Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trick or Treat

No way was anyone here going to pose for a Halloween picture, so I cruised the 'net until I found the perfect one. At first I thought Guanaco's new practice partners had fancy footy pajamas...

Thanks to Cute Overload for posting this last week.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


This is for Guanaco.

I'm not quite ready to tell you about Zoe Keating's performance (and it's not NaBlpPoMo yet, either) but here she is in the lowest box on the left getting ready.

I think one of the secrets to posting frequently is to have a clearly defined single point in mind for each post. That violates some of the advice I've read regarding bullet points, but it fits very well with what we know about adult learning and what I've observed about contemporary attention span.

Monday, October 29, 2007

NaBloPoMo (Gesundheit!)

Not been so good at blogging regularly lately, have I? It's not so much because I am so busy I don't have time to write, though I claimed so a couple of weeks ago. I am busy, but I've been writing while busy before. I think it's more likely to be because my blog is pretty much about two things, foster kittens and learning the cello, and I have impediments in writing about both of those topics at present. I have no new kittens since I'm still under the ringworm quarantine, and I have hours and hours and hours of cello or music things waiting to be digested, organized, and transcribed. Sounds too much like work to me.

So I have decided, with NaBloPoMo in November, to simplify that task. (Hey - check it out! NaBloPoMo is on Ning!) I'm going to try to jump start (restart) my blogging by committing to a post every day in November, and to do so each day I will be writing about one (just one measly) thing I have learned in the last few months about playing the cello or music in general. I think I've found a small enough bit that I can do it without being overwhelmed, but we'll see.

As a preview of coming attractions, this is my material:
* A two-hour master class and one-hour private lesson with Pedro de Alcantara, cello and Alexander Technique teacher and author of Indirect Procedures: A Musician's Guide to the Alexander Technique (Clarendon Paperbacks).

* A three-hour hands-on string education session with Phyllis Young, Professor Emeritus of Cello and String Pedagogy at UT Austin and author of Playing the String Game: Strategies for Teaching Cello and Strings.

* Ten hours of didactic sessions with Edmund Sprunger, a Suzuki violin teacher with a Masters in Social Work, and the author of Helping Parents Practice: Ideas for Making It Easier.

* Hours and hours worth of cello lessons with Peter Howard, recently retired Principle Cellist of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

* Four hours of chamber music coaching with members of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

* Many hours of Alexander Technique lessons with Lauren Hill, who trained at the Urbana Center for the Alexander Technique in Urbana, Illinois.

* Tidbits from my voice lessons with Andrea Leap and maybe my piano lessons with Guna Skujina.

* The opportunity to see Zoe Keating, former cellist in Rasputina, perform live this past weekend.

I told you I've been busy.

Friday, October 26, 2007

For my sister

I saw this on and couldn't resist.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Busy, busy

I finally had a whole day at home, which I spent alternating practice hours with laundry and my 15-minute jog/15-minute walk on the treadmill. I'm beginning to think that skiing is a pipe dream for this season, but am happy to be up to jogging.

The practicing was cramming for a chamber music weekend tomorrow and Sunday. In addition to the ambitious program I posted a couple of weeks ago, I squeezed in four extra rehearsals for this weekend, plus last week I attended a medical professional conference that was here in town, and this week I attended a music teacher continuing education meeting featuring Phyllis Young (Playing the String Game). I hope to have more to say about that later.

Just wanted to check in before I disappear again for a couple of days. It seems I either have time to live my life or to blog about it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Coat rack

Thinking of taking up an instrument? Consider the 'cello. It is the most beautiful both visually and aurally, and also has many ancillary benefits. These include not only the general fitness induced by lugging the thing around, but the fact that if you have a hard case you never need to look for a coat rack.

Monday, October 15, 2007

What's wrong with this picture?

I'll give you a hint...

Most cello cases don't have tails.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

October Practice Month

I wonder why September marks the start of new seasons for musicians. Yet another holdover from summers off for harvest? Or preparation for amusement during the long dark days of Winter? I surely appreciate the latter. If we have as much snow this winter as we've had rain this autumn, I'll be suffering from severe cabin fever shortly.

Now that my own musical activities are back in full swing, I find that I am again looking for a little tune-up in the practice department. More efficient = more activities I can participate in, you know. So I am delighted to find a couple of blogs that are focusing on practice, one for the month of October, and the other as its raison d’ĂȘtre.

If you haven't already, join me in studying Chris Foley's The Collaborative Piano Blog and Ben Clapton's Music Practice Tips this month.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Don't fence me out

After the Nursery was thoroughly cleaned, bleached, and dried I opened the door but set up a little fence to keep the cats from casually walking through the area. Was I surprised to look over a couple nights later and see Cricket sitting behind the fence. It wasn't at all askew, and as I was wondering how she got in, "hop," out she comes again. A few minutes later she hopped back in, then sat looking at me with her "I'll go wherever I want to, so there" face, long enough for me to show you my annoying little acrobat getting her own way.

Funny, she hasn't done it since.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Cello lesson 10/4

I'm not sure my heart's completely in it, but with the resumption of cello lessons my Fall season has started in earnest. We spent more than half the lesson talking about summer adventures and assessing where I am now and where I would like to go next. Then T- did something he almost never does, and that I have never encouraged: he went through my part in the Gaubert and worked out reasonable fingerings and bowings. My first teacher used to spend entire lessons fingering my parts, which I came to consider a major waste of time. But this was a real blessing, and saved me three or four hours of struggling.

After the marking I played for about 10 minutes, focusing on the first phrase. If I were to roughly summarize the steps we went through:
* Get the fingerings down
* Practice the bow gestures by air bowing while fingering the notes. Pay particular attention to where the bow speed changes, and where on the bow the notes are played. Play freely, with large muscular gestures.
* Play the phrase with attention to the musical elements. Focus on what I can "not do" (i.e. release tension) in order to make it sound the way that I want.

I left feeling inspired, and confident that I can learn this piece to play it for coaching in the next two weeks.

This is the agenda that I prepared before the lesson:

Goals with dates
Adult Chamber Music Weekend Oct 20/21 flute/cello/piano trio
Haydn Trio in D Hob XV:16
Von Weber Trio in g Op 63
Lully Suite arr. Cheret and Modzelewska
Gaubert Soir d’ Automne

Orchestra concert Nov 7
Berlioz Roman Carnival Overture
Elgar Enigma Variations

Suzuki teacher training audition tape – by Feb 2008
Faure Elegie

Additional Repertoire
Beethoven Sonata Op 5 No 2 (g min)
Schumann Fantasy Pieces
Gliere 10 Duets

Current Warm-up and technical baseline
Open string long bow exercise 2 counts/bow,4,8,16,try 32 all strings up and down
Sevcik Op 8 one exercise/one string/day
...Ex. # based on day of month
...String based on day of week Su C, Mo G, Tu D, W A, Th D, F G, Sa C
...One scale/week, alt Maj and min
...Mm=88 acceleration pattern
...Arpeggio (I), 3 fingerings
...Thirds, first two octaves
...One additional specific goal each week (decide in or after lesson)
Thumb position
...Swan on thumb
...Grutzmacher 13 and/or sight read song or etude
...Offenbach Grand Duo Concertante Op 46
Bach 2nd Suite
...One or two phrases/week for technical elements
...Speed development outside of lessons
...Rotating review of chunks outside of lessons
...Would like to design etudes based on technical needs of repertoire in addition to or instead of assigned etudes

Adjunct schedule
MON Piano semi-private lessons
TUE Alexander Technique, ?piano trio rehearsal
WED Voice class, church orchestra rehearsal
THU cello lesson, HS Orchestra rehearsal
SUN church performance, flute/cello/piano trio rehearsal

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

New friends

I'm not completely out of fostering. You probably weren't counting, but I still have three longer-term residents, Sharae, GiGi, and Serengeti (Seri). I snuck Seri's back-dated log in a couple of weeks ago. Due to our recent unfortunate events they now get to join us in quarantine, so I'll have six kitties for at least the next couple of months.

So far Madeleine has a small lesion that is probably ringworm over her eye that we have cultured and I am treating topically. She was highest risk for catching it in spite of my routine kitten-quarantine precautions because she has long hair, doesn't cross-groom with the other cats, and really loves to have her face stroked, one of the hardest places for her to groom herself. So it was probably a slip in hand-washing technique on my part. Nothing otherwise - so far, so good.

I mentioned that we moved Seri over to my house partly to keep GiGi company. She seemed a little mopey after JJ left without her. It was rather entertaining for a few days, watching GiGi alternately play with and hiss at Seri. Seri is a trooper, though, a self-sufficient little creature who was found on the streets as a lonely only when she was about 9 weeks old and spent the first few weeks isolated because of her ear mites. Since she's been here she's made friends with all the cats and even wrapped her little flippy tippy tail around DH's heart strings.

Quarantine won't be so bad. These little girls are darling.