2013-2014 Studio Blog

Hello! Thank you so much for your continued interested in the American Viola Society Studio Blog! We hope that you will continue to follow the studio blog during the 2013-2014 school year at studio.americanviolasociety.org/studio2. Be sure to add this new blog to your bookmarks to find it quickly!

Good Night and Good Luck

Heidi Castleman writes:

With this “thank you” post, we are concluding the first year of the AVS Pedagoy Blog.

Thank you to the AVS for inviting our studio to be the first Pedagogy Blog host.

Thank you to Ed Klorman for, not only being the match maker who brought the AVS and the ACHT Studio together, but also for serving as our indefatiguable musical and entrepreneurial guide.

Thank you to Adam Paul Cordle for facilitating our online presence.

Thank you to my teaching colleagues, Misha, Hsin-Yun, Steve and Yi-Fang for making it a joy to collaborate.

Thank you to all the students whose heartfelt and sincere musical journeys inspire all of us.

Thank you to so many amazing alumni who have contributed their expertise generously to the studio and to the blog,

Thank you to our esteemed guest bloggers, Jutta Puchhammer, Kathryn Schmidt Steely, David Creswell and Steven Frucht, M.D.

And, SPECIAL THANKS to my amazing friends and fellow violists, Molly Carr and Gabe Taubman, who EVERY single day diligently devoted themselves to making sure that the post for the next day was in good order. I have learned so much from this journey and will treasure the experience and the materials produced for years to come.

Finally, the ACHT Studio thanks all of you readers for the privilege of serving the viola community through the publishing of the first year of the AVS Pedagogy Blog, “From the Studio”.

Balancing a Professional and Personal Life by Dana Hansen

The following post is by Dana Hansen.

Dana with her youngest daughter Madeline.

Dana with her youngest daughter Madeline.

When I got an email asking if I would consider writing this blog entry about balancing my professional life as a musician with my personal life, I had to laugh, because I hardly feel like I am maintaining either most of the time! I am married and have three daughters: Phoebe is 4 years old, Susanna is 18 months old, and Madeline is 5 months old. I also play in the viola section of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. I went back to work two weeks ago following a four month maternity leave, and it has been quite hectic trying to get back to my old schedule balancing with being home with my kids. However, while I certainly love my daughters, having young children can be exhausting and (dare I say) tedious at times. It is extremely fulfilling to step outside my role as a mother and practice my instrument, and play in the orchestra. Today, for example, the orchestra was rehearsing La Valse and the second suite from Daphnes and Chloe (both Ravel), as well as Messiaen’s Les Offrandes Oubliees, and Saint-Saen’s 5th piano concerto. While I have played Daphnes many many times, I honestly can’t think of a more beautiful way to pass the time than to play Ravel’s music.

When I first started playing professionally as an orchestra musician, I had no children and could practice pretty much whenever I wanted. Now that I have three little girls constantly vying for my attention, I have to work very hard to find time to practice. Two things help me make the time to practice. The first is knowing that I always feel better when I have practiced at some point in the day, and if it’s only for thirty minutes, that is okay because thirty minutes is exponentially better than zero minutes! The second thing that really helps me get my practicing done is a basic trick recommended to me by my colleague Chris Woehr from the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, where I played before joining the LA Phil. When I first came to Saint Louis, I was straight out of school and used to practicing a lot on my own. It was very challenging for me to suddenly have to learn large quantities of new orchestra repertoire each week in addition to my usual routine. Chris recommended practicing my orchestra parts as if I were studying etudes. I think of him telling me this all the time, even now. For example, while practicing my Daphnes part this week, I worked on multiple bow strokes, and did some serious intonation work. While this is an extremely basic idea, with the insanity of my life with three small children, the most basic things are the things I fall back on, and that keep my life running (more or less) smoothly. All told, I sometimes miss the days of waking up after 6 a.m., and the freedom to practice whenever I want, but I wouldn’t trade my family life for anything. I also love playing the viola more than ever.

Collaboration in the ACHT Studio by Janice LaMarre

The following post is by Janice LaMarre.

The ACHT Studio, comprised of the students of Heidi Castleman, Misha Amory, Hsin-Yun Huang, and Steven Tenenbom, at the Juilliard School, is a unique entity at a unique school because of its high level of collaboration between teachers and students. Sharing teachers, studio classes, information, and funding allows students to thrive in a nurturing environment. Heidi Castleman explains below how the shared studio began:

To thrive humans require both closeness and autonomy. Traditionally, the studio teacher is isolated from his/her peer group; in the mid-1980’s I turned to team teaching because it afforded me the possibility of contradicting that isolation. In 1994 when Dr. Polisi invited me to join the Juilliard viola faculty, he asked me to identify a colleague with whom I would like to share students. Immediately, I proposed Misha Amory; in that first year we shared 9 students. With Hsin-Yun Huang and Steven Tenenbom joining us, the studio has gradually grown to include an average of 30 students. Happily, it is a home to which alumni continue to return and contribute.


1. Collaboration’s rewards: Collaboration leaves everyone with a feeling of “win-win” through opening a myriad of possibilities.

Misha Amory explains this concept as his favorite aspect of the studio:

 I have had occasional experiences sharing students outside the ACHT studio. While there have been successes, it is impossible for the teaching collaboration to feel “close” in the same way that ACHT offers. This difference is due in part to the superb organizational effort on the part of Heidi Castleman and Yi-Fang Huang, who over the years have refined a studio structure resting on weekly studio classes, several formal studio recitals, a Google site enabling shared lesson notes, this blog, and a host of data-gathering efforts at the beginning of each school year. Add to that the fact that the four of us teachers are close friends and value the opportunity to discuss our many students with each other, and you can easily understand why the team-teaching in this studio has such a good basis for success.

To answer your question, I would say that my favorite aspect of collaboration within our studio is knowing that the other teacher has your back: he or she sees the same picture of a student that you do, and is helping to chart the same course to help the student progress. It is not merely two teachers who are consultants, checking in on the student from time to time, a feeling that can take hold in a more casual collaboration. Better yet, when you are stumped about how to help a student on a given problem, there is an excellent chance that your colleague will see something that you don’t, and will jump to help solve it.


2. Collaboration has to start at the top. Studio culture is not set by words, but by the actions of the teacher. That means treating everyone with respect, and providing regular constructive feedback. Trust is required for every successful collaboration.

Yi-Fang Huang finds Heidi’s approach to be the most unique part of the studio:

If you ask Heidi Castleman what makes the ACHT studio unique, she will probably credit everyone around her rather than drawing attention to herself, even though the idea of team teaching was first started by her. She believes that the team teaching approach benefits the student by making available the wisdom and experience of multiple teachers. She also believes that, if well-coordinated, the cooperative efforts of the teachers and the interactions of students and faculty in weekly studio activities, create a supportive musical community for the students.

Just like all the great organizations have great leaders who always act, think, and communicate from inside out by first asking themselves why they do what they do, the ACHT Studio is unique because we have a great leader who inspires all of us- Heidi Castleman. She has a precise vision of what she believes. She fosters a safe environment for students to grow by her love and wisdom. She is a selfless and devoted educator. She is confident in what she does and yet it comes with incredible humility. Heidi is the force that drives all of us to be better. I feel very privileged to be part of the team.


Molly Carr explains this aspect of the ACHT studio collaboration succinctly:

 The greatest part of the collaboration is that it all springs from Heidi’s brain. Because she’s such an amazing person, everyone who is involved is so happy to get things done and be involved. It’s all for her, and it’s for a good cause, and there’s no conflict because she’s the fairy godmother above it all.


3. The biggest barriers to collaboration are not technical – but instead, are cultural and organizational in nature. Everyone benefits most when teachers focus on building a studio culture and developing processes through communication and shared goals, rather than allowing internal competition and bureaucracy to thrive.

Indeed, Yi-Fang Huang says she enjoys working in the studio largely due to its overwhelmingly positive culture and impressive level of organization, for within the studio…

– All teachers and students are respectful towards each other.
– Teachers are passionate about music and supportive of each other.
– Teachers share similar values and always have students’ best interests in mind.
– All four of the teachers are like the best students who never stop learning.
– Other than weekly lesson and studio class, there are also play-through classes, scale classes, Bach classes, eurhythmics classes, and guest masterclasses and lectures.


4. Collaboration cannot be deployed, but embraced. Teachers must be willing participants who model collaborative behavior – even so far as embracing new technology tools – not just taskmasters. All team members must be committed.

In the ACHT studio, all students are requested to read and respond quickly to emails in order to keep up with the studio’s frequently changing google calendar. Changes in this lesson calendar are largely the responsibility of the students; when one student agrees to take another’s lesson time due to a conflict, the whole process is completed before the teacher is ultimately notified, thus creating goodwill and allowing teachers to focus on more important tasks than regulating the schedule. The teachers also occasionally cover for each other in cases of a conflicting performance or travel plans.


5. Good ideas come from anywhere, so the more voices the better.

Heidi Castleman is proudest of “the multiplicity of fine minds (faculty, teaching assistants, and students) thinking about how each student can realize his/her potential the best.” For this reason, students are given important leadership roles in the studio and are also often called upon to actively comment in studio classes. Furthermore, unexpected guests (often even from outside of the music world) are invited to give presentations/lectures at various studio classes throughout the year in order to shed light on performing in new ways.

Steven Tenenbom explains his enthusiasm for the shared studio, in an informal interview, as follows:

The collaboration aspect of our studio is great! I even prefer to share students over teaching on my own. For the right student, I think two teachers can be a wonderful experience, especially in our studio where there is strong teamwork. If a teacher were adamant that a piece must be played in a certain way, that would make cooperation more difficult. The way we four teachers work together within the Juilliard viola program is fantastic. Our common thread is Heidi, and even if she is away, it seems as though she’s still here and the studio runs smoothly. The fact that Heidi is really our central pillar makes it really great. It’s also interesting when we collaborate not with Heidi, but with the other students. That’s nice for other reasons: it’s interesting how different brains work together.


6. Collaboration enhances personal communication skills. As team members interact and play to their strengths, they learn to be authentic and genuine, which increases their effectiveness as well as their skills. They reach agreement faster and communicate more.

As Molly Carr explains:

The fact that almost everyone in the studio has more than one teacher is truly unique. In most schools there is conflict between teachers, if the student studies with two teachers. It may be a question of ego, but there is none of this in the ACHT studio – the teachers are all careful to communicate with eachother and keep up-to-date through weekly lesson notes on each student.

7. You get out of collaboration what you put in. Another of Heidi Castleman’s favorite aspects of the collaboration is that “everyone gives and receives quality attention.”


8. Collaboration success means changing both roles and rewards. This means creating processes that allow more perspectives, but making it clear who has decision-making rights. It’s essential to provide incentives to change-ingrained behavior.


9. More interaction opens opportunities to create more artistic value. Within the Classical music world, opportunities exist that are often missed unless everyone is listening and communicating.

Students come to Juilliard from around the globe. Their unique perspective may shed light on how to play a certain style of music more authentically, tailor concert programs to different audiences, or unearth new topics for musicological research. By welcoming their voice, the diversity of the studio is enhanced. Top teachers including Robert Vernon, Thomas Riebl, Barbara Westphal, and others are invited for master classes and to work together.


10. The studio gets out more than it puts into collaboration. Students are the most obvious beneficiaries of this method, but teachers gain deep satisfaction and help from this work.

Collaboration accelerates innovation, improves agility, increases adaptability, and cuts costs all at once. But building a collaborative culture is not an easy transformation for the traditional fiercely independent teacher. How can each of us incorporate these elements into our own studios?

Studio Thoughts on Bax, Bach and Hindemith

Today we have part two of a series in which Molly Carr poses questions to members of the studio about their repertoire.  In this installment, we cover the Bax Sonata, Bach’s Suite No. 3,  and the Hindemith’s Der Schwanendreher.

Deanna Anderson and Katy Ho on the Bax Sonata

1) How long have you played this piece? Have you performed it? Multiple times?

DA: I have worked on the Bax Sonata throughout the school year and have performed it several times, including in my graduation recital.

KH: I have played this piece for half a year because this is my graduate school audition piece. I have performed it in studio classes and on my graduation recital.


2) What do you like about the piece?

DA: This sonata is so imaginative and colorful! I love the lush harmonies and beautiful melodies in the first movement; it’s not every day that a violist gets to play a piece in this style. The second movement is quite exciting; I love how the opening is edgy and aggressive, and other parts are playful or longing. I can definitely picture it as a film soundtrack. The melancholic third movement is incredibly expressive—lots of opportunity to dig into that C string!

KH: I fell in love with this piece when I heard it for my first time. I love the variety colors, tones, and techniques in it.


3) What do you find is most challenging about the piece – (musically and/or technically and/or other…)?

DA: The opening is a challenge. I want to get the right color, the right atmosphere. To me, it’s like a morning sunrise, the earth is awakening, and you have to emerge from nowhere. In order to do this, I played around with contact point and bow speed to create a fluid sound, and searched for vibrato that is also “waking up.”

Another challenge is creating long lines with the phrases. It’s important to map out what is going on and where you want to take your listener. There are so many long legato phrases where I had to make sure my right arm was not interrupting the line.

KH: I think besides some technical issues of this piece, what challenge me most is actually getting different tones and colors in the movements.


4) Can you describe one way you worked/practiced to overcome this challenge?

DA: (see #3)

KH:  I practiced slowly for the difficult spots, and listened to some recordings. Moreover, recorded myself when I performed and listened back to it.


5) How did you prepare in the days leading up to the performance? If you performed the piece multiple times, was this preparation different for each performance? – Explain…

DA: I would practice the harder technical spots slowly (i.e. octaves, shifts, and fast passages) to make sure it was solid. I would work on expressivity and play through my favorite parts for inspiration. I would also do more mental practice to hear exactly how I want it to sound in my head. Visualizing your performance is a great form of preparation.

I did put the piece away and bring it back out again a few times, and the hard part about that is finding a way to still be “in the moment” while playing it and to have a fresh approach. It’s important to remember to exaggerate characters.

Also, playing the sonata in a hall for the first time made me thing more about projection in my practicing. Especially for the second movement—finding the right stroke.

KH: For the first performance, I just tried my best to prepare it – both technically and musically. However, it didn’t go as well as I practiced when I first perform. Then, I paid attention to the spots that I need to be improved and focused on them. And also listened to the recording of my performance and see where I can improve. This really help a lot!


6) Tell us about the performance experience – would you offer any advice on what one should focus/not focus on while performing the piece?

DA: It’s a long sonata, so it’s important to pace yourself. And as with any piece, it’s good to have one ear in the audience—to listen to yourself in third person, in a way. Most importantly, have fun and be as creative as possible, and make your story come alive. Remember that perhaps everyone in the audience is hearing it for the first time!

KH: I think playing this piece should focus on the colors and tones, rather than the small technical issues or intonations in this piece.


7) Any additional thoughts, tips/tricks, or advice for learning/practicing/loving/performing/struggling through/etc this piece that you would like to offer your readers?

DA: One more thing—learn to let go and trust yourself in performance. For me, I often worried in the climax section of the first movement that the notes in the stratosphere would squeak or that my octaves would be out of tune. The best thing is to play confidently and trust your hands, and if you can hear it in your head while you play, it is sure to be successful.

Ok, one last thing—Bax was definitely a leftover romantic. Enjoy the opportunity for romantic slides and expressive choice of fingering, make the most out of it!

KH: I think this is a really beautiful piece that I want to play it again and again. Falling in love with this piece will definitely help you to play better!


Marie Daniels on Bach’s Suite No. 3

1) How long have you played this piece? Have you performed it? Multiple times?

MD: Of the six cello suites, this one was the fifth one that I have learned. At the end of my junior year I was discussing with my teacher which one to learn for my senior recital and graduate school auditions and the two I had yet to play were four and six. Both of these are challenging, but I really love the exuberant Prelude and thought it would be the best for performance in auditions and in my recital.


2) What do you like about the piece?

MD: I really love the contrasting characteristics that each of the movements have, in my opinion, more so than other suites. The Allemande is particularly interesting, as it flows with such a beautiful melodic line, but is in fact deriving its motion from a simple but exciting bass line. Transposing the suite to G major I found works very well, as it provides lots of opportunity for singing and ringing open strings. With that, I also enjoyed learning this piece, knowing that it was originally written for a 5-stringed instrument and confronting the challenges of having to make decisions at certain parts which must be changed to accommodate the viola. Another challenge I met in this piece was its sheer length. It takes a lot of stamina to play through all six movements and deep concentration to remain focused and with good musical intentions (especially when performing from memory).


3) What do you find is most challenging about the piece – (musically and/or technically and/or other…)?

MD: Unfortunately, I cannot say that I have found the perfect solution that works for everyone for how to prepare for a performance of such a large work. It is a personal journey. However, here are a few things that I myself found to be helpful:

-Divide the movements into sections, creating a mental map that you can follow. *this is also particularly helpful for when it will be performed in an audition situation in which movements may be selected and there is possible jumping around between movements

-Once the movement is memorized (or whole suite is memorized), play through it at least once each practice session without stopping, even if mistakes happen along the way. This helps prepare for emergency recoveries and helps build stamina.

-Understanding the harmonies is incredibly helpful, and something that I must admit I often don’t take the time to do. This helps influence good musical decisions and can also contribute to the “mental road map” which you create for each movement.

-I also have enjoyed learning these suites in a baroque style. Of course these suites can be performed convincingly in many styles, but I would recommend one to at least have a slight understanding of basic baroque style and of the basic dance forms, dance steps, and dance characteristics. It can also be helpful in decision making for bowings, phrasing, etc. (Fortunately you don’t actually have to dance 🙂


Daniel Getz on Der Schwanendreher

1) How long have you played this piece? Have you performed it? Multiple times?

DG: I first picked up Der Schwanendreher a little over 4 years ago. I learned the whole piece and performed it in a studio class, and also played it in a school concerto competition in which I was a runner-up. Since then, I have used the first movement as an audition piece on multiple occasions. I have never performed it with orchestra.

2) What do you like about the piece?

DG: It has so many highly expressive moments. Particularly in the second and third movements, there are a lot of harmonies typical of the German Romantic period. This is really the only viola concerto where we get to explore that.

3) What do you find is most challenging about the piece – (musically and/or technically and/or other…)?

DG: Varying color! It is tempting (and often, seemingly necessary) to play very squarely throughout, particularly in the first movement. But that is boring. This may be the least accessible of the three major viola concerti, so a monotone approach can make for a dull performance.

Intonation is a huge problem. Hindemith really seems to have liked writing fourths and sevenths into his music, and those intervals can be hard both to hear and to catch.

And of course, the third movement is an endurance test. Every time I performed this movement, I worried that it could fall apart during some of the passagework.

4) Can you describe one way you worked/practiced to overcome this challenge?

DG: Color: I confess that I have not quite worked this out yet! One possibility is to look at the pulse. There are a lot of tempo and character changes throughout the concerto, and each change brings about a shift in the attitude of the pulse. Noticing and reacting to that may ultimately help to vary the sound quality.

Intonation: There is no easy solution. Fourths are perfect intervals, so we can simply be strict in our practicing about getting them to ring. Sevenths are trickier, and maybe slightly more subjective. Sometimes I practice seventh-passages by hearing each voice horizontally rather than as vertical double-stops. Melodic lines that happen to converge into sevenths are easier to hear than vertical sevenths. But with that in mind, I just had to be really strict with myself regarding intonation. I listened very carefully, and went over anything that faltered.

Endurance: Perform it over and over again until you’ve built up the strength. I played for my roommates a couple of times before going out in public with the third movement. That helped me to assess where my concentration and physical endurance fell, and I was able to solidify these sections in my practicing.

5) How did you prepare in the days leading up to the performance? If you performed the piece multiple times, was this preparation different for each performance? – Explain…

DG: In all instances when I performed this, I had many other pieces to prepare as well.  Mostly, I played through the beginning a couple of times, looking for good intonation and a strong, confident sound.

6) Tell us about the performance experience – would you offer any advice on what one should focus/not focus on while performing the piece?

DG: As I was getting ready for a big audition (my most recent performance of this piece), someone advised me to focus almost entirely on remaining stubborn in my opinion that Der Schwanendreher is a wonderful piece.  As I mentioned, many people find this piece to be somewhat inaccessible, so it is especially necessary for the performer to believe the opposite.  This attitude made me play bigger, stronger and more confident than I thought I could.

7) Any additional thoughts, tips/tricks, or advice for learning/practicing/loving/performing/struggling through/etc this piece that you would like to offer your readers?

DG: I really like this as an audition piece because it forces me to play with strength. Starting some of the other concertos, I often feel as though I am walking on eggshells, but with the Hindemith I can flex my “muscles” immediately. When I get to start an audition with that big C major chord, I have the confidence that I need to carry through the rest of the performance.

Introducing Katy Ho!


What’s your name?

My full name is Ieong Cheng Ho. “Ieong” is actually my mom’s family name and often people will misspelled it as “Leong” or “Jeong”. The word “Cheng” in Chinese means sunny or cheerful. My nickname is Katy Ho just to prevent further confusion of my name.

Where are you from?

I am from Macau, China. Macau was a former Portuguese colony until I was nine years old. (However, I do not speak Portuguese…) Macau is a now the Las Vegas of the East, which represents a mixture of Eastern and Western culture. I lived there for 17 years before I came to the states.

How did you come to the viola?

I started to play violin when I was six years old, my teacher in Macau is actually a viola player in the Macau Orchestra. So when I was around 11 years old, he asked me if I want to try learning viola that I could play as a violist in the student orchestra. Since then, I found myself falling in love with the deeper sound that the viola can produce.

Are you a Juilliard student?  Were you?  Or do you now work as part of the studio?

I am currently a 4th year undergraduate student at Juilliard. My current teachers are Miss Heidi Castleman and Mr Misha Amory. I am very lucky to be a member in the ACHT viola studio.

Tell us about one of your favorite performances?

One of my favorite performances is actually by Chanyun Li, who often cited as “the youngest violinist in the world”. He performed in New York recently as a soloist playing the Chinese violin concerto “The Butterfly Lovers”. It is very special for me to hear traditional Chinese music in New York. I admire his freedom of playing music on the stage. It always reminds me of what true music performance is — to share your feelings that can move the audience.

If you could perform any viola piece, what would it be?

I would love to perform Harold in Italy by Berlioz. It is because it is such a great work not only a fusion of concerto and symphony, but also a chamber and symphonic music.

If you could play any non-viola piece, what would it be?

If I could perform any piece, I actually want to perform “The Butterfly Lovers” on the viola. But technically, it is almost impossible. I would love to perform with the New York Philharmonics because more people will know about Chinese music after this.

Who made your viola and how did you get to be the one playing it?

Oded Kishony made my viola in 1987, I was looking for a new viola last year and I tried many violas before I came up to this one. I like it very much because it can produce a resonance sound in the lower strings and a bright sound in the upper strings.

Do you have any secret skills?

My friends told me I can actually sleep with my eyes open! I am not so sure about it as I cannot check it by myself.

You are forced by the United States Government to not practice for a day.  What do you do with yourself?

If I am forced by the United States Government to not practice for a day, I will have plenty of sleep, try making a cake (as I am not so good at it), and enjoy some sushi!

The Bow Arm, Part II: On-the-String Strokes by Heidi Castleman

Definitions and Characteristics of On-the-String Strokes

I. Staccato (generic use of term: all strokes starting with a “K” sound and ending with silence)

Collé refers to hand motion as well as name of stroke
* hand motion
– hand moves bow from side to side, fingers follow
– best learned by placing tip to ceiling and allowing hand and fingers to lower and raise,
– controls inflection (speed of initiation) in all strokes
* stroke
– set bow weight in string, use hand motion as start of stroke with “K” sound,
– stroke length comes primarily from hand motion not arm motion, end of stroke lifts off string producing ring

– set bow weight in string, start stroke with “K” sound, follow through by relaxing and allowing the weight to stay in the string,
– all martelé strokes will end by stopping the bow,
– the shape of the martele (amount of decay) depends on musical context,
– to inflect sound use cone motion with arm motion giving speed to the stroke initiation

Staccato (specific use of term)
– successive strokes started with ”K” sound and ending with stops, usually of short length, taken all down-bow or all up-bow,
– at end of stroke, relax wrist back into original starting position,
– as you go faster, feel how the thumb lightly opposes a specific finger (e.g., 4th at frog and 1st at tip),
– also at faster speeds use very little bow and catch only the first notes, allowing the others to happen from the reflex of a flexible wrist

II. Connected Strokes
Whole Bow Legato
– connected strokes using whole bows, weight released as you start stroke (therefore no hard consonant sounds),
– to keep bow tracked go “out” at tip and “in” at frog as needed

– separate strokes for each note, strokes connected (no stops at end), weight released by group (specific grouping a function of tempo and musical context),
– detaché may be done anywhere in bow although on viola starting at balance point often produces the clearest sound (be sure to rely on open-close motion from elbow!), (biceps and triceps should take turns and never compete),
– there are many varieties of detache resulting from degree of hand and finger involvement (collé motion), the most explosive form being accented detache

III. Other Strokes
Lancé is a variation of the detache bow stroke. A slightly separated bow stroke is used to gently articulate the notes with an unaccented, distinct break between each note

Louré strokes are a short series of gently pulsed legato notes executed in one bow stroke (it is also known as portato). A slight swelling at the beginning of the note should be applied, followed by a gradual lightening of the sound. Strokes are distinctly separate, yet unaccented, and the expressive swell is produced by applying pressure and speed to the bow at the beginning of the note. Although a slur and horizontal dashes are generally used to indicate this effect, dots with slurs are occasionally used

Mixed Bowings
The mixed bowing rule: find the amount of bow appropriate for the separate stroke and fit the multiple notes of the slur into that amount of bow.

Introducing Dana Hansen!

What’s your name?

My name is Dana Hansen.  The only interesting thing about my name is that my mother planned to name me Dana whether I was a boy or a girl.

Where are you from?

I was born and raised on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It’s a beautiful place to grow up. I had a lot of freedom to roam around on my own that my own kids will never have. When I got to about seventh grade, my mom started driving me up to Boston on the weekends to take lessons and do youth orchestra. The youth orchestras in Boston are spectacular. I stayed on in Boston for college, did my master’s degree at Juilliard, spent a year with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestras, and then got my job with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2005. I got married in 2001 (early, by my generation’s standards) and had my three daughters in 2009, 2011, and 2012. They are called Phoebe, Susanna, and Madeline and they are all darling.

How did you come to the viola?

I did switch from violin.  I started violin when I was four, with the Suzuki method.  I also played piano very seriously through the end of high school.  When I was a sophomore in high school, my youth orchestra in Boston suffered a sudden shortage of violists, and I was recruited by my conductor, David Commanday, to switch.  I liked the viola right away.  I especially remember loving the violists when I was at the summer music camp Kinhaven, and feeling like viola was really the right instrument for me, even more than piano, which I also really loved.

Are you a Juilliard student?  Were you?  Or do you now work as part of the studio?

I got my MM from Juilliard in 2003.  I almost went to Juilliard for my undergraduate studies, but decided to go to Harvard instead.  For three of the years I was in college, though, I studied with Heidi at Aspen.  That was a big part of my decision to go to Harvard–I figured I could at least study with Heidi and be part of her studio in the summer.  I’m really glad that I had some of both the college and conservatory experience.  I definitely feel like I did need the time in graduate school to move forward with a career in music.  I loved being at Juilliard and I try to go back and visit whenever I am in New York.

Tell us about one of your favorite performances?

My favorite performance I played was when the LA Philharmonic did Tristan and Isolde with a video by Bill Viola and a partial staging.  Our then music director Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted.  It was a stunning production, the singers were amazing, and Esa-Pekka was totally in his element.   A fun and challenging viola part too!

If you could perform any viola piece, what would it be?

Walton concerto with orchestra.  I’ve never played a viola concerto with an orchestra.  I’ve spent so much time with it, it would be nice to play it the way it’s actually meant to be played!

If you could play any non-viola piece, what would it be?

I wish I could still play the piano well, and the repertoire I wish I could play is endless.   Bach and Ravel in particular, and I also would like to play sonatas with my string-playing friends!  Someday when my kids are older I want to take piano lessons again.

Who made your viola and how did you get to be the one playing it?

Otto Erdesz.  My parents bought it for me in high school, I’ve been playing it since then.  It’s a beautiful sounding instrument and I’m lucky to have found it so early in life.

You are forced by the United States Government to not practice for a day.  What do you do with yourself?

Unfortunately these days with my three daughters, days when I don’t practice are all too common.  Those days I am doing a lot of driving my four year-old to her violin lessons, hanging out at the playground, feeding babies, and so on.  But if I could do whatever I wanted for a day, I would sleep in, read some of a novel, take a yoga class or go for a hike, and host a dinner party.


Preparing for Chamber Music Rehearsals

With the end of the school year only a few weeks away, and summer chamber music festivals rapidly approaching, we thought it would be helpful to take a look through a to-do list made by the artistic directors of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center – David Finckel and Wu Han – in order to prepare for chamber music rehearsals.


Reflections on a German Education by David Lau

The following post is by David Lau.

After suffering through the second security-check my one way ticket aroused at PDX, I squeezed into 18b sandwiched between a woman clearly requiring two seats and a talkative man in his forties with breath that reminded me of my childhood goat Henrietta. Making myself as comfortable as possible on the 13 hour flight to Frankfurt, I leaned back practicing my two sentences in German. One asking the location of the toilet, the other an inappropriate request I had learned years before at a music festival.

I came to Germany almost by accident but what ensued was a constant reminder of the role Destiny plays in our lives. In my last semester of a Bachelors degree at Juilliard I waited eagerly for my Fulbright Scholarship to Austria. Having been assured by the professor of his excitement to work with me I imagined the whole thing a done deal. But when the thin envelope arrived in my mailbox I frantically looked for alternatives. As luck would have it I was able to join the studio of Professor Barbara Westphal in Lübeck which quickly proved to be one of the greatest learning experiences of my musical education.

Manhattan to rural northern Germany is quite a contrast. I am from Oregon and at that a very country part of the hippie/farmer state. But having spent four years in New York City I felt more at home in the anonymous bustle of the city than anywhere else. Needless to say arriving in Lübeck, a town of 200,000 butting up against the Baltic sea was a bit of a culture shock, but I did my best to settle in and make the most of this new adventure.

Die Musikhochschule Lübeck was located in the center of the old city. Made up of five 18th century merchant homes connected inside by a labyrinth of passageways it oozed with the old world European charm I, as a young traveler, longed for. I naively thought coming from Juilliard I would breeze through this school, land a job and set forth on a wild life of concerts and travels. To my surprise and eventual pleasure, the ignorance of my assumptions quickly became clear. Whereas before if it was loud, fast and in tune you struck awe in your audience, here there was a specific nuance and style, a new musical language that proved more difficult to learn than German.

This tiny music school had pockets of grandeur. Concertmasters of the Berlin Philharmonic had studios here, star clarinettists, pianists and cellists whose students quickly filled the vacancies in major European orchestras. In a place I had never even heard of before, music was being taught and played in new and exciting ways. How refreshing it was to come away from the heavily competitive world of large scale American conservatories and find the students immersed in not only their own studies but in enthusiastic collaboration with each other.

The difference in how one approached music here began to unfold itself to me. There was an inherent quality that the German students could produce that I was before unaware of, especially in music from the Baroque and Classical periods. When it came to music from say 1920 onwards, I found the differences not so great, but everything before was black and white and this fascinated me.

In Germany every audition requires Hoffmeister or Stamitz. You might balk at this pieces thinking how juvenile and easy, but the shocking truth is, nine out of ten violist stumble through these pieces like a bull in a china shop. I spent the next years of my education focusing on the subtleties of works from these periods because I knew I wanted to audition for an orchestra here. And the first hand knowledge I would receive by studying with the direct inheritors of these traditions was something I wasn’t going to find anywhere else.

With much patience and persistence the subtle world of German classicism opened up to me. Rules of where, when and why to vibrate, when and why to lift my bow in phrases,(Absetzen), cadential nuances, (Abphrazieren), the things I found my German colleagues just knew, I had to learn. The approach to Baroque and Classical music here was a new and freeing experience for me. I slowly began to feel less bogged down by the stodgy institution of “Historical Performance” and found if I just listened I would understand why certain pieces where played this way. The rules weren’t rigid unmoving parameters boxing in my expression but more like phonetic guidelines. If I wanted someone to understand me when I played Mozart then I needed a slight space between two notes that came after each other if they were the same tone. It also wouldn’t take away from the excitement of my performance when I made slight diminuendos at the ends of phrases it would make it comprehensible. I found a new freshness in my performance of this pieces and an imaginative freedom. There were no “rules”. With these pieces anything was possible I just had to learn how to speak the right language.

Aside from the different approach to music here, the repertoire is also more varied. I have never played so much Opera and Ballet music before in my life. This mainly do to the fact that almost every small town has its own theater and company. Even better were the discoveries I made playing countless church gigs. Uncovering new baroque composers on another random religious holiday previously unknown to me or playing weekly cantatas with the Thomaner choir in the loft of the Thomaskirche while looking down on Bach’s grave. Music is a part of almost every occasion. There is a closeness to the music that one can almost touch here.

Studying in Germany, and now working here, has been tremendously eye opening. I enjoy the sense of being at the source of the music. Brahms, Telemann, and Buxtehude in Northern Germany. Discussing and playing Debussy and Ravel with French colleagues. And now playing in the Gewandhaus orchestra in Leipzig where Bach, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Wagner, and Mahler all lived, studied and worked. There is an encompassing sense of tradition and understanding of music because it is their history and an important part of their lives.

Orchestras and schools are funded mainly by the Government here. Which means school is only 80€ a semester and most of that goes to pay for your bus pass. Upon graduating debt free the bulk of quality reliable jobs can also be found here. Berlin Philharmonic, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Gewandhausorchester and Dresden Staatskapelle all have openings now and these are just 4 of the 133 orchestras that exist in this country roughly the size of Montana.

Learning German has proved less of a challenge as I once thought, having almost flunked out of my course at Juilliard. And it is perhaps a language all musicians should be required to learn. It is pretty satisfying not to have to look at a dictionary when learning a new Hindemith sonata or Mahler symphony, or simply being able to read Mozart’s letters in their original.

I have been living in Germany for 7 years now and think I will eventually come back to the states, but it is an experience I would recommend to any musician. For now I continue to take advantage and play a role in a society that values its musical heritage and fights to keep it alive.