100 Days of Practice - 20%


1/5 of this challenge done, only 4/5 left to go! It feels like it is starting to get easier (or maybe I've just accepted the fact that it is happening every day no matter what). 

Here are some excerpts from my practice journal from the past 10 days (11-20). I hope you are enjoying my trials and tribulations along the way.

Day 11

Today was the last "Strictly Gershwin" performance - yay!

The way that the chairs were positioned for this show was really starting to make my neck and shoulders ache. I will definitely miss watching some of the beautiful choreography and costumes for this show, but I will not miss the discomfort!

Before the performance, I practiced Schradieck X. I positioned the camera in such a way that I could watch my Left Thumb to see if there was any gripping and was absolutely appalled by my slumping shoulders and terrible posture! From now on I need to work on lowering my shoulders (and shoulder blades down my back) and broadening through my chest while I'm playing...you know, like what I tell my students to do all of the time. I'm also going to need to do much more heart opening yoga asanas outside of my violin practice time to counteract all of the forward slouching.

After the ballet performance, I had my first rehearsal with Dr. Eiler for the James Ehnes masterclass this coming week and worked some tricky spots when I got home that night. I did some restorative yoga to relieve shoulder and neck tension and booked a massage before going to bed. 

Day 12

We had a Link Up concert in the morning. I was supposed to have a riding lesson after this but I was so stressed and needed the extra time to prep for my first rehearsal with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra that evening. I knew that if I didn't do my practice before I left for Wichita (a 2hours, 40minute drive each way), I would have to do it when I got home....and that would be 12:30 am and I would be exhausted, and super grumpy. Due to all of the rehearsals and performances last week, I used my practice time today to work on the repertoire for tonight's rehearsal and touch up some spots in Prokofiev's "Five Melodies" in preparation for the masterclass Thursday.

Tonight is the first rehearsal in preparation for WSO's concert featuring Elena Urioste this weekend. I have so much driving to do this week but it will be worth it to meet one of the creators of Intermission Sessions and Retreats and a source I cited in my dissertation "Using Iyengar Yoga to Enhance Violin Playing" (see the ACTIVE tab to read a copy).

Day 13

I coached chamber music bright and early this morning at Union High School. Whoa, that whole get home late and wake up early thing is not my favorite. I was so tired due to the late night drive home from Wichita. Afterward, I headed to the barn to refresh my energy and spirits, and clear my head with a little quality time with Eliot. Sometimes I think he can tell when I'm stressed out and just need a good ride. 

My happy place - where I go for some stress relief.

My happy place - where I go for some stress relief.

There was no WSO rehearsal tonight so I just taught and mostly prepped for the masterclass on Thursday (not sure how much practice time I will have tomorrow). I also fooled around with the Bach Gigue in E major, sightread some Heifetz encores, and dabbled with Schradieck X.

Day 14

Happy Valentine's Day!

Jeff gave me a beautiful orchid and my nana made me the most adorable homemade Valentine (and my mom sent homemade fudge). We are officially celebrating this fake holiday tomorrow by going to the James Ehnes recital and out for dinner afterward because I had to go back to Wichita for rehearsal tonight. 

I crammed my practicing in between the TSO Musicians' Committee meeting and teaching private lessons. I hit some solo Bach and Prokofiev. I also found out today that I've been asked to submit a taped round for an upcoming audition so I guess that will be my next very urgent project.

Day 15

I was so tired after the late night driving (again!) last night but spent the car ride listening to James' own recording of "Five Melodies" and will challenge myself to add some of his ideas (like his gliss. to the high harmonic in the 3rd movement) into my performance today.

I was nervous before it started and during the 1st two movements but it wore off by the beginning of the third movement and I think I played pretty well. He is such a pleasure to work with and I loved some of his feedback and tips about bow distribution and tricks for nailing false harmonics passages.

With James and Dr. Eiler after the masterclass.

With James and Dr. Eiler after the masterclass.

After the masterclass, I worked on the D minor Gigue and Sarabande from Partita No. 2 and the E Major Gigue. I'm trying to build Bach confidence (get it?). Jeff and I went to the recital that evening and it was freaking beautiful. I loved the "Berceuse" by Sibelius which was new to me and the pizzicato at the very end of the Poulenc Sonata was just awesome. The sonority of the violin pizz with the piano chord is pretty wild. I just loved the way it flew out of the instruments and blossomed through the hall. After the concert, we ate at Amelia's and it was delicious!

Day 16

I realized today that I probably need to assign myself some new goals so I'm actually practicing and not just playing.

I practiced the D minor Gigue again and the 3 excerpts that I need to prep for the prescreening recording. I had to drive to Wichita again for the dress rehearsal and spoke briefly with Elena backstage. It was so exciting to meet her in person (she is so nice) but I tried to play it cool and not come across like a creepy stalker because I literally did research about her and quoted her in an academic document. (By the way, it is very difficult to appear cool and nonchalant when you are in this position. I just went the true confessions route and told her that I knew an awkward amount about her...she really took it well considering she could have found this really freaky and weird.)

Day 17

It felt like a really productive day. I went on a nice run before having lunch with Elena. She was still cool after I admitted to her face how much I know about her and her project: Intermission Sessions and Retreats. We talked about our shared love of Yehudi Menuhin, alignment-based yoga, overlapping passion projects, and weird questions that she gets asked after performances. 

By the way, have I mentioned my up and coming project corpßonoré - sound II body II wellness? I haven't?! It is a collaboration with my dear friend Madeline Schaefer so stay tuned because it will be coming soon and I will be "reminding" you to check it out as soon as I have something to share.

After lunch, I went to a coffee shop to work on a book review of "Stack Your Bones" by Ruthie Fraser before heading back to Emily's place to do some pre-concert practice. I stopped by Whole Foods and grabbed a Green Goddess Smoothie because hot diggity this smoothie is the best thing I've ever tasted and sometimes I crave them in Tulsa and dream of being in Wichita just so I can have one.

In case you want to try the Green Goddess here is the recipe I tracked down online:


3/4 cup apple juice
1/4 cup coconut water
juice of 1/2 small lemon (or about 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice)
1 small piece of fresh ginger (about the size of the tip of your thumb)
1 handful of kale (stems removed)
1/2 apple (I use a green apple)
1 banana (frozen if possible, but if not throw in a few ice cubes)

I worked on the left-hand pizzicato section in Malaguena by Sarasate, the octaves in the Mendelssohn concerto, Rode #3, and Beethoven's Romance in F Major. Today's practice was a little bit of prep on repertoire that my students are currently working on, and partly targeting weak spots in my own playing. I used a combination of repertoire and etudes to hone and advance my own left and right-hand technique and facility. It just so happens that some of the repertoire I am currently teaching does just the trick!

Elena blew the Barber Violin Concerto out of the water this evening. Her playing is a testament to the benefits of a regular yoga practice. Her sound is strong and confident but lyrical and not harsh. You can see that she is routed to the floor of the stage and committed to her performance. The conviction of her phrases and lyricism is quite stunning and I am excited to watch her career grow.

With Elena after the concert. What a blast (and I LOVE her jumpsuit)!

With Elena after the concert. What a blast (and I LOVE her jumpsuit)!

Day 18

I slept in and enjoyed a relaxing pre-matinee concert hang with Emily. We drank delicious Green Goddess smoothies, and coffee before the concert which meant that I had to practice after the concert when I had returned to Tulsa...bummer.

I worked on the excerpts I will need to record and worked on playing octaves faster (but still in tune) with a metronome. I find that my technique is great when I'm playing slow, but I need to get more comfortable doing it fast (kind of like running), nailing double stops at quicker speeds, tightening up my "performance" technique and not my "practice" technique. I'm beginning to realize that for me at least there is a difference. For "performance" playing (and horse riding) it is almost like I have to turn on this part of my brain that commands more, is more goal oriented and focused on the results rather than just reacting to what I hear. I need to DECIDE before the event rather than trying to "see how it goes" or "hope for the best." Again and again, I learn that if I implement a plan from the very beginning, no matter how much on the fly fixing and reacting I have to do in the moment, I am much more likely to see positive results - this is true on a horse and on a concert stage. It all comes down to the right plan coupled with the right feeling. I swear, one of these days I am going to write a post about what I've learned about violin playing from riding horses! There are so many lessons you learn in the saddle that can be applied to violin playing!

Day 19

It was a long but productive day! I dropped Jeff off at the airport bright and early then headed to 6 am yoga, did the weekly meal planning and grocery shopping, laundry, wrote emails, went to my riding lesson, worked on my "Stack Your Bones" review, met with a student, dragged myself to the Tulsa Youth Symphony concert (I was so sleepy) to hear my darling students play, then finally returned home to do my practicing for the day.

I made a new log of repertoire and technique to work on for the week so I practiced mostly technical exercises - Dounis shifting exercises, Flesch C# minor scale system, Rode #3, and some Sevcik bowing and double stop exercises. I re-realized that practicing for intonation with a practice mute on is not very beneficial. You can't hear the overtones - but it kind of works for speed and dexterity work and bowing technique.

Day 20

Coached chamber music at Union again this morning. This whole music class first thing in the morning is just the pits! I get that people get up and go to work before 9am but wow the whole don't stay up late and wake up early lesson is one I have a really hard time learning apparently. 

After the coaching, I went and had a much-needed massage and was tempted to get back in bed afterward to rest and relax. With the freezing rain and drastic temperature drop this morning my bed and snuggling with Blanche looked extra appealing. 

I worked on a new piece to add to my repertoire for the first time today: Méditation by Glazunov. I came across it last week as I was playing through Heifetz encores and found the melody really beautiful. It is also something I really don't hear people talk about or play ever so I figured, "why not?" and committed to working on it as a way to keep my interest engaged as I work on excerpts. I also hit a ton of technique: Rode #3, Dounis Shifting exercises, Sevcik bowing and double stop exercises, and Schradieck XI as well as Bach E Major Giga, and the D minor Sarabande.

Tomorrow I need to start seriously organizing and woodshedding excerpts! I cleaned up my music and teaching area today and already feel much better!

What are you working on these days?