Teaching? Traveling? Great!

One of the highlights of the Brazil trip for me personally, has been our involvement with the schools, conservatories, and students. Never have I felt more inclined towards this type of work than at the present. To walk into a community that provides a safe place for so many kids to come after school and pick up an instrument, find a teacher, hang out with their friends, was invaluable to see. I have not really taught much before for young string students, private or group, but it occurred to me, you do make a difference. For younger kids, you don’t even need to wait to see the affect it has on them! I was floored by all the responses we got from performing in different venues, classes, for different levels and skills of instrumentalists. I certainly could do more of this stuff.

Deep inside, what really got me was having performed these classical pieces, staple works in the string quartet repertoire, young students were excited, beaming and impressed by what they saw! More impressive to me was not our performance, but how fortunate we are to enjoy this so freely and frequently,yet our arrival and stay with them was a big event. One that was between two big music festivals that roll into town. That’s it. Twice a year, and then there was us. Talk about deeply humbling, that our work could be effective and plant within them a seed of desire and passion for making music and perhaps using it to further themselves as learners, musicians, professionals, people.

Hanging out with those same fellas I’ve been speaking about, at times they would converse in Portuguese to each other. To me it was just fun talk, maybe about their latest joke, or making fun of something we did in front of them. But as Paulo explained to me, that excitement and thrill in their voice was about the orchestra rehearsal of the Vivaldi, or seeing the Dvorak Cello Concerto performed, on YouTube albeit. Talk eventually started up about future plans, individual playing, quality, etc. On the side, Paulo and I spoke and he whispered to me, “No, they’re not in it to make money. They just love music. The love the music they get to play.” I couldn’t have put it better or more genuine, nor could I have learned anything more at that precise moment. These were sixteen-year-olds. These were joking-laughing-slap-each-other Brazilians friends hanging out. But these guys had something else I often need. Who am I to be worried for what’s ahead or in store? I wonder if we look like that sometimes. I hope so.

On another note (don’t say it!), as our quartet experienced traveling, rehearsing, performing, and practicing completely on our own, self-sufficiently enabling ourselves to ‘tour’ and stage ourselves for a week and a half of enveloping ourselves in our career pursuits, really refined a lot of things for me. It’s good that most of the time I thought to myself, “I could really keep doing this!” What better than to wake up, rehearse, practice a bit, go do a small performance, teach for the afternoon, or should I say inspire, and then give a performance every few nights! I could really keep doing this! What a routine. Let’s do it.

Any thoughts or experiences in music education and professional performance for you guys?


Comments (2)

How much flying?

So between Uberlandia and Los Angeles, we traveled through 4 airports, 3 planes, 2 layovers, and total flight time of 14-15 hours, and airport downtime of 13 hours, and… then add to that my next flight to Paris (LA-New York-Paris). Within… three days. Yes. What day are we on? Nevermind.

One of the layovers was in São Paulo, where we went from one city airport to another before going to Dallas. 12 hours to do nothing. So we purchased some internet time and Jeff would agree: power outlet plus WiFi internet equals good safe fun for hours.

Interestingly enough, upon landing in São Paulo, our plane took the usual descent towards the airport runway, and as we neared the runway, reaching a matter of hundreds of feet over medium sized apartment complexes, I was jolted wide awake by the plane’s next move!!! Literally at the point of seeing apartment windows, the plane pushed harder ahead and we were taking off again! Midair! Ok, swallow, calm your stomach a bit, it’s fine. They know what they’re doing. We ended up circling around the city for a while. I’m not sure how they were just about to land and had decided there was no room, so we got bumped to taxi in the sky. Yikes.

Home for Friday, leaving Saturday morning, don’t know if I’ll have much connectivity over in Paris but we’ll see!

UPDATE 5/31/08 – 7:15 pm

I’m now boarding my flight headed for Paris (nonstop from LAX to Germany first). Whoever planned this trip got us cheaper flights, but it’s on Air India. The only thing I’m honestly nervous about (1) the food and (2) the entertainment. Plus, the weather will be nice, cold and rainy. How about that – sunny Hawaii to moderate winter in Brazil, then to rainy summer in Paris.

See you over at GMT +1!

Comments (2)

Dessert Run!

On our last night in Brazil, we met up with some of the older students we’ve worked with,… Paulo, Isac and Raphael (they’re still sixteen-year-olds nonetheless…). We had a wonderful time with them, grabbing some ice cream, walking around town and then going back to the house for some of the morning’s lasagna, cake, and guarana.

Funny thing: the last few nights, the students kept yelling at me at the end of each class if I had “orkootch, orkootch!” to which I responded, “What?! Is that… a food? Do I like to eat it? Where? I haven’t been there before!” Well, Paulo, who knew fairly good English said it again tonight, and I asked him to spell it. O-R-K-U-T…. ahh!!! (In Portuguese, T’s are pronouched CH. Lost in translation I suppose.) It all made sense. This was their most commonly used version of MySpace, Facebook, Friendster. So now we have a way to keep in touch, which they were incredibly excited about.

Comments (1)

Some extra photos

Thanks to Gloria who kept snapping photos while we were busy, here are some more interesting ones for ya! Photos after the jump…

Read the rest of this entry »

Leave a Comment

Home stretch

Revelations come in such an unexpected place, in front of the people you think it shouldn’t happen with…

We started our last day visiting a public grade school that was named after Grandma Cora’s father. Children, the first time for many, saw us with our instruments and rushed into the courtyard where we set up to play for them! They came out to see what we’d play (as well as Karen’s hair) with so much excitement… it was hard to take a smile of my face the whole time we were there. It’s easy to get caught up in our practice, rehearsals, and indulge in our own issues as musicians sometimes; made me pretty joyful to see these kids wanting so much to talk to us and ask us questions. It’s good to be grateful for what opportunities we have had to travel, to make music, to be life-long learners.

We left the school in a sea of little students clamoring for questions, pictures, and autographs on their notebooks, but alas, we had to leave. So what’s this revelation? Well, as we were playing for this easy-going crowd, there’d be talking, there’d be laughing. But more than any other time, I think I had the most fun playing movements of the Dvorak and Schubert! Being outside, we had to perk up our ears to each other, but boy, I wanted to entertain and show the kids and teachers watching us the fun, the emotion, the dialogue involved in our music making!

Because I had been so at ease… (here comes my technical viola playing commentary on myself) in an instance, my wrist loosened, the weight of my arm fell beautifully on the strings, fingers moving in ways I could only talk about for the last two years in my lessons. Whoa. What happened? Little spiccato notes just flying with rhythmic integrity and sonorous tonality? (Yes, Dvorak, fourth movement, with the second violin…) What-wait a minute… It’s working now that I’m playing for this group, huh? It was a good realization of the origin/cause/factors of why I do what I do, and why I don’t do other things (physiologically speaking). Well, here’s to a good rest of the summer practicing! (Viola technique geek-out concluded. You may return your attention.)

With the morning gone, we enjoyed our last lunch with Grandma Cora, grandpa, Gloria and her son, Eduardo. I’ll miss my own room with the afternoons of practice, Facebooking, endless blogging, and bug-bite paranoia. (Photo with Jeff and OJ: he never failed to finish the pitcher of fresh-squeezed juice. We counted on it. Just look at his face.)

The rest of the afternoon, the quartet met with the television cameraman to re-record the Dvorak part of the weekend’s concert. They failed to capture it somehow, so we did a one take performance for him. Yikes. It was difficult, mainly to get yourself in the moment (despite the trip almost ending, a tiring day of playing already, and packing to get done back at home). Reminded me of our quartet recording for an album of Elizabeth Rickman. Of course, we were all students in the room and just words of wisdom and advice from our prof, Mike,… was the need to give it that fresh ‘first-time’ energy, but on EVERY take. It’s not easy. But the audience or listener won’t have the asterisk on their program or album saying ‘they were tired’, nor will they necessarily see you. They’ll be listening though, and you had better play like it were your first. Something should go here about being emotionally prepared too, otherwise you have to act it out. I think it does take that sometimes. Just do it, you know?

The night finished with Ingrid helping a teacher do a Suzuki method class for a big group of young students and their parents… we left, again, with many photo ops, exchanges, goodbyes, hugs, you know.

Once we got home, our final duties were set before us in the for of five hundred-some certificates to be signed by the four of us! Fun… hone in those glitzy A’s and K’s… those curly E’s and Z’s… ok that’s enough.

Are these posts really just… LONG? I’m not sure what one is to do. It’s like how Karen packs for the road, really. Get what you need, then cut it in half. I suppose I could still cut it. Let me know 🙂

Comments (3)

Youth, music, and education

Other than performing, most of our evenings this week since Monday has been going to the local conservatory to listen, teach, and play for the students, ranging in age from 8 to 24, even adults! Our first evening at the city conservatory was with beginner students who had played violin for 1-3 years.

Afterwards, we went to the state university to pick up an item, but heard a chamber orchestra rehearsing some Vivaldi. Poked our heads in, and sure enough, a group of students and teacher that we had met in the days before. One of the young cellists, Raphael, we met at a small local music center last week; we would see him and his cellist friends much more on our trip!

Tuesday, Grandma Cora took us two a couple of municipal museums. The amazing thing is, she is so well established in the city’s history that each place opens their doors for us and greets her specially! In fact, in one room, some of the photos of citizens past which were unidentified, suddenly were pointed out by her as family friends and such… hard to believe, but we were in for the VIP tour!

Tuesday night’s master class was for students with a wide-range of skills. A few cellists, all the rest violinists. We had beginners who were learning their bow-grip to some of our new friends playing Saint-Saens and Bach Suites on the cello. The surprising part? We ended up listening and critiquing at this master class from 5 to 10 pm! It was exciting to see the evening start with a string quartet playing Haydn’s “Emperor” quartet (No. 3 of his Op. 76 set)

On the nights we were at the conservatory, I looked around and saw a variety of young people, who were dressed in just as wide a variety of clothes, seemingly spanning a spectrum of social and economical backgrounds. But they were all gathered here. When school is out and the streets are dark, it becomes a safe place with a carefully monitored entrance gate. The complex is fenced off from the streets, allowing for a large yard area, practice rooms, class rooms… it’s great. I have to admit, the first day I saw a few of the teenagers, I had to wonder, “so they’re into music? Classical instruments?” But they’ve proved quite extraordinary for some of the young minds we’ve encountered. They love this stuff! Aside from playing futebol in the daytime and going to class, some of them aspire to specialize in a music university abroad. Some talk to their friends about Haydn Concertos and Bach Suites like someone getting a new present. Some can’t stop talking about their experience with their instrument so far. Many have questions about the future.

After it was our turn to play for them, we fielded any questions from the big group that had gathered in the classroom over the last 4 or so hours. The end of the night brought a flurry of photo-taking, hugs and e-mail exchanges. Some of the new friends we made (that kept following us everywhere) were Isac (top left), Raphael (top right), Paulo who had wonderful English learned from Ireland, and others. There’s also Karen with the cellists, and then a group picture with some of them afterwards.

(Point of information: The boys following us around were really just following Karen around. Her and all the glory of her whiteness. And bleached blond hair. I think she got a mixed tape CD with some Mozart, Bach, or something rather… You should try walking down the streets of Brazil with her. Can you say enamored? I’m serious.)

Leave a Comment

Travel tips learned

End of our trip. Here’s what we learned. Take and use as needed.

Concerning Roads…

  1. The streets are beautifully decorated with yellow dashes and white stripes. It is important to remember that these lines are purely decorative. Form over function.
  2. When crossing the street, you are wroth about as much as that plastic bag that just rolled under the tires of the last car.
  3. We’re under the impression that Pare means “yield”.
  4. If road rage happens upon you, as a motorcyclist, a viable option is to kick the car beside you. Make sure to dent it.

Concerning Food…

  1. The cashew fruit is a treat. With the sweetness of a mango, the bitterness of a rubber balloon, and the texture of a clam. It is a treat.
  2. Hopefully lunch was enjoyable, because it’ll be back for dinner.
  3. Chocolate-frosted carrot cake is an acceptable form of nutrition as or after any meal (including breakfast).

Thanks Karen and Ingrid.

Comments (4)

« Newer Posts · Older Posts »