Posts Tagged students

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?

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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.)

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Big full day for us

Saturday was chock-full of events for us. We started our morning right with a nice breakfast and promptly headed to rehearse for the day’s performances. After lunch we went to another part of Uberlandia and visited a small local community center that held music classes for some of the kids.

We played a couple movements from the Dvorak for them and by the end of it, they were clapping and beaming with smiles! The only thing proving difficult was that this room was just concrete walls. Playing in a bathroom-sounding place is nice. But not with trying to listen to three other players and keeping it all good and stuff.

Then we switched. Four of the students got to play some Vivaldi for us as a quartet. Then we got a chance to give them advice and critique some of the playing. I got to see how excited it had made them to learn from us and apply it to their playing right away! Wow.

Out first performance followed in the evening with a pretty impressive crowd! The advertisement in the newspaper, on television, and of course the conservatory and music organizations associated with Grandma Cora had put up posters seemingly everywhere!

The church sounded wonderful, and it was small and intimate enough for the audience to appreciate, hopefully. Boy, I wish I could’ve heard it from out there and see what it was like.

Afterward the concert, we were greeted wonderfully by some of the audience members, teachers, string players, and students alike… then one of our new friends, Eduardo, took us out to a local hang-out spot. His mother, Gloria, is one of the assistants to Grandma Cora and also helps to manage a lot of administrative things with the music program here. (Which inadvertantly means driving us everywhere, picking things up, getting other things all week for us! Muito Obrigado!)

Much fun being had. Thanks for reading! Friends… feel free to COMMENT! I’m not desperate.

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