Category Archives: Music

Afghan Girls Orchestra, for #WATWB

WATWIC-Bright-TuqBlkIt’s time for this month’s We are the World Blogfest (#WATWB)! In a world where news and social media are awash with negativity, we aim to turn the focus on to small but significant stories that renew our faith in humanity.

My article for this month is about Zohra, an all-female orchestra from Afghanistan. Named for a Persian music goddess, the orchestra toured the world earlier in the year, starting at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The musicians are all very young, most not out of their teens. And many of them are the first in their families, or even in their entire provinces, to play an instrument.

I was touched especially by the story of the 18-year-old conductor, who played the viola when she was an instrumentalist. Her uncle was initially against her playing in the orchestra, but he eventually grew to be proud of her.

“I’m happy that at least I changed my family,” she said, adding, her fellow musicians, too, “are going to change their families and when their families are going to change, you can have a society which is changed.”

Sign up to join us and be visited on the last weekend of the month when you post your article.  Click here to enter your link on this Linky Tools list! This month’s #WATWB co-hosts are: Simon FalkRoshan RadhakrishnanInderpreet Uppal, Sylvia Stein, and Damyanti Biswas. Please stop by and say hello!

The Bicycling Violinist

We are the World LogoIt’s already the last Friday of the month, time for the We are the World Blogfest! The #WATWB seeks to infuse social media with good news. This month’s hosts are Emerald BarnesEric Lahti, Inderpreet UppalLynn HallbrooksPeter Nena, and Roshan Radhakrishnan. Please stop by and say hello!    Continue reading The Bicycling Violinist

Merry Pranks: Becoming a Violist

Although I’ve been playing the viola for quite a while, and have previously blogged about it, there are stages to becoming a violist. I picked up the instrument as an adult after a long break from music, thinking that I might have an smoother re-entry into the stringed-instrument-playing world as a violist than a violinist.  Continue reading Merry Pranks: Becoming a Violist

Holocaust Education: The Missing Piece

On the last Friday of the month, I am participating in the We Are the World Blogfest (#WATWB), in which we share a hopeful or peaceful story about humanity.

This month, I’m sharing this story, Holocaust Education: The Missing Piece, about the work of my new friend and sometime music partner, Dr. Margareta (Maya) Ackerman. I met her in the context of music at church. She sings, I play the violin, and we have performed together in services a couple of times. We’re getting together later today, in fact, to prepare for this Sunday’s service, called Faith and Hope after the Holocaust. We will be performing two Emily Dickinson poems set to music. Continue reading Holocaust Education: The Missing Piece

Thursday Doors: HP Garage

I play chamber music with a couple of different groups. One of them, whom I met through my daughter’s viola teacher last year, meets in one or the other of two nice historic houses in Palo Alto (either the violist’s or the cellist’s place). Google Maps informed me that this area of Palo Alto is also known as “Professorville,” and indeed both of them and/or their spouses have some connection to Stanford.  Continue reading Thursday Doors: HP Garage

It’s All about Presence: A Conversation with Val Vigoda

I published this interview with rock violinist and singer/songwriter Val Vigoda 1 year ago. This past weekend her show, “Ernest Shackleton Loves Me,” opened Off-Broadway at Second Stage’s Tony Kiser Theatre. For tickets and more information, visit ernestshackletonlovesme.com. In the interview, Val talks in detail about how the show was conceived and created. Read it on violinist.com, below.

A Thousand Finds

Valerie_Brendan_0136Val Vigoda is an electric violinist, singer/songwriter, and founder of the musical trio GrooveLily. She has toured the world with Cyndi Lauper, Joe Jackson and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Val has also co-written, with Brendan Milburn, songs for Disney’s Tinker Bell movies as well as the score for the stage musicals Striking 12, Sleeping Beauty Wakes, Toy Story: The Musical, and many others, including Ernest Shackleton Loves Me, starring Val as Kat, a contemporary composer and single mom who meets and falls in love with the time-traveling explorer.

Val and I went to Princeton University together. We traveled in different circles then: I played the violin for two years in the University Orchestra, she was exploring the potential of the instrument when combined with singing in a rock band. After graduation I followed Val’s career over the years, reconnecting through her kickstarter campaign for her one-woman show, “Just…

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Book Review: The Winter Knife by Laramie Sasseville

The Winter Knife (Minnesota Strange Book 1)The Winter Knife by Laramie Sasseville

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good YA literature will stay with me long after I am finished with it, even as an adult. I would have been in the prime target audience for this book when I was a teenager, and I would have devoured it (pun intended). The story was a pleasant surprise on several levels. First, the author has a real gift for character and voice, especially with young teens. She manages to tell a fantastical story without talking down or condescending to her audience, while at the same time not going to any of the despairing, hopeless, or crazy places I feared she might be heading with the supernatural element.  Continue reading Book Review: The Winter Knife by Laramie Sasseville

Film Review: Rogue One, a Star Wars Story

I was going to post this review a couple weeks earlier, but the untimely death of Carrie Fisher, the actress who played Princess Leia, delayed my finishing it. Leia was barely in this installment, and much of the initial discussion of her cameo focused on the CGI. But even though I haven’t been a real Star Wars geek for many years, Fisher’s death hit me hard. Continue reading Film Review: Rogue One, a Star Wars Story

Mundane Monday: The Moldau

Orchestra rehearsals are starting up again in a little over a week. For this concert cycle, I will be playing two pieces I’ve played before, on violin: Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, and Smetana’s Ma Vlast, or The Moldau. But this time I’ll be playing them on the viola.

Continue reading Mundane Monday: The Moldau

Book Review: Violinist.com Interviews: Volume 1 by Laurie Niles

Violinist.com Interviews: Volume 1Violinist.com Interviews: Volume 1 by Laurie Niles

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book would make a wonderful gift for your violin teacher or orchestra stand partner. It’s like a box of fine chocolates: varied, rich, each one delicious in its own way. The author is a thoughtful interviewer who seems to be able to relate well to the famous violinists she talks to and to get them to open up to her about a myriad of topics. Her subjects are all violinists at the top of their game, and the author deserves kudos for choosing a diverse group of interviewees in terms of musical interests, age, gender, and background. Each interview is reasonably short, too, so it’s easy to dip in and out.

Continue reading Book Review: Violinist.com Interviews: Volume 1 by Laurie Niles