It is graduation season! Many high school musicians are now preparing to move on to college to study music and many music majors are now entering the workforce. To all of these new grads: CONGRATULATIONS! And, to ask the question that many people are probably asking you, “What are you going to do with a music degree?”
One of my favorite bars in Ann Arbor is Old Town Tavern: it's laid-back, unpretentious, and while the food isn't anything to write home about, it's decent bar fare. The drinks are reasonably priced, but not so cheap that you get college students passed out in the corner booths. As one Charles Dickens character from Little Dorrit likes to say, "There's no nonsense about it." In short, it's comfortable.
But now that I've heard about Classical Revolution, a collective of musicians who bring Mendelssohn and Bach and so on to bars in cities like San Francisco and Detroit and Atlanta, and who have a chapter in Ann Arbor, I'm wondering: would a string ensemble belong at Old Town? Is my favorite bar the right place for this music?
I'm not sure if I'd be more worried about the bar losing its atmosphere or the music losing its impact.
(photo by Georg Schroll)
I'm not sure if anyone out there in the vast, interstellar space of the Interwebs read the Sunday article in the New York Times Magazine on Jonny Greenwood, the Radiohead guitarist and composer extraordinaire.
The article profiles Greenwood and his forays into contemporary classical music, forays which are fuelled by his obsession with the Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki. Greenwood comes off as a melancholy but brilliant rock musician and classical composer, although, really, more than simply profiling Greenwood, the article attempts to document a transitional moment for Greenwood – how firmly in-between rock musician and experimental composer he is.
This in-between state of Greenwood's is something different, the article argues, than Paul McCartney's "politely received" classical compositions, or anything by Deep Purple or Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. Or even Billy Joel. Greenwood isn't moonlighting in classical. Or if he is moonlighting at all, he could be a composer moonlighting as a rock musician.
The article is especially interesting for classical musicians and string players, since in documenting where Greenwood is in his career, it points toward an exciting trend in both indie rock and classical music. The two, once ignorant of each other, are now bedfellows.
Your wildest dreams just came true: we're taking submissions for our blog. Write a blog entry for us and share tips and stories with other teachers, students, and musicians. Have your say. Speak your mind. But first check out the details below.
Call for Submissions:
We're excited about expanding our blog to include our readers and customers! As we increase our number of weekly blog entries, we'd like to read the entries that you want to see on our page. So, we're looking for entries between 500 and 1,000 words on any topic you think the string community would find useful and interesting. That said, here are some suggested topics:
SHAR is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. I can't help but get all self-conscious about the celebrations and wonder how Stephen Colbert would respond to institutional birthdays. I also admit that SHAR is a good and decent company after all and probably deserves a birthday celebration.
With all the talk about Super PACs in the Republican primaries and the two-year anniversary of the Citizens United (2010) Supreme Court case coming up, I feel a little strange writing a blog about SHAR's 50th anniversary. Mainly, I guess, because we're celebrating the birthday of a company. (Are institutions people? Who should actually get the cake and presents?) I worry that Stephen Colbert, comedic genius and chief tormentor of the new Super PAC practice, might mock me.
It's true. The two-year anniversary of the Citizens United case and its effects on the current political climate have got me thinking too much about the intricacies of SHAR's big 50th celebration. Here are my further questions: Is it weird to celebrate a company's birthday? Do companies have birthdays like real people? And, more importantly, can you hurt a company's feelings by not celebrating its birthday?
Of course, SHAR is not a person. It's a company that sells strings and string instruments to make a profit, and SHAR probably does not have feelings that can be hurt. That said, SHAR has done some things worth celebrating. It started out as a family business in 1962 -- in the basement of Michael Avsharian, Sr., the father of Charles Avsharian, the current CEO -- and has remained a family business since. And though SHAR does sell stuff, it doesn't just sell any type of stuff: it sells musical instruments, strings, sheet music, and all the accouterments and accessories necessary to making music. If most folks can agree that making music is one of the finest things in this world, then serving musicians and the teachers of those musicians is a good and decent mission for a company.
And to celebrate the SHAR's good and decent mission, we're releasing a video series that documents the company's history and its engagement with the string community. Mostly what comes across in this video series is SHAR's commitment to fine craftsmanship, education, and, especially, to musicians, whatever your age, level, or budget. One upcoming video episode will focus on our highly respected violin repair shop (the Henry Ford collection asked SHAR to work on their violins). Other episodes will highlight our deep commitment to the American String Teachers Association (ASTA) and school sales and rentals, with testimonials from the former president of ASTA and local high school teachers. Essentially, the point of all these videos is to show that for fifty years SHAR has provided quality goods to musicians throughout all the stages of their careers: from awkward middle school players to refined orchestra members.
(Excuse the brief self-awareness and pop-culture reference, but I wonder how Don Draper and Peggy Olson from Mad Men would write pithy ad copy for SHAR if Don and Peggy played up the stages-of-your-career angle. "We're there for you from string orchestra to symphony." "Make music. We'll worry about the rest." I could go on. If you're so inclined, leave a comment below with your own Don Draper and/or Peggy Olson ad copy for SHAR.)
Anyway, all this is to say that SHAR is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and we're happy about it. It's tough to think of a company as a person, but maybe it's not so tough to think of SHAR as a group of folks with good intentions who are dedicated to music and music education. Check out our weekly videos here every Monday and raise a toast to fifty more years.
Though much of the rhetoric about American schools has been focused on math and science, test scores, and the growing gap between the quality of education in the United States and other first-world nations, the value of the arts and humanities in education is receiving national recognition during the month of October. Perhaps this recognition shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Many economists such as Edward Glaeser (check out his recent book Triumph of the City) are beginning to recognize the value of creativity in our future economies; the development of our creative sides, through music and the visual arts, could be an asset (gasp!) instead of a hindrance. Huzzah for the economy of the future and for October.
Are you ever amazed at how fast your items from SHAR get to you, wherever you are across the globe? We have a fantastic shipping department at SHAR that works tirelessly to get every order that comes into the warehouse on its way to you the same day. It was noticed the other day that a fantastic viola showed up in the warehouse that was NOT going out in an order, and was discovered that Margaret Nordgren, our shipping department supervisor, felt a little artistic outside of work. We hope you enjoy these pictures and Margaret's words about her work:
Common Bow Concerns
Troubled by misgivings about bows? Don't know if these bow inspector specials are a good idea for you and your family? Wonder what to do if you are on a budget, break a bow, or need to travel?
Here are some answers for you!
We may not be playing very long...
Young children who want to play because their best friend plays or adults who always wanted to try and have decided to take a chance on string playing; these are just two of many situations where there may not be a long term commitment to string playing. Many people start lessons and then, after a few months, decide to invest their time in something else. The bow specials are a way to obtain a good bow at a realistic price, so you can go ahead with your experiment without worrying about your wallet.
My student is ready for a new bow, but can’t really afford it.
Inspector Special bows include all levels of our student bows at discounted prices. Often inspector special bows are at just the right price point for a student with a limited budget.
Help! I broke my bow by (dropping, sitting on, running over, sword fighting with) it!
Let’s face it. Life happens, and sometimes fragile things like bows are casualties of existence. If you have a child who is extremely active and breaks bows like tinder, you may not want to invest in an expensive bow every time. These reduced prices allow you to replace that bow for as little as $15!