Updated: Sep 2, 2021
In this issue:
Summer and September Birthdays
Student of the month: Kai Slesarev-Nogami
THE BIG MOVE
Mrs. Sešek solos with Philharmonia Northwest
Region and All State Workshops
Article: Three quick tips on improving left hand expression
Fanny and Felix’s Follies
We have some overdue birthdays from the Summer as well as September birthdays! Wishing you another wonderful revolution around the sun!
STUDENT OF THE MONTH
What are you playing/working on right now?
I am currently working on the entire Walton Viola Concerto, the entire Bach Cello Suite No. 2 in D minor, the entire Brahms Viola Sonata in F minor, Caprice No. 5 Krzysztof by Atar Arad, and the first movement of the Reger Viola Suite No. 1 in G minor for college auditions.
When did you start in SSS?
I started taking lessons with SSS around the start of November (had a trial class or two before that around the summertime)
What drew you to the viola?
The viola just fit very naturally in my hands (compared to violin or cello), not to mention its gorgeous tones.
What is your favorite musical experience to date?
Getting to perform the first movement of the Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 1 with my high school orchestra back in 11th grade (a most thrilling solo opportunity)
In what other activities do you participate?
I also like to draw and I do Kung Fu outside of music.
Any other tidbits about yourself want others to know?
I have taken a gap year and am currently working on college apps so that I can get into a good conservatory (Colburn or Curtis, fingers crossed) and pursue my dream of becoming a professional violist.
THE BIG MOVE
It has been quite the journey since we moved to Texas! We are NO WHERE CLOSE to being finished with unpacking and rearranging our new space. However, every week there is progress. We hope to be able to share some developments with our physical spaces as they change over the next few months but that will have to wait for now!
As far as my (Amber’s) mom, she is doing well, and is relieved to have Luka and I here. It has made a big difference in her life and she is doing so much better. Thank you to our students in Washington who were most generous in their time and love with helping us through this process. We are indebted to you <3 Now if we can just figure off how to stay cool in this Texas heat…….
MRS. SESEK SOLOS WITH PHILHARMONIA NORTHWEST
On October 3, 2021, Amber will return to the stage in Seattle as soloist with Philharmonia Northwest. She will perform the Stamitz Viola Concerto in D Major alongside Julia Tai, conductor of PNW and recently appointed conductor of the Missoula Symphony. Amber would LOVE your support! If you are interested in watching the performance, it will likely be live streamed. For more information, visit https://philharmonianw.org
REGION AND ALL STATE WORKSHOPS
Mark your calendars! On Saturday September 25th, 2021 we will be hosting All region and All state workshops for both our Washington and Texas students. These workshops are meant to be an opportunity to perform for your fellow studio mates, get valuable feedback and put on the pressure so you can feel ready for your recordings or live auditions.
Texas classes will be in person and Washington classes over ZOOM. Classes are slated to be in the afternoon after our Saturday teaching block. We will send an email with the scheduled times for each workshop one week prior to the event. We look forward to seeing you there!
THREE QUICK TIPS ON IMPROVING LEFT HAND EXPRESSION
Recently with everything we’ve had going on, it has been difficult for me to find time to read an entire book. I have since turned to summaries in hopes of getting the distilled details of a book and then putting the text on my reading list for later. This quick little article was inspired by my seemingly never ending crunch to absorb more in less time.
Left hand expression is quite complex and with several variables to consider. However, many players have “default settings” for the variables. In order to continually improve your expression, the defaults need to become part of a larger scope of available options. Here are three concepts to become aware of today and broaden your horizon.
1. Width x Speed - Yes, I am talking vibrato, of course. Vibrato is the best known tool for expression in a string player’s arsenal. However, many players customarily use the same vibrato all the time and do not consider how small changes might dramatically improve their expression. In your practice, try passages with varying amplitude, meaning, how wide or narrow you wiggle. Also try changing your speed. Narrow oscillation and very fast speed works nicely for a long and very soft note that is beneath the general texture. Or, try a wider and slower vibrato that might work well as you “blossom” into a note. There are several combinations to try, and by working those into your practice, you will better be able to pull differing combinations when necessary. Watch great players to see what they do. Record yourself playing with varying vibrato and judge what you hear. That is the best way to tell if you are on the right track!
2. Consider finger pressure - How much we press our fingers on the string(s) is one of those things we all should be considering a lot more often. The general rule is you want to use the Minimum Viable Pressure or MVP. (I cannot take credit for this cute acronym. This is from Nathan Cole, First Assistant Concertmaster of the LA Phil.) By doing this, you keep you hand much more relaxed, which therefore makes your fingers more nimble. This is especially important in fast passagework and shifting. If 0 is not touching the string, 1 is a harmonic, and 10 is inducing a hand cramp, you want your general finger pressure to fall between a 4 or 5. For more intensity while vibrating you may want to go to a 6 or 7, but likely no more. You can watch Mr. Cole’s detailed video about this concept on from Youtube below the article.
3. Choose your intonation wisely- “Wait a minute… I can choose HOW to play in tune?” Why, YES! Now, this is not a license to play OUT OF TUNE. That’s not what I mean. The first job in having the privilege to choose intonation, is to play in tune. You should be able to play at 97% accuracy in a passage or work before even considering this last tip. If you cannot do this, get a scale book, turn on a drone and see you in few years. But, if you feel like you have good command of what you are playing, consider how certain notes “behave” in a passage. For example, you would treat a resonant pitch differently than a pitch from outside of the tonal area. “Should I play my leading tone even higher here? Or lower? Perhaps I want to temper my thirds in this passage. Maybe I don’t want my half step so tight here, etc.” If this all sounds foreign, no worries! You haven’t gotten to this level of detail yet. But, when you do, it opens a new realm of expression that was previously unavailable. Again, I cannot stress this enough: Get your general intonation to extremely high accuracy FIRST. After that, this concept is easier infuse into your playing.
All the concepts may not yet be appropriate for you depending on where you are in your violin and viola journey. But, it doesn’t hurt to think about things you can look forward to achieving in the future to improve your playing and become the best player you can be. Have I given you enough to think about yet? Oh good! Now go practice! Till next time!
FANNY AND FELIX’S FOLLIES
For those new to the studio, we have two furry members in the Sešek household. Fanny and Felix are our lovable Standard Poodles and boy, do they keep us on our toes! They are adjusting well to life in Texas. They especially like the very big back yard. However, with the current heat and mosquitoes, they are only allowed out for short amounts of time. It doesn’t stop them from running around the house like, well…….. wild animals!
Felix’s 1st birthday is September 20th and we haven’t decided what to do. I would imagine that avoiding the heat and lounging would probably be at the top of his list! Hope to have more pictures and adventures as we continue to settle in to our new digs! More to come soon!
TELL YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY
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It's our way of saying "Thank You" for helping us grow! There is NO LIMIT to the number of people you can refer! (Just make sure they include you as a reference when they sign up!)
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We'll see you next month!