoming celebration, and how they may have had the popularity that “Sweet Caroline” or “Jump Around” have today (songs that are both played endlessly at UW football games).
My hope is that every musician will at some point have the experience of discovering an old, obscure piece. There are many out there, whether in print or not, lost among the multitudes of favorites that grace thousands of recitals and concerts each year. You might not always find them where you think you would, but eventually they surface and present themselves to someone lucky enough to have their eyes on unlikely places.
If you have a story of discovering a little-known piece of music, please send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have a wonderful guest blog today from Kim Wren, the upright bassist for the indie-folk band Doug Mains & the City Folk. Ms. Wren has been a member of Doug Mains & the City Folk since 2010 and is currently a senior music education major at Michigan State University. Ms. Wren talks about how "choosing the bass as a lifelong musical partner" introduced her to a rich variety of genres like classical, jazz, rock, and folk and to her current bandmates. It's a great story for our blog, where musicians like Christian Howes and Mark O'Connor have stressed the importance of playing in genres other classical.
When I first saw the upright bass in the back of my brother’s 6th grade orchestra class, my ten-year-old self would have never imagined the places that instrument would take me over the next decade. From a performing arts high school in Georgia to traveling on the road with an indie-folk band in Michigan, choosing the bass as a lifelong musical partner has lead me down many unexpected and exciting paths.
I switched to bass in 6th grade after playing the violin for a year in 5th grade. For various reasons (mostly because of the screeching sound of the E string), I didn’t enjoy my 5th grade year of violin playing at all and I was ready to drop out of music completely by the time 6th grade came around. But my mom and the middle school orchestra teacher convinced me to stay and try the bass out for a few weeks before I made a final decision. So I started staying after school for beginning bass lessons with the orchestra teacher and two other 6th graders who were also switching to bass. It was just about instant love when I first played that beast of an instrument. The low E string, instead of screeching like my violin, rumbled the floor. I was hooked on orchestra for good. My teacher let me take a school bass home and, especially in those early stages, I remember my parents having to stop me from practicing so much because it was driving them crazy.
Since those beginning years, being a bassist has lead me to many places I very likely would have never gone had I not stuck with music as a middle-schooler. From All-State Orchestras across the states of Virginia (where I spent my middle school years) and Georgia (where I spent my high school years), to a performing arts high school where I met many friends and colleagues in the arts, to summers at Interlochen Arts Camp, to Michigan State University for my undergraduate education. Being such a versatile instrument, the bass has also lead me to expand and explore many genres of music including (but never limited to) classical, jazz, rock, singer-songwriter, and folk. Most importantly to me, through music and bass playing I’ve met a countless number of people from all different walks of life. Some of them have become lifelong friends, like my four band-mates in Doug Mains & the City Folk, Doug, Josh, Rob, and Kelly. I’m so grateful to be a part of this team of musicians. We’ve traveled many miles together throughout the country and have shared so many meaningful experiences, some high, some low, but always together as a little indie-folk music family.
I owe much to my mom and to my middle school orchestra teacher for putting a double bass in my hands all those years ago. Where would life have taken me without that defining moment? I don’t even want to consider.
For most of us “classically trained” violinists, the thought of installing a pickup is confusing, frightening, and weird. The good news is that it isn’t as complicated as it seems and we have a variety of options to suit your individual needs!
If you are trying to play your instrument in a venue where everyone else is amped, miked, and generally just LOUD, then you will probably want to get a pickup for your instrument. Trying to play into a microphone or a condenser mike can work for you on occasion, but if you consistently find yourself being buried beneath electric guitars or drum sets then you’ll need some help. Besides, a pickup can help produce a better and more natural sound than a microphone will.
Essentially, a pickup is a small device that attaches to your instrument in the bridge area which converts physical vibrations into a digital signal. You can plug the pickup into an amp, and BAM – now you’re loud. It’s pretty simple! So, if you think you need a pickup, the next step is to determine your needs. Here are some things to consider:
As the weather gets nicer, many musicians find themselves playing more gigs outside. From weddings to dinner parties, do you have what you need to make sure that you don’t get blown away while you’re playing outside?
A Sturdy Music Stand
I can’t tell you how many gigs I’ve played where my main focus has been on trying to stabilize my music stand. Folding wire stands are great because they are light, convenient, and very portable, but they don’t tend to do very well outside. Often they collapse under the weight of a gig binder or they completely blow over. In order to avoid this, you’ll probably want to get a heavier, more solid music stand in order to avoid problems. Here are my suggestions:
To celebrate SHAR's 50th Anniversary, we held a recital in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Employees and friends of SHAR came out to watch their coworkers and community memebers perform their favorite pieces. The applause was hearty, the music was excellent, and everyone was in fine spirits. So that we can relive the night (and share it with you!), we edited videos of the performances and put them up on our YouTube channel. Enjoy!
One sad note: There was a performance of Johannes Brahms's Piano Quartet No. 2 in A-Major but the videographer – me! – got so wrapped up in the music he didn't notice the tape was running out. Apologies to the Brahms fans out there and the performers of that piece...
Duo for Violin and Viola in G Major K. 423, Rondo
W. A. Mozart
Three Latin American Miniatures, III
Miniatures for Viola, Clarinet, and Piano
VI. Nocturne, VII. Allegro vivace ma non troppo
Octet in E-flat Major
Allegro moderato ma con fuoco
Nocturne No. 20
Valse-Scherzo in C Major Op. 34