Uptown Violins

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The Violin: A Devilish Instrument!

“Death at midnight plays a dance-tune, zig, zig, zig, on his violin.”

-“Danse Macabre” by Henri Cazalis (French symbolist poet: 1840-1909)

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The haunting month of Halloween is upon us, and I couldn’t help but revisit my favorite ghostly violin music. Over the past couple of centuries the violin has had it’s bout with the devil, from Berlioz’ Symphanie Fantastique (1830) and Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre (1874), to Mussorsky’s Night on Bald Mountain.

Saint-Saëns’s Danse Macabre is the quintessential Halloween work, as it celebrates the “Dance of Death” which we all must undergo eventually. The “Danse Macabre” was first depicted in Medieval French art during an era when Europeans frequently endured gruesome deaths due to war and plague. In Saint-Saëns’ 19th century rendition, the violin soloist plays the part of “Death,” who calls the dead to rise at the stroke of midnight on Halloween night. The violin, which we often associate with beauty and lyricism, begins its eerie dance using the diabolic tritone, or “devil’s interval.” In order to accomplish this feat, the soloist tunes the E string down to an Eb to clash with the open A string. The skeletons end their night of frenzied revelry when they hear the rooster crow, announcing the break of dawn.

In high school I played the ominous “March to the Scaffold” and “Dream from a Witches Sabbath” from Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique for the first time, and was struck by the power of this programmatic work. Last spring I had the privilege of hearing it performed live by the Illinois Symphony Orchestra in its entirety, and was again blown away by the French musical genius. Berlioz takes his audience on both a literary and musical journey through a series of movements featuring an artist’s obsessive love and grisly demise. I have always felt akin to the romantic notion of the fusion of the arts, and therefore admired Berlioz’ obsession with literature, which he read vociferously. I find that Berlioz’ fantastical literary descriptions of the work really bring it to life. Admittedly, Symphonie Fantastique is a phenomenal musical work in and of itself, but its ghoulish qualities are ever more grotesque when described in the dance of the witches’ Sabbath in the 5th movement, as well as the artist’s execution at the end of the 4th movement.

In Night on Bald Mountain, we encounter another witches’ Sabbath when the devil calls them together to celebrate St. John’s Eve, which takes place June 24th, as opposed to Halloween. As in Danse Macabre, the revelers dance the night away, but upon the return of the dawn, they retreat from the light. Although Mussorgsky composed the original of this work in 1867 (on St. John’s Eve!), his fellow Russian composer Rimsky-Korsakov’s wrote the more famous 1886 arrangement, depicted in Disney’s 1940 film Fantasia.

In 2013, the film The Devil’s Violinist portrayed the life and career of Niccolò Paganini, the famous 19th century virtuoso whose compositions are so challenging even the devil might have a run for his money! Paganini’s intense popularity, bravado, love of violin and guitar, and lascivious behavior made him the rock star of his century, earning him the title “the devil’s violinist.”

Even outside of the world of classical music, the violinist still can’t escape a row with the devil! In the Charlie Daniels Band country song “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” (1979), the boy Johnny duels with the devil on his violin to save his soul. Fortunately, Johnny wins out in the end with his flashy fiddling, leaving the devil to suffer defeat.

In my own family, we have always loved Halloween. As kids we usually planned our costumes nearly a year in advance, which our Grandma Carol would sew for us. This was no small feat, as there were so many of us! We especially enjoyed dressing up as the fairies from Sleeping Beauty while watching the 1959 movie featuring Tchaikovsky’s epic ballet. We good fairies always won over the evil Maleficent!

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Additionally, our Grandmother Ruth, family composer in residence, loves Halloween so much she wrote a Halloween musical triptych made up of “The Witch of Hate,” “The Devil of Temptation,” and “The Giant of Selfishness.” I can still remember all the lyrics to the first, having dressed up as a witch to sing it as a little girl.

We now enjoy celebrating the holiday with my daughter Annalise who was nearly born on Halloween! Happy haunted listening!

Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YyknBTm_YyM

Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique:

    “March to the Scaffold”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roX70PAu3oA

    “Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cao6WyF-61s

Disney’s Fantasia: Mussorgsky’s/Rimsky-Korsakov’s Night on Bald Mountain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLCuL-K39eQ&list=RDSLCuL-K39eQ&t=14

The Devil’s Violinist (2013): Paganini’s Caprice No. 24:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WV5wDqJ5WU4

Charlie Daniels Band “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgvfRSzmMoU

Disney’s Sleeping Beauty: Tchaikovsky’s ballet, Opus 66: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JmM-XX8atlQ

The Music Behind the Masters

“Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is.”

-Jackson Pollock

 On August 10, 2017, Sherèe Lutz of the Contemporary Art Department performed with Uptown Violins to highlight the musical connections to Abstract Expressionist legends Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell  in the exhibition, “Pollock and Motherwell: Legends of Abstract Expressionism,” on view in Gallery L8 at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO. The exhibition is on view from July 8 through October 29, 2017. Photographer / Ashley Elwell

Jackson Pollock, arguably one of the most famous American artists of all time, still draws attention from art aficionados even now, over a half century after his death. Uptown Violins member Sherèe Lutz recently curated the exhibition Pollock and Motherwell: Legends of Abstract Expressionism for the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, which is on display in Kansas City through October 29th. While looking into the men behind the legends, she examined their many sources of inspiration, including the music which surrounded their work. She recently gave a presentation on these two works, Pollock’s Mural, 1943, and Motherwell’s Elegy to the Spanish Republic, No. 126 (1965-75), in the gallery where the two paintings are displayed. She was accompanied by Allison and Brittany Peterson on violin, as well as pianist Terry Glanville and drummer Rod Lincoln.

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Ashley: Sherèe, can you describe the two paintings a bit, in layman’s terms?

 

 On August 10, 2017, Sherèe Lutz of the Contemporary Art Department performed with Uptown Violins to highlight the musical connections to Abstract Expressionist legends Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell  in the exhibition, “Pollock and Motherwell: Legends of Abstract Expressionism,” on view in Gallery L8 at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO. The exhibition is on view from July 8 through October 29, 2017. Photographer / Ashley Elwell On August 10, 2017, Sherèe Lutz of the Contemporary Art Department performed with Uptown Violins to highlight the musical connections to Abstract Expressionist legends Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell  in the exhibition, “Pollock and Motherwell: Legends of Abstract Expressionism,” on view in Gallery L8 at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO. The exhibition is on view from July 8 through October 29, 2017. Photographer / Ashley Elwell

Sherèe: Both of the paintings in the exhibition are what we would call monumental in scale. Larger-than-life in some ways. They are roughly 10 feet tall by 20 wide! They both are abstract with very little representational imagery. You would not see faces, or flowers, or a landscape etc., but rather, color, line and form. Pollock’s Mural is very freewheeling! Swirling colors and forms stretch across the entire canvas surface. Motherwell’s Elegy to the Spanish Republic, No. 126 is primarily black-and-white with strong verticals. It also has repeated red and ocher accents that move the eye across the painting.

 

A: What do you find most striking about Pollock’s work? And Motherwell’s?

 

 On August 10, 2017, Sherèe Lutz of the Contemporary Art Department performed with Uptown Violins to highlight the musical connections to Abstract Expressionist legends Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell  in the exhibition, “Pollock and Motherwell: Legends of Abstract Expressionism,” on view in Gallery L8 at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO. The exhibition is on view from July 8 through October 29, 2017. Photographer / Ashley Elwell On August 10, 2017, Sherèe Lutz of the Contemporary Art Department performed with Uptown Violins to highlight the musical connections to Abstract Expressionist legends Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell  in the exhibition, “Pollock and Motherwell: Legends of Abstract Expressionism,” on view in Gallery L8 at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO. The exhibition is on view from July 8 through October 29, 2017. Photographer / Ashley Elwell

S: To me, the most striking thing about this particular Pollock painting is that it is the first known use for him to fling paint onto the canvas surface. It points to techniques he would later use that made him so famous. I am dumbfounded by how Motherwell was able to achieve the most matte finish with his black paint meaning no shine on it whatsoever. This is nearly impossible at this scale!

 

A: During what time periods were the two works painted, and what were some of the cultural influences surrounding them?

 

S: The paintings could be almost considered bookends to what we might call the mid-20th century. Pollock’s Mural was early and Motherwell’s Elegy was towards the end of the period. The cultural influences in this period are far ranging, but being shortly after WWII, post-war trauma definitely played an influence. Particularly, it brought the leading European modernists to New York fleeing persecution in the 30s and 40s. These men had a large impact on the younger generation of American artists. But the young Americans pushed the boundaries even farther, removing almost all representational imagery. In fact, even the US government used this style of painting to promote the freedom that Americans had to paint however they wanted in contrast to the Communist Realist style of the USSR during the Cold War.

 

A: What music did you select to accompany your presentation of the paintings?

 

 On August 10, 2017, Sherèe Lutz of the Contemporary Art Department performed with Uptown Violins to highlight the musical connections to Abstract Expressionist legends Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell  in the exhibition, “Pollock and Motherwell: Legends of Abstract Expressionism,” on view in Gallery L8 at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO. The exhibition is on view from July 8 through October 29, 2017. Photographer / Ashley Elwell On August 10, 2017, Sherèe Lutz of the Contemporary Art Department performed with Uptown Violins to highlight the musical connections to Abstract Expressionist legends Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell  in the exhibition, “Pollock and Motherwell: Legends of Abstract Expressionism,” on view in Gallery L8 at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO. The exhibition is on view from July 8 through October 29, 2017. Photographer / Ashley Elwell
 On August 10, 2017, Sherèe Lutz of the Contemporary Art Department performed with Uptown Violins to highlight the musical connections to Abstract Expressionist legends Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell  in the exhibition, “Pollock and Motherwell: Legends of Abstract Expressionism,” on view in Gallery L8 at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO. The exhibition is on view from July 8 through October 29, 2017. Photographer / Ashley Elwell On August 10, 2017, Sherèe Lutz of the Contemporary Art Department performed with Uptown Violins to highlight the musical connections to Abstract Expressionist legends Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell  in the exhibition, “Pollock and Motherwell: Legends of Abstract Expressionism,” on view in Gallery L8 at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO. The exhibition is on view from July 8 through October 29, 2017. Photographer / Ashley Elwell

S: I selected a variety of music to accompany my presentation! Motherwell was well educated and very well traveled. He spent time in Europe and was quite influenced by historic European culture. In fact, he has a different collage series where he titled some of the works with classical composers’ names such as Bach and Mozart. So Brittany played the first movement of Mozart’s Concerto for Violin in D Major, and then she and Allison played Bach’s Violin Concerto for Two Violins in d minor. But then we shifted focus to Pollock who was an aficionado of jazz. He had a very large collection of historic jazz albums including big names such as Armstrong, Parker, and Ellington! Brittany had arranged a wonderful jazz medley that included works by each! Finally, we discussed how both artists had an influence on a later generation of artists, including some Pop movement artists. So we could not resist playing some pop songs for our audience as well!

 

A: Apparently at the end of your presentation, you took Allison’s violin and began to play with Brittany as a surprise. How did the audience respond?

 

 On August 10, 2017, Sherèe Lutz of the Contemporary Art Department performed with Uptown Violins to highlight the musical connections to Abstract Expressionist legends Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell  in the exhibition, “Pollock and Motherwell: Legends of Abstract Expressionism,” on view in Gallery L8 at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO. The exhibition is on view from July 8 through October 29, 2017. Photographer / Ashley Elwell On August 10, 2017, Sherèe Lutz of the Contemporary Art Department performed with Uptown Violins to highlight the musical connections to Abstract Expressionist legends Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell  in the exhibition, “Pollock and Motherwell: Legends of Abstract Expressionism,” on view in Gallery L8 at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO. The exhibition is on view from July 8 through October 29, 2017. Photographer / Ashley Elwell

S: I think they thought it was fun! They did not know that Uptown Violins was my family’s group that I play with, so it made it fun to play both role as curator and then performer for one song.

 

A: Do you have any final thoughts you would like to share about the exhibition?

 

S: I think both the paintings display innovation. It is always good to push yourself and try new things! You never know what might catch on!

 

    We at Uptown Violins have been thrilled to collaborate with the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City! We believe it is important to foster a connection between the arts, both musical and visual. Please come check out this wonderful exhibition!

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The Hills Are Alive

“For I assure you, without travel, at least for people from the arts and sciences, one is a miserable creature!”

-Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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     I am afraid that, like Mozart, the travel bug runs in our family! We all have those moments when we need to escape the mundaneness of everyday life and experience something exotic. This summer, two members of Uptown Violins traveled to Europe, with Kerri Parr and her husband Forrest taking a breathtakingly beautiful tour of France, even visiting the gardens where Claude Monet painted his famous water lily paintings in Giverny! Christy Peterson had the privilege of attending a music study abroad program in Austria, and we wanted her to share the experience.

 

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Ashley: Where did you stay during your time abroad?

Christy: I stayed with a host grandma in Salzburg, Austria. It was a small apartment close to Nuβdorfer strasse. I had my own room, but she and I shared a bathroom. My host grandma, Heidi, made me breakfast and dinner every day, which was always amazing!

 

A: Where else did you travel while there?

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C: We began our trip in Vienna, where we saw the Hofburg and the Shönbrunn Palaces. We went to Schubert’s birth house, and I was surprised to learn he was born in the kitchen! We also visited Mauthause, a concentration camp from World War II, as well as the Residenz, in Munich, home of the rulers of Bavaria. On my long travel weekend I went to Prague and saw the Jewish Quarter, the Castle, the John Lennon wall, and the astronomical clock.

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A: Can you tell us about some of your favorite concerts you attended in Austria?

C: We got to hear Mahler’s Ninth Symphony played by the Vienna Philharmonic during the Salzburg Music Festival. The orchestra was alive and moved and breathed together. It was amazing! I have never really heard anything so moving before. I also enjoyed listening to the Salzburg Orchestra play Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major. I loved the atmosphere of both orchestras. The players would look at each other and smile. They looked like they were having the time of their lives!

 

A: Considering Salzburg is the home to Mozart, one of the greatest composers of all time, what is your favorite of his works?

 

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C: My favorite Mozart compositions are his Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major, as well as Concerto No. 5 in A Major. I loved playing them! Mozart’s playfulness makes his pieces enjoyable. I also like his piano variations of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. This may be the result of listening to beginner violinists play Twinkle for too many years, so to hear the creative variations is a nice break!

 

A: What was the best musical aspect of the trip?

C: I loved how accepting of classical music people were in Europe. I like pop music as well, but classical music often has a lack of respect in the United States, even though most music here actually has derived from some sort of classical music. In Munich, my friend and I happened upon the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra rehearsing on an outside platform. Anyone could listen and be a part of their rehearsal free of charge. I was amazed! The members of all the orchestras seemed have a lot of fun. As an observer, I could see when a member loved a particular part of a piece because they would either smile, move accordingly, or even make a face at a friend in the orchestra! The sense of community could be felt by the audience. They love what they do, and they want others to love what they do as well. It proved to me that you do not have to be completely serious to be professional, and that classical music is not just a serious matter!

 

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A: What did you study in addition to music?

C: I took a history class on the Holocaust, which was very sobering, yet eye-opening. Hearing about Hitler’s life and how the Holocaust became a rational necessity in his eyes and the eyes of many others was baffling. Going to the concentration camp was humbling, but the strangest part was when we visited Eagle’s Nest, home to Hitler’s bunker and the houses where he stayed for a good portion of his rule. The scenery was beautiful, breathtaking actually. We went on a really fun hike where for a moment I forgot everything and just enjoyed the beauty. Then all of a sudden, I remembered the history of the place. It was quite eerie.

 

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A: What else did you enjoy apart from the many musical experiences?

C: We visited the beautiful town of Hallstadt in the lake district, which was surrounded by the lake and mountains. Truly, Hallstadt is one of the prettiest places I have ever seen! From a relational perspective, I loved getting to know my host grandma, Heidi, and other Austrians. To be immersed in another culture was so rewarding. Experiencing how other people live is something I really enjoy. Getting to know Heidi was definitely one of my favorite parts of Austria!


 

A: Having helped with the Sound of Music themed music camp in Illinois earlier this summer, I have to ask if you went on the Sound of Music Tour?

C: No, but I lived it! Our group visited all of the on our excursions. We saw the church from the wedding scene, the convent where the real Maria Vontrappe wanted to become a nun, and the Mirabel Gardens that are so gorgeous with all the flowers and fountains. We sang in the festival hall portrayed at the end of the movie, and saw many places after which the sets were modeled. The lake and the back of the house were actually only a five-minute walk from my apartment, so I would walk there and do homework for my classes, hang out, or go for a run. I still cannot believe that became a normal part of my schedule!

 

A: Describe the typical food/dress/culture you experienced in Salzburg.

C: They do have a lot of the stereotypical sausages and sauerkraut, but the sausages are nothing like I’ve had in America. Personally I am still not a fan of sauerkraut. Of course schnitzel is a staple. There is wiener schnitzel (veal), pork schnitzel, chicken schnitzel, and zucchini schnitzel. You can schnitzelize anything! Austria is also very well known for its cakes, which have a lot of layers. They serve a lot of apricots, so I enjoyed apricot cake, apricot ice cream, and apricot jelly. Of course you can’t visit Austria without trying their famous Appfle (apple) strudel . We even took an apple strudel class, although I must say my host grandma’s homemade apricot strudel was the best!

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In terms of attire, people wore dresses, shorts, jeans, and pants, basically American dress except that they only wore their exercise clothes for exercise. Austrians do have a traditional dress, which for women is a dirndl and for men is the lederhosen. I saw people wearing this attire every day as well. Women could wear dirndls to work, and both men and women sometimes wore lederhosen. People would wear both to church, nice concerts, and even weddings as formal attire. I couldn’t resist buying a dirndl for myself!    

 

A: Would you like to go back someday?

C: Is that even a necessary question?! Of course! I loved it and I already miss it! I miss the mountains and the lakes! I miss the people, the friendliness, the food, and the music. I am so excited to return one day!

Oh The Places You’ll Go: Music Camps 2017!

Oh the places you’ll go, Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So get on your way!

-Dr. Seuss

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Uptown Violins just finished three weeks of music camps in three different cities. We had a blast working with our students across the Midwest!

 

Week 1: My Favorite Things, Springfield, IL

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Our first camp’s theme centered on the beloved 1965 Rogers and Hammerstein classic, The Sound of Music. This movie has always held a special place in our hearts, as Allison and her family used to dress up and perform as the Von Trapps in the years following the movie’s debut. A half-century later, this touching story still resonates with our students. We read a portion of it each day to the kids, while also introducing them to several of its classic songs. We even sang My Favorite Things for our recital on the last day!

In addition to learning about the musical, we studied several other musical genres as well. We looked at classical music, listening to Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos and playing one of his minuets while learning how to dance like the courtiers of the 18th century! We also taught our campers to fiddle and even square dance like Texans, which was a whole new world to our Illinoisans! On the last day students learned about early pop and rock music, listening to the works of icons including Elvis Presley (whom none of them had heard of before!), The Beatles, and Michael Jackson. They particularly liked performing a rendition of the King of Pop’s hit song “Billie Jean.”

 

Week 2: Under the Sea, Dallas, TX

The second week of camp we took our Texas campers on an oceanic adventure! Each day we discovered more about our favorite sea creatures, including the fact that male seahorses can give birth to their own babies! We enjoyed playing some of our favorite water games, including “sharks and minnows” and “still water still.”

From a musical perspective, we focused on famous songs which center on the sea, including Handel’s Water Music, Saint-Saëns’ “Aquarium” from The Carnival of the Animals (which many of the students recognized from the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast), Debussy’s Impressionist work La Mer, and Jazz singer Charles Trenet’s 1940s hit “La Mer,” popularized in the United States by Bobby Darin as “Beyond the Sea.” The kids especially enjoyed performing John William’s terrifying two-note theme from the 1970s thriller Jaws. We also delved into the world of music theory, working on mastering students’ knowledge of key signatures and the order of sharps and flats. To review our extensive material, campers went fishing for musical flashcards, and even embarked on a competitive musical treasure hunt, for which they had to search for clues with musical challenges, including playing the Beatles’ song “Yellow Submarine” and “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid. Our little pirates celebrated with a treasure chest of Swedish fish and goldfish crackers.

 

Week 3: Oh The Places You’ll Go, Wichita, KS

We concluded our summer music camps with an engaging musical tour of Europe, inspired by Dr. Seuss’s beloved classic, Oh The Places You’ll Go, the last of his published children’s books. We focused on composers spanning the Baroque time period to the twentieth century. The first day of camp centered on Russian composers, including Tchaikovsky, who wrote one of the most challenging violin concertos of all time, and Rimsky-Korsakov, who wrote the stunning violin solos in his famous work Scheherazade. The second day the campers dawned braids and alpine hats for their virtual trip to Germany and Austria, meccas of Western classical music. Having already studied the great masters Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven in previous years, we focused on Brahms, Haydn, and the scintillating Schubert symphonies.

Of course we couldn’t ignore Uptown Violins’ affinity for all things French, so on the third day of camp we entered the realm of Paris, with the Eiffel Tower presiding over us as we enjoyed the Impressionist works of Debussy and listened to the coquettish music of Bizet’s opera Carmen. On the last day, we enjoyed the Baroque Italian masters, including the Vivaldi violin concertos and the chamber works of Corelli. We finished the week by performing some of our favorite showpieces at the Lakepoint Assisted Living Facility.

Needless to say, it has been a busy three works for Uptown Violins! However, we all took time to relax together at our favorite summer vacation spot, Table Rock Lake. A little known fact about us: in addition to playing violin, all members of Uptown Violins are avid water skiers!

 

My Favorite Things

Sound of Music: “My Favorite Things:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IagRZBvLtw

Bach: Brandenburg Concertos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUUUAsqE77w

“Boil the Cabbage Down:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=441sSWWxee4

Michael Jackson: “Billie Jean:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45Ph_MXIP1o

 

Under the Sea

Handel: “Hornpipe” from Water Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1h4mAceHmrI

Saint-Saëns: “Aquarium” from Carnival of the Animals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyFpZ5MZ7kk

Debussy: La Mer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOCucJw7iT8&list=RDFOCucJw7iT8#t=76

Bobby Darin: “Beyond the Sea:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bRAtV-jgoQ

John Williams: Jaws Theme song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BX3bN5YeiQs

The Little Mermaid: “Under the Sea:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GC_mV1IpjWA

 

Oh The Places You’ll Go

Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op 35: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbJZeNlrYKg

Rimsky-Korsakov: Violin Solos from Scheherazade: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPB15Ma2o48&list=RDTPB15Ma2o48

Schubert: Symphony No. 8 “Unfinished” D 759: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWnKMzAedK4

Bizet: “Habanera” from Carmen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJ_HHRJf0xg

Vivaldi: Concerto in A minor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTPiZup0QmM

Corelli: Christmas Concerto: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=na9OFx-DnAs

 

 

Summer Reading!

-“At heart, she was a violinist. No other instrument, for her at least, could capture the strains of the soul’s deepest yearnings and desires, its bitterest disappointments and losses.” – Tamera Alexander: A Note Yet Unsung

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     The beautiful summer weather is upon us, and as a result, I have primarily relocated to my porch. My husband, daughter, and I planted our flowers for the potted plants a few weeks ago, a beautiful assortment of petunias, ageratums, and begonias, as well as several rose bushes for the yard, and my favorite pastime is now admiring the view with a peach tea in one hand, and a good book in the other.

     As a mother of a toddler, trips to the store can prove challenging, so I now order most of my necessities online: clothes, books, shoes, and even, I feel lazy even admitting it, groceries! However, I decided to brave a trip to a REAL bookstore to find a new book for my summer entertainment, with my toddler in tow. I selected Tamera Alexander’s A Note Yet Unsung, and finished the 430-page novel in three days. I have the sunburn to prove it! Here is my review of the book, without giving away any spoilers.

A Note Yet Unsung: A Belmont Mansion Novel

By Tamera Alexander

430 pp. Bethany House. $15.99

Published in 2017

     Alexander sets her historical romance in the 1870s in Nashville, TN. She recounts the experiences of twenty-three-year old Rebekah Carrington, a violinist who returns to her hometown after ten years abroad studying music in Vienna. She desires to play with the newly formed Nashville Philharmonic, but is unable to join due to her gender, as women are not allowed to play violin in public. However, she seeks to persuade the new conductor, Maestro Nathaniel Tate Whitcomb, that she should be permitted to join the orchestra, hoping the positions can be filled based on merit and not simply gender. However, the conductor works with many prejudiced donors who oppose this sort of progressivism, and she is denied. However, she is eligible to serve as his assistant, a job to which she reluctantly agrees.

     During their weeks of collaboration together, Rebekah helps the Maestro write his symphony that the orchestra will perform for the opening of the new opera house in Nashville. Rebekah resigns herself to being grateful she can contribute to the performance in some way, even if she cannot perform on stage. The plot continues to follow their relationship and careers, with several twists along the way.

     As a musician, I found Alexander’s depictions of our kind to be pretty spot-on. She described the perfectionism, creativity, passion, irritability, and intellectualism of the conductor’s personality, a combination of characteristics which often apply to people of this profession. I had to laugh, and slightly grimace, as I saw a bit of myself in these depictions. I must admit that the spouses of musicians really are saints to put up with us! As a violinist, I loved Alexander’s descriptions of the importance of the instrument in our lives, how it allows us “to capture the strains of the soul’s deepest yearnings and desires.”

     I especially enjoyed her inclusion of a musical playlist, which allowed readers to listen to the songs described in her story. I am a predominantly auditory person, so listening to the selections of Mozart, Chopin, and Beethoven deepened my appreciation of the text, giving me an auditory component to accompany the literary page. This fusion of the arts exemplified Alexander’s ability to tap into the romantic ideals of the 19th century when the blurring of lines between all forms of artistic expression was revered.

     Although the book is predominantly presented as a sweet, inspirational romance, it addresses several serious themes throughout the story, including sexism in the workplace, the shift from slavery to servant hood in the lives of African Americans after the Civil War, physical abuse, musicians’ proclivity towards substance abuse, the difficult effects of degenerative disease in one’s profession (a Beethovenian component), and the role of faith in these circumstances. I thought Alexander handled these issues with wisdom and delicacy.

     I personally found this to be an enjoyable, captivating book, and would highly recommend it for both musicians and non-musicians alike looking to find the perfect summer read. I am including the link to the book, as well as the author’s website for access to the musical playlist.

https://www.amazon.com/Note-Unsung-Belmont-Mansion-Novel/dp/0764206249/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1494798704&sr=8-1&keywords=a+note+yet+unsung

http://tameraalexander.com/books/belmont_mansion_novels/a_note_yet_unsung/playlist

 

Pizza Practice!

Practice only on the days you eat.

-Shinichi Suzuki

As the school year comes to a close, students are busily trying to fit in all of their end-of-the-year activities jam-packed schedules, and often one of the first things to go is their daily practicing. Regular practice is a discipline that requires a lot of motivation, as well as perseverance. As music teachers (and parents of young music students), it is our responsibility to help our young pupils stay motivated!

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I was very proud of my studio this past weekend when they all performed their solo pieces, as well as a couple of group songs, at a local senior living facility. I believe it is important to give even our youngest students the opportunity to perform their pieces for others. For me personally, as well as most musicians, the act of performing is a reward for good practice in and of itself. This is often true for our students, too! If they have an upcoming concert, they are noticeably much more likely to practice. However, young pupils (especially elementary school children) often need additional rewards to help with the daily practice routine. As a result, we at Uptown Violins enjoy implementing practice contests with our students.

This past month I conducted a “Pizza Party Practice Contest” leading up to our recital. At the beginning of the month, I gave each of the students a stack of construction paper strips, and for every day that they practiced, they taped it, forming a link on their construction paper chain. If each student could practice at least four days a week, then the entire studio could earn a pizza party (a little positive peer pressure can often be effective). Furthermore, if they could all practice five days a week, then they would additionally earn a dessert pizza! Every week they enjoyed watching their chain grow longer and longer, which inspired them to keep practicing. I am happy to say that they earned both the pizza party and a tasty cookie pizza, too!

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Another practice contest that we found to be popular has been the sports contest. We have adapted it for various regions, depending on which sport is most popular in the area. I live in central Illinois at the intersection of Cardinals and Cubs territory, so I decided to conduct a Violin World Series last October. In this four-week Violin Fall Classic, students were asked to practice at least four days each week in order to advance to the next round. For example, if they completed the first week, the Wild Card, they received a sticker and advanced to the Division Series. If they “won” their Division series with their required practices, they got a candy bar from me and advanced to the League Championship. If they “won” their league championship, they could pick out a fun toy/game (determined by the parent), and advanced to the World Series. If they “won” the World Series, they could go out for a fun celebration! I also offered a Series MVP prize for the student with the most practices, as well as a Bonus prize for the students who correctly selected the winning team when they filled out their practice chart at the beginning of the month. (This was also a great bonding opportunity for the student and their parents, especially the sports aficionados!)

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The Violin World Series can certainly be adapted to other sports as well. Brittany originally developed it as a March Madness practice contest due to the popularity of basketball in the region, with rounds Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four, and the Championship Game.

I hope these ideas can inspire parents, teachers, and students to keep practicing!

Music Mom!

I don’t want this music to die. The older people are passing it on to the younger generation so the younger generation can pass it on to the next generation.
-Vy Higginsen

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     This past month, I had the privilege of playing two exciting concerts of two distinct genres on two different violins in two separate states the same week. Needless to say, this required a lot of planning and practice! At the first concert, I enjoyed performing in Kansas City for the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art’s Third Thursday event, in which the museum showcased its newly renovated European wing, including the French Impressionist gallery. For this gig, I performed on my electric violin alongside my mother and sister Sheree. I loved having the opportunity to sing French songs by some of my favorite French artists, including French legend Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose.” To prepare for the gig, I watched old footage of the star performing her iconic work, noting everything from vocal inflections to wardrobe selections. I even watched Marion Cotillard’s brilliant performance of Piaf’s life in the movie La Vie En Rose. Poor Edith was raised in a brothel, having been abandoned by her alcoholic mother, who wanted to make it as a singer. Sadly, her parenting skills resembled those of her mother, abandoning her own daughter who ended up dying very young.

     For the second concert, I shifted from French pop to first violinist of my local quartet. We performed in a formal chamber recital, featuring Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 1 in F Major, Opus 18, No. 1. I know it’s cliché to name Beethoven as one of my favorite composers, but his works are such masterpieces it is impossible not to! I have always admired his courage and perseverance, in spite of his many obstacles. While preparing for this concert, I delved a little into his life as well. Most people think of his deafness as his biggest obstacle, and rightly so. However, I was amazed to discover his perseverance to succeed in music in spite of his many family obligations and struggles. Like Edith, he was the child of an alcoholic wanna-be-singer, in this case his father, and from a young age he had to help support the family. This included helping raise his two younger brothers, since his mother had died at an early age. Later in life he even raised his nephew after the death of the child’s father. Beethoven took his child-rearing responsibilities seriously, while still maintaining his musical responsibilities.

     As a mother of a budding two-year-old, I am fascinated by the family life of the artists whose works I perform. I feel better knowing that even the genius Beethoven himself had to balance his family and work life! Having needed to practice a lot this past month to prepare for these gigs, I had to figure out how to pull this off with a two-year-old in tow. That said, I this month I digress into a musician mommy blog to give a behind the scenes glance at the real life of the parent musician, as well as some helpful tips!

  1. Prepare a cage you can crawl into to protect your amps, mics, pedals, music, instrument, and sanity from a busy two-year-old who would like nothing more than to literally push your buttons and “play” with your interesting “toys.”

  2. During rehearsal, if you enlist your colleague’s six-year-old to babysit, be prepared for elaborate artwork to appear all over your child’s face when the two-year-old finds a stray marker.

  3. Turn off movies about famous musicians’ lives before your child wakes up from the nap, as most of their stories seem to revolve around drug and alcohol abuse and promiscuity…

  4. Buy your child her own cheap violin so that she can imitate you, and hopefully not break your own instrument that’s worth more than your car.

  5. Start using your fortissimo voice if your child comes near your instrument.

  6. Have your child color on old sheets of music you no longer need, until he decides to color all over the score you are currently working on. Then resort to letting him watch his favorite cartoon while you finish your practice session. Your focus will hopefully improve (or possibly deteriorate) as you try to block out the distracting cartoon ditties from your ears.

  7. When you have exhausted all of your energy and resources, finally ask your spouse, significant other, friend, or anyone you can find to watch your child so that you can have a few minutes of focused practice time.

  8. In spite of all the craziness of raising children in your unconventional life as a musician, know that someday they may learn to appreciate the wonderful world of music you have given them, and wonder if maybe they, too, will pass on this crazy life to their own children.

 

French Impressions

"J'aime les images presque autant que la musique."    

(I love images almost as much as music.)

-Claude Debussy

     Imagine you are going on a vacation to visit the French countryside, where you discover a small bed and breakfast off the beaten track. Your host greets you and welcomes you to her home, and you look around, noticing the décor of the cottage. The brick floor first catches your attention, as you’re not accustomed to seeing it inside. Paired with the toile drapes and the wrought iron furniture, you almost feel as if you’re sitting outside rather than in the interior of a home. A fresh scent of lavender reaches your nose as you gaze at the loose floral arrangement in the corner of the room, next to the patterned plates hanging decoratively on the wall.

    This French scene is one Kerri Parr tried to recreate for guests at the HopeNet Docent Society program in Wichita, KS, this past weekend. A Renaissance woman herself, Kerri gave the presentation on French country décor, French gastronomy, Parisian tourism, and French music. She and Allison prepared a gourmet French meal, including a soupe aux poireaux et pommes de terre (a rich leek soup made with butter, potatoes, chicken stock, and a dollop of crème fraiche), as well as a French salad of bib lettuce with an easy homemade vinaigrette, consisting of Dijon mustard, shallots, white wine vinegar, and olive oil. Next, they brought out a tasty cheese plate with a variety of fare, including a creamy port salut from the French Loire Valley, a Normandy Boursin cheese spread with herbs, a compté from the Franco-Swiss border (similar to Gruyère), and the ever popular Brie. To conclude the meal, Kerri served her dad’s famous mousse au chocolat, an egg-based recipe for decadent chocolate lovers, which he learned while taking a cooking class in Paris.

    Between the décor and the food, Kerri strove to create a uniquely French impression on her guests, similar to that evoked by Monet’s Water Lillies or Debussy’s Arabesques. She performed the violin transcription of Debussy’s famous La fille aux cheveux de lin (The Girl with the Flaxen Hair) from his first book of Preludes, which had been transcribed for violin shortly after it’s original composition for piano. The piece was inspired by a famous poem, as well as a well-known image of a girl who embodied innocence and naïveté. The work exemplifies French charm and elegance at its finest. Debussy himself was inspired by French Impressionist artists, including Degas, Monet, and Rodin. Instead of implementing traditional chord progressions, Debussy focused on creating musical “colors.” When one of Debussy’s critics compared his works with those of Monet, he replied, “You do me a great honour by calling me a pupil of Claude Monet.”

     Kerri loved Debussy’s work so well that she even walked down the aisle to La fille aux cheveux de lin at her wedding! She concluded the musical portion of the program with the 1990s pop song “Sympathique,” a song ironically written by the American musical group Pink Martini, which became so popular in France that the chorus line “Je ne veux pas travailler” (I don’t want to work) became a theme of French protestors for numerous strikes!

     Continuing in Kerri’s French vein, Uptown Violins will be offering another opportunity to enjoy French music at the opening of the newly renovated European galleries, including the Impressionist wing, at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. The event will take place on Thursday evening, March 16th, and is free and open to the public! Surrounded by the beautiful artwork of Monet, Caillebotte, Morisot, Pissarro, and Renoir, to name a few, we will feature works by several French composers and artists, including classical composers Camille Saint-Saëns and Erik Satie, as well as pop artists Edith Piaf and Patricia Kaas. Come join us for a belle nuit at the Nelson-Atkins, s’il vous plaît!

     Kerri Parr lives in the Dallas, Texas, area, and is a co-founder and principal member of Uptown Violins. In addition to her frequent musical performances, Kerri is a French teacher and school counselor at Texas Christian Academy. Kerri earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Violin performance at Baylor University, and studied private lessons under Dr. Eka Gogichashvili. She served as Concertmaster of the Baylor Symphony, and performed with the Waco Symphony for three years. In 2010, Kerri was one of the students selected to tour with the Baylor Symphony in Belgium. In August, 2016, she graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary with a Master’s Degree in Biblical Counseling. A true Renaissance woman, in her free time she enjoys French cooking, listening to new French artists, including the Parisian group L.E.J., going on dates with her husband Forrest, and playing with her Golden Retriever Annie.

 

 

10 Things You Need to Know in Order to Date a Violinist

"A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit, and a violin. What else does a man need to be happy?"

-Albert Einstein

February is here, and with it the season of love! Maybe you enjoy everything romantic, and I'm not just talking about the musical time period! I recently read a hilarious post called "8 Things You Need to Know Before Dating an Organist," which inspired me to write this blog. 

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1. You need to live on European or South American time: Dinner starts whenever we have finished teaching our students, practicing, or meeting with prospective clients. It may be later if we have rehearsals or a concert. Better yet, just plan on cooking for yourself! As my violin teacher Aunt Valerie said to her husband, it's a YOYO night. "You're on your own!" 

2. Plan an escape room where you can block out the noise of beginning violin students. Uncle Brian had an entire room where musicians were not allowed to enter and bother him. (We broke this rule frequently.) This room may be your study, basement, or if these are still too close, the garage (my husband's favorite place to hide.) 

3. You have a large role to play at home recitals: Vacuum the house, set up at least 25 chairs, keep your own children quiet, clean up, and prepare a special treat for the guests. My uncle was famous for his green lime sherbet punch at the St. Patty's Day recitals. Following in this vein, I was impressed at one of my recent recitals when my husband decided to roast marshmallows with the kids in our backyard. He also scored points by setting up a beanbag toss to play with the students and their siblings while I chatted with the parents! Creativity is key! 

4. Sometimes date night means dressing up to go sit alone at a concert where your spouse is performing. It may be sad to sit by your lonely self, but at least you can see your talented spouse on stage! You can always brag that you are with one of the violinists. If you behaved well at the concert (not too much texting or scrolling on your phone), you might get to grab dessert with your special someone afterwards! 

5. Don't touch their instrument until you have been together at least a year; maybe two, or perhaps five. After that, you will probably become their roadie for all concerts, in which you will be expected to carry the instrument, music stand, music bag, and possibly an amp and microphones. You will most likely be asked to serve as photographer, videographer, and sound engineer as well. 

6. Be adaptable. This may mean traveling with the violinist across the globe for a concert or gig. I will always remember leaving my husband with my friend's dad in France while I had to play a wedding, and although the two didn't speak the same language, they decided to go to the hardware store together to pick out tools. Apparently music isn't the only universal language! 

7. Get used to sitting alone at church. The moment your organist or praise team director discovers your spouse plays violin, he or she will probably be playing in the balcony or on stage more than sitting with you in the pew. 

8. If your significant other is female and top-notch at playing, you should not refer to her as ever having served as a mistress when you meant to say "concert mistress." Just say "concert master," and your life will be easier. 

9. Become familiar with the parts of the violin. What may seem scandalous to you might not be as bad as it sounds in the violin world! 

10. Be their biggest fan. Nothing says you love your violinist more than telling them how wonderful they performed at a concert. (Even if they missed their shift to the high note...) Violinists want to know that you appreciate their music, because it's a huge part of their identity! 

I want to take time to thank the men in our lives: Dr. Stacy Peterson, Dr. Robert Rescot, Mr. Ben Lutz, and Mr. Forrest Parr, as well as our Uncle Brian Sullivan, for the countless hours you have given to serving the musicians in your lives. Although you work behind the scenes, we could never do it without you! 

A Day in the Life of a Music Major

“I read the news today … about a lucky man who made the grade.”

-Lennon-McCartney

It takes a special kind of person to be a music major. And when I say special, I mean you can’t be embarrassed by clapping rhythms in the hallway, singing “Queen of the Night” in your dorm room (much to the chagrin of your roommate), or realizing that you should have clarified whether your 9:00 lesson meant 9 a.m. or 9 p.m., because both were viable options. With the start of the New Year, high school seniors across the country will be deciding which major to choose, so we asked sophomore Christy Peterson to shed light on her experience as a violin performance major.

 

AR: How would you describe a typical day for you?

CP: Busy! I have a lot of classes, so I start at 8 and don’t usually get done until 4 or 5, and often have rehearsals at night, too. Many of my music classes only count for one credit hour but require several meetings per week. As a result, I don’t have many large breaks during the day, and the ones I do are usually dedicated to practicing. But I like to hang out with my friends when I get the chance!

 

AR: What does your coursework entail?

CP: At my university, I have orchestra three days a week, and I rehearse with my string quartet the other two days. I also have a private violin lesson once a week (sometimes very late at night) as well as a private piano lesson. In addition to my performance classes I take music theory, musicianship (where we work on rhythms, solfège, and music dictation), as well as general education classes. Upper classmen take four semesters of music history.

 

AR: What has been your favorite class so far?

CP: I really loved Theory IV! I have always enjoyed math, so the 20th century atonal music really appealed to me. Instead of being chordal like the previous eras, 20th century classical music is linear. You have to use all 12 notes in the chromatic scale before you can repeat any of them. You can use a matrix to change up the order of the notes like composers Schoenberg and Webern. (It may not always sound good to the ear, but it is fascinating to study!) To me it feels like a giant Sudoku puzzle! Check it out: http://www.carolingianrealm.info/Music.php?MusicID=29

 

AR: What kinds of performing opportunities do you have?

CP: These first two years my performances have primarily been orchestral. We usually work on four sets of music per semester. My favorite concerts were the Children’s Concerts in the fall! The kids don’t usually get exposed to orchestra music, so this is a special opportunity for them. They loved our Star Wars movie music this past fall, especially when Darth Vadar and a Storm Trooper came out on stage and staged a battle with our conductor. Another of my favorite concerts is our annual Christmas concert. For this event all of the choirs join the orchestra to perform some of our beloved Christmas songs.

I play in studio and chamber music recitals as well, and am looking forward to participating in a chamber music competition this winter. The winning ensemble will have the chance to perform their piece in Carnegie Hall in May! Performance majors are also required to play a solo recital their junior and senior years, and music education majors perform one recital their senior year. These recitals give students a chance to show off what they have learned during their time at school.

 

AR: Are you involved in any extra-curricular activities?

CP: Yes, I like meeting people in other fields of study as well, so I joined the sorority Chi Omega. I enjoy going to our formals and Take-A-Date functions, like the one to Six Flags! Our philanthropy is with “Make a Wish Foundation,” which grants wishes to kids with severe cancer. For example, sometimes they bring in a famous baseball player to meet a child, or the kid gets to go to Disney world. One way we help raise funds is through our Chi-O chili cook-off competition. We collaborated with the Fraternity Kappa Sigma, and together raised over $50,000!

 

AR: What has been the best part of college for you so far?

CP: I am a very social person, so I like making new friends. In college there are so many opportunities to meet new people, especially on a big campus! As a freshman I ran around the football field with the other first years before our home games, which was a lot of fun! I also really love my church and Bible study. Our pastor is excellent, and always helps us to better understand what it means to be a Christian.

 

AR: What are you looking forward to the most this New Year?

CP: I will have my first opportunity to play in the opera pit this month, so I am excited to try it out! I am also looking forward to participating in the sorority/fraternity production of SING, where we all perform a mini musical. This summer I get to attend a music study abroad program in Austria, which will be a once in a lifetime experience!

 

AR: What advice would you give a prospective music major?

CP: Go to class! Use good time management to schedule practice time, as well as plan breaks to avoid injury. Branch out to different styles, like jazz improvisation, and meet as many different kinds of people as you can!

 

AR: What products would you recommend for a new music major?

 

CP:

1. Buy a quality instrument. Most strings shops will let you try out several at a time to see which one is best for you.

 

2. I highly recommend the BAM violin case! It is much lighter than other cases, and great if you need to carry your instrument around campus! http://www.musiciansfriend.com/accessories/bam-high-tech-contoured-violin-case/472705000001000?cntry=us&source=3WWRWXGP&gclid=Cj0KEQiAhZPDBRCz642XqYOCpb8BEiQANUcwT9vx1XI8yphfbRH1KSOjyl24tYQnAIJ9H2bCLB9huUEaAiVz8P8HAQ&kwid=productads-adid^156403583515-device^c-plaid^140857971141-sku^472705000001000@ADL4MF-adType^PLA

 

3. Build your own music library. I suggest the following for starters:

 Don Juan violin part: http://www.sharmusic.com/Sheet-Music/Violin/Excerpts-47-Parts/Strauss-Richard---Don-Juan-Op-20-Violin-1---Kalmus.axd#sthash.F2pDLZ6B.dpbs

Brahms symphony No. 4 violin part: http://www.sharmusic.com/Sheet-Music/Violin/Excerpts-47-Parts/Brahms-Johannes---Symphony-No-4-in-e-minor-Complete-Violin-Orchestral-Parts-and-Excerpts---Kalmus-Publication.axd#sthash.ibIuOgSr.dpbs

Bach’s 6 Sonatas and Partitas : http://www.sharmusic.com/Sheet-Music/Violin/Unaccompanied/Bach-JS---6-Sonatas-and-Partitas-BWV-1001-1006--Solo-Violin---edited-by-Ivan-Galamian---International-Music-Company.axd#sthash.Tv2AEg54.dpbs

 Paganini’s 24 caprices: http://www.sharmusic.com/Sheet-Music/Violin/Unaccompanied/Paganini-Niccolo---24-Caprices-for-Violin-Op-1---Solo-Violin---edited-by-Carl-Flesch---International-Music-Company.axd#sthash.KJ3NpKB8.dpbs

Kreutzer Etudes: http://www.sharmusic.com/Sheet-Music/Violin/Etudes-47-Studies/Kreutzer-Rodolphe---42-Studies---Violin-solo---edited-by-Ivan-Galamian---International-Music-Co.axd#sthash.Yab5u7sB.dpbs

Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto: http://www.sharmusic.com/Sheet-Music/Violin/w-47-Piano/Tchaikovsky-PI---Violin-Concerto-in-D-Major-Op-35---Violin-and-Piano---edited-by-David-Oistrakh---International-Music-Company.axd#sthash.GLH7p5Kz.dpbs

 Sibelius Violin Concerto: http://www.sharmusic.com/Sheet-Music/Violin/w-47-Piano/Sibelius-Jean---Violin-Concerto-in-D-Minor-Op-47---Violin-and-Piano---edited-by-Francescatti-Gretchaninoff---International-Music-Company.axd#sthash.5PqdJdfD.dpbs

Les Chansons de Noël

Here are the answers to Madame Rescot’s French Christmas music quiz from last week. How many did you get right?!? 

1. Les anges dans nos campagnes: Angels We Have Heard on High 

 

2. L’enfant au tambour: Little Drummer Boy

 

3. Le petit renne au nez rouge: Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer

 

4. Mon beau sapin: O Christmas Tree

 

5. Promenade en traineau: Sleigh Ride

 

6. Noël Blanc: White Christmas

 

7. Vive le vent: Jingle Bells

 

8. Un Noël d’Amour: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

 

9. Minuit Chrétien: O Holy Night

 

10. Pere Noël arrive ce soir: Santa Claus is Coming to Town

 

11. Au Royaume du Bonhomme Hiver: Walking in a Winter Wonderland

 

12. Joyeux Noël: The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting by an Open Fire)

 

13. Douce Nuit Sainte Nuit: Silent Night

 

14. Petit Papa Noël: French only

 

15. La plus belle nuit: French only

Joyeux Noël!

Minuit ! Chrétiens, c'est l'heure solennelle
Où l'homme Dieu descendit jusqu'à  nous.

-Placide Cappeau (1847)

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As French and music teacher, French music has always held a fascination for me! This time of year, my mom, my sister Kerri (a fellow French teacher), and I enjoy sharing some of our favorite French Christmas traditions with each other. These include baking the traditional “Bûche de Noël” (Yule Log), drinking “Esprit de Noël” French tea, and listening to French Christmas carols. Last year Kerri and I taught the original French carol “Les anges dans nos campagnes” to our respective classes, reminding students that not all of our beloved carols are English in origin. “Minuit Chrétien,” (another French original) is my personal favorite, which I now love to sing in both French and English! (In my last blog I talk about its significance to our family, remembering my mother singing the English version for our many Christmas shows!)

If you want to mix it up a bit this Christmas season, try baking your own “Bûche de Noël,” sip on delicious French tea, and listen to the following Christmas carols in French! Enjoy the renditions of many famous francophone artists over the years, from the 1950s to the present, as well as some beautiful traditional gems. If you feel particularly ambitious, write down the English equivalent of the songs, and check back next Friday for the answers! (The last two are only in French.)

Tastes of Christmas

French “Bûche de Noël” recipe

http://www.marthastewart.com/354925/buche-de-noel

Uptown Violins’ Favorite French tea

 http://www.mariagefreres.com/FR/2-esprit-de-noel-the-noir-TJC921.html

 

Les Chansons de Noël

1. Les anges dans nos campagnes : chanson traditionnelle https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Ap-zj7H23g

2. L’enfant au tambour : chanson traditionnelle 

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1ncR6HSmKg

3. Le petit renne au nez rouge : chanson d’enfant

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsZsu7rLr3A

4. Mon beau sapin : Tino Rossi

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFdVoKnPTKQ

5. Promenade en traineau : Fernand Gignac 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Kq2f70CEQQ

6. Noël Blanc: Dalida

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZY-GBact_o

7. Vive le vent : Ginette Reno

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8yQaB22Atc

8. Un Noël d’amour: Pierre Lalonde https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Z6GZc21QuM

9. Minuit Chrétien : Nicole Martin 

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gm_UwsDTvik

10. Père Noël arrive ce soir: Céline Dion

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltt1YqSKMpw

11. Au royaume du bonhomme hiver: Roch Voisine https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGnby1FHtcw&list=PLpdMoG1R00J5id0bAKFUg-19L0Nl-HaLM&index=3

12. Joyeux Noël : Marie-Élaine Thibert https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGWhyYwDTG0&list=RDcGWhyYwDTG0

13. Douce nuit, sainte nuit- chanson traditionnelle

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0HvkYD5Ec4

14. Petit Papa Noël : Josh Groban : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jM1tfaM5y1o

15. La plus belle nuit : Marie Denis Pelletier 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtM4PWzK3Q8

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First Fridays with Uptown Violins is hosted by Ashley Rescot, Director of Public Relations. Ashley received her Bachelor of Music from Baylor University, as well as minors in French and English. She taught English as a Fulbright scholar in France for a year, and then obtained her Master’s Degree in French Literature at the University of Kansas. She has taught French to all ages, including a Maman et Moi baby French class, as well as collegiate French levels I-IV. She teaches her own private violin studio and performs throughout the Midwest. Research interests include the relationship between music education and language acquisition, as well as the connection between music and other forms of artistic expression.

Christmas is Coming!

“Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat. Please do put a penny in the old man’s hat. If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do, if you haven’t got a ha’penny, God bless you!”

-Traditional Christmas Carol

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Fall has always been one of my favorite seasons. With Halloween, my November birthday, Thanksgiving, and now my daughter’s birthday, I always have so much to celebrate! As a child, I especially looked forward to fall because my family and I would begin our Christmas show rehearsals. We were a 3 generational music group called “The Belles and Beau of Christmas,” made up of my Grandmother Ruth, mother, aunts, sisters, and cousins. We played and sang everything from “Deck the Halls” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” to “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Silent Night.” Uptown Violins now continues this family tradition, but with a modern twist! Brittany has written beautiful violin arrangements to some of our old favorites, including “The Sugar Plum Fairy” from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, and genre mixing on “O Holy Night” and “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, as well as “Silent Night” interwoven with “Amazing Grace.” Her flirty winter medley made up of “Baby it’s Cold Outside,” “Santa Baby,” and “Let it Snow” is always a crowd pleaser! Filled with rich harmonies, elegance, innovative song combinations, and a hint of nostalgia, our beloved Christmas carols continue to be the highlight of our season! All of us still enjoy performing Christmas carols in our respective cities, with concerts ranging from corporate Christmas parties, to Christmas cantatas, to senior home recitals, and even symphony concerts!

In order to capture the essence of our childhood Christmas shows, I have written a few of our favorite memories. Enjoy!

 

“The Twelve escapades of Christmas”

12. Singing the intro to “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and watching the audience laugh when the youngest member of the group emerged as Rudolf with a red, strap-on nose. Rudolf would then gallop vigorously around the stage, pretending to lead Santa’s sleigh.

11. The Christmas show when my sister Kerri kicked off her shoes during the Rudolf dance, and the rest of us followed suit. Soon the stage was strewn with little black Mary Jane shoes!

10. Wearing matching Christmas dresses with my sisters sewn by my Dad’s mom, Carol, who wasn’t musical herself, but contributed her time and talent to the production. She never forgot to include the puffed sleeves!

9. Singing the sassy song “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” but being deathly afraid when “I saw my hippo hero standing there,” embodied by my two oldest cousins in a giant hippo costume!

8. In later years of the show, laughing at my sister Sheree who had to personify the back-side of the hippo while I dressed up as the over-sized head.

7. The older cousins building the base of a pyramid so a little cousin could jump off of thier backs to the line “Out Jumps Good Old Santa Claus.”

6. Performing a Nutcracker violin medley while my younger sisters and cousins marched around on stage dressed in soldier uniforms.

5. Leaning over, with my finger to my mouth, and saying “Ssshhhh” to my aunt when she sang a really high note in the middle of “Christmas is Coming.”

4. Dancing as hard as I could to “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “Jingle Bell Rock,” even though my middle school dance moves needed a little tweaking…

3.  Playing and singing the harmony part to “Angels We Have Heard on High,” and thinking I was very grown-up because I could carry an alto line for the first time!

2. Representing the 3 kings by presenting gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the baby Jesus.

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1. My number one memory by far, however, didn’t actually involve me. After singing, playing, and dancing to the Christmas carols, near the end of the program my mom and her sister would always sing my personal favorite, “O Holy Night.” I will never forget standing backstage, listening in awe as mom’s beautiful soprano sailed over the audience. With her voice like an angel, she always knew how to convey the true meaning of the season: the birth of Christ.

Sadly, our childhood days are over, and we no longer crawl around on the floor in our fancy dresses building chimneys for Santa, wear outrageous red noses, or dress up as hippos during our Christmas programs. However, we still have a lot of fun performing our holiday favorites every Christmas season! A couple of years ago I even had the privilege of performing “O Holy Night” as the soloist for a Christmas Eve service at my church. While I sang about the birth of Christ from the balcony, my own newborn baby listened quietly from the pew, cradled in her father’s arms. I couldn’t help but think back on my own childhood days when I would listen to my mother sing the same song. I hope my daughter will have the privilege of continuing her grandma’s tradition someday!

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First Fridays with Uptown Violins is hosted by Ashley Rescot, Director of Public Relations. Ashley received her Bachelor of Music from Baylor University, as well as minors in French and English. She taught English as a Fulbright scholar in France for a year, and then obtained her Master’s Degree in French Literature at the University of Kansas. She has taught French to all ages, including a Maman et Moi baby French class, as well as collegiate French levels I-IV. She teaches her own private violin studio and performs throughout the Midwest. Research interests include the relationship between music education and language acquisition, as well as the connection between music and other forms of artistic expression.

Musical, Medical, and Mentorship Missions, Summer 2016!

“Here I am, Send me.”

-Isaiah 6:8

Our members of Uptown Violins have been busy this year with two missions trips, one to Uganda, and the other to the Dominican Republic. I thought we should include a special edition blog for everyone who attended one of these two missions trips to tell about their experience. This includes the “Men of Uptown Violins” as well!

Uptown Violins participants at St. Mary Kevin School in Kajjansi, Uganda: Dr. Stacy and Allison Peterson, Brittany Peterson, Ben and Sheree Lutz

AR: Dr. Peterson, what was your experience working at the hospital in Kampala? What do you feel was the most meaningful part of your trip?

SL: While in Uganda I had the privilege of working at Mengo hospital. It is the oldest hospital in Uganda and was originally started by British missionaries. There are three observations I would like to make. First, I was impressed by their medical staff. With very limited resources they worked tirelessly and effectively against unlimited needs. Second, the Ugandan people were extremely appreciative of any care that was provided to them. They would even wait in line for hours without complaining. It made me so thankful for our medical care here in the U.S. Third, God has his remnant of Christians throughout the world. In so many ways they were just like me, wanting to practice medicine like Jesus would! I would like to close with Paul's letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 2 v. 19-20: Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens but citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

 

AR: Allison, what did you enjoy most about teaching the children at SMK? What struck you most about Uganda?

AP: I enjoyed seeing how excited the students were to learn new concepts and play sounds they may have never heard before. Not only is violin rarely played in Uganda, it is rarely even heard on the radio! The violin originated in Europe, so most classical music isn’t part of the African culture. Rhythmic instruments like bongos and drums are the basis of their music. Some of the students entertained us by performing native dances accompanied only by drums.

The students were thrilled to play the simplest of songs, like “Jesus Loves Me” and practiced them over and over. I was also able to teach two of the students, Ambrose and Elijah, how to play fast by changing their bow grip and having them play in the middle of the bow. They really liked going fast! Because the students have fewer opportunities to be involved extra activities, I think they really enjoy playing their violin more.

What struck me most about Uganda was that even though the country is behind in their infrastructure and housing, the people live above their situation. Maybe they don’t even realize that not having running water isn’t the norm in the United States.  Cooking over charcoal rather than ovens is normal for them. It is interesting, however, that they have cell phones but no paved roads. The people work very long, hard days just to survive, yet in general they are very happy! I’m so glad I was able to meet these kind people.

 

AR: Ben, what kinds of activities did you conduct while working with the children at SMK? What was your favorite experience while in Uganda?

 BL: SMK had six laptop computers in their computer lab, but computer lessons are not a part of the regular curriculum. I spent a few hours every day overseeing the kids using a typing program, and gave some limited instruction in Microsoft Word. The students loved getting to spend time on the computers and asked me about getting on them whenever they saw me. I also spent time having conversations with the older students as a way to improve their English skills. I really enjoyed getting to interact with the kids and making friendships with them.

 

AR: Brittany, what did you find most rewarding working at SMK? What did you enjoy most about your trip?

 BP: What I thought most rewarding was being able to really love on the kids and also be loved on. It was a mutual joy to be around each other and learn about one another. We were able to share our likes and dislikes with each other, including our mutual love for puppies when “Scooby” wandered onto campus and found his home there. Most importantly, we were able to share our love of Christ with one another, and even the kids who had never heard of Christ before were open and willing to hear about his love.

I had fun working with the violin students and hearing their progress even in the short time we were there. I also really enjoyed being able to share resources and pedagogical information with their violin teacher so that he can help the students grow in their violin studies while we are gone. The kids were so eager to play it was incredible! They practiced practiced practiced in order to please us the next day at lessons, and what teacher wouldn’t want to work with kids who practice?!

 

 Uptown Violins participants at Makarios School in Montellano, Dominican Republic: Forrest and Kerri Parr

 AR: Kerri, you helped lead a group of American students on a mission’s trip to the Dominican Republic. What was most rewarding for you in serving both the citizens of the Dominican Republic, as well as helping the American students learn to serve?

 KP: I found that the most rewarding part of the trip was watching the high school students grow throughout our time there. Students who originally were not comfortable with kids were giving them piggy-back rides and playing duck duck goose by the end of the week. Overall, I was touched by how joyful the Dominicans were, even though they had very little. It really brought my attention to how materialistic we are in America, and it inspired Forrest and myself to live our lives differently. 

 

AR: Forrest, what kinds of activities did you conduct while working in the Dominican Republic? What was your most memorable experience there?

 FP: We were responsible for running Vacation Bible School, doing construction at the school, and helping organize and facilitate a neighborhood soccer practice and soccer tournament. We also went into the surrounding communities and played games with the children. My most memorable moment came when we took the students from the school to the beach for a morning. They rarely got to go to the beach because they had no form of transportation. The kids just grabbed our hands and we all ran into the water together. Despite the language barrier, the kids just wanted us to play with them and hold them. 

 

AR:  I would like to say thanks to all of our participants for their inspiring stories! I pray we can all develop a spirit of gratitude for our many blessings as we approach Thanksgiving this year!

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First Fridays with Uptown Violins is hosted by Ashley Rescot, Director of Public Relations. Ashley received her Bachelor of Music from Baylor University, as well as minors in French and English. She taught English as a Fulbright scholar in France for a year, and then obtained her Master’s Degree in French Literature at the University of Kansas. She has taught French to all ages, including a Maman et Moi baby French class, as well as collegiate French levels I-IV. She teaches her own private violin studio and performs throughout the Midwest. Research interests include the relationship between music education and language acquisition, as well as the connection between music and other forms of artistic expression.

 

Uptown Violins’ Vacation Music School in Uganda!

“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”

- Mary Anne Radmacher

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This past August, Allison, Sheree, and Brittany had the opportunity to conduct Vacation Music School at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage and Primary School in Kajjansi, Uganda, a suburb of the capital city Kampala. Dr. Stacy Peterson (the patriarch of Uptown Violins) and Sheree’s husband Ben Lutz accompanied them on the trip. Upon their return, I spent an entire day living vicariously through them all, trying to soak up the experience as best I could, listening to their amazing stories. Here Sheree Lutz, the initiator of the trip, shares her experience.

      

AR: How many children/what ages were you working with?

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SL: We worked with quite a few children! The first few days we had a music workshop of about 30 kids who were approximately ages 5-8. Then we had our class for about 25 older students who were 9-12 or so. But we spent time with kids even outside of music classes, so it probably accounts for more!

 

AR: What did a typical day look like for you while there?

SL: We would arrive at the school in the morning, Allison, Brittany, and myself gave private violin lessons to about 15 violin students. Some just started the violin this year, while others have participated in the program for about three years. They worked on songs such as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, I Would Like A Fiddle including the “pizzicato” part, and Jesus Loves me. We would then eat lunch at the school prepared by Matron Josephine (who introduced us to some local cuisine!) followed by our music camp in the afternoon.

 

AR: What kinds of techniques did you work on during private lessons?

SL: We worked on learning proper positions first and foremost, incorporating aids including proper shoulder rests and the new bow-buddies that help with the bow hold. We also worked on scales, pizzicato, and melody vs. harmony. Their favorite though, was simply learning new songs and having additional music available!

 

AR: What were some of the students’ favorite activities during the afternoon music camps?

SL: They loved getting to learn rhythms, which we incorporated into a song from Tarzan. Some children used rattles to play an eighth note rhythm, others used “boom whacker” sticks with quarter notes, and they really enjoyed the partner clapping section. They were also very excited to make the music crafts, especially the bridges donated by Simon McHugh violin shop. They got to paint them, add stickers, ribbons, and more. The older students like competition, so playing Musical Jeopardy, led by Brittany, became very lively. They chose questions from sections we had covered throughout the week, including Music History, Rhythms, Note Names, Playing Your Instrument, and Dynamics.

 

AR: What kinds of concerts did you/the students perform?

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SL: We thought it important to play a bit for the students to show them what is possible with practice and dedication: we played a wide variety of songs including the Bach Double, an arrangement written by Brittany of Be Thou My Vision/Angel by Jewel, and Fantomen so they could hear a bit of fiddling. The violin students performed Jesus Loves Me, I Would Like a Fiddle, an A-Major scale, as well as a very fun game of “follow the leader” while playing the rhythm “Grasshopper, Grashopper.” They even ended up sitting on the ground while playing!

 

AR: What did you learn from the students/teachers there?

SL: The kids are extremely open to learning new things. They cannot get enough information fast enough. What they do with that newfound knowledge is also amazing. They are very creative! They can build toys out of discarded plastic; they play games with found objects such as rocks, and dance unlike anything I’ve ever seen. We learned a lot from hearing their choir perform using call and response, listening to the marching band concert, and the highlight, watching the traditional African dance troupe!

 

AR: Outside of music, what did you enjoy most?

SL: We loved getting to know the students, teachers, and staff. Even though they face adversity, they persevere and constantly look out for one another. The teachers helped us so much and there is no way we could have held class without them! The staff, including the school’s director Joan Faith and social worker Melissa Mosher, are amazing women who give of themselves constantly to ensure safety, health, education, and love for the students.

 

AR: What surprised you most about your experience?

SL: For me, the most surprising thing was the sense of family between the students. When 150 kids live at the school, it is impossible for the few adults to take on all of the chores. Daily activities that seem daunting to a five-year-old, including washing laundry by hand, learning English, and getting water, can be very difficult. The older students take the younger ones under their wings and help them learn.

 

AR: What are your plans to help maintain a relationship with the students there?

SL: We hope to be able to continue the pen-pal relationship we started with our US violin students. They have already been able to send and receive a letter. It was most encouraging for the students to hear from others who live half way across the world, but have the same interests and dedication as themselves. We also hope to maintain relationships through emails, sponsorships, and hopefully a return visit at some point (the configuration of people going may look different!).

 

AR: What are ways in which we can continue to help the students at SMK?

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SL: The students are dependent upon donations to keep the strings program going. They use the raised funds to pay for the teacher’s salary to come once a week and give instruction. We were so happy to be able to donate 5 violins to the program and leave them there. However, they still have to pay to rent the additional instruments. They always will need new strings, music stands, and rosin. If interested in donating go to either the Change The Truth website (http://changethetruth.org/) or the Strings for Uganda site (http://stringsforuganda.com/ ). Of course, please feel free to contact us at http://www.uptownviolins.com/contact/ if you would like additional information and we can help point you in the right direction!

 

Beyond music, the school is working to get more reliable water supply as well as additional nutrition in their food. Also, a student’s education typically ends after the 7th grade if they do not receive a sponsorship for secondary school. While a larger commitment, a sponsorship helps keep a student in school and gives them a great chance at a job, etc. If interested, again go to the Change The Truth Website and they will help get a perfectly matched student. http://changethetruth.org/

SPECIAL EDITION TO COME SOON!!: Dr. Stacy Peterson's and Mr. Ben Lutz's missions work at the Mengo Hospital and Saint Mary Kevin Orphanage in Uganda!

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First Fridays with Uptown Violins is hosted by Ashley Rescot, Director of Public Relations. Ashley received her Bachelor of Music from Baylor University, as well as minors in French and English. She taught English as a Fulbright scholar in France for a year, and then obtained her Master’s Degree in French Literature at the University of Kansas. She has taught French to all ages, including a Maman et Moi baby French class, as well as collegiate French levels I-IV. She teaches her own private violin studio and performs throughout the Midwest. Research interests include the relationship between music education and language acquisition, as well as the connection between music and other forms of artistic expression.

From the Winspear Opera House to the Dallas Cowboys Stadium: How to adjust your performance to fit your venue

“If you’re gonna play in Texas, You gotta have a fiddle in the band.”

-Alabama

As 21st century musicians, we live in an age where versatility is essential to our trade. We hear violin in a wide variety of settings, whether listening to Hilary Hahn playing the Sibelius Violin Concerto at Carnegie Hall or Boyd Tinsley rockin’ out to a concert with the Dave Matthews Band. In her interview, Brittany Peterson, Executive Director of Uptown Violins, recounts her experiences performing in diverse settings, ranging from the Winspear Opera House to AT&T Stadium.

Participants: Ashley Rescot (AR) and Brittany Peterson (BP)

AR: Which venues have you enjoyed performing at the most?

BP: I particularly liked performing at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas, TX. The acoustics were excellent, the sound managers were good, and the audience was receptive. I played a fun variety of music, including a violin concerto intro leading into a Ledd Zepplin song. I also liked the Orpheum Theater in Wichita, KS. The audience was impressed to see eight members of the same family playing together, and they really enjoyed my arrangement of Vivaldi’s Winter with a modern twist for eight violins. Another memorable performance was the movie premier of Fotolanthropy’s “Travis: A Soldier’s Story” at the Majestic Theater in Dallas. We had the privilege of performing patriotic music for the paraplegic soldier whose life had inspired the movie. Playing at the Ambassadors’ Ball for the presidential inauguration in DC was also a highlight. The guests entered on the Red Carpet, and they loved both our classical music opening, as well as our pop finish. At the end the ambassadors chanted, “One more song,” so we played the most popular song at the time, "We Are Young" by the band FUN, to great applause. I even got to kick off my heels and dance!

AR: How does your audience and venue affect your choice in genre?

BP: You have to know how to read your audience. Stereotypically, younger crowds are often more drawn to the pop sets, including songs by Taylor Swift and Twenty One Pilots. Older generations, as well as people from cultures where classical music is more widespread, may better understand classical music references than the average American. Of course Texans are known for their love of country, so the ability to throw in a lick from “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” is a huge crowd pleaser. Audiences are most drawn to what they know, so it is important to be able to adjust your set lists accordingly.

AR: What kind of venues and genres lend themselves to the acoustic instrument? How do you prepare a large verses small setting?

BP: In general, I use my acoustic violin for classical playing and in more traditional settings, including symphony halls, historic churches, and people’s homes. If you are playing on a small stage, you don’t need to be powering through an orchestra, so you can incorporate more dynamic contrasts by using less pressure, playing closer to fingerboard, and tilting your bow hair. Concert halls were made for acoustic instruments. When I have played at the Meyerson Symphony Hall, Bass Performance Hall, Dallas City Performance Hall, and the Winspear Opera House the conductors have determined our dynamics. However, if you are a soloist in a large hall, all of your playing has to be stronger in order to be heard over the orchestra. You can’t do as many dynamic contrasts. For example, your piano in a large venue may require flatter bow hair, but perhaps you can still play closer to fingerboard. Try to practice in advance on the stage where you will be performing. In college I would sneak onto the concert hall stage late at night in order to get the feel for it. In this way the hall became more like a practice room, instead of a gigantic stage. I eventually felt like all the stages were the same, whether I was playing in front of five hundred or 50,000 people.

AR: What kind of venues and genres lend themselves to the electric instrument? What are some of the challenges of playing electric violin for venues like the Dallas Cowboys’ Stadium?

BP: I often prefer my electric violin for outdoor venues, large stadiums, band settings, and for contemporary music concerts. New concert venues and many modern churches are designed for bands and musicians who “plug in.” The electric violin is helpful because you can plug in just like the electric guitars and play as loudly as them. You can adjust your volume in a variety of places: on your violin, your pedal, amp, and even in the sound system by a sound engineer.

When you play at any sports stadium, keep in mind that cameras will be on you. You have to acknowledge them every once in awhile with your facial expressions, but you do not want to continuously be looking at them. Sometimes focus your attention on interacting with the other musicians or playing to the audience, giving an occasional smile at the camera. In the age of social media, you want to look as professional and fun as possible, because you could end up on someone’s phone, on YouTube, or with your face spanning from 30-yard to 30-yard line!

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When I played for Dierks Bentley at the Country Music Awards, we were performing in front of 80,000 people. The stadium was so loud we couldn’t even hear the drums! As a result, we had to use “in ears.” We were plugged into the sound system, but we also needed a “count off” or a click track, as well as a “talk back” in order to communicate with the person in charge.  I could tell him if I needed more of the lead singer, lead guitar, etc.

AR: Do you have any final suggestions for performing, regardless of venue?

BP: My best suggestion is to over-prepare. Before a big concert, I recommend "practice performing" your song 10 times every day for 10 days. This way by the time you perform, you will have practiced it 100 times recently. During this time you can experiment with body motion and different dynamics. Maybe you played too stiffly the first time, so now you try moving forward, etc. Practice in front of the mirror. Record yourself, even though you may hate it. Play your song out for a forgiving audience. The night before the big concert, always get good rest so that you have enough energy for the audience, whether you are performing a Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto or a two-hour pop set. And enjoy yourself! The audience appreciates the concert more if they know you are having fun, too.

 Brittany does an excellent job of reading audiences and adjusting her performances to fit their needs. Although some people may believe adaptation is compromise, we must remember that adaptation is not new to the world of music. The musicians transitioning from the Classical to the Romantic Era adjusted their technique and even their instruments’ makeup to accommodate the large stages of Berlioz and Liszt, in stark contrast to the intimate settings of the royal residences hosting Mozart. So if you’re gonna play violin in Texas, you might have to fiddle with the band!

 

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First Fridays with Uptown Violins is hosted by Ashley Rescot, Director of Public Relations. Ashley received her Bachelor of Music from Baylor University, as well as minors in French and English. She taught English as a Fulbright scholar in France for a year, and then obtained her Master’s Degree in French Literature at the University of Kansas. She has taught French to all ages, including a Maman et Moi baby French class, as well as collegiate French levels I-IV. She teaches her own private violin studio and performs throughout the Midwest. Research interests include the relationship between music education and language acquisition, as well as the connection between music and other forms of artistic expression.

Back to School Bash: How Do I Motivate My Child to Practice?

“Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve.” –Tom Landry

  Accomplished violinist and mother of five, Allison Peterson is the proud matriarch of Uptown Violins. While most people I know find it daunting to motivate even one child to practice regularly, Allison managed to motivate all four of my sisters and me to practice nearly every day from the age of 3 until we went to college, all of us with violin scholarships in hand. As the mother of a soon-to-be-2-year-old, I wanted to find out her tricks of the trade, not just as a professional violin teacher, but also as a busy mom, with all of the responsibility that entails! Here are the questions that came to my mind, and the advice of a veteran teacher and mom!

Participants: Ashley Rescot (AR) and Allison Peterson (AP)

 

AR: What are some of the techniques you use to motivate your students to practice?

 

AP: I try to make it so fun that the kids want to practice! With pre-school and early elementary school children I structure lessons and practicing like playing games, and I try to keep this up for as long as possible. However, realistically most kids would still rather play outside, (or now with their phones and tablets, etc.), so they need external motivation as well. Students need both short term and long-term goals. Short term goals involve small prizes, like a piece of candy from the teacher if they get an A at the lesson, or perhaps they could build a piece of a puzzle for every time they drill a difficult passage. I also make sticker charts to keep track of students’ daily practicing, which result in long-term prizes. Long term goals and prizes need to be set up with parents. For example, if the student has a month of A lessons, he might get to have a special fun night out with mom or dad! It is best if parents have something to offer, because they know what would best motivate their child. For middle school and high school students, it should be understood that they must practice regularly, without the need of external rewards. At this point the reward should be the joy of performing. Group playing, including group lessons, music camps, and orchestral playing, also help motivate students because kids like the social aspect of playing.

 

AR:  What did you do to motivate your own kids (like me!) to practice? Did you have to adjust your technique between students and your own children?

 

AP: I had to be stricter with my own children because I was the parent. Parents usually struggle with kids’ attitudes more than the teacher does. In addition to the short term and long-term goal charts, we also had attitude charts, where you could get a sticker for having a good attitude.  In our house, practicing was a non-negotiable family rule as part of our daily life, just like clearing the table and picking up rooms. The social aspect definitely motivated my children. We performed together as a family and no one wanted to feel left out, so the kids would motivate each other to practice.

 

AR: What advice can you give to non-musical parents when working with their children at home?

 

AP: Parents should understand that they don’t have to know music; they have to know their child. Parents know how to motivate their child better than anyone else, and they can learn the music right along with the student. In the age of smart phones, parents can also take videos of the lesson, which is very helpful!  One of the great things about the Suzuki method is its emphasis on the Parent/Teacher/Student triangle. A good teacher should show you the small steps to take in your home practices. To use a sports analogy, the teacher is the coach, but the parent is the day-to-day trainer. Another important factor in the success of your child’s music lessons is the support of both parents. Often the moms come to lessons (although not always), so it means a lot to students when dads ask to hear them play as well! It also takes both parents to help make practicing is a priority at home.

 

AR:  Sometimes it seems that musical parents struggle the most at helping their kids reach the same musical level they themselves have achieved. What advice can you offer them?

 

AP: I believe it is important to make your own children’s practice time a part of your studio schedule. Whenever possible, set up your kids’ activities first, and then your students’ lessons. Sometimes this requires creative thinking on your part as a parent. For example, I had my children practice at 6:30 every morning before school, due to after-school lessons and activities. Regarding attitudes, try to look for the bigger picture, and use this as inspiration to persevere through the tough days. During the teen years, if possible have your kids take from another teacher so that you have the backing of someone who isn’t their parent. Coming from a Christian perspective, my long-term goal was always to help my children serve the Lord, whether that was in music like me, medicine like my husband, or something entirely different from us. However, I knew that if I wanted my kids to have a chance at a musical career, they would have to practice a lot to reach the high level of playing required in college. I had to think long-term in order to persevere through the short-term hurdles of bad attitudes, challenging repertoire, and musical disappointments. Students need good leaders to help them persevere, and often parents are their biggest inspiration.

 

I know that I, along with the other sisters in Uptown Violins, are all grateful for our mother’s inspiring love of music, and her dedication to her children. She worked tirelessly at helping us improve as musicians, and, more importantly, at developing our character. She taught us to persevere through difficulty, and the joy of accomplishing our goals. We also learned to play together as a family, and not just as individuals, which has been very motivational in our desire to perform together today. 

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First Fridays with Uptown Violins is hosted by Ashley Rescot, Director of Public Relations. Ashley received her Bachelor of Music from Baylor University, as well as minors in French and English. She taught English as a Fulbright scholar in France for a year, and then obtained her Master’s Degree in French Literature at the University of Kansas. She has taught French to all ages, including a Maman et Moi baby French class, as well as collegiate French levels I-IV. She teaches her own private violin studio and performs throughout the Midwest. Research interests include the relationship between music education and language acquisition, as well as the connection between music and other forms of artistic expression.

Vacation Music School!

 “Then, in that hour of deliverance, my heart spoke. Does not such a country, and such defenders of their country, deserve a song?”

-Francis Scott Key

Happy belated 4th of July everyone! Uptown Violins is in full patriotic swing! Due to the holiday weekend last week our blog is coming to you the 2nd Friday this month. Every year we members of Uptown Violins host music camps in our respective cities, with fun innovative themes! Last week Allison and Christy conducted a Wichita, KS Vacation Music School entitled “God Bless America.” Each of the four days had sub-themes relating to America. On the first day, “Old Glory Flag Day,” they focused on songs pertaining to our flag, including “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The second day, “Kansas Day,” students listened to the state’s song “Home on the Range,” and my Grandmother Ruth came to talk about the operetta she wrote for the love of Kansas, featuring the “Merry Meadowlark,” the state bird. For “Military Day,” Allison introduced her studio to many Sousa marches and other famous military songs for each branch of the Armed Forces. On the last day of camp, “Freedom Day,” the campers gave a patriotic concert for family and friends featuring American music, including “American Patrol,” “America the Beautiful,” and “Home on the Range.” I asked Allison what the highlight of camp was for her this year, and she said she enjoyed learning the history behind many of the famous patriotic songs we know and love. On a different note, she said the students’ highlight was probably the musical game of croquet they played outside while being squirted with water to combat the heat!

Next week Brittany and I will be conducting our “Jungle Jams” Vacation Music School in Springfield, IL, followed by a “Team USA” musical Olympics camp in Dallas, TX. Sheree, Brittany, and Allison will conclude our summer season by teaching an “Around the World” music camp in Kampala, Uganda, where they hope to adapt our American music school concepts to the needs of the Ugandan violinists. They are looking forward to teaching the students about music from different continents, while also having the kids teach them about African musical traditions.

When deciding our themes for the year, we look at the age and level of our students as well as popular kid movies at the time, and pick themes that appeal to our particular studios. We usually have a “fun” theme and a “musical” theme, which we correlate whenever possible. For example, in our “Four Seasons” camp we decorate the studio each day with different seasonal décor for fall, winter, spring, and summer, and ask the children to wear clothing appropriate for that time of year. Each day we study Vivaldi’s corresponding work pertaining to that season, as well as make a seasonal craft or play a musical game. Over the years some of our favorite themes have included: “The Sound of Music” which introduces students to a variety musical genres, “Jungle Jams,” with an emphasis on rhythm and Brittany’s fun stomp routine, and “Frozen,” in which students study some of the famous winter-themed classics while dressing up as the popular Disney characters!

We usually hold Vacation Music School four days in a row, for two-and-a-half hours a day. We structure it like mini collegiate music school, including daily music theory, music history, group lessons, crafts/games, and of course the kids’ favorite, snack time! We end the week with a special performance for family and friends. We believe camp is a great way for young violinists to become more familiar with music theory, famous composers, different musical time periods, and a variety of musical genres, in a fun and creative atmosphere. It is especially helpful for children accustomed to private lessons to experience group playing and to build friendships that continue from one year to the next. Our Vacation Music School also prepares young students for more intensive music festivals they may wish to attend in their high school and college years. Many of my students tell me music camp is their favorite musical week of the year, and the kid in me whole-heartily agrees!

 

P.S. Stay tuned for our new “How to” series for the fall, featuring articles for performers, parents, students, and teachers alike! We will first look at challenges including how to motivate kids to practice!

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First Fridays with Uptown Violins is hosted by Ashley Rescot, Director of Public Relations. Ashley received her Bachelor of Music from Baylor University, as well as minors in French and English. She taught English as a Fulbright scholar in France for a year, and then obtained her Master’s Degree in French Literature at the University of Kansas. She has taught French to all ages, including a Maman et Moi baby French class, as well as collegiate French levels I-IV. She teaches her own private violin studio and performs throughout the Midwest. Research interests include the relationship between music education and language acquisition, as well as the connection between music and other forms of artistic expression.

Bon Voyage!

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

–André Gide

The summer season is upon us, and with it comes one of my favorite pastimes, travel! Growing up in the Peterson household, our parents instilled in us a love of both music and travel. Our motto was work hard and play hard. Our family vacations ranged from mountainous dude ranches and historical cities, to peaceful lakes and exotic beaches. We always loved these trips because we could discover exciting new places as a family. I still remember Brittany and Kerri singing camp songs at the top of their lungs while water skiing together. Our family not only put on musical shows, we were also the stars of the lake when it came to water skiing. My dad showed off for us by turning around on trick skis, then he and mom slalom skied together, managing to hold hands and kiss without falling down! To top it all off, we kids could all slalom ski together at the same time, even if only for a minute or two.

My senior year of high school I had my first taste of international travel when I toured Europe with my mom and high school choir. Not the typical high school socialite, I was a nerdy, overly studious 18-year-old who preferred learning French and art history to partying with my friends. As a result, I was particularly excited to visit France where I hoped to put my four years of high school French to good use. My moment arrived while we were singing in Notre Dame. Instead of the romantic experience we had expected singing in one of the most famous cathedrals in the world, we were squeezed in tightly amidst construction cranes and machines, and were constantly interrupted by the loud clanking of workmen. After much scowling and gesturing on the part of our director, I finally walked over to the workmen, gathered as much confidence in my high school French as I could muster, and said politely Il est difficile de chanter avec cette bruit (It is difficult to sing with this noise.) Taken aback by this French-speaking American teenager, the workmen stopped their clanking long enough for us to finish our concert!

After this first international experience, I was hooked. Throughout college and graduate school I traveled every chance I could! My freshman year of college my orchestra travelled to Cost Rica where I spent a week with a musical Costa Rican family. Although my Spanish was minimal at the time, I still did my best to speak it with the family in order to learn as much as possible about their culture. The following year, I returned to Paris to study abroad, where I met a French cellist named Camille. She was scheduled to stay with my family in Kansas for a chamber music camp a couple of weeks later. As fellow musicians, we hit it off immediately! She did laugh at me for using the formal vous with her while accidentally saying the informal tu to our waiter. When she came to the States I had my revenge when she confused squirrels with sharks, talking about “the horrible squirrels that bite people in the sea!” Needless to say, we learned a lot from each other. When I moved to France a couple of years later, she allowed me to stay with her while I looked for my own apartment, and she frequently took me to her hometown of Orleans to visit her family. This became my home-away-from-home. Her father was a puppeteer by trade (a profession I never knew existed), and her mother a music theory professor at the local university. They were some of the kindest, most interesting people I had ever met. Brilliant, witty, and excellent cooks, I spent hours at their dinner table talking music, culture, and cuisine!

  When I returned to France a few summers ago, my husband and I had the chance to hear Camille perform Berlioz’ oratorio L’Enfance du Christ with the Orleans Symphony. This work is not often played, so it was a pleasure to hear it performed live in its entirety: one-and-a-half hours straight!

That same trip I had the opportunity to perform a recital in Paris entitled “An American Taste of Paris,” featuring “Nocturne” and “Cortège” by Lili Boulanger, the first movement of Debussy’s Violin Sonata, and Franck’s Violin Sonata. The two short pieces by Lili Boulanger captured my attention because her sister, Nadia Boulanger, is the famous Parisian pedagogue who instructed many American composers, including Aaron Copland. Lili, however, is alleged to be the sister with true talent, but she died tragically at the young age of 25, leaving behind a much smaller but still impactful legacy of beautiful music. The Franck had special meaning for me personally because my mother had performed it at her senior recital in college. For the highlight of the program my pianist and I performed the world premiere of a work by Paris-residing Mexican composer Esteban Zuñiga. He and I have been friends for years, having met him while I lived in Paris. He wrote the work specifically for us. It was such a wonderful experience to work with him in person, and to see how music truly can bring together people from around the world!

As I begin the summer, I look forward to more of my favorite pastimes, traveling and teaching French and music camps throughout the Midwest! This summer Uptown Violins is leading camps in Dallas, TX, Wichita, KS, Springfield, IL, and Kajjansi, Uganda. Stay tuned!

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First Fridays with Uptown Violins is hosted by Ashley Rescot, Director of Public Relations. Ashley received her Bachelor of Music from Baylor University, as well as minors in French and English. She taught English as a Fulbright scholar in France for a year, and then obtained her Master’s Degree in French Literature at the University of Kansas. She has taught French to all ages, including a Maman et Moi baby French class, as well as collegiate French levels I-IV. She teaches her own private violin studio and performs throughout the Midwest. Research interests include the relationship between music education and language acquisition, as well as the connection between music and other forms of artistic expression.

All Aboard the Rhythm Train!

“Everything living has a rhythm. Do you feel your music? ”

-Michael Jackson

As a violin instructor of many young children, I believe it is important to use resources that appeal to the age demographic I teach. In addition to the Suzuki series, I use The Rhythm Train books with my young protégés. If you ask any of my beginner students what is their favorite part of the lesson, they often say “Rhythm Train!”

The Rhythm Train series is written by Dana (Bowen) DeKalb. It is a wonderful resource for young musicians because it gives them a chance to become familiar with fundamental note values, ranging from quarter and eighth notes at the beginning of Book 1, to triplet, eighths and dotted quarter notes in Book 2. Clapping rhythms gives my students a sense of accomplishment, even on their first lesson when they don’t yet know how to play anything on their instrument (let alone how to hold it!). It also allows them to sit down and rest their often-weary legs! The Rhythm Train appeals to children because it is full of adorably illustrated animals, with each animal representing a different rhythm. For example, when students see a quarter note they simultaneously clap and say “dog.” I also typically follow-up by asking them to give the traditional note name and how many beats it gets. Even the youngest beginners are able to clap difficult rhythmic passages, including dotted eighth sixteenths, due to the creative animal names. In addition to clapping, my mother Allison has the kids stomp their feet to the rhythms in order to use their whole bodies, not just their hands. With time, as they become more comfortable with the rhythms, she teaches them to use traditional numeric counting (1-e-and-a) instead of the animal names in order to prepare them for orchestral playing. My sister Brittany suggests adding the metronome at this stage as well for students to practice keeping a steady beat.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Dana about The Rhythm Train series, and she gave me some useful background information on the project. She invented the concept while living in Alaska and expecting her second child. She said the “bull moose” (used to clap the half note) was inspired by the many bull moose she saw near her home! She had already been using animal names to teach rhythm to her students but thought it would be fun to use them in a book with pictures. She collaborated with her illustrator and graphic designer, Aaron Bowen, to come up with the cute, cartoon animals that help bring the books to life. The train cars are meant to resemble measures on the staff, allowing for easy legibility. The Rhythm Train compliments the Suzuki Violin series well, as it covers most rhythms encountered in Suzuki Books 1-3. The books are useful to teachers of any instrument who would like a creative way to teach rhythm to young people. Even my one-year-old daughter loves looking at the notes and pictures and trying to clap along!

During her interview, I asked Dana if she had any additional creative uses for the books. She said that besides simply clapping each page, students and teachers can practice clapping different lines at the same time in order to simulate ensemble playing. Clapping from the books is an excellent exercise to do at group lessons. For example, in her “chase” activity, one student starts clapping the first line, and the second begins once the first student moves on to the second line. Parents and teachers can laminate the flash cards at the end of the book so that students can make up their own trains. This has been a hit with my studio at group lessons, especially with my Pre-Twinklers! Teachers can also set up various stations during the lesson, using The Rhythm Train as one station among many in order to help students move around the room. I have many beginners this spring, and I am looking forward to using several of these new ideas at my summer music camp!

 

Dana DeKalb is the director of the DeKalb Suzuki School of Violin. She has conducted Rhythm Train classes at both the Ottawa Suzuki Institute and the Parsons Suzuki Institute, and they have been used at other Suzuki Institutes as well. The Rhythm Train can be purchased from Shar Music and Young Musicians. Her books are dedicated to her three children.

 

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First Fridays with Uptown Violins is hosted by Ashley Rescot, Director of Public Relations. Ashley received her Bachelor of Music from Baylor University, as well as minors in French and English. She taught English as a Fulbright scholar in France for a year, and then obtained her Master’s Degree in French Literature at the University of Kansas. She has taught French to all ages, including a Maman et Moi baby French class, as well as collegiate French levels I-IV. She teaches her own private violin studio and performs throughout the Midwest. Research interests include the relationship between music education and language acquisition, as well as the connection between music and other forms of artistic expression.