Making and Teaching Music in Times of Racism

In 2014, the Southern Poverty Law Center went into the collection of music sold on iTunes, and flagged 54 bands that were either affiliated with hate groups or directly advocating hatred of and violence against non-white people. Protest and pressure lead to a change in policy that made these songs less available – but the…

Music in time of oppression

Creative musicians and artists, in their desires for freedom of expression, often respond to totalitarian regimes with suspicion if not contempt. These oppressive states have likewise censored and even persecuted artists unwilling to advance the government propaganda.  Just ask Dmitri Shostakovich (a composer censored and threated by Soviet Union for creating supposedly “pro-Western” music), Victor…

Before you play a note… – Violin warm-up exercises

Playing a musical instrument engages many parts of the brain, but it is not only a mental activity. Violinists, perhaps especially, are being continually reminded of our embodiment – that we play music with our physical selves. The noise we make uses almost every part of our bodies, and so violin playing involves a focus…

The sheet music reader’s guide to chord charts

Music is, in many ways, is a language.  It has its own grammar (structure for melody to follow) and vocabulary (motifs, “riffs” or “licks” that cluster sounds together).  Also like music, language (with the exception of signing) is first and foremost aural communion. (What matters is one person’s mouth reaching someone else’s ear). However, that…

Mark Wood and Lindsey Stirling – a comparative review

Whether it was mourning the loss of George Martin, Prince, and David Bowie, or awaiting new releases from Beyoncé, The Julie Ruin, and Itzhak Perlman, 2016 has been a very noteworthy year for music.  On top of everything else –two of the most widely recognized names in the non-classical violin world released new albums within…

Lessons from “The Song of Jigglypuff”

Recently, I’ve been thinking about all the ways music education or music lessons are portrayed in books, television shows, and movies. These narratives can tell us a lot about what music lessons can do in people’s lives – and provide important examples of what to do – or not do, to really contribute to someone’s…

the gift of permission to fail

  One of the main challenges of learning the violin is the lack of instant gratification.  You will not be able to play perfectly after one lesson. Or two, or a month’s worth. As a student, you may spend several weeks practicing nothing but bow holds, or playing a single note on an open string…

10 Violinists Worth Getting To Know…

The violin is an incredible versatile instrument, and can express itself a wide variety of musical styles, emotions, and contexts. A creative and competent player will pour all of her or his culture, ideas, and personality into the instrument.  The simple physical motions of dragging a bow across strings can tell a story of where…

Learn like a Punk Rocker

One of my favorite things to read is memoirs and biographies of musicians. I just finished reading Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys by Viv Albertine, best known as the guitar player for The Slits. In both their music and their image, The Slits challenged so many preconceptions of what women were…

Bringing it All Back Home: Reconciling Dylan and Seeger

The 1965 Newport Folk Festival is widely considered one of the most iconic moments in rock history. It is one of those historical moments where it felt like everything changed radically in an instant, where the familiar fell apart and a new thing was birthed.  A lot has been written and said about the event;…

every note is alive

Basho was a poet who lived 17th century Japan, considered one of the greatest haiku writers of all time.  It was said that Basho was once with a student, and they saw a dragonfly, and the student attempted to compose his thoughts on the experience: A red dragonfly If you would but pluck its wings…