Throughout her career, Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie has been an intrepid trailblazer. She is the most well-known percussionist in the world and the first person in musical history to create a career as a full-time percussionist (a field traditionally dominated by men). At recent count, over 170 percussion works have been written for her, she was the first to perform a percussion concerto at the BBC Proms Concerts, and she led an ensemble of 1000 drummers at the Opening Ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympic Games. She has been the recipient of numerous awards and prizes, including 3 Grammy Awards, and she was named a Dame of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth in 2007. But perhaps the most important trailblazing she has done is as a role model for countless numbers of musicians with disabilities because, as you are no doubt aware, Glennie has been profoundly deaf since the age of 12. (Click on the photo above to hear her in a short percussion montage, and if you are wondering, the first instrument you will see and hear is a waterphone.) Continue reading
I saw the film Florence Foster Jenkins a few days ago and haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. I’ve known about Florence since I was a student. She was the stuff of legend, known as the world’s worst singer – with no sense of pitch, no vibrato, frequent register breaks, glottal stops, and unintelligible diction. Certainly good for a laugh on late nights over a beer when someone had access to an old recording. (Actually, I don’t think her recordings have ever been totally out of print; there have always been reissues of various kinds.)
The film, starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant, with Simon Helberg as the pianist, is based on the true story of Jenkins, a 1940s New York socialite and generous patron of the arts. Florence desperately wanted to perform the music that she felt so passionate about. And perform she did – with all her deluded fantasies about her abilities. As I watched the film, I felt tugged in two directions: one part of me wanted to laugh at how terrible she sounds, and yet, her joy in performing, her belief in herself, her charm and her clear love of the music made me admire her and realize just how deep her passion for music was. Continue reading
There is a beautiful 9-mile trail that runs between the town I live in and a nearby town. The trail is constructed from a former rail bed and is extremely popular with walkers, joggers, and bicyclists. It’s an idyllic place for an early morning walk, and I try to walk some portion of it several times a week. We all exercise for a variety of reasons: to get out and enjoy nature; to burn calories in order to lose weight; to spend social time with friends; to keep ourselves healthy. But now, as musicians, we have another reason to exercise – it actually improves memory. Continue reading
Today is Make Music Day! Last year there were celebrations in over 700 cities worldwide. This year – who knows! It all began in France in 1982 as Fête de la Musique. Jack Lang, the French Minister of Culture, had discovered that one out of two French children played a musical instrument, and he thought that having an all-day musical celebration on the day of the summer solstice would be a wonderful way to bring people out on the streets to make music. Continue reading
As musicians, we often talk about connections: connecting emotionally with certain pieces of music; connecting (or sometimes not) with the audience; connecting with one another when we perform together; and about connections, or networks, within our profession. And on this blog site I have often written about music and brain connections.
So I was delighted to be invited to give a presentation this past October at the 37th conference of the European Piano Teachers Association (EPTA). The conference theme was Key Connections, and it was hosted by EPTA Netherlands and held at the Amsterdam Conservatory, which as you can see in the photo, is housed in a beautiful new building (opened in 2008). Continue reading
Something different for this blog – a post to be listened to, not read. On March 11, I presented a webinar for the College Music Society titled A Musician’s Guide to the Brain: What We Need to Know and Why. This was the second in a series of webinars hosted by the CMS Committee on Musicians’ Health. If you click on the link embedded in the title, you can watch the archived version of the webinar. The archived quality isn’t quite up to the excellent streaming quality of the original, but the content is all there. Continue reading