Free Play: The Power of Improvisation in Life and the Arts

What is the source of a creative idea? What is the link between art and spirituality? How can we unlock our inner muse, find joy in the creative process and unleash the full potential of our imagination? Stephen Nachmanovitch’s book, Free Play: The Power of Improvisation in Life and the Arts delves into these questions. Nachmanovitch is an improvisational violinist and violist, computer artist and teacher. Musicians and non-musicians alike will find his book meaningful, inspiring …

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Vivaldi’s Concerto in A Minor

Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto in A minor, Op. 3, No. 6 is well known to all Suzuki violin students. Vivaldi (1678-1741) contributed to the development of the violin as a solo instrument, dazzling audiences throughout Europe with shocking new sounds. He wrote over 500 concertos. For many years Vivaldi also directed the female music ensemble at Ospedale della Pietà, a school for orphaned girls in Venice. Let’s compare two excellent but contrasting performances. The first is a …

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Song to the Moon

Four-time Grammy Award winning opera singer Renee Fleming will be singing the national anthem at the Super Bowl this coming weekend. You may remember her singing (yes, singing) David Letterman’s Top Ten list on The Late Show last year. She also appeared at the Obama Inaugural Celebration in 2009 and at Ground Zero after the September 11th attacks. I performed with the Virginia Symphony when Fleming came to Norfolk about ten years ago and …

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Four Points of Relaxation for Violin Playing

Relaxation is the key to all technique. Often when we’re on the spot trying to perform our best, the natural tendency is to tense up. The “fight or flight” instinct is activated. In violin playing, tension blocks the natural springy weight of the bow arm, leading to smaller tone and reduced control. Tension in the left hand causes fingers to push into the fingerboard and then lift too high, leading to loss …

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"Alive Inside" Highlights the Power of Music

The new documentary film, Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory, debuts this week at the annual Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The film demonstrates the ability of music to awaken otherwise unresponsive Alzheimer’s patients, unlocking distant memories. It follows social worker Dan Cohen’s campaign to bring iPods and music therapy to nursing homes. The film is written, directed and produced by Michael Rossato-Bennett. Learn more about it here and here and keep an …

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Late Beethoven Revelations

The greatest composers serve as visionaries and prophets, giving us a glimpse at a higher reality. Looking back through music history, many composers seem to have experienced a sharpening of this sense of vision in the final years of life. The Ninth and final symphonies of Mahler and Bruckner are filled with mystery, foreboding and spirituality. The first movement of Bruckner’s Ninth is marked “Feierlich“ (Solemn) and ” misterioso.” Schubert’s Ninth Symphony, “The Great”, is a sublime …

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Remembering Claudio Abbado

Renowned Italian conductor Claudio Abbado passed away yesterday at the age of 80. You can read about his life here. The greatest conductors know exactly what they want the music to sound like. Through unwavering conviction, they inspire the musicians of the orchestra to share their vision. Great conductors don’t practice in front of a mirror to put on a show. Every gesture embodies the essence of the piece in an honest …

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