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…

Recovery From Traumatic Music Lessons

Music lessons may not always be a positive experience, but don’t let that stop you from being creative and gentle with yourself.

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…

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…

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…

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…