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student recital, part 2

My violin students in Morton Grove had their spring recital this weekend. There was lots of beautiful playing and everyone did a great job! To sit back and watch all your students perform is such a useful perspective. I always come away with ideas for what student's might need to work on, and also what I need to work on—for example how to better prepare them to play their best, and ideas for how to better address and work on specific violin issues. But it's always a fun event, I enjoy visiting with parents, grandparents and family that come to watch and support their kids. It's so rewarding to see the smiles and sense of pride students have when it's all over. For a couple of these kids it was their first recital. Not only did they do a great job, but they're already asking about when we can do it again. Look for us at the Morton Grove farmers market on August 6, we've got a block of time beginning at 10:30am.

I'll leave you with a video from the recital of my little violins playing a fun song called Red Parrot, Green Parrot. It may be useful to know this lyric from the song: "some parrots talk, but these ones only squawk." Enjoy!

red parrot green parrot

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student recital, part 1

violas!

violas!

Last weekend was the end of the year concert and all-day celebration of The People's Music School community music programs. I'm super proud of the violists I worked with this year, they are such a fun bunch of kids and I hope it's a group that will return and stay together in the fall. The students only got their hands on instruments in mid-February and are off to such a great start. 
This was a new community program for the The People's Music School and it was fun to be a part of it at the beginning. We saw the kids for six hours a week after school, which gave us enough time to cover a lot of material, play a lot of games, and do a lot of listening and performing over the past couple months. We had so much support from the teachers and administration at the CPS school, as well as from the parents; I think it's going to be a really positive program for everyone involved.
I'm already looking forward to next year, with a whole year of viola class these guys will be unstoppable!

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viola etude project

I recently heard from my friend and colleague Sharon Chung who is about to start an interesting summer viola project. A while back she came across a huge stash of viola etudes by a composer that I (and probably most people) have never heard of: Johannes Palaschko. Over the summer Sharon is planning to learn and record a new Palaschko etude every day.

Palaschko was a German composer and violinist/violist, he lived 1877-1932; he studied with the famous violinist Joseph Joachim, and he wrote over 200 viola etudes and 500 violin etudes! This is the first I've ever heard of Palaschko or his etudes and I'm looking forward to Sharon's project. You can follow along on at The Palaschko Project. And if you're interested in playing some Palaschko etudes yourself you can find quite a lot of them on IMSLP

She will kick things off tomorrow, June 1!

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roots music

I was recently digging through a box of stuff and found some cool old photos of my grandparents and it seemed liked good material for a first blog post!

Charlie Pike, c. 1923. Why does his bow look so long?

Charlie Pike, c. 1923. Why does his bow look so long?

This is my grandpa circa 1923. No one is quite sure for how long he took violin lessons, but it was enough that he could play pretty well as an adult. I don't think he knew how to read music; I'm told he was pretty adept at playing by ear and he had some friends that he would get together with and jam on some old-time tunes. I don't remember him playing violin—he died when I was 4—but I do have a cassette tape of him playing some tunes and goofing around with a banjo-playing friend of his (btw, can anyone help me transfer this tape to digital? Maybe I'll post it here if that ever happens.)
My grandpa also played the banjo, and this I do remember seeing and hearing as a kid. He played in the Billings Banjo Band:

Billings Banjo Band, 1978

Billings Banjo Band, 1978

My grandpa is the guy in the back row between the tuba and the woman in the yellow dress. And my grandma is the woman playing the gut bucket! (Gut-bucket? Gutbucket?) There is probably a story there, but I have no idea how she was talked into being the rhythm section of a banjo band. Amazingly, Billings Banjo Band shows, and a grandma that played gut bucket, were a totally normal part of my childhood. I'm sure there were a lot of things the 5 year-old me would have rather been doing, and I was probably reluctantly dragged along to hear them play, but I do remember them being fun to watch. Although the only song I can specifically remember them playing is The Sheikh of Araby. They played at the mall, at bars, Billings Mustangs games (the local minor league baseball team), and other summer festival kinds of things around central Montana.
My grandma continued playing with them for several years after Charlie died. They weren't so successful at recruiting new members. As they all aged the band's numbers started to dwindle, and I think they officially called it quits sometime in the mid '80's. I'm convinced that someone in the family still has some old super 8 video of them playing, but I have yet to hear of any.
As I look back on it, I wish I had the chance to hear them and watch them play as an adult. I remember them being a fun group of characters who definitely had a good time playing and hanging out together. I know the banjo band was a fun and fulfilling part of my grandparents lives, and I hope the tradition of good amateur folk music is still alive and well in Billings, MT.

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