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Fine Wine

When I was a kid, I was quite a lousy violin player. People kept telling me how talented I was, but at times this made me feeling really bad. My bad conscience grew bigger and bigger because I was only practicing once a week (right before the lesson!). It almost felt like a betrayal of some sort. I got laurels without making much of an effort.

 

What actually made the turn from reluctant fiddler to passionate Flesch player (=scales and arpeggios for violin) was the experience to play with people who were much better than me.
When I started playing string quartet, I got hooked. And I enjoyed something that most people resist, I loved to play second violin.

Everyone wants to play first. Being the first means being the first and it means playing melody all day long. It means being the hero.
I, on the other hand was quite comfortable with being number two. Because
– one – I got to play with amazing and much more skilled people than me
– two – I loved to not always be in the limelight, just here and there. And I knew being a really good co-pilot is a quality of itself.

 

I kept close to my heart what my beloved violin professor at the University Ulrike Danhofer (RIP, I loved the lessons with you!!) got me to understand.

She taught me this: A fine wine is not just some red juice. As a great piece of music is not just a melody.

An exquisite wine has a beautiful bottle that holds everything together, that is the bass. Then there is the prestigious label on the bottle. It is lovely to look at and shows some name to be proud of. That’s the first violin, that’s the star player everyone admires.

But here comes the clue. What actually is IN the bottle, the wine itself, is the second violin and the viola. THEY make the quality of the whole thing. THEY make all the difference. They make the experience over the top super hyper amazing – or average.

What does a beautiful bottle and impressive label mean, if the wine itself is no good?

 

I remember training with a bassoon quartet for a competition with fantastic young artists age 9 to 12. Some jealousy crept, everyone wanted to play the first part. So I told them the wine analogy and I could sense how much they understood the concept.

After the competition, two of the mothers approached me. They both told me that they asked their child if they would not prefer to play FIRST bassoon. The answer was: “But Mum, I AM the fine wine and when I play really well we are a good bassoon band!”

This made me smile. It’s true.
Life is not about being first. It’s about being the best you can be wherever you are.

 

With so much love,
Anselma

 

 

 

p.s. The amazing Scott Pool out of Texas (Associate Professor of Music, Texas A&M Corpus Christi) did a beautiful recording of our Tango inutile (from Tango Etüden PRO). For some reason the word “inutile” made him think of a faculty meeting… Thank you for this awesome work, we love it! :o)

 

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Everything is learnable

When I was a kid people kept telling me that I would be talented. Of course, I liked that. Who would not? And I did more of what I seemed to be talented in, clever little me :o)
Pawlow’s dog was fully alive in me: Make music, get some cookies.
When I got older something started to shift. Suddenly – to my disliking – the label “talented” somehow faded. All of the sudden it was not enough any more to be talented. That was too bad!

What increasingly counted was something not so cozy: WORK.
I kind of resisted this. And I had to put in more and more effort to keep the glorious myth of a talented girl alive.
My epiphany really struck when I talked to a Russian piano teacher.
He told me: “In Russia it is simple: the one who practices most is the most talented.”

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Where You Stand

Some years back, a friend asked me if I wanted to help translating some Japanese Haikus by the famous buddhist master teacher Daisaku Ikeda into German. These were small poems, each conveying a gem of wisdom, beauty or philosophy.

I was not sure if I was the right person for the job. Having been in danger of getting kicked out of school – believe it or not – for almost 8 years of Gymnasium because of bad spelling. I was a lousy student at school that struggled in many subjects, German being the worst.
My brain was simply not wired for this type of school. Repeating after others has never been my thing…

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Knowledge Is Power? Really…?

There is this story of a large shipping company. Their most important ship stopped working, the engine could not be turned on.

The company gathered all the technical experts to fix the engine but nothing seemed to work. The technicians could not repair the engine.
Finally they brought in an old man who was no expert, not even an engineer. But he had a small repair shop in town where he fixed anything from a broken egg timer to trucks.

He looked at the ship’s engine, turned one little wheel and then successfully started it. He had fixed the engine in 2 minutes.

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The Lost Art of Listening

There is this fabulous story of Franklin D. Rosevelt. As the president of the United States, he had to endure endless receptions that seemed to steal his precious life time.

What he could stand the least was the feeling that everything was very formal – but empty. Waxy faces, fake smiles and huge amounts of meaningless phrases.
It bothered him that very rarely anybody in the political circus would do what a genuine person does: really listen.

Listening after all gives birth to empathy, which is the one and foremost quality of an impeccable human being.
Listening with open ears and an open heart brings the best out of us.

 

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The Obstacle Bassoon Concertino

In the low range and for true heroes. HERE it comes.
This little Concerto was comissioned by the Stadtstreicher Orchester Wien and quite a challenge to write.

It has been composed for
– a motivated soloist and
– very passionate string players,
– all age 8-12.
Basically… beginners.
But very passionate!

Further obstacles on the way:
 
– Everyone wants to play melody.
For practicing accompaniment is boring! Who in the world would do that??
 
– As few rests as possible.
Rests are problematic. Lots of passion creates not much patience to wait.
Or even to count!?
 
– String instrument beginners are amaaaazing. In the 1st position.
And probably in 3rd.
Probably.
 
– Open strings are fantastic! Flats are the enemy.
They require strange hand positions (low 1st finger!?).
 
– The soloist was a beginner as well. Very passionate!
But with slightly clumsy fingers. Fast notes… caused a node in his brain and hands.
 
– And last not least: The soloist LOVES Hummel Concerto.
It should sound a little bit like it.
 
And now with all of this, let’s relax and happily compose what I would call
a complete “work-around-Concertino”.
Good luck with that!?
 
I really did try my very best and turned Hummel into Grummel (=grumble),
made some sketches without flats, with many open strings, few rests, with melody for everyone and no low 1st finger – and the whole shindig in super easy without scary quick notes.
 
But WITH lots of opportunity to bluntly show passion!
 
I was quite nervous if what I was writing was any good.
 
It turned out people loved it, the benevolent audience, the motivated soloist and the very passionate string players as well.
After we did the premiere I felt a little like a zoo animal. Cameras from everywhere on me.
Even on the metro they asked if I would pose beside a little passionate string player…
 
Hope you like this thing, too.
The piano reduction will be in print next week, we will start shipping them shortly.
 
Many thanks and so much love,
Anselma

 

 

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The Devil’s Tools

The other day, the devil was bored. He thought about what would light up his day and went ahead and prepared a garage sale. He put his tools on the table to present them.

There were
– the hammer of anger,
– the pliers of fear and
– the wrench of ignorance.

Anger, fear and ignorance can lure people into doing unethical or stupid things.
But at least, they are doing something.
The most important of all of the devil’s tools he decided to keep to himself.
The core piece remained inside the devil’s house.

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The New Trap

Many times, if new stuff is introduced like new technology or new machines, life drastically improves. Think about washing mashines. Think about vacuum cleaners. Think about mobile phones.

What technology brings to us is more convenience and less hard work.
Less need for pesky housework and no need to walk to red phone boxes. We are not bothered by organizing everything in advance.
We just grab the cell phone and do everything on the fly.

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Driving a Washing Machine

The other day we had to buy a new washing machine. We took our bikes to get to the store and when we finally made it to the cashier she told us, at the moment would be no deliveries, there is a shortage of personal. We could book a delivery in 6-8 weeks.
Since we don’t have a car this created a problem.

There we stood with our brand new washing machine and no means to move the damn thing home.
We were puzzled and thought about trying to find a taxi. The interesting thing about living on the countryside in the beautiful middle of nowhere is: There is no taxi.

 

 

Still standing at the cashier clueless how to move the metallic cube people got angry that we would still block the line – unsure if we should even buy this thing when the fricking shop is not delivering it.

I felt all the impatient eyes on my back, it seemed like 10 hungry sharks were waiting behind me. Suddenly a man came towards us and said:
“I have my truck here, I can deliver your washing machine for you. Do you live far away?”

The man had a friendly face and 3 minutes later the washing machine was secured on his truck. He did not know the road where we live so we agreed we would drive to a certain crossroads, he taking the car, us taking the bike. We would show him the road and drive the last meters together.

And off he went.

 

My heart jumped. Did we really buy a brand new washing machine and gave it in the hands of a total stranger who is now off and gone? We didn’t have his name or cell phone number or even the one on his licence plate…

I turned to my husband and said: “In reality land we did not just buy this guy a brand new washing machine, did we?” I kind of felt shocked about our decision.
We got on the bikes and went as fast as we could to the crossroads. His truck was blinking in the sun when we arrived. A few minutes later we unloaded the washing machine and he even helped carrying this little monster.

Immediately I put out my purse and asked what I am allowed to pay him. He smiled and said: “Give this money to people who are in need. Please do that. I do have enough. And when you come to my village, look for the little shop that sells christmas lights, that is mine. You are always more than welcome there.”

 

I was really touched.
There are good people everywhere. Sometimes we forget that.
When we try to be these good people the world gets a hell of a lot better.
Imagine YOU are the one who reaches out to help. How does that feel?

 

So much love to you,
Anselma

 

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tips & tricks for great teaching, inspiration, psychology clues, insanely practical ideas and other freaky bassoon stuff.

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