Some background on me (if you haven't read my bio or if you don't know me). I've been playing violin since I was 9 - started in the public school system and loved it so switched to lessons. I learned Suzuki repertoire up through Book 4 but didn't use the method. When I changed teachers in high school I played in my first ever solo recital at age 15. I played a lot of hard music that I probably should've waited on. By some miracle, I got into Baldwin-Wallace College for a music degree in college and promptly got tendonitis. My deeply ingrained tension habits combined with anxiety about music school and the newly intense experience of playing several hours a day did me in. Cue a year of many freak outs and expensive trips to the acupuncturist and physical therapy. Things were...well, let's say at least smoother sailing for the rest of college. One summer, I met this guy named Burton Kaplan who runs an amazing place called Magic Mountain Music Farm in upstate New York. Changed my life. I kept going back for summer sessions and decided to take a year off between my bachelor's and master's degree to attend Farm sessions and commute to New York City every other week to take lessons. I also practiced between 4 -6 hours a day while I was preparing for my grad school auditions. I managed to get myself into Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, which also meant a mountain of student loans and the complete rehauling of my technique. My first lesson of my master's degree with Keng-Yuen Tseng consisted of learning how to hold my violin and my bow again. We went from there. Peabody was the best two years of my education, hands down. I played in an amazing string quartet who also became my best friends, learned how to play violin in a totally different way, and also met Rebecca Henry who would be come my pedagogy mentor.
I graduated with my master's degree in May 2013 and moved home with my mom (who is amazing and wonderful and I can't thank her enough for everything) to start my professional career. I've discovered that I adore working with kids and was fortunate enough to be hired at Potomac Arts Academy in Fairfax, Virginia, where I have a growing studio of students ages 4 - 17 and two beginning group classes of some seriously adorable kids. I've also vaguely started thinking about working on my own playing again, not just my students', and taking some professional auditions.
Which brings us to today.
12 am: I turn off the light with my mind still racing. I'm mentally replaying some of the less intelligent things I said in the lessons I taught and debate how many spots I have open in my studio for the summer/fall. I worry about some of my students' left hands and brainstorm ways to reframe them so they can play in tune. I think about my plans to start group classes plus private lessons in the fall for my students and wonder if people will actually want to do it. Eventually I fall asleep.
7:30 am: The alarm goes off and I promptly hit the snooze button.
7:45 am: The alarm goes off again and I remind myself that I have a lesson for a new person in two hours and that I need to get up and practice so I can play well. (Discipline is remembering what you want.)
8:00 am: I am downstairs, still in my pjs, with a mug of green tea and my violin. I play slowly through Kreutzer Etude No. 2 (students, this is my equivalent of your Wohlfahrt No. 1). I play detache in the lower half and then in the upper half. I then pull out my binder of despair - I mean, the binder where I keep my orchestral excerpts - and play through Mozart Symphony 39, second movement, focusing on keeping a smooth bow and remembering where the half and whole steps are. I turn on the metronome and play through the Mendelssohn Scherzo several times under tempo and use various rhythm patterns to teach my fingers where to go.
8:45 am: I put my violin down and make breakfast and check email. I make a second mug of tea. My mom comments, "You're obsessed" as she sees me hunched over my iPod, and this reminds me that I still have practicing to do. (Yes, my friends, I am 25 and have a master's degree and sometimes it still takes a reminder from my mom to help me practice. Have I mentioned how great my mom is?) I play the Scherzo several more times and then switch to the first movement of Beethoven 7 - again under tempo and with a metronome. To end my session, I play through the first movement of the Mozart A Major concerto.
9:30 am: I decide that I should really get dressed and double check the address of where my lesson is.
9:45 am: I pack up my violin and make sure I have all my music. I brush the snow off my car and say a silent prayer that it doesn't cause delayed or canceled lessons that would need to be made up.
10 am: I find myself at the door of a local orchestral player who I met through a teaching connection, surprisingly less nervous than I expected to be. I start by playing the exposition of Mozart 5 and most of the Bach g minor Adagio. He is very nice and affirming in his comments and also points out some places where I can tighten up my rhythm, make my vibrato more consistent, and use my bow speed for greater musical effect. We then work our way through the list of excerpts (TWELVE of them!) for this audition I've decided to take in less than two weeks. The goal is to give me a good push out into the professional world. Over the next two hours, I marvel at his perfectly framed left hand and at the clever bowings and fingerings he has learned over a lifetime of orchestral playing that I never would have figured out on my own.
12 pm: I rush home, heat up a cup of soup, briefly recap the lesson for my mom, who is working from home today.
12:25 pm: I double-check the music in my teaching bag (must remember: piano parts for the group class are needed so I can make copies for the pianist!), swap my tennis shoes for boots, and head to work. While I drive, I listen to the playlist I made of all the pieces on this audition and am reminded of just how much I love Beethoven symphonies. I also lament that they are not as easy to play as they sound.
1 pm - 4 pm: I am at my desk at Potomac Arts Academy, where I work as an administrative assistant. I eat my second lunch while I check email, responding to a parent who asked about our group class availability for the summer and chat with my coworker. I am currently working on compiling information on all our summer offerings to send to various places as well as some paper registration forms for them. I stop periodically to answer the phone and register people for summer programs. I assemble a binder of piano music for my group class and prepare the handouts.
4 pm: Officially done with office hours, I grab another quick meal, as I won't have another chance to eat for awhile. I head over to the classroom where I teach and get it set up for my class, then find 10 minutes to play through a couple of my excerpts.
4:45 pm: My first student of the day walks in, a high school freshman, and we chat while she unpacks and tunes. We work on left hand and right hand exercises, her shifting book, scales, etudes and then work on her pieces. We're working on a new piece today, her first experience with left hand pizzicato, and it's a fun change from the piece she is currently refining, a beautiful but slightly tedious theme and variations that I'm having her play in order to open up her bow arm and improve her intonation. I find myself very pleased with the work she's done in the last week and am happy to be in our second semester together, starting to hit our stride as teacher and student and making good progress.
5:45 pm: I have just enough time to inhale and exhale and set a few things up before the first student in my group class comes running in, full of excitement and immediately wanting to know if we're going to listen to the same great piece that we listened to last week. This warms my heart, because even more than I want to teach kids to play violin really well, I want to teach kids to really love classical music. I assure her that we are listening to a new piece today.
6 pm - 7pm: My students, their parents and younger siblings trickle in, six youngsters between the ages of 4 and 8. I tune their violins while they chatter excitedly and then check their practice charts, awarding one sticker if they've done anything and awarding an extra sticker to the 4 year old who has practiced 6 out of 7 days. We start class with listening, and I first play the main musical ideas for them on my violin and they describe them to me, everything from "a ghost flying slowly" to "eating at a fancy restaurant" to "a girl sitting in a park and singing to a boy." We listen to Brahms' Piano Quintet in f minor, and I am struck both with happiness at seeing my students react to the music and with some nostalgia, for it was less than a year ago that this piece and the people I played it with consumed my life. (Dan, Solji, Lillian, and Ivan, I love you!) From here, the class moves on to reviewing pieces from Joanne Martin's fabulous book, Magic Carpet for Violin and learning a new piece, Hoedown, from Stanley Fletcher's New Tunes for Strings. I walk around and check everyone's bow hold, carefully shaping their hands and giving their parents pointers for things to look for at home. We end class with our quiz game, a new game I've made up where they divide into teams and I clap rhythms, write rhythms or notes on the board, or play notes on my violin and they identify them. With a late surge by Team 2, we end with a tie.
7 pm - 7:15 pm: Back at my desk, I eat a Clif bar (chocolate coconut!) and check email again, firing off a quick email to the parents of the kids I've just taught with a PDF attached of flash cards so they can study for next week's quiz game.
7:15 pm: I head upstairs for my last lesson of the day, with an 8th grader who's been making some wonderful progress lately. We work on scales and etudes for most of the lesson, and I think how amazing it is that in 6 months of studying with me she's now using her whole bow and her sound has opened up immensely. I also am pleased with the speed at which she is working through her scale chart, as she checks off all the bow strokes for one key and moves on to the next. We also start a new piece, and I explain the bowings and bow distribution to her as well as talking about the meanings of some unfamiliar markings in the music. We finish by making plans for her to come early next week and perform a polished piece for my class to inspire the young ones.
8 pm: I collect some things from my desk and have a brief conversation with a pianist colleague about a faculty chamber recital we're planning for the spring, promising to send emails on the next day. I pack up my car and turn on my orchestral playlist again. For the drive home it's Brahms and again I'm struck with nostalgia. For the Second Symphony I remember sitting concertmaster in college and having no idea what I was actually doing, despite needing to lead the section. For the Fourth, I remember just last February at Peabody and performing this under the baton of the incredible artist Leon Fleisher.
8:45 pm: I arrive home to a delicious dinner - have I mentioned how incredible my mother is?
An aside here: My mom is one of the most amazing people I know, and in addition to owing my entire existence to her I also owe my music career to her and my dad. Were it not for their emotional and financial support (and I think they'd be hard pressed to tell you which one of those was the most stressful), I would not be where I am today. They drove me to lessons, orchestra rehearsals, summer camps, paid for lessons, orchestras, music, the part of my college tuition that wasn't covered by scholarships. They sat with me for countless hours of tears while I wondered what I was doing with my life and if I was really supposed to be a violinist and answered so many phone calls home from college, music camp and grad school. They were not helicopter parents - I was the helicopter child. My mom is now letting me teach violin lessons in our living room and giving me a place to live while I get my career on its feet. And she makes dinner so that I don't have to cook when I get home at 8:45 at night. Seriously. My mom is awesome.
And if you were wondering, my experiences at Peabody and working with my students have confirmed for me that yes, I was meant to be a violinist and a violin teacher and I am totally, completely, and incandescently happy with my career choice.
9:10 pm: I drag myself off the couch and get my violin, and remind myself that discipline is remembering what I want and that if I want an orchestra job, I need to practice. I play through each of my new excerpts slowly and with a metronome. When the notes start blurring on the page 40 minutes later, I finally call it quits.
10 pm: I am back on the couch, with my laptop and my blog open, writing this post while answering emails from parents and thinking that if my shoulders are to survive the next two weeks I really must get myself to yoga in the morning.
10:30 pm: I clean up the kitchen, pack up my violin, and head upstairs, where I will make a list of everything I am grateful for today, read a few chapters of a book (Devil's Brood, by Sharon Kay Penman, about Henry II and Eleanor of Acquitaine and their fascinatingly dysfunctional family - Richard the Lionheart was their second son) before I turn out the light and try to get the last movement of Brahms 2 out of my head before I drift into sleep.
And that, my friends, is what my life is like.
Peace be to you all, and to all a good night!