Fall is in full swing! Getting excited for pumpkin pie and turkey or is that just us?! Also 2021 is almost over (what?!) Here is what is in this month's issue:
November Birthday (just one!)
Student of the month
Article: 9 ways to improve your playing without touching your instrument.
Fanny and Felix’s Follies
Somehow we only have one very special birthday this month! Happy Birthday Tudor!!!! Hope it is a wonderful one!
STUDENT OF THE MONTH
1. City and state currently residing?
I live in Sugar Land, Texas!
2. What are you playing/working on right now?
Currently, I am working on a piece with my trio. We are playing a song called Allegro Giocoso e Semplice by Sergey Taneyev. I am also in the process of learning new music for our school’s winter concert. So far, we are going to perform the second and third movements of Aus Holbergs Zeit by Edvard Grieg and Danse Negre by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.
3. When did you start in SSS?
I joined Sesek String Studio this year in August!
4. What drew you to the violin?
I decided to start playing the violin mainly because it was the instrument my older brother was playing. However, my brother’s influence wasn’t the same reason why I never gave up playing the violin. After being a part of an orchestra for almost five years, I realized that being surrounded by more advanced people is fueling my desire to improve. I enjoy the feeling of having input in a large ensemble, which makes me want to continue practicing and learning. I believe what draws me most to the violin, and string instruments, in general, is how they can stand out both individually and amongst a crowd. I don’t need to be a soloist to be able to be heard.
5. What is your favorite musical experience to date?
My favorite musical experience to this day was when my orchestra, Philharmonic, performed a song with our school’s top orchestra, Honors! We played Orawa by Wojciech Kilar, and although we only rehearsed with the Honors orchestra twice, our performance was still really cool. I still recall hearing someone exclaiming how it was the coolest orchestra performance they heard that day! I think it was exciting because the sound we were able to produce was something I never thought I’d be a part of making.
6. In what other activities do you participate?
I am also an artist, so I have joined clubs like NAHS (National Art Honor Society). Drawing is my other biggest hobby, as I’ve been teaching myself how to paint and sketch for many years now. I hope to expand on this hobby because I can see myself doing something art-related in the future.
7. Any other tidbits about yourself that you want others to know?
I’ve always wanted a pet, so I’m excited that I will soon be able to house a betta in the tank that I’ve been working hard on to improve!
9 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR PLAYING WITHOUT PICKING UP YOUR INSTRUMENT
By: Amber Archibald-Sešek
Let’s face it: We all have days where we just don not get the time to practice. We are either overwhelmed, cannot find the time, or simply do not feel like it. However, that does not mean you have to have a day without doing something to improve your skills on your instrument. Here are nine ways you can, somewhat passively, still get your practice on!
1. Listen to recordings— In our ever increasing digital world, we have better access to high-quality recordings and they are such an amazing resource. If your plan is to not pick up the instrument to practice, find a recording of what you are working on, and listen to it. Listen to multiple recordings if you have the time. Recordings can help to inform your playing. For younger players, recordings of pieces for children are ideal. This makes for a fun, engaging and a potentially interactive with an adult guiding the listening experience. Pieces to begin with are Peter and the Wolf by Prokofiev, The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky or a collection of children’s piano pieces by Schumann. Ideally, listen with intention, but even having it in the background is still beneficial. Listening to recordings while driving, doing homework, or otheractivities is a great way to get a little bit more classical music in the brain!
2. Attend a concert— As things begin to return to normal, the option of live music is again on the table. There is nothing quite like attending a live event! If you live in a any metropolitan area, there is always somebody coming to town. Both the Seattle Symphony and Houston Symphony regularly invite some of the world’s greatest violinists (occasionally violists) to perform on their stage. If you have never gone to see a soloist perform with an orchestra, I would highly recommend you tick that box! The energy that is felt during a live performance can never be replicated by a recording. Bonus tip: If you are under the age of 18, most orchestras do deeply discounted tickets for students. Call your local box office and find out the current student rate. You’d be surprised how inexpensive it is to go hear world-class music.
3. Get on YouTube— If live music is still out of your reach, then YouTube is the next best thing. YouTube is basically recordings on steroids. Some of the worlds greatest music making entities regularly publish their concerts on YouTube, for FREE! Having the ability to watch a world class performer is even better than just listening. There is so much to absorb by seeing how a great player moves, interacts and showcases their skills. YouTube is free, so long as you don’t mind a few advertisements. But if you were like me and prefer your music interrupted, then I would highly recommend the YouTube Premium subscription. I am not getting any sort of kickback for saying this. (but boy, I wish I were) The subscription is absolutely worth every penny in my opinion. I can listen to something from Germany, Japan ,and the US within a few minutes of each other. Oh what a wonderful world we live in!
4. Go to an art exhibit— Okay, so this one is a little bit more esoteric. But of course art is art, whether it is poetry, music, paintings or sculptures. Art galleries are a wonderful way to see how art, history, and music represent their respective time periods. Go online to see what exhibits are in your area. Make a plan to see it. Then listen to music from the artists’ time periods and countries. It will be easy to see and hear how all art is intertwined and can help you become a more well rounded musician and person. Becoming a musical artist doesn’t limit you to only the auditory perspective.
5. Practice in your head— This is a wonderful type of practice that can be done anywhere at any time and is totally free. Find a quiet place. Sit down with your music, and select a passage. Go over it with your eyes several times. Now close your eyes and imagine yourself playing through it flawlessly. Think of each moment: what you have to do with the right hand, and what you have to do the left hand. Try to maintain concentration throughout the whole exercise. There has been a lot of research done over the last 25 years concerning the brain and neuromuscular execution. To sum up, the brain cannot distinguish between actual practice and “imagined” practice all that well. The brain’s synapses fire the exact same way as if you were actually moving those muscles. Of course this will never substitute real practice as you need to have done the actual motor activity, but in a pinch, this is a great substitute. Athletes do it often, especially right before major event or race. Next time you find yourself instrument-less and want to practice, why not give this a try?
6. Read— Reading is the greatest gift to mankind. When the Gutenberg Press was invented around 1440, it changed everything. Books are still the best way to get accurate and resourceful knowledge at your fingertips. They are countless books that are a wonderful source of information for violinists and violists. Pick up a biography of a famous composer or performer, read a technique book, read a blog post, read this! Reading can help reinforce the knowledge you already have and additionally, introduce you to new ways of thinking, exercises, ways to practice etc., that may have never occurred to you. The books you read do not have to be exclusively on music. It can be on any subjects that you find interesting, and perhaps can be tied into to your musical training. From my own experience, choosing to read 30 to 50 books a year, on subjects including music and otherwise, over the last five years is one of the best decisions I have made in my adult life. Don’t wait that long! Make reading an essential activity and see how much it will change your life!
7. Sleep— We hear it all the time: Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep at night. Anyone under the age of 18 should be getting anywhere from 8 to 12 hours of sleep depending on age! It goes without say, very few of us are getting the actual sleep we need. Sleep helps the brain to process the day’s work, filtering what is essential and nonessential. Without it, your brain cannot “dump” all of the stuff your brain has processed. Sleep is also the time when new motor pathways are made in the brain. This will ultimately result in your practice, or whatever you’ve learned, “sticking,” making your ability to acquire new skills easier. As I am not a neuroscientist, I will not attempt to try to explain how exactly it works here in this little article. However, if you want to learning occurs during sleep, I would highly recommend reading the book “Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams” by Matthew Walker. Sleep is the easiest thing to do on this list. Let’s all try to get more of it!
8. Walk— Just as resting your body adequately benefits your instrument practice, so does moving it. Again, we all know that we should be getting 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity a day. We hear these platitudes so often that they become banal. When we think of physical activity, images of relentless sweating, huffing and puffing and falling out in the gym come to mind. But it doesn’t have to be! What if a simple walk was all it took to awaken your mind and body? Walking has so many benefits! Not only does it help to lower cortisol, which in turn relieve stress, it also has been proven to aid the mind in slowing down and thinking more clearly. All of the aforementioned things can help us with our practice. Some of my best practicing has happened after an hour walk or a slow yoga session. Try to make time for 20 minutes of walking a day. It will not only benefit your practice, it will benefit your life.
9. Drink matcha— This last one it’s kind of a weird one, but might be my favorite!. Matcha might be one of the greatest body hacks on planet earth. In the West we are very addicted to coffee, but what if there was still a way to get your caffeine fix, but get the benefits of cognitive enhancement as well as an antioxidant boost? Enter the Japanese super drink, matcha! According to multiple studies, matcha acts as a natural nootropic. A nootropic is a natural brain booster which enhances mental performance. Matcha can aid in better memory, concentration, attention and motivation! It also is a vasodilator which gets more oxygen to the brain! You get all of that with none of the jitters or nervousness of coffee and far less caffeine. High quality matcha is pricey, but totally worth it! Why not give your beverage of choice an upgrade?
So there you have it! These are nine ways you can improve your practice without touching your instrument. Of course none of these will ever substitute the real McCoy, actually picking up your instrument and doing the work. But there is no harm in enhancing The work you were already doing. Have you tried any of these? I would love to hear! Feel free to let me know via email, and I may include some responses in the next months newsletter!
FANNY AND FELIX’S FOLLIES
I am currently reading a wonderful book called the “Forever Dog: Surprising New Science to Help your Canine Companion Live Younger,, Healthier, and Longer” by Rodney Habib and Dr. Karen Becker. It is chock full of great information! (If you have a dog, get it! You won’t be sorry!) As many of you know, our dog Fanny has epilepsy. To improve her quality of life we made dramatic changes to her diet, added supplements, and as a result, we have seen a lot of benefits! To say the Poodlessohns are spoiled is an understatement. I will not go into the details here but if you want to know more about what we feed our pups, feel free to shoot us an email. We’d be happy to share. In the meantime here are a few pics of the pups and their food!
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We'll see you next month!