Classical

Practice is a physical activity, of course, but it's also hard mental work — if you're doing it right. A new video published by TED Ed gets down to the scientific nitty-gritty of what good practice looks like, and what it does to your brain. (Think axons and myelin, not "muscle memory" — muscles don't have "memory.")

It's become an annual tradition for NPR to host a live band in our studios for a full day. This year, we upped the ante and invited around 70 musicians from Washington, D.C.'s National Symphony Orchestra to play the musical interludes between stories on All Things Considered.

"I feel your pain." The phrase might still be linked to Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign, but it's also an apt descriptor for a new project by The Crossing, the adventuresome Philadelphia-based choir, based on some very old music.

The 15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, which takes place every four years, begins later this spring in Fort Worth, Texas. For the past six weeks, judges have been traveling the world to hear potential competitors audition. One notable stop is Moscow — where the American pianist for whom the contest is named stunned the world 59 years ago, winning the International Tchaikovsky Competition at the height of the Cold War.

The Polish-born conductor and composer Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, who led the Minnesota Orchestra for nearly two decades and worked with that symphony for well over 50 years in total, died Tuesday at age 93.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything…no particular reason. So, I recently came across this interesting little story. Ever wonder what it’s like to be an orchestral musician in a world-class ensemble? Violinist Nathan Cole, First Associate Concertmaster with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, writes about his experiences with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra back in 2002. It might be a a tad lengthy, but it’s well worth the read!

Yannick Nezet-Seguin conducts the Philadelphia Orchestra
Ryan Donnell

I dare say that, with the state of classical music in this country, ie: seemingly on a steady decline, no matter how much we’d like to believe otherwise, it doesn’t help matters when it comes to disagreements between musicians and symphony orchestra management when it comes to pay.

My wife and I have been going to the Met pretty much annually since the NEPR travel program began a couple of decades ago with a series of weekends at the Met. 2016 has stood out for history making adventures for us. In the fall of 2015 we bought tickets for a trip at spring break of this year.  As it happened we had excellent seats for James Levine’s final performance as Music Director. he conducted Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio and we were part of the tremendous ovation which followed, at least 20 minutes’ worth. I wrote about it at the time.

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