Saturday, December 28, 2013

Happy Holidays

My sincere apologies for the recent hiatus! The last two months of the semester were, needless to say, incredibly busy. Highlights included the Juilliard Orchestra Shostakovich concert with Vladimir Jurowski, which received very nice reviews from the New York Times and Musical America, as well as performing Bartok Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celeste in Carnegie Hall with Ensemble ACJW and Schubert B-flat Piano Trio at the American Irish Historical City.

Christmas provided much needed relief, filled with time spent baking and eating with loved ones [homemade rosemary pecan bark and eggnog cheesecake pictured above], cuddling with cats, catching up on episodes of Chopped, and some much needed sleep. As the year comes to a close, I am endlessly thankful for the beautiful friends, family, and musical experiences in my life right now. Here's to seeing what 2014 brings!

With the warmest wishes for a Happy New Year,

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Recipe: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Loaf

As promised, here is the recipe for the pumpkin chocolate chip loaf I have been baking at a mildly alarming rate! The craziness of the beginning of the semester left me with little time to cook, bake, or generally care for myself, but the premise of baking for a room full of hungry violinists (read: studio classes) inspired me to find the time to bake again. Not only did this keep me from going a little bonkers, what with the zen measuring of flours and heady smell of cinnamon and nutmeg, but it was so wonderful to share with everyone! I highly recommend it because, beyond its calming powers, it really is just completely delicious.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Loaf, recipe by Shauna Sever
Makes 1 9x5x3 loaf

11/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Half a can of pumpkin puree
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup room temperature wear
Half a bag each of semi-sweet and dark chocolate chips (Ghirardelli is the way to go!)

Preheat over to 350 degrees and prepare a loaf pan by buttering and flouring. In a medium-large bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, baking soda, and salt. In a larger bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, oil, and sugar, until well-blended. Then add the eggs and vanilla until combined, finishing by whisking in the water. Fold the chocolate chips into the wet ingredients, followed by folding in the dry ingredients in batches. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula, and bake for about 75 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before inverting loaf onto the rack to cool completely before serving. Store in plastic wrap or an airtight container.


Until next time,

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Long Overdue Updates!

Well, I'm finally sick with the cold that's been threatening for a couple of months now. Which means, I have time to update! My apologies for the hiatus until now. The beginning of the semester was a frenzy of scheduling, e-mails, starting my teaching assistantship, and practicing like crazy. It was a big adjustment going from teaching 1 1/2 hours to 12 hours a week on top of my own practice, classes, and rehearsals! I'm absolutely in awe of how much I'm learning from this process and it's been a true joy to work with the students in Mr. Perlman's studio. 

Some highlights of the past two months include Perlman Music Program trips to Stanford, CA (a return to my Music@Meno stomping grounds!) and Stowe, VT, becoming my niece Juliette's godmother, baking multiple loaves of pumpkin chocolate chip bread, and experiencing Fall in New York (friends, it's a beautiful thing). I've also been spending a good deal of time ruminating on my future, both short and long term, something which has led to moments of giddy excitement, sheer panic, glimmers of faith, and joy.

With Radu at the PMP in Stanford reception in CA

Pumpkin chocolate chip loaf!

Pumpkin carving and general autumnal merriment

Gorgeous colors in Central Park

Snowy Stowe, VT

From the drive home after our concert in Burlington, VT

Next up on the concert prep list is the Juilliard Orchestra Shostakovich program with conductor Vladimir Jurowski, for which I will be sitting Concertmaster. In addition to the first symphony, we will be playing excerpts from Shostakovich's silent film score (who knew?!) New Bablyon, as well as his Hypothetically Murdered suite. Off to drink Emergen-C and read some ledger lines!

Until next time,

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Vacation in Saratoga Springs, NY

Ever since I was born, I spent the month of August in Saratoga Springs. Since both of my parents were members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, which made their summer home at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, we would pack up the family and head to upstate New York, where we stayed on the campus of Skidmore College. I have the fondest memories of Saratoga as a child, from the duck pond on campus and horses near Lake George, to the funky shops and restaurants in town. This past August, I traveled to Saratoga Springs for the first time in 5 years! It was a welcome vacation after the Music@Menlo craziness, one which allowed me to spend time with my mother when she wasn't working with the orchestra and with my boyfriend when he wasn't conducting at the Luzurne Music Center. The rest of the time, I was able to catch up on some much needed sleep, go for peaceful walks, and practice a little (after a few weeks of constant-playing and no practicing at Menlo).

Exploring the woods on campus

Stewart's ice cream! This stuff is the best. When I sent this picture to my
brother, he asked me to find out if they ever ship orders of the stuff.

The Philly Orchestra at SPAC. This sound is like home to me.

Radu conducting the LMC String Orchestra

With Radu on our day trip to Manchester, VT

I'm very grateful for the time spent in such a beautiful and restorative environment. It was so touching to see how much has changed, yet how much has remained exactly the same was when I was a kid. All in all, a lovely way to end the summer. Now, back to the school year grind!

Until next time,

Monday, September 2, 2013


Greetings and my apologies for the lack of updates recently! My experience at Music@Menlo was absolutely incredible, but very time consuming. Immediately thereafter, I traveled to Saratoga Springs, New York to visit my boyfriend and my mother, who were there for music-related work. Since then, I have been busy getting settled in NYC and figuring out scheduling for the upcoming semester.

Masterclass with Wu Han
Photo courtesy of Music@Menlo
I wanted to write a post on Music@Menlo and my experiences there for awhile now! I'm not sure I can adequately sum up the sheer amount of inspiration and knowledge acquired during my time there. The schedule was very intense, usually running nonstop from 8am-12am or later. Our days were filled with coachings, rehearsals, informal lectures and discussions, formal lectures, masterclasses, and attending the performances of the Young Performers program, our fellow colleagues in the International program, and the senior artists of the festival (the quality of which was outstanding), as well as going to the parties and donor events hosted afterwards.

Coaching on Dvorak American with Jorja Fleezanis
Photo courtesy of Music@Menlo
While I was there, I gave two performances each of Dvorak Piano Quintet in A major, Beethoven "Ghost" Piano Trio, Dohnanyi Piano Quintet no. 2, Dvorak American Quartet, and Mendelssohn Piano Trio no. 2 in C minor. We had anywhere from 2-5 days to put together these works, receiving numerous coachings from many different artists (I think we saw 7 different people for the Dvorak Piano Quintet prior to our performances!).

Performance of Beethoven "Ghost" Piano Trio
Photo courtesy of Music@Menlo
In addition to all things musical, we also had lots of development related sessions, including time with the marketing, events, and public relations staff. We even were lucky enough to work with the photography interns to receive new head shots!

Photo credit: Diana Lake
I will always be grateful for my experience at Music@Menlo. I learned so much about myself, what it means to sit down and interpret a work, and how to deal with such a busy schedule and still be the best version of myself as a musician and as a person. To hear more about my experience, check out the video Music@Menlo "To Be an IP", put together by the talented videographers at Music@Menlo.

Until next time,

Monday, July 15, 2013

Lemon Layer Cake Recipe

I made this cake for my father's 78th birthday, during a summer spent at home to practice before chamber music festivals in August and to be with him for chemotherapy treatments. I didn't know at the time that it was the last birthday he would have and in retrospect I am so glad that I was there to celebrate with him. I remember making the lemon filling while trying to babysit my one year old niece Annabelle, making silly faces and jumping up and down while grating lemon zest (uh, not so smart in hindsight). I remember putting together the cake batter the next morning and running into my Dad's room to tell him he just had to come taste it. He watched me assemble the entire thing and I could just see how much it meant to him. We celebrated with a family dinner and this beautiful cake was a winner. I decided that I would make it again this year to remember his birthday.

For birthdays or otherwise, I highly recommend this cake. I found the recipe on Shauna Sever's site (no surprises there) and, though it's a bit time consuming, I absolutely love it. The filling is lemon curd, which basically tastes like sunshine in food form. The cake is incredibly moist, yet light, and the whipped frosting is the perfect accompaniment.

Probably my favorite part of the process is making the lemon curd. You begin by making lemon sugar, combining lemon zest and granulated sugar with a mortar and pestle, followed by some eggs, yolks, butter, and lemon juice. A little gelatin gives the curd some body to it, so it's not as much of an oozing mess as most fruit fillings tend to be. 

The cake batter is fairly dreamy too, I must say. It utilizes a slightly different baking process of combining the dry ingredients before the wet. The result is incredibly light and fluffy.

The assembly for me is always a bit tricky. It's difficult to keep those layers in place while frosting, so this time I used toothpicks to keep everything steady. Don't worry, the billowy frosting is so thick and glossy, it covers the otherwise unsightly holes.

There you have it. Read below for the full recipe and details. As for me, I couldn't think of a more meaningful way to remember my Dad's birthday than to smell those cakes in the oven while practicing this morning. Happy Birthday, Dad...I miss you every day.

Lemon Layer Cake (from Shauna Sever)
Yields one 9-inch, 4 layer cake

Lemon Curd
Zest from 2 lemons
1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 6 lemons)
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
6 large egg yolks (save the whites for the cake!)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes and frozen

Begin by measuring 1 teaspoon of lemon juice into a small bowl and sprinkling the gelatin on top to soften. With a mortar and pestle, work the lemon zest into the sugar, until the sugar is fragrant and coated with the lemon zest oils (after using the mortar and pestle, I also gave the sugar a good mixing with my hands). Heat the rest of the lemon juice, lemon sugar, and salt in a nonreactive saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is hot, but not bubbling. Whisk the eggs and yolks in a large, nonreactive bowl. Pour the lemon syrup into the eggs and return the mixture to the saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook the curd, stirring constantly, until it reaches 170 degrees and it's thick enough to separate by running your spatula through it. Stir in the gelatin until it dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in the frozen butter until it melted and curd is smooth. Pour through a fine mesh sieve into a nonreactive bowl. Cover the surface of the bowl and chill until firm, at least four hours or up to two days.

2 1/4 cups cake flour, plus more for dusting the pans
1 cup whole milk, room temperature
6 large egg whites, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, softened and still cool

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans, lining the bottoms with parchment paper. In a large measuring cup or bowl, whisk together the milk, egg whites, and vanilla. In the bowl of a standing mixer, add the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt, mixing on low speed. Add the butter pieces one at a time, until the mixture resembles even crumbs. Stop the mixer and add all but 1/2 cup of the wet ingredients. Beat the batter at medium speed for about 2 minutes, until pale and fluffy. While the mixer is running on low speed, slowly pour in the remaining wet ingredients and crank the speed up to medium for another 30 seconds. If needed, scrape down the bowl and mix for an additional 30 seconds. Divide the batter equally into the cake pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 23-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove them (including the parchment paper) and cool completely. 

Fluffy White Frosting
2 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
Pinch of salt

In the bowl of a standing mixer or another aluminum bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients. Bring about an inch of water to a gentle simmer in a saucepan, placing the bowl over it and stirring constantly until the temperature reaches 160 degrees. Alternatively, if you don't have a candy thermometer, stir until the sugar dissolves and the consistency of the mixture is even. Dry off the bottom of the bowl and attach to the mixer (or set up a hand mixer). Whip the frosting on medium speed for 5 minutes, until it becomes opaque and soft peaks form. On medium-high speed, whip an additional 5 minutes, until the mixture becomes billowy, shiny, and cools to room temperature. Use immediately. 

*I have always made the lemon curd the night before, as it takes some time to zest all of those lemons and make the lemon sugar. You can also choose to bake the cakes in advance, making sure to store them wrapped in plastic and in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Assemble and frost the cake as close to serving as possible.

Until next time,

Friday, July 12, 2013

Puttanesca Recipe

My father's family is Italian and a long-term goal of mine is to learn more authentic Italian dishes. I know there is a great family recipe for Italian wedding soup, as well as pizzelles (thin, snowflake-like cookies), and panettone (holiday fruitcake). One of my favorite dishes to put together is actually my mother's Puttanesca Pasta recipe. It's simple, extremely flavorful, and really comforting. 

Yields enough sauce for about 1lb. of pasta

One large can of diced tomatoes
One flat of anchovies
One jar kalamata olives, pitted if available 
Half of one jar capers 
About 1/2 cup of parsley, finely chopped
1 tbs. butter 
A few cloves of garlic, minced 
Spaghetti or Linguine 
Grated parmigiano reggiano, for sprinkling 
*I usually just put this recipe together by feel, so my apologies for the loose measurements. Also, I find the brininess of the olives and capers to be enough, but feel free to add salt if desired. If you like your puttanesca with a bit of a kick, add a few drops of chili oil. 

In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, adding olive oil and garlic. After the garlic sautés, add the anchovies to the pan and mash with a fork to create a paste. Next, add the tomatoes, capers, olives, and parsley. Let the sauce reduce and adjust heat accordingly. In a pot, bring water for the pasta to a rolling boil. Cook pasta until al dente and transfer directly to saucepan with a pair of tongs. Toss the pasta to coat. Once plated, add grated parmigiano. Enjoy immediately, or as leftovers, when the flavors have melded together even more. 

Until next time, 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Life at Home: It's the Simple Things

For the last week and a half or so, I have enjoyed time at my family's home outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I can tell that I needed a break from the hustle and bustle of life in New York, mainly because of the joy experienced from the following simple things:

Life with cats: Bruno (top left), Cocoa (bottom left), and Charlie

Life with nature: our backyard, with a deer and a groundhog.
In addition to the animals picture above, there are foxes and rabbits

4th of July with my brother and his fiancee, some patriotic berries,
and Philly's City Hall 

Life with my family: my niece and goddaughter Juliette,
who is actually the happiest baby

It's been so nice to practice without a real's amazing how much detail you can accomplish without any outside pressures! I will definitely enjoy the last few days of vacation, but I'm also getting very excited for Music@Menlo. Off to practice!

Until next time,

Friday, June 28, 2013

PMP and Vacation in Romania

Hello there! My apologies for the month-long hiatus. The first two and a half weeks of June was spent at the Perlman Music Program Chamber Music Workshop, marking my third summer of attendance. My experience there was amazing as always...sight-reading with friends and faculty, performing with Mr. P, sitting on the dock watching the sunset, bonfires on the beach, and hours of rehearsal spent with incredible people.

View of the campus from the Lauder Fiddle House
Sight reading with Mr. P
View of the sunset with the moon

PMP was extra special for me this summer, because my boyfriend Radu also attended! He went to the Littles program in high school and this was his first summer back. If it weren't for PMP, he would not have attended Colburn and we would not have met. After the workshop ended, the two of us went to visit his family in Romania. I have visited the country twice before and this time was even better. We spent the first day or so exploring Bucharest before traveling to Radu's home town, Drobeta Turnu Severin. I loved seeing the architecture and colors of the houses and buildings, as well as experiencing the food!

with Radu and my mother in front of the Danube 
view of Drobeta Turnu Severin from the water castle tower
view of Drobeta Turnu Severin from the water castle tower
view of the Danube
Tismana Monastery! Romania is famous for its monasteries, and this
small one in the mountains was gorgeous

Now I'm back in the states and, after a few days of frustrated phone calls to locate my suitcase from its Parisian vacation (read: it was left in Paris during my layover between flights), I'm ready to kick into high gear preparing for Music@Menlo! See their recent announcement of the International Program participants here.

Until next time,

Monday, May 27, 2013

Juilliard Global in São Paulo

I spent the last ten days participating in the Juilliard Global and Santa Marcelina Cultura residency of teaching, coaching, and performing in São Paulo, Brazil. Santa Marcelina Cultura is the government-funded program which runs GURI and EMESP, which provide group lessons and orchestra for over 50,000 kids in Brazil. In addition to performing concerts and interactive performances, we also played in orchestra rehearsals, ran orchestra sectionals, and taught solo masterclasses. I always find any kind of educational performance and engagement incredibly rewarding, but being apart of something this special in a completely different country was amazing. The kids were all so enthusiastic, respectful, and very dedicated.

View from the hotel room: concrete and lush greens

Hanging meats at Sancho Tapas in Rua Augusta

Rehearsal! Note our creative hotel room set-up

Hanging lanterns, graffiti, and foliage at Exquisito 

On our way to perform at a CEU, the community centers

Up front and personal with the Queen of Samba at Ó do Borogodó

Rehearsal space for the GURI Orchestra

With Kimayr, who heard me perform the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, 6 years ago in São Paolo! 

Collage of photos from our Interactive Performances at the CEU community centers. Photo credit: Claire Bryant

News coverage of the residency

Aside from the enriching musical experience, I also had a fantastic time in São Paolo learning how to speak broken Portugeuse, eating cheese and bread at practically every meal (!), dancing to choros, drinking caipirinhas, and meeting wonderful people. Next, I'm off to Shelter Island for the Perlman Music Program Chamber Music Workshop. Please check my website events page soon for more information on concerts (I am performing with Mr. P this summer!).

Until next time,