Brain Stuff - Pt. 1: Oliver Sacks on Musicophilia

Most of you know that since I live in Tacoma, I have a wee bit of a commute to my studio in Seattle three days a week. Those 45-60 minutes, traffic allowing, have really begun to be just the thing I need to get me psyched to teach. Or when I'm headed home, this time has become a wonderful opportunity to take a deep breath after a long and thorough teaching day.

Per a friend's suggestion I've begun listening to "To The Best Of Our Knowledge" and boy am I glad I did! The whole show is so beautifully edited and the amount of thought and care put into each interview is really palpable, regardless of the subject of the interview.

Recently TTBOOK did a series on The Creative Brain - I loved every second of it and kept saying to myself "My students have to hear this!" So hear we go... This is the first of several blog posts inspired by the interviews in that series.

[Listen to the TTBOOK interview... Click here.]

Oliver Sacks wrote the book titled "Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain." He is professor of neurology and psychiatry at Columbia University, and Columbia's first University Artist. Thanks to the magic of youtube, you can watch some of his story-telling

My favorite part of the interview? He discusses the noticeable changes in the brain after going through one year of the Suzuki Method. This isn't a surprise to me (or any of my students) but it's always nice to feel validated by a neuro-scientist. ;-)

This Week's Winners and Gwen's Winning Bow Hold

Congratulations to blog readers Steven, Karen & Mark!


They will receive their copy of Janet Horvath's book "Playing (Less) Hurt" in the mail soon. For the rest of you, get your read on and head on over to amazon.com and start your injury prevention right away!

Here's some celebratory bow hold photos from this week's lessons...


Silly Face!
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Say cheese!

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7 Tips on Warming Up from Janet Horvath

 

[This the 4th of a 5-post series offering a chance to win one of 3 copies of Janet Horvath’s book, “Playing (Less) Hurt.” Scroll down for details on how to enter yourself to win.]

Just like any athlete, musicians need to warm up and stretch, before doing any strenuous practice. Warming up prepares your body for movement and gives your mind awareness of your body's capabilities for that day. Here are a few of Janet Horvath's must-haves for warming up.

Janet Horvath's Warm-Up Tips


Warming up is the single most important thing to do before playing, to avoid injury.

  1. Start by warming up away from the cello. Jumping jacks, a brisk walk or running up the stairs will do it.

  2. At the instrument start in the mid-range of the instrument – I start in forth position - and start playing not too high, not too low,not too fast and not too slow.

  3. Beginning with long slow shifts is good.

  4. Warm up slowly and carefully avoiding knuckle busting exercises or studies.

  5. Remember to release each finger after they have played. Use the least weight necessary topull the strings down.

  6. You may need more warm up time if you played a lot the previous day or if you are tired or if it is cold outside.

  7. Always listen to your body. If you are cold and tight it is a sign to go more slowly and carefully.


Janet Horvath is associate principal cello of the Minnesota Orchestra and the author of Playing (Less) Hurt - An Injury Prevention Guide For Musicians. An advocate for musicians, she is in demand for her trail- blazing seminars.

Do you have any favorite Warm-Up exercises?


 

How to win a copy a Janet’s book, “Playing (Less) Hurt”


1.  Click “Like” below this or any post from this week. Bonus smiles if you share with friends via facebook and twitter. (@playinglesshurt & @emilyapeterson)

2. Leave a comment on this post before May 19th 2011 at 12midnight PST. You don’t need to sign in, just make sure you leave your correct email address in your info – this is how I’ll get the shipping info from the 3 winners to the publisher.

- You can comment once for each post this week & enter yourself up to 5 times!

- An random number generator will reveal our 3 lucky commenters. I’ll announce the winners on Friday May 20th 2011. Be sure to subscribe to the blog (there’s an email option) to get the winning announcement.

 

Playing (Less) Hurt BOOK GIVEAWAY!

This week on the blog Janet Horvath is graciously offering some seasoned advice to us cellists/instrumentalists. Woohoo!  Get ready for some solid pointers on Posture (Monday), Warming Up (Wednesday), Making It Easy (Thursday).  Tuesday I'll focus our Weekly Round-Up around Janet's Book. To celebrate all this...

We're giving away 3 copies of Janet Horvath's book "Playing (Less) Hurt."


You guys, this book is chalk-full of injury susceptibility quizzes, diagrams of tendonitis, in-depth descriptions of how carpal tunnel syndrome (and other conditions) is caused and healed in musicians, preventative and restorative approaches, teacher guidelines, backstage stretches, and so much more. Phew!

A little about Janet (from her website):


Janet, associate principal cello of the Minnesota Orchestra for three decades, is also a soloist, chamber musician, writer and award-winning advocate for injury-prevention. A trailblazer in speaking and writing about the physical stresses experienced by musicians, she has contributed significantly to the well-being, knowledge and health of teachers and students, and of professional and amateur musicians at all levels, genres and disciplines. She received the gold medal in 2009 from the Independent Publishers Awards in the health category. She received the 2001 Performing Arts Medical Association's Richard Lederman Award at the nineteenth Annual Symposium on the Medical Problems of Musicians and Dancers, Aspen, Colorado. Ms. Horvath also received the Minnesota Music Educators Association (MMEA) Distinguished Service Award in 2006 and 2007. She travels widely giving her popular and well received seminars and lectures. She lives in St. Paul MN.

How to Win:


1.  Click “Like” below this or any post this week, including this one. Bonus brownie points if you share with friends via facebook and twitter. (@playinglesshurt & @emilyapeterson)

2. Leave a comment on this post before May 19th 2011 at 12midnight PST. You don’t need to sign into anything, just make sure you leave your correct email address in your info – this is how I’ll get the shipping info from the 3 winners to the publisher.

- You can comment once for each post this week & enter yourself up to 5 times!

- An random number generator will reveal the 3 lucky commenters. I’ll announce the winners on Friday May 20th 2011. Be sure to subscribe to the blog (there’s an email option) to get the winning announcement.

 

A Lesson with Stephen Balderston

I've been at Marrowstone this past week. I'm sharing the role of Student Life Coordinator with my good friend and bassist, Scott Teske. Aside from getting to chew out a few rebellious curfew-breakers, one of my favorite highlights has been taking a cello lesson with Stephen Balderston.

The hour with him was mine to use how I wanted (which is always great.) We talked "teacher-talk" for awhile. I wanted to bring up a few issues I've noticed with my students, things like bow holds, pronation, supenation, left hand fluidity, vibrato, tone, etc.

He suggested reading a few books, which I've already ordered from the interwebs. The first, which he mentioned in a masterclass that I missed (due to a camper's trip to the ER), The Talent Code. This one seems to align perfectly with my own philosophy of talent: "Talent is not born, it's grown." I can't wait to read how the author brings other disciplines like soccer, academics, writing, social skills, etc. together to prove this point.

Mr. Balderston also suggested using ideas from the book Playing the String Game, which has tons of games with secret motives for teachers to use in classes and private lessons. I'm always looking for more ways to convey teaching points and cello technique.

Aside from talking teacher-stuff, we got to work on my own personal technique. I'm so glad that he was as picky as he was - the things he brought up are the very things I've secretly wanted to improve for awhile now.

I tend to speed up my bow ever so slightly on the down-bow changes, causing the tiniest of separation between bows. This is a problem that no audience would be able to pick up on, but once fixed makes for a much easier listen. Remedy? Move my wrist less. It's not as simple of a fix as you'd think. Just takes slow, long bows and a very attentive ear.

I've got to get back to playing games with the brilliant students who are here. Marrowstone hosts some of the most talented children and young adults! I'm honored to witness each of them grow in talent through these two weeks. I can't believe it's almost over!