Tuesday, August 25, 2009

a great teacher

My bass teacher from several years ago passed away last week. I've held off on writing about him because I really didn't want to interrupt the flow of thoughts and feelings I've been having since he passed, and writing would have done that. I think I'll just mention a few of the ways that he helped me to become a better bass player.

When I first met George, he was playing principal bass in an orchestra I had just joined and I could tell right away from his suggestions to the rest of the section that he would be an excellent teacher for me. At the time, I was teaching piano for a living and playing bass was still a relatively new hobby. George suggested that instead of paying for lessons, I could give his stepson piano lessons in exchange for bass lessons. This was a wonderful arrangement because not only did I not have to pay for lessons but I also got to work with Alex, which I really enjoyed.

Early on during my time working with George he convinced me to go to a week-long Francois Rabbath workshop in Cincinnati which completely changed my whole outlook on myself as a bass player. George's teaching is based in large part on Rabbath's techniques and as I studied with him many ideas that Rabbath had introduced began to fall into place. It all made so much sense physically to me. And emotionally. And musically. I reached a completely new level as a player during the time that I studied with George.

Possibly the most important thing that I learned from him is how seriously harmful modesty can be to musical communication. It gets in the way of how much you can feel and how much you can express. I already knew that, but since I was musically advanced enough to be completely aware of how unadvanced I sounded on the bass, I thought that I should be modest, out of consideration for others who might have the misfortune to hear me. George helped me to realize how this attitude was really holding me back, possibly more than anything else was, and I immediately began working harder with my students on exactly the same thing. It makes a such a huge difference when what you want to put out there doesn't have to pass through a curtain. You can give so much more, but the real reward is what comes back to you in return. This is something I'll always probably have to work on myself, but at least I get it. And I will always be grateful to George for showing me that.

The funeral was incredibly moving on many different levels. Except for the sermon, the entire service was sung in the traditional way by the choir that George had conducted at St. Marks Orthodox Church. The music was simple but extremely beautiful and made the content of the service seem that much more meaningful. The church was completely packed. I could really feel his presence coming back throughout the day from all of the many people who had gathered to pay their respects.

The International Society of Bassists wrote the following:

A Great Teacher - A Great Friend

George Vance passed away on August 16th after a brave battle with pancreatic cancer. He was internationally recognized as a pioneer of pedagogy for young bassists. The author of Progressive Repertoire for the Double Bass, a method for teaching the bass to young students, he was on the faculty of the University of Maryland, and lectured and gave clinics in Ireland, England, Finland, Sweden, Canada, Australia and throughout the United States, as well as holding his own popular annual workshop. A student of Tony Bianco and a graduate of Carnegie-Mellon University, he was awarded the American String Teachers Association "Citation for Outstanding Leadership and Merit" in 1990. In 1995 the International Society of Bassists presented him with a Special Recognition Award for his groundbreaking work. He held a teaching certificate from the Institut International Fran├žois Rabbath.

There will be a requiem service and viewing Wednesday night, August 19th, from 7 pm until 9 pm at St. Mark Church, 7124 River Road, Bethesda, MD. On Thursday morning, August 20th, there will be a funeral service at the church at 10 am, followed by a graveside service at Rock Creek Cemetery, concluded by a lunch and reception at St Mark Church. All are welcome.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to either St. Mark Church, or to the George Vance Young Bassists Education Fund, established in George's honor and dedicated to offering educational opportunities for young bassists. Send donations payable to the International Society of Bassists and addressed to the George Vance Young Bassists Education Fund, International Society of Bassists, 14070 Proton Rd., Suite 100, LB 9, Dallas, Texas 75244. The ISB is a 501(C)(3) organization and all donations are tax deductible as allowed by law.

The ISB extends its deepest sympathies to George's family and students. His extended family family includes the many bassists around the world who have been inspired and influenced by his life's mission of teaching. George will live on in the memories of the students and colleagues whose lives he changed for the better. He made a difference in his too-short life, and we will miss him with all our hearts.

If you are interested in reading more about George and his remarkable teaching career please click here

Monday, August 10, 2009

Julie and Julia

Here is my review: Lovely and delightful. Had a smile on my face throughout the entire movie. The End.

Okay, here's a little bit more: Meryl Streep's portrayal of Julia Child's mannerisms was a little over the top, but I got used to it and it was okay after a while. Her kitchen cabinets at her house in Cambridge, MA were the same color as mine, which made me feel very happy for some reason.

I took the day off today from working on the house, since my hands were killing me from all of the work we've been doing. They felt absolutely horrible at the rehearsal I played this morning. It's been like this before so I'll probably recover.

I painted a couple of rooms last week and we've been working like maniacs installing the floors. I want to get this damn house finished! On Friday we worked until about 4pm and it went so well that we went back over there after my gig and continued until 4am!

On Saturday we slept in until 1:00 pm but we were still too tired to start back up again, so we went back to Centennial Lake (our new favorite cheap place to have fun) and this time we rented a kayak. We saw some more turtles, on a different log this time. What an exciting life we lead!

On the way back we saw a pair of conjoined sycamore trees and then we had a lovely meal at Great Sage in Clarksville. Finally we were ready to get back to work, and by midnight we had finished the floor in the other bedroom. All that's left upstairs, floor-wise, is a tiny bit of the hall and one more room which is a big square, and I should be able to do that one all by myself, after I paint it.

And that brings us back to today. Here are some pictures from my oh-so-exciting recent activities:

The conjoined sycamore trees

A beautiful bean field behind the sycamore
A tree that looks exactly like a bean tree, near the back of the movie theater

A cute mural near the movie theater

One last thing - I would love to hear some opinions about color of the vent pipe chimney in my kitchen. A first time commenter actually went to the trouble to make a version of it in yellow for me, so you can see it in both colors. Should I keep it as is, or repaint it to match the walls? I can't make up my mind, but I am now slightly leaning towards the blue version.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Paddle Boats

On Saturday we went paddleboating at Centennial Lake up in Howard County. I've been a fan of paddle boats since I was a kid. At first Doug didn't think much of them, but I think he's been gradually warming up to the idea now that he's done it a few times. He was actually the one who suggested it this time, which was very nice. But out on the lake I saw him looking longingly at the kayaks. Maybe we'll do that next time. Anyway, the weather was perfect, with a nice breeze. I should have been mowing the grass, but postponing that was well worth it. It was nice to have some fun for a change.

Centennial Lake is actually man made but it's been there a while so it has nice vegetation and animal life. There were lots and lots of turtles, for example.

The turtle on the right was HUGE! His shell was over a foot long.

After the big one left, several more came up to sunbathe. There are five turtles on the log above.
Turtle Love - I guess they are "necking."

We weren't the only ones having fun on the paddleboats.

As we were leaving the park, I decided to try out the flower setting on my camera since there was no bee setting.

After we got back I went over to the house and put a second coat of paint on the porch railings. It took exactly 6 1/2 hours straight for me to paint all of them. By the time I finished, my back was completely trashed from all of the bending over. But it's better today. We've been killing ourselves working on the house and not having a whole lot of fun. Doug likes that more than I do, which is very nice for him. It is rewarding to see how beautiful everything is turning out though. Maybe when I get another burst of energy I'll do a post over on the house blog. But most of the the time lately I've been too exhausted after a long day of work.

And that's not all of them either...