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Your Answers to the September Question of the Month!

Welcome to this Credite Voices entry! Each month, we will ask a question and publish the responses we receive from Credo students, alumni, faculty, parents and extended community. We hope you enjoy these varied responses as much as we did.

In September, we asked….

What is your earliest musical memory?

“My dad loves to tell the story of how I was absolutely enraptured by Beethoven’s 6th Symphony at age 3. I sat on his lap while we listened through the symphony, and he explained the programme to me—the beautiful sunny day, the people gathering for a celebration, a violent thunderstorm rudely interrupting, and the people coming back together after the storm had subsided. It made a profound impression on me then, and it’s still my very favorite symphony ever. Who says small children can’t pay attention to one thing for a long time?”

-Tim Crouch, Credo ‘11-’14

“My preschool hosted an outdoor concert by local folk singer Sarah Pirtle.
Normally a very reserved child, I danced in front of the stage. By myself.”

-Jessica Corwin, friend of Credo and Blog contributor

“Practicing while my parakeet was sitting on top of my viola.
Sometimes he would even perch on the tip of my bow.”

-Claire Peyrebrune, Credo ‘13, ‘14

“Hearing my mom sing “You Are My Sunshine” while I was going to sleep.”

-Helen Peyrebrune, Credo ‘09

“Sitting on the floor in front of the record player listening to Julia Child and the Boston Pops play Tubby the Tuba. I’m sure that I wore that record out before I was old enough to go to school.”… Click Here

#MakeItYours

How are you contributing to global sustainability? This is a question the Fry Street Quartet (2-year Credo quartet-in-residence) is helping people answer through its #MakeItYours campaign, a “social media movement created to encourage each of us to take ownership in working toward a more sustainable world.” … Click Here

Why You Should Love Practicing Scales

When I was a student, I mildly enjoyed practicing scales. Compared to learning new repertoire with seemingly nebulous expressive and stylistic components, the process for practicing scales was clear. Straightforward. I could do it, check a box on my to-do list and feel that I had accomplished something.

It has taken me much longer to appreciate all that I got from those years of scale practice– and what more I could have taken away had I mentally engaged in a different way. Now that I’m a teacher, it is important to me that my students always have a sense of purpose for their practicing, whether I set their goals or they set their own. This not only facilitates more productive practice, it can make practicing more manageable and gratifying. Knowing why they have been told to practice something makes it infinitely easier to set these goals, so I always bring the topic up for discussion.

Here are some of the reasons to practice scales, in roughly ascending order of importance. The examples are specific to strings, but the principles can apply to any musician.

Scales appear in music. They may as well be at your fingertips, literally.

To learn key signatures. Well, you learn them in theory class too, but playing them is a different way of knowing them, and arguably more important.

To train your ear to hear a key. For developing musicians, scales are a great way to learn to focus your auditory picture around the tonic, or home note.… Click Here

A Break from Stress

Now that’s school’s in mid-semester full swing here in Oberlin, it’s easy for students to feel like that the work is endless: classes lead to homework, homework leads to quizzes, quizzes to tests, and before you know it, tests become midterms.

Let’s make sure that with all the craziness of school, work, and extracurricular activities, we give ourselves a chance to remember that music is about joy and communication.

—PsloClick Here

Last-Minute Holiday Gifts for the Musician!

We’re right in the middle of the holiday season and it’s Christmas Eve! If you’re anything like me, you’re still running around trying to find last-minute gifts. Shopping for friends is particularly difficult because I want to get something for everyone, but my holiday budget will not let me splurge on a new set of strings for every cellist I know. So, what do you do when you’re strapped for cash, but loaded with a friends list that’s a mile long?   For musicians, try combining thoughtfulness and practicality with this list of stocking stuffer type gifts.

VOCALISTS

Cough Drops: Yes, there are SO many brands out there, but here are a few that seem to work well for vocalists.

  • Fisherman’s Friends Cough Drops
  • Luden’s Throat Drops Wild Cherry
  • Ricola Original Cough Drops
  • Thayers Original Slippery Elm Lozenges

Tea: Who doesn’t love tea??  It’s warm, smooth, healing powers are great for your soprano roommate. These brands/types are particularly helpful and soothing.

  • Throat Coat
  • ginger
  • chamomile

Honey: Winnie the Pooh hasn’t lost his voice yet.

Singer’s Saving Grace Throat Spray: Dry throat, begone!

BRASS PLAYERS

ChopSaver: Or as one friend put it, “ChopSaver!” This particular lip balm is designed specifically with brass and woodwind players in mind. If you’re debating between the regular or gold versions, go with the regular. It doesn’t contain sunscreen and is less greasy.

Al Cass Valve, Slide and Key Oil: A handy and standard lubricant.

Roche Thomas Mi-T Mist Mouthpiece Cleaner: Get a couple bottles for your brass buddy.… Click Here

Chalk Your Bow for Improved Control

This is a post for the strings players among us. One of the most valuable items in my teaching kit is a piece of chalk. I keep it carefully wrapped in plastic wrap to prevent chalk dust from getting in my case and instrument. Occasionally children will ask me what it is because they have only experienced dry-erase boards in their classrooms. (It makes me feel very old to explain to them that when I was a child, we learned from rubbing a messy powdery substance onto a giant piece of rock mounted on the classroom wall. I’m pretty sure that they imagine my childhood classroom was in a cave.)

The chalk is a useful tool for teaching and practicing bow management, especially control for smooth slurs. No, we don’t put chalk onto the hair like rosin. Here’s what you do once you have a piece of chalk: look carefully at the length of the bow hair. You may want to consider how much of the bow hair is actually playable, and ignore the bottom inch or two if your thumb position prevents you from playing in that area. Eyeball where the center of the playable bow hair is (I have my students do this so that they have control over what I do to their bows), then draw a chalk line around the stick of the bow directly above that spot. You’ve marked the functional center of the bow.

At this point, you’ve already set up a challenge. The challenge is to start at the frog and play a single note using exactly half of your bow.… Click Here

Your Answers to the October Question of the Month!

October’s Question of the Month drew some surprising answers! Read below to see how some of our community members chose their respective primary instruments (or had them chosen for them).

“Actually my viola teacher chose for me…”

-Claire Peyrebrune, Credo ’13 ’14

“As a very small-handed and small-fingered woman, I was probably more suited for a upper string instrument like the violin vs the cello. However, at the age of four, music had chosen me the same way God chose the cello for me. Too many upper strings in Waco’s Central Texas String Academy landed me as the the only female cellist and my life passion”

-Katie M, Prelude Gloria ’14

“I didn’t, my mom did.  But, it all worked out in the end.”

-Julia, Friend of Credo

“My mom chose the cello for me when I was three years old. Her cousin Jake plays the cello and she was always in awe of the gorgeous sound coming from his instrument. He inspired my mom to chose the cello for me. Before I was even born, she knew I would be a cellist. Her cousin Jake is now my private teacher! Cello is, and always will be, my passion.”

-Kendra, Credo Chicago ’14

Stay tuned next week for the November Question of the Month!… Click Here

Responding with the Service of Teaching

Since my graduation from Eastman in May, I’ve been doing a lot of teaching. I chose to pursue this area of work for a couple reasons: for one thing, it represents a much-needed means of stable employment, but for another, it also provides a unique learning experience. Having spent the past six years at two intensive conservatories, and several years before that as a young cello student, my transition from student to teacher has been both educational and rewarding. Although I’m nowhere near the level of experience as professionals like Credo’s venerated “P-Slo”, the couple years I have been teaching regularly have provided me with many invaluable insights, and so I thought it worthwhile to share a few of them here.

1. Lessons are NOT that big of a deal.

As a student, it’s very easy to consider every evaluation of your playing as some irrefutable judgement – but the truth is, most of the situations in which your playing is critiqued are not of the “make or break” variety. This may seem to be stating the obvious, but I knew some people in music school who treated every lesson like a performance – literally. They would dress nicely, get somewhat nervous, and walk into their teacher’s studio as if they were walking onstage at Carnegie Hall. (They would also proceed to take the next day off of practicing, since, after all, their recent “concert” had taken a lot out of them.) While it’s definitely admirable to be so prepared for lessons, from my point of view as a teacher, it really isn’t such a to-do.… Click Here

How Could You Not?

“Praise Him with stringed instruments.” Psalm 150:4 It turns out that Psalm 150 doesn’t specify PLAYING the stringed instruments in praise. You can use them to praise in any way you see fit… like worshipping inside of one such as the Yanbu Church, located in China!… Click Here