Creative Strings Workshop: Part One

"Stuy" Hall on the campus of Ohio Wesleyan University. Our home, rehearsal space, and classroom for the 2018 Creative Strings Workshop.

"Stuy" Hall on the campus of Ohio Wesleyan University. Our home, rehearsal space, and classroom for the 2018 Creative Strings Workshop.

A Musical Convergence in Central Ohio

Despite the overbearing Midwest heat of Central Ohio, I made the journey from Seattle to a long-awaited Creative Strings Workshop earlier this Summer. The Creative Strings Workshop is the brainchild of renown string educator and jazz violinist, Christian Howes. I first came across Chris' work through YouTube videos and subsequent content on Facebook, podcasts, and conversations with other string players. What attracted me was Chris' story, and his passion for the violin and how the instrument can be a tool for creative expression regardless of style or genre. The workshop hosted a diverse gathering of 60 string players from all corners of the world with varied musical background from conservatories to fiddle camps. With players from France, Japan, the Dominican Republic, Argentina and beyond, it seemed the strings world converged on small-town Delaware, Ohio for this special week of music making. (It was also nice running into fellow Pacific Northwesterners, too!)

So what were we all doing here then? 

As with many string players, including myself, a traditional pathway toward learning the violin, viola, or cello was taken typically through either the Suzuki method or primary school orchestra. In either case, a prescribed selection of songs, typically "Classical" music was laid out and development grew out of preparations for recitals, concerts, auditions, and shows. For my formative years, this became an important foundation for my discipline, ear training, and technique. 

Through circumstance and curiosity, my musical interests have expanded outside the classical realm.  I imagine with many other workshop attendees, we discovered our instrument can exist outside of a recital hall or an orchestra pit. We dabbled in jamming and harmonizing to rock and pop covers, sat in old-time fiddle circles or heard a jazz violin solo in passing. Creative Strings Workshop offered us a chance to delve deeper into non-classical genres in a way that pressed against long-held notions of learning music "by the book" while uncovering our unique voice as string players. Clinics and ensembles emphasized skills like developing improvisational proficiency, broadening our backing band and jamming techniques. Whether playing in a jazz combo or fiddle circle, we quickly realized how valuable these skills are exploring these new playing styles.

The workshop was such a rich confluence of new musical experiences and knowledge for me. The intensity and perpetual nature of the schedule left me both exhausted and excited as each day passed.   Because of this, I am finding it best to share my experience in a series of blog posts in the coming weeks. Beyond being a journal piece, my intention through is to offer insight into how this workshop supports to my teaching philosophy and perhaps promotes future musical opportunities to interested families. 

Please check back on this site and my social media channels for further updates.