Saturday, December 31, 2016

Chirstmas Concerts

Primarily, I'm a freelance cellist. I play as a substitute or in ad hoc orchestras for specific programs. In this case I just played Messiah by G.F. Handel and Nutcracker by P.I. Tchaikovsky. Both of these works are amazing pieces of music to take part in. Both elevate the musician and the listener to a different realm but in different ways. Nutcracker is simply a charming ballet with almost mesmerizing music that transports one into a world of magical elegance. However, Messiah elevates one to the realm of the sublime. It's message, of course, has much to do with it and is the reason for the composition. The music itself is nearly enough, though, to stir the soul's longing for a better world, giving rise to hope in the message, which the music creates in the most compelling ways.


Monday, October 31, 2016

Lost motivation

Cold. Lifeless. Hopeless. The cello sat in its case looking so beautiful. Soft amber hues. Each grain gliding, slightly curving from shoulder to tail. Bridge standing tall. Silvery strings taut and attentive. Everything about the instrument invites me, begs me to take her out and practice until I can't get anything I do, wrong. The music swirls inside my head. All the years of study and listening. I can name almost any piece, that comes on the radio, within a few notes or if not sure a few seconds worth of listening. If I can't name the piece I go for the composer based on the use of harmony, sonority, instrumentation.

I love music. It invigorates me just to hear the music that I have known since I was a child come singing through the speakers in a public space or store unexpectedly. There is nothing I know better than how better than to play music on a cello. That's what I studied the longest and most diligently for 15 years straight. All those cello lessons from my beginner moments when I was 8 and 9 years old--having to relearn posture on the cello, compared to the violin, was not as easy as I my young mind had imagined.

The struggle was real. Sitting and holding something that was touching the floor at one point didn't allow me to move like I had been able to with the violin. This would be a great disability until my masters degree nearly 15 years later. There seemed to be no way that I could get comfortable and therefore I played with tension throughout my back, arms, and hands. Fortunately, I overcame much of that problem. Now, the problem is quite different. It lies not partially, but completely within my brain, my thoughts as though they were permanent fixtures attached to a building.

Progress in cello had been slow. Progress in career had been even slower. Nothing I did could help me overcome my greatest blockade; my belief that I was incapable. And even after some small victories I struggle to advance my career. Now, it is more to the affect that it seems like too much effort. Finding a suitable audition or rounding up students or practicing with a regular musical partner, it all requires so much moving, organizing, and the most agonizing one of all is the necessity of money to get where I want to go. The efforts are real and enormous--in my head.

Well into my 30's I have little to say for what I have invested and shrink back from diving into new territory, expending the energy to get where I think I'd like to be seems to great a task. The unknowns swirling inside my head ever suggesting that the risks are great and the rewards to small. Perhaps it is better to eke out the living I have always done, dependent on others to get me one student here, wait for the call that will pay me enough to buy a week's worth of groceries (or two if I am lucky).

Scared. It's scary. That's what I have always thought. I don't know how I came to that conclusion. I have always decided before I experienced it that it must be scary. How does that work? How does one think it scary before even going through it? The human experience is so strange. The mind confusedly winds in and out of negative thoughts with the occasional ray of sunlight to keep my going. Unfortunately, the underlying thought pattern has been to defeat any progress before any attempt has been made.

Even now, writing this blog is a defeat. (Practice, post videos, direct traffic to your efforts, send out CV's, let people know you are available for work...)

Friday, February 28, 2014

Campaign to Re-Approve my AdSense

It's been two years since Google has disapproved my account AdSense--earning revenue from Ads that were clicked on my viewers to my blog. (Many people reading this know about it, but there are a few who don't.) In fact, I had begun to monetize my blog only a few months before it was unceremoniously disapproved. Only one starkly, bruskly, and curtly stated impersonal email stated that that the revenue earned was being returned to the appropriate advertisers. They said it had to do with unfairly or inappropriate gains or some such thing as that. I'd look at the email again, but I hate seeing the side of Google that they don't want anyone to see them as, a big corporation that is happy to start something up but just as happy to unequivocally shut it down without conversation when it doesn't look right to them.

I believe the 'no second chance' disapproval was wrong and had they been willing to communicate with me, as I tried to do as soon as I knew they had shut my chance down at making those few pennies to pay for the electricity used in the writing of each blog. They would have none of it. I sent an appeal but was tossed off and treated like a cyber criminal. They wouldn't hear that I had some friends who probably were trying to help me out and didn't understand the consequences should Google find that the clicks were not fair traffic. This I do acknowledge as probably being the problem with the unfair gains. So, send the money back to the advertisers. Let me start again.

Wait one more year......write another appeal. Some non-person, cold response as the first time. They will hear none of it, regardless of how innocent I am and that I had no control over the actions of others. I can't even start another account to generate those few monthly dollars since they will, obviously, know it's me. (No, I did not try to fool Google that way, nor will I now.)

What really bugs me about this whole issue is more how Google brushes a person off when he has unknowingly offended or unknowingly done wrong--let me reiterate that I was not the one clicking the ads, it was people who didn't even know that I could suffer potential consequences for third party actions!

When you send in a question about trouble-shooting, or asking to sign up for some of their products, if it is in their favor they are cheerful and put on this patronizing sense of gaiety as if they invented the cheerful worker. However, when I sent an appeal I got a cold, stand-offish email with no attempt to hear my side of the story. Apparently they were unimpressed with my appeal. Maybe I could have worded the appeal differently but is that cause for Google to return my email with the gruff and grumpy and, perhaps even, step-on-you-don't- bother-me-because-you-did-wrong kind of response?

NO! Why should you ever treat anyone with a first offense like that? I have only ever been a google user of a number of their products for years without ever gaining anything save an email Inbox that had almost no Spam in it. When I heard about monetizing I actually shied away from it and declined to activate AdSense for the better part of a year before trying it out. Yes, I have a Youtube account, too, which, of course, was simultaneously disapproved for monetization. I never intended AdSense to be a huge money maker. I am like most bloggers that start out.  The rationale for me was that, "Well, AdSense is there because Google put it there just for this purpose, to earn money. I think I'll monetize and earn a few cents, maybe some dollars every month. Who knows what it will turn into."

Sure, earning enough to buy a cup of coffee was appealing enough but really, I have about enough traffic to get me a cup of coffee every couple months and anyone who may have clicked unfairly (I still can't be sure who it was) hasn't read my blog for these two years anyway!

Back to the purpose of the post, this is a campaign to get my AdSense re-approved. Who else has had this experience? There must be some others out there who have had well-meaning, but to our misfortune, uninformed family and friends who clicked an extra time or two. It is now two years hence and I can assure you, I have made my situation known to all that I consider near and dear to me. They now know, beyond  the shadow of a doubt, that only fair clicks are allowed. I agree with Google on that one. Taking money from an advertiser just by clicking ad nauseam is not fair. I would have been happy to return all AdSense money earned thus far and started anew with a balance of zero.

Well, what do I have to lose? My Blogger account, my YouTube account, my Gmail account? Give me some support. You can read for yourself, I write about my career in music as a cellist and have a side blog on Taiwan as well. They are a way to pull in some meager earnings while writing about two topics that are both interesting to me. Please, comment on my blog if you support my campaign to re-approve AdSense on my blog. Thank you for reading and supporting.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Cello Adjustments: Getting a "New" Cello

Until recently, my cello has sounded terrible. The sound was more akin to caterwauling creature of undetermined species unable to produce much in the way of beautiful sounds. Yes, the cello sounded good when I acquired it brand new nearly six years ago, but it never was so easy to play. Always given me grief in thumb position, playing four note chords, and getting any fz or > on the C string nothing short of scratches and slap of the string against the fingerboard. Great sound just wasn't coming from this cello that I new could have the tone of a great instrument.

After much fussing over sound post adjustments and tinkering with other setups I finally found the man for the job. In a little town in Wisconsin lives a luthier who repairs instruments worth thousands and other worth hundreds of thousands. In his humble workshop I found someone interested in and committed to finding how to make an instrument sound the best it possibly can.

Thanks to studioKviolins I have a new bridge and sound post that work they way they were intended--making the cello sound like a cello. They fit properly and are the right height, length, width, breadth, thickness, kind of tone wood, type of cut, etc. etc.

Upon returning to the shop to see the progress made on my bridge I discovered an instrument that I had never really played or heard before. Here was a cello whose sonic potential was at long last revealed and it was the same cello but with a new bridge and sound post. That's it!

A transformation of this sort was impossible, so I always latently believed. How could the body of the instrument have the bulk of the material but those two small components have such incredible influence in tone and sound so as to completely transform the instrument into a wholly new creature? The power and resonance had never before been present. The ease of intonation was also increased exponentially.

All this improvement for little more than a couple hundred dollars. Not bad when considering I basically have a new instrument, sonically speaking, one discovery worth every hour and dollar spent.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Graz: Festival of Summer

The first professional engagement for summer festivals has been successfully accomplished and drawn to a close. I spent a full five weeks in five lively programs of opera arias and select works for orchestra alone. The festival that afforded such a luxurious summer abroad was the AIMS Festival, which stands for American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz. Each summer a group of musicians coming from all parts of the USA and also the world form the festival orchestra that is is perform orchestral works and opera arias, which are sung by very accomplished singers in their own right. 

I went without knowing what to expect from the program--only that it had been in Graz, Austria for many decades and that the advertisements could be found posted on professors' bulletin boards, in music magazines and online. Aside from this I know not one soul who had attended the festival or had heard of it, aside from seeing the ads like me. It was not a total shot in the dark as I knew I could get free room and board plus a chance at busking to earn some pocket money. Five weeks, ok, if it's good I'll be ready to return and if not that great I'm only out the price of a plane ticket. Not a bad deal. 

The festival orchestra was fair better than I had anticipated. There were people from all sorts of positions. The principal cellist of the AIMS orchestra is currently a cellist with Detroit Symphony and other players come from various posts that include Dallas Symphony and many are either freelance musicians and/or professors/teachers in various parts of the U.S. What's more is the quality of members that are currently students that contribute a very high quality to the orchestra's sound and verve.

Without droning on about the details of the festival I will add that the music directors were all Europeans including one who directs the Volks Oper in Vienna, one Gerrit Priessnitz. Very clear in his technique as well as his musical leadership. The concerts in which he conducted were the most transparent and clearly projected from the standpoint of sitting in the orchestra. The concert of Strauss was particularly exhilarating because of the Viennese tradition that he brought with him to the festival orchestra and the singers. The all Wagner program that Priessnitz conducted also ranked high in quality and communication to me. 

All in all the five weeks felt long during the rehearsals of the final program but flew by in retrospect. I did have a good time playing in an orchestra of real, bona fide musicians. It brought back the feeling of being able to play again and reminded me how important it is to be involved in the activities regularly to continue developing and improving. If the time is right and the opportunity is there I'd do it again.