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Posts tagged ‘music’

Standing up and showing up

This post is about hope and standing up for one another. The unfolding events of the past six months or so have troubled me. Nobody likes to see a bully or a hater normalised. Nobody likes to see bad news. Nobody likes to be told and shown how destructive … the negativity is all over the place, like a cancer. Well it’s not really all over. You can choose not to watch the tv, choose to block the ads, choose not to sign up to the tolerances and looking the other way, but that is not easy. It takes choice and action – some might say agency.

(featured image CC BY-ND by Mike Keating)

Last night, Jan 20th, there was an event at my university, initiated by one of my students, and we organised it together. It was a positive event to change our perspective and combat all the ugliness that can invade and cloud our vision. We wanted to celebrate unity, love, and join together in solidarity with one another and with the extended community. We did this with words, song, poetry, music, and by being physically present. It was more than a conversation and went beyond agreeing or disagreeing with something – we were doing something. Everyone there showed up and stood up -All manner of people were represented in those taking part – multiple nationalities, various mother tongues, students, teachers, administrators, senior management, alumni, people from other universities, able, disabled – in a wheelchair, blind- old, young, men, women, and we came together. Voices were heard to speak for and represent those who were not there, but wanted to contribute. We sang together. We sang the March of the Women by suffragette Ethel Smythe, a song she conducted with a toothbrush, through the jail cell bars while imprisoned. Original songs and poems were shared about loss, healing, distant friends, and about expression, hope, and unity.

One brave gal stood up, and before performing said, I don’t play on my own (I don’t think colleagues knew she played at all) and she sang about sending hope to friends on distant shores, with the wonderful lyrics, ‘give me a smile and I’ll send you a rainbow.’ Someone else sang a Woody Guthrie song acapella – about a plane that crashed as it was flying ‘unwanted’ workers to Mexico – ‘deportees’. We were invited to join in with the refrain – ‘adios mes amigos… you won’t have names on the airplane, they’ll just call you… deportees.’ Quiet voices could be heard singing softly in the cold chapel, darkness all around outside.

It was enormously moving. There was hope – with Maya Angelou’s ‘A brave and startling truth’ and some very moving words about the motto from Trump’s maternal family clan motto, from Scotland (his grandmother was an immigrant): ‘Burn without being consumed.’ The speaker reminded us that this is something for us, now, to stand with one another, to stand for one another, -and I thought of the candle that passes it’s light to another without diminishing- we must not allow ourselves to be consumed, certainly not by ill.

We took our turns and everyone played a part, and after having arrived feeling the weight of- well feeling melted and consumed by events across the globe, we left with smiles and laughter, and even hugs. We left with hope and strength.

It wasn’t quite planned to have that outcome, but it happened, and it wasn’t a nation-wide, county-wide, or even city-wide event, but a small gathering. What I most hope to convey in telling a little about it is the amazing feeling that unity and solidarity that standing with one another brings. And what gifts of talents, words, research, and personal inspiration come forward to support peace, togetherness, and hope when an offer is opened and people are invited were truly unexpected.

I encourage you to consider doing something similar, or coming up with your own idea, and even if there are 5 people present – never underestimate what good can be achieved.

Here are some of the things that were read out:

Image CC BY by Rhett Maxwell

 

Cello Weekend 2017 – Join Us!

It’s time to think ahead and book for this year’s Cello Weekend! This is a chance to come together and study at the University of Chichester campus for a weekend with teachers and students from the university as well as cellists from across the wider professional musical community. Cellists of all ages are welcome, and there is something in the programme for everyone – from the orchestral experience of playing the classics of Mozart and Bach in an all-cello orchestra, to exploring aspects of performance, practice, and technique, to having a go at experimenting with modern techniques used by folk and jazz players as they go beyond just playing the notes. You can even have a play on a 5-string electric cello… or you might stick to the classics and watch others perform.

This year we welcome two outstanding professionals: Angela East and Kay Tucker. Angela will lead a musical surgery entitled “Any Questions? Your opportunity to find the answers to issues that have puzzled you for years!” Angela is inviting every participant to submit a question in advance of the weekend. Kay will be speaking, of course, about String Babies! and how our approach to reading and understanding music impacts all of us.

We also welcome two fantastic student-professionals who are both currently studying for their MA in Performance at Chichester: Nikolai Krinitsky and Joe Chilcott. Each of these people brings insight and understanding that will give you a fresh look at your own playing and at how you understand music. Full biographies and information about our guests is listed below the poster (scroll down!).

There are opportunities at the Cello Weekend to learn, explore, play, and meet other musicians. For more information, please contact me. My email is on the poster below. Local accommodation is also available for those travelling to get to the weekend.

AngelaEast:

Angela has combined playing and teaching throughout her career. At first, she taught in a number of schools including Haileybury, Leighton Park, Epsom College and Eton, where she taught the present Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. She also taught adult beginners at the City Literary Institute, where she had the largest classes in the music department. At this time she was freelancing as a modern cellist, mainly with the London Mozart Players.

In 1979 Angela acquired a baroque cello and became co-principal cello with the English Baroque Soloists under Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Known for the ‘elemental’ style of performance (The Times), Angela East is highly regarded as one of the leading continuo players of the Early Music Movement., having played with many of the foremost baroque orchestras in London including Principal Cello in the first performance on original instruments at Glyndebourne under Sir Simon Rattle.

Angela trained to become a Suzuki cello teacher in the 1980s and is a level 5 teacher and a teacher trainer. As her playing career developed, she began to develop her home teaching practice and has taught numerous children, some of whom chose musical careers and many of whom still play.

In 1997 she became a member of Red Priest. As well as having performed all over the world in some very interesting and unusual countries, this group has provided her with the opportunity to perform as a soloist, to make arrangements of unlikely repertoire such as Handel’s Messiah and she has been a partner in Red Priest Recordings, with whom she made two solo recordings, one of the Bach Cello Suites and one called ‘Baroque Cello Illuminations’ that includes pedagogical material. This CD was chosen as CD of the Fortnight by Classical Music Magazine.

In 2005 she enrolled with the Brighton School of Alexander Technique and graduated in 2009, providing an extra string to her bow. As well as teaching young children, she now teaches beginner adults by combining cello with the Alexander Technique and, on the other hand, gives Alexander lessons to a number of professional cellists. She has now devised a course and is writing a book for parents of children who wish to learn an instrument (any instrument, any teacher) and her self-run teacher training courses are now in their fourth year.

Angela gives regular recitals; one of her programmes is entitled ‘A Tale of Five Cellos’ in which she plays the viola da gamba, the bass violin, the baroque cello, the five-stringed cello and a Ventapane cello of 1828. Her repertoire extends into the 20th century with the Kodaly Solo Sonata and a number of jazz pieces by Aaron Minsky and Mark Summer. She has performed many times on radio and television, including Open University programmes and has been awarded an ARAM for her distinguished services to the music profession.

She has contributed articles to journals such as Arco and Early Music Today, has published editions of the Donizetti String Quartets and her book ‘Play Baroque’ has been published by Stainer and Bell, with several pieces having been chosen for the ABRSM syllabus. She has contributed articles to Early Music Today magazine and to ESTA and Suzuki newsletters. She has taken part in over 200 recordings including some by the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Led Zeppelin and Eminem, and has founded two groups of her own – the London Baroque Soloists and the Revolutionary Drawing Room, with whom she recorded eight CDs of Boccherini and Donizetti, one of which was chosen by Stanley Sadie in his ‘Critics’ Choice’.

She has been a member of ESTA since the 1970s.

Kay Tucker:

An alumni of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Kay has been playing the cello since the age of 12. She gives recitals both as soloist and ensemble player and is a professional cello teacher. In 2002, Kay was invited by Trinity GuildhallExamination Board to select cello repertoire for the 2004 strings syllabus. She has recently completed setting the cello repertoire for the new Trinity Guildhall syllabus, running from 2007. As a member of the British and International Federation of Festivals, she has adjudicated at well over 100 national & local festivals throughout the UK. She is a Music Mentor for the National Festival of Music for Youth

Kay is passionate about the cello, and in teaching others to play well, whatever their age. She strongly believes that establishing a sound technique is fundamental to maximum achievement and enjoyment on the instrument.

Kay is widely experienced in teaching cello at all levels and to all ages. Over the years she has organised and given masterclasses & workshops. She is also a deputy teacher at the Royal College of Music. Students have gained music scholarships and exhibitions to independent schools and a number have been awarded places at the leading conservatoires. Most of Kay’s students have continued to enjoy the cello well into adult hood, some professionally

Kay encourages all her students to participate in chamber music and orchestras. Students have gained places in the West Sussex County Youth Orchestra, Surrey County Youth Orchestra, Brighton Youth Orchestra and the National Children’s Orchestra. Kay has had a number of works composed for her and her students; most notably ‘Mellow Cellos’ by Howard Thompson, and ‘Deep Space 5’ by Douglas Coombes.

Joe Chilcott:

 

Joe is a singer/songwriter who plays the guitar. He has just started playing the cello, but his strengths lie in his creativity with the use of his guitar. Joe is able to imagine a world of sounds and to create these on his acoustic guitar, using every part of the instrument. You can listen to some of Joe’s work here. He is studying for his MA in Music Performance at Chichester and notably, he was in the semi-finals of the UK Open Mic competition in November 2016. I promise his session will produce smiles and beautiful music.

 

 

Nikolai Krinitsky:

Is a cellist who comes originally from Moscow. He studied in Moscow, and completed his undergraduate degree at the Royal College of Music. He is now studying for his MA in Music Performance at Chichester. Nikolai possesses an impressive level of technical skill, and surprisingly, also a great humility as a performer. These two do not always go hand-in-hand. He is gentle and approachable, and has a way of encouraging performers to find the joy of the music they are playing. His insight comes from years of performing and also from his own skill as a composer for the instrument. He has composed many cello studies, caprices, and a sonata. His performance class is sure to be inclusive, encouraging, and full of genuine appreciation for music making.

 

Teaching to let go

(3 min read)

“…the delicate relationship between teaching, giving knowledge, and learning knowledge”

This comes from Chapter 4 of We make the road by walking, a book of conversations between the educators Paulo Freire and Myles Horton. Paulo goes on to elaborate this quote, talking about going beyond the knowledge that the people bring to a situation. (p.151) I am struck by this book, how much it resonates with me and I sincerely wish I had been able to meet these people in person. It’s my holiday read, part of a book club, and I suppose this is my post about Chapter 4. It is a short one, not because there is less that inspired me, but because there was one paragraph that leapt out for me. Paulo speaks about this balance between teaching, knowledge, and learning and adds the authority of the teacher.

“The other mistake is to crush freedom and to exacerbate the authority of the teacher. Then you no longer have freedom but now you have authoritarianism, and then the teacher is the one who teaches. The teacher is the one who knows. The teacher is the one who guides. The teacher is the one who does everything. And the students, precisely because the students must be shaped, just expose their bodies and their souls to the hands of the teacher, as if the students were clay for the artist, to be molded.

The teacher is of course an artist, but being an artist does not mean that he or she can make the profile, can shape the students. What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to be­ come themselves. And in doing that, he or she lives the experience of relating democratically as authority with the freedom of the students.” -Paulo, p.181

This is so true, and a difficult one to learn. As a teacher it is a huge apocalyptic epiphany to know, not intellectually, but to really understand that you (or I or anyone) cannot change another. Read more

Invitation to collaborate #MUS654 2016

There are many different ways to learn, and in music there are countless hours spent in the practise room, working toward performance. All that independent work comes to fruition when we collaborate, whether that is with other performers on stage, with a teacher in a lesson, or with the listener – reacting and developing that real-time relationship that is unique to musical sound. MUS654 is a space, a place, a chance to develop skills, deepen your perspective, and learn from someone who does things a bit differently to you. It could be that you learn from a pianist, or a clarinettist, or a sax player, and you may have never considered things as they do. This is a chance to stretch the horizons and explore.

It is also something that my university students studying Music and Teaching (like private teaching, running a studio class) will be following to supplement one of my lecture classes. It is meant to probe your knowledge, open the doors to new ideas, and help you to create for yourself.

Join me and my university students as we experiment with the components of musical learning, perusing how we understand and explain foundations like rhythm, pitch, and the mechanics of sounds, and the higher level concepts like what actually makes a curriculum for learning – instead of vaulting from one piece to the next. We explore question like how do we teach expression, how do we ourselves express? We challenge ourselves to look through the lenses of someone else, and maybe not to look at all, but to listen…

This is the third year I have put weekly pages online, and this year I strongly urge people to blog. Blog blog blog. It doesn’t have to be epic, or complete, or even erudite. Nothing fancy – just your reflections on the topic, task, and what other musicians have to say on the topic. I was incredibly daunted by the idea of blogging at first. It felt strangely exposing, or something. I think it just felt new, and sometimes not having things defined is tricky. The thing is, writing is a form of communication and as musicians, we do a lot of communicating. Sometimes we are lucky not to have to use words, but learning to use words is a discipline in itself, and as a teacher it’s pretty useful. When you blog about things in these pages, tag it #MUS654 and tweet it, or post a link in the page comments (or email me if you don’t tweet!).

So, I hope you’ll join me. Main pages are under the #MUS654 tab up top on this website, and I’ll do blog posts about the different topics and tasks.

What’s new this year? I do have some surprises to add along the way. I’d like to try my hand at some group annotation this year, so people can collectively comment on a page, actually on the page and we can see what people have to say all in one place. I have also recorded a couple of interviews… always something new to add 🙂

Any questions, please ask! In the meantime, if you don’t have a blog… get making one! They can be free and take literally minutes to set up.

You can tweet me @laura_ritchie or email on mail @ lauraritchie.com (no spaces)

We start the Week 1 topic Thursday 15 September and keep going until December. Hope you can join us!

Laura

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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

What makes you tick? Musical inspiration

This is the last of our three sessions for the Connected Classes project and this week the class decided to celebrate moments/people/events that were pivotal in their musical development.

I set about gathering these moments (anonymously) from anyone and everyone, and it was funny (odd) to be met with such varied reactions. I had everything from blank faced looks to nervous laughter at the idea that I was interested in what made them musically tick. Read more

Your musical moment … a call for contributions

What makes you tick, musically?

(2 min read) Was there a moment, an experience, perhaps a person or meeting that really inspired you – that’s what this is about.  Read more

On communication and connection

(3 min read) This one’s for Dave. Thank you for asking me to write it.

So this post? We were sitting next to each other in an airport cafe eating pizza before catching our flights to our respective homes after a conference and we were talking about different forms of communication.

I have always been curious about perception and connection, Read more

It’s not about the money

This morning leafing through the pages of blogs, articles, tweets, I came across something that I needed to write about. (5 min read)Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 08.50.37

So the government is going to measure graduate worth in terms of the cling of coins. Cold hard cash. That strikes a really unsavoury chord with me. Read the Times Higher article HERE. I am hopeful that the data collected will be used with insight and reflection on a variety of circumstances and factors. It still raised a reaction in me.

Let me tell you my story. Read more

Did you hear me?

This post is about learning, and what happens when learning is visible – to the learner and to others. (2 min read)

This morning I was practising and I had one of those moments that really made me stop in my tracks and think. In a week I have a big event, it’s my book launch. The book is all about self-efficacy and fostering that positive self-belief in students. -and I have my good friend, and co-founder of the Open Source Learning Foundation, David Preston coming over from LA to speak, and then I’m going to be playing a fun duet with a recent graduate and then I sing a song (accompanied by a second year student) before a tea and cake reception. More on the singing a song later – for this story the important part is the cello/violin duet.

As I played I noticed something out of my peripheral vision. It was my husband – I could see him in the garden through the window.

IMMEDIATELY I became aware that I was very self-conscious of how I was playing and what I sounded like. I had been really going for it in my practising – playing with abandon and making a big sound, really doing all the things I should be doing, and suddenly I questioned everything and shrank. It was as if someone had seen me naked.

That made me think about the idea of body image and I thought about the attention that acceptance of different bodies and individuality is taught. Overwhelmingly there has been a move away from some perfect body image to the idea that people are individual and that’s ok, and then I thought back to musical practice and wondered about my musical identity. Am I comfortable with who I am musically? What about processes? Why would I doubt myself so much if someone saw me learning? -especially if it was my husband! Of all people, he is the most supportive and would not be passing critical judgement – certainly not as he was on his way to mow the lawn. He wasn’t focused on the few notes he heard as he passed by.

I recorded a little passage when I felt self-conscious and noticed what was happening:

I felt physically small, felt tight, was listening in a nervously critical way, my coordination was getting sloppy and it started to go out of tune… Oh my goodness! Not at all what you would want and certainly not a conducive environment for learning.

So my mind moved to the garden (stay with me, it’s a good analogy – promise). There is nothing wrong with watching someone garden. I have never known someone to get sheepish and embarrassed about planting a flower or raking leaves and having dirty hands or leaves still on the ground. We are ok with process in that pursuit. That was a revelation for me. We are ok with process in gardening. We are ok with process in cooking. We watch people do these things from start to finish. There are popular tv shows about it.

Why is it different in musical learning?

8278228668_7c12d295b0_zI don’t think it should be. Yes it is very important to know the difference between something in progress and something finished, and if a learner does not have the perceptive capabilities to know that there are still areas to improve, then that is not so good… but surely the process of learning should not be something that people are ashamed of. If someone walks in just after I’ve cracked an egg into a bowl, I don’t get worried that they have seen the breakfast crepes before I have cooked them; that would be silly. (photo CC BY-NC-ND by Rakka http://bit.ly/1lEb6tl)

So what am I going to do about it? I’m not completely sure, and would love suggestions. I had the idea to do a practising hangout. In my open music class #MUS654 we talk about all sorts of aspects of music learning from the point of view of teachers, and I think that next year I will add at least one ‘in progress’ hangout to put that process out there. I’ll be the guinea pig – as it’s not fair to ask that sort of thing of the students, certainly not if I am not willing to do it myself! – and I’ll be the fly on the wall and talk through the process. Learning to learn is so important, and I don’t think it’s something anyone should hide from.

More on the book launch soon – as for putting the cards on the table, I’m singing a song and that is a big deal for me. I’m definitely still a student there, and it’s a pop song… like with a microphone. and we’re live streaming it… It’s all about learning and living it, every day.

Featured image CC BY-SA by Hernán Piñera http://bit.ly/1Q6K8HM