Looking back at the mirror

Four years ago I wrote a post about preparing Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel with a pianist friend. I was intrigued with the idea of infinity in its mirror imagery, and every time we studied the score we found more and more of these images.

I never imagined that my next performance of Spiegel im Spiegel would be in honour of that same friend’s memory after he was tragically taken from us aged 37 after a short illness.

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Katherine Mansfield, cellist

By Miranda Wilson

People who know me well know that I’ve been a bit obsessed with Katherine Mansfield since I was a schoolgirl. It wasn’t just that she was New Zealand’s most famous writer and I wanted to be a writer, it was also something to do with her rebelliousness. I liked to imagine that I would one day become New Zealand’s second most disobedient daughter. (Didn’t really work. KM was far more impressively disobedient.)

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The Muggle Résumé

By Miranda Wilson

I heard a great expression the other day on the Twitterverse. Muggle résumé. In the Harry Potter novels, a non-wizard is called a Muggle. Living costs money, so sometimes we wizards musicians have to get Muggle jobs where we apply some of our non-wizard skills. Our music résumé will be full of wizardry like species counterpoint (that’s our version of Defense Against the Dark Arts), and our Muggle résumé … won’t.

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Time Management for Musicians Part 3: The 15-Minute Rule

By Miranda Wilson

This post is the third in a multi-part series on time management for music professionals.

How do you want people to remember you after you die?

I hope my family and friends will talk about the music I made, the lessons I taught, the words I wrote, and the way I made them feel.

Sometimes, when day-to-day stresses distract me from my purpose, I remind myself that no one is going to stand up at my funeral and proclaim “Her house was perfectly clean, and she was perfectly thin.”

And yet, we high-achieving women of a certain age (think grown-up Hermione Grainger) put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be perfect. It’s not enough to be at the top of our professions, we also have to be perfect mothers, run marathons, and live in houses that look like something out of Better Homes and Gardens. It’s a lot of pressure.

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Time Management for Musicians Part 2: Optimal Brain Time

By Miranda Wilson

This post is the second in a multi-part series on time management for music professionals.

Do you ever find yourself getting sucked into a necessary but boring task that takes all the time you wanted to spend doing something that means a lot to you? Did 56 new emails appear in the last five minutes, threatening to eat up your precious creative time? Does your music practice get pushed into last priority by all the other things you have to do? Are you angry and resentful about it?

So was I. Until…

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Time Management for Musicians Part 1: the Priority To-Do List

By Miranda Wilson

This post is the first in a multi-part series on time management for music professionals.

Becoming a music professor was my goal from the first magical minute I stepped on campus as an undergraduate more then 20 years ago. What could be more blissful, I thought, than living the life of the mind and making great music while you’re at it? I imagined myself delivering passionate lectures, fixing bow-holds, writing essays, and travelling all over the world for recitals and festivals.

What I pictured myself doing, in other words, was the fun part of being a music professor.

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The teacher I needed

Be the rhythmic change you want to see in the world

By Miranda Wilson

I saw a great quote the other day: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

I don’t think any of us is single-handedly capable of bringing about world peace, or an end to climate change — we’d need the systematic and institutional support of a huge number of unanimous people for that to happen — but we can all do something within our own particular skill set to improve one or two things, can’t we?

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Etudes = Gifts

By Miranda Wilson

Duport 21 Etudes for Cello
Duport’s 21 Etudes

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.

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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.

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