Friday, November 18, 2011

Greetings to VMEA 2011

Greetings to all of my new friends at VMEA in Norfolk, VA. Welcome to my blog. This is a great way for me to communicate with my students, parents, colleagues, and friends. I use my blog to write my thoughts on music, education, the arts, teaching, citizenship, and a variety of other topics that are pertinant to my audience.

Thanks for checking it out and please drop me a note if you are looking around the blog. It is a great way to start a dialog and to communicate.

It was really a please to be at VMEA this week. Thanks to all at VASTA and VBODA for your amazing hospitality!

I look forward to hearing from you. Meanwhile, be sure to check out the youtube pages for D'Addario Bowed and NCSSMDistanceEd. Search my name under the uploads and I hope you find some content that you, your students, your students' parents, and others might be able to use. Be sure to check out the music theory lessons on the NCSSMDistanceEd site, too!

Best to all of you.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My Friend and Colleague, Todd Miller

This article is a reprint from the Cary News (NC) on Oct 18, 2011. It is an interview with my friend and colleague, Todd Miller. He is a real inspiration to me me and many others. You can see a bunch of his guitar pedagogy videos at, a site sponsored by the D'Addario Co. They are fantastic and this is a great tribute to a dedicated teacher.

Education Matters:
Published: Oct 18, 2011 07:15 PM

Music teacher inspires students to follow their passion

by Anne Woodman
I received a great email recently from Apex High School senior Deanna Metivier. After taking teacher Todd Miller's Guitar I, Guitar II and Guitar Ensemble classes, she is now thinking about studying guitar and music in college.

After talking to many teachers over the years, it seems that affecting the life of just one student like Metivier can be incredibly satisfying and is often the reason people teach.

Miller, who teaches not only guitar but also orchestra and music appreciation, agrees. While growing up in Fayetteville, Miller said his band director, Dave Freeman, was a powerful influence.

Q: So Freeman inspired you to be a teacher?

A: I knew I wanted to be a musician at age 13 when I found the guitar. But I never saw myself as a public school music teacher. ... I studied music performance in college, taught private guitar lessons to 40 students, and had gigs three or four nights a week with pop and dance bands. But after having my first child in 1997 and trying to work nights and be a father, things started not to work so well. I got fascinated with the violin, viola, cello and bass and became a middle-school orchestra director. I loved it.

In 2007, I came to Wake County and served as orchestra director at both Apex and Wake Forest/Rolesville... a commute of 32 miles. I loved both, but I really wanted to become full time at one school. (Matthew) Wight (Apex principal) allowed me to start a guitar program and create a curriculum. He wasn't sure we would have enough interest. But that first semester, we had 137 students sign up for Guitar I.

Q: What do you cover in your music appreciation class?

A: In the past, I think music appreciation classes start on a path beginning with medieval music and take each period of music, which can be dry. Our textbook starts with fun pop music to get kids hooked.

I use something I learned in a Psychology of Music class while I was earning my master's degree at UNC Greensboro. I walk in, write on the board, "All peoples in all times in all places have engaged in musical behaviors." I say it, louder and louder, and then I play "Won't Get Fooled Again" by The Who.

I like a quote I heard, "Reading and math are the 'how' of our lives, but music is the 'why.'"

Q: How much do you use technology in your classroom to share musical concepts?

A: Technology is an incredibly positive tool. I have an iPhone, and it has been amazing. We can listen to recordings of songs we're working on, use it as a metronome or record our performances. Because I'm a floater and don't have my own room, the fact that we have Bluetooth, and I don't have to set something up every time I walk into a different classroom is great. I can set things up in less than a minute.

Q: What are some of the concepts you teach your guitar students?

A: I try to get across to my Guitar I students that if they can read music, it will open doors for them. Many guitarists can't read music, but that ability will help you go far. Part of guitar is accompaniment skills, and the grand finale of Guitar I is to go caroling around the school in groups of four or five.

I tell the students that now they are the family accompanist. Music is meant to be communicated.

Q: In all of the concern about whether we are teaching students enough math and science to be competitive in the global marketplace, is music getting lost?

A: I do feel our orchestra program is in jeopardy. I have no middle-school feeder now, and every child should be able to find out what their passion is and get to experience making great art. For a small percentage, it might even open their eyes and ears to what they want to do. I tell them that there are not enough music teachers. There is still work out there, if that is what they want.

I think people forget the value of liberal arts. You learn so many critical thinking skills. One reason Steve Jobs was so adept was because he understood th artistic part of what he was doing and used critical thinking all the time.

Another thing Mr. Wight and I have discussed is the serendipity that happened with the guitar program. Kids we could not connect with were coming to school. They wanted to come to guitar class. Not everybody gets excited about science and math, and we have to give kids a reason to come to school. I think I was one of those kids. If it hadn't been for jazz band, I wouldn't have come to school.

I have found my dream job; it's a wonderful life, making music every day.
© Copyright 2011, The News & Observer Publishing Company

Saturday, October 22, 2011

'Wonder Women' showcases works by female composers

'Wonder Women' showcases works by female composers: DURHAM – Composer Gwyneth Walker’s composition “Language of the Soul” will premiere in concert Sunday at the Nasher Museum of Art, but students in the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics string ...


Friday, October 21, 2011

Mocha - from The Coffee Suite, by Craig Hanemann

Enjoy this video of the Richland Two, District Orchestra, playing a piece by my friend and Raleigh, NC composer, Craig Hanemann. It is the first movement of the "Coffee Suite," entitled Mocha.

Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Welcome to the 2011-2012 School Year!

To the 2011-2012 NCSSM Orchestra:

Welcome to Orchestra at NCSSM. This is a fantastic community of musicians and scholars and I know that you will have a great time as part of this performing ensemble.

Here are all of the performance dates that you may need for the upcoming school year.
Please share this URL with you family and friends back home. I use my blog for sharing a variety of ideas and concepts that may not make it into our regular class time. I hope that you will get in the habit of checking it regularly.

Best wishes for a magnificent academic year!!

S Laird

NCSSM Orchestra Dates to Remember:

• Family Day Musical Performances September 10, 2011

• Alienor Harpsichord Event (Fine Arts Series) October 2, 2011 (End of Extended Weekend)

• Gwyneth Walker Residency – Mallarme Chamber Players

o Masterclass with NCSSM Strings, October 20-23

• Fall Orchestra and Chorale Pops Concert, October 30, 2011 2:00 PM

NC Honors Orchestra, Nov. 11-14

• Concerto Concert Auditions, November 28-29, after school ETC 140

• Nutcracker Dance Performance (Dance ensemble and Orchestra) Friday, December 9, 2011, 7:00

• Masterworks Concert, featuring NCSSM Orchestra and Chorale with Blacknall Church Choir
Feb 3, 4
o February 3, NCSSM, 7:00 PM
o February 4, 7:00 PM, Blacknall Church

• Student Art Exhibit, Opening: February 3, 6:00 – 7:00 PM
o Exhibit runs Feb 4-March 4
o Potential collaboration with Student Life (New World?)

• Winter Musical February 10-12, 2012
o 7:00 Show on Friday and Saturday
o 3:00 Show on Sunday

• Eastern Regional Orchestra, Feb 24-26, Concert: Feb 26, 3:00, NCSSM Host

• NCSSM Annual Concerto Concert, May 11, 2012, 7:00 pm

• NCSSM Chamber Music Recital – May 25, 2012, 9:00PM

Feb 20-28: Mini-term
April 6-15 Spring Break/Easter
April 21: Prom
May 19-21 Extended Weekend
May 26-28 Exams and Memorial Day weekend (everywhere but NCSSM…)
June 2: Commencement

Monday, August 8, 2011

Billie Jean - Electric Violin

Hey All -
Check this one out.
It is Julliard Student, Charles Yang on violin and vocals.
Really good stuff!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday Top Ten (Top 20?)


Tom Ten Things I Will Miss About Interlochen

10. My Orchestra – in 3 short weeks, we have built a fine ensemble and community of young musicians. We have made some marvelous music and had a good time doing it. It is fun to be work hard and to be good!

9. My new community of musical colleagues – David, Lalene, Len, Rodney, Jim, Betty Ann, Liza, Jung Ho, Jarod, Jacey, Kelcey, and others. You have all made my time at Interlochen so rich. I have so much respect for each of you and look forward to continuing our relationship!

8. Sharing a one room cabin with my family - We have grown closer as a result of the proximity, without a doubt.

7. Coffee in the morning outside on the bench with Barbra – It is really nice to sit outside in the quiet of the morning and enjoy a cup of coffee!

6. Biking the roads of Northern Michigan every morning – I have really enjoyed the terrain, the wide berms, and the beautiful country-side every morning. What a great way to start a day.

5. A different lake at every turn- They are everywhere and they are all beautiful.

4. Picnics and "Nukem" Ball with my family in the evenings - Sunsets, games with the kids, picnic dinners, laughter, boats…

3. Ping Pong – Great fun with my boys and it doesn't cost a cent! Totally beats $40.00 for miniature golf.

2. Working in an environment where everyone is there for the arts first (ie: orchestra rules!) – I love teaching at NCSSM, but it is really a pleasure and nice change of pace to be in this all arts environment.

1.5 Concerts every night – It is so cool to go to exceptional music performances literally every day. And, such a broad spectrum: Jazz, classical, band, large ensembles, chamber music, solo performances, professionals, high school students, middle school students

1. My Interlochen routine – Wake up, 25 mile bike ride, check e-mail, lunch, rehearsal, dinner, attend a concert, home. Simple. Wonderful.


Top Ten Things I Can't Wait to Get Back To in North Carolina

10. Comfortable chairs in my living room – I just want a comfortable place to sit at the end of the day.

9. My own bed – A good night sleep is definitely not overrated!

8. My community of musicians and artists – (Phillip, Dave, Adam, Kathy, Evan, Willie, Craig, Betsy, Debbie, and others) I am so blessed to be around musicians and music educators that I respect so very much on a daily basis.

7. Places to go in my home to be alone – My wife calls my music studio my "spousal avoidance center." But, you know, sometimes a little space is a good thing.

6. Biking the roads and trails of Carolina – I love the terrain, the single tracks, my choice of bikes, clean biking gear, my bike shop, Duke Forest, the hills. You get the picture.

5. Fresh ground coffee in the morning with Barbra – That Cuisinart self-grinding coffee pot is always a highlight of getting home.

4. ESPN on the TV - Sorry. I am that shallow.

3. A quiet air conditioner (temperature controlled rooms) – I have really grown to appreciate quiet central air conditioning, having lived with fans and a super noisy in-window unit for the past three weeks.

2. My students at NCSSM - Best in the world: focused, smart, motivated, character and achievement oriented people.

1. My regular routine – I just have a great life. It has been fun to be away. I can't wait to be home.





Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Thom Sharp's Nanigo with Solo Electric Violin

Hey all -

For you string teachers out there: How about trying the tune based on West African rhythms called Nanigo, by Thom Sharp (Latham Music) with percussion section and electric violin? I did this piece at Interlochen last week and it was a huge success! This week, I will be doing his “Samba Me This” along with an improvised solo on soprano sax by my friend, David Kaye. Thom’s charts are really well done and can be performed with or without improvised solos. They almost all can can effectively incorporate electric violin. I encourage you all to take a minute and check out Thom’s stuff!

All the best.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Post Concert Report

Short note today:
The concert went really well last night. I felt like my orchestra nailed all of the important point that we had worked on throughout our rehearsals. The visual contact with me was fantastic and the physicality of the ensemble was terrific. The piece with the percussion section and electric violin was an exciting finisher!

Congratulations to all of the musicians! This was a job well-done.

Today we begin work on a new program that will include works by Hindemith, Tchaikovsky, Reed, Haydn, Sharp, and Hofeldt.

Can't wait to get started!


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Concert Day!

It is Wednesday, July 27, 2011 and I have my first concert performance today at Interlochen Summer Music Camp with the Intermediate Concert Orchestra. It has been a great 9 days of teaching and rehearsing and I can truly say that my ensemble is ready for their performance. We finally had a rehearsal in the hall yesterday and it really changed the way that the musicians and I heard the ensemble.


If I am honest, the rehearsal in the hall didn't start out the way I had hoped. I thought that we would run the program, hit some spots, and run the program again. As it turned out, I think the ensemble was a bit overwhelmed by the room, the anxiety of the first performance, and 5 or 6 of their instructors out in the hall, watching the rehearsal, taking notes for me. All of those factors, put together with the general fatigue that they are starting to feel led to a sup-par start. The kids were missing entrances, phasing tempo, missing bowings, and generally freaking out. I have to admit, I was surprised and a bit upset. As a result, I scrapped the "run-through" and just rehearsed. This proved to be much more productive and we were able to "right the ship" and salvage the rehearsal.


For my string educator friends that read this, I want you to know what we are playing and the things that we are focusing on. This is a middle-school group with musicians whose experience and ability ranges from quite high (my concertmaster is working on the Lalo Concerto and many of the students are quite accomplished soloists) to students with very little experience in a serious ensemble with attention to watching, tempo changes, uniform bowing style, etc. I tried to program varied repertoire with lots of opportunities for expression and musicianship. We will start with the Latham Suite for String Orchestra, by Theron Kirk. In the March movement, we focus on "breathing" into beginning of phrases, short sixteenth notes on the hooked bowing, dynamic sustained notes, and energy in general. The Elegy 2nd movement is an opportunity to really emphasize the importance of watching the conductor and huge changes in style within a movement (ranging from very sustained and sad to "incalzando" or "with fire.") I really stretch and tug the tempo in this one. It takes a huge amount of maturity and patience from each player. The final movement, Finale, is a syncopated dance that requires attention to rhythm and articulation from start to finish. Our second piece is Vivaldi's Concerto in G Major, arranged by my friend, Tom LaJoie. The kids will perform this work without a conductor and the focus has been on terraced dynamics, intonation, and moving with the music, leading from any and every chair. Next, we will do Percy Fletcher's Folk Tune and Fiddle Dance. This old string orchestra standard is one of my favorites. The Folk Tune is an opportunity to teach tempo, key, and meter changes within a movement. We have worked on phrasing, dynamics, watching, and many other ensemble techniques in this one. The Fiddle Dance is reminiscent of Copland's Hoe Down and is simply a blast to perform. Dynamics and drive are paramount in this movement. We will finish with Nanigo, by my friend Tom Sharp. It is cool tune based on West African rhythms. We will be adding a 7-piece authentic African drum section for this one. I will also be joining the group on my 5-string NS Design CR violin, soloing over the last section of the piece. This work starts out "piano" and builds throughout, ending with a huge fortissimo. This is great for teaching a tricky 2 against 3 rhythmic pattern in the context of a really fun work.


We have a short rehearsal this afternoon and a warm-up on stage right before the performance. I am rally psyched for the entire day. I know that it will be great fun. I am so proud of this ensemble. I often say that an ensemble has to do the rigor first. But, when that is accomplished, they then can release any stress and simply play from the heart. This group has done the rigor. I hope that they can play today with joy and expression without losing their attention to detail. I believe that is the key for this group of young musicians today. I know that I will enjoy the ride today, with the knowledge that we have prepared well.


I'll let you know tomorrow how it went!




Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Unscheduled Family Time

Sunday was my day off here in Michigan. So, we loaded the family into the car and headed North, to the Upper Peninsula and the Mackinac Bridge and Island. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the spot, it is where the Upper Peninsula of Michigan meets the mainland, connected by a 5-mile suspension bridge. The nearby island is an isolated bit of land where there are no motorized vehicles, plenty of bikes and horse drawn carriages, a magnificent state park, lovely hotels, and a variety of great shops and attractions. One can only get to the island by ferry. We had a wonderful day that included a beautiful 2-hour drive up North from Interlochen, A wet ride on the ferry to the island, exploring Fort Mackinac, sampling fudge in at least 6 candy stores, some great food, and beautiful views of the lakes, the bridge, and the terrain. We were also pleased to be joined by my music librarian for the week, Jacey, a grad student from UNCG who is working here for the summer.


I have been reflecting a great deal the last few days about how nice it is to have so much unscheduled family time while we are here. We had the opportunity to sign our younger sons up for classes while here. It is very tempting. The instruction is world class and the opportunities are all over the place for magnificent arts education. (Our oldest son is a day-camper and is having a fantastic time and a marvelous learning experience.) We, however, resisted the temptation to sign up for classes for the younger guys, placing more of a priority on the opportunity for unscheduled family trips, experiences, music-making, etc. I feel like such a huge percentage of our life is scheduled. We, like nearly all families that I know, have school, sports, church events, music lessons, and a variety of other scheduled commitments that keep us very non-spontaneous throughout any typical week.


The time that we are spending here, has been unbelievably refreshing as a family. We have spontaneously gone swimming, attended concerts, had jam sessions, run out to eat, gone sight-seeing, gone for walks, etc. At first, we noticed that it was a little hard for the kids. They had a hard time just getting up and going to do something that was unplanned. As the past week has worn on, they have gained some comfort in the process.


On Monday, we took the concept even a bit further. I had a morning rehearsal and the rest of the day was unscheduled. We decided to take a trip up the Old Mission Peninsula. This was quite possibly our favorite area that we have found here in Northern Michigan. A thin strip of land, surrounded on both sides by the Traverse Bay, the area is full of cherry orchards, vineyards, wineries, unbelievable bay views, a magnificent lighthouse at the northern end, and lovely homes situated on the water or on majestic farmland. Our day included a variety of impromptu stops, including wading underneath the lighthouse and picnicking and swimming on the western side at a great little public beach. Interestingly, our kids most enjoyed a little community park near Bowers Harbor Winery on the east side of the peninsula. They played soccer and created an impromptu game of tag that they could have played literally all day. My wife and I sat and ate cherries that we bought at a road-side stand, talked, and enjoyed the oncoming evening, watching our three guys enjoy each other's company. Life is good.


Yes – I believe that the unscheduled family time will go down as my favorite part of this experience. Don't get me wrong. There are lots of other great memories being created. We have seen superior concerts, I am loving my work with my orchestra, my son is having a great experience as a camper, and there are many others. But, the luxury of unscheduled family time is truly a treasure. I hope you all get a chance to experience it in your lives at some point as well. It doesn't happen often!








Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cycling at Interlochen

One of the great opportunities that come with my schedule the next few weeks, is the opportunity to get on my bike each day in the morning. Over the past several months, my cycling habit has been a bit diminished due to a busy work and family schedule. (However, I will admit that I have been pretty committed to the elliptical machine in the gym at NCSSM.) I brought my Fuji Cyclocross Pro bike with me and it is perfect for the terrain at camp and off campus. I have encountered many dirt roads and the cyclocross bike just begs to turn onto them. It is perfect for both paved and dirt road rides.


Today, I went out on a beautiful 21 mile road ride that took me through some great wooded areas and ended up at Lake Ann, in Alvira, MI. Along the way, I saw some beautiful homes, great forests, fields of huge ferns, and a bunch of interesting looking general stores, shops, and other businesses. I was disappointed that I didn't find a public lake access to stop and enjoy the view. I had to enjoy it from the road – looking through the yards of the lucky folks that have homes right on the lake. It was a wonderful ride. Yesterday was the exploration of the circumference of Lake Green, which borders one side of the Interlochen campus. That ride had a combination of paved and dirt roads and a variety of stunning lake views. I am happy to say that I didn't get lost either day. (I will eventually! That is what GPS Apps on the Blackberry were designed for.) The circumference of the lake is about 10 miles, so I did it twice!


I am reminded again how great it is to be on a bike. It is so awesome to feel the wind in your face, to have your lungs burn a little bit on an ascent, to get the machine going over 30 mph (sometimes over 40 mph) on a descent, and to see an area up-close and personal. It is a great relief to get away from engines and motors and just generate the energy for travel. There is nothing quite like the feeling of happy exhaustion after a good, solid ride. One really feels a sense of accomplishment and peace.


I can't wait to find more lakes, towns, and sights from the back of my bike over the next several weeks. It will definitely get my head right for the beginning of the upcoming school year. Life is certainly good.





Fantastic Kids, Hot Weather! (Practice and Perspiration)

Today, a couple of words about my first two days of rehearsal at Interlochen:


First, I have really enjoyed getting to know my students and starting up with rehearsals. My orchestra is filled with serious string students that come into rehearsal ready to work each day. We have already "dug in" to a great deal of the literature that I have programmed for the first concert next week and I am really pleased with the level of musicianship and dedication to excellence that is apparent in the rehearsals. I know that it will be a rewarding musical experience for both me and the students. I can feel the community developing before my eyes and ears in only two rehearsals. Very exciting!


With that being said, the big story here, and across the United States, has been the incredibly hot weather. Each day that that I have been here has been hotter than the previous. Today was in the high 90's and the heat index has been well above 100 degrees. While my rehearsal space is absolutely beautiful, with a full view of Green Lake, it is unbelievably hot. Sure, we have the fans going and the windows all open. But, ultimately, as Cramer said so eloquently on the Seinfeld show so many years ago, "It's like a sauna in there!"


For those of you that know me, I sweat. There. I said it so you didn't have to. I sweat a lot. I sweat when I work out. I sweat when I am at work. I sweat when I am at home. Simply put, I pretty much sweat all the time. Well, in those 3-hour rehearsals in 100 degree heat, I am a soaking mess. At the first rehearsal on Tuesday, I had sweat through my nice light-blue oxford shirt (part of the traditional Interlochen uniform) in about the first 10 minutes of rehearsal. The kids had to wonder if I was going to be OK! It was really embarrassing. I could have literally wrung out my shirt and filled a small drinking glass with sweat following the rehearsal. I was riding my bike home after rehearsal and another faculty member, who I did not know, asked me if I had been in the lake! That evening, my wife and I went out to sporting goods store to buy some of those "dry-fit" golf shirts that keep the moisture away from your body and don't show the moisture nearly as much. It took some searching, but we actually found the "Interlochen Blue" (Pretty close to Carolina Blue) on a clearance rack for about $14.00 per shirt. We quickly bought all three that were left in my size!


Today, rehearsal was just as hot, but I was certainly dressed more appropriately for the temps. Amazingly, the kids hung in there for the entire rehearsal and gave it all they had. I am really impressed with them! And, I wasn't quite as much of a conversation piece as I had been the previous day. Tomorrow is supposed to be similar to today and the heat seems to be sticking around for a few days. Possibly right through the weekend and into next week. No worries though. I am really happy. This place is really special. The heat doesn't really bother me that much. It is so great to be in this arts community and rubbing elbows with teachers and students that are soaking up the environment for all it is worth in every second of every day. A little bit of perspiration can't put a damper on that!


I wish you all some good feelings in the midst of a good sweat this summer. For my friends in DC and NC, it is coming your way!





Jorja Fleezanis Violin Recital

On Tuesday, July 19, I attended a wonderful violin recital given by Jorja Fleezanis, accompanied by Karl Paulnack, at the Dendrinos Chapel and Recital Hall on the Interlochen Campus. Ms. Fleezanis is professor of music for the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University and was formerly the concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra from 1989-2009. Mr Paulnack is a sought-after accompanist and performer with a resume much too long to list here.


The program included the Dvorak Romance, Op. 11, The Fountain of Arethusa, Op 30, No 1, by Szymanowski, Bartok's Sonata No. 2 , and, most notably, Beethoven's Sonata in G Major, Op 96. The entire program was fantastic! Ms. Fleezanis performed each piece with passion, depth, and artistic understanding. The Szymanowski, for me, was really cool. It provided an emotional rollercoaster that told the story of Arethusa through music and the interpretation was fantastic. But, as she began her performance of the Beethoven, I knew we were in for something special. Something prompted me to re-read her bio at the beginning of the work and I saw that she had recorded the complete Beethoven Violin Sonatas on Cypres Records with fortepianist, Cyril Huve, in 2003. It was simply magical. The depth of understanding and interpretation of this great work was palpable. She had such a clear vision of the work and its ups and downs, phrases, conversations, and direction. It was simply stunning and I was gripped from beginning to end of the work.


If you get a chance to see her in recital or pick up the recording of the Beethoven Sonatas, I high recommend that you do so! You will not be disappointed!





Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It’s a Small World After All

It is Tuesday morning at Interlochen and I am really itching to get started with my orchestra. Our first rehearsal is this afternoon at 2:00 and I just can't wait to meet the kids and hear what I will be dealing with for the next three weeks! That being said, I have a few thoughts about my experiences on Sunday and Monday as I have now gone through my orientation here and have begun to settle in to the camp.


I have always believed that the music education and string education communities are really not all that big and that much of what we do as string educators is relational at every level. That concept has been confirmed over and over in the past two days for me. It seems that everyone that I meet either shares mutual friends with me or mutual teaching situations. From the moment that I arrived here, I have met people that I could have been friends and colleagues with for years. We all really do inhabit the same community.


On our first morning here, my wife and I were enjoying a cup of coffee on our front porch and met a lovely woman, Emily, who was living beside us for only one night. As we struck up a conversation, we found out that she had a background in Suzuki, had been involved in Interlochen for over 50 years, and lived in State College, PA. As we discussed our mutual experiences in PA, Suzuki Circles, and even trips to Scotland, we found that we had an incredible amount of common ground and struck up a quick friendship.


At a faculty reception later that day, the Intermediate Band Conductor came up to me and said, "Hi Scott!" After a minute of confusion due to "different place, different time syndrome ," I realized that he is Len Lavelle, Band director at North Hills High School in Pittsburgh, whose wife is Sarah Lavelle, from North Allegheny High School in Pittsburgh. She is a trusted colleague and runs one of the really fine and largest orchestra programs in the Pittsburgh Area. North Allegheny happens to be my wife's alma mater as well. Len and I had a wonderful conversation and began to develop a new friendship on an entirely different level than before. We are clearly interested in the same things as music educators.


The list could go on and on. I have met many folks that know Chuck Eilber, a former Director of Interlochen Academy and the founding Director of NCSSM. I have met many folks that have worked with my friend and colleague from UNCG in String Education, Dr. Rebecca MacLeod. I have run into new colleagues that work with and know too many of my string education colleagues to begin to mention them all here.


I realize how fortunate I am to live and work in the field of music education and specifically string education. The relationships are so rich and the community is so loving and inclusive. I am also so aware of the responsibility of representing my fine string colleagues while I am here. In many ways, I, for these students, am the face of orchestral string music. I promise to represent you all with love, musicianship, and care. After all, this is a small community. We all seem to know each other in some interesting and important way. And, many of these students will be running into each other (and us!) for the rest of their lives. I want their memories of this experience to be rich – in the relationships, the music-making, the learning, and scholarship.


For now, we will endure another day of high-90's heat and work diligently to further the cause of classical orchestral music and the arts in general. Opportunities are everywhere!





First Weekend at Interlochen

Hi all.

In the coming weeks, I will be chronicling many of my experiences as a first-year faculty member at Interlochen Summer Arts Camp in Interlochen, Michigan. I am excited to be on the faculty this year and will be conducting the Intermediate Concert Orchestra during the second three-week session of the camp. I am also particularly pleased that my wife and sons could come with me. We are all staying in one of the cabins at the facility and my oldest son is attending the camp as a day-camper.

We arrived here yesterday after two days in the family van and an overnight with family in Pittsburgh, then a night in Ann Arbor, MI. As soon as we arrived at about 2:00 PM, we felt welcome and appreciated. We quickly received the keys to our cabin and obtained much of the information that we needed on our schedules, activities, and other details.

Today was spent getting our son situated with his camp details, scheduling his auditions, and setting up our home for the next several weeks. We even snuck in a swim in the beautiful lake that is beside the camp.

This evening, we were treated to a wonderful performance by the World Youth Symphony Orchestra in the famous Kresge Auditorium. The ensemble performed Eternal Vow from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Internet Symphony No 1, "Eroica," conducted by the composer of the works, Tan Dun. Then, they performed The Rite of Spring, by Igor Stravinsky. The performances were fantastic and a great way for us all to get into the spirit of Interlochen. My children particularly enjoyed the Internet Symphony! We also really enjoyed the performance of the Interlochen Theme (the theme from Hanson's Symphony No 2, "The Romantic"). Following the Interlochen Theme, the audience departs the hall without applause. Very cool!

All in all, we are thrilled to be here and looking forward to the adventures that lie ahead.



Saturday, July 16, 2011

NS Design CR Series in Hotel

Hey all -

Just a quick note to remind everyone how handy it is to travel with an NS Design CR Series Violin for practice in hotel spaces. I am on the road with my family - heading up to Interlochen, MI to conduct for a few weeks and my 14 year old son will be attending the camp. We spent a night in a hotel in Ann Arbor last night and he wanted to take a few minutes to run over his audition piece for orchestra and seating placement at the camp. We didn't want to disturb the other guests with his acoustic instrument, so I told him to plug his Ipod headphones into my CR violin. He practiced for about 45 minutes without bothering a soul and felt really good about his preparation.

It is easy to overlook this important feature of the CR series instruments. They sound fantastic in headphones and don't require any other hardware. All you need is a set of earbuds or headphones with a mini-plug and you are good to go!

I will be posted updates periodically from Interlochen over the next few weeks. So, look for more posts in the near future!



Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Strings Without Boundaries

Hi All.

On Tuesday, June 28, I was in Pittsburgh, PA, at Duquesne Universi, representing NS Design at the Strings Without Boundaries Workshop. This is a great workshop each summer and I was really pleased to be there. As part of the day, I gave 3 presentations.

First, I had the opportunity to speak with the teacher-track students at the conference. This was essentially a Q and A session and we touched on the topics of recruitment for school programs using bowed electrics, the importance of good monitoring for dynamic performances, setting up electric ensembles, and the differences between active and passive instruments. Next, I gave an elective session for students on the nuts and bolts of amplification. Here, we covered some of the same topics for a totally different set of students. These included monitoring, speaker size, speaker placement, use of DI boxes and preamps and other amplification-related topics. Finally, I finished the day with an electi session of effects-processing. In this session, we really got into the nitty-gritty of reverbs, time-based effects (delays, chorus, and flangers), filter effects (phasers and wah-wahs), harmonizers and pitch shifters, looping, and distortion. We covered a bunch of vocabulary and parameters of all of these great effects as well as practical uses of all of them. If you would like to see some of my sessions on effects, check out and search “electric violins”.

All in all, Strings Without Boundaries is a great event and if you are interested in expanding your improvising and alt styles skills, I highly recommend this event. Special thanks to Julie Lyon Lieberman and Stephen Benham for inviting me to be part of the faculty this year!



Sunday, June 26, 2011

Lamar Stringfield Haydn Orchestra 2011

Here is a new video of me performing with the Lamar Stringfield Haydn Orchestra on Friday, June 24, at Meredith College ini Raleigh, NC. It is a great example of how electric bowed instruments can be incorporated into a tradition school program. Thanks, especially to Todd Miller, guitar, and Matt Vooris, drums. Enjoy!

NS Design’s Instruments Electrify the Classroom

Hi all -
The following article appeared on the NS Design Blog recently. I thought I would share it with you today.

Music educators across the country are discovering that electric stringed instruments offer a new, powerful way to engage young musicians. As the string education community has begun to embrace what it terms “alternative styles”—including jazz, rock, and many kinds of fiddling and world music—electric string instruments are attracting attention for their ability to play amplified without feedback, and their ability to incorporate electronic effects.

Teachers at the forefront of electric string education are quick to point out that the advantages of the instruments extend beyond performance settings. Amplification gives some students a new sense of empowerment, and for many, it clarifies the challenges they face with their playing technique. The process of creating and refining sound electronically requires students to think about aspects of music they would not need to consider with an acoustic instrument—a valuable means of engaging a generation already steeped in technology.

NS Design recently interviewed four different players, including educators who use electric instruments in their classrooms, as well as performers who use electrics to attract new audiences to the possibilities of stringed instruments in general. We are proud to work with these musicians, and we hope that sharing their perspectives will inspire other teachers and students to new musical endeavors.

New possibilities

For Scott Laird, who is Instructor of Music at the North Carolina School for Science and Math in Durham, NC, technology serves both as a pedagogical tool and as a focus of instruction, and NS Design’s instruments are a centerpiece of the classroom. Laird’s performance career has revolved around the electric violin and the technology associated with it. As an educator, he champions a “blended curriculum” of classroom instruction reinforced by online resources, such as D’Addario’s Web site The Lesson Room, to which he has contributed several videos. In his classroom, Laird says, electric instruments serve the dual purpose of facilitating performances that would not be possible with their acoustic counterparts, and engaging students in a more complex understanding of music.

Laird says that overcoming the amplification barrier is the biggest practical advantage to incorporating electric strings in an educational setting. In so doing, educators can remove the restrictions that often keep string students from trying jazz, rock, and other amplified genres.

“From a performance standpoint, it completely opens up what you can do with a bowed instrument because volume is no longer a limiting factor,” Laird said recently in an interview. “The great violinist in your school can play with the jazz ensemble.” In addition, NS instruments’ precise tone and volume controls of offer practical advantages in orchestrating student performances. “We use the NXT Bass to accompany the wind ensemble,” he said. “It lets us get just the right amount of volume and a really warm tone.”

But besides expanding performance options, Laird explains that electric instruments make students think about music in new ways. The precise control NS instruments offer over their output signal—and their ability to use electronic effects—requires students to plan and analyze the sounds they wish to create.

“Electric instruments ask students to think about tone quality as it relates to an adjustment knob, a reverb tail, a delay. These are questions that traditional string students normally don’t have to answer,” Laird said. “One of the main things teachers are called upon to do is encourage students to step out of their comfort zones.”

Scott Laird also sees an improvement in his students’ musicianship as a result of electric instruments’ tonality and interface abilities. “When you’re amplified, your mistakes do not get covered up,” he said. “Your inconsistencies from a technique standpoint are obvious. Kids can plug an electric violin straight into a laptop and record themselves playing a Bach Partita, and hear the subtle inconsistencies in their bow technique and intonation.”

Yvette Devereaux, a Los Angeles-based violinist, conductor, composer and educator, who performs on an NS CR-5, attributes a similar advantage to the electric violin. But she says that, in addition to offering students a clearer technical picture of their playing, electric violins empower students on an emotional level. As a teacher of younger students, Devereaux has a first-hand view of how playing amplified can help students overcome their insecurities.

“When a student tries an electric violin plugged into an amp, you get instant gratification,” she said. “Students hear all these undertones and overtones that they can’t get right away on an acoustic violin. The violin becomes not just a violin anymore.” Playing amplified also allows some students to understand their playing in a wider musical context. “Right away they feel like they’re part of a current situation,” she said. “They say, ‘oh wow, I can play this anywhere!’”

Inspiring from the Stage

Outside the classroom, a number of performers and organizations have used NS instruments to reach out to young audiences in performance settings. One such group, the Los Angeles-based Elevation Orchestra, is an ensemble that includes 17 string players (including several NS players) as well as a rhythm section of bass, drums, and keyboards. Targeting underserved urban audiences, the group strives to expand its listeners’ musical palates by applying classical string instrumentation to contemporary, pop-inspired compositions.

“The elevation orchestra was created to let everybody know that string instruments are not just for classical music, but are actually behind a lot of the big groups in pop music that you hear today,” said Ryan Cross, the group’s founder. “NS instruments help us kick that goal.”

The group has commissioned work from arrangers who have written for Michael Jackson, Alicia Keys, Earth Wind and Fire, and Stevie Wonder, among others. Cross and members Chris and Adrienne Woods performed at NS Design’s exhibit at the 2011 Winter NAMM Show in Anaheim, California—one of three annual international trade shows for music products, and the largest of its kind in the U.S.

NS Design has also worked with motivated performers to make instruments available for special events with significant educational impact. In 2010, the company loaned a quartet of instruments to the Colorado Symphony for a performance of George Crumb’s piece “Black Angels” at the Denver School of the Arts. Violinist Erik Peterson organized the performance and, with help from NS endorser Dr. Gregory T. S. Walker, arranged to let students try the instruments hands-on. Peterson said that the experience revealed the value of pursuing approaches to string education that might have seemed radical even in the recent past.

“To have that exposure was very good for them,” he said. “They were excited to hear the piece and excited to try the instruments. We can’t just approach string instruments in the way they were approached a hundred years ago. There are musicians and audiences for all different types of music.”

Catch the WAV

As part of an initiative to encourage the adoption of electric stringed instruments, NS Design has launched a pilot program, called “Catch the WAV”, to make its four-string WAV Series electric violin available through participating retailers at a special pricing to schools and educators. Educators who are interested in taking advantage of this program should contact their local NS Design dealer for assistance in finding a dealer contact. (To find a participating dealer, contact .)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

FL Studio Mobile

"Get FL Studio Mobile"

Check out the new FL Studio Mobile. I love this product and use it all the time for production of songs, rhythm tracks, and for my Digital Music Production Classes.

Image-Line is pleased to announce FL Studio Mobile is now available from your local App Store. There are two FL Studio Mobile applications:

FL Studio Mobile: For iPhone & iPod Touch, G3 & G4 with Retina display support - $14.99 introductory and $19.99 later.

FL Studio Mobile HD: For iPad 1 & 2 - $19.99 introductory and $24.99 later.

FL Studio Mobile Out Now!

FL Studio Mobile is available in iPhone/Pod and iPad (HD) versions.


Load and extend projects in the FL Studio desktop version
Resizable, stackable piano keys & reconfigurable drum-pads
Stuffed with FL Studio quality instruments, drum kits & loop files
99-track sequencer, Piano roll editor & Step sequencer
WAV, MIDI & FLM (project) import/export
iPad HD version, iPhone 4 Retina Display support
Compatible with the Akai SynthStation 25

Just go to the App Store and if you have an iPhone/iPod Touch FL Studio Mobile OR if you have an iPad FL Studio Mobile HD.


What about Android OS? It's on the roadmap, stop nagging! We have a development team working on a low-latency Android audio-engine and there are many screen resolutions and device specifications to consider, it's not as simple as you may think :)

Does this mean FL Studio on Mac OSX soon? FL Studio Mobile is not a port of the Windows version of FL Studio. It is the product of a completely separate development team, and code, so FL Studio Mobile, while compatible with FL Studio has no impact on FL Studio development and vice versa.

Can I load my own samples? Not in version 1.0. We plan to enable user uploads in a future update.

Can I use VSTs? No, iOS does not support VSTs and frankly the devices it runs on don't have the CPU power to perform the synthesis you are used to on a desktop. FL Studio Mobile uses high quality sample based instruments made from Image-Line plugins and sample packs.

Give it a try!


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Commencement 2011

Last weekend a busy one for me and all at NCSSM. We held our 2011 Commencement ceremonies on Saturday and then on Sunday, we held commencement ceremonies for our On-line students. My orchestra performed an awards ceremony on Thursday, Commencement on Saturday and then I played solo violin for the ceremonies on Sunday. I had a great deal of time at these events to think about the commencement season and what it means to me today. I realized that this year represented my 25th year of commencement exercises for students. My first was in 1987 in Palmyra, PA.

Over the years, I believe that my perspective on commencement and its relevance to my life has changed drastically. Back in 1987, it represented the end of a first year of teaching and an opportunity to regroup and prepare for the next school year. I had graduate work to attend to and a bunch of things to figure out about teaching. As the 1980's progressed and into the 1990's, commencement came to represent the beginning of the summer and opportunities for windsurfing, beach trips, and camping. It was essentially the beginning of vacation. Later in the 1990's it came to represent closure. An opportunity to close the door on one year and prepare to, all too quickly, open the door on another. As the years have moved on, each has had its own significance, and over the years one starts to look a great deal like another.

One of the great challenges for a teacher of high school age students is to remember that each commencement is the most important one to the students in that class. They are proud of their accomplishments, excited for the challenges that lie ahead, and certainly, a bit apprehensive about the changes that are about to come in their life. I remember the magnitude of the event in my own life and I truly try, each year, to honor that crossroad and celebrate with my students both in my actions and in my thoughts. In doing so, I do feel that each commencement, for me, has been a bit more meaningful.

I want to take a minute today to share what commencement means to me this year. I have found in my reflection over the past week that I really want to be better. I want to be a better teacher. I want to be more scholarly. I want to plan more exciting lessons and be more inspiring. I want to be a better musical authority on the repertoire that I select for the various orchestras that I conduct. I want to be a better father, husband, colleague, mentor, and professional. There have been days over the years that I thought I had this stuff pretty much figured out. I have been teaching orchestra for a long time and have felt like I knew what I was doing. It seems the longer I do it, the more I realize how much I have to learn. I have come to realize that I can always be more "present," more in the moment. I can prepare more effectively. I can study more deeply. I can participate more fully in all of the activities that are necessary to success in this life. I have come to understand over the years that the only way that one can stay viable is to stay unsatisfied. I want more out of myself. I want to be ever-developing as a person, scholar, and musician. The only way to make this happen is through action. I have to continue to study, listen, learn, reflect, and implement new ideas into all that I do.

For my dear students in the class of 2011, (and all other classes that have gone before and will come in the future) I challenge you to continue to desire to improve. We can always do a little bit more, be a little bit better. I know that I haven't achieved all that I can yet. I promise that I will keep trying to get it right. I will keep working to achieve the little goals. For meeting the little goals leads to attaining the big ones! I challenge you to do the same.

To the class of 2011: I wish you all great success in college and in all that you endeavor in life. It had been a pleasure to be a small part of your life at NCSSM. You have enriched mine.



Sunday, March 20, 2011

Learning How Not To Choke

Anyone who reads my blog with any regularity knows that when I travel, I usually have some remarks about or as a result of the books that I read while flying. Today is no different as I just completed a two-leg trip to Kansas City for the Annual National Conference of the American String Teachers Association. My reading material for today was a great little book entitled, "Choke" by Sian Beilock. It is a really interesting read that discusses "what the secrets of the brain reveal about getting it right when you have to." In the book, she discusses performance and the act of "choking" on the athletic field, the classroom, testing environment, the concert hall, and other everyday situations. But, obviously, I was hoping to pick up some ideas surrounding musical performance specifically both for me and for my students. In reality, I found exactly what I was hoping for and found some great tips and information that should be very timely and applicable for my students, not only in the musical area, but in the classroom as well.

I have definitely noticed that I can't always predict when my nerves will get the best of me in a performance. But, I have seen a trend in recent years of being more nervous for performances that are local and in situations where I REALLY want to do well or inspire the folks that are in the audience. If I don't know the audience, I am much less likely to get nervous and "choke." Just last weekend, I was playing at a funeral for the father of a musician for whom I have tremendous professional and personal respect. In one of the pieces I was playing, which incidentally wasn't that difficult, I managed to "gack" a note in a tricky little shift not so much because it was difficult, but because I was telling myself NOT to mess it up. I had, in fact, choked. I messed up something that I have done perfectly a thousand times in the midst of a pressure filled situation. I messed up when it mattered most. I choked. Haven't we all choked at one point or another? We have all fumbled over words when asking someone out for the first time, missed the easy ground ball, squeaked on the clarinet solo in band, bombed a test, or some other variation the theme. It is a universal problem. But, some folks are more likely to choke than others. What causes the choke? How can we avoid or overcome the choke?

The book is based on a great deal of research and is very well-written. I found several sections of the book to be applicable to my life as a musician and public speaker and will certainly use many of the techniques that Beilock recommends for avoiding the "choke."

Having said that, the section that I found most interesting was on the topic of worrying. Beilock explains that when we allow worrisome thoughts to flood our brain, they take up so much of our working memory (our ability to work with information- regardless of what that information is, or, our general-capacity horsepower) resources, that our performance in any task can suffer tremendously. I guess that is not really a big surprise. But, check this out: even when the pressure filled situation subsides, it takes a while for our working memory resources to get back to normal.

Worries can really crush us. I know that I often will wake up in the middle of the night with an onslaught of worries. Thoughts of tasks that are undone at work, concerns about my children, projects that I am working, upcoming trips and presentations, and a variety of other things can cause me a tremendous amount of worry. I have always wondered how I could combat this.

Beilock gives a number of suggestions to combat worrying and I won't list them all here. For that you will need to buy the book. However, the one suggestion that she gives really resonated with me: write about your worries. She explains that taking the time to write about your worries gives your brain the opportunity to confront the worrisome situations and the act of written disclosure serves to lessen worrisome thoughts. I find this fascinating and intend to apply this to my own life and situation. I have often gotten up in the middle of the night to make lists or to write down the tasks that I am worrying about, but I have never written about the worries themselves.

For musicians, athletes, and academics, there is a great deal of highly applicable information in this book. I recommend it highly. For me students, this is a really thought-provoking book. I believe that it has relevance to your lives as musicians and as scholars. I hope that you will take some time to consider some of the suggestions on choke avoidance.

For now, perform with confidence and I hope that you don't choke!!



Saturday, March 19, 2011

D'Addario at ASTA

This week, I have been at the National Conference of the American String Teachers Association. It has been a magnificent conference with something for everyone. I have participated in educational sessions, learned a ton, given a few sessions, met new friends, and connected with old friends from around the country in the string education community.

One of the most informative sessions that I attended was "Demystifying Your Strings," presented by my friends and colleagues at D'Addario Strings, Lyris Hung and Fan Tau. In the session, they discussed and explained the differences between the various string cores, wrappings, tensions, and other issues surrounding string technology. Fan is simply one of the most knowledgeable engineers in the world of acoustics and designs D'Addario's strings from beginning to end.

The session was really well attended and incredibly interesting. Lyris and Fan are tremendous colleagues and did a great job with this one. In the video, Fan explains the concept of harmonics and how that relates to a "false" string.


Monday, March 7, 2011



Hey friends - take a minute to check out the new release from my friends, "Believer." I recorded a bunch with these guys in the 80's and 90's and am super-impressed with the new material. I hope you like it!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Big Experiences during Mini-Term

This week, the North Carolina School of Science and Math is in the middle of our annual Mini-term. Mini-term is a 7 day period when all other classes stop (we are actually between terms right now) and students can take one class, really focusing in on that topic for the 7 days. This year, there are students traveling to Spain, Belize, and a bunch of places around the world. There are students doing magnificent research that will lead them to big-time science competitions in coming years. There are other classes focusing on film, medicine, finance, languages, aviation and other interesting topics. I even ran into a student that is building a surfboard as his mini-term project. Too cool! The Mini-term week has always been one of my favorites because it really is a chance to focus on one thing or to try something new for the first time. It truly embodies all that we are as an institution at NCSSM.

My course for the week, along with my colleague, Phillip Riggs, is entitled Eastern Regional Orchestra. It happens that the NCMEA Eastern Regional Orchestra Festival is during the weekend in the middle of Mini-term, so it is a natural that we would incorporate it into a class format. My students that audition for, and made it into ERO had the opportunity to take the class and really focus in on the event of the weekend. Last week, on Thursday and Friday, the participating students had all day to work on their parts to prepare for the weekend event. By all accounts, they felt good about their re-seating auditions and they really befitted from the time to prepare. Then, from Friday evening until the concert on Sunday afternoon, they fully participated in the 13 hours of rehearsal and related events. The event was a big success and all seemed to be very happy with their part.

The thing that is on my mind today, however, is what we have done after the event. You see, we have had another 5 days in the class and I want to be sure to provide a great learning opportunity for all of these wonderful students throughout the Mini-term. So, class has continued all week with a scheduled concert event each day. We have attended concerts at 4 different colleges or universities in the area with a mind toward experiencing some new things in the field of music as listeners, rather than as performers. The students, then, are asked to journal on their experiences and reactions as we move through the week. I have asked them to address the following points as they journal following the concerts:

  1. Their expectations prior to the concert
  2. Music Selection/Themes of the concert
  3. Instrumentation
  4. Composers that were represented/historical context
  5. Their impressions of the performing space
  6. The performance itself
  7. Their thoughts/impressions following the concert
  8. How did each performance relate to your experience with music and performance?

What a week we have had! We have attended some extraordinary performances that were thought provoking and enlightening in a variety of ways.

On Monday, we attended a concert at Duke University called "Goethe in Song" that was sponsored by the Music and Germanic Languages and Literature Departments. This thought provoiking performance focused on the texts of Goethe and the many ways that those texts have been used in the German Art Song. The performance included songs by Mozart, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Hensel, Wolf, and Clara Schumann. Some of the Goethe texts included Erster Verlust, Mignon, Das Veilchen, Ganymed and Dammrung Senkte Sich von oben. There was a magnificent lecture accompanying the performance by Nicholas Rennie of Rutgers University and the performers were Sandra Cotton, mezzo-soprano, accompanied by Ingeborg Walther, piano. This concert embodied all that we represent at NCSSM. It was interdisciplinary, scholarly, thought provoking, and challenging. I couldn't believe how fortunate we were to have stumbled on this lecture/performance as part of Mini-term.

On Tuesday evening, we attended a delightful choral concert at Meredith College in Raleigh. This all-women's school has a wonderful music program and we knew it would be a delightful departure from the heavy programming of the concert on Monday. We were certainly not disappointed! The women of Meredith gave a wonderful performance that included a little bit of everything, from a couple of heavy pieces, to a whimsical pop octet that performed, among other things, For the Longest Time, by Billy Joel, to works by Copland, works from around the world, and others. The groups were polished and graceful. The evening was set in the campus chapel and it made for a perfect venue for the performance. It was everything that a choral concert in that setting should be.

On Wednesday, we headed to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro to see their resident faculty string quartet perform. The members of the string faculty there are friends and trusted colleagues and I was excited to hear them perform as a group for the first time. Known as the McIver Quartet, they are Marjorie Bagley and Fabian Lopez on violin, Scott Rawls, viola, and Alex Ezerman, cello. They performed Three Pieces for String Quartet, by Stravinsky, String Quartet No 3, by Jacob ter Veldhuis, and String Quartet no 1 in A Minor, Op. 7, Sz. 40, by Bartok. The performance was magnificent. Certainly, the students' musical horizons were stretched by the contemporary sounds of the works. But, the level of virtuosity demonstrated by the quartet was stunning and the performance was accessible to all in a variety of ways. The kids were floored by the performance and the mood was certainly upbeat as we traveled home late last night.

This evening, we will be heading to Elon College to hear a performance of the Phoenix Piano Trio. They will be performing music by Joseph Haydn, Joaquin Turina, & Marc Eychenne in what I know will be a great evening. I am truly looking forward to another concert tonight!

As I reflect on the week, am so appreciative of the opportunity to teach in this setting. I feel like some real leaning has taken place this week. Our students have been stretched and challenged a bit. They have also been entertained and enlightened. It is so enjoyable to spend time with NCSSM students in a more relaxed setting as well. They aren't nearly as stretched and fragmented as they are during the regular terms and we actually have time to enjoy each other's company. I have had time to offer advice on other things, too, like what to wear to a concert or "how many goodies at the reception following a performance is it appropriate to take?" These things are important. I don't always get to have that impact on these kids and I really welcome it. I have also really enjoyed the opportunity to simply attend concerts. In the context of my busy life, it just doesn't happen too much.

In coming days, I will share some of their journal entries here on my blog. They, of course, will be kept anonymous. But, I want to share with you some of the depth of their experience. In the meantime, I am looking forward to another great concert this evening.



Tuesday, March 1, 2011

New Interview

Hi all -
The linked interview was posted on the Electric Violin Shop website this week.
I thought that some of you might be interested.
Best Always,

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Job Opportunity for String Teacher

Employment Opportunity in Durham, NC

Position Summary

KidZNotes is seeking a qualified strings teacher for its program at Y.E. Smith Elementary School, to support a rich general music curriculum focused on cultivating a caring, cooperative and fun community.


*3 days/week afterschool (3:15-4:15): teach group violin class of 20 students (Pre-K, K, and 3rd grade)
*1 Saturday/month (9:00-11:00): assist full orchestra rehearsals of 60 students (tuning violins, playing in the sections, helping students with posture/note reading, 10-minute pull-out lessons)
*Be available for occasional professional development, concerts, and meetings with KidZNotes General Music Teachers, Orchestra Conductor, and Executive Director
*Excellent musicianship and artistry as a teacher/performer
*Strong commitment to El Sistema’s philosophy of social change through music and KidZNotes mission
*Experience teaching beginning strings, preferably in the Suzuki Method
*Strong interpersonal and communication skills and the ability to work effectively in a diverse community
*Ability to be a mentor and role model for students, parents, and peers as an artist, teacher and citizen
*Ability to work under frequent observation
Preferred, but not Required
*Experience working with children from diverse ethnic backgrounds
*Experience working in underserved communities
*Bilingual in English and Spanish a plus

Interested applicants should contact Executive Director Katie Wyatt at or 919.451.0077 to schedule an interview. Applications close April 1, 2011.


The mission of KidZNotes is to provide under-served children, “beginning in the pre-school years, free-of-charge classical, orchestral music training to combat poverty, strengthen inner-city education, and foster positive decision-making to unlock the world.” KidZNotes is based on the model of “El Sistema,” the world-renowned National System of Children and Youth Orchestras of Venezuela, which since 1974 has transformed the lives of over 800,000 Venezuelan children from impoverished circumstances. KidZNotes rehearsals are 4 days/week after-school at each of our three schools, and on Saturday mornings at the Holton Career and Resource Center. KidZNotes provides free, classical, orchestral instruction and trains our teachers in the El Sistema methodology. Children and their families benefit from field trips to concerts, visits by performing artists, and other arts activities. Graduates leave with a sense of capability, endurance and resilience — becoming active and empowered citizens of their communities.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Honoring a Good Man

Today, I want to take a moment to honor my friend and former colleague, Ray Church. Ray served as a music instructor at NCSSM for 22 years and was my colleague here for the first 7 years of my tenure at NCSSM. Ray was a kind, gentle man. He was a fine oboist and musician. In the later years of his teaching career, he became very interested in jazz and jazz pedagogy. He was also a pioneer in distance education for music educators, teaching some of the first music-technology online courses in the country. He loved NCSSM and he loved the students at NCSSM. He made me feel welcome here and always acknowledged my contributions to the effort. He retired from NCSSM 3 years ago and was living in Hickory, caring for his elderly mother. He was a dedicated son and brother. Ray enjoyed tuning pianos, bee-keeping, and in recent years, really enjoyed tending to his mother's gardens and property. He recently told me that "he was really just a jazz-lovin' country boy at heart. Give me a tractor to ride on and I will be happy." That made me chuckle.

Ray stopped in to see me last Tuesday. We talked about the NCSSM Music Department, my family and his, life in Hickory, and many other topics. It was a light and enjoyable conversation. I wondered if it might be "goodbye."

Ray was an important part of my life for the past 10 years. He was my friend. I will miss him. Thanks, Ray, for caring for me and my family.

His obituary is below.

HICKORY -- Ray Edward Church, 61, of Hickory, passed away on Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at Frye Regional Medical Center in Hickory.

Born July 14, 1949 in Catawba County, he was the son of Elenoir Huffman Church and the late George Thomas Church Sr.

In addition to his father, he was preceded in death by two brothers: George Thomas Church Jr. and Gary Gene Church.

Mr. Church had graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Master of Music from the University of Miami.

He taught in Nash County schools, St. Stephens High School and 22 years at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. He also played the oboe for the Ft. Lauderdale Symphony and he was a Fulbright Scholar in Germany.

In addition to his mother, he is survived by two brothers: Larry Dean Church and wife, Karen of Hickory, Richard Lewis Church of Lincolnton; and two sisters: Brenda Church Baker and husband, Seth of Asheville, Pauline Church Troutman of Newton.

The funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. on Friday, February 11, 2011 in the chapel at Bass-Smith Funeral Home with the Rev. Scott Frady officiating.

Burial will follow at Oakwood Cemetery.

The family will receive friends an hour prior to the service from 1 to 2 p.m. at the funeral home.

Memorials may be made to the American Liver Foundation, 75 Maiden Ln., Suite 603, Hickory, NC 28603.

On-line condolences may be left for the family at

Bass-Smith Funeral Home is serving the family of Ray Edward Church.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mallet Instrument Service

Hi all -
Just a quick note about a fantastic purchasing experience that I recently had. Our music department recently received a generous gift from a donor that was earmarked for new percussion equipment in our music department. We decided to take a run down to Charlotte to check out Mallet Instrument Service which is owned and operated by Artie and Gina Lieberman. This ended up being a wonderful experience from start to finish. Artie and Gina welcomed us into their shop and simply made us feel like family from the moment we arrived. Artie showed us a multitude of one of a kind mallet percussion instruments, refurbished instruments, and new gear. He told us countless stories of percussionists, various magnificent performances, and a life of passion regarding mallet percussion. We ended up picking up a 4 1/3 octave rosewood Musser marimba, an awesome set of Musser vibes, and a set of Ludwig Chimes. We could not be happier. All the while, the price was right and we felt like we had made a friendship that would last for a lifetime. Our day ended with a lovely dinner together and a long drive home to Durham.

Mallet Instrument Service DBA Vintage Percussion has been servicing percussionists since 1994 with repairs, sales and rentals of new, used and vintage percussion.

Their company has the largest parts inventory in the country and accepts trades and consignments of good quality instruments.

The company is owned and operated by Artie and Gina Lieberman of Charlotte, North Carolina. Personal attention goes into every aspect of the business. As a professional percussionist for over 40 years, Artie has keen insight to the needs of other professionals.

Some of their clients include the following Symphonies: North Carolina, Charlotte, Baltimore, Atlanta, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Peoria, Sao Paolo, Nashville, Mobile, Charlotte Youth, and Indianapolis.

They also serve: University of North Carolina, Winthrop University, Virginia Arts Festival, Eastern Music Festival, Clemson University, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools,Fine Arts Center SC, Dame Evelyn Glennie, UNC Schools, Opera Carolina as well as numerous churches and private schools.

Friday, January 7, 2011

NC String Teachers: Southeastern Strings Conference

String teachers in the NC area:
January 21 is a state-wide in-service day for teachers. Please consider attending the Southeastern Strings Conference at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I will be giving a session on electric bowed strings and there will be many fine sessions throughout the day. During my session, we will have an ensemble of NS Design instruments set up for attendees to try. We will provide charts for the ensemble and we will simply all experience playing in an electric string ensemble. I will explain panning and the use of a PA system, monitors, and basic EFX processing. We will have an NXT Bass and Cello, a CR violin and viola, the new 5 string Wav, and many other NS Instruments for you to try out as an ensemble. It will be a blast! It is not too late to register.

Pre-Register by phone: call 1-800-999-2869 and have your Visa or MasterCard ready.
Conference Fee & NC Renewal Credit Verification of Attendance

There is a $40.00 fee for all instructors attending the String Teachers Conference. This fee will cover all instruction, handouts, clinician expenses, and refreshments. You may be able to obtain one unit of North Carolina Certificate Renewal Credit by attending this event. Please Pre-Register by mail or by telephone. To Pre-Register by phone, simply call us toll-free at 1-800-999-2869 and have your Visa or MasterCard ready. (Please Pre-Register!!) The on-site registration fee on Thursday evening, January 20, will be $50.00.

Here is a list of events.
Southeast String Festival Teachers Conference

Master Class, Dimitry Sitkovetski
New Music Reading Session, Lynne Latham, Latham Music, a Lorenz Company
Electric Strings, Scott Laird
Jazz Clinic for String Educators, Steve Haines
Upper String Pedagogy, Marjorie Bagley, Fabian Lopez, Scott Rawls
Old Time Ensemble Music, Revell Carr and Gavin Douglas
Lower String Pedagogy, Craig Brown and Alex Ezerman
Achieving an Artistic Vibrato in the String Class, Rebecca B. MacLeod
Incorporating Students With Disabilities In Your Orchestra Classroom, Jennifer Stewart Walter
String Instrument Repair, Melody Choplin

Time Session Location
7:45 Introductions School of Music Recital Hall
8:15-9:30 Reading Session sponsored by School of Music Recital Hall
Latham Music, a Lorenz Company
9:30 Refreshments, student rehearsal ends Recital Hall Atrium

9:00-9:50 Electric Strings, Scott Laird EUC Auditorium
10:00-10:50 Jazz Strings, Steve Haines EUC Auditorium
11:10-12:10 Violin Pedagogy EUC Auditorium
Marjory Bagley and Fabian Lopez
12:10-1:15 Lunch
1:15-2:15 Viola and Cello Pedagogy EUC Auditorium
Scott Rawls and Alex Ezerman
2:15 Walk to Aycock Auditorium
2:30-3:20 Old Time Music Aycock Auditorium
Gavin Douglas and Revell Carr
3:30-4:20 Artistic Vibrato, Rebecca MacLeod Aycock Lower Level
4:30-5:00 McIver Quartet Performance Aycock Auditorium
5:00-6:00 Dinner
6:00-7:00 Observe Rehearsal Aycock Auditorium
7:30 GSO Chamber Concert School of Music Recital Hall

9:00-9:50 Students with Disabilities, Jennifer Walter Aycock Lower Level
10:00-10:50 String Repair Lab, Melody Choplin Aycock Lower Level
11:00-12:00 Dimitry Sitkovetski Aycock Auditorium
12:00 Lunch
1:30 Dress Rehearsal Aycock Auditorium
2:30 Concert Aycock Auditorium