Uptown Violins

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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. 


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.”


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?



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)


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


Uptown Violins’ Favorite French tea



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 


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


4. Mon beau sapin : Tino Rossi


5. Promenade en traineau : Fernand Gignac 


6. Noël Blanc: Dalida


7. Vive le vent : Ginette Reno


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

9. Minuit Chrétien : Nicole Martin 


10. Père Noël arrive ce soir: Céline Dion


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


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

15. La plus belle nuit : Marie Denis Pelletier 




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


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.


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!


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!


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


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?


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?


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?


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!


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.”


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!


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!



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. 


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!


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.