Masthead header

Boxing In The Concert Hall

by ALEX STENING
First-year MM French Horn

 

 

On May 2nd 2015, Floyd Mayweather Jr, will fight Manny Pacquiao in what will be the highest grossing boxing fight in history. Floyd “Money” Mayweather is an undefeated five-division world champion American boxer who is the world’s highest paid athlete. Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao is an eight-division world champion Filipino boxer who was also a congressman of the Philippines. In boxing, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Anticipating the fight, I can’t help but imagine the superhuman training these two world champion boxers are enduring. Mayweather starts his day well before sunrise jogging through the streets of L.A. in solitude. In the gym, he jump-ropes at blinding speeds, chops an 800lb log of wood with an axe, and uses a strap connecting his head to a weight, lifting it by his neck as his crew chants the mantra “Hard work. Dedication.” Pacquiao also starts his day well before sunrise jogging up a mountain with his team in the Philippines. At the top, he meets vigorous abdominal exercises. Jogging back to the gym, he exercises with resistance bands and a variety of punching bags that contribute to his electric hand speed.

If only we had as much focus as this guy!

If only we had as much focus as this guy!

As vastly different as the two boxer’s backgrounds and unique approaches to training are, a trait that makes them the greatest fighters in the world is their ability to focus. They must be extremely present, visualize the punches they wish to execute while anticipating the opponent’s moves like a chess game. 12 rounds 3 minutes each in boxing, and the slightest millisecond slip of focus is enough time to allow the opponent to throw the one punch that ends the match.

In a less violent way, a musician’s mind needs that same intense focus while playing music. We know from experience that the more we think to ourselves while playing “Here comes that darn high note” or “I don’t like BHOP pizzas” or any unrelated thought, the more likely we will be hit by the jabs and uppercuts of our performance.

It’s amazing how much focus it takes to get through an etude or piece without missing one note. I’m just scratching the surface of this fascinating skill; trying to hear and sing every note in the moment as I’m playing. When done correctly, I may gain a burst of energy from my performance, feeling revitalized and satisfied with my efforts. Just like pushing someone on a swing or hitting a punching bag, the more energy you put into it, the more energy comes back.

To learn more about increasing your focus, try looking into Adversity Training adapted by Don Greene and Dr. Noa Kageyama.

Back to top|Contact me

Taking Care

by SARAH ATWOOD
First-year MM Violin

 

 

’Tis the season for auditions and recitals. Spring is a very busy time of year playing-wise, and practicing seems to reach an all-time high. There’s pressure to prepare and memorize lots of pieces, for recitals and promotionals alike. Worries about the outcome of school auditions, summer auditions, and job auditions prevail. It’s hard to do what needs to be done and practice what needs to be practiced while staying injury-free.

Terms like “overuse-injury” and “tendonitis” are words that – understandably – cause general panic. My arms were once so strained, before I started college, that I had to take six months completely off, and then spend another six months gradually working my endurance back. The time away from my instrument caused both an existential crisis and also forced me to research what is out there in terms of healthcare and self-care. Whether a long-term injury applies to you, or if your arms are simply tired at the end of a long day, these methods can be helpful to all. Many of these tactics are embarrassingly obvious, but many people (myself included) forget to do them consistently.

1. Consistency is the key word, if you want to stay a healthy musician, playing long into your life. First, take breaks! Taking a break does not have to mean a full fifteen minutes; if you’re in rehearsal, a quick five-second stretch will still help break the repetition and possible tension.

2. Drink water. Coffee does not count.

3. Eat well. The student lounge vending machine does not count.

4. Mental practice. Or, if you can’t stand the thought of that, practice one arm at a time. For example, for string players, focus on a soft consistent left hand without the bow, then on a fluid right arm playing open strings.

5. Things that help keep your body strong and flexible are important, whether you are already hurting or not. Staying active and keeping your larger muscles strong gives relief to the smaller muscles. I dance and run, and I know many people who swim. Find what you like and do it consistently.

6. Chiropractors, massage, Alexander Technique, and Feldenkrais. Many people know these tools exist, but depending on your situation, it may be an expensive endeavor to do them consistently. When I was injured, I discovered Somatics, which essentially healed me. It is akin to Feldenkrais and Alexander Technique, but you can learn to do the exercises yourself after sometimes just one session. I took a few “lessons” and learned how to make the adjustments myself. It felt comforting to know I could “fix” myself, instead of relying on someone else.

7. Yoga is also good, although you need to be careful about the strain it puts on your wrists. Many instructors are aware of how musicians might need to modify poses, and yoga is great for releasing tension through movement and breath.

8. I have started a little bit of Tai chi, which really helps to release my shoulders and feel my circulation. There is pretty much a never-ending list of things that can help, so experiment with what works and what you can maintain consistently, even when in the crunch-time of school and recital preparation.

9. SLEEP!

Musicians are similar to athletes, and we should take care of ourselves in a similar way. Taking the time may seem like a waste; it is tough to make yourself do something that is less obviously rewarding short-term, when a big performance is looming. However, now is a good time to get in the habit, so good luck! And happy, healthy playing to all.

Back to top|Contact me

The Power Of Positive Thinking

byFrankie FRANKIE YU
Second-year MM Trombone

 

 

I read once that whenever you are super stressed out or overwhelmed, or you feel like everything in life is just so wrong, you should smile. Smile, and you will feel better. Honestly, I thought it was kind of dumb, but I’ll try anything once. You know that feeling in the base of your neck when you start to tense up and it works it’s way out towards your shoulders and into your face, and before you know it your chin is jutting out, your shoulders are up to your ears and your face is scrunched into a kind of grimace? It’s awful isn’t it? So I figured I’d give this smiling thing a try. It may sound cliché, but smiling made me feel as if some nasty weight that had been weighing down on my soul had been lifted. I could breathe, and more importantly it gave me the most important attitude to have in any bad situation: perspective.

Positive Thinking. Two simple words that hold a whole depth of meaning. Two simple words that hold the key to living happily. Two simple words that represent a beautiful thing that we too often deprive ourselves of.

For some odd reason, it becomes too easy to be mean. Not necessarily mean to others, but mean to ourselves. But what does that lead to? A mean comment to ourselves here and there may seem like no big deal. We end up tricking ourselves into thinking, “It motivates me,” or, “it makes me work harder.” But negative thoughts sprinkled throughout the day add up, and over an extended period of time with negative thoughts, I believe it can take a real toll on us. There are no benefits to be reaped from that.

“You’ll find that life is still worthwhile, if you just smile.” – Charlie Chaplin

I noticed changes in myself when I started approaching my thoughts like this and slowly stopped being mean to my own brain. Things started happening in little steps: little thing’s that used to make me clench my teeth didn’t bother me anymore. I became a more patient person, I’ve opened my mind more, and even that mean glare that my face tended to fall into when I walked went away! That person who steps onto the elevator just as the doors begins to close? You’re fine man, don’t even worry about it. The person who cuts you off in the hallway? It’s cool, in reality you really aren’t keeping me from getting to where I was going anyway. I also noticed a kind of freedom. If I was happy in my own mind, I felt much less inclined to care what other people thought, which was amazingly liberating. I applied this very thought process to my recent recital, and found that it had wondrous results!

Another great part about incorporating positive thoughts in your life is that other people can sense it. Like when you talk to your friend who’s in a really good mood and their good mood rubs off on you and you can’t help but leave them feeling happier. Happiness is contagious! If you are thinking positive thoughts I am sure that it would have an affect on the people who are in your life, leading to happier people all around the school! And what’s better than sharing positive thoughts with the people who you see and spend time with everyday?

I know, it all sounds a bit cheesy, but I highly recommend at least trying it out with a simple smile, because it could lead to greater things. In the end, the only person keeping you from a positive, happy, and more satisfying life is you. It’s a lot easier than you might think. So to end this article with some famous words: you do you.

Back to top|Contact me

New Boston – Chapter 1

by NATALIE ALPER-LEROUX
Third-year BM Viola

 

 

The following is the first chapter of a serialized story inspired by this Tumblr post. Enjoy!

The following is the first chapter of a serialized story inspired by this Tumblr post. Enjoy!

Chapter 1: Forest Hills

           

“Got everything?”

Caela turned back to scour the empty living room for any straggling possessions. She nodded.

“Yep, I’m good.”

Her older sister Shannon smiled gently back at her. “Then we’re off…”

As they crossed the threshold of their family’s now-collapsing duplex, the two girls recoiled from the wall of cold air that seemed to bite down to their bones, even through they wore almost all the clothing they owned. The pair shimmied clumsily through the hastily carved tunnel of snow that connected their front door to Weld Hill Street, and trudged down the hill through the last night’s knee-deep snowfall to the Forest Hills emergency shuttle station. One of the first orders the government of the newly created City-State of Boston had issued was one that even Shannon couldn’t complain about: the edict had set up dozens of snow-friendly hovershuttle terminals at old MBTA transportation hubs across the Boston metropolitan area.

Caela and Shannon joined in the penguin huddle of passengers that clustered outside the shuttle station solar-powered weather shelter, which was already full beyond its capacity.

“Looks like they’re running behind again,” Caela whispered into her sister’s ear.   

“Typical Orange Line,” Shannon growled back under her breath, scowling through the shelter’s glass walls at the horde of college girls, dressed in absurdly light boots and North Face fleece jackets, who had decided that the best way to pass the time was to sing “Let It Go” from Frozen at the top of their lungs.

Caela grinned at her sister and started to whisper the lyrics, pantomiming shooting ice out of her hands and into her sister’s face. Shannon’s scowl deepened, and she gave Caela a muffled jab in the ribs. “The only reason people still know all the words to a ten-year-old Disney song is that it’s the only thing on the radio,” she muttered petulantly. “And on TV, and on the Internet…”

Her diatribe was cut short by whoops of excitement from the crowd. “Shannon, it’s here!” Caela grabbed her sister’s arm and yanked her through the crowd that swarmed around the hovershuttle. As they shoved their way closer to the shuttle’s doors, the thuds and shouts of dozens of fistfights between passengers vying for space got louder and louder.

“NO!” A woman’s shrieking cry rang out across the seething mass of humanity gathered around the shuttle, and just as suddenly as it had appeared, it was cut short by a staccato burst of gunfire.

All hell broke loose.

The crowd’s frantic efforts to push its way onto the shuttle turned into a frenzy of kicking limbs and screams of pain, fueled by panic as more gunshots rang out from within the shelter. In the confusion, Caela lost her grip on Shannon’s arm, and as she turned to find her, she saw a half-dozen gloved hands push her sister down in their owners’ struggle to reach the safety of the shuttle.

“SHANNON, NO! I’M COMING, SHANNON!”

Caela saw her sister elbow a teenager in a black balaclava in the face as she stood and yelled over her shoulder, “GO, CAELA! GET ON THAT TRAIN!”

“I’M NOT LEAVING WITHOUT YOU!”

A sudden violent push sent her reeling back, and as the heel of her boot connected with something solid and metallic she fell back into a wall of panting, sweating people. She looked to see Shannon standing over the unconscious form of a middle-aged man clutching an old pistol. As the shuttle’s doors swung shut, Caela stared in disbelief as her sister smiled and said, “Yes, you are.”

Caela shrieked and pounded in vain against the blast-proof glass doors as the shuttle pulled away from the carnage at the terminal. She was still crying when the shuttle driver’s Southie-accented voice, thick with boredom, blared through the intercom.

“Next stop, South Station.”

Back to top|Contact me

Spring Clean Your Body

by ANDREW NISSEN
Second-year GD Trombone

 

 

If you’re anything like me, your diet the last few months – influenced by the frantic nature of school coupled with the stultifying cold – has been increasingly filled with lucious carbs, voluptuous fats, and temptingly salty and sweet things. With that in mind, the onset of Spring is the perfect time to take the philosophy of “Spring Cleaning” and apply it not only to our rooms (which I’m sure are similarly as cluttered as our diets!), but to our whole life. Now is the time to take back control of your eating habits, and to make the most of the (hopefully!) warmer weather of Spring! Below are two easy recipes embodying this idea, full of raw protein garnished with lots of color and variety of nutrients from www.eatingwell.com. Enjoy!

Green Eggs & Ham Frittata

Ingredients

8 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons dried dill
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, diced
1 5-ounce bag baby spinach, chopped
1/2 cup diced ham
1/2 cup shredded havarti or Muenster cheese

Instructions

1. Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat to 450°F.

2. Whisk eggs, dill, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Heat oil in a large ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add leeks; cook, stirring, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add spinach and ham; cook, stirring, until the spinach is wilted, about 1 minute.

3. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and cook, lifting the edges of the frittata so uncooked egg can flow underneath, until the bottom is light golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle cheese on top, transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the eggs are set, 6 to 8 minutes. Let rest for about 3 minutes before serving. Serve hot or cold. Serves 6.

Loaded Spinach Salad

Ingredients

Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing –

1/3 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1/3 cup buttermilk or nonfat milk
1/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt
2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar or white vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

Salad –

8 large eggs
6 cups baby spinach
4 tablespoons Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing, divided
1 8-ounce can beets, rinsed and sliced
1 cup shredded carrots
2 tablespoons chopped pecans, toasted (see Tip)

Instructions

To prepare dressing: Whisk mayonnaise, buttermilk (or milk), yogurt, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper in a medium bowl until smooth. Add cheese and stir, mashing with a spoon until the cheese is incorporated

To prepare salad: Place eggs in a single layer in a saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook at the lowest simmer for 10 minutes. Pour off the hot water and run cold water over the eggs until they are completely cooled. Peel the eggs; discard 6 of the yolks. Chop the remaining yolks and whites.

Toss spinach and 2 tablespoons of the dressing in a large bowl. Divide between 2 plates. Top with the chopped eggs, beets, carrots and pecans. Drizzle with 2 more tablespoons dressing. (Refrigerate the extra dressing for up to 1 week.) Serves 2.

Back to top|Contact me