100 Days of Practice - The First 10


Just checking in after the first 10 days of the practice challenge. I am now 10% done! Yay! 

First of all, I have noticed a drastic improvement in all my students who decided to participate in this challenge. I don't want to say I am shocked, more like pleasantly surprised by how much gets accomplished between lessons these days. I know we are in the early days right now, but if they keep this level of work up, I will be one proud teacher with some seriously talented students of all ages and abilities in my studio.

Secondly, this challenge is proving to be more difficult than I expected. This is mainly because I am freaky busy right now, so my practicing tends to happen at odd hours of the day, like at the very end of my day when I really REALLY don't feel like playing the violin and would rather go to bed or drink wine and zone out on the couch! I did not anticipate staying up past 12 am to practice, but I committed to this, and I am not a quitter!

Third, putting a sticker on my chart is the highlight of my day, and apparently I am not the only one deriving great satisfaction from this....almost every single one of my students have commented about how excited they get to put their sticker on the chart after practice...even the adult students think this way. My young students tend to burst into their lessons and blurt out how many stickers they have so far which makes me laugh but mostly makes me proud that they are taking this so seriously.

I made a few goals and rules for myself during this challenge to keep myself from cheating or getting lazy.

My goals (in case you didn't read my last post) are: 

  • Improve my orchestra excerpts.
  • learn some new, shorter pieces. 
  • expand my technique. 
  • conquer my solo Bach anxiety (particularly in relation to the fugues and movements with multiple moving lines). 

My self imposed rules are:

  • To collect a sticker, I must complete at least 60 minutes of practice during the day but it can be split into smaller segments if necessary.
  • Keep a journal record of my work and practice thoughts, tricks, accomplishments, realizations, tactics, etc.
    • Oddly, over the last 10 days has tended to include some of the other events and thoughts from my daily life (which I kind of like).

Below are some of the highlights from these frantic summaries

Day 1

Off to a rough start! Started practice at 10:30 pm! We have a tough program this week with TSO, including Mendelssohn's Scottish Symphony (one of my favorite symphonic works ever written) so I spent my personal practice time woodshedding our concert repertoire. While this wasn't exactly fun, I will say that my spiccato at midnight is much better than it is at 10 am! 

True Confessions: I did not want to practice today, and probably would have skipped if it wasn't the first day of the challenge.

Day 2

Worked on TSO, Tulsa Ballet, and Link Up music today. There is so much practice that needs to be done for "work" and not much time right now for other repertoire, but I found out today that I will be playing in a masterclass for James Ehnes on the 15th, which is exciting and definitely an incentive to practice some solo repertoire!

Day 3

Not much time again today due to rehearsal, teaching, sound check, and the Tulsa Ballet Gala performance. I frantically practiced Gershwin in the gaps and cracks of my day and had to skip my "lunch break" to complete a full 60-minutes (in preparation for the North American premiere of "Simply Gershwin"). It was a long day!

Day 4 

I did some concert prep for the TSO classics concert this afternoon. I am so excited to perform the Mendelssohn although it takes so much endurance and focus! It is a difficult program including "Medea's Meditation and Dance of Vengeance" by Samuel Barber, The Korngold Violin Concerto (performed by our concertmaster Rossitza Goza), and "The Scottish Symphony" by Mendelssohn. I spent quite a bit of time solidifying my part for this performance, and was still nervous onstage!

I've included a few clips from youtube so y'all can experience some of this epic music.

The version we performed was much longer but I thought the choreography was so excellent that this version was definitely worth sharing! (there is also an excellent marching band version too - I couldn't believe it!).

The Korngold is so beautiful! I love the lush themes and melodies but some of the passagework sounds crazy difficult!

Day 5

This was the first time that I had a chance to develop my personal practice routine and assign myself technical exercises, and repertoire. It was also the first day I captured video from my practice. Some of this is rough, but the point of this challenge is to see progress (I have to keep reminding myself of this), right? I compiled some video clips from my practice today to document the first phase of the challenge. I don't plan to video my playing every day, but I will record it every few days or so to compare throughout the challenge and hopefully see some progress.

True Confessions: I am really nervous about sharing my progress videos especially knowing that they are not perfect. I cringe watching these but am also making so many realizations about my playing, posture and facial expressions!

1st day working on the Rode #2 with metronome speed at 8th note = 80

Day 6

I tried to do most of my practice before ballet rehearsal today (in the afternoon, instead of the evening), but I had to go back to the recording studio to redo a Handel movement that wasn't "perfect" (what does that even mean?). While I simultaneously love and hate hearing recordings of myself, going to a recording studio always takes more time than you plan on due to all the technical things that have to be just right (mic placement, levels in headphones, etc.). I have been applying for grown-up college jobs, and have not had an excuse to play any solo repertoire for several years. I made these recordings to update my repertoire and website (see the media tab if you want to listen) and plan to periodically perform and record more throughout the year so stay tuned!

In my free time to practice, I worked mostly on technical exercises and did some Gershwin review for rehearsal. I intended to replicate the appropriate feeling in my technical exercises rather than just trying to play the notes. This means that instead of just aiming for the correct notes, I was aiming for the right action or movement of getting from 1 correct note to another. What arm movements elicit the right bow technique? Are the hopping motions of my left hand between octaves the same?

Octaves are a little rough but getting better!

Day 7

What a surprise! Another long day! Link Up performances in the morning, teaching, Harmony Project, more teaching, then ballet rehearsal...all as a warm-up for my practice session. I didn't start working until 11 pm. I am not a fan of these late nights and I'm sure my neighbors aren't either. Tonight I mostly worked on Rode Etude #2..with a practice mute and a glass of wine.

Glad I have that mute and stand light!

Glad I have that mute and stand light!

Day 8

I finally made it to the barn to see Eliot (the horse) today. It is such a stress reliever to be outdoors, working with an animal instead of an instrument. It was a much-needed break from the recording, rehearsing, teaching, and practicing that has been going on around here! Plus the weather was perfect - sunny, warm, and not too windy.

The best therapist in town! I love this guy - he always makes me feel refreshed and renewed after a visit.

The best therapist in town! I love this guy - he always makes me feel refreshed and renewed after a visit.

I practiced before and after my trip to the barn, and my mental space was dramatically different. In the morning, pre-horse ride, I was tired and distracted. I kept looking at my phone and was having a hard time concentrating plus my shoulders were achy with stress and stiffness. Afterwards, I felt refreshed and much more level-headed. I wanted to practice and was much less distracted. Horse riding is teaching me so much more than simply how to ride a horse! Also, the Tulsa Symphony shared my practice session photo (taken last night) on their facebook page, and now I feel like a practicing superstar....just kidding.

You can hear my student burst through the door for her lesson at the very end of this video. I think the metronome was set at 8th note = 152

Day 9

I practiced some technique (scales, 6th, 8ves) before teaching and then focused on "5 Melodies" by Prokofiev (for the upcoming masterclass with James Ehnes) after the opening night performance of "Strictly Gershwin" with the Tulsa Ballet. That show is tough because there are so many notes and they whizz by pretty quickly. I wasn't particularly excited to practice AFTER the American Premiere of this piece (what a big deal!), but I needed to prep for the masterclass, and along with teaching and Harmony Project in the afternoon, I had to squeeze in a wedding gig pre-ballet rehearsal too. 

Day 10

A full day of teaching, followed by a wedding gig, and a ballet performance made this day a long one! As I document my practice in writing and videos, I am starting to realize that my daily and weekly schedule is pretty nuts. Somehow I didn't realize how much I do every day and the amount of running from one event to another. I wear so many different hats!

I practiced "5 Melodies" for a solid hour and some change this morning before teaching. I am really beginning to appreciate some of the tone and colors I'm creating in this piece. I hope I can successfully convey this in the masterclass! Tomorrow I have my first rehearsal with Dr. Eiler, my pianist for this event. I am so excited to work with her again!

I realized on my way to the wedding performance this afternoon that it is a good thing that I love all of my students so much or this day would have felt unbearably long! I love their enthusiasm for learning, hard work (thanks in part to this practice challenge) and humor. Some of them make me laugh so hard my face hurts!