Tag Archives: community orchestras

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

Making Music at M.I.T.C.H. Charter School

Every once in awhile, there is a collective sigh at Kennedy Violins when we hear of yet another school orchestra program being cut.  A few months ago, however, we were thrilled to get a call from Cami Galloway of the band, Virginia Real.  She was in need of violins to use for a workshop at a school that wanted to START a string program for their students.  We were thrilled to know that there were still schools out there that recognize the value of music. So, when Cami asked if we could provide the violins for the workshop, we didn’t have to think twice-of course we would!

VAREALposter 1_edited-2
The members of Virginia Real

Over the next several weeks, we worked with Dee Grothe, the coordinating teacher for the workshop at M.I.T.C.H. Charter School.  There would be 78 students participating in the 3-Day workshop!  Wow!  She described how the hope was that the workshop with Cami would ignite an interest in the students and that an official strings class would begin in the fall.

Our team of luthiers worked for weeks to professionally set-up all the instruments that would be needed.  Then, a few days before the workshop started, our customer service team went to M.I.T.C.H. Charter School and sized each student so that they could have the proper violin and they got to take home their violins that day!  So, by the time the Cami and the Virginia Real band showed up, they students were eager and ready to go!

By all accounts, the workshop was a huge success!  By the end of the three day workshop, the students performed “Twinkle, Twinkle,” “Boil Them Cabbage Down,” and “Shortenin’ Bread.”  Many students expressed an interest wanting to continue and are going to get private lessons this summer!  According to Cami Galloway, “M.I.T.C.H. is truly showing innovation and the teachers, Dee Grothe, Dianne Wright and Kelly Shelton have corroborated together to help bring the band across the country to provide this opportunity for their students.”  We think that when school starts again in the Fall, M.I.T.C.H. Charter School will have no problem getting a string program up and running.

Students participating in the string workshop
Students participating in the string workshop

Cami Galloway and Virginia Real have done workshops like this across the country.  If you are interested in having them lead a workshop at your school or organization, you can contact them at varealband@gmail.com.

Taking the First Steps

At Kennedy Violins, we have always been proud of the fact that all of our employees, no matter their role, are active musicians and teachers and all of us have been where you are.  Whether you are just starting out learning the basics or finding your own voice or personality musically.  Today, I’d like to talk about those very first steps.  The steps you take before the first note is even played.

I’ll start with kids.  As a teacher, I often get asked by parents at what age they should start teaching their kids music.  Well, now!  Today!  Yesterday! In the womb!  It is never too early to start learning the fundamentals and it is very easy to incorporate musical learning into everyday activities.  Does your toddler like to empty the cabinets and bang on pots and pans?  Teach her a rhythm to play while you reach for the aspirin.  Does your kindergarten repeat the same nursery rhyme over and over again?  Turn it into a game where he sings a different note each time he repeats it or have a him create new melody for the same music.

Outside the home, learning in a classroom setting is always beneficial, but I believe it should also be fun and low pressure when children are just starting out.  I have always been a fan of Kindermusik classes.  Kindermusik serves children ages 0-7 and their families all across the US.  They use folk melodies from around the world and classic stories to teach music fundamentals.

Another question that parents ask is, ” How do I know if my child is ready to play the (insert specific instrument here)?”  Well, I find that parents know their children far better than I do and that they usually have answered that question for themselves by the time they ask me.  If you feel that your child is ready to learn an instrument, then she probably is.  Usually, it’s nice for the future student to have shown some interest in learning music, but I have found that it never hurts to try something new just for the sake of trying something new.  You never know!

The best tool for starting out young kids (5 and under) on a musical instrument is private instruction by a qualified teacher.  One on one lessons with the parents present are best because the little ones tend to focus better and it’s not as frustrating when they have the direct support of family.  Group lessons are fun but progress can be slow.  Older kids can be more successful in group lessons and many schools and community programs have great classes that would be little or no cost to parents.  To find qualified teachers or programs try calling your child’s school or a local music store for recommendations.

Now, let’s talk about grown-ups (from a strictly educational stand point, I place anyone beginning after age 12 in this category of learning…one day I’ll explain in further detail).  We have written several posts about how it’s never too late to discover (or rediscover) a love of music.  The tips I have aren’t much different.  I would stress, though, that even in today’s advanced age of technology with online videos/lessons on You Tube and Vimeo, having private lessons with an experienced instructor is HIGHLY valuable!  Personally, I feel the videos should serve as a supplement to strengthen what you learn in private lessons.

However, more than videos and lessons, to have a successful start I feel that the thing adult learners need most is guts.  It takes a courageous and humble individual to stand up and say, “Hey, I don’t know anything about this, but I want to learn.”  I have great respect for the adult beginners that dive in with their whole heart.  For the adventurous ones, there are many community orchestras that welcome players of all levels and ages and music camps to give them the experience every musician should have.  You just have to go for it!

Rasika School of Music and Arts Receives Kennedy Violins Award

In February of this year, Kennedy Violins announced that it was seeking a local music teacher to award with a prize package including a violin outfit and accessories to beef up their resources.  The deadline to apply ended May 1 and the selection process began.  Out of all the applicants, there was one organization that stood out to us: Rasika School of Music and Arts.

Rasika began in Portland, OR in 1999 with the goal of bringing the classical Indian arts to the city and surrounding areas through entertainment and education.  Over the years, they have presented many dance and music concerts featuring premier performers from India.  In 2010, they started the School of Music and Arts.  The school has two locations in Hillsboro, OR and Vancouver, WA.  Already, the school has around 75 students enrolled making it the largest school of classical Indian music in the Northwest.

Sri Anand Nadh Teaching Students at Rasika

What stood out to us, at Kennedy Violins, was the obvious passion that the teachers and staff of Rasika possess for the arts and the expertise of the instructors in their individual art forms. Anand Nadh is the teacher violin and voice in the School of Music and Arts. He comes from one of the world’s most renowned classical carnatic music lineage.  Anand studies with violin maestro Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman and Sri Lalgudi Krishnan. Coming from this powerful classical tradition, he studied this art form and all of its nuances, staying in the home of his teachers in the Gurukulam custom for years. He has a rich teaching experience and can communicate well to a diverse and global student community, having taught at Singapore, Middle East and in India before starting as a master teacher with Rasika.

Rasika strives to fill an obvious void in the musical culture of the Northwest for the thousands of Indian families here and the community at large.  They expertly do so as evidenced by growing enrollment.  As Rasika continues the journey to enhance the cultural richness and quality of music locally in Portland and Vancouver, they seek the support of local funders and Kennedy Violins was happy to step in. In the words of their president, Raman Srinivasan, “The gift award of violin package for our music teacher and our school will be a valuable asset to our music school. We are definitely in need of instruments and this in kind award from Kennedy Violins, Inc will be valuable asset to the teacher and the music school.”  It is our hope that by Kennedy Violins supporting this great organization that others will be moved to donate what they can to Rasika as well.

Sri Anand Nadh of Rasika receiving the award from Kennedy Violins

For more information on Rasika School of Music and Arts, and how you can support them, visit their website.

If you would like more information on how Kennedy Violins can support your organization, please email rachel@kennedyviolins.com for more information.

A Touch of Class: Concert Etiquette for Dummies

Maybe you’ve seen it before. You’re at a symphony concert in your best evening wear to find yourself seated next to an obvious newcomer. The lights dim, but a glow next to you reveals your friendly neighbor whipping his phone out from the pocket of his oh-so-fashionably torn jeans. After a storm of texting, he answers a call during the first movement of Elgar’s Enigma Variations, leaning over to you, mid-call, to ask for a piece of gum. The movement concludes, but not knowing the piece is entirely over, your neighbor bursts into applause just as the conductor is about to begin the second movement. And just when you think you might settle into the peace of the evening’s repertoire, he stands up in the middle of the piece, edging through the aisle and loudly saying, “Sorry, when you gotta go, you gotta go!”

Well. We’re all newcomers to the classical music scene at some point in our lives. So if you’ve wondered what to wear or when to clap, here are a few etiquette tips when attending a classical performance, be it a solo recital, symphony concert, quartet salon, or the like.

1. Dress appropriately. As public events become more and more casual, symphony halls may be one of the few venues around where a higher standard of dress is not only welcome, but encouraged. As a general rule, avoid jeans and tennis shoes. Collared shirts for men are appropriate, as are skirts, dresses, or nice pants for women. Dress as if your grandmother were your date for the evening–and she never leaves home with a run in her stockings.

2. Be punctual. There’s no sneaking into a classical concert during the first piece if you’re late. If you are, many venues may even ask you to remain in the lobby until intermission. If you’re lucky, you may be able to sneak in between pieces, but not movements. Keep in mind that classical concerts may only have 2-4 pieces on the program (with multiple movements), so if you are late, you could end up missing out on a sizeable chunk of music. Try to be in your seat about 15 minutes prior to the concert starting.

3. Applaud when appropriate. Unlike during jazz or rock concerts when applause and shouting are welcome as the music is going on, applause at a classical concert is reserved for when

  • a) the conductor enters,
  • b) the conductor or announcer speaks or thanks patrons,
  • c) an entire piece concludes (not a single movement),
  • d) a soloist enters the stage, and
  • e) a concert concludes.

4. Know when to make your escape. If you must use the restroom, try your best to hold out until intermission. And even if you find the concert a little tiresome, try not to leave at intermission unless you must. Don’t stand up to exit mid-music or even during the silence between pieces or movements. An important element of classical concerts is each individual’s effort to preserve a quiet, peaceful atmosphere for everyone’s enjoyment, so avoid doing anything that will draw attention to yourself.

5. Don’t talk, whistle, or whoop. Save the commentary for your friend/date/mom for intermission. A quick, “That was beautiful!” to your pal during applause is passable, but keep quiet during the performance. And unlike at other types of concerts, whistling and whooping for performers during applause isn’t appropriate in a symphony hall. If you really like the music, feel free to give a standing ovation instead of offering your best cat-calls.

6. No munching. As tempting as it may be to sneak out that crinkly, cellophane-wrapped chocolate bar, next time leave the snacks at home. Don’t even chew gum (or blow bubbles!) Some venues offer refreshments during intermission or following the concert, but hold out during the actual performance. The one exception? Cough drops! We can excuse one wrapper opening if it means saving your neighbors from a cacophony of coughs.

7. Turn off the phone. Don’t even put it on vibrate. Classical music has its quiet moments when even the scuffle of a shoe, the scratch of a head, or the buzz of a phone can be heard clearly. Let the music speak for itself without interruption.

8. Lastly, relax! Okay, maybe you’re getting the impression that classical concerts are only for the uptight and unforgiving. No way! Mind your manners, but enjoy yourself! After all, that’s what it’s all about.

Ensembles Large and Small: Try Them All!

I am a huge fan of ensembles.  The elementary school that I went to offered a strings class to 5th and 6th graders.  I was excited to play the violin and then the cello.  My favorite part of the entire class, though, was getting to work towards a common goal with my classmates.  I love being around people.  I’m an extrovert.

As I progressed in my musical studies, a lot of the repertoire that I was learning included Bach’s Unaccompanied Cello Suites.  This was not as much fun for me.  Yes, I know that I learned valuable techniques and skills, however, it was lonely.  No one to play off of or interact with because I was by myself.  Hours in a practice room, by myself.  Sitting on a stage during recitals…BY MYSELF!   Still, I made it through the suites with my sanity in tact (my college roommates might debate this).  The one thing I think that aided my study of Bach, was my involvement in musical ensembles large and small.

Like myself, being involved in a musical ensemble is “built-in” for many beginners.  Many still start in a classroom setting through a school music program or teacher’s studio.  It’s a great way to start.  Not only does it fill any need for human connection and camaraderie, but it builds listening skills and intonation, as well as rhythm and playing together.  For some, they are able to continue in a group setting in a middle or high school orchestra.  Yet, how can a student be involved in an ensemble if there are no school programs?

Here are some options:

Duets and Trios (2 and 3 players)-There is a lot of music out there written for two or three, so practically any skill level, beginner to advanced, can participate.  Playing a duet is a simple as asking a friend or family member to play together.  Your young musician can even ask their teachers if they can play with another student in their studio.  Often times, teachers are pleased to play with students too. *Free Participation*

Quartet (4 players)-The traditional string quartet consists of 2 violins, 1 viola, and 1 cello.  Like Duets and Trios, there is a lot of music available but, this exact combination of musicians can be trickier to find.  It can take some time to get everyone together.  You may have to start playing as a duet or trio and add people as you meet them. *Free Participation*

Church/Synagogue Groups-These groups usually perform once a week and are usually open to any musician.  Playing in this setting can yield combinations of instruments that you won’t find anywhere else and the live performances keep your “chops up.”  If you aren’t “religious,” don’t worry, many groups don’t require that, they just want you to play.  *Free Participation*

Community Orchestra-Community Orchestras are much larger that any of the other groups I’ve mentioned.  They are often a full orchestra of strings, wind, brass, and percussion.  They are great because they can provide the chance for a young musician to play with other musicians that are much more experienced.  Plus, they have a will get play more challenging music in the modern orchestra repertoire.  While most members will be adults, many community groups are open to proficient students although an audition may be required.  Also, a lot of community groups hold “Young Artists” competitions for talented young musicians to perform a solo with a full orchestra. *Free Participation*

Youth Orchestras-Dot Rust posted a blog about this in February.  It’s worth the read.  She describes how they began in the U.S. and how your student can be involved.  The only thing that is different from the previous groups is that there is tuition involved.  Many groups offer tuition breaks or scholarships for any needy student. *Cost to Participate*

Jazz Band/Combo-We all know Bass players are in jazz bands, but violins, violas, and cellos?  Say it with me: Yes we can!  See Stephane Grapelli, Lucio Amanti, and Judith Insell for some great examples.  Your student may want to learn jazz scales and basic improvisation techniques before jumping in, but it’s so worth it.  Even if they don’t become the Dizzy Gillespie on the viola, playing jazz opens up a whole new world of tonality that will be helpful if they ever dive into some Bernstein or Ives. *Maybe Cost*

Bluegrass Band-Your young musician may want to trade their violin in for a fiddle. Side Note: violin=fiddle.  Bluegrass bands are welcoming to all ages and levels and there are competitions in every region that can offer cash prizes to winners.  Bluegrass bands often play by ear and by rote instead of reading of sheet music, so this is a great chance for your student to practice memorization. *Buy lots of Rosin*

Marching Band-Alright, I’ll admit.  I don’t know of any marching string orchestras.  I’m just putting up here hoping someone out there might actually do it.  The technology exists now to make it happen (carbon fiber instruments + wireless pick-ups hooked up to a stadium sound system!)…but it would be expensive.  Okay, for this one, your student would have the be the relative of an eccentric millionaire that is about to die. *Cost: Priceless*

Really, the sky is the limit when it comes to having your young musician participate in an ensemble.  There are numerous possibilities and numerous benefits.  Plus, many options are free of charge.  Helpful hint: if you need to provide sheet music for the group your student is playing in, check out the International Music Library Score Project.  They provide copies of free sheet music for ensembles of many sizes.

How to Find Gigs: Musical Networking

 

As with any other career, a musician’s key to successfully finding gigs often lies in simple networking. (Image by Sean MacEntee)

It takes a long time to establish your reputation as a musician and performer in a new town. After living in Utah for six years, I felt so well connected to a great number of musical organizations, schools, teachers, orchestras, recording studios, and the like. I enjoyed playing regular gigs, teaching a steady number of bass students, and growing strong relationships with musicians and performing groups throughout the state . . .

. . . and then I moved.

My husband’s work brought us to Oregon, which meant starting from scratch as a stranger hoping to freelance a new music community. So the first thing I did in the months leading up to and following my move to the Portland area was contact absolutely every musical organization I could find. I made phone calls, sent e-mails with my performance resume attached, and inquired about upcoming auditions. During the summer before the move, I took extra lessons, practiced 20 hours a week, and performed a recital in preparation for auditions I hoped to take once arriving in Oregon.

The day after we pulled our moving truck into town I abandoned our unpacking efforts to attend a masterclass sponsored by the Portland Youth Philharmonic featuring Erik Harris, principal bassist of the St. Louis Symphony. Sure, I was a college grad, so what was I doing hanging out with the youth symphony members? I was also looking for connections.  As with most professions, the fastest way to find work is through effective networking and personal referrals. So my goal? Get connected!

Let me tell you, it doesn’t take much but confidence. You know you’re a good player, so put yourself out there! And if you don’t feel like a good enough player to get those gigs, try The Art of Effective Practicing. It takes a lot of work to be a marketable performer, but you can do it!

 

Here are a few ways to get connected with your local music community:

  • Keep your chops up by performing regularly. Put on a house concert. Keep practicing. Find an open-mic night at a local venue to sing, fiddle, or do whatever you do. Play at your church or synagogue. Busk at the local farmers markets. There are endless opportunities to perform, and you can create those opportunities yourself.  Don’t wait for someone else to do what you can do on your own. You’d be surprised by how many restaurants, café’s, bookstores, and boutiques there are that would be so happy to have your live music in their space.
  • Don’t demand paying gigs right away or all the time. Be generous in sharing your talents with others! You can do this while still maintaining your stance as a professional. Playing for free allows you to enjoy the opportunity to meet other musicians without stressing about money and union talk. You’ll be surprised how many connections you’ll make that can lead to future gigs. And come on, we all know the economy is tight, and if all musicians refused to play without pay our artistic community and musical culture would suffer tremendously.
  • Participate in your local community orchestras! You don’t have to wait to win an audition with a semi-professional or professional orchestra to play the great orchestral works. Community orchestras are excellent for meeting teachers, performers, and conductors who can hook you up for future work—and they’re just plain fun. You can relax and play great music with a smile on your face. Sometimes when money is in the mix, musicians can become surly, bitter, or demanding individuals, losing sight of why they chose music as a career in the first place. Don’t let that happen to you. Don’t let the joy of playing be belittled by your pride or hunger for pay.
  • Connect with local schools. I decided to call and e-mail local orchestra teachers offering to conduct a free masterclass for their bass sections. It turned into a very fruitful experience. Give it a try! And who knows, maybe they’ll even ask you to come back. Regardless, reaching out to the youth in school and community music programs is a great way to make a name for yourself as a teacher. Be sure to get your name on the list of private teachers the orchestra directors provide for their students, and remember you can receive 10% off with your teacher discount through Kennedy Violins!
Photo by Belen Martini.
  • Don’t just teach lessons—take lessons. Even the most experienced professional musicians can benefit from taking lessons into their old age. Musicians can always benefit from the perspective of another performer with fresh ideas, techniques, and style.

It might be challenging to find the gig of your dreams. But don’t wait miserably for a Golden Ticket while throwing away the chance to enjoy that delicious Wonka Bar right in front of you. There is music to be played, players to meet, and stages on which to perform. So have at it! Make a connection! And keep us posted along the way.