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JVNY Chamber Music Workshop in Valmorel, France

Press Articles

The Strad Magazine, February 2010

Interview with JVNY Artistic Director, Arik Braude, by Sarah Mnatzaganian

"How do you select students for your studio?

We choose students who are clearly engaged in the music and who have a nucleus of musical sparkle that can be ignited We are less concerned with technical level at the time of the audition, since it is our responsibility to help students build their technique.

If I think a student is nervous in the audition and not playing at their best, I will try to engage them musically by accompanying on the piano - this usually helps them to relax and gives me a better picture of their potential.

What atmosphere do you aim for during lessons?

The students and I share a common goal, which is the development of their potential to the fullest extent. I aim for a cordial but intense and purposeful teaching atmosphere.

How do you go about teaching good bowing?

Bowing technique is one of the things that students cannot usually work out alone unless they are very advanced players. I often say "your job is to prepare the left hand in this study so that in the lesson we can concentrate on the bow arm." Usually I demonstrate a bow stroke since this can save a lot of time, but sometimes students respond better if I give them an image to work with.

Yesterday, an eleven-year-old student played me the slow movement from a Mozart concerto. She seemed very happy with it, but she was playing very forcefully and it didn't sound like Mozart at all. I didn't feel that demonstrating on my violin would help her, so I turned to my puppy who was with us in the room, and asked her to pat him gently. Then I asked her to play the piece again as if she were patting the puppy or stroking a doll. I know it sounds babyish, but it worked: the left-hand pressure was gone so her vibrato was free. The right arm stopped hurting the violin and she sounded lovely.

What studies do you use?

My students typically go through such studies as Mazas, Kreutzer, Rode, Gavinies and Dont. I insist that all the etudes are performed with logical phrasing and with the best possible sound, and I ask students to 'sing' through every note. This ensures the development of a connection between the mechanical stroke or articulation and the musical meaning it conveys. I have found that if I harmonize on the piano while students play the Shradieck velocity exercises, they make an intense emotional connection with the study instead of just going through it as a mechanical exercise.

How do you help students with performance nerves?

I have often noticed that the more sensitive and talented the student, the more prone they are to the agony of stage fright. Perhaps it is because music means so much to them and they care more deeply about what they are hoping to convey in a performance.

It can be useful to have a calming mantra to follow when going on stage, such as singing repeatedly in one's head the opening phrase of the work to be performed with the exact intended expression. Apart from this, the most effective way to reduce stage fright is to perform regularly from a very young age. This is why we hold monthly masterclasses for all our students. The youngest might get up on stage simply to perform an open-string pizzicato piece and to receive some praise and applause, while older students will receive some suggestions about their playing and will learn to think and to respond to fresh ideas while on stage.

We also take our advanced students on tour with us to perform at festivals in the summer, so that they can experience the musician's life on the road. It is the accumulation of performance experience that teaches one how to deal with stage fright.

What keeps you stimulated as a teacher?

Creativity. Teaching is a very exciting process and I am still learning all the time. You have to develop hundreds of different ways to address each individual problem and you need immense emotional flexibility to guide a student's full development into an artist. I often feel that I have another pair of eyes in the room with me like another teacher observing me at work, questioning what I am doing and giving me advice. The presence of this 'inner monitor' always makes the teaching experience very intense."


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