Saturday, September 26, 2009

Peabody '09-'10: Weeks Three and Four

Whew! We definitely win the prize for Hardest Working Bass Program in the Biz for the last 7-10 days of frenetic activity. It's been quite a show - hard to know where to begin.

That's not true actually - it's pretty easy to know where to begin. Hal Robinson's first visit to Peabody in his new capacity as Artist in Residence was a complete and total success. He brought so much to his day here that no one of us was able to keep up with him; I was definitely more tired than he was by the end of the day... As planned, he first gave us a fantastic talk on his core approaches to both sitting and standing with the bass, demonstrated the advantages and disadvantages of each, and also covered some of the key features of how he set up his instruments for maximum effectiveness and efficiency. I found this part of the day the most satisfying. It's pretty rare that you get to hear someone like Hal hold forth at length on how they do what they do!

The afternoon of group lessons seemed pretty successful for most students. Over the next few weeks we will be looking at this format and working on how to make it more effective for everyone. One of the key issues is whether folks get more out of having a small block of one-on-one time with Hal every time he visits, or whether they would get more out of a longer block of time to work with him, even if it means not working with him every time he visits. We also need to experiment with having students of similar ability levels working together, versus having a more diverse group working with Hal.

The final master class in Griswold Hall was a big hit - we had over 50 people in attendance from outside the bass department. Everybody played fantastically well, and Hal brought great insights as usual.

This first class had a "get acquainted" quality to it; now that everyone has met and played for Hal, in future classes and lessons we can move into more in-depth work and build on our great start from last Sunday.

But wait: there's more! Hal's day was only part one of a 60-hour marathon of bass activities. On Monday, we had our usual orchestral rep class on Mozart's 35th Symphony. This was the first class taught by our new rep class faculty member, Ira Gold. Ira is a colleague of mine in the National Symphony, and is a great player and talented young teacher. He's bringing great insights to rep class, many of which come from his studies at Rice University and Boston University; others come from his own explorations of playing and teaching. He maintains his own private studio and also is on the faculty at Catholic University in Washington. We're glad he's on board and we'll probably see him here at PBDB in the near future.

Bassapalooza '09 concluded with another young rising star of the bass: Ranaan Meyer of the group Time for Three. Ranaan is a truly unique figure in the bass world right now - a graduate of Curtis, trained in all the traditions of classical playing, as well as being an accomplished jazz musician, he has begun a career with TF3 dedicated to bringing together all of these musical styles into one seamless whole, along with some bluegrass, country and rock for good measure. It turns out that he also gives a good bass masterclass, as Peabody bass students and I discovered! He helped all of us to refocus our work on the essentials: having fun and making great music all the time, especially when it's tempting to settle for less. We thank him and look forward to seeing him again in the near future....

Well, that's it, folks; just another week of great stuff here at Peab. I'm already tired but I need to get some coffee and get back to work - we've got solo classes, recitals, and more Hal coming up all too soon!

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