Editor's Note: The following blog post originally appeared on Arnold Steinhardt's blog In the Key of Strawberry and is republished with permission. Steinhardt is the founding member of the Guarneri String Quartet and the author of two books: Violin Dreams and Indivisible by Four. For more stories visit here or follow on Twitter.
Practical Passion: How an Independent Artist Took Charge of His Own Career
“. . . as much as I know what lights me up inside, I also know that the future will look different from what I plan.” With these words, violinist Rebecca Fischer offered us a glimpse of the shape shifting that is an integral part of an artistic calling. Her blog article, “Courage: Starting Fresh, Again and Again”, part of “SHAR’s Lives of Artists” series, goes on to describe that new beginnings sometimes require something old to end.
Violinist Jeremy Cohen knows a thing or two about new beginnings. Studying with Itzhak Perlman, performing solos with symphony orchestras and extensive work with chamber ensembles provided Jeremy with the solid foundation necessary to enjoy a fruitful traditional orchestral or conservatory career. But the music of Jeremy’s childhood neighborhood – jazz, Tango, Latin music – called to him, and he just couldn’t abandon it. Fortunately, Jeremy’s skills enabled him to have plenty of work, including live performances, extensive film and television work, and touring as concertmaster with major artists. All this was to change for most independent artists upon the arrival of the internet, smartphones and Netflix, all competing with live music. For Jeremy Cohen, there was no choice except to become a champion . . .
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.
Is your string quartet booked for any holiday gigs? Do you have a group of advanced players in your orchestra that might want to showcase a quartet at the Christmas Concert? The string quartet is one of the most enduring and popular ensembles because of its limitless possibilities in expression, tone, and dynamics. However, there is so much sheet music for string quartet floating around out there, that it can be tough to find actual good arrangements - many are poorly notated or thoughtlessly adapted from other instrumentation. When arrangements are bad, there's is often nothing that can be done to make them pleasing. To make your search much easier, I'll suggest these five books containing arrangements of Holiday tunes that go far beyond your standard sing-along carol book, and are perfectly arranged for string quartet! These are all in the intermediate to advanced difficulty range, which allows for much more interesting music than basic arrangements.I hope one of these quartet books becomes your annual musical tradition!