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Remember and celebrate

The repetition of experience re-minds us that “I”, more often than not, forget. We won’t remember unless we participate in some regular repetitive form of remembering, what is often referred to as a discipline, a practice, or a ritual. Daniel Budd

-from The Daily Stillness. (2 min read) I know this is the second post inspired by that website, and that’s ok. These few lines, combined with reading Kate Bowles post and all the comments, and getting ready for a run all made me think. Her post is completely beautifully written and the comments reflect on
reflecting (verging on metacognition, I love that) – about being left-handed. I am left handed so it is curious when people who aren’t take the time to consider it. This is not about left-handedness, but about taking the time to consider. Read more

Practice: Music, mind, & body

(3 min read) I subscribe to ‘The Daily Stillness’ which is a collaborative, maker-type, Daily Create / Connect type activity that is based here. Today’s short blurb hit me like walking out into a field after being in the woods. The message in a very few words:

Practice: Do it.

 

that was what I read via twitter on my phone early this morning, and then I looked at the actual email and saw it said more than that:

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For me, this means a lot on many different levels. Let’s take the most literal first:

 

 

1. It kindled a memory:Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 07.49.48

A little over a year ago, 5 students and I did an impossible journey where we raised lots of money and went to California to learn and teach- together and with others. It was a living, collaborative educational experience in the true sense of those words. We even had a poster designed for us and our theme/slogan was Don’t you quit!

We called ourselves Musiquality and it was all about bringing quality and connection through music. The experience was so epic that we decided to write about it, and make a book. That has been this summer’s project – to write the book, and I have been doing it with my student (recent graduate) co-authors.

2. Do it and don’t quit.

Writing a book is tough. Sometimes words pour out and other times, well, it has beenScreen Shot 2016-08-11 at 08.37.19 two weeks and I haven’t written a thing. I see people use the #dailywords hashtag on twitter, like here —> . When I am writing these act as a positive influence, but when time passes without writing it is like a tug on the skirt by a small child to remind me that I haven’t done it yet. Today the ‘do it and don’t quit’ was not a negative annoyance, or a reminder of my own failing, but a reminder that I can – and I will. Watch for my own #dailywords report later today.

That brings me nicely to the third point:

3. Self-efficacy.

What can I say about this? It just makes me smile. In a sentence – YES YOU CAN. I never cease to be surprised by what people can accomplish, and it doesn’t take Olympic greats to make me say this – although it is impossible to not be completely impressed by the refined dedication of those international athletes. Every day, every person can do something that has an impact and makes a difference and that allows them to grow. To live. I know I am optimistic, but I do genuinely believe that.

4. Every day.

Coming back to the Daily Stillness post, there was more – there was text. The suggestion was to read a short post by the author Kathleen Hirsch about practice (HERE). It is a fantastic post about finding stillness in mind as a daily practice – through religion, through breathing, through whatever- but every  day. As a musician practice is part of daily life – and routine gets into your blood.  I have woken others by shouting PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE! in my sleep. Really. (ok, it was my husband, and he forgave me) People say if you don’t practice for one day then you know it, if you don’t practice for two days your friends know it, and if you don’t practice for three days the whole world knows it. It is like eating or washing –

and then it hit me:

It is all connected. 

Yesterday I had a physio appointment because I pulled a muscle very deep and it was causing me pain. The lovely physio gal and I were talking about being fit for purpose. I love to talk sport and fitness, and have had a blissful summer full of running and yoga (and typing and practising) and she loves to talk about Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 09.26.32people and how their bodies work. I was saying that as musicians, we often do not realise what strength and stamina we need to support the specific muscles we use in music making.

Anyone who has seen a string player hold the bow will know that the positioning looks relaxed but takes a whole host of different muscles to, say, holding a fork. The physio gal commented that it is about awareness. Knowing how we work, what needs supporting, what basic levels of activity and fitness we need to prevent injury all help as we spend hours practising musical instruments.

It is all connected.

I wrote about my concert last week in a series of posts, and the bits that I wanted to go better, happened when I was not still – when my mind was not still. It is something I don’t practice enough, quietening my mind.

Mind. Body. Music.

They all go together. Practising one without the other is like eating without drinking. Sleeping without waking. To me they suddenly seem that polar and connected.

Why is it then that it is so easy to push one aside? I will work hard and not take care of my body, or not eat well, or… the list could go on. These things are important and sometimes it takes a proverbial slap in the face – like my gimpy leg – to remind me just how important it is to take the time, to make the balance, to practice.

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Image CC BY-NC-ND byEmma Duran , Featured image CC BY by Evonne

 

 

 

Learning in Public: Part 3

This is a critical post about performing. I take you inside my mind to illustrate the good and the challenges of performance. Going from the practice room to the public platform is something that all musicians do. In school, at university, or with a teacher this is something that is trained into you and facilitated. There is performance class, there are opportunities to ‘air’ the music first, but what happens when you leave that environment and are on your own? Do you keep it going? Do you still push yourself? Few graduating musicians are likely to play the same concerti they prepared for their final recitals as recital material and certainly not as regular ‘gig’ material. And what of the learning opportunities? When you leave your teacher’s studio, there are no more regular performance classes, and depending on what you do there may not be any peers to play for….unless you create the opportunities. This is the story of the opportunity I created, my thought processes, and the results. I’m learning in public. (Featured image CC-BY-NC by C Steele) Read more

Learning in Public: Part 2

This is the second post about performing… I had the pleasure of performing with one of my children. A couple of weeks ago I said to my daughter, ‘wouldn’t it be great if you learned the accompaniment for The Swan? -and you could play it with me?’ -my daughter plays the harp. Much to my surprise she said yes!!

This was something new for her to accompany someone, and I didn’t give her very long to learn the piece, and psychologically I was far more worried about making sure she was ok in the performance than I was. I said that no matter what I would follow her – catch her if anything went wrong. I was the one who slipped, and it was when I was worrying that she was ok. I never anticipated the added factor of the psychological impact of playing with one of your children – I learned something new for sure. She did great. I think every cellist should have an in-house harpist.


 

Learning in Public: Part 1

Two days ago I gave a concert in the village church. I was hoping to live stream it for anyone far away, but with no signal, that wasn’t possible. I did record it on a GoPro – you can see my skilled camera work in the pre-concert selfie above. (I am kidding- I stuck the camera to a pew and pushed GO) I tend to record everything! -and watching back as a good way to reflect and keep learning. Otherwise it is hard (or impossible) to really remember and take in what happened.

I have split the recital into three posts. This post is about sharing the recordings, Part 2 is a brief reflection on playing with your children (The Swan with harp and cello), and Part 3 is a critical commentary about the challenging aspects that come with performing advanced repertoire (Bach 6 for solo cello). I very much enjoyed playing to such an appreciative audience in the lovely ancient stone building that is our village church. You can see the performance for yourself below.

Max Bruch Kol Nidrei

Gabriel Fauré Élegié

When concert meets app

It is great to come together at a concert or other event with other people and spark. Oh I know ‘spark’ is not the most academic word, but it’s the right one – talk, think, laugh, experience new people, experience something that transcends people, and connect it in a way that is electrifying. SPARK! (4 min read)

I had the privilege of being invited to a concert by the Castalian String Quartet that was part of the European String Teachers Association summer school. One of my former students (a graduate who is now a teacher herself) was in attendance at the summer school and I know some of the people involved in ESTA and was fortunate enough to be invited to the concert. It was fantastic. The atmosphere reminded me of being back at Meadowmount and just breathing in that atmosphere was invigorating. Read more

On Motivation

This is a thoughtful post on the nature of motivation and how changing demands and perceptions of life the world and everything affect it. 3 min read.

Some days things are hard. Some days things are easy. The summer sits somewhere between stillness and chaos and both the trickiest thing and the most wonderful gift is the lack of schedule. Working in academia means that there are cycles – semesters, modules, exams, students, tutorials, and then when it’s over, it’s all over and like water evaporating in the summer sun, everyone disappears. The commitments do not go, just the externally imposed structure and constraints of fitting around classes, meetings, and other people’s commitments seem to dissolve. Fantastic! -or a nightmare?

Sometimes by the end of a term it can feel like this: Read more

Fancy joining an orchestra – just for fun?

Here’s the newest venture. I am loving bringing together people from across the community and can’t wait to see how this develops over the coming months. In the meantime I have my work cut out as I arrange and transcribe the requests that people are bringing to me! It’s keeping me on my musical toes 🙂

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Live performance

People have asked when I would post some performances… Here you are! This is a live performance of Gabriel’s Oboe played by me, on cello, Ian East, sax, and the Addison Jazz Choir, led by Jill Jarman. It was recorded in a concert. The piece was composed by Ennio Morriconie and was the theme of the film The Mission. I came across this recording and was pleased to have permission to post it.

I think there is a sense that all musicians wait until something is completely perfect to post or share it… that brings in a lot of fear and also would kind of stop most people sharing most things they play. I decided to posted this, and will work to record more things in the future and post them too.

 

On hope

I am going to indulge in my thoughts. (3 min read) For a second day I have woken up early, before the birds, and before the light, because my head is full of so many different things. I cannot express how turbulent the past few days have been, and enlightening. I think. When I first made my website I put the few words to describe myself in the corner – and I did the same some years back when I joined twitter – a few words to explain. What about the essence?  

Essence can be so lovely – like the taste of the first English strawberry of the season, picked from the garden. I say English not to be patriotic, but because these Elsanta strawberries are different Read more