Thursday, February 28, 2013

In an Elementary School: Play and Tell

Taipei Adventist American School

The Adventist Elementary School in Taiwan lies just to the North of Taipei on a mountain called Yang Ming Shan. It is a rather out of the way place in the midst of trees and tall grass. Though, it is still surrounded by housing, not a as tightly packed as in Taipei or most other cities. As the school came into view I couldn't help but think of the resemblances between the Adventist college in Italy, Villa Aurora. The long driveway winding through small trees and shrubs climbing up a fairly steep hill. Then the gate came into view I a really started making comparisons with Villa Aurora. High walls surrounding the entrance way and a little yard in front of and off to the right side of the main building. This is where the comparisons stop however. TAAS is a one building place. All the grades are in a three story building constructed in like manner with many of the older buildings in Taiwan. Though I think this one tries to give as much semblance to an American structure with plenty of windows.

The program I did was rather extemporaneous but it came off well. I played some Bach Prelude and Sarabande from Suite No. 1, something fast and flashy by Franceour, and the exposition of the concerto in D major by Haydn. The kids were asking all sorts of questions. A very talkative, but quite informed bunch they were. In between the pieces I played were questions like, "Can you play Silent Night on the cello?"So, I demonstrated one verse and they loved that since they knew the tune well. Then one of the teachers, David Robinson, asked if I could accompany the kids as they sang Amazing Grace. That is how I finished the presentation.

This kind of program is one that leaves you feeling satisfied. I was able to share what I love and show them how amazing the cello is and how great Classical music is to listen to and play. They were all very receptive to the playing, which helps me think that Classical music may not die away quite like we have been hearing in the past few years. I think, with education and exposure to the art we classical musicians will have informed listeners who love the genre for centuries to come.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


With the current scenario that I have, it has finally occurred to me how vital one's own space and environment is to learning. Not that accomplishing goals is unattainable in less than desirable conditions. Rather, it's more of an inspiration thing. Sometimes inspiration hits at 6am and sometimes at 10pm. You get the point? In certain scenarios playing at those times would be unheard of and rather looked down upon, whether wholly or in part.

It is a notion that I am not used to and still need to make mental and attitudinal adjustments that I can get the most out of my current situation. It makes me think back to times when I actually had the freedom to take up my cello at any time of day or night. Sometimes I would play until 10 or 11pm simply because I was enjoying myself so much. It wasn't practice, per se, just playing for the pure pleasure. Or I could just as easily play some Bach at 7 or 8am just to get the day going in a very positive way musically speaking.

When an ideal environment cannot be reached the mind has to overcome displeasure and find the strong points in the situation, overcoming what was at first perceived as a negative scenario. In the end however, the importance of finding one's environment cannot be overstated. It can have amazing positive influences on the work one does in the practice room.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Memory: Part 1

How does memorizing a piece work for you? What methods do you employ? Or is it just the faith that many, many times through it will render the music incapable of escaping from your brain? I have certainly seen the latter but it never quite stuck there as a permanent solution to the problem. At least not in my experience and not from those immediately surrounding me.

Well, I've been working out my own memory problems for the past year and have come up with something that works pretty well for me. It certainly is a huge step ahead of the previous haphazard non-method of ramming through a work and hoping that it sticks. 

This is a list of what I've been able to memorize using this new method:

Bach Suite 4, Dvorak concerto, Schumann concerto third movement, Scilienne by Marie Theresa                            von Paradis, Cassado suite first movement, a TV commercial jingle I played in Taiwan, Franceour sonata in E major first and second movements.

Any thoughts are welcome. Please comment. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Vaudeville Performance

Saturday, February 2, 2013

9:30 a.m.

Arrived at New Life SDA English Church in Taipei. Held in the auditorium of the Adventist Hospital. Played along throughout the congregational singing for both Sabbath School and the Worship Service. This weekend was communion and so I happened to miss the closing hymn but that worked out very well. They are used to hearing only a piano and a song leader anyway. (Soon they will be used to the addition of the silky voice of the cello.)

This was not a vaudeville performance. ;)

5:30 p.m.

Arrived in Zhubei in Hsinchu county at one of the plethora of the so called "event restaurants". These are big open spaces with cafeteria style round tables with a small stage at the back of the restaurant. Waiters bring in the food and drinks while the organizers of the event speak ad nauseum about the happenings of the past year and what will go on at the event.

I stepped up to play around 6 p.m. Just two short pieces. The Habanera by George Bizet and the Prelude from the first Bach Suite. Could anyone hear that I was playing? Yes, the people that sat directly in front of the stage. Despite a microphone the sound simply could not penetrate the loud chatter among the hundred or more guests. I thought that it might be that they were simply not interested in the cello or the foreigner playing it. As the meal wore on it became clear that the mass people were obviously not going to quiet down for anyone or anything.

No hard feelings. Just another experience in playing and a time to experiment with sound production and how to get just a few more people interested enough to listen to the music.