In This Issue
- Editor's Note by Kimberly Syvertsen
- President's Message by Erika Boras Tesi
- A Sight Worth Reading by various teachers
- Getting In the Zone by Karen Pinoci
- Something to Try... Teaching Ricochet by Leslie Webster
- Googling Violin, part 2 by Betsy Maliszewski
- Vivace Assai by Kimberly Syvertsen
Editor's Note by Kimberly Syvertsen
Amazing graphic design and artistic layout for this newsletter is available *only* by viewing the downloadable pdf version accessible by clicking on the Newsletter icon below. Prepare yourself for something extraordinary!!!!
Spring has sprung, with more than enough cheer to go around! Once again, New Jersey has been recognized nationally for setting a standard of excellence in string teaching. With a coveted four awards (Oustanding State Chapter,Best Website, State Chapter Leader Award: Leslie Webster, and National Solo Competition Winner: Brannon Cho) at the 2011 National ASTA Conference in Kansas City, it’s clear that the Garden State is a force to be reckoned with! In addition to the stir we’ve created nationally, there have been plenty of homegrown offerings of note, including the outrageous reading session/book-release party that took place at Tenafly Middle School on March 5th. Enthusiastic, energetic professional exchanges abounded!
Our “Spring Fever” issue includes an intriguing piece on conductor wellness by Dr. Karen Pinoci (of the New Sussex Symphony and New Philharmonic of New Jersey), a bevy of insights for auditioning students by teachers throughout the state, feedback on our March 5th from many of the attendees, important upcoming chapter and national dates, and more!
As always, kindly consider sharing your sage advice with the NJ String community by submitting an article for publication. Thanks for all you do to make our chapter a formidable voice in string teaching and playing!
Editor-in-Chief, NJ Strings
P.S. Special thanks to our contributing photographers: Lester Vrtiak (cover and ASTA collegiate ad) and Nick Rzonsa (pages 6-8).
President's Message by Erika Boras Tesi
My box full of goodies from the ASTA National Convention arrived today. The first things apparent upon opening said box were the three large plaques commemorating the awards that New Jersey won this year. I must say that people were astounded at the number of awards that we received. Most Outstanding State Chapter, Best Website and State Chapter Leader Award(which went to New Jersey’s own Leslie Webster) were awarded at the State Leader Luncheon held on Wednesday, March 16th. I got up to receive award after award, have picture after picture taken and handshake after handshake given! If you haven’t been to a national convention, (I will tell you, you are missing something special) everyone walks around with tags hanging from their necks admitting them into the exhibit hall and all of the workshops. My tag, of course, had my name and my state on it. Numerous people would stop me throughout the day and exclaim “New Jersey! - Congratulations – you all really cleaned up this year”! YES, WE DID!! I have to say that I feel very lucky to have led this chapter for two years. It is not by accident that we were given these numerous awards as we are blessed to have led a very active and dedicated membership. Thanks to all of you.
As I continue unpacking my box, my purchases start to reveal themselves; a box of delightful greeting cards of a cello “bridge” crossing over a white water stream (I get a new box every year from Steve Swank); a Russian edition of collected cello pieces – Volumes 1 and 2 (I had never seen these before); and TV Favorites for cello (imagine that!). I made two book purchases after attending workshops. I can’t wait to dive into these books – the lectures were so inspiring that I ran to the exhibit hall to make my purchase before all copies were taken. The first one I open is by a guy who made me laugh and cry – I’d say that was a good lecture – “Teaching Music with Promise” (Conducting, Rehearsing and Inspiring) by Peter Loel Boonshaft. Not only was I emotionally charged after his lecture, I left with new techniques to try in my orchestra class. The second book I purchased is “The Creative Band and Orchestra” by Julie Lyonn Lieberman – another innovative thinker that gave me lots to mull over and new techniques to try! Last but not least… my new baton. Perfectly balanced, inspiring to hold – I can’t wait to try piano passages with this puppy.
There were many more items there that I could have gone for – rosin jewelry, glow in the dark shoulder rests among them, but I was strong and resisted temptation. I did however win a CD at the welcome cocktail hour of “A Romantic Tribute to Princess Diana” – cello and piano rendition of 25 musical selections – who among you can say you have that in your collection?
This was like opening a memory box – programs from concerts, memorabilia from dinners with friends I don’t get to see too often – the program guide with all of the lectures and workshops I attended circled with notes scribbled all over the place. The solo competition program with Brannon Cho and Violetta Norrie’s pieces listed (our New Jersey contestants) and my program notes from The National Solo Competition Winners Recital and Grand Prize Winner Brannon Cho’s unbelievable performance.
I hope that after reading this, you can feel a little of the excitement and emotional charge of attending a National Conference and perhaps, as you read on in this newsletter you will continue to get a taste of the wisdom and inspiration that our esteemed colleagues continue to share with us in NJSTRINGS. Next year, let’s plan to meet in Atlanta!
’Til then, I remain,
Erika Boras Tesi,
A Sight Worth Reading by various teachers
The ASTA/NJ reading session held on March 5th of this year was so fabulous on so many different levels. First, the dedicated teachers and wonderful musicians all gathered together in one room (with a common goal of enriching their music programs with great music for their students to play) created an energy and warmth that carried us through the entire morning. A good time was had by all.
We then had the added delight of a presentation by Dr. Barbara Tamburro, long time ASTA member and NJ resident. She took us through her newly published book, “Great Music For String Orchestra: A Conductor’s Guide To Program Development Featuring the Top 100 Intermediate and Advanced Works”. We all quickly realized that for secondary teachers, this book could quickly become our best friend and helper in the classroom – a wonderful resource that easily pinpoints and elaborates on the best repertoire for a particular level ensemble without wading through endless publishers catalogues. This is an invaluable resource that covers rehearsal techniques, program design and then even provides the teacher with reproducible program notes to save the teacher time. Wonderful!! As an aside, I will be taking a signed copy of her book as our state chapters’ gift to the ASTA Convention in Kansas City. She signed the book beautifully (and I quote) “It is with great pride that my book has been selected as the gift to the 2011 National Convention from ASTA/NJ. This text not only represents my research and experience with string orchestra repertoire but- the conductors, mentors, clinicians and master string teachers from New Jersey with whom I have had long professional associations.”
During our morning session, we had Dr Sandra Dackow drop in as a surprise guest and we all read through some parts of pieces she is working on for a publication! The session ended with several “give aways” – some gifts from Dr. Barbara Tamburro, bow grips from “Things for Strings” and then each participant got to choose the score and parts of their choice to take home for their program or studio.
Now, on to the sumptuous luncheon in honor of Dr. Barbara Tamburro and my amazement at the fervor of high energy conversation at every table. I had one of those big ah ha moments as I walked around the room listening to the excited conversation at every table. Having spent the morning all focused on the same goals and pedagogical discussions, people who would normally sit and politely inquire after each others families were voraciously tearing into the topic of the day as fast and as loudly as they possibly could! It was fantastic to see how the morning’s experience gave everyone a common ground to expand and expound upon without reservation. The energy created in the reading session room kept going in the luncheon and then, I am happy to say, continued during the board meeting afterwards. Ideas were flying around the room faster than I could keep up with. All in all, it was a great day and I can’t wait to do it again.
Tenafly Middle School
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
I would like to say last Saturday was just awesome spending time with String Educators. I totally enjoyed playing thru and discussing the pros and cons of the pieces. I've always feel at "home" when I'm with my specialty.
As a seasoned teacher, I always like to "fine tune myself". I find this so important going to this type of workshop.
Erika, thank you so much in starting this type of workshop. Also having Barbara & Sandy come on Saturday is so important keeping everyone up to date with the latest book or new music bursting out to the public scene first hand. This is what it's all about.
Thank you so much, I'm looking forward for the next time around!!
Thank you, Erika and the rest of you participants!
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Though I'm formally retired from the public school system, I'm with the Glen Rock POPS and assisting a kids' string orchestra in River Edge and enjoying playing violin. I'm basically a pianist, so this really stretches me as a musician. It's always fun going through new music and meeting new involved musicians like yourselves, kind of makes me proud to share in the same profession. Now I can suggest new music to the little kids!
It was a delightful time! Browsing all sorts of string orchestra music with colleagues, catching up with old colleagues and meeting new ones, winning prizes of music and surprises.....thank you NJ ASTA for organizing this great event!
Montclair State University Prep
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Thank you for all you did to make yesterday's event such a success! It was so beautifully coordinated and packed with special memories. Barbara's book is really remarkable, and I know her work will really guide me and countless other young teachers. I really enjoyed watching Sandy conduct her own pieces- what a treat for all of us! The ideas passed around and energy flowing confirmed for me yet again why NJ is such a force to be reckoned with in string education: it's all about the people. (Speaking of forces to be reckoned with, did anyone else catch Fran and Erika share-playing Kanon? What a hoot!)
Erika, you are a person of many talents and coordinated something special for our whole community. My hat is off to you!
The Dwight-Englewood School
Getting In the Zone by Karen Pinoci
Professional athletes and dancers always warm up thoroughly before going into a game, performance or even a practice session. The best of our professional musician colleagues are always on the job early enough to find a corner for a long warm-up. “Method” actors have a whole routine they go through to prepare themselves for the role they are about to portray. Even a race horse gets a complete regimented warm up (not to mention a massage) before going into the starting gate. Why is it then that until the last second before walking onto the podium, we as conductors are either sitting in yet another chair with our heads buried in a score, or far worse, hurrying around, fussing over last minute problems (not enough chairs or stands, missing personnel or music) stressed out over details, however important they may of course be, that are yet unrelated to the physical, mental – and dare I say spiritual - feat we are about to undertake?
It does not matter whether you stand in front of a first year ensemble or seasoned professionals--it is still your body needing to warm up for your athletic/esthetic workout or performance to be at its best—and so your body can keep being at its best for the duration of your career and beyond. We need to take care of ourselves in the final 15-20 minutes (at least!) before our performance begins: We need to be ‘Getting in the Zone before Getting on the Podium’. So close your office/dressing room door and for this short time shut everything and everyone out. Close the scores and get out of the chair. (If you are in a school situation, give a student or two the ‘job’ of taking care of those problems/details while you prepare – they will love being special, and learn from the responsibility!)
From a variety of disciplines that I have studied (Tai Chi, Yoga, Reiki, Breathing Meditation) I would like to share a series of basic physical warm-ups to get you In the Zone, even if you are allergic to exercise:
A. LOOSENING UP
• From a standing position, gently roll your shoulders forwards and backwards. Gently shake your wrists as your arms hang at your side.
• Gently bend forward at the waist, arms hanging down. While you hang there, exhale and inhale at least 3 times, feeling your back stretching and releasing.
• Like a Slinky-toy, roll your spine up to a standing position on your last inhale. Exhale.
• Standing, raise your arms slowly, outward and upward, over your head, feeling your chest lift on the inhale and slowly lower your arms on the exhale, feeling your chest relax at the same time. Do 3 of these.
• With your feet slightly apart (about shoulder width), feel most of your weight on the balls of your feet, yet with full foot contact on the floor.
• Gently bend your head forward at the neck, lifting your chest again. Inhale down to your tailbone, feeling your back and torso expand. Feel your chest expand and lift as a result. Then exhale while raising your head back up, relaxing/releasing your torso, hips and shoulders BUT keeping the lifted sensation in your chest (as if your chest is floating) while stretching your head upward from the back. Do 3 or more sets.
• Do a few heel lifts (standing up on the balls of your feet lifting your heels off the floor) alternating with toe lifts (standing on your heels while you lift your toes) to stabilize and strengthen ankles and arches. 3 or more sets.
• Inhale and exhale a few more times from your tail bone, expanding and releasing your torso and stretching your head and neck upwards on the exhale. (Think of how a plastic bag fills with water, expanding to its fullest shape—the bottom fills first, then to the top – fill your body with breath the same way, slowly, mindfully.)
B. PREPARING FOR THE PODIUM (before you take the baton)
• Shift (rock) your weight from one foot (ball of) to the other, keeping your torso loose, as if you are suspended from the ceiling.
• Swing/rotate your torso from side to side, letting your arms hang loosely and move along in natural motion. Keep your weight on the balls of your feet, yet still feeling full foot contact with the floor (think of it as 70% on the balls of the feet and the remaining 30% of the foot on the floor.) Make big, wide movements! Gradually reduce the movement size to standing nearly (but not quite) still. Allow your left arm to hang loosely at your side while you create figure 8’s with your right arm, pretending to hold a baton if you use one.
• Gradually change your figure 8’s to a 4/4 beat pattern: (all the while keeping a small swing in your torso going – so that all joints in your body remain loose and flexible!
o On the down beat, keep your hand in a vertical position (heel of the hand down)
o On beat two, allow your hand to move horizontally (palm side down)
o On beat three, let your hand remain horizontal
o On beat 4, allow your hand to return to a vertical position (heel of the hand down again.)
• Gradually reduce your swing and beat size further (but keep it going – keeping all joints and muscles actively involved.)
• Increase beat size again and then decrease. Repeat a few times.
C. PREPARING FOR THE PODIUM (with the baton)
• Now take your baton (if you use one) and do the size increase and decrease a few times again, all the while breathing as deeply and feeling contact with your feet as before, and keeping your torso loose
• Add accents on each beat, one at a time:
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 ; 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 ; 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 ; 1 – 2 – 3 – 4
Then do accents on 1 and 3, then on 2 and 4, and then on single beats randomly. Close your eyes while you do this and feel how it affects your entire body movement, balance and connectivity. Don’t forget to keep breathing, feeling your feet, and swinging your torso slightly to keep everything loose and actively involved.
• Gradually, with your eyes still closed, slow all your movements to a stop while you keep breathing deeply. Feel yourself connected to the floor, the ceiling, the whole room. Expand to the next room, the performance rehearsal space, the outdoors, then to the outer reaches of the universe, if you can, or as far as your imagination will allow.
• Come back to where you are slowly, and just “be” there, standing and breathing deeply as before, down to your tailbone, and with your eyes closed and arms hanging loosely at your side.
• Gradually open your eyes and assess how you feel, finding yourself more flexible, fully grounded, completely focused and ready to do your best work ever.
• Even though this may read like a half hour exercise, it actually only takes a few brief moments to focus inwardly on yourself, and prepare you to focus on the concert ahead.
Once I began regularly integrating these kinds of warm-ups for myself, the musicians themselves immediately noticed something had changed for the better. The results were clear in the performance quality as well. I was more connected, more grounded, much freer and more energetic – even I could feel it – and it made a big difference in the results from the orchestra!
Of course there is much more to integrate – the left hand, the preparation beats, the opening breath, phrase beginnings and endings, dynamics and articulation, etc., etc. – but get yourself started with these or some variation thereof. Experiment. Explore. See and feel what works best for you.
Just do some kind of a warm-up before you go out on the podium. It will make a difference for you and for your ensemble, as well as for the music - which is what we are all here for in the first place - and to do our best work every time we get up there as ambassadors of this great art form!
Feel free to communicate your explorations and your results – I’d love to hear about them, and anything you come up with that you would like to share.
Something to Try... Teaching Ricochet by Leslie Webster
Ricochet is fun!
There are certain aspects of violin playing that particularly impress young students: shifting to third position, vibrato, and bounced bow strokes. They seem to know that these techniques enhance playing in important ways. I utilize this knowledge by holding out the carrot of starting third position until first position notes are reliably played in tune. Then vibrato can be started after third position is reasonably well established. And bounced bow strokes? Since I delay teaching them until overall relaxation and balance in on-string bow technique are second nature, the students often bring bounced strokes to me, having started to play them in some other setting, such as orchestra. I then turn my attention to preventing bad habits from developing. Bounced bow strokes function reliably if the body, shoulder, arm, and fingers are completely relaxed; young students who try bounced strokes without being taught to stay relaxed will typically have rigid shoulders, arms, and fingers. The sound will be as stiff as the rigid posture.
I love ricochet. I consider ricochet the gateway to the other bounced bowing styles. It demands a relaxed bow hold or it won’t work at all. Ricochet is usually introduced by dropping the bow onto the string from a couple of inches above, and letting it bounce naturally until the bounces decay. Students can grasp the concept of dropping a ball and letting it bounce itself until it stops. There will be no sound at this stage.
When the shoulder, arm, bow hold, and rebounding are completely relaxed, the student can begin to open the elbow, while bouncing, so that the bow brushes the string a bit on each bounce. This will produce a sound. Allow the bow to bounce until the bounces end. Note that the impulse is at the beginning of the stroke, and the rest of the bounces are diminishing rebounds. When this is mastered, the student can try pushing down the bow pinky to pivot the bow off the string after a few bounces. It is now possible to begin and end the ricochet, making it possible to control the number of bounces.
Paul Rolland, in The Teaching of Action in String Playing, suggests letting the students bounce the bow in a variety of short rhythmic patterns. He illustrates some suggested patterns they can try. He encourages students to experiment with the length of the brushing movement to elicit a variety of sounds, from crisp to round to flaky. Students can also experiment with bouncing in different parts of the bow. Rolland advocates introducing ricochet using his Early Bow Hold, a bow hold in the lower balance area. In Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching, Ivan Galamian discusses in detail how to regulate the ricochet stroke. It is important to be in the correct region of the bow for the speed desired: the faster the speed, the closer to the tip and the lower to the string; the slower the speed, the lower in the bow, and the higher from the string. Galamian points out that the stick should be directly over the hair for the best rebound. He has a thorough sequence of bounce patterns to study, starting with open strings and eventually moving to scales.
Simon Fischer also lays out a comprehensive, progressive sequence of ricochet skills in his comprehensive technique book, Basics. In addition to exercises for the development of single string ricochet strokes, he has a very interesting sequence for learning springing arpeggios, an application of ricochet over four strings.
Application of Ricochet
Ricochet appears regularly in the repertoire, but usually in small patches. Ricochet patterns lend themselves to game playing. How about a Simon Says game with the teacher or student playing a pattern and the others copying? The following are longer sequences that might be worthwhile to utilize for the learning and application of ricochet.
O’Reilly, Fiddle Magic –a series of scattered, short exercises for developing ricochet
Kayser, Opus 20 –any triplet studies can be adapted for 3- and 6-note ricochet patterns
Kreutzer, 42 Studies—study #5 lends itself to 3- and 6-note ricochet patterns
Dont, Opus 35—Caprice #4
Trott, Melodious Double Stops, Book 2, #28
Dancla, 6 Airs Varies, Opus 118, #4 and #6 (6-7*)
Dancla, 6 Airs Varies, Opus 89, #2 and #5 (5*)
* ASTACAP examination level
Googling Violin, part 2 by Betsy Maliszewski
Quick – what’s your “go to” site for all things strings in NJ?
How about the winner of the 2011 National ASTA Best Website Award? The ASTA/NJ website, http://www.astanj.com/, provides the string community of NJ with both information and orchestral services.
The News heading gives the reader an overview of the American String Teacher Association, plus specific updates on the NJ Chapter News page. Back and current issues of NJ Strings can be accessed through the news section, as can New Jersey orchestra and string teacher job postings. A diverse selection of string happenings can be found in the Other Resources and Opportunities section.
Need more information about an ASTA/NJ program? A quick check-in to the website will get you the information, history and upcoming events of a wide variety of topics. Programs with their own pages include: Certificate Advancement Program, Chamber Music Institute, Sharon Holmes Scholarship, Solo Strings Competition, Cadet Teacher Training, and the Symposium Program.
A click on the Calendar heading will get you an organized listing of the dates, times and submission deadlines of upcoming ASTA/NJ events as well as links to program information and application downloads.
Coming soon to the website is an interactive private teacher list that will enable prospective students to match their instrument and location to registered ASTA members statewide. Also in the works: an extensive website link page that will provide string teachers and their students with links to orchestra sites, instructional videos, theory tutorials and more!
Vivace Assai by Kimberly Syvertsen
Better, First and Without Condition: An Intonation Fairy Tale
Okay, I take that back: this is a true story that took place a year ago…
Poor B-flats, what have they ever done to us? I thought to myself, as I listened to one of my beginning ensembles make their way through a beautiful little Mozart arrangement in F major. F major, that should be my first mistake, I argued with myself. But on the other hand, they are ready for the challenge! This needs to happen— they are all extremely fine players— the brick wall is only imaginary!
We went over the finger-to-finger relationships on each string during rehearsal the previous week. We tuned the pitches and chords, measure by measure. I had sent pep-talk follow-up emails home for parents to see, asking everyone to bring the scale to their private teachers (each child in the group has one.) I gave the violins (the intonation culprits in this instance) sound files to practice with. We played left-hand games; we had little in-class challenges. Hadn’t I done plenty? Shouldn’t I just let it be, or fall into some tired pattern of lecturing?
But this isn’t about pawning responsibility off on the other; the student must give it their best, and the teacher must give it even better than their best— and do that first and without condition. Parents do this instinctively— not stooping to their child’s level in the midst of a tantrum; feeding them and changing their diaper and keeping track of them for eighteen-or-so years, much of which goes unnoticed. These same parents have entrusted us, the teachers, with their wonderful children. As a young woman who hasn’t had children yet, I am so humbled by the parents I encounter— they are my role models for better, first, and without condition.
This reality hit me hard post-rehearsal while I was in the local department store of all places. (No, not Macy’s. I mean the local Mom-and-Pop strip mall kind that has all sorts of things from greeting cards to toilet plungers to children’s clothes.) It was there while waiting at the checkout counter that I saw Them, and I had to buy Them. Them being inch-long rubber pigs and Tyrannosaurus Rexes.
Butchers, I mentally griped at the following rehearsal, I should send them to work at the deli counter with those not-at-all-low “Low 1′s” and “Low 2′s”. But then I remembered Them, hiding in my pocket, waiting for their moment of freedom. Cutting off the ensemble abruptly, I reached in and pulled out my little bag. Curiosity quieted the students unusually well without my help.
One by one, with the utmost concentration, I began to line up the little pigs. “Ah, good intonation is sublime…” I began, glancing around at my most confused ensemble.
“But it only takes one…“
I placed a t-rex on the city limits of the music stand.
Another t-rex joined in, and the fun began. Think more parts Carnage (than Carnival) of the Animals.
“…to hurt the intonation of the whole ensemble.”
Complete stillness; then laughter and back to work. I am not sure if it was the amusement factor of watching their conductor regress into playing with bite-sized plastic figurines, but after that, I had no trouble afterward getting them to play F-major fingers in tune. Maybe they needed to see how serious I was, and the only way I could communicate that was paradoxically by being silly myself. Maybe they needed that rousing rendition of “Historically Inaccurate Teeny-Tiny Nature Hour with Miss Kim” to know I would go out on a limb for them. Maybe they trusted because they saw how much I cared about them and this whole intonation thing.
…And maybe they were just kids who needed a good show and a moment to clear their heads.
Suffice to say, we’ve evolved and play B-flat and all of his tricky natural friends with panache. (Apparently, my dinosaur roar and pig squeals aren’t too bad, either.) During repetitions of this song-and-dance for my older, teen-aged students in other orchestras, many asked if they could keep the pigs. (I ended up having to buy a bagful for one ensemble!) Occasionally, I’ll spot one, tucked inside a scroll— a fond memory of time when intonation got its moment in the sun.