Fridays @ 5: David-Porter

 The thing about violinist and violin-teacher David-Porter is that he draws me into my dis-comfort zone, relentlessly, every lesson. My job as a student is to go home and spend the week turning that dis-comfort zone into a comfort zone. No tears allowed. And as my goal is to learn to play violin, we wouldn’t want it any other way.

Progress is tacitly acknowledged. The real teaching comes from his weaving his way through the labyrinth of my ineptitude, showing me the sights and providing musical guidance as we go. Always prodding, always pushing, David-Porter isn’t interested in producing mediocre violinists, and it takes a certain kind of stamina to stand for his weekly challenge.

Lately we’ve been working on bowing techniques and the various colors they produce. David-Porter exudes a trust that, with time, I will master these techniques and their subtleties; that, as breath and vocal cords learn to automatically produce expressive language, so will my breath and arm learn to do for music. This trust gives me confidence to toil forward weekly, violin in tow.

If you want to push yourself and maximize your ability, it helps to seek out an elite-violinist and teacher like David-Porter. The higher the level a musician works at and continuously pursues, the more highly their hearing and expressive ability is developed over the decades of a career; and if such violinist cares deeply about the process of translating and providing this information for those lower down the chain, then you have a great teacher uncanny at drawing the best from their students. David-Porter is one such.
copyright 2017, All rights reserved.
photo by Francisco Kjolseth, Salt Lake Tribune

Thierry and Eric and Me

 The orchestra tunes. The conductor enters. He takes the podium. The audience settles. The baton raises. Quiet. More quiet. Energy gathers into the conductor’s focus as it trains right. A lone instrumentalist reflects the beam. And poom, paum paoum, pom, declares the timpanist. The beats cascade through the hall the winds on their tail and so is Beethoven’s violin concerto borne again.

Was it magic? Was it electric? Was it joy, beauty, solace? It was all of these. It was just the three of us: Thierry and Eric and me. And it was everyone else, too. An orchestra of musicians on the stage, and over a thousand souls in the audience. It was a moment to convene, to be one sound, to feel one beat, our miscellany of being, as one. How did it happen?

It is actually a highly calculated, highly prepared event. Music emerges from silence and Maestro Thierry Fischer has honed his body language to command this from the audience. In rehearsal, also non-verbally, Timpanist Eric Hopkins has understood that his four notes need to sound even, not rushed, yet moving forward and with energy. These ideas come from Fischer’s imagination, having deeply studied the score.

Eric arrives first on stage, with colleagues, selects his mallets, tunes, and sits quietly waiting for Thierry. Head bent, Thierry creates quiet, and looks up to Eric. Eric acknowledges Thierry with a smile and eye contact saying “Things are OK. I’m ready,” and centers his mallets on the instruments. The conductor’s internal tempo begins to tick, the baton is raised, the beat falls, and Eric responds: momentum and energy.

The magic moment comes on beat five as woodwinds enter, when everyone lands together in time and tone. The orchestra is a body in synch, producing a soundscape blossoming from nothing, except ideas translated into physical activity: a laser sparked and we are all in. Magic: Thierry and Eric and You.

(Fine Print: Thank you to Eric Hopkins for discussion regarding his work. The part about Thierry Fischer, well, a peon like me doesn’t get a private audience with a maestro like him, so I made it up. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you feel inspired to experience the magic of symphony.)
Photo courtesy of MOTUS.
Copyright 2017, all rights reserved.

Tuesdays @ 2: David Langr

It is with David that I fell in love. With my violin. He was my first teacher. At our first lesson he asked what experience I had with the instrument. “I learned to play ‘Twinkle twinkle little star’ once,” I replied. “Great! I’d love to hear it.” Ensued a caterwauling only you can imagine. “That was lovely!” David declared, “Here, let me show you another way to hold the violin.” Thus began our five years work together.

David was always patient and always kind. Little by little we worked our way through Suzuki books 1, 2 and 3. “A little higher on 3rd finger D.” “Open up your bow arm. Let it relax at the elbow.” He taught my ears to hear pitch. He loosened up stiff joints. He accompanied me in recitals when I wanted to freak out and run away. David kept me at it, and he let me love the sound I that produced, regardless of what I produced.

First teachers are like this. They tolerate quick learners and awkward learners, ones with incessant questions, those prone to exploring off base, guiding gently back to proper technique and musical expression. They introduce us to our instruments and to music, opening a door for inner voice to shine. They play an outsized role in our lives, influencing musical development and life to come. They forever hold a place in our hearts.

Do you have a David Langr in your life? With whom did you fall in love with your violin? Or your oboe, or your snare drum, or whichever instrument you play. See the comments? Let the world know how wonderful is this teacher of yours. (And maybe we’ll even get to learn who David Langr‘s David Langr is . . .)

Copyright 2017.  All rights reserved.
Top photo by Francisco Kjolseth, The Salt Lake Tribune. Bottom photo from the 2017 BLUME National Orchestra Institute in Haiti.