Monday, March 25, 2013

SF to Santa Cruz: A Week of Concerts

Last weekend, I performed the Bruch G minor concerto with the Santa Cruz Symphony. This was the last of the official, first prize package of performances associated with the Irving M. Klein International String Competition. The Klein is continually thinking of new ways to engage their past prize winners, which is unique and a fantastic testament to their mission of support for young musicians during a crucial period of musical development. As soon as they found out my Santa Cruz dates, they created a mini-residency in San Francisco prior.

The residency included a chamber music event, a board member concert, three school visits, and finishing with a short recital. The chamber music event featured prepare works between myself, 2012 first prize winner Austin Huntington, his brother and fellow Colburn colleague Thomas Huntington, and 2012 semi-finalist Sarah Harball. After our various duos and quartet performances, we sight-read with high school kids and musicians from the San Francisco Conservatory. This community event was open to the public and a wonderful way to collaborate with musicians of varying ages and levels of experience. The various school visits allowed Sarah and myself the opportunity to perform, give interactive presentations, and coach grades 3-12 at the Crowden, Nueva, and SF School of the Arts. We were astonished at the high level of playing, creativity, and imagination amongst these kids! I love giving community engagement programs and think they are not only necessary for the future and vitality of classical music and education, but also a fantastic way as young musicians to already give back to our craft and communities. I had a wonderful time in San Francisco, staying with a loving host family that provided delicious meals and fabulous company the whole week.

Incredible space for music making-- my host family's beautiful home

Radu and I in front of the Santa Cruz natural bridges

In Santa Cruz, I participated in a symphony preview event, rehearsed with the orchestra Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, and performed Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. Between the rehearsals, receptions, and my own practice, I didn't have much time to explore Santa Cruz...but it was so incredibly beautiful! Radu also came up from Los Angeles to hear my performances and I couldn't have been happier that he was there. The orchestra was wonderful, warm, and welcoming...and I so enjoyed my first time playing this wonderful concerto! Check out the review of Sunday's performance here.

With Conductor Daniel Stewart
Photo Credit: Peninsula Reviews

Now...back to the New York grind!

Until next time,

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Instrument Maintenance

As musicians, it's important to take every step possible to sound the best we possibly can, a process which absolutely begins with instrument maintenance. The things is, so many musicians don't keep their instruments in top shape, leaving strings on for too long or failing to use compound on their pegs. Below are some of the basics of string instrument care:

Generally: change every 4-6 weeks, depending on the amount of playing and the type of strings
Before a performance/competition/audition: one week, to allow time for the strings to finish stretching, lose the metallic sound, and for any mishaps [my 5-day old E string snapped in my face last night]
Be aware of: wrapping the string over itself to prevent slipping and making sure the strings are a close to the pegbox as possible

Generally: wipe clean every day after finishing playing with a cloth; clean with an alcohol wipe [making sure to cover the body of the violin with a cloth! just one drop of alcohol will permanently remove the varnish on the wood] when changing strings
Before a performance/competition/audition: as needed
Be aware of: ridges that form in the fingerboard, creating a "bumpy" feel; this means it's time for the fingerboard to be planed [a process which entails shaving off a thin layer of the fingerboard to create a smooth surface]

Generally: use peg compound on the parts of the peg that touch the wooden holes of the scroll to prevent slipping and/or sticking. I like to do this when I change my strings, so generally every 4-6 weeks
Before a performance/competition/audition: as needed
Be aware of: a clicking sound when turning the pegs; this means that the peg needs compound and is grinding against the wooden holes of the scroll, something that speeds up the decay of said holes [side note: the holes for violin pegs become too large after a long period of time, as the turning of the pegs wears away the wood; these holes are then filled in a process called bushing, which entails creating new holes for the pegs. This can only be done about 3 times in a scroll, so take care to avoid the unnecessary wear!)
*if you're using the fine tuning pegs with internal gears, you don't need to use peg compound or worry about bushing. lucky you.

Generally: check the bridge every day after finishing playing to make sure that it is properly placed
Before a performance/competition/audition: as needed
Be aware of: the bridge when changing strings; when initially tuning the strings, make sure to turn the pegs very slowly so the bridge doesn't make any sudden movements. Make sure to pinch the bridge back into its proper position, as the multiple tunings required of new strings will bring it forward

Sound Post
Generally: depending on the temperament of the instrument, every 6 months to 1 year [or anytime work is done on the instrument which requires removing the bridge]
Before a performance/competition/audition: as needed
Be aware of: the sound post when the instrument is sounding its best; take note of its position, its proximity to the label, etc. so you have a visual idea of its placement in addition to an auditory knowledge of the sound

Wood/Body of the Instrument
Generally: clean rosin residue every day after finishing playing with a cloth; once or twice a year bring to a luthier for a professional cleaning
Before a performance/competition/audition: clean with instrument polish [from an instrument shop, MacGyvered concoctions]
Be aware of: any nicks or scratches; be sure to have your luthier fix them as soon as possible and don't try to cover them up with anything yourself. Also check for open seams; a frequent place where my violin comes unglued is on the lower rib beneath the chin rest and I immediately notice a huge difference in the sound

Bow Rehair
Generally: every 6-8 weeks, depending on the amount of playing
Before a performance/competition/audition: at least one week before to allow time for any mishaps [it rained the last time I rehaired my bow in Los Angeles; the bow hair length was cut for a drier climate, which meant that in the humidity of the rain the hair was way too long]
Be aware of: the humidity of your climate; drier climates need longer hair, while humid ones need shorter hair. Also, ROSIN. Use it. In the hall, it makes a huge difference.

I hope this was somewhat illuminating as to what goes on with caring for these irreplaceable string instruments, and perhaps a friendly reminder to those who either consciously or unconsciously forgo one or two of these steps!

Until next time,