My favorite blog reading is not about politics or Los Angeles (or even ice hockey.) What I enjoy is eavesdropping on aficionados in some field I know nothing about. Hence I found myself at the Los Angeles-based Violinist.com, where Pasadena Symphony member and teacher Laurie Niles has a talk with UCLA violin professor Lorenz Gamma about studying music as a career. Excerpt:
Question: What should an undergraduate violin major be seeking from his or her college education?
Answer: I think the teacher of an undergraduate student has a tremendous responsibility, because a student, after his fourth year of undergrad, is considered a professional musician, which he isn't before. To audition for a major orchestra, for example, you need to have a degree of some sort.
As a professional musician, certain things are expected of you. You should have no major problems, such as intonation problems and postural problems. You should have a personal sound rather than being a slave to the instrument. You should be well on your way to coming to terms with who you are as a musician, as an artist and as a violinist. That doesn't mean you're not a work in progress. In fact, probably you are a work in progress until you die. But in those four years of doing an undergrad, you have to get a pretty good idea of those big issues.
Q: What happens ideally during those four years, to bring a student up to that level?
A: The average high school student might come to an undergrad with certain deficiencies in one or the other areas. He might not have ever done any etudes; he might have only practiced the Bruch concerto for three years before coming to school. So the first year or two in an undergrad, I use to fill gaps, often of a general, technical nature. Tricks like spiccato, double stops, and working on vibrato and fluid right and left hands.
But the idea is to have a well-balanced meal in your lessons. You need your protein, you need your vitamins, you need your fat, too. You need everything. And I think you need etudes, you need concertos, you need your Bach, you need a showpiece every once in a while, to become a well-rounded musician. You need chamber music, you need orchestral training.
Niles, you may remember, is the violinist who wrote about auditioning for a rare opening with the Los Angeles Philharmonic back in 2004.
Photo of Niles: Violinist.com