Any Ensemble Workshop with composer John Teske

Saturday April 12th 2pm-3:30pm

at The Fremont Abbey - 4272 Fremont Ave N. Seattle, WA 98103

This 90-minute workshop with composer John Teske will focus on musicianship, interpretation, and improvisation using graphic scores which are flexible, improvisatory, and written for any instrumentation. Removing specific orchestration empowers workshop attendees to think critically and explore music in different ways with a unique say in the creative interpretation of works.

Open to any age, instrument, or skill level.

Parents of children are asked to stay and observe. Street parking available on Fremont Ave.


Bow Hold Makeover

I frequently do mini bow hold makeovers with students. Sometimes the tiniest alterations make the biggest difference! In this case, we changed how the bow is involved with the cello and body.

In the top photo, you might be able to notice that the bow was being used like a sword is used. This student was one knuckle away from using their bow like a baseball bat. Oh no!

In the bottom photo, after the makeover, you might be able to see that this student's relationship with his bow and cello has now changed.

There is no longer a posture of ordering his cello to "stomp out" a sound. The change has now prompted him to *ask* his cello to release sounds.


Don't Take the Second Step... Start with the First

A friend sent me a poem this week. It did not beat around the bush, nor coddle me. But it did pierce my artist fears and encourage me to keep walking. one step at a time.

And now, this is exactly what I encourage you to do too!

Start with the first step. Unpack your cello. Don't start with the 60 minute practice session or even the Minuet you're practicing. Start with the first step.

Start with the ground you know. Tighten your bow hair. Tune your cello. Play a low C. Don't let questions from the outside smother something simple and beautiful. Let yourself breathe. Answer your own questions. 

Listen to your own voice through the cello. What is it telling you today? Become an ear for yourself and your cello. Be humble and focused. Choose practice chunks that are specific and measurable and not too long. 

for you: an action to make

I encourage you to take a few moments this week to read the following poem aloud during one of your practice sessions. Make a note of how this action affected your practice time. Let's talk about it at your next lesson! 

Start Close In

a poem by David Whyte

Start close in,
don't take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don't want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way of starting
the conversation.

Start with your own
give up on other
people's questions,
don't let them
smother something

To find
another's voice,
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes a 
private ear
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don't follow
someone else's 
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don't mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don't take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don't want to take.

Poet David Whyte grew up with a strong, imaginative influence from his Irish mother among the hills and valleys of his father’s Yorkshire. He now makes his home, with his family, in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

The author of seven books of poetry and three books of prose, David Whyte holds a degree in Marine Zoology and has traveled extensively, including living and working as a naturalist guide in the Galapagos Islands and leading anthropological and natural history expeditions in the Andes the Amazon and the Himalaya. He brings this wealth of experience to his poetry, lectures and workshops.

His life as a poet has created a readership and listenership in three normally mutually exclusive areas: the literate world of readings that most poets inhabit, the psychological and theological worlds of philosophical enquiry and the world of vocation, work and organizational leadership.

An Associate Fellow at Templeton College and Said Business School at the University of Oxford, he is one of the few poets to take his perspectives on creativity into the field of organizational development, where he works with many European, American and international companies. In spring of 2008 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Neumann College, Pennsylvania.

In organizational settings, using poetry and thoughtful commentary, he illustrates how we can foster qualities of courage and engagement; qualities needed if we are to respond to today’s call for increased creativity and adaptability in the workplace. He brings a unique and important contribution to our understanding of the nature of individual and organizational change particularly through his unique perspectives on Conversational Leadership.

Quote of the Week: Living in Process & Creativity

  "Living in process is being open to insight and encounter. Creativity is becoming intensively absorbed in the process and giving it form."

 "Living in process is being open to insight and encounter. Creativity is becoming intensively absorbed in the process and giving it form."

As students, we step into process by choice (wether we're aware of that or not at the beginning.) Regardless of what we want the product to be or when we want that product to come into fruition, we are in process.

To me, the juiciest part of process is curiosity. Curiosity has an element of care-free exploration and questioning that I have only learned to love from years of trying to learn things the hard way.

 Using an "open hand" to hold our process-encounters gives our learning room to breathe. While closing our hands with great expectations strangles the life from what we desire from the process. This doesn't mean we shouldn't have great expectations, but even those should have room to breathe to morph and change and grow to be larger than we initially imagined.

Metaphorically we can actually hear the difference between this tension-free mentality and vice grip mentality through our cello bow holds. I encourage you to experiment with this metaphor in your cello practicing this week or if you're not a cellist...

What else in your life needs room to breathe before it can grow?


The Power of Rhythm and Hollywood

Our ideas come from really strange places.

Lord knows some of my students regularly think: "Here she goes again with her weird left-field metaphor!" But sometimes those left-field connections actually turn into magic...

Watch the idea of this teacher (referencing a Hollywood movie) transform this kiddo's life permanently in the video below. What I loved most about this is watching Musharaf ride the wave of rhythm. It was as if it caught him and carried him with his words. 

Music is magical. 

Get your tissues ready... 

British School Boy Musharaf has had a stammer from a very young age. With the help of his teachers, he is eventually able to over come it in time for an English speaking exam. Copyright: Channel 4's "Educating Yorkshire." This video is not monetized.

Project 52 Update

You might already know this, but I've been recording cover songs. I started Project 52 hoping to put out one recording each week for a year (hence the 52.) But life happens, as you know. So I don't get a chance to put all of them online.

Regardless, here's the latest go of it... Ultra-Pop Princess, Katy Perry, meets a cello choir (and my attempt at some Whitney Houston towards the end! eek!)

This particular arrangement is for 7 cellos, organ, & snaps'n'claps. (The Rihanna song I did awhile back was for 6 cellos.)

I don't normally spend much time on these recordings, but for some reason I "caught the bug" with this one. I started working on it Sunday at 11am and then blinked. BOOM! It was suddenly 7pm and I hadn't eaten or drank anything all day. I felt a wee bit looney walking through the grocery store afterwards. Yikes!

Bottom-line: I'm finding this Project 52 to be a really really great etude in recording and producing. I highly suggest to anyone wanting to learn a new skill to JFDI! (Just F***ing Do It!) But I think you already knew that. ;-)

Quote of the Week: "I did it myself."

Sometimes we get bogged down in the "can'ts" and "shouldn'ts" of art & music.

There are days it feels like such a luxury to learn and create. and there are days that the mountain of things to create and learn is so overwhelming.

But then there are days of necessity. Necessity that causes every bone in your body to ache for that learning and creating. 

Pushing through the "no's" and the overwhelming feelings we encounter in our artistic process makes the learning and creating that much more meaningful...

because in the end? You did it yourself.

  "I am thankful to all those who said 'no' to me. It's because of them I did it myself." - Albert Einstein

 "I am thankful to all those who said 'no' to me. It's because of them I did it myself." - Albert Einstein

[note: whether Albert Einstein actually said the quote above is often debated.]

October 16th & 20th: Celloships!

 Just a reminder that next week is Celloship Week! Yay! I always look forward to these. (Further reminder: this means there will be no individual lessons next week.)

  • The Seattle Group Lesson will be on Wednesday October 16th from 4-5:30pm.
  • The Tacoma Group Lesson will be on Saturday October 19th from 2-3:30pm. 

When you RSVP to either via email, I'll send you the exact address. Per usual, if I don't hear from you via email, I'll assume you're unable to partake. Which would be a sad day indeed...  ;-)

Also, did you get a chance to see this?! (see below)

Tacoma, WA: How Arts Education Supports a Community

Tacoma, WA is a city that I have adopted as a home. A real live(ly) home with people and ideas that are really  creative and inspiring. One thing Tacoma does pretty stinkin' well is supporting the Arts. (and it's growing too! Yay!)

I'm honored to be a witness to the love that Tacoma shares and in how the community supports each other. Because I'm a musician I've seen this act of supporting the Tacoma community up close and personal. Yes, I'm biased and reporting this from the trenches, but the fact remains true. Supporting your community by supporting the Arts is worth it.  

I don't care from where you're reading these words today. If you have the chance to support the Arts in your area, DO IT.   And on behalf of those who work with those who benefit from your support. Thank you. The world is truly a better place for it. Truly.

Below you'll get a few more comments and points of view on this topic in a mini-documentary funded by the Laird Norton Family Foundation. and shh... You might  even see a brief cameo of yours truly! ;-)

Conduct Us!

The New York City-based prank collective, Improv Everywhere, causes scenes of chaos and joy in public places. Created in August of 2001 by Charlie Todd, Improv Everywhere has executed over 100 missions involving tens of thousands of undercover agents. Below you'll see how successful their latest mission was and read more about it here.

They put a Carnegie Hall orchestra in the middle of New York City and placed an empty podium in front of the musicians with a sign that read, "Conduct Us." Random New Yorkers who accepted the challenge were given the opportunity to conduct this world-class orchestra.

32 Metronomes Get Together!

Put a 32 metronomes on a solid foundation and they will always stay out of sync. Put them on a moveable surface and they will get on the same click, eventually.  

Watch the video below, it's pretty mesmerizing! If you're curious about why this happens you can read more here.