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Stand Partners for Life

Stand Partners for Life

Violinists (and husband and wife) Nathan Cole and Akiko Tarumoto give you an inside look at performing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Each week brings new repertoire, conductors, soloists… and new stories from their life-long love affair with classical music, the violin, and their family.


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039: Summer motivation, plus Q & A

We took quite a long break from recording the show with everything going on at the moment, but we are so glad to be back. To kick things off again we thought we would use this episode to go through a bit of what we have been up to, staying home with the LA Phil out of action, some of the work and practicing we have been doing and then to field a bunch of listener questions. We look back at the last few days of regular work before quarantine began and then talk a bit about how we adjusted our schedules after things completely stopped. Nathan talks about his Violympics group, Akiko shares some of her dreams of home fitness and we explain the home recording process we have been working on. This unusual period presents a somewhat useful possibility to musicians; we all have areas of our playing that we wish we could improve and spend more time developing ? and this could be the time to do it. After the complete rundown of our work-from-home life, we get into answering questions on quieting inner critics and protecting the joy of playing, practical concerns of changing strings and re-hairing bows! Key Points From This Episode:  The last days of work and the changes in our schedules since the pandemic began.  Shifting plans and changing the focus of our practice for time at home.   The video recording we did and the insecurities that arise in watching yourself.  Unusual repertoires and more practice time in the work from home world. The 'Violympics' and the questions that came from the group. Staying motivated and practicing during this time with the LA Phil on hiatus.  Considering the plight of young musicians finishing music school right now.  Investing in different skills and upping your game during this downtime.  Personal qualities that lend themselves to a successful career in an orchestra.  Tips for quieting the inner critic when performing or recording.  Separating and protecting the joy of playing from the need to do it for a living.    The importance of friendships and connection within a job in an orchestra.   Changing strings, re-hairing bows, off the string strokes and more.Divisions for practicing a new piece and ways to focus on tricky passages.  Tweetables:  ?I think it is scary to think of coming back together. I think we?ve all changed. I think it?s going to be such a substantial amount of time that we all would have changed in a lot of ways.? ? Akiko Tarumoto [0:24:20]  ?Our whole lives I think so much of our self-worth is wrapped up in how we play. I don?t know that that?s healthy or right, but it?s inescapable.? ? Nathan Cole [0:25:10] ?It is reassuring to know that orchestra or no orchestra, we?re still musicians.? ? Akiko Tarumoto [0:25:25]  Transcript EPISODE 39  [INTRO]  [00:00:00] NC: Hi and welcome back to Stand Partners for Life. I?m Nathan Cole.   [00:00:05] AT: I?m Akiko Tarumoto.  [EPISODE]  [00:00:19] NC: And last time we came at you, the world was a very different place. Needless to say, we?ve taken quite a long break, but we?re happy to be back talking with each other and talking to you. Yeah, even though things have changed quite a bit. We were just trying to come up with what our last episode had been and we were talking conductors. How important is a conductor? Do we really need a conductor?   [00:00:43] AT: Who knew we wouldn?t need a conductor for months?  [00:00:46] NC: Yeah. We got our wish. Didn?t see any conductors for months. Yeah, it?s like the monkey?s paw. Got more than we bargained for.   [00:00:56] AT: The corpse showed up at the front door.   [00:00:58] NC: Yeah. I mean, we certainly won?t be the first people sharing our thoughts about the changed state of the world on classical music since the pandemic began. Maybe our thoughts don?t have to run too deep. But what do you think about our musical and our artistic lives since this all took route? When was the last time we were at work?   [00:01:26] AT: It was what?
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038: Do we really need a conductor?

Here at Stand Partner HQ, we get this question a lot! And that should tell you something without even knowing the answer. Nobody asks what a pilot does, or if we really need one for our airplanes. But the conductor's role isn't nearly so obvious, to our audiences and even, at times, to us! Do we really need someone up front "driving the train"? Do a conductor's responsibilities begin and end with a downbeat and a final cutoff? Key points Akiko's forthcoming appearance on the Every Little Thing podcastAudience fixation on the conductor as the focal point of an orchestraThe job of the conductor during rehearsal and performanceGiving instruction vs. providing a "guiding current"Examples of time wasting, directionless rehearsalExamples of showing appreciation for the work of the players; giving credit where it's duePetty retaliation: talking in rehearsals and other signs of discontentSetting aside grudges for the concert and putting the music ahead of everything elseDo musicians always agree who's a great conductor?How to balance exerting control and letting go of itThe "dreaded hand": play quieter!Components of a perfect conductor; designing the Robo-conductor! Links Every Little Thing Podcast Gimlet Media  Jeopardy Sean Connery Full Metal Jacket Andrew Manze Robocop Kurtwood Smith Transcript EPISODE 38 [EPISODE] [00:00:01] NC: Hi and welcome back to Stand Partners for Life. I?m Nathan Cole. [00:00:04] AT: I am Akiko Tarumoto. [00:00:18] NC: And today we are talking about conductors and not just because we see a conductor all the time at work, see many conductors. There?s actually a special reason, that?s because you are going to be a featured guest on another podcast. [00:00:33] AT: Yeah. [00:00:33] NC: I couldn?t be more proud. It?s like a spinoff of Stand Partners. It?s great. We got a call from the show Every Little Thing, which is a Gimlet Media show. They answer or try to answer questions that you can?t find out just by Googling. Their recent example was how to police sketch artists really. Can they really come up with a picture that?s so close to the person you?re thinking of and they went through it. It was really fascinating, and all the episodes come from listener questions. It?s actually a great idea for this show. [00:01:13] AT: It?s true. Should steal that. [00:01:16] NC: I know. I think I might. They actually play the call ? If someone calls in and leaves a message, it?s very 90s. You have to leave a message on the machine. In this case, someone was calling up to say if, "I were ever the victim of a crime, I would be the worst witness. There was no way the police could ever pick up the person because I wouldn?t be able to describe to a sketch artist anybody?s face. I?m the worst and I really don?t believe the sketch artist could help me. Do they really work?" They actually found a sketch artist. So that was the expert on the call and they had this person describe his best friend, I believe it was. [00:01:58] AT: Aha. And it worked? [00:01:59] NC: And it worked. [00:02:00] AT: That?s just too much pressure. I can't produce on this level tomorrow. [00:02:04] NC: In this episode, they have someone asking about conductors and about all kinds of things that go on in orchestra rehearsals and concerts. So that is going to be you. Now, you do have to share the episode with a conductor in addition to the caller. [00:02:23] AT: Yes. Not in real-time, but yeah. [00:02:24] NC: Right. Since you might ? I don?t know. You might feel like you couldn?t say everything you wanted to about a conductor. Who knows? We thought this might be ? They might not give you all the airtime. You might ? [00:02:37] AT: Did you say this conductor? Right. I mean, I hope that I won?t be carrying the entire episode. It would be funny if I described my ideal conductor and just synthesize this person to see if they?re really an effective leader.
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037: Orchestra Players Anonymous

Twelve-step programs have helped millions of people, including some of our colleagues. But their constant references to a "higher power" rub some people the wrong way. As orchestral musicians, we only know one "higher power": the conductor, who rules every aspect of our musical lives! Here are some slightly rewritten twelve steps toward embracing musical anonymity in the orchestra of your choice. The Twelve Orchestral Steps Admit you are powerless over your musical decisions and life has become unmanageable.Surrender those decisions to a higher power to reclaim musical sanity.Turn your musical life over to that higher power (the conductor).Make a searching and fearless inventory of your audition self.Admit the nature of your wrongs to yourself and a practice buddy.Be ready to have the conductor remove your defects of character.Actually ask the conductor to humbly remove those defects.Make a list of colleagues you have musically harmed, and seek to make amends.Make direct amends to these colleagues, especially if you must sit near them.Continue taking inventory and promptly admit wrong accidentals.Through meditation and score study, improve conscious contact with the conductor.After your musical awakening, carry this message to other musicians in the orchestra. Quotes ?If you join an orchestra, you?re just a shareholder, but you?re still receiving dividends.? ? Akiko Tarumoto [0:08:47] ?Getting a job is truth time.? ? Akiko Tarumoto [0:11:12] ?There is that hope that joining this group, it?s like there?s a power greater than yourself. There?s power in experience.? ? @natesviolin [0:17:57] ?It?s okay to be wrong a lot as long you admit it.? ? @natesviolin [0:24:20] ?You could follow these steps and actually be a great orchestral player.? ? @natesviolin [0:27:46] ?There?s just no way around the anonymity being an orchestral player, but there are positive things about being in an orchestra nevertheless.? ? Akiko Tarumoto [0:27:52] Links Mentioned in Today?s Episode: ColburnSir Laurence OlivierLA PhilChris Still Transcript EPISODE 37 [INTRODUCTION] [00:00:00] NC: Hello and welcome back to Stand Partners for Life. This is Orchestra Players Anonymous. I?m Nathan Cole. [00:00:08] AT: We?re supposed to be anonymous. [00:00:10] NC: Oh! I already broke the rule. All right. [INTERVIEW] [00:00:27] NC: Well, I have to figure you already know who we are. That?s Akiko Tarumoto over there. Welcome back. If you haven?t seen the website in a little while, head on over to We got a bit of a new look and as it befits the new year, 2020 episodes of Stand Partners for Life. There you can make sure you?re subscribed on iTunes, on Google Podcasts, however you get your podcasts. Today we are talking about the anonymous nature of orchestra playing, and this actually came up recently. I teach the violin orchestral rep class at Colburn now, and I got a really good question just today actually. [00:01:10] AT: What was that question? [00:01:13] NC: That?s for that prompt. They asked, they said, ?Well, we have a friend,? who that?s always kind of a tipoff, but they said, ?We have a friend who says that he would never play in orchestra because you would lose your artistic identity. You?d become anonymous.? First of all, I love how you can?t really talk about orchestra. It?s kind of like how kids learn about the birds and the bees on the playground. It?s like playground wisdom. [00:01:43] AT: You can?t talk about ? [00:01:44] NC: Well, I just feel like there?s not a constant dialogue about orchestra playing. You have to kind of ask in secret like, ?I have a friend who says this is how it works.? [00:01:53] AT: Right. Well, sure. I mean, we all know why that is. It?s like the vast majority of working musicians, working ? Not pianists obviously, but that were out there and orchestra is not being soloists or chamber musicians necessarily,
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036 – Johnny Lee wasn’t meant to be a Harvard MD

Violinist Johnny Lee is Akiko's mirror image on stage at Disney Hall: he sits fourth chair second violin, while she's fourth chair first violin. But they have something else in common too. Both went to Harvard, where there is no music performance major. Akiko thought she'd be a lawyer, Johnny a doctor (or was he just pretending?), but they both found their way back to the violin by the time they graduated. The Stand Partners have logged thousands of hours of "unofficial" conversation with Johnny, so we're excited to present him on the podcast. Here's Johnny's path to the LA Phil and beyond! Transcript [00:00:00] NC: Hi and welcome back to Stand Partners for Life. I?m Nathan Cole.  [00:00:04] AT: I?m Akiko Tarumoto.  [00:00:18] NC: And we are thrilled to be here with our great friend on we?ve been trying to get on this podcast actually ever since we started this show. Good friend Johnny Lee, violinist with us in the LA Phil. Frequent hanger outer here at the Cole-Tarumoto residence. You?ve got a heavy dose of the kids tonight. You got to experience dinner, TV watching time, bedtime.   [00:00:43] AT: You missed violin practice time though. Lucky you.   [00:00:47] JL: I have my wine. So it?s fine.  [00:00:49] AT: That?s actually how we got you here. We bribed you with food and drink.  [00:00:51] NC: That?s true. Johnny showed up wearing his Stand Partners for Life t-shirt, which made all of us happy, especially Hannah noticed it right away. If you too would like a snazzy Stand Partners for Life t-shift, go to That?s shirt, plural, and guys and gals designs. But thank you so much for being here, Johnny.  [00:01:12] AT: Yay!  [00:01:13] NC: Yay! There are a few reasons to get you here. One, we talk about the orchestra all the time, and LA Phil life all the time. But in addition to that, you and Akiko have some real similarities, I guess besides the fact that Akiko is 4th chair first violin. Johnny, 4th chair second violin. [00:01:34] AT: He?s my mirror.  [00:01:34] NC: That?s right. We do since first and second, mostly sit across the stage from each other. Here in L.A. Not Akiko?s favorite setup at the moment. [00:01:44] AT: I think everybody is tired hearing my opinion on where the violin should sit.   [00:01:49] NC: But you do get to mirror each other across the stage quite often. The bigger similarity is that you both went to the same school for undergrad and you actually overlapped. [00:01:58] AT: We went to school in Boston.  [00:02:00] JL: Cambridge.  [00:02:02] NC: They went to Harvard. I get to hear about it a lot. No! You guys are good about it. Actually, tonight I really do want to hear about it in quite some detail. But, yeah, neither of you went to conservatory for undergrad. So that?s something that I know a lot of. You guys out there have asked about just the difference between going to conservatory, not going to conservatory, at least for undergrad. Yeah, the different paths that people take to get to the LA Phil. Johnny, if you would back us up from Harvard, from Cambridge, and tell us a little bit about where you?re from, how you got started on the instrument and all that, and then we?ll get to  get to school days.  [00:02:41] JL: Yeah. I mean, I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. So I was at the Cleveland Institute of Music for prepschool ? Not prepschool. Preparatory program, age 7 I would say. So I started when I was 5, but started at CIM at 7. But that was of course because my parents were Korean immigrants and they just wanted us to play violin. Us being me and my two older brothers just to put on our college application. [00:03:10] AT: So were you all at ?  [00:03:11] JL: Yeah. So would have lessons on Friday after school. My mom would drive us all there. She?d take notes during lessons. Then on the way home we?d get KFC as a reward.  [00:03:24] NC: I thought you were going to say on the way home you?d get yel...
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035: Playing by numbers, or Advanced Orchestra Stats

How many times have you been jealous of the box scores for baseball and basketball, or the advanced statistics for football? Don't you wish that you too could be measured by notes attempted, notes played in tune, entrances successfully counted? If we got our wish, orchestra concerts would have their own advanced metrics! Here are the stats (and penalties) we'd like to see.
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034: The spirit is willing, but the Flesch is weak

This week, we're talking scales and etudes. Are they the foundational blocks on which your entire technique is built? Or more like raw vegetables that you have to choke down if you want to stay healthy? Akiko actually had a scale class as a kid, while I got a crash course in scales from my Curtis teacher Felix Galimir (who had studied with Carl Flesch himself). Etudes were a different story. Both of us went through a progression of Sevcik, Schradieck, Kretuzer, Dont, and all the rest. But back then, we just played without knowing why. These days, we like to know the point of an etude before we dive in: the key that unlocks each etude's benefit. Developing my Virtuoso Master Course has given me a chance to reevaluate my relationship with the classics, but I wanted Akiko's take on the topic as well. Enjoy a roll in the hay of fundamental violin techniques! Key points Akiko recounts her distaste for practicing scales at JuilliardScales: more like meditation or workout?Akiko's time at Juilliard pre-college with ?ev?ík, Schradieck, Kreutzer, Paganini and YostWhy Akiko stopped practicing scales after a Paganini concerto got her downScales and etudes as prep for challenging piecesNathan's first scale, at the end of Suzuki studiesHow Ivan Galamian adjusted a three-octave scale to give it 24 notesAkiko's scale classNathan and Akiko's take on Simon Fischer?s Warming UpThe times in life to discover etudes (i.e. bachelor freedom)Thirds for 20 minutes a day, thanks to Ruggiero RicciNathan's first lesson with Felix Galimir, and the four-hour-a-day scale workoutEvery etude has a key to unlock its benefitHow to practice scales so they lead to confident performanceAkiko?s feeling of impending violinistic disaster, as inThe Godfather. Quotes ?I feel like the goal for the Delay students was to get to Paganini ASAP.? ? @Akiko Tarumoto  [0:10:31] ?I think that?s the real argument for learning skills in scales and etudes, so that when you get to them in in the repertoire, you feel like you can say, ?I?ve got this.?? ? @natesviolin  [0:14:43] ?Opening up an etude book, trying to play one and just ? whether your reaction is just stopping and closing it or breaking down crying, it is actually a pretty common thing.? ? @natesviolin  [0:26:56] ?Great strides are made when there is not a lot else going on.? ? @Akiko Tarumoto  [0:29:17]  ?it wasn?t like I was sitting here watching TV and you came up to me and you said, ?You need to work on your arpeggios.?? ? @Akiko Tarumoto  [0:47:04] Links from the episode Juilliard Pre-CollegeAspen FestivalThe Virtuoso Master CourseKreutzer SonataHenry SchradieckOtakar ?ev?íkNicolò PaganiniFranz WohlfahrtJacques Féréol MazasGaylord YostCurtis Institute of MusicSuzuki Violin BooksMozart Fifth Concerto in A MajorMozart?s Fourth Concerto in D majorJohannes BrahmsJoachim CadenzaDan MasonVienna Philharmonic OrchestraCarl FleschIvan GalamianPierre Gaviniès Simon FischerMoritz MoszkowskiSaint Paul Chamber OrchestraAnimal FarmRuggiero RicciSergei ProkofievJack Benny William PreucilThe Godfather Transcript [0:00:00.7] NC: Hello and welcome back to Stand Partners for Life. I am Nathan Cole. [0:00:04.7] AT: I am Akiko Tarumoto. [0:00:18.7] NC: That?s it, it?s just the two of us this time. We?ve had a couple of episodes lately with some very special guests, especially cellists. [0:00:26.6] AT: Yeah, I guess it goes along with my theory that violinists aren?t really friends with other violinists. [0:00:32.9] NC: Well, we?re married to other violinists but just not friends. [0:00:36.3] AT: I said friends. [0:00:37.8] NC: That?s true, it took us a while to become friends. [0:00:39.8] AT: Yeah, right? [0:00:41.7] NC: Because of that, I thought that maybe this episode could be a little bit more violin centric, you know, we talk a lot about the orchestra life, playing in orchestra, obviously Stand Partners refers to the orchestra life but sometime we can nerd out a ...
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033: The audience experience, with superfan Roderick Branch

Chicago Symphony cellist Brant Taylor may have been our very first special guest here at the Stand Partners, but so far we've been missing the perspective of his partner Roderick Branch. Roderick is a musician, though his day job (and sometimes into the night job) is as a partner at a giant law firm. Roderick is what you'd call an extremely savvy listener, otherwise known as a superfan. So today Akiko, Brant, and I talk with Roderick, to remember just who it is we're playing for. Roderick elaborates on the dynamics between orchestra and audience in the context of different halls around the world. We speak about the room for error in a magical rendition, the performer as an audience member, and how the level of familiarity with an orchestra affects our experience of it. We also get into the pros and cons of designs, histories, and acoustics of different halls. Next, we share many stories about what made a particular concert life-changing, and then weigh up the various traits of our favorite conductors. Finally, our pet peeves about off-putting audience or performer behavior take center stage. Key Points From This Episode Performers and audience members might feel differently about the quality of a symphony. The distance of a performer or observer from the orchestra changes how it sounds. Minor mistakes are less meaningful when there is great spirit in a performance. The mood of an audience member might change their experience of a performance. Live symphonies sound different to recorded and mastered ones. The way a musician reacts to something unexpected is an indicator of how prepared they are. Experiencing different hall acoustics is neither good or bad but special. Sometimes one has to try to be less critical to have a good time. Knowing the orchestra might change the experience of watching them for better or worse. Knowing who is playing could change whether Roderick goes to a concert or not. Disney Hall?s modernity compared to the sense of history of Symphony Center. The acoustics of Disney hall are like a soft focus lens, while Chicago Hall is less forgiving. Less forgiving acoustics can be liberating because it allows for powerful playing. Hearing the same orchestra playing in different halls is a good way of seeing their difference. Great conductors bring out aspects in a symphony not heard before. The respect the orchestra has for a good conductor is palpable in their body language. It is difficult to be fully present as a musician in every performance. Several stories of the most life-changing performances the group have ever seen. Barenboim, Boulez, Haitink and Muti compared by Roderick. Off-putting performer behavior: not looking engaged and talking during the applause. Off-putting audience behavior: humming, cellphones, leaving too early, coughing. Links Brant TaylorRoderick BranchChicago Symphony OrchestraBartok Concerto For OrchestraLA PhilharmonicDisney Concert HallSymphony CenterOrchestra HallDaniel Burnham The Burnham Plan of ChicagoBarbara WalterMilli-VanilliMusikvereinCarnegie HallConcertgebouwSeverance HallRiccardo MutiKrassimira StoyanovaPierre Boulez Ben MolarDaniel BarenboimMa VlastThe MoldauBernard HaitinkShakespeareBeethoven 9Verdi: RequiemThe Hollywood BowlJumbotronAnne-Sophie Mutter ?If you?re performing a string quartet or a solo piece, the way you react to things that don?t go totally as planned is the biggest indicator of how well prepared something is.? ? @ Akiko Tarumoto [0:12:07] ?If you listen to the concert with your music critic hat on, that detracts from the enjoyment of the experience.? ? @ Roderick Branch [0:18:10] ?It?s actually an interesting hobby to hear an orchestra you know well, play in different halls. It?s the best way to figure out exactly how much difference the hall can make for, better or worse, in the way that something sounds.? ? @ Brant Taylor [0:24:54] ?I think I was probably looking down at the stage just taking in and basking in the g...
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032: What about Bob? Robert deMaine, our principal cello

Today we're joined by our good friend and LA Phil principal cello, Robert deMaine. Bob tells us about his childhood, his musical family and an early teacher who gave him a complete musical education, including piano and composition. He also unpacks how he fell out of love with the cello during his teen years and took an extended break from playing. Eventually he found his way back and went on a tear, pursuing a solo career and at the same time winning principal jobs in Hartford, Detroit, and finally Los Angeles. Bob doesn't hold back as he discusses anxiety, negative self-talk, and the long road toward mastery of an instrument. Key Points From This Episode: Different orchestral seating arrangementsBob's upbringing, important places and inspiration from his familyHaving and then losing the best music teacher in the worldThe difference between relative pitch and perfect pitchDisasters in ice cream shops and disasters on stageBob's early jobs in music and testing boundaries with senior musiciansThe Detroit Symphony and the strike that ended with Robert moving to LABob's audition for the LA Phil and the hand problem he had leading up to it The steps toward improvement and how they widen as you grow as a musician Differences between teaching and coaching; bringing out the best in students Recreating sounds, learning accents and the power of cultivating the ear The event that precipitated Bob's performance anxiety, and the way through it Upcoming projects for Bob, including his Tweetables: ?I grew up playing on my mother's cello, and my sister played the cello that my mother played when she was a child, and it was a real beater.? ? @robertdemaine [0:06:35] ?I don?t think I would have played as well as I did had it not been exactly that way. So much of it has to do with just timing.? ? @robertdemaine [0:39:15] ?I?ve never really separated how one prepares for a symphony concert versus how one prepares for a concerto.? ? @robertdemaine [0:39:51] Links Mentioned in Today?s Episode: Robert deMaine on TwitterRobert deMaineStrings MagazineMariano RiveraLeonard RoseJanos StarkerEastern Music FestivalJuilliardCurtisCentral State UniversityEastmanGood Will HuntingDexterDays of Wine and RosesIrving Klein CompetitionPaul ParayGeorge SzellNeeme JarviJoseph SilversteinSliding DoorsThe MatrixGoofus and GallantFear and Loathing in Las VegasGuido LamellAnthony BourdainNow Hear ThisHandelJoe Rogan MashTaxi Transcript EPISODE 32 [INTRO] [00:00:00] NC: Hi and welcome back to Stand Partners for Life. I am thrilled to be here not only with Akiko. [00:00:07] AT: Hello. [00:00:07] NC: But our good friend and close colleague, Bob deMaine, principal cello here at the L.A. Phil, and actually we?re right here in Disney Hall, the bowels of the hall. [00:00:16] BD: Our home away from home. [00:00:18] NC: Yeah. [INTERVIEW] [00:00:32] BD: Thanks for having me on. I feel like I?m sort of your honorary stand partner, because I sit next to you in the orchestra. [00:00:37] NC: Yeah. Actually ? I mean, yeah, the usual. If everybody's there, we've got Martin, and then I'm sitting second right next to him, and then on my other side is you. When I first came to the orchestra, they had the violas where you are instead. So principal viola was on my other side. [00:00:53] BD: The viola was there? [00:00:55] NC: They did. [00:00:55] BD: That?s something I?ve never seen before. [00:00:58] AT: Wrong seating number two. [00:00:59] BD: That?s right. Isn?t that David Sanders, like his lingo from Chicago or something? [00:01:04] AT: I think we?re currently in wrong seating number four. [00:01:06] BD: I like right seating number one. I mean, cello is on the left. [00:01:10] NC: The outside. [00:01:10] BD: Yeah, the outside. [00:01:12] AT: Everybody wants the outside. [00:01:13] BD: So much more room over there. I don?t care how it sounds.
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031: That’s life in the hot seat, Mr. Concertmaster!

Today we're talking concertmaster, and what it means to sit in the hot seat. What are the duties and expectations, and what makes "first chair violin" attractive or unattractive to different players? Is playing concertmaster more like being the point guard in basketball, or the quarterback in football? Remember: besides playing all those juicy solos, you have to deal with walk-outs, bowings, section concerns and principal relationships. Just know that even though the concertmaster position puts you in the spotlight, there's a price to pay for all that attention. How happy you are depends not just on the rest of orchestra but your own temperament. As Akiko says, "Let's just say it plainly. I don't like being concertmaster." But should we take her seriously? Key Points From This Episode: The position and duties associated with the title of ConcertmasterWalk-outs, hitting the right piano octave and making sure not to fall overComparing the role of the concertmaster with positions in team sportsHow the concertmaster relates to the other members of the orchestraThe issues that arise when a conductor is ahead or behindCommunicating with the conductor; bringing issues up at the right timeThe importance of solos in getting hired as concertmasterBowing decisions, and shutting out some of the noise and chatterLeadership principles and focusing on what is most importantOur best and worst experiences as a concertmaster Quotes ?If you had to pick one leader of the orchestra that isn't the conductor, but a player, it's the concertmaster. They're visible, they're up front.? ? Nathan Cole [0:07:29] ?No one even really knows I'm technically a concertmaster, so I have to give myself the title of emergency concertmaster!? ? Akiko Tarumoto [0:10:15] ?It's a fun job. It's fraught with danger, but fun and rewarding and you get those juicy solos too.? ? Nathan Cole  [0:51:48] Links Mentioned in Today?s Episode: Stand Partners for LifeCarnival of the AnimalsHolly Mulcahy: More than wearing pretty shoesThe Suzuki MethodSeinfeldDavid KimWest Side StoryPines of RomeThe 14 Leadership Principles that Drive AmazonJeff Bezos Transcript [INTRO] [0:00:00.6] NC: Hello and welcome back to Stand Partners for Life. I am Nathan. [0:00:03.5] AT: I?m Akiko. [EPISODE] [0:00:17.5] NC: Today, we thought we?d talk about the concertmaster, the duties of a concertmaster and what it?s all about. I mean, should we at least define the concertmaster, the first chair of violinists? [0:00:28.7] AT: Sure. I assumed people know that, but there are times, a lot of times people don?t necessarily get what that means. [0:00:36.3] NC: We don?t even say that. We don?t say concert mistress, right? [0:00:39.4] AT: Not that I know of. [0:00:40.3] NC: Because I hear people say that sometimes. [0:00:42.2] AT: Yes. I think some people still say it. [0:00:44.9] NC: It?s like president, right? [0:00:46.0] AT: Well, it's like stewardess. We don?t say it anymore. [0:00:49.3] NC: Right. I'm not sure if people ever did say concert mistress, if that was ever really appropriate. [0:00:53.4] AT: Sure, they did. I don?t remember. [0:00:56.6] NC: Yeah. Concertmaster, it's the first chair violinist. Both of us get to do that duty sometimes and we both have concertmaster somewhere in our titles, First Associate Concertmaster and your assistant. That's largely the reason we came out to LA from the Chicago Symphony was the chance to do be concertmaster sometimes.  Why is this a special position and why? What does the concertmaster do? [0:01:24.8] AT: So are we ? start enumerating the duties? [0:01:27.5] NC: Yes. We're going to tell what the concertmaster does. [0:01:30.8] AT: Well, so my first disclaimer is that I don't play concertmaster very often, as you know. I'm drawing on a very small amount of experience. I just want to get that out of the way. [0:01:43.5] NC: I mean, you did it before college.
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030: All about Amadeus

Nathan says: "My top three movies of all time would be The Godfather, Rocky, and Amadeus in some order." Akiko's not into those "top whatever" lists. But both of us love Amadeus so much that we would drop whatever we're doing and watch it again right now. Here's why...
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029: Living the rock star life at the Hollywood Bowl

It isn't every day that you get to perform for 18,000 screaming fans... especially if you're a violinist. But a handful of times each summer, we get the rock star treatment at the Hollywood Bowl! OK, so those 18,000 folks probably aren't screaming just for the two of us... there might be some famous movie tunes thrown in, or some fireworks, or Katy Perry. But we take it all in stride as we navigate the summer home of the LA Philharmonic. Listen up for the inside scoop on one of the most amazing performing arts venues anywhere in the world!
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028: Help, my audition’s tomorrow!

Maybe it's the proverbial "seven minutes to midnight", or maybe you've still got a week or two. It never feels like enough time, trust us. So here's some advice for those last few days, hours, and minutes before your big day, inspired by the recent violin auditions at the LA Philharmonic.
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027: A Fistful of Mahlers

First, some exciting news: we've got Stand Partners for Life T-shirts! Check them out here, and show your Stand Partner love! For this episode, Akiko and I just had a one-word outline: Mahler! And it turns out we had plenty to say about his symphonies. What's it like to learn them, refine them, rehearse them, take them on tour? What do committees look for when you play Mahler? Hear about the time Akiko was mortified to play Mahler 9 with David Hyde Pierce (Frasier's Niles Crane) in the front row! Or the time Nathan got a death stare from Daniel Barenboim during... well, also during Mahler 9! And as to Nathan's comment that Gustav Mahler was perhaps the New York Philharmonic's first music director? He was actually its ninth! Nathan was under the misapprehension that the NY Phil began around the same time as so many other American orchestras, in the early part of the 20th century... in fact, New York got its start in 1848, whereas Mahler wasn't born until 1860! Mahler spent the last two years of his life, 1909-1911, at the helm of the Philharmonic.
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026: Live from the Fischoff, Day 3

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025: Live from the Fischoff, Day 2

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024: Live from the Fischoff, Day 1

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023: What does my future hold?

Here at Stand Partners for Life, we get a lot of questions about the future: what happens if I'm not playing concerto X by age Y? What will happen if I study with teacher Z, or go to school-- I ran out of letters! So even though we can't give definitive answers to these questions, they're still great questions! And one listener email in particular sparked a discussion about success at an early age, the importance (or non-importance) of conservatory for winning an orchestra audition, and lots more. Along the way, we also answer listener questions about sight reading in high positions, as well as "contextual intonation": changing your pitch based on what's going on around you, especially in the orchestra! And we start out by talking Twelve-Tone: Nathan's upcoming performance of Arnold Schoenberg's fourth String Quartet, and whether or not it's "real music". Daniel Barenboim considered him one of the most important composers in history. Does "most important" equal best?
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022: An unfortunate break

If it seems like we've been silent the last couple of months, that's because Akiko's life has been pretty different since early March! One moment she was working out at the gym like she did five times a week, and the next she was flat on her back with paramedics on the way. Suffice it to say that she hasn't been playing with the LA Phil since then, but we can see the way back at least! Midway through her recovery, we talk about her time in the hospital and back at home. We also take the opportunity to answer some fantastic questions that you emailed during our time away, including what audition recordings are all about, whether we'd fake Prokofiev's Cinderella suite, and how we deal with audience distractions! Transcript Nathan Cole: Hi, and welcome back to Stand Partners for Life. Nathan Cole: And this time, after a bit of a long break? we took a long break last summer. This one was a little different. Akiko, do you want to tell us why? Akiko Tarumoto: I have been recuperating from an unfortunate incident at the gym. I took a bad step, fell on my bottom, and spent the next eight weeks recovering. Nathan Cole: Eight weeks and counting. Akiko Tarumoto: Seven weeks and counting. Nathan Cole: Oh, okay. And not working, not playing in the Philharmonic. Akiko Tarumoto: Not playing. I'm playing but not playing at work. Nathan Cole: Take us back to the incident a little bit. Akiko Tarumoto: People keep kind of guessing what it was, and they'll be like, "Oh, were you??" I don't know why it bothered me at the hospital. The doctors kept talking about how I was doing step aerobics, and I was like- Nathan Cole: That makes you sound like a- Akiko Tarumoto: I didn't take a time machine back to the '80s and don skintight, shiny spandex? Nathan Cole: "And one, and two?" Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, no. So I was not doing step aerobics. It did involve a box, one of those foam boxes. They come in various heights, and this one was the lowest one. It was a 12-inch box, and I was just trying to do something to keep my heart rate up between weight lifting rounds. And yeah, just, it was one of those weird things that just, I guess I was kind of tired, and my foot didn't come cleanly down from the box. My other foot was already on the way up. So the box slid toward me, and I landed. I had nowhere to go but on my bottom. Nathan Cole: And I've had other people ask me, people who don't know you very well -- But just to make it clear, I mean, you were probably at the gym or were, at that time, five times a week, doing these kinds of classes. Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, yeah. In fact, I was joking that I should probably spend as much time playing the violin as I did at the gym. Because at that point, just working out, and running? if you added up all the time I spent exercise-wise, it, yeah, dwarfed my actual time practicing on my instrument. So yeah, it was a little bit sobering. So now, finally, my practicing found a way to reverse that proportion. Nathan Cole: Against your will. And yeah, I think just the day before you had run 10 miles. Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, that was disappointing, because it's been a while since I ran that far, as you know. And so it felt like a milestone to get back there, and it was. Won't be seen again for a while. Nathan Cole: Well, I'm looking forward to you getting back to it, because you will. I know they didn't like the look of the fall and all that. So they called some paramedics who? Akiko Tarumoto: They talked to me as if I were probably about 60 years old or older. Nathan Cole: Wait. Did they ask you who was president and expect you to say it was Ronald Reagan? Akiko Tarumoto: No. (I do remember that, by the way.) No, they asked me if I was on any medications, and when I said no, they looked really encouraging, and they said, "Ooh, very healthy.
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021: The best orchestra audition concerto

OK, you guessed it: it's going to be impossible for us to narrow things down to one "best"! But Akiko and I give it our best shot, outlining the pluses and minuses for all the popular choices. In this episode we refer to an article I wrote a few years ago, "Which violin concerto has the toughest opening?"
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020: Ray Chen – how insecurity leads to maturity

Virtuoso Ray Chen hardly needs an introduction, but let's start with his Gold Medal at the Queen Elisabeth competition in 2009, at the age of 20! His career since then, by all appearances, has been an effortless climb. But as you're about to hear, that isn't the whole story. As I've gotten to know Ray (during his solo appearances with the LA Phil, including that one time he stole my bow for a Paganini encore!) I've been impressed with how open he is in person and on social media. Let's start here: if you don't follow Ray on Instagram and YouTube, you're missing out big time! Here are those links: Ray's Instagram Ray on YouTube For example, one of Ray's videos deals with the topic of insecurity. It's so rare for a world-class soloist to open up about this topic, and you certainly won't hear any insecurity in his playing! But as we discuss in this episode, it's a feeling every violinist deals with at some point, and it's a necessary step along the way to mature artistry. Ray Chen's biography Ray Chen is a violinist who redefines what it is to be a classical musician in the 21st Century. With a media presence that enhances and inspires the classical audience, reaching out to millions through his unprecedented online following, Ray Chen's remarkable musicianship transmits to a global audience that is reflected in his engagements with the foremost orchestras and concert halls around the world.Initially coming to attention via the Yehudi Menuhin (2008) and Queen Elizabeth (2009) Competitions, of which he was First Prize winner, he has built a profile in Europe, Asia, and the USA as well as his native Australia both live and on disc. Signed in 2017 to Decca Classics, the summer of 2017 has seen the recording of the first album of this partnership with the London Philharmonic as a succession to his previous three critically acclaimed albums on SONY, the first of which (?Virtuoso?) received an ECHO Klassik Award. Profiled as ?one to watch? by the Strad and Gramophone magazines, his profile has grown to encompass his featuring in the Forbes list of 30 most influential Asians under 30, appearing in major online TV series ?Mozart in the Jungle?, a multi-year partnership with Giorgio Armani (who designed the cover of his Mozart album with Christoph Eschenbach) and performing at major media events such as France?s Bastille Day (live to 800,000 people), the Nobel Prize Concert in Stockholm (telecast across Europe), and the BBC Proms. ?It?s hard to say something new with these celebrated works; however, Ray Chen performs them with the kind of authority that puts him in the same category as Maxim Vengerov.? ? CORRIERE DELLA SERA He has appeared with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhausorchester, Munich Philharmonic, Filarmonica della Scala, Orchestra Nazionale della Santa Cecilia, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and upcoming debuts include the SWR Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, Berlin Radio Symphony, and Bavarian Radio Chamber Orchestra. He works with conductors such as Riccardo Chailly, Vladimir Jurowski, Sakari Oramo, Manfred Honeck, Daniele Gatti, Kirill Petrenko, Krystof Urbanski, Juraj Valcuha and many others. From 2012-2015 he was resident at the Dortmund Konzerthaus and in 17/18 will be an ?Artist Focus? with the Berlin Radio Symphony. His presence on social media makes Ray Chen a pioneer in an artist?s interaction with their audience, utilising the new opportunities of modern technology. His appearances and interactions with music and musicians are instantly disseminated to a new public in a contemporary and relatable way. He is the first musician to be invited to write a lifestyle blog for the largest Italian publishing house, RCS Rizzoli (Corriere della Sera, Gazzetta dello Sport, Max). He has been featured in Vogue magazine and is currently releasing his own design of violin case for the industry manufacturer GEWA.
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019: Joseph Bein and the myth of the “Attic Stradivarius”

I met Joseph Bein almost as soon as I moved to Chicago to join the CSO in 2002. We've talked great instruments and bows ever since, over dinners, glasses of wine, and even Cubs games! Come to think of it, at Wrigley Field the talk is all baseball... Joe has been immersed in the world of fine string instruments his entire life, and when he visited LA I couldn't pass up the chance to talk with him about how his father, Robert Bein, and Robert's friend Geoffrey Fushi started Bein & Fushi in Chicago. We also delve into how (and why) fantastic instruments make their way into the hands of world-class players. And we eventually get to all those phone calls the shop receives about old violin cases in the attic! Here's more on Joseph from the Bein & Fushi site.
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018: Fake it till you make it? How we learn music

When it comes to getting all those notes, rhythms, dynamics, and articulations under your fingers, you've got to use every trick in the book. In this episode, we talk about how we get through our stacks of orchestra music. Of course, we need different strategies depending on whether we're trying to revive an old friend, or tame a world premiere. Fakery may just find its way in there somewhere...
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017: The show must go on – When conductors cancel

A recent change of plans at the LA Phil leads us to reminisce on other times we've had conductors cancel. What happens when the audience is waiting and the show must go on? Transcript Nathan Cole: Hello, and welcome back to Stand Partners for Life with "The show must go on." That's the name of this episode, not just saying that about our show? But thanks, as always, for being here with me for, I think this will be, a great episode. It's about, well, the show must go on. We were kind of thinking that this past week. We played the entire Romeo and Juliet ballet with dancers, and video, and everything, and the concert stretched to three hours. Right before some of those performances, I was almost wondering, "Must I go on?" I love the music, and I know you do too. That's one of your favorite pieces. Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah. Nathan Cole: It's a big- Akiko Tarumoto: The music is so good that I've almost already forgotten how long it felt. It's like childbirth. Nathan Cole: Obviously, I wouldn't know, but I've heard. Yeah, today, this being the first day that we didn't play the Prokofiev. I've just had all the tunes running through my head all day, so I guess that's proof of how great the music is, although I do ? I mean, I guess I get bad music stuck in my head, too, but this is undoubtedly great. Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah. Well, right now, I have Wheels on the Bus stuck in my head, so not a good person to ask. Nathan Cole: Okay. Well, I mean, that's an effective tune, also. Looking at this week coming up, we've got a bit of a conundrum. I mean, not that we have to solve it, but- Akiko Tarumoto: Oh, it's been- Nathan Cole: ? our- Akiko Tarumoto: ? solved. Nathan Cole: That's right. It just was solved today, but rehearsals start the day after tomorrow, and up until today, we had no conductor and no real program for the coming week. That's because the conductor canceled. Daniel Harding, who we've spoken about on this podcast before, actually, I hope you're doing well. I heard there was some sickness or ? Sickness or injury? Akiko Tarumoto: Injury. Nathan Cole: Okay. Well, we definitely wish him the best, but yeah, it was a pretty short-notice change of plans for the orchestra. Usually, these things get solved instantaneously. It's like as soon as someone canceled, they've got 20 people lined up who can just drop everything and come, for an orchestra like LA anyway, but in this case, it took some doing. It seemed like everybody was engaged. I guess it's not like it's the summer, where plans are loosey-goosey. I think all the conductors had stuff going on in October, so ? Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah. In fact, I think a few times, it's worked out great. I can't remember who it was who canceled, but Jaap van Zweden was able to come in ? Was that in Chicago? Nathan Cole: That was in Chicago. He interrupted his honeymoon, as I recall. He came back from Hawaii early, and he was all bronzed and- Akiko Tarumoto: Right, and that was the first time we'd seen him, and we thought he was great. It was, it was really fun having him conduct. Nathan Cole: Yeah. You never know what you're going to get, and just for the curious, for this coming week, it's turned out that one of the so-called Dudamel Fellows, we have several that rotate throughout the season, Paolo ? Akiko Tarumoto: I can't say it? Nathan Cole: I'm laughing at myself stumbling over his name, because when I ask him to say his own name, he says it so fast that I can't make enough sense of it, so I'll have to get him to record it, but it's spelled Bortolameolli, but it does not sound like five syllables when I hear him pronounce his own name- Akiko Tarumoto: Right. Nathan Cole: ? so- Akiko Tarumoto: Got to practice. Nathan Cole: I know. I need some practice, but Paolo is going to take over next week,
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016: Violin resolutions we’ve made, kept, and broken

Happy New Year and new season of Stand Partners for Life! In this episode, we take a look back at resolutions we've made about our playing... and not all of them stuck! From scale practice to solo Bach, counting rests to keeping a practice journal, each of us had critical moments in our violin past where we made fateful decisions. Which ones made a lasting impact? Transcript Nathan Cole: Hello and welcome back to Stand Partners for Life. I am Nathan Cole. Akiko Tarumoto: I am Akiko Tarumoto. Nathan Cole: Well, since this is the new year, happy new year and happy second season of Stand Partners for Life! We released our first 15 episodes last year and had a blast doing it, and kind of took a long summer break that extended into the holidays. Now we're ready to get going again, so this is the perfect day to get back into the spirit of podcasting. Akiko Tarumoto: Yes, get back into the swing of thinking about music. Nathan Cole: Tomorrow we actually go back to work after our holiday break, that being the LA Philharmonic. Actually if you were with us last season, you'll know that we spend our days and many of our nights with the LA Phil at Disney Hall here in Los Angeles. If you're joining us, this is what we call "The secrets of the symphony from two violinists who live together, play together and work together", because we are married with three young kids here in the house, who should all be sleeping. Although, I sort of hear that they're not. Akiko Tarumoto: It might be our neighbors. Nathan Cole: Are they out reveling? Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, I think it makes more sense that kids would be up acting rowdy because they're not even four. In the case of the neighbors, they don't have that excuse, because I think that guy's in his 20s. Nathan Cole: They do have a hot tub. Akiko Tarumoto: They do, well yeah or something, a trampoline. Nathan Cole: We give you an inside look at the symphony and the life of, well, the life with the violin. In that spirit we're not going to give you a whole bunch of new year's resolutions exactly. My idea anyway was that we'd talk today about some playing resolutions, practicing resolutions that we'd made over the course of our lives and see what stuck and what didn't. I did want to ? Akiko Tarumoto: What stuck and what stunk. Nathan Cole: Okay, that's good, that's better. I wanted to thank each and every one of you for listening and especially those of you who have gone and left us a rating or a review on iTunes. It's the best way for us to get found and hopefully enjoyed by other listeners like you. If you have a moment and can go to, you'll see how you can visit iTunes and just take those 60 seconds to leave us a review. I read all of them. I don't think you read any of them, right? Akiko Tarumoto: No, I can't handle the truth. Nathan Cole: Well what I was going to say is that so many of the reviews, I've told you this a couple times, but they really feel like people go out of their way to mention that really enjoy the commentary. Especially Akiko's! What they'll say is, "I especially like hearing what Akiko has to say." I try not to take that personally. Akiko Tarumoto: Well I get to be the person who sort of riffs off of you, I think you're the straight man, so it's not entirely fair probably. Nathan Cole: I think people trust you, they know you speak the truth. Akiko Tarumoto: Well thank you, I appreciate it. Nathan Cole: We read them all. Well anyway, I read all of them and I pass them along to Akiko. Akiko Tarumoto: He doesn't pass on the bad stuff. Nathan Cole: Here we are, we've got our resolutions. I just remembered -- I said I wasn't going to do this, but I think one of my only resolutions I thought of for the new year as far as music is to play our kids more concerts.
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015: We all need an audition helping hand

We were pretty good back in the day, but even so we weren?t winning auditions on our own. Here are those moments when we got a helping hand!
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014: The very first steps in audition preparation

As soon as we see a job listing online or in the International Musician, our wheels start turning. Which way do they turn? What are the first steps we take to get started preparing? In this episode, we look at the upcoming New York Philharmonic violin openings (September 2018) as an example of how to approach a big audition. We take apart the application piece by piece to make sure you don?t miss any hidden clues. And we reveal Nathan?s project to help those violinists who might be interested in taking this audition! To see what he has in store, visit this link: and to look at the New York Philharmonic audition packet that we?re discussing, visit their site here:
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013: Violin fitness ? staying healthy or playing hurt

As Kramer says in Seinfeld?s ?The Wig Master? episode, ?I don?t argue with the body, Jerry. It?s an argument you can?t win.? Sooner or later, we all learn the truth of that statement, especially those of us who are forced to rely on little tiny muscles to do things like play the violin! In the picture above, you can see Nathan celebrating his twelfth birthday with two fingers taped together. His daily neighborhood basketball game was the culprit. Nowadays, we?d think twice before playing that much basketball. Or a number of other activities. But we do hit the gym quite a lot. What makes an activity OK for violin playing, and what puts it out of bounds? More than that, what can you do to prepare for your daily practicing and performing? Are there ways to play so that you stay injury-free? And what kind of music is the worst for the body? We talk violin fitness here in episode 13, so join us for the discussion and leave your thoughts below! Transcript Nathan Cole: Hi, and welcome back to Stand Partners for Life. I?m Nathan. Akiko Tarumoto: I?m Akiko. Nathan Cole: And today?s episode is going to be all about injury, well more fitness, violin fitness, staying healthy, hopefully avoiding injury! But then also what to do when you?re hurt, how to work around it, and just to talk about the reality that everybody has aches and pains and sometimes worse. So, I know at this point in the LA Phil season, basically the last few weeks, we?re sort of like a hospital ward. At this point, I feel like everybody?s one step away from falling to pieces. Do you see that in our sections? Akiko Tarumoto: I don?t know. I haven?t talked to too many people. We?ve lost one. Nathan Cole: Right. Akiko Tarumoto: But, yeah, and I?m kind of hobbling along here. My- Nathan Cole: Oh, yeah. What do you- Akiko Tarumoto: My wrist, and you got your shoulder ? Okay, so that?s three of us that we know of, so maybe you?re right. Nathan Cole: Well, and that?s understandable. I mean we always ? jokingly a lot of the time, but we compare ourselves to sports teams, especially NBA. I watch a lot of basketball, so coming into the playoffs just about everybody is beat up. In basketball it?s literally one step away from some season-ending injury. We?re not quite as bad as that, but- Akiko Tarumoto: But our season doesn?t really end, so we can?t really afford to ? We don?t have four months off to ? Nathan Cole: No, but we do ? We?ve got four weeks off from the orchestra coming up, which is something. Akiko Tarumoto: Goes fast. Nathan Cole: It does go fast but it is a chance to rest things, which in pretty much all endeavors, rest and recovery are the real keys if you?ve got an issue going on. And as the weeks go by during the season, yeah, I mean it?s hard to find even a 48-hour period when you?re not playing, and we like to play every day to stay in shape. Those are the issues we?ll be talking about. What do you have going on right now? Akiko Tarumoto: Well, I mentioned my wrist, so, yeah, that?s hurting me. Nathan Cole: And my right shoulder just a few days ago started up on me. Akiko Tarumoto: Not coincidentally, probably, we?ve been going to the gym a lot, so we?ll see how that ties in? Nathan Cole: Yeah. Well, we?re going to talk about that because I don?t intend to stop going to the gym and I?m sure you don?t either, but we?re going to talk about how to do it smart, smartly. Before we launch into it, I wanted to thank those of you who?ve gone to iTunes and given us a nice rating, and even better, a review, just a short little written review. What that does is it helps other people find the show, and we just really appreciate it so much. Nathan Cole: As you probably heard in some other episodes, we read those and take them to heart and try to improve Stand Partners based on your feedback. So, if you can take a moment to go to iTunes and leave that rating and/or review, it?s amazing. I don?t do it enough to the shows I listen to. I always think, ?Oh,
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012: Hugh Fink, playing Carnegie and writing for SNL

Some people were just born to do what they do, and Hugh Fink was born to be funny. Or was he born to play the violin? Because even though comedy has set the course of Hugh?s life, he has performed violin solos to a packed Carnegie Hall, something I can?t boast about! Hugh is one of a very few comics who has been able to fuse his musical life with his stage persona, much like the late great Jack Benny, whose violin I?m fortunate to play. Ever since he was a child, Hugh loved getting up in front of people and performing, no matter what form it took. Eventually, he discovered that not only could he create material for himself, but he had a talent for writing material that would suit any number of other talented performers! And that was the key that unlocked doors throughout show business, most notably at Saturday Night Live, where Hugh enjoyed a seven-year tenure and wrote more opening monologues than any other SNL writer. Hugh and I talk about growing up alongside Joshua Bell (and later using him in a wicked stage act with Tracy Morgan), how stand-up relates to musical performance, and how TV shows get made. Of course I also sit back and listen to behind-the-scenes tales from SNL! Transcript Nathan Cole: Hi and welcome back to Stand Partners for Life. This is Nathan Cole and today with me, really excited to have as my guest, Hugh Fink, comic, writer, violinist. He?s been gracious enough to join me here at Disney Hall for a change.  Welcome to Stand Partners For Life, Hugh. Hugh Fink: Thank you. It?s great to be here, Nathan, instead of taping a podcast at a smoke filled comedy club, to be in a classy concert hall. I like it. Nathan Cole: We try to keep it classy here at Disney most of the time. Well, we can just jump right into that. I mean, you?ve spent so much of your life in those clubs performing, writing, but what?s not usual for a comic is that you have a serious history as a violinist. We were talking about that just a bit ago, you and I, but give us the quick version of your violin life, because that was either came before or maybe concurrently with your life in comedy. Hugh Fink: Sure. My parents were classical music lovers. My dad was the Attorney for the Indianapolis Symphony, the Musicians Union. As a very young kid I would be taken to these concerts at the orchestra and I loved it. I guess I told my parents at age four or five that I wanted to study violin. They were not so sure about that because they knew it was a tough instrument. They already owned a piano, but they were friends with the concertmaster of the Indianapolis Symphony at the time, Eric Rosenblith. He had known a little about this new Suzuki method, although he was not a proponent of it at all because he was like a pupil of Carl Flesch or some of these old- Nathan Cole: Old school. Hugh Fink: He was super old school, but he wasn?t sure how to tell my parents to start off a five year old with lessons. He wasn?t going to do it. There was a Suzuki teacher, one in Indianapolis, and that?s who I studied with. Nathan Cole: This would have been not so long I bet, after the method really took hold in the U.S. because I started Suzuki and that was early 80?s. Hugh Fink: You are right. I started in the late ?60s. I ended up studying Suzuki for eight years, and going to the Suzuki Summer Institute at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. Nathan Cole: Stevens Point. Okay. Hugh Fink: Right. Shinichi came. Nathan Cole: Wow. Hugh Fink: Yes. I actually was part of the generation where I got to see him live. Nathan Cole: Well, that?s extraordinary. Hugh Fink: It was extraordinary. I didn?t have much interaction with him, but I remember, I think he was chain smoking and he looked like a ripe old age and very Buddha-esque just this is why He didn?t speak much English either, but that was a great experience. I think what it taught me, Nathan, was beyond the violin part, to meet other young violinists who are just normal kids. It was a camp,
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011: Orchestra tours ? the good, the bad, and the ugly

In this day and age, when an orchestra can broadcast its performances worldwide (as the Berlin Philharmonic does with its Digital Concert Hall), why would a group like the LA Phil pack up and lumber around the world? That question was on our minds since we just returned from a two-week international tour. Remember, when an orchestra travels, it?s not just the 100-odd musicians and perhaps their spouses (and even children)! It?s all their instruments as well, the music, luggage, and all kinds of other orchestral detritus. Then you?ve got the librarians, administrative staff, stage crew, and everyone else who makes the tour go ?round. So in this episode, we talk about the whys, and then the hows. How do you get ready for tour, how do you deal with the strange meal times, how do you adjust for the different halls? We also discuss how tour performances are different from ?home base? shows, and what touring does for the orchestra musically. Don?t forget, if you haven?t yet picked up our free guide to evaluating violin sound, make sure you click here to get it! Transcript Nathan Cole: Hello, and welcome back to Stand Partners for Life. I am Nathan Cole. Akiko Tarumoto: I?m Akiko Tarumoto. Nathan Cole: And good to have you back. Back in the home studio here in Pasadena. We are recovering from tour. Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, that?s me being jet lagged. Sorry. Nathan Cole: You mean the long pause? Akiko Tarumoto: The long pause and glazed silence. Nathan Cole: Yeah, that?s going to be the topic of this episode, all about touring. Just before we dive into it, I did want to remind all of our listeners that if you haven?t got our free guide to choosing instruments or upgrading instruments, do make sure you pick that up. That?s at I?m actually helping someone right now find a new instrument, and it?s taken a lot of years and a lot of searches to come up with just how to listen to new instrument sound, unfamiliar instrument sound. You had a hand in putting that together, you?ve done your own searches. Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, a few. For the most part I- Nathan Cole: We?re not dealers. We?re not buying and selling these things all the time. Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, we don?t have the disposable income to be high-end instrument shopping on a regular basis. Nathan Cole: But it was a really fun guide to put together and it?ll give you a system, our system, for listening and evaluating. Whether you?re looking for an instrument right now or not, it?s just great to have a way to organize your thoughts on that. Go ahead and pick that up. It?s free and tons of fun, if I do say so myself. We?re going to talk about tour today. Just to maybe color our conversation a little bit, I wanted to read a little something that someone wrote to us on iTunes, a review, which I?d love to read. This listener shares a lot of good thoughts. All this is in a constructive vain, but they do mention, ?My only comment.? Well, this comes halfway through the comments, so it?s not really their only comment. Nathan Cole: But, I think they mean the only criticism would be, ?That sometimes the problems you describe regarding your playing and work-life can be seen as a little as ?first world problems.? I believe that if you?ve made it to LA Phil and have this amazing job, which is rare in our profession, I would think that anyone would feel accomplished. I feel a lot of negativity coming from the outcome, almost as though all this practice brought you to a place where all the insecurities and frustrations are still the same. I?m sure that you both love what you do. Don?t want to come off as though you?re better than anyone else, but I hear a lot of complaining.? I think that?s fair enough. I think, for me, the phrase in there that sticks out is, ?Almost as though all this practice brought you to a place where all the insecurities and frustrations are still the same.? In a way, I think that?s true.
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010: Stand Parents ? Nathan?s Mom and Dad on raising a violinist

If you?re a musician and you have a young child, do you start him on an instrument? If so, is it the same instrument you play? If so, do you teach him? Or do you make sure your kids steer clear of the musician?s life? These are questions we ask ourselves all the time regarding our three kids! But a generation ago, Nathan?s parents were asking them. And Nathan?s father?s father asked the same questions a generation before that. So in this special episode, Nathan takes advantage of a parental visit to chat with his parents about all this and more, including the path they chose for him through the Suzuki landscape of the early 1980s. Transcript Nathan Cole: Hi, and welcome back to Stand Partners for Life. Nathan Cole: This is a very special episode because today I have none other than my two parents here with me. Usually I?m saying ?hi? to Akiko and thanking her for being here, thanking a guest for being here, but in this case I might as well say, ?Thank you for bringing me into the world.? Nathan Cole: But why don?t you guys say hello? Gordon Cole: Hello. Khristine Cole: Hello. Nathan Cole: They?re visiting from Kentucky, where I grew up. Yeah, it?s a treat to talk to you guys because you?re really the only two that know most of the real story about how I got started on the violin. As Akiko and I have mentioned in some previous episodes, both of you guys are musicians, professional musicians, and that, of course, had a certain bearing on my growing up. But talk a little bit if you would, each of you, about just a quick overview about how you grew up and got started in music. Nathan Cole: Who wants to start? Gordon Cole: Well, I?ll start. My father was a flutist in the Philadelphia orchestra. The school that I was attending, grade school outside of Philadelphia, gave students an aptitude test at the end of third grade, and we were assigned instruments, and we were supposed to come back then for the beginning of fourth grad and play in band. My father had in mind that I should be a horn player, and he had arranged for Mason Jones to give me lessons. But the school sent me home as a flute player. Nathan Cole: So Mason Jones was at that time- Gordon Cole: Principal horn in the Philadelphia orchestra. Nathan Cole: Okay. Gordon Cole: But the school decided I would be a flute player since they knew that my father was a flute player. So my brother became the horn player, and I became a flute player. Nice. Nathan Cole: Now you didn?t study with your dad right away. Gordon Cole: Yes. Nathan Cole: Okay, in the beginning you did. Gordon Cole: Yes, I have no memory of what lessons may or may not have been like. He had me play on a Moennig flute that he had purchased in Europe on one of their trips. It was wooden with plated keys and a plated head joint, metal head joint. I can?t imagine what the band sounded like ?cause there were at least three metal clarinets- Nathan Cole: Metal clarinets. Gordon Cole: ? in this grade school band. They were pretty common after the second world war, but I can?t imagine what the band sounded like and, thankfully, I have no memory of it. Nathan Cole: So how was it studying with your own father? Gordon Cole: Well, I really don?t remember much of anything until we moved from Philadelphia to Wisconsin, where my father taught at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. During my teenage years, evidently I was not very receptive to any sort of suggestions that he might have on how I should play something, so he farmed me out to a very good teacher in Madison for my sophomore and junior years, maybe ninth grade, I don?t remember. Nathan Cole: Can?t imagine not being receptive as a teenager to your parents. To jump to your part of the story too, Mom, but you studied with your dad then in college. Gordon Cole: Yes, and senior year in high school, I decided that I was mature enough then to take his suggestions as that and not as criticisms, personal criticisms. So I switched back to studying with my father my senior...
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009: Nate Farrington, on stage and on-screen in Hollywood

Summary What would you do if you showed up to an audition and heard, ?OK, when I give you the signal, play something intense. Then on the next signal, more intensity!? Well, that?s exactly what happened to double bassist Nate Farrington. Except he was auditioning for a national Honda TV spot, and the mysterious voice belonged to the director! Nate is one of those friends who?s always up for a project: he?s the guy I?d call if I needed to paint a fence, set up a gas grill, or transport a big piece of furniture. Come to think of it, isn?t that last one a big part of the double bassist?s life? But Nate is also the guy I?d call if I needed to whip up a duo program in two hours? time. Or if I needed a pair of expert ears to hear an audition list. He?s always ready to go, and he has a broad array of musical and extra-musical skills that makes him the perfect fit out here in Hollywood. So even though he spends much of his time playing in symphonies (he?s the new principal bass of the LA Opera Orchestra), his interests range far and wide, and he?s equally at home creating music as he is re-creating it. He?s a frequent collaborator with Rocket Jump Studios, and as you?ll discover, he?s already spent some time on camera out here as well. Nate and I talk about how to win those juicy commercial roles, as well as the (also juicy?) orchestra auditions. Here?s a hint: they both involve lots of preparation and then a letting-go of control! We also get into the differences between some of the big symphony orchestras. Nate has played with just about all of them over the years. He?s a real inspiration for finding your own musical voice, or deciding where you fit in the ever-expanding musical universe. Transcript Nathan: [00:00:01] Hi, and welcome back to Stand Partners for Life. Along with my wife Akiko Tarumoto, I am Nathan Cole and we are stand partners for life. But today I?m here instead with Nate Farrington, a good friend ever since I moved to L.A. five years ago. So Nate, thanks for being with us today. Nate: [00:00:39] It?s my pleasure. Nathan: [00:00:39] Thanks for being with me today. It?s not the ?royal we? here. Nate is a bass player extraordinaire, and although we went to the same school the Curtis Institute we weren?t there at the same time. We met only five years ago when I moved out here to L.A. Nate: [00:00:54] But I felt I?d known you since I was in school? you were, you know, the Nate before me at Curtis that everyone talked about. So it was interesting to connect, you know, to put a face with the name?that?s my name. Nathan: [00:01:06] Back then everybody it seemed like all the adults called me Nate and everybody my age called me Nathan. So I sort of hedge my bets I go by Nathan but my website is So there?s the confusion but you?re always Nate. Nate: [00:01:19] I am. Nathan: [00:01:20] Now, you play bass and you play so much of the time in symphony orchestras as I do and a lot of the time with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. But you?re a traveling musician. You live in L.A. but you?re really all over the place. Tell me a little about how that works. Nate: [00:01:37] In the past five years I?ve played with Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Columbus, Philadelphia, New York Chicago, Cleveland. I?ve done concerts in the past with Boston and National and Baltimore and so it?s been a pretty interesting ride to me. The Cincinnati Symphony as well and I was slated to play with the San Diego Symphony but but wasn?t able to make it that week. It?s an incredible variety of music making that happens all over the country. And you know the basic skill set is always the same. The same thing I?ve been doing since we were little children. But it?s interesting to go from spot to spot and see what drives each group differently and how they make their sound the way they do it. It all becomes evident pretty quickly once you start playing with a new group. Nathan: [00:02:24] Now me,
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008: The decline and fall of an orchestra player

Akiko is back to take on what could be a depressing subject: the inevitable erosion of your skills as a violinist when you play in an orchestra. But don?t every violinist?s skills go away eventually, or is there something about being in an orchestra that makes it happen faster? We got the idea for this episode from listener Helen Smit, who brought my attention to a discussion thread over at As it happened, I had actually read that thread without commenting, and found it very interesting. It all started with a young person wondering if she had a chance to make it as a professional. That?s a pretty common question over at, and this was a more enlightening thread than some of those can be. A lot of comments warned the original poster against putting too much stock in a pro orchestra career, partly because it?s so competitive, and then because one?s skills are bound to disappear. So in this episode, we get into whether or not that?s true, and if so, what is it about the orchestra life that contributes to it? And is there anything we can do about it?
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007: Why cellist Brant Taylor took a break from the Chicago Symphony

A reminder that if you don?t yet have our free guide to evaluating and upgrading your violin, make sure to click this link to download it. Even if you?re not in the market, you never know when you?ll be called upon to help a friend pick a new instrument?so be prepared! For the first time, we?ve got a special guest here on Stand Partners for Life. Akiko is still alive and well, but her voice needed a break after some extra parenting this week! So I?m thrilled to have our great friend and former colleague Brant Taylor here with me. Brant is a cellist in the Chicago Symphony, and before that he was (very briefly) a member of the Saint Louis Symphony and the New World Symphony. You?ll hear why those stays were brief here in the episode! You?ll also hear why he decided to take a break from the CSO recently, or as it?s technically known, a sabbatical. The fact is that Brant was a professional quartet player before he ever played in a professional orchestra, so (like me and Akiko) the symphony has never defined his entire scope musically. That?s one of the things that gave us an instant connection when I joined the CSO back in 2002. Over the years, Akiko and I, along with Brant and his partner, have traveled the world, with the symphony and without it. But since we?ve moved out to LA, our visits are far too infrequent, so I really enjoyed getting to sit down for an in-depth conversation with Brant. He?s a tremendous teacher as well, so we get into a variety of great topics this episode. We start by talking about the intense bond that develops among the members of a string quartet. It?s often been compared to a marriage, and for good reason! That made Brant?s quartet?s decision to break up that much more painful, even if it was necessary. Next Brant reveals why his quartet background put him in perfect position to win an orchestra audition. How should you approach a new piece before getting together with your chamber group or orchestra to rehearse it for the first time? How much of yourself should you bring to the piece, and how do you learn what that means for you? We talk about the New World Symphony, and how it helped Brant transition to a full-time professional orchestral career. We also get into what a sabbatical is all about. For Brant, it was a magnification of all the musical activities he loves best, and it made his return to orchestra that much sweeter. But it also included some surprising pursuits, all of which eventually relate to his passion as a cellist and musician. We close with some thoughts on how to accentuate the positive in what can be a demanding, and at times, demeaning job!
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006: Stand Partner Feud ? Etiquette Do?s and Don?ts

Let me start by saying that I just spent five minutes looking up the proper and accepted way to spell ?do?s and don?ts?, so you can rest assured that I?ve nailed it! Do you want to be the kind of stand partner that your colleagues dream of playing with? Or do you want them to look at the new week?s roster, and mutter something under their breath? Let us break down the ways to get on your stand partner?s good side, and to stay there through the ups and downs of orchestra life. Of course, we also get into the big-time no-no?s so that you can steer clear! In fact, let?s break it down in the style of Family Feud! First, Nathan tries to guess Akiko?s top 5 ?Don?ts?, then she attempts to guess his ?Do?s?. We?re moderately successful, with just a few strikes against us. Along the way, Nathan shares a story about his first week with the Chicago Symphony, and what happened when he attempted to mark a fingering in his music. You can read much more about Nathan?s first few weeks with the CSO in his article on Audition Cafe. Listen now for all the inside information about pre-rehearsal chit-chat, touching the music stand, personal hygiene, warmups, part marking, pencils, balance, and even the elusive art of ?staying in the moment?. By the end of this episode, you may have some changes to make to your orchestra routine! At least once in this episode, Nathan said, ?I?m so guilty of that??
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005: What we love (and loathe) about young conductors

?All music was new music once,? we often have to remind ourselves, and the same is true of conductors: they were all young once upon a time. But what does age have to do with a conductor?s artistic vision, or prowess with a baton? That?s what we figure out in today?s episode. Just how necessary is a conductor in the first place? Well, maybe not strictly necessary, but pretty important, as Akiko and the Chicago Symphony found out back in 2010 when Riccardo Muti fell ill just an hour before the season-opening gala! The orchestra and soloist Anne-Sophie Mutter went ahead with the Beethoven violin concerto and a Mozart symphony without anyone on the podium. It was hair-raising stuff, and anything but easy. Nathan talks about his first job, in the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, where conductor-less weeks were (and remain) a feature, not a bug. We get into how conductors were trained in the old days (and the old countries), versus how they?re brought up now. Hint: it?s faster now, and that leads to consequences both good and bad for orchestras. Back when Nathan was at Curtis, the conducting teacher Otto-Werner Mueller stuck to the old ways when he selected his students. Only the cream of the analytical crop survived his grueling tests and earned the right to conduct Stravinsky?s The Rite of Spring under his watchful eye at the audition finals. But not all them instinctively knew how to use the baton. We recall our (still young) boss, Gustavo Dudamel, making his first appearance with us and the Chicago Symphony while he was still in his 20s. A senior member of the orchestra challenged him in rehearsal, and the way Dudamel handled himself set the tone for his illustrious career. Likewise, Daniel Harding has appeared with us both in Chicago and in Los Angeles. We take our own remembrances of those not-always-happy meetings, and combine them with Harding?s own interview on the subject, to discover what experience taught him about orchestras. Here?s the link to the 2011 New York Times interview with Harding: Prodigy Ages into a Merely Young Conductor Finally, we round up the things young conductors can do, or not do, to start off on the right foot with a new group. There?s a lot to be said for trust, in both directions!
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004: Audition advice for our younger selves

Everything would have been so easy if we?d just known then what we know now! In this episode, we revisit what auditioning was like back when we started, and what?s changed for us as we?ve both taken, and judged, so many orchestra auditions. Nathan likes to compare auditions to blind dates: you?ve only got a minute to show what kind of player you are, and all the details you?ve worked so hard to refine need to add up to a beguiling package. Akiko talks about how it?s all about playing to your strengths while deftly concealing your weaknesses. Some of those weaknesses may be with you all the time, while others may only show up under pressure. You have to be savvy enough to know what?s coming when the spotlight?s on you. We discuss what immediately signals to us that someone?s a great player, or not-so-great. Then we each finish with an audition blunder from our early days. Nathan?s involves the cadenza to the Brahms violin concerto, while Akiko?s has her playing for a friend the night before the big day.
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003: Nathan?s journey from Kentucky to Curtis

Nathan comes from a musical family, which might have saddled him with unmanageable expectations. But his parents were careful to keep things light and fun, while making sure he had a strong foundation. In this episode, Akiko learns about Nathan?s beginnings in the Suzuki method with Donna Wiehe, his transition to Daniel Mason (who was a Heifetz student), and that always-awkward teen period when we all have to figure things out for ourselves. For Nathan, that included his first memory slip (terrifying), his introduction to chamber music, and his lifelong habit of keeping a practice journal. We wrap up where we did in the last episode: at the moment just before we met for the very first time!
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002: Akiko?s journey from Eastchester to Harvard

Akiko?s parents aren?t musicians, but that didn?t stop them from wanting her to play an instrument from an early age. So when she was five, she began the violin in her public elementary school (imagine that happening today)! Before long, she and her mother were taking the train into New York City every Saturday to spend the day at the Manhattan School of Music?s pre-college program. We?ll follow Akiko from there to the Juilliard pre-college program, through her years of lessons with legendary teacher Dorothy DeLay. In those days, she never knew which famous soloists (along with their parents) might be waiting in the hallway for their lessons, as the hours dragged toward midnight. As her fellow students jockeyed for position, Akiko felt less and less like competing for Ms. DeLay?s favor. She finally ?hit a wall? with the Paganini concerto, and decided to look ahead toward an academically satisfying college life. Harvard (at least in those days) loved students like Akiko, who had dedicated their lives to one elite pursuit, so at age eighteen she found herself in Cambridge. But she found the atmosphere there to be just as competitive as the one she had left! Luckily she found great friends right away, so she fully enjoyed her time at Harvard, while still wondering if she was truly done with the violin.
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001: Secrets of the Symphony; Meet the Stand Partners

In this first episode, we reveal the secrets of the symphony: what it?s really like to work day in and day out with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. As two violinists raising three kids, we find that our job means different things to us on different days. It?s our passion, of course, but it?s also a marathon. The repertoire changes every week, and those weeks keep coming! We talk about the great parts of the job, as well as the not-so-great. Why do musicians tend to end up with other musicians? Are we always inspired to play each night?s concert? What?s it like to play and to judge auditions? Your feedback has already shaped this opening episode, so you will hear us lay out many topics that we?ll be covering in future episodes. Keep the suggestions coming at the Stand Partners for Life website!
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