Gift Ideas for Classical Musicians

You might scream when you unwrap a book of Taylor Swift sheet music--even if you're not a preteen schoolgirl!
You might scream when you unwrap a book of Taylor Swift sheet music–even if you’re not a preteen schoolgirl! (Check it out in our online store.)

Christmas. 

Don’t stress. Yes, it’s coming. Yes, there may be expectations to meet–real or imagined. Either way, gift-giving should be a pleasant activity; preferably, not something that leaves you popping Advil to keep your holiday-stress-induced migraine at bay.

Music is a great gift in so many forms. If you’re wondering what to get the classical musician in your life, check out this list of gift ideas that will bring a smile to any musician’s face. Happy Holidays!

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1. Sheet Music – Like the Taylor Swift collection.

Come on. You know you love her. And so will your violin-playing daughter for that matter. But beyond T-Swift, there’s plenty of sheet music out there (including Christmas tunes!) that will liven up the season!

 

2. A Spotify Membership

If you haven’t tried Spotify, you should. It’s amazing. With a monthly membership, you can access pretty much all the music in the universe with unlimited streaming and the ability to download music to your personal device. You’ll never have to buy a CD ever again and can discover new artists so easily. A monthly subscription makes a great gift for a music lover.

 

3. A Performance

The best gifts don’t come wrapped in paper and topped with bows. A personal performance for someone–or a group of someones–is super, super special and something that won’t be forgotten. It doesn’t have to be spectacular either, perhaps something as simple as a Christmas Carols sung on a front porch. Other ideas?

  • Get a quartet together to play for your family, at your Church, a nursing home, at a school function–whatever.
  • Prepare a recital to give during the holidays.
  • Organize a family concert with a Christmas theme.
  • Compose a piece and perform it for someone.
  • Teach your children Christmas songs.

 

4. A New Violin

Seriously, a new instrument one of the best gifts you could ever give or receive. No matter how old or young or experienced or inexperienced someone is, they will be absolutely enamored. It’s amazing to see the look on a person’s face when they hold a new violin in their hands. A thirty-year-old and a ten-year-old will have the same giddy expression of awe. Ditch the jewelry and jigsaw puzzles and puppies (too messy)! Give a gift that has unlimited potential as both a work of art and something to do (practice!) when the holiday parties are over.

violinsetupprocess

5. A New Case

If you or your loved one already own a great violin, a new case is another great idea. Cases wear out and get tattered like old sweaters–especially cheap cases. Go for a full-suspension case that’s both durable and easy on the eyes. Bam cases are totally fun with a selection of bright colors. They’re super strong and popular.

 

6. Mozart Balls (Mozartkugel)

These European chocolates are a total classic with such an original taste. One feels very classy whilst eating Mozartkugel!

mozartball7. Concert Tickets

It is such a pleasant surprise to open up a Christmas card or envelope and find a pair of tickets to the symphony, ballet, or any kind of concert. Giving an experience if often more meaningful than giving an object. Find out what’s going on in your (or your loved one’s) community and pick out an event that suits your giftee’s taste.

 

8. Cross Stitching

Whether you cross stitch a kit or give one as a gift, there’s something charming about good-old-fashioned embroidery. Check out music-themed cross stitch kits on 123stitch.com such as this “Music is Harmony” pattern. Grandma-chic is totally in!

musicisharmonyviolincrossstitch

9. Accessories: Metronome, Tuner, Music Stand

It seems that musicians can never really have it all–there are always accessories and upgrades that can enhance one’s musical life. Carbon fiber bows, shiny new rosin cakes, or even violin pickups can be exciting and original gifts!

 

10. Carbon Fiber Bow

Speaking of carbon fiber bows, I know it may sound strange, but these space-age bows (not to be confused with fiberglass bows) are like the iPhone of violin accessories–modern, high-tech, effective, sleek, and useful. Check out the Giuliani Carbon Fiber Bow, comparable to the Coda Bow brand, but more affordable.

 

11. Artwork

Prints, artwork, statuettes, crafts for display with musical themes are memorable items–you could even paint something yourself!

II painted a violin to give as a gift to a violinist1=.

12. Headphones

Classical musicians can be gearheads too! Just because we’re all old-school with our sheet music (paperless concerts, anyone?) and archaic wooden instruments doesn’t mean we don’t love a good listen with a pair of awesome headphones–think Bose. There’s nothing like sinking into a recliner, leaning back, closing your eyes, and enjoying a Beethoven Symphony with amazing clarity. Sometimes digital recordings offer even more acoustic clarity than you might experience in a concert hall.

 

13. Spankin’ New Strings

It’s amazing how many violinists play on old strings without changing them for years. Fresh strings can completely transform the sound of an instrument. A sampling of various string brands would make fun stocking stuffers!

 

14. Cheesy T-shirts, Mugs, Mousepads, etc.

Check out cafepress.com’s selectiong. They’re worthy of White Elephant Gift status at the least.

 

15. Christmas Ornament Sets

You’ll find plenty of ornament collections available online like these violin ornaments on amazon.com. Cute, pretty, cheery. Just gift them before Christmas so they can be admired on the tree.

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So get out there and tackle that Christmas list! You can do it! It’s going to be amazing! But if the thought of shopping is just too much, no worries. Just give someone a hug or (even better) directions to stand under the mistletoe. After all, nothing beats good, old-fashioned, warm fuzzies.

Happy Holidays!

Love,

The KV Staff

Running the Recital Marathon

It can be done. (Photo by Paul Sableman)

I’m not a fan of sports metaphors, so you’ll have to excuse this extremely obvious comparison. But I started running recently and spent the weekend seriously contemplating the concept of the Marathon. And during that contemplation, I was surprised to find myself simultaneously reflecting on my experience preparing for my first recital years ago.

After crossing the finish line at the Scarecrow Scamper 5K this Saturday, I was surprised to feel like I could keep running; I have reached some level of endurance that I’ve never experienced in my life. As I wandered over to the water table to grab a drink and a complimentary apple, I ran into a friend who’d also run the 5K. “You should run with us!” she said, referring to “us” as a group of women who meet at ungodly hours of the morning with the goal of running an actual 26.2 in the spring.

This led to a conversation about the Marathon concept itself. I asked her if she’d done one before and what it felt like. I started doing a mental inventory of friends and acquaintances of mine who have completely the feat. And then I started thinking, well, if so-and-so can do it, could I? If 60-year-olds can do it, could I? If the average Joe can do it, could I?

Then I started feeling a sense of dread. If I possibly could do it—if my body were really strong enough and capable of developing the strength and endurance necessary—does it mean that I should do it? I was feeling a very specific sense of fear that I’ve felt before: the fear of one’s own potential.

Recognizing one’s potential is a precursor to taking action. Recognizing potential leads to developing a sense of confidence, courage, and faith that you can accomplish something you have never done before.

“Well, think about it, and if you want to, come join us on Tuesday morning. I’ll send you the schedule. And there’s no pressure to do the marathon—you could just train with us and see how you feel.”

I got an email with the following schedule:

Marathon ScheduleMarathon Schedule 2I remember drawing up a similar schedule when preparing for my first recital. It had a countdown of weeks to the final performance, lessons with my private teacher and accompanist booked on the calendar, a breakdown of what to practice on certain days, and a smaller breakdown of how many hours or minutes to spend on each piece during each of those practice sessions. I knew that without that steady, regular practice, I’d likely crash and burn on performance day. NOTHING can replace a consistent effort when it comes to preparing for a performance, especially when the music is hard and the music is new.

Music takes time to learn. You get to know the notes on the page, the bowings, the fingerings. You start slowly developing muscle memory as your fingers and arms internally program patterns, shifts, and connections. As a bass player, I know that playing my instrument actually requires substantial muscle strength. If I haven’t played in a while my hand and thumb muscles cramp up. My shoulders ache. My back is sore. My triceps feel the weight of the bow. It’s amazing how even exercising outside of playing the bass can help my playing. Yoga does wonders for my back and shoulders, both of which support my form when I play my instrument.

This morning I actually went to run for the first time with the “Marathon Moms,” as I’ll refer to them. I was both encouraged and discouraged. Encouraged that I ran another 5K in distance feeling like I could keep running when I got home, but discouraged by my slow speed and the fact that I’d never run more than 4 miles—how could I do 26.2?

I’m not sure. But I’ll keep training and we’ll just see what happens.

I think that last sentiment is an attitude that many musicians also feel. Like, “Yes, I can play, and I can play pretty well. I’ll keep practicing and keep playing. Maybe someday I’ll play a real formal recital—maybe someday. But for now I’ll learn a few pieces and we’ll see what happens.”

We’ll see what happens. What does that even mean? Who sees what happens? You? The people around you?

I have an opinion—and I’d love your thoughts on this—but I feel that musicians have some obligation to perform for other people. Practice done in secret is great; there are definitely significant benefits to any individual involvement in music. It’s good for the brain, it can be relaxing, it’s an enjoyable experience. What do you think? At what point should (or is “should” the wrong word here?) a musician take their playing ability out of the practice room and into the performance sphere? Is it selfish to keep your talent and musical abilities to yourself?

I’m not really sure.

When I chatted with my husband about the idea of training for the Marathon, he made an interesting comment. “You’d have to be obsessed,” he said. “People who do marathons are kind of obsessive.

“I don’t think so,” I replied. “Like, I play the bass, but I’m not necessarily obsessed with the bass. I did a recital and, yeah, it required a lot of diligent practice, but I wouldn’t say I was obsessed with the idea.” He gave made a face that said, “Okay, I can see that.”

“But,” I said, “I do know a lot of bass players who are TOTALLY obsessed—like all they do is think about the bass and play the bass and talk about the bass and live to practice. But you don’t have to be obsessed like that to give a recital.”

“But if you trained for an actual marathon, it would take a lot of time. Like, it’d be a pretty big time commitment.”

And he’s absolutely right. Not just time to run, but time to think about it. Time to mentally be absorbed by the challenge.

So there you have it. There are so many similarities between the Recital and the Marathon. Both require

  • a plan of attack
  • preparation that begins far in advance
  • a scheduled race/performance day
  • dedication to complete the task
  • TIME to develop strength, endurance, and capability
  • Constantly renewed motivation to pull your instrument out of the case/running shoes out of the closet
  • [ideally] a huge group of fans to cheer you on!

It’s frightening to face your own potential. But if you never face it, never try, you’ll never know. You may be left with regrets. You may be left saying, “I could have done that,” because you never did it. You never opened the door to that possibility. You look back at that door and wonder what was behind it and if it’s still there.

So do you want it enough? Do you want it enough to [note obligatory Nike reference]

JUST DO IT

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Finishing my first 10K ever! What a strange, exhausting, rewarding feeling.
Finishing my first 10K ever. Yeah!