An Exercise for playing in all 12-keys

Hey violin friends! Here’s an exercise that can help with a very important skill that can be one of the main things that can really help take your playing up to the next level, enable you to perform with different kinds of musicians, and discover new ways to express your musical voice confidently – the…

A String Player’s Celebration of 2019 – Nicola Benedetti

Nicola Benedetti is a 32-year-old Scottish violinist and rising star who plays with unparalleled virtuosic energy.  Wynton Marsalis is a 58-year-old jazz trumpeter from New Orleans noted as an advocate for preserving and helping others appreciate the profundity in traditional styles of jazz as a way of grounding the richness of American music. The cover…

A string player’s celebration of 2019 (first part)

As we come upon a new year (and new decade), many music enthusiasts are constructing their “Best of 2019” lists. I decided to try something different. Here’s a non-hierarchical, subjective list of some of the albums, books, and other learning opportunities that inspired my own musical journey over the year.  This will be the first…

An open letter to parents on winter break from music lessons…

This week marks the end of violin lessons I’ve been teaching this year in a few private schools in the South L.A. area, where I’ve been giving group lessons in beginning violin to students through a wonderful organization called Arts Alive. Please consider supporting their wonderful work.  I’m including the letter I wrote to parents…

Learning truth from two artists…

Recently, I was privileged to attend two lectures by two creative artists, deep thinkers, and people of color who have struggled to expand the white-centric art world’s definitions of who is worth listening to. Favianna Rodriguez spoke at UCLA’s Visual and Performing Arts Program on February 6, 2019.  She grew up in Oakland as the…

Musical Adventures in Ireland

  Ireland is a country that has long loomed large in my imagination, both as a place of tremendous natural beauty and a hotspot of fiddle music.  Of course, many places in the world have folk music traditions worth studying, but it would be difficult to overstate the impact this island has had on many…

Lessons from “Itzhak”

The world-renowned violin soloist Itzhak Perlman needs no introduction for many people who love the violin or classical music.  I grew up with his name spoken with a reverent tone; among my teachers it went undisputed that he was one of the best living violinists. Very early in my violin studies,  I was privileged to see…

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…