artslandia virtual happy hour – viola edition

An informal program of pieces for solo viola played via livestream by Oregon Symphony Assistant principal violist Charles Noble.

artslandia happy hour to benefit oregon symphony

On Wednesday, April 1st at 5:00PM PDT I’ll be playing a set of solo pieces for viola on artslandia’s happy hour Facebook Live series. Instead of having a virtual tip jar for myself, a link to the Oregon Symphony’s donation page will be set up instead. I hope you can make it – it’s very nerve-wracking for me: it’s been years since I’ve played a solo recital, and doing so in my own studio without a visible audience promises to be very strange as well, but I’ve got a nice little selection of pieces picked out, and a Top Ten List of viola jokes for good measure! Please join me, and send a little love in the Oregon Symphony’s direction as well, if you’re able!

Kübler-Ross and Music

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross is most famous for her work in charting the grieving process – a seven stage (in the modified model) process that help to explain and express bereavement. I started work on a new piece of contemporary music yesterday, and found that approaching a new, unfamiliar, and challenging piece of music can evoke the same emotional journey. What follows is my own attempt to categorize the stages of musical bereavement.


Oh my God.
This piece is simply impossible to play.
I’ve got no time to learn this piece.
[stares dumbly at music]

Denial and isolation

Why did I agree to play this piece? There is no way I can do this! Everyone else in the group clearly is having no problem with it, but I have spent two hours looking at one line of this darn piece. Is it too early to have a drink?


What the f**k is up with the damned piece?
Why would anyone write something like this?
Do they even know how a stringed instrument works?
Why didn’t I practice more when I was younger – then I wouldn’t be having these issues now.
My viola sucks.
I suck.
Music sucks.
Composers suck.
Everything sucks.


God, if you just let me learn this measure, I promise that I’ll practice my scales more. Dear [Insert name of composer here], please just take this passage down an octave, it is written for the viola, not the violin – I’ll play with much better rhythm if you make this one tiny change for me.
Okay, if I can just learn this one page, then I can go outside in the sunshine for 20 minutes.
Okay, if I can just learn this one bar, then I can go take a nap for 20 minutes.
Okay, if I can just learn this one shift, then I can put my viola away until tomorrow.


My life is worthless because I can’t play the viola.
Everyone must hate me and think I’m lame because I can’t play this piece.
Music makes me sad.
I can’t decide if I’d be happier cleaning my toilet or working on this piece.
I went to eight years of music school for this?
If I were a better person, this would be going better.


Okay, I just need to remember what I tell my students.
What do I tell my students?
My teacher had some great ideas about approaching pieces like this.
If only I could remember what she said…
I’ll set aside time every day to work on a small portion of this piece.
Don’t get overwhelmed.
Work smart.


If I work through this slowly and methodically, it will be ok.
No one is perfect, so why should I expect myself to be?
If everything were easy I don’t think I would be happier – no rewards without effort!
Challenges are good for the brain, heart, and spirit.
I’m getting older, and learning can take a bit longer, so I’m going to go easy on myself.