SCOR! Evangelism (unsolicited)

It’s been a month since I got back from SCOR! New England.  I thought I would have written about it immediately upon return, but It is tough to condense an intense week of workshops and making new musical friends into a few paragraphs. OK, it’s not tough for good writers.  But I needed some prompts to get over the writer’s block, and Beth and Kyle were kind enough to provide some:

[Note: I did not discuss the workshops or the Orchestra Practice in this article.  I will address those separately]

  • How did your Scor! Experience help your playing?
    • I felt more confident in facing new material and in sight reading.
    • My expectations for the future were set higher when I saw people accomplishing the level of playing I hope to reach near retirement
    • Mistakes bothered me less
    • Focusing on sharing rather than performing meant that I could be myself.  I put enormous pressure on myself in general.
  • Has your private teacher noticed any difference?
    • She said I was “faster to follow her instructions”.  I’ll let that sink in.
  • How has your approach to playing changed?
    • I am generally braver, and I also scan for how I want to handle rests when I read a piece for the first time.
    • I look forward to playing in group settings now.
  • How has your ensemble playing changed from Scor!?
    • It’s still too early to tell.  But I know to focus on setting and keeping my own pulse, and to focus on breathing as well as bowing.  This is true of the playing in general.

Although the message in the adult learning workshop was a consistent “you must accept where you are now”, I really was hoping I would be capable of higher grade pieces by now. Our first attempt at working a quartet piece was hilarious.  We were all lost by measure 3.   The experience of getting four strong personalities to communicate effectively was as satisfying as making the music.  I definitely want more, although I think I’ll make the 3-hour drive to Rochester next year instead of a 6 hour one to Rhode Island.   Still, the people were terrific and the schedule fit a lull in the workplace, so who knows.  It may indeed be RI again.

The other significant experience for me was my private lesson.  I recommend everybody take a yearly private lesson with somebody who is not your regular teacher.  They will notice things that will enhance your playing, and they know not to disrupt your existing pedagogy.  In my case, Carly Fleming pointed out that my tone was too forced, and that I need to let the string ring a little more.

Oh, and book early, especially your hotel.


Reboot and SCOR

If there has been one theme in this blog, it has been the continual promise that I’ll get on it someday.  With my upcoming visit to New England SCOR tomorrow, I thought it might be a good chance to get the blog-cogs turning again.  I’ll try not to make it sound like a commercial, but it will be my first experience at an adult music camp, so I’ll try to get in some detailed experiences.

My playing has been taking a beating during a recent intense project.  Hopefully this will help with the ole’ motivation.

Does anybody have some first time stories they’d like to share?  Please comment below!

The road gets bumpy.


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My practice is increasing as my headaches from looking at the gas bubble in my eye wane.  It’s barely a distraction anymore and I can see the music now.  I’m working on Schroeder #26, which has combinations of 6 note bows, 2 note bows, and single note bows. I still need to get this smooth.    I still would like to take it easy and hope I’m one of the twenty percent who don’t need cataract surgery after my procedure.

The moral of this story is to practice today because as you get older, there are more health issues, and more family illness to care for.  Since t his is a journal about starting the cello at mid-life, this is relevant.  I once thought I had twenty-five years to learn what I need to before retirement.  Now, I realize it’s effectively more like fifteen to twenty.  Of course, this is just for planning purposes.  If I stay healthy, there’s no reason I can’t keep learning.woodland-road-falling-leaf-natural-38537.jpeg

On my G minor scale, focusing on intonation from C down to G in the third octave.  There are enough resonating notes here, and I wonder what is the best strategy to stay in tune.  I’d like to train my ear to hear that high G and just “know” it’s right.  That can be my home base for coming back down.

In bowing in general, Aurora tells me I need to think about the trajectory of the bow first and let my arm follow, or as she puts it “let the bow move your arm”.

New Posting Schedule

This will help keep me predictable with my readers without burdening me with habits I won’t keep.

Second and fourth Sunday of every month.  It’s challenging to practice and blog about it.  An audio or video will be posted on each fourth Sunday.


Lesson Notes 2018 March 2



I am continuing to get better, based on third-party feedback, which is good.  Here’s a quick update on the most recent lesson.

  • Beethoven Minuet in G (#5, Suzuki Book 3) :
    • Gentle but confident shifts. Specifically, don’t “slam” into the fourth position just because I have a physical cue.
    • Make the measure 1,5,7, and 13 dotted patterns more even.
    • Have more fun with the Trio section.  Getting those upbow staccato sections will take some time.  I can always add those to my scales, right?
  • Schroeder #25:  Think about the “wrench level” analogy for LH for playing in higher positions on the C and G strings.
  • 3 Octave D minor: Yay! New scale.  I ‘m pretty sure my A-minor is not a “pity pass”





Shoulder Lock


With regard to the Scherzo: I learned something interesting at the last lesson – that I’m seriously locking my shoulder instead of just dropping all my weight into the bow.

With scales – continue working on that third octave coming down.  The only nice thing I can say about it is that the harmonic helps me find BOTH A’s, and now I need to work through this until I know it cold and can play it smoothly.

Schroeder has been back-burnered for a while, but it’s coming out again so I can put in a good 7+ hour week of practicing.


Schroeder 25


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Working on intonation primarily and keeping my LH steady. I had noticed in the mirror I was “typing” way too much. But this led me to realize I don’t have a comfortable feeling for extended positions. So, I’m just going to work on A and D major scales with as natural a LH until I do.

Other pieces seem to be coming along nicely, including my third position piece in C minor from Mooney, which I’ll write about tomorrow.


Lesson Update 12/15

Moving up to the current date, my counting is definitely better, although subdividing rhythms remains a challenge.  As for my current lesson, the status looks as follows:

  • Scherzo: try memorizing so you can really focus on dynamics.  The dynamics were too level.  Play with bravado, particularly on the sforzando.
  • Schroeder: pay attention to drawing a straight bow, particularly on the A string.
  • Start practicing more duets!  Today, we worked over a four-voiced holiday song.  My intonation, particularly on the F needs work.  I’m not sure how to manage this sort of thing for a particular note.  I’m supposed to listen for whether a note fit the chords “already in the air”.  It’s still a mystery to me.