Tag Archives: strings

Angela Myles Beeching giving a lecture

Preparing for your Music Career in the New Year

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope that your holiday break was one of rest and good company. Classes are now underway, and it will be another busy semester of teaching, concerts, and auditions.

So much is written about resolutions for the new year, but we all know that sticking to them is a challenge.There was an excellent blog posting on Angela Myles Beeching’s website (she is pictured above) that has a great way to plan for 2017 by focusing on your accomplishments from last year, and how to better plan for this year. I went through all the items, and I discovered that I accomplished quite a bit in 2016. Check out her site, “The Professional Musician’s Roadmap,” and sign up for her weekly postings!

This semester there will be a shift in focus for this blog, along the lines of what Ms. Beeching does. Whether you are a high school student, undergraduate, graduate student, or professional, as musicians we always need to be looking ahead to what we would like our lives to be. Very few careers are a straight line, and a music career is no exception. It’s never too early to begin to plan for your musical life once you are a professional, so why not take half an hour to sit with a cup of coffee, tea or water, and write down how you see yourself as a professional musician. I’ll tell you my story in the next posting.

As always, feel free to contact me with any questions or comments.

Until next time,
Margaret Miller

Black and White tunnel pictured

That light at the end of the tunnel…

Is not necessarily an oncoming train, just the last two weeks of the semester. I hope that everyone was able to recharge over the Thanksgiving break, as juries and finals are coming up very soon.

My advice to you all? Take care of yourself first. I realize that there are projects to complete, finals and juries, plus recitals, orchestra concerts, etc., but you need to take care of yourself above all else. Stress levels are very high now, so be aware of your triggers, and what you can do to minimize the stress. Breathing is always a very good thing to do!

As for juries, play for as many colleagues as you can. Play for your roommates, play for other instrumentalists. Remember why you chose a life in music-because music said something to you, and you want to make sure you say something through your playing. Yes, there will always be details to work on, but save time in your practice sessions to perform.

Until next time,
Margaret Miller
Assistant Professor of Viola

Tick tock, tick tock…

I am annually amazed at how quickly Nov. arrives; I look back at my post from Aug., when the year was just underway and the Thanksgiving break seemed a long way off. And now it’s here, which means that there are three weeks of classes before juries. As I recently told my studio, it’s time to find your extra gear.

I am finding my extra gear, as well. For me, there is one more concert for the semester tonight, a chamber music concert with my faculty colleagues. I very much enjoy these programs and working with my fellow musicians. No doubt you all have concerts before the end of the semester, and so I encourage you to enjoy those events, enjoy the work that you have done this semester, enjoy performing with your colleagues. These are relationships that can last a life time.

But also enjoy the down time during the Thanksgiving break. You have all worked very hard, and that does not go unnoticed. Refuel, rejuvenate, and power through.

Until next time,
Margaret Miller
Assistant Professor of Viola

stack of old sheet music pictured

On to the next event…

Hello, everyone! I’m sure for many of you it is mid-terms, and the accompanying stress that goes with it. Sleep is your friend right now, remember that!

I am a week off in my postings as I had my recital last Monday. It went pretty well, and I am always grateful for the friends and former students who attend. I had the opportunity to play most of the program at Chadron State College in Neb. a few weeks earlier, and it makes such a difference to have more than one performance of a program. So, if you have a recital later this semester, look for other performance opportunities off campus. You will gain a great deal with the extra performing.

So, as the title of today’s blog suggests, it is time to move on to the next stack of music! I am playing the Haydn Creation with ProMusica Colorado in a few weeks, so there is quite a bit of music there to get in my fingers, plus a faculty chamber music concert in mid-Nov. Never a dull moment!

Until next time,
Margaret Miller
Professor of Viola


Accuracy Is Everything In Practice

“Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything.” ~ Wyatt Earp

An interesting person to quote for today’s post, but very applicable to our lives as musicians because it relates to how we practice. How do we become accurate and consistent? It’s by practicing slower. Our brains and our muscles need time to process an activity, and time to build up speed and accuracy.

My recital is in a few weeks, and while my program feels secure, I still take one practice session a week to go through the repertoire at three quarters of my performance speed. There is always something that needs attention-a shift, a phrasing that can be clearer, an articulation that needs attention.

Now that everyone’s semester is in an established routine, take a moment to think about your practicing. Are you in a rut? Are you practicing carefully and being a mindful listener?

Until next time,
Margaret Miller
Professor of Viola

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. -Johw Dewey

Welcome Back!

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~ John Dewey

Happy Labor Day to you all! I hope that you have had a restful weekend. As I told my studio this past week, starting tomorrow, it is a long haul until fall break, meaning Thanksgiving. Remember to take care of yourself during this fall semester. Tension issues can creep in without us realizing it, so if something hurts, tell someone! There is no need to suffer in silence.

Now, about today’s quote. Whether you are a freshman in high school or college, or a graduate student, or a working professional, we are always learners. Take advantage of attending concerts, lectures, workshops, anything that interests you. You may discover a passion for something related to music that can be advantageous to your career. One never knows…

For me, being a life-long learner means learning new repertoire, reading about topics that interest me, such as funding in the arts and what it means to have a successful career in the arts. There are many creative people in the world doing amazing things, search out a topic that interests you!

As always, I welcome your comments and thoughts for future postings.

Until next time,
Margaret Miller

Freshman pictured spelling out CSU

Welcome back, everyone!

I hope that you have all had a great summer; I’m sure you’ve returned to school with energy, enthusiasm, and possibly a little bit of anxiety. My summer involved coaching at the Lamont Academy, Just Chamber Music in Ft. Collins, and PlayWeek West at the University of Denver. I did enjoy some down time getting caught up on projects, gardening, and reading. Oh, yes, and starting to practice for my recital in Oct.

What are your goals for the fall semester? I’m sure that one of those is better time management. Speaking from my own experience, it’s a life-long process! We all change and have priorities that change as well. Number one on your list-and mine-is to take care of yourself. I find having a weekly and a daily list of items helps me plan my personal time, what I want to get done for my practicing, and what to plan for my students. Be thinking now of how you can best use your time so you can avoid as many all-nighters as possible!

Like last year, this posting will occur twice a month. I enjoy hearing from you, so if you have a topic that you would like to hear about, do let me know.

Until next time,
Margaret Miller
Assistant Professor of Viola; Coordinator, Graduate Quartet Program
School of Music, Theatre and Dance

End of the year, the start of summer!

This is finals week at CSU, the end of the semester, and the end of the academic year. I hope it was a good year for all of you!

At CSU, it was a busy year of teaching, performing, and planning for next year. I am very proud of the work that our students have done this year, from orchestra concerts to opera to chamber music and recitals. Both graduate quartets gave outstanding concerts, and I look forward to next year’s ensembles.

So what are your plans for the summer? Classes, summer festivals, time with family? Make sure that you take time for yourself this summer, as the fall will be here before we know it. I will be coaching for a two-week program in Ft. Collins called Just Chamber Music, teaching at the Lamont Academy at the University of Denver, coaching at PlayWeek West, and playing for the Summer Conducting Masters Seminar at CSU. Oh yes, and starting work on my recital in early Oct.

I am looking forward to welcoming new students to the viola studio this year, and helping them grow as musicians and people. I hope your summer is relaxing and productive! See you all in Aug.

Margaret Miller

Why we do what we do…

Why do we spend countless hours in a small practice room, chamber music rehearsal, or orchestra or opera rehearsal? Is it for the grade, the approval, the sense of understanding a technical/musical issue that has been bothering us for weeks?

All of that is part of the answer, but is it all of the answer?

Why did we choose to become musicians? I did because I loved to play the viola, although I didn’t always like to practice when I was younger. The variety of music that we get to perform is enormous, and it speaks to us in many different ways. All of the technical issues that are part of learning our craft can be frustrating, to be sure, but the bottom line is still creating the best music we can with the tools we have right now. We need to have a solid foundation on our instrument, yet we also need to think about the music that goes with that solid foundation. Practicing musically as well as technically helps us better understand the composers we play and then we can communicate that to our audiences.

Something to remember as the end of the semester draws closer. Remember that you love music and that you love to learn!

Until next time,
Margaret Miller

Post Break

“It’s pretty far, but it doesn’t seem like it”  ~ Yogi Berra

For me, that quote relates to the upcoming end of the semester. If you’ve had Spring Break, I hope it was one of rest and rejuvenation; if yours is still to come, I wish the same for you!

Seven weeks left of the semester before juries. For the CSU students, there is Marriage of Figaro coming up and a final orchestra concert, plus chamber music concerts. It’s also a big chamber music time for me, with faculty recitals, plus colleagues from Montana State are coming in April, and then I go there to repeat the program. The Borromeo String Quartet is coming in mid-April for a performance and our annual High School Chamber Music Festival. It is always a high point of the year for me.

So how do we all keep our health, both mental and physical, with such a demanding schedule? We all have our methods of dealing with stress, but do we see the warning signs soon enough? For me, that means enough sleep. As musicians, we all have a lot going on, whether you are a student or a professional, and finding the balance at times like these is vital to our well-being, both in the short term as well as down the road.

Yes, then end of the semester seems pretty far, but it will be here in a hurry.

Until next time,
Margaret Miller