Summer Programs

Summer Programs

While it may be cold and snowy outside, we have entered the season of summer program applications! We get a lot of questions from parents about summer programs, including what we know or recommend or how to even begin the process of looking for programs. While everyone has different goals when conducting their search, we can give you an idea of how to begin:

What does their teacher recommend?

Your child’s teachers are a valuable resource. They know your child’s musical strengths, and will have a good idea of what programs might be appropriate. They will have suggestions based on your child’s ability, commitment, and interest.

Where do your children want to go?

Don’t forget to consult the person attending the program! Some may have no idea, but others will have something in mind. While their goals may not be realistic for one reason or another (or maybe they are, in which case, jackpot!), it will give you an idea of the type of experience they are looking for. You can frame your search with that in mind.

What kind of program are you looking for?

What is your goal? Programs are centered around different aspects of playing an instrument. For example, some focus exclusively on chamber music, individual practice, or orchestral playing. Others combine them. If the goal is to gain more orchestral experience, going to a chamber music or fiddle program will not serve this purpose. Want to try a new genre of music? An orchestral program focused on standard repertoire is not a likely candidate. Confine your search to what type of experience you are looking for.

What is your budget?

For some, this is the deciding factor. Work within what you and your family are comfortable spending. However, like applying for college, many programs offer scholarships or work/study arrangements, so don’t let price alone make your decision. Cast a wide net when possible and see what kinds of scholarships might be available to you.

Additional Considerations:

Length: Programs range anywhere from one week to eight. Some students can handle the longer sessions, while others are not ready for an eight weeks away from home. This is a personal decision based on your child and your family. Again, your child’s teacher is a great resource if you are not sure whether a longer or shorter session is a better fit.

Distance: How far away are you looking? A program may look amazing but be hundreds of miles or even an ocean away. Consider travel expenses in your budget as well as how comfortable your child is being a long way from home.

Age Range: This is very important. There are programs that cater to both small and wide age ranges. It may be possible to have a high school student in a group with college students, or middle with high school. This can be beneficial, but this is a personal choice. They may have the skills to keep up with someone considerably older, but they may not have the emotional maturity to thrive socially. You want to make sure that your child has a great experience both inside of rehearsal and out.

 

Applications are due soon, so make sure you check out the due dates and materials needed. While geared toward college hopefuls, our post on applying to music school has a lot of great tips that are also relevant to summer program applications.

You can find a list of programs in the US on our website here and a list of international programs here.

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Copyright © 2015 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

 

How to Rock Your College Audition

Congratulations, you have successfully applied to music school! Now, you just need to get through the auditions.

Easy, right?

We’ve already talked about how to prepare for an audition, but college auditions are a completely different beast. They come with added pressure, and you can expect to have a lot of them within a short span of time. While the tips in our previous post are invaluable, there are specific things you should keep in mind to set yourself up for success when it comes to college auditions:

Schedule everything from audition times to flights on a calendar. Leave enough time for travel, and note what repertoire you will be playing for each audition.

Secure your travel plans as soon as possible.  Make sure you factor in travel times and possible delays when deciding how to get to an audition. The last thing you’ll want to do the day of the audition is rush to get to the audition site.

-Since most auditions happen during the winter, keep an eye on the weather forecast. Winter can upset travel plans on very short notice, so if possible try to have a plan B. Have contact information for someone at the school who can help you if plans go awry at the last minute.

-If you are still in school, be it high school or undergrad, make sure you talk to your teachers and know your school’s absentee policy. Factor in missed classes and homework when scheduling if possible, and be prepared to be busy.

Have extras of any supplies you would be lost without, especially stringsFor some, this also means traveling with an extra bow. You won’t always be somewhere that has a local string instrument shop–don’t put yourself in a bind because you didn’t bring an extra A string.

Get your instrument checked over now. This will leave time to have any repairs completed as well as to break in anything new such as new strings or rehairs and set you up for success.

Have you done college auditions in the past? Leave a comment below to share your tips and tricks.

Take a deep breath, sleep when you can, and good luck to all preparing for college auditions!

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Copyright © 2015 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Applying to Music School

Applying to Music School Photo

It’s that time of year: college application season. Deadlines may seem a long way off, but do not be deceived;

They will sneak up on you.

If you are looking to study music, now is the time to begin if you have not already. Some things to keep in mind when you’re applying to music schools:

Decide what kind of program you want. Do you want a conservatory where the sole focus of your studies is music, or a music school within a university/college so you can take outside classes as well? There are advantages to both, but ultimately you need to decide what works best for you. This is not to say you can only apply to one or the other–many people apply to both, and some variety in your options down the road can be a great asset. When you are vetting prospective schools, it is a good thought to have in the back of your mind.

Be careful of how many schools you apply to. Remember, as a musician you will need to audition at all of these schools and possibly send in pre-screening materials. That friend who’s looking to study political science and is applying to twelve schools? That friend does not have to do ten auditions at ten different schools with ten different repertoire lists on top of the regular application process. Know how much you can handle, and don’t schedule so many auditions that you are overwhelmed.

Know which application you need to fill out. Some use the Common Application, others a common conservatory site, and still others have their own application process. Double check each school’s website you are applying to if you aren’t sure what materials are required or on what platform they need to be submitted.

Get your prescreening materials in on time. If you are a violinist or cellist, most if not all schools will have some sort of prescreening process. The best case scenario is to have all of your repertoire learned by the beginning of October so that you can be ready to send recordings in November/December. Make sure you follow the guidelines detailed by the school–your recording could be incredible, but if it’s not the repertoire or the format requested you could be shooting yourself in the foot. This is the easiest way to weed out applicants: if you don’t follow directions, they won’t waste their time.

One last thing about prescreening recordings: do not cut in the middle of the piece. Most schools are fine with a cut in between pieces, but they do not want to hear or see any editing during. Think of it like a live audition: you don’t get to stop in the middle and start over. If you’re ever unsure, check the school’s website or call the admissions office.

If possible, visit the schools and attend performances. This will give you an idea of what kind of repertoire, caliber, and school culture to expect. If you can’t go in person, many schools have performances recorded on their websites, YouTube, or Vimeo. If you can, talk to current students or recent grads to get an idea of what the program is like. You will have questions about what is important to you in a school, so don’t hesitate to ask for answers.

 

When the time comes, visit us at our store in Newton Upper Falls or online and www.johnsonstring.com for all of your audition needs. Short of practicing for you, we have everything you need to do your best at your auditions. Good luck to all, and stayed tuned in December for another post specifically about college auditions!

Copyright © 2015 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Flying With Your Cello

Cello Blog

Flying with string instruments can be a stressful experience. With the number of horror stories clogging our news feeds in recent years detailing airline mishaps, it’s no wonder we get nervous taking our instruments with us when we fly. However, things are beginning to look up; under the new Department of Transportation (DOT) ruling that went into effect March 6, 2015, airlines are now required to allow small instruments in the cabin as part of a passenger’s carry-on allowance. Just like any other luggage, as long as it can fit in the overhead compartment or under the seat the airline cannot refuse to carry the instrument. This ruling is a huge victory for musicians, in particular string players, everywhere.

But what about cellos?

While the DOT ruling is very clear in regard to smaller instruments, it is not as definitive when it comes to larger ones. With cellos, standard practice is one of two things: use a flight case and gate check the instrument or purchase another seat in the cabin. Both options have their benefits and disadvantages, so it is up to you to decide what you are most comfortable with.

Airport

PUTTING YOUR CELLO IN CHECKED BAGGAGE

  1. Make sure you have a sturdy flight case or cover you can use. Covers normally go around a hard case, while dedicated flight cases are heavy-duty and designed to protect the instrument without additional parts. They can be purchased or rented depending on the type you are looking for. Just as you would a package, mark it clearly as FRAGILE, MUSICAL INSTRUMENT, or any other polite message that states it needs to be treated with care.
  2. Make sure your instrument is padded within the case. Use wadded tissue paper, cloth, or old clothes to support the bridge, fingerboard, and tailpiece as well as around the sides of the instrument to prevent any jostling around inside the case. If you are concerned about the tension, tune your strings down by a half step to a third. The safest option, if possible, is to have a luthier take down the entire setup and have another set it back up when you arrive at your destination.
  3. Understand that others will be handling your instrument and plan accordingly. There is a lot of baggage to handle and things are not always treated as delicately as they should be–we’ve all watched luggage being loaded onto a plane. It is also possible that the case may be opened, and non-players do not always know how to safely put everything back. Emphasize nicely that it is a delicate musical instrument, but make sure steps 1 and 2 are in place as well.

Plane Interior

BRINGING YOUR CELLO INTO THE CABIN

  1. When buying your extra ticket (which should always be done), make sure you are not buying a seat where the cello will block any emergency exits or signs. Airlines can make a case to have the instrument checked if it threatens passenger safety, so check sites like Seat Guru to maximize both your comfort and the safety of your cello.
  2. Contact the airline when you buy the ticket to make sure everything follows their safety policies. This will ensure you are in compliance and allow you to confirm you provided advance notice about the cello.
  3. Some cellists have been able to fit their instruments in the overhead compartments of larger planes. This is something that cannot be guaranteed, but if you are thinking of trying it there are a few things to keep in mind:
    • Board early. If you need to pay extra to do so, it may be worth it to ensure that you have enough space to get your instrument in the overhead first. Like the DOT ruling says, if it fits in the overhead compartment and you put it there first, your instrument is entitled to stay there.
    • Some cases work better than others. Most anecdotal evidence of cello cases fitting in these compartments happened with the Accord cases, specifically the Hybrid and the UltraLight.
  4. THE AIRLINE MAY NOT CHARGE YOU MORE THAN THE COST OF THE SEAT FOR THE INSTRUMENT. To quote directly from the final ruling: “…assuming all of the safety requirements are met, carriers cannot charge the passenger more than the price of a ticket for the additional seat….” This doesn’t mean that if you decide to upgrade your seat your cello gets a free bump. It also doesn’t mean that you are exempt from fees that are normally posed on carry-on items or cargo. What it does mean is that they cannot charge you extra just because a cello is occupying the seat instead of a human being.

Plane in Rearview Mirror

GENERAL ADVICE FOR FLYING WITH A CELLO

  1. Check your instrument insurance. There is a limit to an airline’s liability if your cello is lost, damaged, or delayed. In many cases this only covers a fraction of the instrument’s value. Make sure you are covered for air travel by your insurance provider.
  2. Arm yourself with information: bring a copy of the DOT ruling and your airline’s instrument policy with you. Be firm but polite if an issue arises.
  3. Make sure you have a high-quality hard case, such as the ones found in our store or on our website. If you are purchasing a seat for your instrument, make sure it’s a lighter and less bulky case such as Bam, Musilia, Accord, or Galaxy. If you have a flight cover for checking your cello, make sure the case will fit inside the cover.
  4. Check in as early as possible. It may take longer to do so and get through security because of the instrument. Make sure to leave yourself enough time so that you are not running for the gate. If you comfortable doing so, paying for early boarding will also give you a space advantage when getting your instrument situated in the cabin.

Hopefully with these tips in mind, both you and your cello will have a safe flight. Be sure to visit the DOT webpage for more information about traveling with instruments.

Copyright © 2015 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

 

 

Districts are Coming: Preparing for an Audition

Bach has a question for you....

Every student’s worse nightmare: Bach judging your district audition.

Auditions got you worried? Not sure how to prepare? We’ve got you covered! Many of us at Johnson String Instrument have gone through auditions so we’ve been there. We asked our staff to share their tips and tricks to help you do the best that you can. They had some great advice:

1. Relax! Breathe! Try not to get too worked up about it. Every musician (even the judges!) has had to go through auditions, and everyone knows it’s a nerve-wracking experience.

2. Scales! Practice scales! More scales and arpeggios! I missed out on senior districts by bombing the scales because of a combination of nerves and not practicing enough.  Get the format down, make them second nature, and that will help you not only with scales but also with sight-reading.

-Alex Wagner, Product and Inventory Specialist, violinist

1. Be sure to listen to the entire piece. The audition committee can tell if you are hearing how your part interacts with the rest of the ensemble. Hearing the piece as a whole rather than just your part is the difference between a good instrumentalist and a good musician.

2. Perform your audition rep for as many people as possible before the audition. I know it can feel awkward or embarrassing but that’s the point! Better to get all the jitters out in front of friends/family than the audition committee.

-Sara Wilkins, Customer Service Representative, cellist

My biggest piece of advice would be not to practice for several hours on the day of an audition. The truth is that your repertoire is as good as it’s going to get that day. A great alternative to playing through the music over and over is to come up with a ritual that helps you feel calm and focused. A couple methods I’ve used are to play a scale (slowly) with all of its arpeggios or to eat a piece of my favorite chocolate while I warm up.

-Sarah Rogers, Administrative Assistant, violinist

1. Be able to play excerpts in any order presented. Be able to switch from fast and technical to slow and calm.

2. Play for non-string players. If you have rhythm issues play for drummers. Excerpts that have tricky shifts or string crossings, play for flute or other wind players; they are less forgiving about string player-specific issues.

3. Tape and film yourself to look for areas that need improvement.

4. Be ready at least a week before the audition, and relax.

-Jon Crumrine, Bow Maker, violist

Set a box of doughnuts (or preferred favorite treats) in the corner of the audition room. Whenever you get nervous, look at them & feel relieved 🙂
Then treat yourself afterwards!

-Amy Nolan, Store Manager, cellist

1. Get plenty of sleep.

2. Eat well.

3. Live healthily.

4. Play your audition for anybody who will listen, especially if they might have some constructive advice.

5. Read all of these books by Don Greene, and practice the techniques found therein with diligence and devotion.

-Phil Rush, Sales Consultant, violist

Still need to purchase your music for districts? Stop into our store or visit our website, and good luck to all auditioning in the coming months!

Copyright © 2015 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons