When I was a teenager, I studied with a teacher whose idea of fun was giving me a minimum of three etudes a week, which she expected me to learn and memorize. Sebastian Lee, J. J. F. Dotzauer, Friedrich Gruetzmacher, Louis Feuillard, Bernhard Cossman, Joseph Merk, Adrien Servais… we did them all. Every teacher I had after that was similarly obsessed with etudes.Continue reading “Etudes = Gifts”
A student recently apologized to me for “disappointing” me when he wasn’t able to perform in a recital that I’d asked him to be part of. I felt puzzled for a minute: I have many feelings about students, but disappointment is rarely one of them. So I told him that my approval of him wasn’t conditional upon his performing in the recital.
Then I started thinking about the teacher-student relationship and how approval-based the whole business seems sometimes. So much of my motivation to practise during my student days came from my fear of the teacher’s disappointment or disapproval. I suppose what happens when you don’t have a teacher any more is that you transfer the guilt complex to yourself, so that if you don’t practise, you’re the one who’s disappointed now.Continue reading “Approval”
Some days, when I’m feeling pessimistic, I question every career choice I’ve made. Then I go into a doom spiral where I question the morality of spending so much time encouraging young people to make similar choices. But the thing I keep coming back to, the thing that makes it all worthwhile, is what a privilege it is to make music. Is it difficult, frustrating, annoying, exceptionally badly paid, and overcrowded? Yes. Pointless? No.
When our world seems to be going crazy, I can’t help feeling lucky that I’m in a profession that brings people together.Continue reading “My love letter to music”
I made a New Year’s Resolution today. 2019 is going to be the year that I explore, learn, perform, teach, and promote music by women composers.
I’ve always known women could be composers, because my late great-aunt, Dorothy Freed, was one of New Zealand’s first. “The grandmother of us all,” she often said proudly.
This being the case, I find it hard to explain why I haven’t actually played a lot of music by women before. My weak excuse is that I…didn’t think of it.Continue reading “My Year of Women Composers”
A pianist friend and I were planning a chamber recital, and had already settled on piano trios by Brahms and a modern composer. “We should have something more Classical, too,” he said. “What about Haydn…oh, wait, no, cellists never want to play Haydn piano trios.”
“What?” I said. “I love Haydn.”
“You do?” said my friend. “Cellists always frown when I say ‘Haydn piano trio.’ Or they start singing do do do do sol sol sol sol, and then they veto it.”Continue reading “The Joy of Basslines (Or How I Learned to Love Pachelbel’s Canon)”
Raise your hand if you’ve ever had an anxiety dream about a concert where you had a memory lapse.
Yup, thought so. Is there any aspect of performing that stresses musicians out this much?Continue reading “Off By Heart: Memorizing Music in 6 Steps”
Working both as a member of professional ensembles and a coach of student ensembles, I often have cause to wonder what might be the single the most important leadership quality in rehearsing and performing ensemble music. In a recent post at my book website, I argued that a good ensemble musician takes personal and group responsibility for mastering the task at hand, offers criticism constructively and accepts it graciously, and seeks to make others in the ensemble sound good.
The more I thought about this, the more I wanted to add one more thing, and I think it’s the most important one.
A great musical leader knows how to adjust to others.Continue reading “A Defining Trait of Great Musical Leaders”
I really wanted to like meditation. I’m the demographic that’s supposed to like it, since I’m generally a sucker for the things that go with it, including avocados, wind chimes, and motivational TED talks. But when I downloaded a meditation app on my phone, I realized that it wasn’t going to work for me.Continue reading “The restless cellist’s meditation”
By Miranda Wilson
You probably know Reinhold Niebuhr’s “Serenity Prayer.”
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”
Even if you aren’t religious, it’s good advice for performers. I think about it when I’m helping students prepare for a performance.
The thing is, in performance, it’s not about the things you can change, it’s about the things you can control.Continue reading “(Out of) Control: Reframing Performance and Anxiety”
Four years ago, when I was struggling to finish my book, Cello Practice, Cello Performance, I hit a wall. There was so much to do! I had to typeset hundreds of musical figures, get all my citations right with the style guide, compose the index, and so on. It seemed utterly overwhelming.Continue reading “You’re already doing it.”