Performing Arts School
Notes from the Train by Alice Hamlet | October 4, 2018
An interview about the upcoming How to Practice Workshop with New Jersey Symphony Orchestra violinist Naomi Youngstein
Performing Arts School
60 Locust Avenue in Berkeley Heights
Friday, October 12 @ 7:00 PM
FREE and Open to the Public
How long have you been a member of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra?
I joined in November of 1987, so nearly 31 years ago.
What are some highlights of your favorite performances (or one favorite performance) with NJSO?
Two performances stand out: Zdenek Macal conducting anything by Dvořák, and Xian Zhang conducting the Pines of Rome—earthshaking!
When and how did you start amassing tips and insights about practicing for students?
My own teacher at Manhattan School of Music, Burton Kaplan, wrote books and gave workshops about practicing. I use some of his ideas, those of my colleagues, and a lot of my own. Over the years, I’ve learned what works for the school age student. The most important thing to know is that each student may need a different selection of techniques.
If you had to give just one tip about practicing to a beginning student, what would it be? And for an advanced student, would that one tip be different?
For the beginner, I’d suggest always starting by imagining the sound that you want to make. Often the beginner is so concerned with being “right” that they don’t always hear what’s coming out of their instrument. For the advanced student, I’d suggest knowing one’s goals for every piece during each practice session. The advanced student is juggling many things at different levels of preparedness, and deciding what you’d like to accomplish is vital.
What do your own practice sessions consist of?
I always play scales, often etudes and exercises, and usually whatever upcoming pieces we’re performing with the NJSO. This week I reviewed all the harder sections of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony which we perform at the end of this week.
How do you suggest students structure or divide their practice time (ie scales, etudes, repertoire)?
Each student has different needs. Try to get to everything in each session, but each student’s teacher can help the student set priorities. Those priorities can change from week to week.
How important is the use of a metronome in practice?
CRUCIAL!! How do you know if you’re improving if you don’t measure it? You can’t know if you’re controlling a skill or a passage unless you use the metronome. Always write down what metronome marking you’ve achieved. Who could remember such a number from day to day?
For students playing pitched instruments, how do you suggest they work on intonation?
Listening to chords, tonality, matching pitches, always use whole phrases. Out of tune notes always occur in a context, so simply playing higher or lower doesn’t help. Knowing if one is sharp or flat, and how much, is super important.
Favorite food: Definitely pasta
What are you listening to these days: I walk two miles every day and listen to podcasts all the time—my favorite subjects are food, travel, politics, and shows about NYC.
When not commuting, Alice Hamlet is the Director of Marketing at the Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts and is also on the faculty of the Performing Arts School, teaching cello and music theory.
Amused; musings from the ED by Karen Deschere | September 27, 2018
Beauty and the Messy Desk
Those of you who have been in my office know that I don’t have the neatest desk. It’s been a lifetime of clutter ever since I was a kid. Each new job, living arrangement, or New Year’s resolution to keep the desk clean was just beyond my daily ability. And, I’ve gradually come to accept it even though I still find myself apologizing when I have a visitor (many of whom will empathize with me!).
Do you ever watch detective or medical shows on TV where the dedicated doc or cop is wracking her brain trying to solve the mystery to no avail, and then she goes out to dinner, or to the mall, and something totally different is triggered in her brain, and voila! the mystery is solved?
That happens to me with my messy desk. I may be working on a project when I may be interrupted, and I need to rummage through the desk to find that one piece of paper that I know is under this other stack of papers. As I am searching, almost always some other tidbit arises that reminds me of another project, or provides a touch of insight into what I was working on.
Maybe that happens to you neat-deskers as well; you’ll have to let me know.
I think beauty works in the same way. We are bombarded by so much stuff in our lives – work and school deadlines, devastating tragedies, so many issues beyond our control, that I have decided I need beauty breaks. I’m not talking about skin care, but about music. Just five minutes of something beautiful can give me the respite needed to return to the task at hand. With all our devices, we are no longer far away from being able to access something beautiful to take our mind and our heart to a different place for a few minutes.
This kind of beauty break might just be what our students need as well. Are you stuck on that organic chemistry problem? What if your instrument was on the bed behind you and you turned and played a few phrases of a piece you are working on. Do you think one of those random connections might be made between the music and your chemistry homework? I think it might, and if it doesn’t, well at least you had a few minutes to enjoy the beauty of your music.