Violinists (and husband and wife) Nathan Cole and Akiko Tarumoto give you an inside look at performing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Each week brings new repertoire, conductors, soloists... and new stories from their life-long love affair with classical music, the violin, and their family.
039: Summer motivation, plus Q & A
We took quite a long break from recording the show with everything going on at the moment, but we are so glad to be back. To kick things off again we thought we would use this episode to go through a bit of what we have been up to, staying home with the LA Phil out of action, some of the work and practicing we have been doing and then to field a bunch of listener questions.
We look back at the last few days of regular work before quarantine began and then talk a bit about how we adjusted our schedules after things completely stopped. Nathan talks about his Violympics group, Akiko shares some of her dreams of home fitness and we explain the home recording process we have been working on.
This unusual period presents a somewhat useful possibility to musicians; we all have areas of our playing that we wish we could improve and spend more time developing — and this could be the time to do it.
After the complete rundown of our work-from-home life, we get into answering questions on quieting inner critics and protecting the joy of playing, practical concerns of changing strings and re-hairing bows!
Key Points From This Episode:
* The last days of work and the changes in our schedules since the pandemic began. * Shifting plans and changing the focus of our practice for time at home. * The video recording we did and the insecurities that arise in watching yourself. * Unusual repertoires and more practice time in the work from home world. * The 'Violympics' and the questions that came from the group. * Staying motivated and practicing during this time with the LA Phil on hiatus. * Considering the plight of young musicians finishing music school right now. * Investing in different skills and upping your game during this downtime. * Personal qualities that lend themselves to a successful career in an orchestra. * Tips for quieting the inner critic when performing or recording. * Separating and protecting the joy of playing from the need to do it for a living. * The importance of friendships and connection within a job in an orchestra. * Changing strings, re-hairing bows, off the string strokes and more.* Divisions for practicing a new piece and ways to focus on tricky passages.
“I think it is scary to think of coming back together. I think we’ve all changed. I think it’s going to be such a substantial amount of time that we all would have changed in a lot of ways.” — Akiko Tarumoto [0:24:20]
“Our whole lives I think so much of our self-worth is wrapped up in how we play. I don’t know that that’s healthy or right, but it’s inescapable.” — Nathan Cole [0:25:10]
“It is reassuring to know that orchestra or no orchestra, we’re still musicians.” — Akiko Tarumoto [0:25:25]
[00:00:00] NC: Hi and welcome back to Stand Partners for Life. I’m Nathan Cole.
[00:00:05] AT: I’m Akiko Tarumoto.
[00:00:19] NC: And last time we came at you, the world was a very different place. Needless to say, we’ve taken quite a long break, but we’re happy to be back talking with each other and talking to you. Yeah, even though things have changed quite a bit. We were just trying to come up with what our last episode had been and we were talking conductors.
038: Do we really need a conductor?
Here at Stand Partner HQ, we get this question a lot! And that should tell you something without even knowing the answer. Nobody asks what a pilot does, or if we really need one for our airplanes. But the conductor's role isn't nearly so obvious, to our audiences and even, at times, to us!
Do we really need someone up front "driving the train"? Do a conductor's responsibilities begin and end with a downbeat and a final cutoff?
* Akiko's forthcoming appearance on the Every Little Thing podcast* Audience fixation on the conductor as the focal point of an orchestra* The job of the conductor during rehearsal and performance* Giving instruction vs. providing a "guiding current"* Examples of time wasting, directionless rehearsal* Examples of showing appreciation for the work of the players; giving credit where it's due* Petty retaliation: talking in rehearsals and other signs of discontent* Setting aside grudges for the concert and putting the music ahead of everything else* Do musicians always agree who's a great conductor?* How to balance exerting control and letting go of it* The "dreaded hand": play quieter!* Components of a perfect conductor; designing the Robo-conductor!
Every Little Thing Podcast
Full Metal Jacket
[00:00:01] NC: Hi and welcome back to Stand Partners for Life. I’m Nathan Cole.
[00:00:04] AT: I am Akiko Tarumoto.
[00:00:18] NC: And today we are talking about conductors and not just because we see a conductor all the time at work, see many conductors. There’s actually a special reason, that’s because you are going to be a featured guest on another podcast.
[00:00:33] AT: Yeah.
[00:00:33] NC: I couldn’t be more proud. It’s like a spinoff of Stand Partners. It’s great. We got a call from the show Every Little Thing, which is a Gimlet Media show. They answer or try to answer questions that you can’t find out just by Googling. Their recent example was how to police sketch artists really. Can they really come up with a picture that’s so close to the person you’re thinking of and they went through it. It was really fascinating, and all the episodes come from listener questions. It’s actually a great idea for this show.
[00:01:13] AT: It’s true. Should steal that.
[00:01:16] NC: I know. I think I might. They actually play the call – If someone calls in and leaves a message, it’s very 90s. You have to leave a message on the machine. In this case, someone was calling up to say if, "I were ever the victim of a crime, I would be the worst witness. There was no way the police could ever pick up the person because I wouldn’t be able to describe to a sketch artist anybody’s face. I’m the worst and I really don’t believe the sketch artist could help me. Do they really work?"
They actually found a sketch artist. So that was the expert on the call and they had this person describe ...
037: Orchestra Players Anonymous
Twelve-step programs have helped millions of people, including some of our colleagues. But their constant references to a "higher power" rub some people the wrong way.
As orchestral musicians, we only know one "higher power": the conductor, who rules every aspect of our musical lives! Here are some slightly rewritten twelve steps toward embracing musical anonymity in the orchestra of your choice.
The Twelve Orchestral Steps
* Admit you are powerless over your musical decisions and life has become unmanageable.* Surrender those decisions to a higher power to reclaim musical sanity.* Turn your musical life over to that higher power (the conductor).* Make a searching and fearless inventory of your audition self.* Admit the nature of your wrongs to yourself and a practice buddy.* Be ready to have the conductor remove your defects of character.* Actually ask the conductor to humbly remove those defects.* Make a list of colleagues you have musically harmed, and seek to make amends.* Make direct amends to these colleagues, especially if you must sit near them.* Continue taking inventory and promptly admit wrong accidentals.* Through meditation and score study, improve conscious contact with the conductor.* After your musical awakening, carry this message to other musicians in the orchestra.
“If you join an orchestra, you’re just a shareholder, but you’re still receiving dividends.” — Akiko Tarumoto [0:08:47]
“Getting a job is truth time.” — Akiko Tarumoto [0:11:12]
“There is that hope that joining this group, it’s like there’s a power greater than yourself. There’s power in experience.” — @natesviolin [0:17:57]
“It’s okay to be wrong a lot as long you admit it.” — @natesviolin [0:24:20]
“You could follow these steps and actually be a great orchestral player.” — @natesviolin [0:27:46]
“There’s just no way around the anonymity being an orchestral player, but there are positive things about being in an orchestra nevertheless.” — Akiko Tarumoto [0:27:52]
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
* Colburn* Sir Laurence Olivier* LA Phil* Chris Still
[00:00:00] NC: Hello and welcome back to Stand Partners for Life. This is Orchestra Players Anonymous. I’m Nathan Cole.
[00:00:08] AT: We’re supposed to be anonymous.
[00:00:10] NC: Oh! I already broke the rule. All right.
[00:00:27] NC: Well, I have to figure you already know who we are. That’s Akiko Tarumoto over there. Welcome back. If you haven’t seen the website in a little while, head on over to standpartnersforlife.com. We got a bit of a new look and as it befits the new year, 2020 episodes of Stand Partners for Life. There you can make sure you’re subscribed on iTunes, on Google Podcasts, however you get your podcasts.
Today we are talking about the anonymous nature of orchestra playing, and this actually came up recently. I teach the violin orchestral rep class at Colburn now, and I got a really good question just today actually.
[00:01:10] AT: What was that question?
[00:01:13] NC: That’s for that prompt. They asked, they said, “Well, we have a friend,” who that’s always kind of a tipoff, but they said,
036 – Johnny Lee wasn’t meant to be a Harvard MD
Violinist Johnny Lee is Akiko's mirror image on stage at Disney Hall: he sits fourth chair second violin, while she's fourth chair first violin.
But they have something else in common too. Both went to Harvard, where there is no music performance major. Akiko thought she'd be a lawyer, Johnny a doctor (or was he just pretending?), but they both found their way back to the violin by the time they graduated.
The Stand Partners have logged thousands of hours of "unofficial" conversation with Johnny, so we're excited to present him on the podcast. Here's Johnny's path to the LA Phil and beyond!
[00:00:00] NC: Hi and welcome back to Stand Partners for Life. I’m Nathan Cole.
[00:00:04] AT: I’m Akiko Tarumoto.
[00:00:18] NC: And we are thrilled to be here with our great friend on we’ve been trying to get on this podcast actually ever since we started this show. Good friend Johnny Lee, violinist with us in the LA Phil. Frequent hanger outer here at the Cole-Tarumoto residence. You’ve got a heavy dose of the kids tonight. You got to experience dinner, TV watching time, bedtime.
[00:00:43] AT: You missed violin practice time though. Lucky you.
[00:00:47] JL: I have my wine. So it’s fine.
[00:00:49] AT: That’s actually how we got you here. We bribed you with food and drink.
[00:00:51] NC: That’s true. Johnny showed up wearing his Stand Partners for Life t-shirt, which made all of us happy, especially Hannah noticed it right away. If you too would like a snazzy Stand Partners for Life t-shift, go to standpartnersforlife.com/shirts. That’s shirt, plural, and guys and gals designs. But thank you so much for being here, Johnny.
[00:01:12] AT: Yay!
[00:01:13] NC: Yay! There are a few reasons to get you here. One, we talk about the orchestra all the time, and LA Phil life all the time. But in addition to that, you and Akiko have some real similarities, I guess besides the fact that Akiko is 4th chair first violin. Johnny, 4th chair second violin.
[00:01:34] AT: He’s my mirror.
[00:01:34] NC: That’s right. We do since first and second, mostly sit across the stage from each other. Here in L.A. Not Akiko’s favorite setup at the moment.
[00:01:44] AT: I think everybody is tired hearing my opinion on where the violin should sit.
[00:01:49] NC: But you do get to mirror each other across the stage quite often. The bigger similarity is that you both went to the same school for undergrad and you actually overlapped.
[00:01:58] AT: We went to school in Boston.
[00:02:00] JL: Cambridge.
[00:02:02] NC: They went to Harvard. I get to hear about it a lot. No! You guys are good about it. Actually, tonight I really do want to hear about it in quite some detail. But, yeah, neither of you went to conservatory for undergrad. So that’s something that I know a lot of. You guys out there have asked about just the difference between going to conservatory, not going to conservatory, at least for undergrad. Yeah, the different paths that people take to get to the LA Phil.
Johnny, if you would back us up from Harvard, from Cambridge, and tell us a little bit about where you’re from, how you got started on the instrument and all that, and then we’ll get to get to school days.
[00:02:41] JL: Yeah. I mean, I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. So I was at the Cleveland Institute of Music for prepschool – Not prepschoo...
035: Playing by numbers, or Advanced Orchestra Stats
How many times have you been jealous of the box scores for baseball and basketball, or the advanced statistics for football? Don't you wish that you too could be measured by notes attempted, notes played in tune, entrances successfully counted?
If we got our wish, orchestra concerts would have their own advanced metrics! Here are the stats (and penalties) we'd like to see.
034: The spirit is willing, but the Flesch is weak
This week, we're talking scales and etudes. Are they the foundational blocks on which your entire technique is built? Or more like raw vegetables that you have to choke down if you want to stay healthy?
Akiko actually had a scale class as a kid, while I got a crash course in scales from my Curtis teacher Felix Galimir (who had studied with Carl Flesch himself).
Etudes were a different story. Both of us went through a progression of Sevcik, Schradieck, Kretuzer, Dont, and all the rest. But back then, we just played without knowing why. These days, we like to know the point of an etude before we dive in: the key that unlocks each etude's benefit.
Developing my Virtuoso Master Course has given me a chance to reevaluate my relationship with the classics, but I wanted Akiko's take on the topic as well. Enjoy a roll in the hay of fundamental violin techniques!
* Akiko recounts her distaste for practicing scales at Juilliard* Scales: more like meditation or workout?* Akiko's time at Juilliard pre-college with Ševčík, Schradieck, Kreutzer, Paganini and Yost* Why Akiko stopped practicing scales after a Paganini concerto got her down* Scales and etudes as prep for challenging pieces* Nathan's first scale, at the end of Suzuki studies* How Ivan Galamian adjusted a three-octave scale to give it 24 notes* Akiko's scale class* Nathan and Akiko's take on Simon Fischer’s Warming Up* The times in life to discover etudes (i.e. bachelor freedom)* Thirds for 20 minutes a day, thanks to Ruggiero Ricci* Nathan's first lesson with Felix Galimir, and the four-hour-a-day scale workout* Every etude has a key to unlock its benefit* How to practice scales so they lead to confident performance* Akiko’s feeling of impending violinistic disaster, as inThe Godfather.
“I feel like the goal for the Delay students was to get to Paganini ASAP.” — @Akiko Tarumoto [0:10:31]
“I think that’s the real argument for learning skills in scales and etudes, so that when you get to them in in the repertoire, you feel like you can say, ‘I’ve got this.’” — @natesviolin [0:14:43]
“Opening up an etude book, trying to play one and just – whether your reaction is just stopping and closing it or breaking down crying, it is actually a pretty common thing.” — @natesviolin [0:26:56]
“Great strides are made when there is not a lot else going on.” — @Akiko Tarumoto [0:29:17]
“it wasn’t like I was sitting here watching TV and you came up to me and you said, ‘You need to work on your arpeggios.’” — @Akiko Tarumoto [0:47:04]
Links from the episode
Juilliard Pre-CollegeAspen FestivalThe Virtuoso Master CourseKreutzer SonataHenry SchradieckOtakar ŠevčíkNicolò PaganiniFranz WohlfahrtJacques Féréol MazasGaylord Yosta href="https://www.curtis.
Such a great window into life in classical music
I love this podcast. They have a wonderful chemistry and unique insight into life in a major orchestra, told with characteristic charm and intelligence. Really enjoying this podcast and keep them coming!
I love listening to these while I'm at work, thank you for making them!
I wanted to see if you could make an episode on how to practice? As a violinist/violist I started a little late and never got a good understanding on how to practice. (As in what scales would help me the most to practice? And what songs should I be working on?)
Great Behind the Scenes
Just finished listening to the first 5 episodes––awesome podcast. The hosts are articulate, humorous, and share a brilliant chemistry. If you play an instrument, take auditions, or want to see behind the scenes of a world class orchestra, add SPFL to your playlist.
Would love to hear an episode about your favorite concert halls and/or touring stories.
Can't wait to hear more! AAA