Category Archives: Emily Wright

Emily on music as our birthright

From Emily Wright, writing about stage fright:

Finally, it’s good to remember what music is. It’s not something churned out of a conservatory, or reserved for only those who “deserve” it. It is our human birthright, and part of all of us. Who, in the history of anything, did it perfectly every time? And would we want that anyway? Life is short, and good. Enjoy it, even with a little nervousness thrown in on occasion.

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Filed under and everything, Emily Wright, stage fright

Cello Blog News: Stark Raving Cello Blog (Even More Raving), String Ovations, and Cello Bello

Back in a Starbucks, that office-away-from-home where it’s somehow easier to concentrate than in my own room!

Some cello website/blogging news:

Emily Wright has redone her Stark Raving Cello Blog.  It’s a on a new server and looks terrific.  Of course I don’t agree with Emily on every aspect of cello playing and interpretation–but what a boring world it would be if we all agreed with each other!  I deeply admire the work and imagination she puts into her online outreach.  I get gripped at times by paralyzing bouts of insecurity regarding my own expertise, which all too often leads me to hold back from discussing my own views on cello playing.  Emily’s go-for-it attitude is genuinely inspiring!

One of the greatest cello teachers in the world, Hans Jensen, whose legendary dedication and enthusiasm is also deeply inspiring, has alerted me to the new blog/website which he’s co-founded, String VisionsAngela Myles Beeching, one of the great music career consultant/project management coaches, wrote me about it just a couple days ago and suggested I offer to write something for it.  So I will!

If you’re a cellist, you’ve surely come across the mother-of-all-cello-websites, Paul Katz’s CelloBello, by now.  It’s got a blog, too, currently leading with a tribute to the late Bernie Greenhouse, one of my beloved former teachers, about whom I haven’t yet been able to write–I’m still in denial about his passing.

Oh, and do you read this planet’s foremost Klingon cellist Jon Silpayamanant’s Mae Mai?  Not yet?  Well, you should! Tremendous amounts of information about both the American orchestral music scene and non-western cello playing and music-making.

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Filed under cello websites, Emily Wright, Paul Katz

This could be worse–I could be preparing an orchestra audition

Emily Wright, in the midst of describing her preparing-for-an-audition practice routine, suggests “don’t ever get old, kids,” and I must say I agree.  This shingles-recovery fatigue thing is a bitch.  In the last few days I’ve felt at times what it must be like to be old.  Almost no energy, finding it hard to move, wanting someone to wait on me (if only there were someone), alone, bored, worried.  Sunday night I had dinner at my mother’s (which I cooked) and after dinner I sat at the head of the table, where my dad used to sit, my back hurting (oh, yeah, I threw it out on Sunday), feeling totally out of energy, not quite able to move, while other people cleared dishes and whatnot.  This is how life must have felt for Dad most of the time, I thought.  Monday and Tuesday and even this morning I felt like I might not ever recover, and my imagination went crazy.

Meanwhile, Emily is preparing (very thoroughly, it seems from her post) for an orchestra audition.  She has my total sympathy.  I hated preparing for orchestra auditions back before Mr. Greenhouse steered me into college teaching, and once I got a college job that was the end of my attempts to enter the full-time orchestra world, which didn’t feel like a good fit anyway.  (Among other things, I love to talk and having a long-term gig where they pay you to talk about playing the cello is pretty sweet.  And, for some strange reason, conductors don’t like members of the orchestra to talk a lot.)

The only time I ever developed any physical problems before middle age was preparing for orchestra auditions.  I’d think I’d be doing everything right, taking breaks, etc., but I’d get a burning sensation in one of my trapezius muscles. Learning difficult orchestra parts in a short time, with the attendant I-need-to-get-a-job-because-I’m-a-broke-grad-student tension, was a killer.  Meanwhile I was teaching other people how to play with minimal tension!  Ah, life’s ironies.

Finally today I’m feeling better.  I managed to walk the two blocks to the DePauw School of Music office–after which I needed to sit down.  Then I went on to the Post Office, to Jerry’s Foreign Auto to pay Jerry for changing the oil in Mom’s car, then a few more blocks to 3-D Tire, where they’d put a new tire on my son’s car.

I drove home, rested for an hour, and then played the cello for 45 minutes or so.  It felt good.

Emily tells us that after a break (involving a tennis ball, a heating pad, and a limited amount of cookies), she “then come[s] back and run[s] the whole set, at tempo, for the love of the thing. Why else do we do this, right?”

For the love of it, of course. That’s what I did today but didn’t do back in my orchestra audition-prep youth.   As is often the case, Ms. Wright is, once again, right.

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Filed under auditions, Emily Wright, fatigue, practice techniques

Emily’s “Twelve Days of Cellomas”

One of my favorite cello reads is Emily Wright’s Stark Raving Cello Blog.  A freelance cellist and teacher in the Los Angeles area, she’s a great example of using the web to gave away great suggestions and encouragement while building her reputation as a teacher.  Her summer “24 Scale Challenge” (see here, here, and here) project of playing all the major and minor scales every day using a universal fingering got me doing the same thing (it really works;  I did it in four octaves, rather than three, and I eventually added in arpeggios, etc., something I used to do in my younger years).

It also inspired me to mandate that my DePauw students have all major and minor scales memorized for their jury exams this past weekend. I had my colleagues draw a slip of paper with a note name out of a bowl, something we’ve been doing in lessons and studio classes.  The student enthusiasm for the project was noticeably less than my own, but all agree that it helped their playing.  So we have Emily to thank (or blame).

Now Emily’s doing a Twelve Days of “Cellomas” series of tips (some of my conservative Christian friends may get touchy about messing with “Christmas” but really I think it’s a nice play on Christmas for cellists). It’s being updated daily, so just go to the home page of her blog and scroll down.  Great idea, great tips so far, and–for those of us interested in this sort of thing–a great way to get traffic to her site.  Most musicians make their living with multiple free-lance and part-time careers as players, teachers, concert-series directors, etc.  Those of us who teach in conservatories and college music programs have an obligation (in my opinion) to prepare for life as musical entrepreneurs.  Emily’s a great role model.

And a fine teacher, quite obviously.  You go, girl!

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Filed under Emily Wright, musical entrepreneurship, scales, teaching, technique building