Sunday, October 28, 2012

Giving it a go

Hey look!  For a second week I am successful at writing in my blog!  I had fun all week thinking of good topics and things to talk about.  I gave serious thought to writing a political post and it sounded like a brilliant narrative if I do say so myself.  However, around Tuesday or Wednesday, I read something online that was EXACTLY what I would have written.  It is right around that time that I was frantically getting all my grad school stuff sent in so my frustration at my misguided blog idea was quickly funneled into that scramble.  The good news?  I've done all I can and now I wait to be called for an audition.

I am very much enjoying relaxing in my PJs on the couch watching as the Giants just win the world series, Dexter, and reminisce on my day.  Therefore, I don't feel like writing too much.  However, I would appreciate fingers crossed and any other good luck tossed my way.  I thought in lieu of a blog post (and this is getting to be almost long enough for me to consider it a formidable blog), I would post part of my application, my artists statement.  In this statement I had to describe my background and what I would do with my masters degree.  Well, here it goes.

At times, I feel that the study of music is a creative process divided by tradition.  Many string players travel down the road to classical training as I did; a section leader in high school, extra curricular ensembles and youth symphonies, and finally an acceptance to pursue music as an undergraduate.  As an undergraduate, I again worked up to being a section leader, played in extra curricular ensembles, and this time semi-professional symphonies.  It was at the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point that I truly learned the value of hard work, and at the same time fell in love with the deep, sweet tone of the viola.  As a result, went on to perform my senior recital on both violin and viola.  Upon graduating, I moved back to my native Saint Paul, MN where I started my private studio and began my career as a music teacher in the Robbinsdale school district.  I sought out playing opportunities resulting in my position in the Mississippi Valley Orchestra as principal viola.  I also founded Supertet, a string quartet that regularly rehearses pieces in the traditional string quartet realm as well as newer arrangements.

For many, this is an idyllic story.  On paper, this timeline sounds fantastic.  However, the whole time I was looking around me, wishing to play the other styles that were catching my ear.  In high school, I would complete my practice sessions only to take a little extra time to memorize a fiddle tune or run through “Orange Blossom Special.”  In college, my stand partner and I snuck a jam on “Bile them Cabbage Down” on a student colloquium.  My professor was immensely understanding of my interests and permitted me to play a Mark O’Connor tune on my senior recital.  I wistfully studied the brilliance heard in Stephane Grappelli, Eddie South, Stuff Smith but struggle to get the flowing lines to emit from my violin.  Still, I soldiered on, simply upable to give up trying to learn more about such intriguing music.

I finally found a chance to experiment with these interests and found my niche in the Twin Cities music scene.  I perform with a few groups and work very hard to learn different styles by experimenting with bluegrass, jazz and even a little fusion.  However, I feel that often I am stuck.  I am a product of private lessons, school orchestra, and a collegiate music department, a path that is traditionally very linear and heavily notated.  I am so accustomed to etudes, solo repertoire, and being held accountable by my professors and private teachers.  Yet, here I am, improvising, jamming, learning tunes aurally, and somewhat fumbling in the dark.  Whether I play well or not, I really only have myself to be accountable for.  I am a classically trained violinist in a fiddler’s world; an obstacle in itself. 

So my purpose for applying to pursue a graduate degree comes down to this:  Why, when there are many traditions associated with the violin, are we only focusing on classical music?  Why are fiddle and jazz tunes not as accepted in the concert hall?  What can I do as an educator and a performer to show future musicians that all of these genres are extremely important to who we are as string players.  Can we classically train our youth in the styles of bluegrass and jazz?

Already my private students are subjected to aural lessons from time to time where they learn a fiddle tune by rote.  When they hit a plateau or struggle with a particular skill in their classical repertoire, I assign them a non-classical piece as a sideways step.  They think I’m giving them something “fun,” but really I am developing the skill they need help on by picking a piece that features it.  By pursuing my masters degree I will be able to make even better decisions when pairing these pieces and would love to venture into writing a thesis on this subject.  I imagine that someday, I may even find myself compiling and publishing a book of non-classical tunes that would directly pair with much of the repertoire used in public schools and private lessons.

I have a great passion for teaching and am proud to be in the field of education.  However, learning what I have in the past few years thus far of other styles of violin playing as awakened a love for performing I have never felt before.  I love the adventure of taking a fiddle break in a bluegrass band or working on playing electric violin.  I would love to see my studies broaden my knowledge, opening up windows of opportunities to perform and share what I have learned.  I am amazed at my abilities so far to be essentially self taught in alternative styles and am thrilled at the possibilities for what I would learn as a graduate student.

Armed with a masters degree, I, Karen Krueger, will continue to put my all into teaching and performing as I currently do day in and day out.  The difference will be the level of expertise I will be giving to my students and audience.  At my young age, I realize I have thousands of students ahead of me who will directly benefit to this professional development.  I will work to make sure none of my students will feel lost or set on a predestined path steering them away from the music they are interested in learning as I felt.  As a performer, it is quite obvious that furthering my musical studies will help me develop my sound.  Studying this music in depth will help me become the violinist I’ve always dreamed I could be and will set me on a trajectory to reach whatever goals I set beyond this initial goal of graduate study.

This classically trained violinist will then be classically trained in the art of alternative violin styles.

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