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. ;-)

Meet the Composer: Gabriel Kahane

I am happy to introduce you to my new favorite composer, Gabriel Kahane. Mr. Kahane has collaborated with Rufus Wainwright and Sufjan Stevens (amongst many others.) He's also been commissioned to do some really cool pieces too. Oh, and here's the link to his wikipedia page, so you can read up on him.

Take a few minutes to peruse the collection of his interview videos with Classical Chops...

Gabriel Kahane's 2011 release: Where Are The Arms

His pieces are gorgeous and complex - I just love music that has substance with layers like an onion.


You can even download his album "Craigslistlieder" for FREE! It's a pretty brilliant collection of songs written with lyrics made from anonymous Craigslist ads. Pretty hilarious and beautiful at the same time.

Here's my favorite track from that collection...

Brain Stuff - Pt. 3: Rex Jung on Neuroscience of Creativity

In today's feature of To The Best Of Our Knowledge's series on The Creative Brain, we're looking at novelty and creativity where interviewee, Rex Jung, describes brain imaging studies of creativity in action. Listening to this interview I'm reminded of just how magical the brain still is to all of science. We still don't know that much about it. 

The interview also briefly mentions the "Ah Ha!" moment phenomenon. It is a beautiful thing. These moments happen at seemingly random times and can be really really powerful life-changers, but only if we have the capacity to listen to them and act upon them. 

In my musical practices, the "Ah Ha!" moment seems to occur when I assume the objective stance of a scientist of my cello playing. Often the emotional stances I see myself and my students take ("I'll never be able to do this!" "I'm such an idiot." "Why didn't I practice more this week?" etc.) are enough brain-noise to distract us from listening to what our "Ah Ha" moments are trying to teach us.

Our self-listening occurs when we can leave all brain-noise at the door in the name of science or self-observation.

In my experience, the emotional and communicative aspects of my performances are best seen by the audience when I allow my scientific-self to purify the sound/song objectively. After that purification is complete, the infusion of emotions and the message of the song, is so clear. Those are the performances that have the most impact.

Here's a great little video where Dr. Rex Jung becomes a Neuro-Myth Buster...

Brain Stuff - Pt. 2: Charles Limb on Neuroscience


Charles Limb, I've heard speak via a TEDtalk on hearing and listening (see below.)  Dr. Limb has been researching what improvisation and musical creativity does to your brain. What a cool subject matter! TTBOOK interviewed him and the jazz musician, Mike Pope, in their series on The Creative Brain. 

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

I can totally relate to what Charles and Mike are saying here. Having done significant improvsation in the folk/pop/rock world, the parts of my brain required to move (I can feel it!) have become almost innate and totally natural. I can be thinking about non-musical things and at the same time be creating music I've never created before.

A couple weeks ago, I improvised (live! yikes.) to my friend, Shenandoah Davis' beautiful music. And although her songs fit in the genre of singer/songwriter, they do not fit in the genre of folk/pop, well, at least not on an improvisational level. This is part of why I love her music so much. After the show was over, I mentioned to her how much I enjoyed playing with her so much - I could literally feel my brain doing something differently. It's a pretty cool... and kind of a bizarre sensation.

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. ;-)

A Real-life Music Story: Mary Sherhart

This week, one of my students was able to catch this story in her car post-cello-lesson and was so moved by it, that she forwarded me to listen to it. You should listen to it too.

Click here to listen to Mary Sherhart's musical story.

From KUOW's website: Music is a matter of life and death. That's something that Mary Sherhart has learned in her life devoted to singing and teaching songs of the Balkan region in Eastern Europe. The Balkan music that came into her life as a teenager is from a part of the world devastated by ethnic warfare. Tensions between Balkan people remain high long after the war. So for Mary, travelling around teaching Balkan music, it's impossible to avoid getting caught up in those tensions.
Mary Sherhart tells KUOW Dave Beck about how she was taken in by members of Seattle's Balkan community in 1970. Her life in music is grounded in a deep sense of gratitude for her Balkan friends and adopted family.

Thanks 94.9 KUOW-Seattle!

Featured Cellist: Ben Sollee

I can't believe I haven't featured Ben on my blog yet! What kind of cello teacher am I?! Well, this is certainly overdue...

Ben Sollee

This guy's astounding. Hailing from Kentucky, his music has an endearing coal miner's twang about it. He's really mastered the skill of singing and playing at the same time! (If you haven't tried this yet, do it today! It's super tricky!) He must be the winner of some cosmic lottery, because his voice sounds pretty great too! He's the perfect storm of socially-minded, singer/song-writer, cellist, and bike traveler.

He just released his latest album, LIVE at the Grocery On Home, last month. Take a listen to it in it's entirety here. I love it.

If you haven't yet, be sure to get connected with him on Facebook & Twitter. Also be sure to check out his tour dates and see him live in your hometown!

Ben's Career Highlights


  • Member of The Sparrow Quartet (with Bela Fleck, Banjo)
  • Collaborated with My Morning Jacket on the album Dear Companion in 2010, (SubPop!)
  • Traveled 330 miles to Bonnaroo Festival with his supplies and cello strapped to his bicycle. (Article here.)


My Favorite Ben Sollee Videos

A Change Is Gonna Come

NPR's Tiny Desk Concert


(If you can't see the videos, click here.)

A Little Improvisation

While waiting for a student to arrive yesterday, I decided to get a little ditty into GarageBand/SoundCloud. Take a listen! Here's the link, just in case.

I realized afterwards that it might be based on the song "The Blue Bells of Scotland," a song I hadn't pulled out in YEARS! Isn't it funny how our subconscious works?!

A Preview of this Weekend's Recital!

The Seattle Celloship has become something I greatly look forward to... Here's the latest recording we did. Sunday, we sight-read a few pieces we'll play at our upcoming performances. The first of which is my student's recital on this coming Saturday at 5pm at the Fremont Abbey in Seattle, WA. If you're in the area, drop by! There will be modern dance, poetry, cello choirs, cello duets, and so much more, including a potluck afterwards!

But if you're a far away blog reader-friend, then I hope you enjoy this little audio-taste of what is to come...

Seattle Celloship plays Italian Song by C.D. Critelli by emilyannpeterson