Photo credit: Philip Fulcher
I believe very strongly that it is important for me, as a teacher, to also continue performing. If I am not inspired by music, how can I expect my students to be inspired by music? If I do not enjoy making music, how can I expect to instill in my students a joy for making music? I remain an active performer to further my skills and encourage my passion for music so that I can pass that passion to my students. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to perform on a variety of instruments, in a variety of settings. Viola is my primary instrument and I play it in traditional orchestra settings and in a church Praise Band that uses a variety of styles (bluegrass, pop, funk, gospel). Occasionally I play violin at church as well. I have taken double bass lessons as well as played Baroque viola (gut strings & Baroque bow) in a Baroque ensemble.
As a young student all the music I played was traditional, Western Classical music. I remember playing some pieces by modern composers but even most of those were in a very traditional style. The summer before my senior year of high school I attended the Governor's School of NC and played all 20th and 21st century music. This was my first real experience with non-Western Classical music. It was wonderful! To this day I really enjoy listening to, and playing, this avant-garde style of music. But as a teacher I have struggled with teaching other eclectic styles because I do not have as much experience performing them. I continue to look for new experiences so that I can learn and grow. As seen above I play with my church's Praise Band, reading lead sheet music where I improvise based on the chords. Often I listen to recordings and try to mimic what i hear there. Here is a video clip of Praise Band practice.
I have been playing handbells since high school and I love it! In high school I played at St. Francis United Methodist Church with an advanced group of teenagers. We were a very strong ensemble, both musically and socially. We performed regularly at church and also played at a United Methodist Youth Conference in NC for several thousand people. As an undergraduate in Ohio I continued playing handbells, now at the United Methodist Church of Berea (UMCB). UMCB had two adult handbell choirs, differentiated by ability level. I performed with both choirs but at different stations and often picking up additional bells to cover for absent players. I was also hired as a church intern, specifically to assist the handbell director. I served as co-director with her, picking out music, conducting certain pieces, running rehearsals when she was absent, organizing the music library, and so on.
When I began teaching I took a break from handbells for a couple years, primarily because of our changing church situation. In graduate school I began again. I played at Faith United Methodist Church in PA in the well-established adult choir. I played at a variety of stations, often picking up additional bells to cover for absent players. I helped the director by covering rehearsal when she was absent and I often helped with bell technique/terminology. I also started a choir for beginners that grew so much it split into two choirs.
I have done some solo-ringing and enjoyed it very much. I have used bells while playing in Praise Band to add a different color and style and I have performed more traditional, solo Christmas literature. I hope to continue practicing and improving this challenging medium. Here is a clip of me practicing solo handbells.