Monday, August 19, 2013

Practice Tips for O Come, Little Children, Suzuki Book 1

Focus Points:
  • Structure: part 1 (m. 1-4), part 1 (m. 4-8), part 2 (m. 8-12), part 3 (m. 12-end)
  • Playing Postion: Get into a good playing position: violin on the shoulder to the side, curved fingers for the bowhand, stand tall, left thumb by the first finger. Place the bow at the middle between the bridge and the fingerboard.
  • Rythm: for the first time we have eighth note rests in the last measure of lines 1-3. Eighth rests are held for half-a-beat. Practice the song by clapping and saying the notes.
  • Bowing: We are back at starting a piece on the E string, just like Lightly Row, but now we are starting the piece up bow. Every section of the piece starts up-bow, watch for that as you play along with the video.
  • Dynamics: Make sure to watch for the crescendo (getting louder) in the third line, use more and more bow to get the gradual crescendo.
  • Play Twinkles through Go Tell Aunt Rhody starting up-bow and adding p and mf.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Domenico Scarlatti - Harpsichord Virtuoso

Period: Baroque
Nationality: Italian
Born: October 26, 1685 A.D. in Naples, Italy.
Died:  July 23, 1757 A.D. in Madrid, Spain.
Parents: Alessandro Scarlatti and Antonia Anzalone.
Contemporaries: Johann Sebastian Bach, Arcangelo Corelli, George Friedrich Handel. 
Specialist Genres: Harpsichord Sonatas
Major Works: 550 harpsichord sonatas, Stabat Mater a Dieci Voci e Basso Continuo, cantatas, oratorio, and operas.

            On October 26, 1685, in the city of Naples where classical music was a big deal, the Scarlatti family had their sixth child, it was a son! Mr. Scarlatti named his son Giuseppe Domenico; and just like his father and many other family members, Domenico would one day become an incredible musician. 

                It is a little bit of a mystery how Domenico started learning music. Some people believe that he learned from his father, others say that he learned from his uncles, but there is not much that we can go on. However, we do know that Domenico heard lots of great music, since lots of musicians passed through Naples.

           On September 13, 1701 at the age of 16, Domenico was appointed organist and composer of the Naples royal chapel, the same place that his father was maestro. A year later, Domenico and his father left for Florence where it is possible that they met the man that invented the first piano, Bartolomeo Cristofori. I say possible, because we do not know for sure, since neither Domenico nor Cristofori left us a diary or anything else of the sort.

            Domenico started working for Maria Casimira, the exiled Polish queen, that lived in Rome. Once Domenico started working for Casimira, he was given the opportunity to write at least one cantata, one oratorio and seven operas. Domenico also got to meet other cool composers, like Arcangelo Corelli, George Friedrich Handel, and Thomas Roseingrave. Scarlatti and Handel challenged each other to see who was more talented at the organ and harpsichord. Who do you think won? They both did! Handel was better on the organ and Scarlatti was better on the harpsichord. Scarlatti kept practicing and perfecting himself until he was one of the best  harpsichordists in all of Italy.

             Years pass by and Scarlatii wrote more music, played more music, and traveled around a little bit. It is in 1728 that Domenico Scarlatti did something that he never did before, something very beautiful, fun, and serious at the same time: he got married! 

         Scarlatti was a composer that pushed himself to be as creative as possible, from making the harpsichord to sound like the guitars he heard in Spain to making sure that his music had surprises for whoever approached it. Some people say that his music was witty and even sinister. Do not ever be content with playing your pieces of music one way, always push yourself to play it in the most creative way possible!

            Domenico married Maria Catarina Gentili and they had five children together. Life was good, Domenico is married, has children and he gets to teach King John V's talented daughter  the Infanta Maria Barbara, and King John's younger brother Don Antonio. It was in the years of teaching the Infanta Maria Barbara that Scarlatti wrote some of his most significant and exciting pieces, 500 sonatas for the harpsichord. Scarlatti eventually traveled all the way to Madrid, Spain, where he finished his life and died on July 23, 1757. 


Simplifying Relationships With Children

     I love working with children, don't you? There are times, though, when children are resistant to doing what they are supposed to do, but why? This is something that I am learning to deal with as a teacher, so I am always trying to relate to and teach children in a better way. Here is a key principle that I have learned and read about:

Giving children practice with the fact that life sometimes makes demands doesn't make adults mean. Much of growing up is learning to tolerate the demands that life itself makes on us. . When adults are  uncomfortable with taking control, they can confuse children by softening and blurring - and, thereby weakening - their demands. For example, while some children are ready to go when a parent or teacher says "Would it be o.k. if we do some [violin] bow exercises now?" other children hear it as a what it really is - a choice. They say "No," either verbally or by the way they react, and with good reason. The younger they are, the more children thrive on instructions and choices that are clear, concrete, and genuine - and demands that are straightforward. In other words, in this case, saying "Bow exercises are next." Young children need this clarity because they are not yet able to handle subtleties of language. But it's even good advice for adolescents. No matter what age the developing child, adults serve that child best when they are clear and up-front.[1]
     Notice that the key principle is clarifying reasonable demands from choices when trying to accomplish a task with a child (or even adult). Do this keeping in mind that people "of any age are human beings who deserve to be treated fairly with the care, concern, and courtesy you would normally use in any relationship."[2] Our desires to teat people fairly with care, concern and courtesy flows out of a convicting that people are very precious. Do you really believe that? Why do you believe this? These questions will determine how you will treat people, how you will relate to them, and how you will teach them. 

     Let me be honest, I am still learning how to do this consistently, it is an ongoing process. Giving clear demands is not some new discovery, this principle has been known for thousands of years. This has helped me that at times I make things more difficult for the children that I teach. So, do not give up working with your children, simplify things by being clear with what they need to do. They may not like it, but they need it to grow up to mature human beings.  

[1]Edmund Sprunger, Helping Parents Practice (St. Louis: Yes Publishing, 2005), p. 94.
[2]Barbara A. Brinson, Choral Music: Methods and Materials .