Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Can Violinists Like Lindsey Stirling Help Revitalize Classical Music?


I know what you're going to say… "pop" classical is not classical. But as violin/viola teacher and a devoted classical musician, in the last year, I've had several new students tell me that they were inspired to learn the violin after seeing Lindsey Stirling.
If you've never heard of Lindsey Stirling, watch some of her videos on YouTube. She's an exciting "pop" violinist who mixes classical music, hip-hop, electronic music, and dubstep to create unique and exciting videos. She recently completed a world tour, and many of her shows were sold out (I tried unsuccessfully to get tickets to one in Dallas). 
The question I'm trying to answer is: Does her success help traditional classical music? Can musicians like her bridge the gap between classical music and pop?
Now, once these violin students who were inspired by Lindsey began taking lessons, they were open to learning classical as well as more pop music. What's more, these students represent a very difficult-to-reach demographic for classical music: teens and young adults. It's common for people who take violin lessons as children to stop playing once they reach high school. There's a whole new whirlwind of peer pressure and activities that compete for their attention, and parents have less influence on them. Yet, most of my adult students wish they had continued playing violin instead of giving up lessons as a teenager. By making violin modern, accessible, and exciting, Lindsey Stirling and others like her keep teens engaged. She makes the violin cool and fun, which helps teen violinists earn the respect of their peers. 
Some traditionalists might worry that there's some kind of conflict between teen violinists interested in classical crossovers and "real" classical musicians, but in my experience, that's not the case. In fact, quite the opposite--I found that listening to pop violinists like Stirling inspires students to hone their skills. The more skillful a student becomes, the more open they are to learning classical music. It creates a virtuous cycle where the classical music seems more approachable and less daunting when students have had a chance to cut their teeth on a piece of pop music.
Of course, Lindsey does more than just inspire violin students--she sells out concerts, collaborates with everyone from symphony orchestras to LMFAO, and her self-titled album was the number two classical album and the number one electronic album on Billboard's 2013 year-end charts. Classical crossover artists like her can bring new listeners to the symphony. These young, fresh audiences might initially come for a pops concert, but return for a classical symphony once they're more comfortable.
And, let's be honest--almost all classical musicians play pops concerts! Every symphony orchestra has them, so in one respect we are already pop violinists (or violists, cellists, etc.). Maybe we should all learn to dance while we play or write our own classical mash-ups!
Lindsey Stirling might not have followed a traditional classical career, but she's created a unique voice by staying true to herself. If there's a lesson here for other musicians, it's to strive to be the best at the music you're passionate about. If the world of classical music is broad enough to encompass Beethoven Symphonies, Gregorian Chant, Bach Cello Suites, and Philip Glass, it certainly won't be done in by an electric violin or two.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Sherwood Forest Faire 2014

This past weekend, my husband and I celebrated Valentine's day by going to our first Renaissance Festival of 2014--Sherwood Forest Faire. We went there twice last year, and this year is our little girl's first trip!
We arrived at Sherwood hungry, so we went straight to one of our favorite places from the year before, Como's Italian Ristorante:

The melanzana and the pizza were as delicious as ever, and this year my husband tried the lasagna, which he liked--it had tons of cheese. Still, I think the melanzana, which is crispy fried eggplant, is the best. After we ate, we got coffee at the Paleo Puffin (seriously good coffee) and listened to Saxon Moon.

Saxon Moon's music appeared to be greatly appreciated by a Scottish Storm Trooper.

Next we went to Casta Diva. I'd bought a corset there a couple of years ago, but I still haven't lost all my baby weight, so it didn't fit anymore. Thankfully, the people at Casta Diva were very helpful and professional. I was thrilled that they could adjust my corset so it fit once more!

Casta Diva was right next to the pony rides, and they said that our little girl could ride a pony while I walked beside it to keep her on. It was every bit as adorable as a baby riding a pony should be! She leaned over to grab the pony's mane just like a real jockey.

Also near Casta Diva was the Horseman Stage, where we caught a performance by Drones N Drums, a Scottish band. We decided to explore the fair a bit, and Anwen got to take a picture with one of the knights from the joust!

Next, we went to Moresca, where I got a new skirt and blouse, which I totally loved! When we reversed my corset, it matched everything beautifully.

We decided to get our sweet baby a costume as well, so we went to Land of Merriment and found a lovely little dress for her. She looked so adorable!

Such a Happy Baby! She was so excited by the fair and her new costume.

After we got our little girl her costume and took tons of pictures, we explored the fair some more. I got some wonderfully-scented soap called "Faerie Kisses" at Summerwood Soaps.

At around sunset, Sherwood has a great drum circle. Many of the performers from the fair are there, including the gypsy belly dancers. It was a lot of fun, and a great end to the day. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Romance of the Rings

Truthfully, I'm not usually interested in reading romance novels, and for the most part I avoid books that seem to relationship-heavy. However, I do love reading Tolkien,  from The Lord of the Rings to The Hobbit to The Silmarillion. So in honor of Valentine's Day and great books,  here are my favorite Tolkien couples.

1. Luthien Tinuviel and Beren Erchamion

Luthien and Beren are the greatest romantic couple of Middle Earth. She's the most beautiful of all the Children of Iluvatar, and he's a mortal man who goes on the boldest and most dangerous quest anyone ever dared before to win her hand. Tolkien mentions Luthien and Beren several times in LOTR and The Hobbit, then tells the full story in The Silmarillion. I love this story because Luthien ends up being just as powerful as Beren. She uses her power to save her beloved from one of Sauron's deepest dungeons and then disguises them both so they can break into Thangorodrim. When Beren dies, she dies of grief, but sings so beautifully of her lost love that Mandos, the lord of the dead, takes pity on her. She and Beren return from death to live in Middle Earth once more for a short time. In a real life romantic gesture, Tolkien based Luthien on his beloved wife, Edith, who once danced for him in a woodland glade after he returned from WWI. The names Beren and Luthien are carved on the Tolkiens' gravestone.

2. Aragorn and Arwen

In their own way, Aragorn and Arwen seem to re-enact the tale of Beren and Luthien, who are the ancestors of them both, but with a happier ending. Despite the wishes of her father, Elrond, who is understandably reluctant to have his beloved daughter become mortal when she marries Aragorn, Arwen chooses to stay with her beloved in Middle Earth. Aragorn becomes the King of Gondor and Arnor to win her hand, and Arwen becomes his queen.

3. Eowyn and Faramir

This romance is hinted at in the movies, and elaborated in the books. Sick from the Witch King's death curse and broken-hearted from Aragorn's rejection, Eowyn meets Faramir as they're recovering from their injuries together. They slowly fall in love and eventually get married. I love their story because it shows that sometimes people find true love after their hearts have been broken. Although Eowyn had loved Aragorn, she recovers from his rejection and finds the person she's really meant to be with.

4. Earendil and Elwing

Earendil is the famous mariner of Middle Earth, and Elwing is his wife. He build a great ship and sailed around the world, looking for a way to Valinor, so he could convince the Valar (angelic beings) to rescue Middle Earth from Morgoth. But while he was away, the sons of Feanor attacked the Arvernien to steal Elwing's silmaril. Elwing threw herself off a cliff into the sea to keep from being captured. But instead of dying, the lord of the sea turned her into a white bird. Elwing flew over the sea until she found her husband's ship. Exhausted, she fell through the air, but Earendil kept her safe, until to his surprise the beautiful white bird turned back into his wife. Together, Earendil and Elwing sailed to Valinor and convinced the Valar to save men and elves from Morgoth. I like this couple because they worked together and helped each other to save Middle Earth.

5. Melian and Eru Thingol

Melian was a Maia (a sort of angelic being) who met Eru Thingol, an elf king, in a forest. They fell so deeply in love that they stayed in the forest together for years, just staring in each other's eyes. Afterward, they ruled the elven kingdom of Doriath and had a daughter, Luthien Tinuviel.

6. Tom Bombadil and Goldberry

Tom Bombadil and Goldberry are a mysterious couple who live in the middle of a great forest, and seem to have great powers. The hobbits meet them in the LOTR. While no one is quite sure what kind of beings they are (there are tons of theories) it's clear that they love each other deeply.

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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Poems: Tired Baby, Worlds Away, Pale Morning Light

her little head
heavy with exhaustion
lays on my arm
bright eyes
softly closing

Originally published in the Bamboo Hut, vol. 1, no. 2:

snuggled against me
safe in her mother’s arms
worlds away
from a country where bombs fall
on another mother’s babies

pale morning light
trickles through the window
as I hold her
soft face against my neck
let me live in this moment

Other Poetry Posts: