Rehearsal with composer Vinko Globokar’s Eisenberg for...

Tumblr - Tue, 2016-06-21 10:55

Rehearsal with composer Vinko Globokar’s Eisenberg for Thursday’s @sicpp concert. Thanks Marie and Beth!!!

Rehearsal for Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians to be...

Tumblr - Mon, 2016-06-20 16:01

Rehearsal for Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians to be performed tonight in Jordan Hall

El Sistema and Creative Placemaking

Exploring El Sistema - Thu, 2016-06-16 09:01
"Creative Placemaking" and "El Sistema" are relatively new terms referring to strategies for transforming communities and changing lives. These strategies have been in use for decades, but only in recent years have these two terms emerged to identify these established ways to address community and social issues. The Kresge Foundation... Sistema Fellows Program

Interactive technology and formative assessment tools

Exploring El Sistema - Wed, 2016-06-15 17:29
The intent of the Innovation Grant that I received from the Sistema Fellowship Resource Center last fall was to implement a peer-mentoring program and formative assessment tools that teach youth how to use online technology, including SmartMusic, and become more self-directed and confident. This grant also helped me grow in... Sistema Fellows Program

AMP finalist for national youth arts award

Exploring El Sistema - Wed, 2016-06-15 17:02
"The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, and its cultural partners – the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services – are proud to recognize 50 outstanding programs all over the country for their work in... Sistema Fellows Program

Opening the Beethoven A Major Cello Sonata: Obsessing Over the First Five Bars

Cello Bello Blog - Wed, 2016-06-15 15:22

By Brian Hodges:

The five Beethoven Cello Sonatas are iconic for a number of reasons. First and foremost, they’re some of the first pieces to include the cello in a true duo partnership, something the violin had been enjoying for a long time.

While the first two sonatas (Op. 5, 1 and 2) are actually listed as Sonata for Piano and Violoncello, things have changed by the third sonata, Op. 69 in A Major, with the cello now getting top billing. The sonata was written during Beethoven’s middle period and immediately one can sense his expansive creativity at work in full force.

The opening is one of the more notorious openings in all of the cello literature. It starts with the famous melody played by the cello alone, like a soliloquy.


What looks simple contains a host of difficulties and issues to work out.


As seen from the example above, Beethoven indicates Allegro ma non tanto for the tempo indication. ‘Tanto’ means “not so much”, so the implication is fast, but not overly so.

Whatever your exact tempo is, securing a consistent and correct tempo at the onset is quite difficult given that Beethoven starts with two half notes and a dotted half. It’s tricky to feel just exactly where the pulse is. Generally, players tend to take the first three notes in one tempo, then when the quarters start, they blend into a different tempo altogether. Next, in bar 4, and the end of bar 5, there’s a strong temptation to slow down. So, with all that, we’ve now had roughly 4 different tempos in the first six measures.

The key is to subdivide. Put the metronome at either a quarter pulse, or even an eighth pulse. Feel the smaller divisions in the half notes and dotted half, which will then transition smoothly into the quarters without changing the tempo. Even in performance, always think subdivisions. This will keep you honest and give a clearer sense of the opening melody, not to mention giving your pianist something to grab onto.

Despite keeping a steady pulse through the first five bars, many cellists slow down a tiny bit before the low E in measure 6. Their rationale is that it’s the end of the phrase, so it’s appropriate to set the downbeat of the sixth measure. But, in actual fact, it’s not the end, it’s just the beginning, and the cello part neatly hands off the melody to the piano. By slowing down, you’re making it difficult for the pianist to come in with any stability, especially since they’re coming in on the fourth beat.


While fingerings are entirely personal, there is a general consensus that one plays the majority of the opening theme on the G string. Many players start in first position, then shift up to fourth position by the second note. Some performers, however, play the opening A in fourth position on the C string, preferring to cross over a string rather than shift. The thing to keep in mind about whatever fingering you decide to use is to keep it simple. Keep the shifts silent, and string crossings as smooth as possible. Listen to when the piano has the theme in measure 13. Emulate the sound of the piano, in order to keep it as straightforward and pure as possible.

Assuming you are using the common fingering of starting in first position on the A and shifting up to fourth position for the E, make sure you prepare your left arm for the impending shift. During the last third of the A, your left arm should be starting the shifting motion and initiating the shift. Your second finger (as well as the rest of the hand) can start to open up once the arm starts to move and take over the shift, once you leave your first finger. Practice this slowly and keep the movements as efficient and smooth as possible.


Many cellists forgo vibrato on the opening theme to create a more “pure” tone. As is well documented, vibrato did not have the ubiquitous presence it has now in string playing, serving as more of an ornament than a constant. Of course, this is a personal choice, but a little vibrato can be nice and shouldn’t disrupt the line too much.

The real advantage to using vibrato is that it can mask the wolf-tone that can crop up on the F# on the G string (third note of the theme). It’s a real let-down for that beautiful theme to be corrupted by a stuttering wolf-tone.


Beethoven’s slur markings, if taken at face value, can be very impractical. They can often stretch over entire phrases, leaving one to think he wants the entire passage slurred. Generally speaking, those long slurs are more phrase markings than actual specific slur markings.



From the manuscript, we see that the first bar is slurred, and the next two bars are slurred. If we were to follow that exactly, you’d need to get way out to the tip for the second bar, if you’re starting down bow. Beethoven’s slur doesn’t work the best in that scenario, so many players break the slurs up.

An interesting alternative is to start up bow. Change to down bow on the second bar and keep Beethoven’s original slur intact all the way to the fourth bar. I find that it supports the phrasing quite nicely.

Of course, there are numerous solutions and possibilities, and it’s inevitable that you’ll change your mind, as I have, many times. Whatever your decide, it should support the phrasing.


For something so simple, this opening theme can be very frustrating; a fair amount details to keep track of in just five measures. Like the fingerings and bowings, there are a variety of ways to shape this passage.

The general shape of the phrase shows the notes moving up, gradually working their way down, a little coda, before finally setting on the low, pedal E. My advice is to get out of the way of the notes—go with the shape. We can very easily over-phrase it making it incomprehensible. Beethoven has done most of the work for you; allow the notes to go where they want to. Use your bow speed and variances in arm weight to define the shape as you want it.

It is very possible to obsess over these five bars and turn it into something that it’s not, when, in reality, it’s a simple, catchy tune. While keeping track of the details, don’t forget to step back and see the bigger picture, and enjoy this gift that Beethoven has given us cellists.



1 Ludwig van Beethoven Werke, Serie 13: Fur Pianoforte und Violoncell, Nr. 107, (Leipzig: Breitkopf und Hartel, n.d. [1863], 65-94. Public doman.

2 Ludwig van Beethoven, Sonata for Violoncello and Piano in A Major, Op. 69, scan of manuscript facsimile, Beethoven-Haus, Bonn.


Cellist, Brian Hodges is an active soloist, chamber musician, and teacher. With his wife, Betsi Hodges, he has given recitals across the US, Canada and Italy. Brian is Associate Professor of Cello and Coordinator of Chamber Music at Boise State University and is principal of the Boise Baroque Orchestra. He performa regularly with Classical Revolution: Boise, which has been featured at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival and on Radio Boise. Originally from San Antonio, Texas, he soloed with the San Antonio Symphony as a winner of the Young Artists Competition. He went on to study at the Eastman School of music earning his Bachelor of Music degree in cello performance and stayed on to complete his Master of Music degree in cello performance where he was the teaching assistant to Marcy Rosen. He recieved his Doctoral Musical Arts in cello performance from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where he was a member of the graduate piano trio in residence. He has been on the faculties at the Townsend School of Music at Mercer University in Georgia, as well as Spring Arbor College and Albion University and has served as co-director of the Jackson Symphony String Academy in Jackson, MI. During the summers, he has been on faculty at the Green Valley Chamber Music Festival in Las Vegas, the Summer Music Institute in San Antonio, TX, and the String Camp of Rochester.

The Rhythmical Creation of Beauty

NEC @ Huff Post - Mon, 2016-06-13 10:32
New England Conservatory

The Rhythmical Creation of Beauty

NEC @ Huff Post - Mon, 2016-06-13 10:32
New England Conservatory

Petition to Change British Airway’s Instrument Baggage Policy

Cello Bello Blog - Fri, 2016-06-10 00:31

Reprinted from The Violin Channel on 6-11-2016

A petition has been launched today calling for British Airways to change their instrument baggage policy – following a June 4th incident at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport where Dunedin Consort Concertmaster, Cecilia Bernardini was refused entry inflight with her 18th Century violin and case.

‘This is unacceptable behavior by the BA staff,” the petition reads, “ … while of course we musicians understand the many stresses associated with working at an airport desk, we believe that BA needs to understand that the instruments we carry around are not just the tools of our trade but also priceless works of art.’

“I call on BA to institute a policy to clearly allow musical instruments to be carried on as hand luggage – otherwise musicians will be forced to go to other carriers which allow us to carry our instruments,” petition founder, London-based violinist Paula Muldoon has said.

Currently almost 1200 signatures have been collected.

The Violin Channel’s October 2nd, 2014 coverage of Air Canada’s inconsistent viola policy received over 4000 social media shares, 200,000 page views and 33,000 Facebook likes –leading to the airline promptly readdressing their stance.

The Violin Channel’s February 3rd, 2016 coverage of Norwegian Air’s instrument cabin policy received over 5000 social media shares, 360,000 page views and 40,000 Facebook likes – leading to the airline also promptly readdressing their stance.

SLPC progress

NEC Construction News - Thu, 2016-06-09 11:03

A little Beethoven with your coffee?

Tumblr - Tue, 2016-06-07 08:45

A little Beethoven with your coffee?

The Magic of Music

NEC @ Huff Post - Fri, 2016-06-03 12:19
New England Conservatory

The Magic of Music

NEC @ Huff Post - Fri, 2016-06-03 12:19
We know the power of artistic expression, and we know that music is essential to life, growth and our well-being, but do we really know how to share this gift of music? New England Conservatory

There’s something lovely about cool, gray, summer...

Tumblr - Fri, 2016-06-03 08:23

There’s something lovely about cool, gray, summer mornings…

Musical Storytelling

Tumblr - Thu, 2016-06-02 15:20

This year we will feature four outstanding CPP individuals and ensembles, from our fellowship program! We are thrilled to share the reflections and stories of students that are so passionate about their work in the Boston Community. Next are Taylor Blanton and Shishi Zhou from our Musical Storytelling Fellowship!

Why did you decide to get involved in CPP?

I knew that music has a lot to do with community and I knew that NEC does a lot with [the community]. Once I made a friendship with some of my classmates I said “why don’t we bring this to a wider audience” and the CPP audience was a great resource to help us.

Why did you decide to do musical storytelling?

I always wanted to get into the storytelling part of music making. It just naturally happened to be very interesting to me. I was aware that there was a musical storytelling fellowship…and it tapped into my interests directly.

What have you learned from this particular program and what have you taken away from it?

My case is a little bit different than some others I know. Many people have a story they want to work, but I came from the opposite direction. I had [a piece] I really wanted to bring to more people because it’s a Chinese composition. My challenge was finding a story that fit to the music and a plot that was interesting for the kids, as well as people who aren’t familiar with the culture and music. To make this come across really does take a lot of extra effort, which Tanya [Maggi] helped me with.

Do you have any favorite moments from a CPP performance

One moment was when I taught a group of kids and they sung the tune back to me and they sounded so amazing that I was moved [to] tears. [Another] moment was when I really felt “ok, this program is effective” and I was really happy that I was achieving a goal and I was having the kids learn.

Any thoughts or reflections you’d like to share for someone who is thinking about doing CPP?

I would definitely recommend it, it is a great practice and learning experience to get out of the box of playing our instruments. I think doing outreach you build a real relationship with people!


Why did you decide to get involved in CPP?

I originally wanted to do the teaching [fellowship] but it’s very difficult to find Trombone players. [Instead], Tanya [Maggi] thought I would be great with musical storytelling. I was thinking I wanted to teach and make money, then she suggested musical storytelling and it has presented the world of community engagement to me, and really opened my eyes up to arts education.

Why do you like the musical storytelling fellowship, and why do you keep coming back?

I love being able to educate children who, a lot of the time, have no music program in their school. It is a great creative outlook for me especially as I am an intern with the BSO right now for their community engagement and arts education department. This is a field I want to go into and CPP presented that to me. I really love getting to present art to people for the first time, and get them interested in it. I think doing that through musical storytelling is a great way because it engages children with something they are familiar with and then something that they are less familiar with.

What have you learned from the program and what have you taken away from it?

When you’re a music student you just learn how to play, you don’t learn how to interact with your audiences. This has helped me to program, and entering the world of community education has helped me see what programs are out there. I love getting to teach these kids and it’s a really fun experience for me.

Do you have a favorite story from a CPP performance?

Oh yes! I did a program last year at one of the public libraries. My program was about a cow that dances around the world, and there’s a little bongo part when the cow is trying to learn how to lead the herd. We have this little bongo rhythm and we teach it to the children so when we get to that portion of the book they can do it with us. At the end we say “if you want to come up and touch the bongo come on”, so there was this girl there who was with her grandmother, and she had just gotten cochlear implants. That was such a special moment because at the end of the program she came up and did the rhythm and I thought that was really really really cool. That was a standout moment for me, that I could have that impact on a child especially one who had just learned how to hear.

Any thoughts or reflections you’d like to share with anyone who is thinking about getting involved in CPP?

I think that there is so much variety in the CPP program that anyone can do it. If you are apprehensive about it, because of time, I feel for the amount that I’ve put into it I’ve gained so much more back. I think that not only can we teach people but we can learn a lot so it’s really important that if people are interested they should definitely do it. There is something for everybody!

''You Are Young Father William,' the Old Man Said........."

Huffington College - Thu, 2016-06-02 11:52
Tony Woodcock

''You Are Young Father William,' the Old Man Said........."

Huffington College - Thu, 2016-06-02 11:52
Tony Woodcock

Some Hassles of International Cello Travel

Cello Bello Blog - Thu, 2016-06-02 00:51

By Zachary Mowitz:

Curtis Institute cello student Zachary Mowitz tells the story of his recent travel to Europe, and the stress and aggravation caused by inconsistent cello policies between airlines, and untrained and uninformed airline personnel.

As a student cellist I’ve had several occasions to travel by plane with my cello, both domestically and internationally. This is the first journey where I’ve had any difficulty at all– every time I’ve traveled before, I’ve always been let on (I even traveled to Europe with Lufthansa a couple years ago, and they were one of the most helpful back then), with at most a look of incredulity at my bringing a big guitar on board.

In fact, everything looked all right, at first, for this flight. Lufthansa let me check in (at Philly for a flight to Valencia, Spain, with a layover in Frankfurt) without any real difficulty. It wasn’t until we reached our gate that the same woman who had checked us in met us to inform me that I could not be let on board because the cello ticket was not “associated”; correctly and consequently was not registered as having been paid for. After about two hours of calling everybody we could think of– all of which amounted to our travel agents saying the tickets were definitely paid for and booked correctly while the gate agent kept insisting it wasn’t associated correctly, without explaining what that meant– the gates were shut and our tour manager and I were left to find a new flight (the rest of our group continued without us).

We were lucky enough to find a flight through United just a couple hours later, with a connection in London through British Airways. Their employees were among the most helpful I’ve ever encountered. In London, however, the ticket again wasn’t showing up correctly, but after about 20 minutes, they fixed the booking and explained that every airline has a different policy for these things. We ended up arriving in Barcelona, driving down Spain’s stunning Mediterranean for four hours to arrive in Valencia about 23 hours after we first showed up at the Philly airport. When we flew out about a week later from Valencia to Berlin with Swiss Air, we ran into yet another issue, which was that my cello’s ticket was not showing up at all. The clerk said that it must have been cancelled because we didn’t get on our initial flight in the itinerary for the tour (although my personal ticket and the tour manager’s ticket were just fine). We rebooked all three tickets (mine, my cello, and the tour manager’s) and ran into the same problem, which they couldn’t explain, so we just proceeded to the gate hoping that there would be an extra seat and the flight attendants would be accommodating. Everything turned out fine and we learned during our layover in Zurich that the additional seat did not show up because Swiss Air’s policy was to book one ticket and then have an extra seat with no name. The clerk there knew this instantly, whereas nobody ever figured this out in Valencia.

What I took away from all this is that, as they said in London, it’s different for every airline– but not just every airline, every airport. The policy is there and seems pretty clear for every airline, but not all clerks at every airport are trained well enough to find it. Valencia is a relatively small airport, so they probably don’t run into as many cellists as Zurich or London. Philly is not small, but as one of the Lufthansa employees very earnestly told us as we were figuring out our new ticket with United, their airline has relatively few flights out of Philly and this likely contributed to the problem.

Born and raised in Princeton, NJ, Cellist Zachary Mowitz currently studies at the Curtis Institute with Carter Brey and Peter Wiley.  Previously he worked with Lynne Beiler, Efe Baltacigil, Dane Johansen and Priscilla Lee. Zachary has performed as a soloist with several orchestras in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and has attended summer programs at Kneisel Hall in Blue Hill and Taos School of Music, where he co-founded the St. Bernard Trio.  He served as Principal Cello of the Curtis Symphony Orchestra and was featured in Curtis on Tour in Spain and Germany during the Spring of 2016. Zachary plays on a cello generously loaned to him by the Carlsen Cello Foundation.

Good morning!

Tumblr - Wed, 2016-06-01 09:50

Good morning!