Upcoming Recital!

Hello fellow musicians!

School has been in session for about a month now, so here are some upcoming performances I will be participating in!

USFSO: October 9, 2pm, USF Concert Hall
We will be playing Mozart Symphony no. 40, Respighi Roman Festival, and Goodman Bass Clarinet Concerto

Recital: November 14, 5:30pm, Barness Recital Hall (free)
This is my solo recital! I will be playing Schubert Arpeggione Sonata in A minor, Hoffmeister Viola Concerto, and Bruch Romanze

USFSO: November 20, 2pm, USF Concert Hall
We will be playing a piece by Geoff Sheil, one of our student composers, Beethoven Triple Concerto and Walton Symphony no. 2

That’s all for now, but there will be plenty more and I will update accordingly!

Vermont, Week 4

This last week in Vermont was quite busy, everyone’s ensembles are performing, and I had my last two lessons of the festival with Karen Ritscher.  Last week was a nice break to not have lessons, but practicing 4 hours a day and not having a lesson for over a week makes my mind wander and I tend to lose focus.  I should write out a schedule/plan for my practicing, so I don’t lose focus and can prioritize my practice time.

My quartet’s Kodaly performance went really well!  It was about 100 degrees in the church we played in, and we only played one movement, but I was very happy with it, and even happier that we only had to play for 6 minutes.  I’ll miss my group and my coach, Renee Skerik.  We had such a great time and we all got along great.

My lessons with Karen Ritscher were great!  We went over some things that I had gone over with Dr. Dubois, but she explained them in a completely different way, so it was great to get the two different perspectives on the same subject.  Also, they were both students of Karen Tuttle, it was really interesting to experience two very different teachers who studied with the same person.

Intonation is probably my biggest pitfall right now, but I think the focus of changing my hand shape and how I approach things, like using 4th finger and shifting, will help with that.  Ms. Ritscher suggested I work on scales for the next month (oh fun…), but I think it will (hopefully) help dramatically with my intonation.  Also, my third and fourth fingers are apparently very weak, so I’m looking to get a grip strengthener to help them.  Working on feeling the space between my base knuckles will also help with intonation, and making sure everything stays nice and relaxed.

As for repertoire, I worked on the Schubert Arpeggione with Karen Ritscher in my lessons, which is an intonation nightmare (of course), but she gave me some great insight on the style it should be played in.  It was really great to study with my current teacher’s former teacher, and I’m definitely considering NYU as a graduate school option, as she teaches there.  I have lots to think about, and even more to practice!

Happy practicing!

Vermont, Week 3

This update is a little on the late side, but here’s what’s been happening this past week at Green Mountain:

Last week I didn’t have any lessons.  It was a good break to just focus on practicing, but toward the end my practice sessions got a bit unfocused.  I have so many things I can work on, but without direction from a teacher it’s difficult determine which are most important (or which ones to move on to) and if I’m doing them correctly.

I’ve worked on my wrist vibrato exercise everyday, and it’s getting better and better, so now I think it’s at the point where I need to start incorporating it into my repertoire, and in my other fingers besides second finger.  I’ve also been having some issues with left shoulder pain, but I’m hoping it’s nothing too serious.  I haven’t had pain until now, so I think that is a good sign that I’m practicing the right way for the most part.

Today I had my first lesson with Karen Ritscher, who is my teacher’s former teacher.  We worked on a lot of big-picture ideas, with both right and left arms.  Although with Dr. Dubois I learned how to rebalance my left hand, my lesson today further solidified this idea of creating space between my second and third fingers.  As far as my right arm goes, I seem to get stuck with my arm and shoulder collapsed in, and I need to work on making sure there’s movement back to being open again once I’m at the tip or on higher strings.  A lot of these things that were passable on violin now really have to be focused on when playing viola.  Karen Ritscher gave me some great exercises to work on to help me solidify this feeling of being “open”, and I hope my next lesson with her will be just as great as this one was!

My chamber group is going to perform on Thursday of this week in a marathon concert, and I think it will go great.  We all know each other’s parts really well and where exactly we fit in, so I can’t wait to perform it!

Happy practicing!

Vermont, Week 2

This past week at GMCMF has been very busy and very productive in both my lessons and in chamber music, and, of course, fun!

I had my last two lessons with Dr. Dubois this week, as she is off to another music festival in Croatia (how cool is that??).  She advised that I alter my setup on the viola a bit (i.e. get a new chinrest), so earlier this week I walked the thirty minutes to the violin shop downtown to try some out.  After a couple hours of trying out different kinds of chin rests, I thought I had found THE ONE.  I was so excited, and when I came to my lesson on Tuesday…it was not quite right.  As I played on it more, the more aware I became of where I hold my tension, and this chin rest, although tall enough, exacerbated my neck pain tremendously, so I immediately returned it.

I was kind of disappointed that my first attempts at finding a chin rest failed, but I continued my search, and decided to purchase this thing called “The Impressionist”.  It’s a really neat thing, a sort of plastic blob that becomes malleable when soaked in boiling water for a few minutes, and can be re-boiled as many times as necessary, and then is placed on an existing chinrest, where you can press your jaw against it to get the exact shape you need.  It’s like a custom-made chin rest! I had to re-boil it about 4 times in order to figure out a shape that worked for me, but in my lesson on Friday it looked like it was the shape, and now I just might want to add a little more height to the chin rest by adding cork to it.  I thought this item would be great, even if it was just temporary, because it allows me to see what shape I need if I want to find a more permanent (i.e. made of wood) chin rest.

Along with my chin rest success, my string quartet rehearsals have been going great.  We finally can get through the first movement, and we’ve even begun to work on different sections to get the right emotion we want to portray, and the contrasting ones throughout the piece.  We’re taking the Kodaly at a faster tempo too, which is taking some work but it is coming along great, and although we are probably only going to perform the first movement on Tuesday of the last week, we want to work on the second movement just for our own benefit.  The second movement has a really great Hungarian folk-tune section, which is also extremely fast and extremely difficult, but it sounds awesome.  I hope we get to work on it at least somewhat.

Working with Dr. Dubois in my lessons has been life-changing.  I feel like my playing, although still a work in progress, is completely changed.  I’m working on relaxing while playing, only engaging muscles that need to be used (individual LH finger movement) and getting a good, core sound while keeping everything clean and projecting.  I’m also working on hand vibrato, as opposed to arm vibrato, which is going to take some time but I think I’m catching on pretty quickly.  I’m trying to apply everything that I’ve learned in my lessons to all of my playing, and Dr. Dubois said to me I’ve covered the amount of work in two weeks that a lot of students cover in a semester (wow!).  It may be because of the concentrated nature of the festival (4 hours of individual practice a day, chamber rehearsal every day, 6 coachings and 6 lessons in 4 weeks, etc), or because Dr. Dubois is a great teacher, but regardless, this experience has been great.  I never knew that North Texas had a good/large music school, and I think this may be an option for me for grad schools as I really enjoyed working with Dr. Dubois.

Today is my day off, but still…happy practicing!

Vermont, Days 3, 4 and 5

It’s about midday on Day 5, and I realized I haven’t updated the past couple days, so here’s what’s been going on:


Today began as it normally does here at GMCMF, wake up, practice for 4 hours, lunch time, then a break before my chamber rehearsal at 2:30.  Today we had a chamber coaching though, instead of our normal rehearsal session, with Renee Skerik, viola professor at Texas Tech.  Since our piece is very challenging to put together rhythmically, we spent a lot of time trying out different techniques to work on our crazy syncopations.  She had a lot of great insight and really helped us figure out what our next step was in rehearsing this first movement.  Our next coaching is Monday, so I’m hoping we get a lot done in these next couple of rehearsals.

There was also a Faculty concert that night, and it was great! It was an all-Classical period program, at it was really great to see different ensembles: cello and piano sonata, piano quartet (string trio + piano), and cello quintet (string quartet + extra cello).  We have some really great faculty here, and I’m excited to hear more from our professionals!



Nothing too different happened this day: the usual practice for 4 hours between breakfast and lunch, then a break before chamber rehearsal.  Our quartet rehearsal went really well, and I think we figured out a lot of different techniques to try practicing music that has difficult rhythms.  We spent A LOT of time on just a couple measures, so hopefully we’ve all internalized it and practiced it individually like we did in rehearsal, I know I did.  Also on this night was a student concert, with an amazing solo viola playing a movement of a Bach suite, and a fantastic violinist playing the Wieniawski violin concerto.  Both students did great! It was awesome to see such great talent perform.



Today not as much practicing was completed, only about 2 hours, because we had masterclass.  The performers in masterclass were great, and the things Dr. Susan Dubois had to say were even better!  I took lots of notes to help me with my practicing, and I met a lot of new violists, many of whom have switched from violin to viola just like me.  The masterclass was just as good as practicing, because so many ideas were presented to me via other people’s playing, so I’m looking forward to incorporating these concepts into my own playing.

I’m still having some trouble with how my left hand should be shaped when it comes to playing on the lower strings and double stops, octaves, etc, and my right hand thumb has been squeezing a lot in efforts to draw more sound out of my instrument (trying to feel the weight of my hand as being the pressure to get a core sound, rather than pressing and forcing it), but luckily I have a lesson tomorrow at 9 am, so I will have lots of questions for Dr. Dubois.

Still to go later today is my chamber rehearsal and another faculty concert.  I think I’ll try to fit in some extra practicing tonight, and I’m looking forward to my lesson tomorrow!

Happy practicing!

Vermont, Day 2

My second day of GMCMF has come to a close via a student concert with some pretty talented performers.  Most memorable to me was the last person, a pre-college girl from Cincinnati playing Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen, which if you don’t know the piece, it’s pretty crazy-virtuosic.  All of the performers were great, the last was a show piece and it really stuck out in my mind, perhaps because she is so young, but bravo to all of them for a great performance!

Earlier today, I had my first lesson with Susan Dubois, and it was fantastic!  I felt like I should have known my music better, even though it is new music, so she could gauge my level a bit better, but she understood it was fairly new and proceeded with more important technical matters: the subtle differences between violin and viola playing.  She was extremely helpful in giving me different techniques to practice in both left and right hands that are crucial for viola playing, and guided me to improve my setup, suggesting I try out different chin rests to find one that fits me better.  I thought this was great because I had only been focusing on the shoulder rest to help alleviate my shoulder pain and to fix my setup, and I think once I find a new chin rest that fits me, all of these other viola techniques will become that much more easy to adjust.  I’m going to see if I can go into town this week to the violin shop and try some out, and hopefully they will have something that fits my needs!

The mirror in my room will become my new best friend for this month to come, and probably even longer, so I can work on making these tweaks to improve my viola playing.  I think this will be more helpful than to go through repertoire without addressing these important foundations.  I can’t wait until my next lesson!  But first, tomorrow I have a coaching for my string quartet…I hope it goes as well as my lesson did!

Happy practicing all!

Vermont, Day 1

I just finished my first official day at Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival, and although I’m exhausted I enjoyed every minute of it.  I woke up at [the ungodly hour of] 7 am, practiced from 8-12, and had a chamber rehearsal later on in the afternoon.  I made some new friends, explored the town of Burlington a bit, and bought some essentials (water bottle, icy hot patches, granola bars for future practice breaks).  Even though I played nearly 6 hours total today, I still feel like I had relatively a lot of down time to rest and do what I wanted to do.  Burlington is a beautiful town, and the weather is great, which makes this trip even more enjoyable.

My chamber group’s first meeting I feel was successful.  Everyone is really nice and I think we will work great together as an ensemble.  Although the Kodaly is very difficult, both part-wise and fitting everything together, we took the first movement under tempo and managed to line up some very difficult spots.  Hopefully the score comes soon so we don’t have to continually ask each other what they have in this measure or that measure, etc.  The feeling of the beginning came together, and I think we worked well with each other to make our musical decisions.

My first lesson is tomorrow…I’m a bit nervous because I haven’t had a “first lesson” in a while, and I’m not sure what to expect.  I’ve only heard great things about my teacher, so I think it will go well, I just hope I am prepared enough to make a good impression and get a lot of good feedback.  I’ll have a couple hours in the morning before my lesson, so I think I’ll be focusing  more on my solo rep rather than chamber, and maybe I’ll have a look at the chamber music after lunch, before our rehearsal.

On that note (no pun intended), I am thoroughly exhausted, so until next time…

Happy practicing!

Less than one week!

…And I’ll be on my way to Vermont!

My chamber group has been decided, and my string quartet will be working on Zoltan Kodaly’s second string quartet.  Along with this challenging new piece, I’ve been trying out new shoulder rests, and I think I’ve found one.  I needed something to raise the viola up higher so my left shoulder and jaw doesn’t clench (I’ve had a lot of problems with sore muscles and knots in my back and shoulders).  I tried the Comford cradle shoulder rest, and it was pretty good but it was pressing too much on my collarbone, so I decided to use a Kun with taller posts — and it worked!  It’s lightweight and sturdy, with soft padding so it doesn’t hurt my collarbone, and elevates the instrument the amount I need.  I also bought a new BAM Hightech case because I will be travelling a lot, so I want to make sure my viola is protected, so I’m super excited about using that from now on! (I’ll never have to buy another case!)

Alongside that, I’ve gotten a few more calls for students who want lessons, but it’s a bummer that I’m going to be gone for six weeks and they’re just starting lessons with me.  But when I come back, I will have a regular schedule, so my students will have a lesson every week.

Thanks to all of those who have visited my website and commented on my blog!  I hope I have mentioned some helpful if not interesting things on here.

Until next time, happy practicing!

As Vermont Approaches…

Only 18 more days until I leave for Vermont!

I’m very excited to make this trip, and so my only focus will be viola-wonderfulness (and a bit of French homework…)

As I’m taking care of things in Tampa (i.e. where I’m going to live for the school year), I can’t help but think that the stress will soon be over and I won’t have to worry about these sorts of things for a WHOLE MONTH!

I haven’t been practicing as much as I’d like to this week…I’ll have to remedy that this week.  The Schubert is sounding much better — I can pretty much play through the entire first movement without any major hiccups (of course, at a reasonably slower tempo).  I also feel pretty good about the Hoffmeister; it’s coming along nicely.  My cadenza double stops are getting better and better, my intonation just needs to be immaculate (or as close to immaculate as possible).

We’ll see how the next few days of practicing go…

Until then…happy practicing!

Summertime Music…

Wow! It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog…Here’s what’s been going on since I last posted:

I’m still in the Tampa area teaching lessons and practicing, etc.  I’m also taking a summer class at USF, French II, which I’m really enjoying.  I’ve picked up a French minor, which I’m hoping will help in my future endeavors, like graduate school or even a future job (maybe there’s a Fulbright Scholarship is in my future??).  I’ve also taken German in high school, so Europe would be an awesome possibility, even for a festival or something.  I’ve been to Austria twice already for a music festival, so we’ll see what the future holds!

As far as practicing goes, I’ve been working on two major pieces: Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata in A minor, first movement, and Hoffmeister’s Viola Concerto in D Major, first and third movements.  The Schubert is pretty tough; it was originally written for the instrument called ‘Arpeggione’, and because of it’s popularity, it was transcribed for violoncello, and eventually for the viola.  It’s from the Classical era, so intonation (mainly arpeggios), clarity and lightness are key.  The Hoffmeister, also a Classical era piece, is also quite demanding in the same sense as the Schubert.  There’s a tricky double-stop section in the first movement, and the cadenza is really kicking my butt right now, but all will work out, slowly but surely.

I’ve also been working on some orchestral excerpts, Mozart Symphony no. 35, fourth movement, and Shostakovich Symphony no. 5 excerpt, for USF orchestra seating auditions.  Auditions are in August, so I’m just casually looking at them for the moment.

Time is closing in on my departure for Vermont; I’m really looking forward to this festival!  Along with this, I’d like to thank my grandparents for their generous monetary donation for this festival and school in general.  It is most appreciated, and will help me greatly in my future endeavors.  Thank you so much!!!

Until next time, happy practicing!