Category Archives: Performance

Music Careers for Your Personality Type

Are you wondering where you might best fit in your local music community? Check out this infographic shared with us by Emily Parker with collegematchup.net. As you’ll see, the multi-faceted music industry has a place for all personality types!

Music Careers for Your Personality Type
Source: CollegeMatchup.net

Congratulations, Emily Chisholm!

We love hearing success stories from performers throughout the nation playing on Kennedy Violins instruments. Congratulations to Emily Chisholm from Porter, Indiana, who recently performed and scored gold in her first competition held by the Indiana State School Music Association!

Emily Chisholm scores gold in the Indiana State School Music Association competition.
Emily Chisholm scores gold in the Indiana State School Music Association competition.

Emily plays on our most popular instrument, the Ricard Bunnel G2 Violin. In the words of her mother, Michelle, “She loves it and we couldn’t be happier!”

We are so thrilled to hear about Emily’s musical achievements with the Bunnel and wish her the best as she continues her musical journey!


Have you had a positive experience with your Kennedy Violins instrument? Email your story to liz@kennedyviolins to share on our blog!

Jayden Halverson Wins Wisconsin State Fair Junior Fiddler’s Contest on a Kennedy Violins Gerard

Congratulations to twelve-year-old fiddler Jayden Halverson for winning first prize in the 2015 Wisconsin State Fair Junior Fiddler’s Contest! Jayden is in her fourth year playing the violin, currently studying Suzuki Violin School, Volume 4.

We are proud to share that her winning performance was played on one of our favorite instruments, Kennedy Violins’ Anton Gerard Violin. We hope the Gerard continues to support Jayden throughout her bright future as an award-winning musician.

Gerard Violin
Jayden Halverson and her violin teacher, Kathy, hold her first-prize award and blue ribbon after winning the Wisconsin State Fair fiddling contest.

We would also like to thank Jayden’s father for sharing Jayden’s success and satistfaction with the Gerard with us:

“We are so amazed by the sound of [the Anton Gerard Violin]. Directly out of the mail the instrument sounded so wonderful and played so smoothly. I was amazed that after a few months of playing the sound just keeps getting more depth and soul. Not only does it sound amazing, but the finish and one-piece back make this violin look as rich as it sounds. My daughter absolutely loves her Gerard! She took this fine violin all the way to the winner’s circle. This year she and her Kennedy violin won first place in the Wisconsin State Fair fiddling contest. ”

– Chad Halverson

Again, congratulations to Jayden! May your musical journey lead you to even greater heights.

Sincerely,

The Kennedy Violins Staff

Forget the Map at Home!

A Guide to Improvisation, by Katie Lubiens

You don't need sheet music on this journey.
You don’t need sheet music on this journey.

Improvising? That sounds scary! Making up the music as you go? But where’s the sheet music? Who even improvises anyway?

As a classical violinist, these were all questions I asked myself when confronted with the thought of improvising.  I never was taught to improvise.  As classical musicians, we always have our sheet music to guide us, to show us the direction we should go.  Going forward into the musical realm without sheet music seems like going on a roadtrip without a map.  Where do I go?

Surprisingly, I’ve discovered, improving is all around us as musicians.  Even classical musicians improvise, too!  There are so many musical genres to experiment with which do teach you to improvise and foster those creative juices that make new music happen.  From blues jams to Irish sessiuns, from jazz club improvs to bluegrass jam outs, there are endless outlets for practicing improvisation.  Without sheet music, how do we know what to play?   Especially when improvising with other musicians.

Katie Lubiens performing with The Seseseisiunists.
Katie Lubiens performing with The Seseseisiunists.

Here are a few pointers when learning to improvise: 

  1. The most important thing to know is what key you are playing in.  It can sound great when everyone is playing something completely different, but they must be playing their own unique parts in the same key for it to work.
  2. Think of the scale, then play itterations of the scale.  I like to play the scale aloud before trying any kind of improvising so I really get the notes in my ear and fingers.  Then try playing the scale up and down, jumping around with different arpeggios, and always keeping the tonic, dominant and 7th in mind.
  3. Take turns.  Most improv music works best when everyone takes turns being the melody.  When it’s not your turn at the melody be sure to keep the energy up.  Long notes mixed with off beat rhythms are easy on the tonic or dominant.
  4. Practice some cool licks at home.  Most improv artists aren’t actually making it up as they go.  Usually, they have practiced some licks which they made up at home and can transcribe them into any key to play while performing in an improvising scenario.
  5. Perfection is not the point.  Improvising teaches you to be adaptable.  Adapting to your current musical situation makes you a stronger player and shows you that the imperfections are what make improvising so thrilling.
  6. Don’t be afraid!  Although you can feel put on the spot while improvising, recognize that everyone else recognizes that you are improvising.  It is not meant to be perfect.  Once you get used to improvising, you will begin to feel the powerful energy in making up music with your peers as you go.

Like anything, improvising gets better the more you do it.  I promise you, if you try you, will find that creating your own music with others in the moment is one of the best adventures you can embark upon. The moment when you close your eyes and listen to yourself creating music together, making it up as you go, and you hear that it sounds beautiful and harmonious, you will find pride in yourself like never before.  So, go ahead, make up the directions to your next adventure and forget the map at home!

**Check back soon for more in depth imrpovising tools and tips!

A GUIDE TO TEACHING CHILDREN MUSIC – Principle 2: “Self-Initiated Learning vs. Imposition”

“Children learn best when the learning is self-initiated, arising from their own curiosity and interests, rather than imposed on them.”

– Aletha Solter, Ph.D., “Principles of Learning”

Godfrey Kneller's portrait of IsaacNewton, 1689
Godfrey Kneller’s portrait of IsaacNewton, 1689

Newton hit the nail on the head with his third law of motion: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Try verbally or physically trying to make a child do something will make them resist even more.

Examples:

  • Try forcing green vegetables into a kid’s mouth and they will refuse to open their mouth or immediately spit out whatever you put in there.
  • Yell at a child to get in bed and they’re be riled up and less tired or willing to sleep.
  • Try physically removing a child from doing or playing with something they like and they will kick and scream.

When we apply this to music and helping children develop the habit of practicing, negatively forcing a child to play a specific instrument or practice at specific times for specific lengths of time may produce results—BUT, on the other hand,  they might sap away a child’s desire to play over time. This happens especially if those measures result in reluctance, resistance, indifference, apathy, or rejection of musical activities or practice.

There are two types of motivation:

  1. Intrinsic motivation, or an inner desire or interest to do something, usually for the sake of enjoyment or self-satisfaction.
  2. Extrinsic motivation, or a drive to accomplish something in order to receive a reward or recognition from an outward motivator. Motivators include threats, bribes, prizes, fame, competition, pressuring, etc.

In teacher Lara Hansen’s article “The Inherent Desire to Learn: Intriniscally Motivating First Grade Students,” she says,

“When people are intrinsically motivated they feel interest and enjoyment in what they are doing. They also feel a sense of capability and determination. What they don’t feel is tension, stress, and anxiety.”

In general, people tend to enjoy activities more when they can enjoy the experience and develop a personal passion for what they are doing. Any trauma introduced to an activity in the form of external motivators can lead that activity becoming stressful instead of a pleasure to perform.

As teachers and parents, we can provide opportunities for a child learn an instrument, but imposing, pushing, or bribing a child will create resistance and perhaps kill the child’s original curiosity and interest.

But don’t worry! We all have negative experiences with music, like playing a bad concert or being pressured to practice because of an assignment or impending performance. External/extrinsic motivators naturally exist and aren’t all bad unless they kill our passion for music.

And even if desires and passions dwindle, they can be fed and nurtured back to life. Just because a child throws a fit and doesn’t want to go to a music lesson one day doesn’t mean all is lost—you may find the same child excitedly getting their instrument out to show a friend the next day.

They say curiosity killed the cat, but perhaps killing the curiosity in the cat is the sadder scenario. Let’s keep the desire to learn alive and well!

Kennedy Violins Concerts: Young Artist Debut Winners Perform Thursday, March 13, 2014

Kennedy Violins is thrilled to present four of Metro Art’s 20th annual Van Buren Concerto Competition winners in concert!

young-artists-preview copyEnjoy this special preview this Thursday, March 13th, at the Kennedy Violins Recital Hall before the Young Artists Concert on April 1st, 2014 at 7:30pm in the Newmark Theatre,

See you Thursday!

How to Keep Classical Music Alive

How can we keep classical music from ending up six feet under? (Photo by Ben Salter)

There are plenty of saucy articles floating around questioning classical music as a dying art, such as these treasures:

___________________________

Each of these articles brings up some very good points about the past, present, and future of classical music. So is it dying? And if there is any truth to the conclusion that classical music is a dying art, is there anything we can do to stop it?

HOW TO KEEP CLASSICAL MUSIC ALIVE

I don’t know what all the statistics are — ticket sales, CD and digital music sales, concert attendance, radio traffic — but I do know that the best way to

  • keep a plant alive is to water it.
  • lose weight is to eat less and exercise more.
  • accomplish something is the work hard.
  • make friends is to meet people.
  • learn an instrument is to practice.

So when you apply this principle of ACTION in the quest to keep classical music alive, the trick to making a difference in the music community is to do something about it.

INSTRUMENTS IN THE HANDS OF THE PEOPLE

At Kennedy Violins we are really serious about keeping classical music alive. That’s why our biggest priority is to get quality instruments into the hands of anyone and everyone who has any desire to play. We try our best to provide instruments, rentals, and lessons at the most affordable price for the quality because we want to give EVERYONE a chance to make music without unnecessary costs as a stumbling block.

I’ll use a gardening analogy. If you want to grow a garden full of produce or flowers or fruits, the first step is to plant seeds. Likewise, if you want beautiful music to be produced in your community, the first step is to get instruments into the hands of the people, especially the children.

Not to say that children are the only one who can play, but the majority of professional musicians who have found success started playing at a young age.

THE THREE ACTIONS THAT PERPETUATE MUSIC

Orchestra concert attendance, ticket sales, and symphony bankruptcies are only a portion of the picture. In the grand scheme, the continuation of music as a lasting tradition is based on three foundational elements:

  1. EducationIn order for music to be produced, musicians must be taught music performance, theory, and history.
  2. Performance In order for music to be produced, musicians must perform what they have learned.
  3. ListeningIn order for music to be appreciated, it must be listened to by people who care.

With that said, there are SO many ways to promote the ongoing exercise of these three foundational elements. I would encourage everyone to take part in these exercises by learning, playing, and listening to music. It’s all about INVOLVEMENT and faith in the lasting value of classical music as an important tradition worth perpetuating. May we each do all we can to support this worthwhile and enriching art.

When NOT to Practice Your Instrument

Hate to “break” it to ya, but you may need to lay off practicing for a while. (Photo by James Lee)

We’re always telling you to

PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE (Why don’t you read Kennedy Violins‘ article “The Art of Effective Practicing” while you’re at it) PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE—

—but, like your mom’s nagging, all this talk of what you should be doing all the time can make you feel seriously guilty anytime you decide to take a little break. And yet, sometimes,

 IT’S OKAY NOT TO PRACTICE.

Serious musicians who take a break (whether it be a day, week, month, or year) from practicing for whatever reason often feel guilty or even depressed as a result. For regular practicers, not practicing may feel like

  • not brushing your teeth
  • wearing the same underwear all week
  • letting dishes pile up in the sink
  • not checking Facebook

 

WHEN NOT TO PRACTICE

Cut yourself some slack. Here are a few instances when you probably shouldn’t (or literally can’t) practice:

  1. Right before a performance. WARM UP, but don’t wear yourself out with a real practice session. Tune, play a few scales, and review a few tricky passages, but don’t wear out your fingers the morning of your big performance.
  2. During rehearsal.  We know you’re just itching to work on (or show off) that tricky lick in the concerto you’re working on, but spare your conductor and your stand partner. Rehearsal time is never practice time—it’s unprofessional and distracting.
  3. When you’re really, really tired. There is apparently no difference between driving sleepy and driving drunk. Practice when you’re that tired and you’ll likely not even remember what you practiced. You might even fall over and impale yourself with your bow. Don’t kill yourself—get some sleep and practice in the morning when you’re fresh and alert.
  4. When you’re injured. This totally sucks, but if you have tendonitis, a broken arm, or some other injury that requires rest and recovery, you’ll just have to take a break, perhaps missing an upcoming performance or even a whole orchestra semester or season. Take your mind off your inability to play by focusing on another hobby or skill you can practice or develop during your “off-season.”
  5. After you’ve played a recital. If you don’t take at least a day off after a huge performance, you’re probably obsessed. And that’s okay.
  6. When you really deserve a break. Maybe you’re just shy of your goal to practice 5 or 10 hours a week. If you just can’t squeeze in those last couple hours, think back on what you have accomplished and start fresh next week. It’s more about the quality of your practice—not the quantity—anyway.
  7. When someone asks you on a date. Seriously, music nerd! Put down your instrument and put on your dancing shoes! Bach isn’t your boyfriend—but this guy might be if you give him a chance.
  8. When someone dies. If you’re really hard-core, you may consider death to be a lame excuse. But when big life events happen—births, deaths, marriages, etc.—it’s time to focus on what’s really important in life, which is more than music or your personal agenda. Take time out to develop relationships, be there for others, and take care of your family and friends. That’s the real stuff of life.
  9. When you have a fever over 104°. Put your violin down and go see a doctor.
  10. When you’ve practiced so much that you hate your instrument, your teacher, and music all together. You may be at a point where your instrument is like a really annoying two-year-old constantly screaming bloody  murder in your ear, demanding all of your energy, and keeping you up all night. It’s time to get a babysitter (i.e. your violin case) and step away for a breather. People tend to appreciate things (kids, instruments, food) when they haven’t seen them for a time. Take a moment to step away and 1) ask yourself why you play your instrument and 2) think of all the things you love about music and how it enriches your life.

WHEN YOU COME BACK

When you do come back to your instrument after a short (or long, if necessary), reprieve, you’ll likely appreciate it much more than you did before your separation, breakup, or last “big fight.” Hopefully you’ll be able to kiss, makeup, and get back to making beautiful music together.

But in the meantime, enjoy the break. You deserve it!

 

Music for Parties: Live & Otherwise

I like throwing parties. But I also suffer from a condition I call “Gatsby Syndrome.” Symptoms include behaviors such as

  • delighting in the act of throwing parties;
  • hoping that one’s favorite people will attend such parties;
  • lacking a desire to socialize or receive attention at such parties;
  • finding distractions during parties such as tending to host/hostess duties: replenishing drinks, busying oneself in the kitchen, taking coats, etc.; and/or
  • lingering in the background observing the party rather than actually partying.

 

I was seventeen when it occurred to me that throwing a party was more than just getting a bunch of people in the same room. I put together my own birthday party (which, on a side note, turned out to be hilariously fun with every guest bringing a round cake to stack into a 20-tiered monstrosity that naturally resulted in a cake fight when it toppled over). But I remember there being two memorably awkward moments that combined into one larger awkward moment:

  • Awkward Moment 1: I had arranged a whole bunch of chairs into one large circle instead of in groups of chairs for smaller groups to mingle. As a result, everyone quietly nibbled on their party sandwiches not knowing with whom to make eye contact, waiting for some brave soul to speak to the entire circle and break the silence.
  • Awkward Moment 2: During that moment of silence itself, there was no sound—specifically, NO MUSIC to distract from the silence. It occurred to me later that in the event that all guests at a party shut their mouths simultaneously, having something to bridge the gap of that silence can save a party from sudden death.

Like have you ever been at a gathering where the conversation dies down, there is a silence, and someone says, “Well, I’d better get going. . . .” And then before you know it everyone else says, “Me too” and there’s a big scuffle as everyone retrieves coats and shoes, hugs the host, and vacates.

A few years after the great 17th Birthday Party, I was prepping for another party and popped my “Getz Plays Jobim: The Girl From Ipanema” CD into the boom box (does that date me?). As the hours passed, I noticed that people both stayed longer and seemed more comfortable. Even though the music was unnoticeable in its background-noise kind of way, it brought warmth into the room. And when I, as the hostess, noticed a break in the conversation at some point, no one else seemed to.

It’s a pretty simple formula that restaurants and retail stores have down: play music—the right kind of music—and people will stay longer and buy more. I’ve learned that people actually spend more when faster-paced pop music is played in a clothing store, and people will stay longer and consume more in a coffee shop with atmospheric, relaxing music.

Gatsby, when planning his parties, knew that music was key. “By seven o’clock the orchestra has arrived, no thin five-piece affair, but a whole pitful of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and cornets and piccolos, and low and high drums. . . . The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun, and now the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music, and the opera of voices pitches a key higher. Laughter is easier minute by minute, spilled with prodigality, tipped out at a cheerful word” (F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby).

(P.S. What happened to full orchestras being present at parties? Like in The Sound of Music, or even during “Under the Sea” in The Little Mermaid? Invite an orchestra to play at a party and I’m there.)

Live music at parties is always an incredible touch, whether it’s a formal quartet at a wedding reception or a bluegrass trio at a barbeque. And while none of us can afford to throw a true Gatsby party, music can always be a part of the affair—no matter what the party budget may be. Try these options on for size:

  • A live quartet
  • One guy on a guitar
  • A Pandora station playing from your Blue-ray
  • An iTunes or Spotify playlist
  • A real record player or phonograph for a retro/period-themed party
  • A violinist playing unaccompanied Bach
  • A harp player
  • A rock band
  • Classical music CDs
  • KARAOKE!

So as you’re planning your upcoming Christmas party, be sure to invite the tunes! It’s time to kill the silence, vanquish boredom, and have a good time!

ALSO, don’t forget to join us for the holidays at Kennedy Violins! You will most definitely hear classical music in the showroom, music which may prompt you to pour yourself that cup of complementary coffee or tea and gaze contemplatively at the hundreds of violins surrounding you like friends at your own private party. You’ll love it. Hope to see you soon!

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

?

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