I love detective mysteries, whether the detectives are cerebral like Sherlock Holmes, witty and cultured like Lord Peter Wimsey or more earthy like Jesse Stone. And I love puzzles; crosswords, cryptic crosswords, sudokus, double acrostics, whatever. The harder they are, the better I like them.So when I was asked for help with a musical puzzler recently, I grabbed my deer stalker hat and called for Watson.
My friend, conductor and composer Scott Lavender, had emailed me with a question about the harp markings in the score of Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune. The pedal markings and the rhythm of the opening two glissandi in the part weren’t clear and he was looking for a harpist’s explanation.
I wasn’t home when I got his email, but I was able to look at the harp part on line. I could easily explain the rhythm. The notation isn’t rhythmic, but it is fairly easy to see the harp plays one (dotted quarter...
It’s that time of year when we are dreaming of summer. Summer is the perfect time to put some extra focus on your harp playing by attending a harp camp. And today I want to offer two ways you can step up your playing this summer: the Harp in the Mountains Summer Festival and the first ever Harp Mastery Retreat Weekend.
Harp in the Mountains Summer Festival, now in its seventh year, is dedicated to providing an intense, fun harp ensemble experience for select high school and college age harpists. The week-long camp gives students the opportunity to improve their harp playing and their musical skills while enjoying practicing, performing and spending time with other harpists. This year’s theme is “Be Prepared.” Students will learn how to be prepared to be a working harpist: the music you need to know, the marketing materials you must have, and how to grow your business sense as you grow your harp skills. The dates are Sunday, ...
In a recent blog post called “Those People,” Seth describes his shock and grief in response to an educator’s characterization of some of her students. This woman had written off many of her students as people incapable of achieving greatness and therefore somehow undeserving of the education they sought.
This led me to consider my responsibility as a harp teacher. What am I called on to do for each of my students? What should I require from each of them? And what is the greatest good I can do for each?
I came up with some essential guideposts for my interactions with my students, whether in a lesson, a...
The GPS that we use everyday stands for Global Positioning System. It is a system of 24 satellites that orbit the earth, emitting radio signals. The GPS receiver in your car collects those signals and decodes them. If the receiver can detect signals from as few as three of the satellites, it can determine your location.
When you’re feeling lost, discouraged or in need of direction, musically or in another area of your life, you can use a different kind of GPS to get back on track. This three-step system will help you focus on where you are, where you want to go and how to get there.
Scenario #1: You go to a concert and hear a fabulous performance. You read the biographical information in the program and learn that the performer began studying at age 3. This player was also privileged to go to the best music schools and study with the greatest masters. You took piano lessons when you were ten years old but quit. You just got back into music study as an adult. You...
Deciding on a college can be nerve-racking. There are so many things to consider. Here are some of the tips I share with my students to help make their decision easier. At the end of the post, you will find a link to a free College Choice Planner PDF file you can download.
Phase one of the college choice process is the research you must do to decide which colleges to apply to. First you need to identify your career goal or goals. Then begin your research by looking for people who have careers like the one you want for yourself. For instance, if you want to play in a professional orchestra, find out who plays in those orchestras now. Read their bios. Find out where they went to school and who their teachers were. Do they teach somewhere? Do their teachers still teach somewhere? Record your answers.
You will likely see some names of teachers or schools appearing often on your list. Those schools or teachers have successfully trained their students for professional careers. They...
This is part four in a four-part series of posts designed to help you solve difficulties you may come across in your everyday practice. With a repertoire of techniques at your disposal, you can learn to solve nearly any practice difficulty. If you are not already a subscriber to HarpMastery, you can email me to receive the other posts in this series by email.
This post shows you techniques to try when two-handed chords are slowing you down.
Why this works: By removing some of the complexity, you can begin to master the passage, adding one note at a time.
What to do: Play the passage with either hand alone. Then add in the top note of the other hand and play again, keeping the tempo steady. Repeat the steps, this time adding the bottom note of the other hand. Add in two notes and then three as you become more proficient. See the example above.
One of the most common complaints of musicians and classical music fans alike is about the disparity between professional classical music and professional sports. Whether you look at salaries or ticket sales or audience sizes, classical music feels hopelessly undervalued. We wonder why this timeless art form that represents so much talent and achievement should be almost totally eclipsed in the popular culture.
With the biggest football event of the year coming up, I thought I would share some interesting intersections of sports and music. These are brief glimpses into the lives of three men, all of whom have played professional football, and all of whom share a love for classical music.
1. Max Starks: Pittsburgh Steelers, #78, Tackle. Height: 6-8 Weight: 345 Age: 31
“I’m sorry, Coach, I won’t fumble again.” No, Max Starks didn’t say this at football practice with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he did say that to the conductor at a Pittsburgh...
There is a simple equation for success. Not that success is simple; it isn’t. But the formula is not at all complicated. And the formula is the same, whether you want to be a successful musician or a successful auto mechanic.
What is success? Is it superstardom? I don’t believe most of us yearn for that. For most of us, success is being good at what we do. We don’t need to be superheroes. We just want to be proud of our accomplishments, and to have others recognize the value in what we do. We want to achieve a goal.
The formula for success is this: Patience + Diligence = Success
This formula is not revolutionary, but you can use it to revolutionize any aspect of your life and to be successful. Here is a brief look at each element of the equation.
1. Success: You must have a clear and realistic idea of what success looks like for you at that moment. Understand where you are and where you want to go. Perhaps you are learning to play the piano. A...
This is part three in a four-part series of posts designed to help you solve difficulties you may come across in your everyday practice. With a repertoire of techniques at your disposal, you can learn to solve nearly any practice difficulty. If you are not already a subscriber to HarpMastery, you can email me to receive the other posts in this series by email.
This post shows you techniques to try when one passage is a persistent trouble spot. Perhaps the passage is the one part of the piece that you can’t get up to tempo, or perhaps the notes or fingering are awkward. These techniques will help!
Why this works: Sometimes one passage just takes longer to prepare than the rest of the piece. By playing through the piece, but keeping that one passage slower, you can build in confidence and focus. The slow-motion time warp will help you begin to incorporate the difficult spot in a...
I don’t watch much television. There are some shows I love, (NCIS, I Love Lucy reruns, and Turner Classic Movies) and many I don’t. And it’s my personal policy never to watch celebrity reality shows or awards shows, not even the Grammy awards.
But although I won’t watch the Grammy’s, I do like to know what classical artists and recordings made the nominations list. I thought I would pass on a few of this year’s more unusual nominees that interest me. You can find the Grammy awards list here. (The classical music entries start in the 70’s.)
In 1991 I had the opportunity to be part of a landmark recording of Harry Partch’s opera “Revelation in the Courthouse Park.” It was my first exposure to the music of this free-thinking musical pioneer. Partch was no mere composer. He attempted to create a completely new tonal system, devising his own set of instruments, since conventional instruments...