The Feldenkrais Method Helps Cellists!


A blog on the Feldenkrais Method and a call to apply for the Your Body is your Strad summer program by March 31. Written by Uri Vardi

The Feldenkrais Method is a modality used to improve body awareness that has proven to be highly effective in alleviating pain, anxiety, and movement difficulties. The Method involves the use of movement, touch and imagery as tools for learning new ways of functioning. The heightened awareness that develops through the use of this method leads to Continue reading

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Air Travel w/ Musical Instruments – Final Ruling!


Photo and article from BMI News

As of March 6, 2015, it’s official and no longer at the discretion of the various airlines. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, musicians who board planes must be allowed to carry on their instruments provided they fit in the overhead bin. If this space isn’t large enough, the musician is also permitted to purchase a second seat in which to stow their musical companion. One caveat: the airlines don’t have to prioritize musical instruments ahead of any other carry-on luggage, so if the bins are full, you’ll still have to check your instrument at the gate. To remedy this, the DoT suggests that musicians may want to pay the airline’s fee for priority boarding to ensure that there will be room for their gear.

Read the final ruling here, and for additional information, Continue reading

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What if We All Did That?

OK, not to blog-rant (is that a thing?) but I’m often surprised by basic behaviors I see in music students (and professionals) and it reminds me of a saying we have in our cello section: “What if we all did that?” Here are my top 3:


Martha Baldwin – Cleveland Orchestra

1. STAY!!!!!! seriously, just stay to the end people. I realize that many student recitals seem endless but leaving as soon as you’re done playing is, simply put, rude. I’ve seen entire rows of extended family get up and leave noisily after the first performer (their kid) is finished and I’m shocked. Really? No one else matters? Your child is so special that this entire recital is there just for his/her 4 minutes of glory? People notice these things. As a side benefit – there is no performance you can listen to and not learn something. So come one, stay to the end. Support your Continue reading

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Beneath the Surface of Brahms


Brahms’ 3rd Symphony Cello Excerpt

A successful audition performance involves showing many different sides of yourself, musically, in a condensed period of time. Therefore, it is useful if not imperative to conceive each excerpt on a list in its own distinct world of character and color. Despite being works from the same composer, the well-known cello audition excerpt from Brahms’ Second Symphony, which we previously discussed, and the cello audition excerpt from Brahms’ Third Symphony, which is the subject of this post, present quite different opportunities. While these suggestions are not the only solutions to the challenges presented by this excerpt, they are a starting point for practice and discussion and illustrate some of the details that must be carefully considered in any successful performance. Continue reading

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Setting Goals


photo: Meb Keflezighi. In 2014, he became the first American to win Boston Marathon since 1982

“The well-prepared marathoner looks after every detail of proper physical and mental training, nutrition, hydration, clothing, and equipment.”
– Amby Burfoot (running guru and winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon)

This attention to a wide range of details occurs over months of training, all with the ultimate goal of running 26.2 miles. Musicians should train for performance the same way runners train for marathons: with great organization and structure. Marathon training plans are highly detailed, with specific goals for each day. All facets of daily life become focused around achieving a personalized and realistic goal. This goal is set for one race, and is based on previous experience and current fitness. Both running and music are daily Continue reading

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Make It Your Own: Teaching Alexander Technique


The Alexander Technique has its own process of training to become a teacher of the work. Much like cellists, we take lessons from established teachers, we attend school daily and we begin from the beginning, with lots of preconceptions which are called habits. Our teachers constantly bring our attention to them, rebalancing and releasing negative patterns of use, mostly through their hands, sometimes through words, and often both.

As the inner fog lifts and our sensory awareness improves,  we begin to be able to “put hands on” others and transmit what we have received. It’s so tenuous at the start and requires years of experience to be able to Continue reading

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Cello and Marathon Training


Rule #1 and Rule #2 focus on the mental aspect of training: about setting your intention before working on a passage. This is necessary to practice effectively, and ultimately leads to better performances. Our experience playing the cello is a delicate interplay between mind and body, which is a balance that must be cultivated again and again as age, circumstances, and stakes change.

Athletes face many of the same experiences in training and competition. Throughout my education, I found that my attitudes about Continue reading

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Queen Elisabeth Competition Adds 2017 Cello Discipline!

reposted from the Queen Elisabeth Competition

In 2017, the Queen Elisabeth Competition will hold a competition devoted to the cello.

The decision to launch a new competition, dedicated to the cello, was a natural one, taken after meeting with a number of outstanding young cellists and against a background of worldwide enthusiasm for the instrument today. Despite this enthusiasm, it seems that the international scene has lacked a major competition devoted to the cello; the cellists approached by the Competition over recent months have reacted very favourably to the idea of establishing a competition along the same lines as the others organised by the Queen Elisabeth Competition.

The incorporation of this new discipline is sure to receive a very warm welcome from music professionals, from our extensive public, and from Continue reading

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Laszlo Varga, Cellist for the New York Philharmonic, Is Dead at 89

reposted from Herald-Tribune

Laszlo Varga during his early years with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Varga, who died this month, had lived full-time in Sarasota County since 2000.

Laszlo Varga during his early years with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Varga, who died this month, had lived full-time in Sarasota County since 2000.

Laszlo Varga, a Hungarian-born musician and teacher who escaped a Nazi work camp to become principal cellist for the New York Philharmonic under the batons of Dimitri Mitropoulos and Leonard Bernstein, died on Dec. 11 at his home in Sarasota, Fla. He was 89.

He died several days after a fall had precipitated a stroke, his son Michael said.

In a long career, Mr. Varga applied his virtuosic skills to solo performances, orchestral playing and ensemble work. As a young man he lost his position as first-chair cellist of the Budapest Symphony in a purge of Jews. He came to the United States after World War II as a member of a celebrated ensemble, the Lener Quartet, and in 1948 he joined the New York City Opera orchestra. Continue reading

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A Return to “What Makes a Baroque Cellist:” A Slight Digression about Textbooks, continued


I ended last week’s post by qualifying the common sobriquet for the period between 1600 and 1750, “Baroque,” with a “so-called.” I didn’t mean to incite controversy, but I said “so-called Baroque period” because I meant just that. It is so called. It simply does not exist beyond us calling it so in textbooks and elsewhere. Or more accurately, we repeat some music critics’ derogatory epithet for music written during this time, an aspersion that can be found as early as 1753. The word is evidently based on the Portuguese word for “misshapen pearl.” Clearly to some, reading through a concerto of Vivaldi was comparable to risking one’s life by diving in search of a Continue reading

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