Happy New Year and new season of Stand Partners for Life!
In this episode, we take a look back at resolutions we’ve made about our playing… and not all of them stuck!
From scale practice to solo Bach, counting rests to keeping a practice journal, each of us had critical moments in our violin past where we made fateful decisions. Which ones made a lasting impact?
Nathan Cole: Hello and welcome back to Stand Partners for Life. I am Nathan Cole.
Akiko Tarumoto: I am Akiko Tarumoto.
Nathan Cole: Well, since this is the new year, happy new year and happy second season of Stand Partners for Life! We released our first 15 episodes last year and had a blast doing it, and kind of took a long summer break that extended into the holidays. Now we’re ready to get going again, so this is the perfect day to get back into the spirit of podcasting.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yes, get back into the swing of thinking about music.
Nathan Cole: Tomorrow we actually go back to work after our holiday break, that being the LA Philharmonic. Actually if you were with us last season, you’ll know that we spend our days and many of our nights with the LA Phil at Disney Hall here in Los Angeles. If you’re joining us, this is what we call “The secrets of the symphony from two violinists who live together, play together and work together”, because we are married with three young kids here in the house, who should all be sleeping. Although, I sort of hear that they’re not.
Akiko Tarumoto: It might be our neighbors.
Nathan Cole: Are they out reveling?
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, I think it makes more sense that kids would be up acting rowdy because they’re not even four. In the case of the neighbors, they don’t have that excuse, because I think that guy’s in his 20s.
Nathan Cole: They do have a hot tub.
Akiko Tarumoto: They do, well yeah or something, a trampoline.
Nathan Cole: We give you an inside look at the symphony and the life of, well, the life with the violin. In that spirit we’re not going to give you a whole bunch of new year’s resolutions exactly. My idea anyway was that we’d talk today about some playing resolutions, practicing resolutions that we’d made over the course of our lives and see what stuck and what didn’t. I did want to …
Akiko Tarumoto: What stuck and what stunk.
Nathan Cole: Okay, that’s good, that’s better. I wanted to thank each and every one of you for listening and especially those of you who have gone and left us a rating or a review on iTunes. It’s the best way for us to get found and hopefully enjoyed by other listeners like you. If you have a moment and can go to standpartnersforlife.com, you’ll see how you can visit iTunes and just take those 60 seconds to leave us a review. I read all of them. I don’t think you read any of them, right?
Akiko Tarumoto: No, I can’t handle the truth.
Nathan Cole: Well what I was going to say is that so many of the reviews, I’ve told you this a couple times, but they really feel like people go out of their way to mention that really enjoy the commentary. Especially Akiko’s! What they’ll say is, “I especially like hearing what Akiko has to say.” I try not to take that personally.
Akiko Tarumoto: Well I get to be the person who sort of riffs off of you, I think you’re the straight man, so it’s not entirely fair probably.
Nathan Cole: I think people trust you, they know you speak the truth.
Akiko Tarumoto: Well thank you, I appreciate it.
Nathan Cole: We read them all. Well anyway, I read all of them and I pass them along to Akiko.
Akiko Tarumoto: He doesn’t pass on the bad stuff.
Nathan Cole: Here we are, we’ve got our resolutions. I just remembered — I said I wasn’t going to do this, but I think one of my only resolutions I thought of for the new year as far as music is to play our kids more concerts. To have them watch and listen to more concerts, because they really do seem to enjoy it.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, and that’s a resolution I forgot on my part too is that, couple of months ago — I don’t want to say I rediscovered my affection for classical music, because that makes it sound as if I didn’t like classical music for a while or something like that. That’s not it at all, but yeah, I came up with a similar thing for myself, just to make classical music a bigger part of my life outside of work.
Nathan Cole: In what way, listening?
Akiko Tarumoto: I guess it’s mostly taking the form of listening. It’s mostly what we do I guess when we’re not at work, as we’re driving around, getting places in LA. Putting classical music on the radio has been great, even pieces that — I wouldn’t have thought I’d ever pick a Corelli sonata out of the air and say, “I’m dying to listen to that.” It’s been great hearing it and especially great when our kids are in the car to hear it. It’s kind of interesting.
Nathan Cole: This is satellite radio yeah?
Akiko Tarumoto: Yes, Sirius. The only thing about Sirius — and if anybody’s in a position to do something about this — we can never tell who the performer is on Sirius and so it can be a little annoying.
Nathan Cole: Right, unless you listen till the end, in which case it’s like when we were growing up.
Akiko Tarumoto: Beginning or the end, yeah. We even tried looking online while it’s happening and you can’t.
Nathan Cole: Yeah, they tell you the piece, but not who’s performing.
Akiko Tarumoto: Which — it’s hard for me not to read into that some kind of nefarious overlooking. The important thing is the performer is a really important part of this. Probably these days it’s getting a little bit less, people would rather know what the piece is maybe than who’s playing it. But there are a lot out there who really, really want to know who’s playing.
Nathan Cole: I know, it’s been a fun guessing game sometimes.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah.
Nathan Cole: Well you remember that from childhood right? I mean I don’t know if your parents did this, but mine …
Akiko Tarumoto: They did. My mom is actually surprisingly good at it.
Nathan Cole: Oh, but I meant if you really couldn’t tell who the performer was and the piece wasn’t over yet, would you get where you were going (like the grocery store) and sit in the car and wait till the end of the piece to find out?
Akiko Tarumoto: No, I don’t remember doing that. In fact my mom had a weird aversion to listening to classical music in the car. She still does.
Nathan Cole: I mean it can be annoying, right because the dynamic range is so …
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, because of road noise. Anbd we always had a cheap car that had like no sound proofing or anything. And the sound system was probably something really terrible, but yeah. Anyway, so we never played that game. Yeah, we would just do it at home. She’s like, “Oh I bet this is Joshua Bell.”
Nathan Cole: Well 80% of the time you’re right, because he’s on Sirius all the time.
Akiko Tarumoto: He is on Sirius, yeah he is. There is a great Bernstein West Side Story recording, I assumed it was him.
Nathan Cole: Yes, that is a great one.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, it was really good.
Nathan Cole: Now how did we get talking about Sirius? Oh because of wanting our kids to listen more. Over this holiday break especially, they’ve discovered The Nutcracker.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah. I’ve confessed that I’ve never been a huge Tchaikovsky fan as you know. A lot of colleagues, I think — you bring up Tchaikovsky — say, “I could live the rest of my life without playing any of his symphonies,” or at least any of them except for Six.
Nathan Cole: Shout out to former guest Brant Taylor.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah.
Nathan Cole: Our colleague in the Chicago symphony.
Akiko Tarumoto: Boy I miss Brant, I do. Listening to The Nutcracker, of course, it sounds ridiculous — it’s great music and sometimes you need to be reminded, just watching your kids responding to pieces you can tell it gets to them immediately. Also, there’s dancing and there’s a visual element to it that’s attractive, but the music really speaks to them.
Nathan Cole: It does and actually before they saw (because they’ve just over the last couple of days been watching the film version) what did we look up? It’s from 1993 with New York city ballet and Macaulay Culkin in one of the starring roles. Before they actually saw that, we were just listening to the LA Phil’s. The LA Phil has a new recording of the complete Nutcracker.
Akiko Tarumoto: It only took six years.
Nathan Cole: Six years though to get released.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah.
Nathan Cole: Yeah, I opened the CD booklet to see who was playing. A lot of new faces since then, but yeah, new Deutsch Grammophon recording. We had it on in our van and yeah, the kids, I mean they were just, “What’s this number? What’s this number?” They would make up stories about what was happening and it’s before they saw any of the dancers, so they’ve enjoyed watching the movie over the last couple of days. Yeah, that’s something I hope to continue. We’ve got that Berlin digital concert hall.
Akiko Tarumoto: Oh definitely. Yeah, they do like that. There’s an occasional call for “Not this song!” but mostly they like it. It’s been amazing. We have a DVD player in our car — “bleep” DVD because it sounds like it’s really 2005.
Nathan Cole: Hey, it plays Blu-rays too.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, we have one and I’m ashamed to say that for a while it was kind of a crutch. Pretty much any time we were in that car they would want a movie and we’d put it on or something. Then I thought, you know what, this obviously struck me eventually as not being entirely healthy or educational. I just decided they’re going to listen to classical music in the car and met with no real resistance. I mean some occasional tired whining for a movie, but I just say no and that’s it.
Nathan Cole: Yeah, it’s worked great.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, resolve to force your kids to listen to classical music.
Nathan Cole: Good, well why don’t we — enough of our kids, back to us. What were some of those resolutions? Now these could be things that you consciously decided, yeah, let’s make them things that you consciously decided. Maybe you stuck with it, maybe you didn’t, and then what happened to your playing as a result?
Akiko Tarumoto: Okay. There’s only one that I actually stuck with, so not a lot of results that I can tell you about.
Nathan Cole: Yeah. I didn’t stick with all of mine. Even if you didn’t stick with something, maybe that had a result in itself. Maybe there was a reason you didn’t stick with it, because it wasn’t going anywhere.
Akiko Tarumoto: Always reasons why I didn’t stick with it. Never short on reasons. Okay. Yeah, my first one, you’ll like this one. This is the time that I decided my warmup routine needed some revamping. My normal warmup is just a few scales and arpeggios.
Nathan Cole: I remember.
Akiko Tarumoto: I used to start in G major, now I’m happy to say I start in E major, so I go all the way to …
Nathan Cole: It’s already an upgrade.
Akiko Tarumoto: I go all the way to F sharp. Anyway, after a while I thought, “I already know my D major scale, maybe it’s time I started doing something harder.” When I was hearing Nathan warm up and his amazing warmups, he’s always doing thirds and sixth and octaves and–
Nathan Cole: You make me sound like Ysaye. Do you remember that passage?
Akiko Tarumoto: Which passage?
Nathan Cole: I think maybe it’s in the introduction.
Akiko Tarumoto: Oh Ysaye used to do like a huge …
Nathan Cole: Yeah, I think Ysaye’s son or somebody wrote, anyway it’s translated. I think what they said, they described his warming up and the phrase was, I wish I could remember… Yeah, he said, “Incredible flights of virtuosic fancy.”
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, well that’s how I feel.
Nathan Cole: That is not it at all.
Akiko Tarumoto: Looks like you, anyway, Nathan’s warmup is much more technical than mine. Mine is really just to get some blood flowing in my fingers. I was like, maybe if I do Nathan’s warmup or something closer to Nathan’s warmup, I’ll play more, I’ll be more confident about my technique. I asked Nathan for some suggestions and he gave me some. You’re a big believer in the Simon Fischer warmup book.
Nathan Cole: Yeah, it’s just called ‘Warming Up’.
Akiko Tarumoto: He sent me on my way with like the first 10 exercises or something in the book, they’re short. Went up there and I totally forget, I wish I could remember exactly what they were. I wish I could remember the one that I’m about to tell you about. All I remember is that they start to get harder and harder and I though, “this doesn’t feel like warmup, my hand’s kind of cramping.” I thought I’d feel very warm, but I feel sort of like tight and I can’t play. The hands started to get tighter and tighter, then more emotionally tight too. I thought, “What’s wrong with me? Like you gave me this warmup, I’m a professional violinist, what’s happening here?” Yeah, and then I got to like number eight or something and I actually started crying. I think I came down crying or maybe sent you a tearful text or something. I was like, “I don’t know what’s wrong.”
Nathan Cole: Oh yeah, I think I got some message and I raced up there. What was going on?
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah. I was really upset, because I was just like, “I’m not playing any Paganini concerto, what’s with this warmup.? It’s supposed to be a warmup and there I am just dying. That was one resolution that lasted about 20 minutes probably. That was the end, I didn’t try again, there was no next time.
Nathan Cole: Well, but I mean your warmup obviously works for you and lets you play amazingly.
Akiko Tarumoto: Define amazingly… I mean yeah, I assume a lot of us could feel better about our playing at any given moment. I was hoping that would somehow turn it around, but it just turned into a story.
Nathan Cole: I mean, I hope I told you that the first time I looked at that book…
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, you told me some kind of story.
Nathan Cole: …I wasn’t blazing through it or anything.
Akiko Tarumoto: Sure.
Nathan Cole: I got to spend the day with him and talk with him a bit about …
Akiko Tarumoto: Right, Simon Fischer.
Nathan Cole: Yeah. Talk with him about that book and many other things, it was a great day. He was very generous with his time. What I’ve heard since then is that, so he made a DVD that goes along with that book. I guess many people have found the DVD to be (as videos tend to be) — it explains more than the text does. I have to admit, I still haven’t seen this, so I intend to see how it compares. Anyway, you would be far from the first person to crack open that book and wonder what was wrong that you couldn’t just fly through it.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah.
Nathan Cole: Like I said, I didn’t either.
Akiko Tarumoto: Fly through it, I couldn’t get through it without having a nervous breakdown.
Nathan Cole: Your warmup remains the same?
Akiko Tarumoto: I’m running back to scales and arpeggios.
Nathan Cole: Your playing remains… Scales, that’s the thing! My first resolution it was pretty brief, I mean it was very specific. This is kind of a silly one to start with and I know it’s going to make you laugh, because it’s such a stupid problem that you never had. Even up until I was 19 or 20, I would often hit the metal part of the bow, at the frog, the ferrule. Yeah. I would hit that and is it still true that you’ve never broken a string in performance?
Akiko Tarumoto: Well the asterisk to that is that I don’t perform that much.
Nathan Cole: You play in orchestra all the time, you do that, that counts.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah. Okay, I’ve never broken — fine, I’ve never broken a string.
Nathan Cole: Really never?
Akiko Tarumoto: Never.
Nathan Cole: Wow, I’ve broken a lot. Most violinists have probably broken an E string at some point, but I think for a while I broke more than my share partly because… I mean if you hit the metal string with the metal part of the bow, then you can easily snap it. When I was 19 or 20, one or two years into Curtis, I decided that was it. I was losing that habit once and for all, so I decided that any time it happened I was going to put the violin down, drop and do 10 pushups. Now I have to say this came from a childhood of …
Akiko Tarumoto: It’s not hard to play after you do pushups?
Nathan Cole: It is and I had a really bad day that way because of that. No, but when I was a kid …
Akiko Tarumoto: Couldn’t you just do drop squats or something that won’t affect your playing?
Nathan Cole: Yeah. This was like way before across Crossfit or any of that, I feel like burpees hadn’t been invented yet.
Akiko Tarumoto: Burpees would be bad too. Anyway, yeah.
Nathan Cole: Yeah, so when I was a kid, I feel like if I did little things wrong around the house, I didn’t get locked in my room or anything like that. I didn’t lose my allowance, I had to do pushups.
Akiko Tarumoto: Please don’t try this with our kids.
Nathan Cole: No, I haven’t done it yet, plus I don’t think James can.
Akiko Tarumoto: Done it yet? I don’t think James knows where his foot is, much less…
Nathan Cole: Yeah, I decided anytime I hit that metal part of the bow, I’m dropping and doing 10. Yeah, the very first day, I remember one stretch where I don’t know what I was practicing, but I hit it. Obviously it had some big down bow attack or something and this is before I learned that those should be from the string anyway. There I am crash landing from the air trying to for some reason …
Akiko Tarumoto: Maybe I don’t use enough bow.
Nathan Cole: What’s that?
Akiko Tarumoto: Maybe I don’t use enough bow, maybe it’s why I’ve never done this.
Nathan Cole: No, I’d say you’re a whole bow spender.
Akiko Tarumoto: No, but I think where I scrimp is at the top there…
Nathan Cole: You just have good habits. I mean there’s a reason you’ve never hit that.
Akiko Tarumoto: So how many pushups did you get to?
Nathan Cole: I did my 10 pushups, got back, obviously I was frustrated and hit the same spot again. Hit the metal and I remember at one point I must have done it seven or eight times in a row, that’s back when I could do 100 pushups and it would be okay. I could barely hold up the violin at that point, I almost had to stop practicing.
Akiko Tarumoto: Just think how pumped you looked.
Nathan Cole: Maybe, I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve seen any pictures of myself from that time that reflect doing all these pushups. Maybe it would have been better if I had kept that bad habit to do more pushups. In any case, that habit was gone after about two days, and I really haven’t hit it since then. That was the resolution that was successful and short lived.
Akiko Tarumoto: Well that’s a good story then, it worked.
Nathan Cole: What else have you got?
Akiko Tarumoto: Well my next one is a little sad, I wasn’t sure if I should get into a human interest element here.
Nathan Cole: Oh please.
Akiko Tarumoto: It’s like one of those times when I think the twins were just like a couple months old, I hadn’t been at work. I did have to go back to work when they were really, really young, like just a few weeks old. It was a bad time as you remember after having them and it was like my self esteem was hopefully as low as it will ever get.
Nathan Cole: Yeah.
Akiko Tarumoto: I think you were out of town and I thought, “Well, I’m going to go get a piece of really hard music that I’ve never been able to learn and I’m going to do it. I’m going to start playing something a bit technical, feel better at least about that part of my life.” I went and I bought La Campanella at the store. Yeah, well cut to three and a half years later, it’s still on my stand largely unlearned.
Nathan Cole: I would say I’ve heard you play, I think I’ve heard you play every part of that.
Akiko Tarumoto: No, I mean the thing is that, it worked in the short term. It reminded me that I like playing the violin when everything else feels like it’s really gone to hell strangely. A lot of times my playing is a source of anxiety, because I feel like I should always be better, it should be this or that. When $%^& hits the fan, it’s like, sorry I’m I allowed to curse?
Nathan Cole: Yeah, but I’m allowed to bleep it out. We want to keep our clean rating on iTunes!
Akiko Tarumoto: I’m sorry!
Nathan Cole: Curse away!
Akiko Tarumoto: I’m like bleep hits the fan, yeah. In the end it’s a reminder that there’s something very basic about being able to play the violin that’s still comforting, so it’s a nice thing to know. That’s my other resolution. It’s hard to tell how long it really lasted. I guess it’s still going on. I’m trying to become a more technical player.
Nathan Cole: Oh I thought the resolution was to take refuge…
Akiko Tarumoto: Feel better.
Nathan Cole: …in the violin if other things were — and we should mention that I think the twins are mostly a source of pleasure now and not…
Akiko Tarumoto: Right, and it wasn’t even that, it was just everything about having newborn twins and my general state of my health and my appearance and everything. Everything had just gone down the toilet and I was just happy to pick up the violin and feel like one thing was still kind of like I remembered. Anybody who’s ever hated their appearance should start playing the violin.
Nathan Cole: Any mother, anybody who’s been married or known a mother, yeah. Well I mean the violin’s great for a lot of things and terrible for other things too, and sometimes both at once. I’m glad you came through that time and also, it makes me happy! Yeah, I saw Paganini Campanella on your stand recently and it made me smile actually. I like hearing you play it.
Akiko Tarumoto: I don’t think anybody else wants to hear me play it.
Nathan Cole: Anybody — if you took out the violin right now and played it, I’m sure our audience would be thrilled.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, well.
Nathan Cole: It’s a little late in the evening.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah. Don’t hold your breath audience. The two people who are listening, please don’t expect me to play Campanella next time.
Nathan Cole: We’ll get her on the mic to do that next time. My next one, actually my next one also comes from, well it comes from right after I got to school. My very first lesson with my teacher that they assigned me, Felix Galimir. I didn’t know anything about him before I got to Curtis, and maybe it’s better I didn’t. I had heard he was really old and that was confirmed when I first met him. What I didn’t know at the time is that he knew Ravel. I mean he worked with Ravel, made the first recording of the string quartet and worked with Berg and Schoenberg. I mean he had an amazing life. I was as prepared as I knew how to be prepared for my first lesson with him, but I was not the kind of violinist I think that he expected to hear.
Akiko Tarumoto: Where did he think you were from, like Missouri or something?
Nathan Cole: Yeah, I don’t know what they had told him.
Akiko Tarumoto: Alabama?
Nathan Cole: Or if they’d told him anything. Yeah, one memorable time he told me that, after the fifth time that I couldn’t play the same measure in Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy. He said, “Look, you could go back to Alabama and you would be a big success, but not in New York.”
Akiko Tarumoto: That’s still kind of nice.
Nathan Cole: You mean it would be a great to be a success in Alabama?
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, I mean hey, we should just move to Alabama right now.
Nathan Cole: Hey, I mean I’d love to be a big success anywhere, but the message was definitely not one of encouragement.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, I don’t think he meant it in a good way.
Nathan Cole: Yeah, so he could never remember where I was from, which was fine, but of more importance was that I couldn’t do the things that he expected a violinist to be able to do. Namely, go through the Flesch, Carl Flesch scale routine. Not only had I never seen that book, I really didn’t even know what he was talking about. Luckily my first lesson there was someone there, his other student, we were both assigned to him that year. She could kind of tell me what he meant. By the end of that lesson he had told me what he expected me to practice that week, and basically he told me to ditch the concerto that I had brought to him, which was Prokofiev’s second concerto. I had expected I would work on that with him because I had just started learning it, but he said, “No, forget that. I just want you to practice scales. Everyday, I want you to do the scales in all 24 keys.” I just looked at him like he was crazy. I mean so far in my life I had maybe done a scale in a day, probably just D major.
Akiko Tarumoto: This doesn’t sound like I’d make it very far.
Nathan Cole: Well, no, I did look at him like he was crazy, and then he said, not just the scales, but all seven arpeggios for each key and all the double stops. I said, “What do you mean all?” He said, “The thirds, sixths, octaves, fingered octaves, tenths.”
Akiko Tarumoto: See this is the warmup I heard you doing.
Nathan Cole: No, but maybe I do that for a couple keys, but he was saying all 24 keys everyday. I said, “Mr. Galimir, I think that would take me hours to do just scales.”
Akiko Tarumoto: It’s like, what else are you doing?
Nathan Cole: He just looked at me and he said, “Yes!” Yeah, I just never had a teacher like this before. I kind of wondered who I could appeal to, like should I go, this can’t be right. What I’m I supposed to do? I thought, “Okay, whatever.” Even just to serve him right, I’ll do it for this first week and I’m not going to get anything else done. Maybe I’m not even going to get through that, but it did take about three hours a day for that first week.
Akiko Tarumoto: How did you feel at the end, that must be incredibly exhausting?
Nathan Cole: Well that was the thing, because it had been assigned to me, oh and it was exhausting! But at the end of it I thought, “Wow, scales are getting a little bit easier.” I wasn’t entirely sure what else I was getting out of it, but by the end of the week, my hand did feel different. I felt like it was kind of conforming to certain patterns better. I wish I’d remembered that — I did keep practicing scales, I mean not 24 keys in a day, more like three keys which is more or less what I do now. The difference that I felt in my hand, yeah, it was exactly that, it was patterns, scale patterns and arpeggio patterns which are in just about every other measure that we play as violinists. The fact that those things felt unfamiliar should have been a big flashing red bulb.
Akiko Tarumoto: I’m seeing that right now.
Nathan Cole: Well and as I’ve taken a little time off during this holiday break, I felt it when I taught today. Yeah, the fact that those things felt unfamiliar, I should have realized I needed a lot of remedial work. I think he knew that and sensed that and just decided to open the floodgates really with the scales. Anyway my resolution was, okay, I’m going to show this guy that I can do whatever he says. Lasted about a week and then really tapered and I probably shouldn’t have tapered as much, but I was successful for that one week.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, okay. I’m sure there were long lasting benefits.
Nathan Cole: There definitely were, but like a lot of other things I didn’t realize them until years later looking back.
Akiko Tarumoto: Well it’s sort of what we do, sort of plant seeds.
Nathan Cole: Yeah.
Akiko Tarumoto: My next one, the reason I said it tied to the noise coming from our neighbors house, I feel like this was recently. I decided I was going to kill two birds with one stone. I was going to practice a lot while you were gone, which I always try to do. And I was going to really annoy them by doing this.
Nathan Cole: First of all why do you practice a lot while I’m gone?
Akiko Tarumoto: Well because you’re not around so I feel like I have more time just kind of downtime.
Nathan Cole: I need a lot of looking after when I’m here.
Akiko Tarumoto: Not at all! Somehow when you’re here I feel more justified in doing nothing. It’s like when you’re not here I sort of feel like I have to get something done. It would be nice if you came back and I accomplished something. Yeah, I figured these people next door making all this awful noise just get these sons who are old enough to know better and they are acting very rowdy. They’re jumping on trampolines and all the lawns are very close together here, so you can hear them shouting and cursing and screaming and just carrying on. Anyway, so I thought this will really annoy them if I just stand in the guest house or practice a couple hours a day. I’ll play a lot of Bach and I’ll just …
Nathan Cole: It’s like they do in Canada where they drive away loafers by playing classical music.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, exactly and it works with our kids honestly at home too.
Nathan Cole: You play and they leave.
Akiko Tarumoto: Play, or play classical music for them in the house, or like I said in the car, they kind of have to sit there. We’re at home… Sometimes I notice we’re sitting here listening to a nice piece of music and then suddenly I realize it’s just you and me. It’s nice and quiet. Like the theory behind the Canada McDonald’s thing…
Nathan Cole: Well they do it in the subways too right? Mass transit, I think they play it.
Akiko Tarumoto: Sadly. Anyway, so I thought I’ll try this on them and it seemed to work and they certainly — and I practiced as much as I wanted to that week. I certainly felt like I enjoyed playing this beautiful music and I seemed to hear less of them or maybe it just bothered me less, I didn’t hear them while I was playing. It’s a win, win.
Nathan Cole: Cool, so that worked as long as I was gone and might work again when I leave again?
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah and I could still do it now. I mean it’s Christmas break, I should get up there and just start shredding some Bach solo works.
Nathan Cole: Shredding? I like that.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, I think I forget if it was, oh I actually sent you the picture because I was attempting to play the Bach C major fugue. I think I moved on to something else because that was torturing me as much as them after a certain point. There’s like one chord, I sent you the screen shot. I get to that one, I’m always like, “This is a great piece why don’t I play this more,” and then I get to that one chord and sound so out of tune. It’s so hard for me to play in tune and I always go, “That’s the reason I don’t play this piece.”
Nathan Cole: Well, but I mean nobody likes playing the C major fugue.
Akiko Tarumoto: Anyway, so I think I moved onto other Bach and seemed to work just as well for my purposes.
Nathan Cole: Yeah, all right so practicing as a deterrent, that’s a good resolution.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, anybody who’s in an apartment you probably don’t have this luxury, you’re just pissing your neighbors off more, but yeah. If you own a house where people really can’t complain about you playing classical music, then perfect.
Nathan Cole: Nice, well I have my number three and this resolution I didn’t decide on myself. But everybody has that age right, when they get to, or have to, start practicing on their own. Maybe for you that was a lot earlier. For me my mother practiced with me until I was I think eight or maybe even nine. At that point when I was starting to practice maybe an hour a day, it was decided that I would start doing it on my own. And now being a parent I can’t imagine what a nice thing that must have been for my mom not to spend an hour a day practicing with me!
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, but I’m sure you were kind of a delight to practice with probably.
Nathan Cole: Not really, no. I’ll have to ask. I think there was a lot of complaining. But then in any case, at that point I was going to practice on my own. The deal was that I had to report on myself, I had to write down everything I practiced and for how long. Yeah, that resolution to keep a practice journal. And I kept that I think for the whole time I studied with my second teacher Dan Mason, the teacher that I had after my Suzuki teacher Donna Wiehe.
Nathan Cole: I wish I’d kept more detailed notes, but it was basically just what I practiced and for how long. Even looking back through that I have to laugh. I mean first of all, the times were short, I mean from the standpoint of conservatory practice. For example, I could see why I had a bit of a hard transition going to conservatory after spending such a short amount of time on these pieces. I can see also how I didn’t get through all the repertoire that a lot of other people did when they were teenagers. Yeah, keeping that journal and just writing it down, it did make the practice more purposeful. Actually when I first started my website natesviolin.com, the purpose was going to be, it was going to be my online practice journal. I sort of did that for a little bit and then gave that up, that too I wish I’d kept on. I’ve since found that so many of you listening, you go through the same things that we do when we practice and so many of the same difficulties and whenever I write about those — most of which I’ve come up with some kind of solution for or I’ve read about a solution for —
Nathan Cole: When I write about those, you guys write in too and say, “Oh yeah, I’m going through that and here’s how I came through it.” Or, “I hadn’t come up with a solution yet, thanks for that.” That practice journal idea and making it a communal experience, I wish I’d kept up with that more during the years that I was in school, because I kind of stopped once I got to school. Anyway, it was a resolution that lasted I guess from age nine to 18.
Akiko Tarumoto: That’s amazing.
Nathan Cole: Anybody who’s working toward an audition with me, I always insist that they write down what they’re doing. I just think it’s essential and no matter what you’re working toward, I think it only makes it better. Yeah, now we have computers, you can do it on a computer, it doesn’t have to be pen and paper, but yeah.
Akiko Tarumoto: You don’t have to dip your feather, your quill pen in your ink well.
Nathan Cole: Yeah, although ironically if I had that on the computer back in what, that would have been the late 80s, they would have been trapped on three and half inch floppy disks.
Akiko Tarumoto: Oh dear.
Nathan Cole: We’d never be able to read them now.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, I remember the big floppy disks.
Nathan Cole: Oh the five and a quarter.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yes.
Nathan Cole: Three and a half, five and a quarter right?
Akiko Tarumoto: If you say so, but yeah, they were not the little, because the ones you are talking about weren’t floppy right?
Nathan Cole: Yeah, they were still referred to as floppy disk because yeah, the disks inside the hard plastic shell were floppy.
Akiko Tarumoto: Right, but then …
Nathan Cole: Yeah.
Akiko Tarumoto: I remember the ones that really were actually floppy.
Nathan Cole: Yeah, the 5 and a quarter floppy. Well this is lost on anybody under age 40 or thereabouts.
Akiko Tarumoto: Screw you! Last resolution?
Nathan Cole: Yeah.
Akiko Tarumoto: This one actually has sort of stuck, I don’t know if it counts as a resolution, but one of my big insecurities as you’ve probably guessed from listening is that I don’t feel like a very technical player. Lots of people can say, “Oh it’s important to be musical,” or “I’d rather be musical than technical.” Honesty I don’t think you can play the violin and not be a technical player, and it’s a technical instrument.
Nathan Cole: Yeah, I would agree…
Akiko Tarumoto: Sorry, I’ve always felt it’s a big hole in my violin abilities.
Nathan Cole: Yet one would wonder how you won these auditions!
Akiko Tarumoto: Well we talked about this, the auditions are short and life is long. Auditions are short! Yeah, I thought, I should start really trying to show at least the appearance of some things. I thought violin’s not something you can really do by yourself mostly. The stuff you can do by yourself is like Bach, which doesn’t really excite people, the average sort of bystanders. They want to hear something off the cuff. Here we are violinists both of us and I would love to be able to play some Wieniawski Etudes, the two-violin Etudes. That’s something I’ve been really trying to practice in the hopes that one of these days I will be able to keep up at least for a few minutes with you in public and maybe be able to play one or two or three of these. Yeah, that’s the plan, I’ve been doing it and everybody who has a dressing room near you at work knows I’ve been trying my hardest to …
Nathan Cole: First of all, keep up? I mean we played a couple of these recently in Disney Hall.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, but I chickened out and I didn’t play the hard part. I just played the accompaniment, and that strengthened my resolve. I just felt embarrassed. I was playing like eighth notes and you’re flying along.
Nathan Cole: Yeah, but you remember someone in the audience took a video, and the 30 seconds of video that they happened to take was when I totally flamed out for…
Akiko Tarumoto: That was my fault because of the page turn.
Nathan Cole: Was it? All right. I can blame you.
Akiko Tarumoto: When my page turn came that I had to learn, I made sure to memorize it so I wouldn’t have a problem!
Nathan Cole: Yeah. I didn’t do that.
Akiko Tarumoto: You know, just saying!
Nathan Cole: Anyway, there’s no danger of keeping up, but we’re planning on playing these in Lexington.
Akiko Tarumoto: We have a 15 minute set coming up at that thing. I’m determined, I’m going to do it. It’s going to be scary, but I’m going to play something hard. Even like Navarra is scary for me.
Nathan Cole: Navarra is hard!
Akiko Tarumoto: It is, I mean for me, but Navarra requires accompaniment, so these are cool because you can just play them anywhere which is great.
Nathan Cole: Yeah.
Akiko Tarumoto: I mean the violin is a very portable instrument, but again it just seems like something that people don’t love to hear by itself. It will be nice to play something, just have something in my fingers. You’re someone who always has something in your fingers and I don’t, and I think that’s something — maybe a special skill you have or something I especially don’t have. I didn’t really play much in college, so I think those four years lost — so yeah, that’s a resolution I’ve stuck with.
Nathan Cole: It’s unusual for us to make the time at this point. There has to be a reason usually, there has to be a deadline coming up, so for you to just decide that you’re going to learn a piece or a kind of piece with no actual deadline…
Akiko Tarumoto: Well it helps they’re called Etudes I think. I think I’m taking vitamins or something. I better do it.
Nathan Cole: We’re playing them for a fundraiser here and then we’re planning on playing them at our chamber festival in Lexington this summer.
Akiko Tarumoto: Doughnut and bourbon-fueled.
Nathan Cole: Oh in Lexington?
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah.
Nathan Cole: Yeah.
Akiko Tarumoto: Shout out to Spalding’s Doughnuts in Lexington, Kentucky.
Nathan Cole: Yes. Whenever we play in Lexington there’s donuts, beef jerky and bourbon.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, we haven’t been doing the beef jerky as much recently.
Nathan Cole: Yeah.
Akiko Tarumoto: The doughnuts in Lexington …
Nathan Cole: It used to be like a breakfast, lunch and dinner sort of schedule.
Akiko Tarumoto: I think we’re all just getting older, it’s like we realize we can’t just eat from sunup till sundown, continuously like that.
Nathan Cole: Well not those things anyway.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, I think we try to contain our eating more to the meal times. There was a time we just had like a big pile of beef jerky and food in the middle of the quartet rehearsal.
Nathan Cole: Right. Just dip into it whenever. Not the bourbon.
Akiko Tarumoto: Not the bourbon though, we saved the bourbon for later.
Nathan Cole: Yeah, we’ve got a minute for a last resolution from me. This is not even exactly playing related, but it is symphony related. It’s good for our show. While we were still in the Chicago Symphony, I decided that, I don’t know if I said for a week or a month or whatever it was, I was going to count everything as if I were the concertmaster.
Akiko Tarumoto: Oh you told me that.
Nathan Cole: Yeah, it was sort of like the expression, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”
Akiko Tarumoto: Count for the job you want!
Nathan Cole: Basically I thought, I often thought to myself, okay at some point I would like to be concertmaster somewhere. I thought well, part of that is counting everything and taking responsibility for everything. I realized that I was used to just zoning out in some long rests. And the Chicago Symphony was full of people that were very responsible. If you zoned out during a long rest you could count on looking up somewhere near the right time and someone else would bring you in. I just thought, okay I’m going to try for one week or a month or whatever it was. I’m not going to do that, I’m going to count everything. Also, I’m going to …
Akiko Tarumoto: I guess, but if you counted and the person next to you didn’t seem like they were about to come in, you didn’t…
Nathan Cole: No, I still played my role as a section member, I wasn’t going to …
Akiko Tarumoto: Right, concertmaster from the back?
Nathan Cole: No. I just thought, even if I know that I could lay out and just think about something else for 30 seconds, I’m going to pretend like I’m the concertmaster. I’m going to count everything and then if at the end of my counting I’m different from everyone else, I’m going to be wondering why that happened. Basically I just want to test myself and see what that would be like. Similarly, for bow strokes, I was going to look ahead and guess “what part of the bow is the concertmaster going to play this in?”
Akiko Tarumoto: Weird.
Nathan Cole: Basically imagining, if I had to decide how this next thing would be played, and this especially went for the first rehearsal. What would I decide if it were my choice and how does that compare to what’s actually happening? That’s one thing that ended up lasting the rest of my time in Chicago, because it just …
Akiko Tarumoto: Really? Like every concert you’re saying you’re counting everything?
Nathan Cole: Yeah, well, because pretty soon after that, I saw a video of us performing somewhere, and I looked so terrible.
Akiko Tarumoto: You think counting is going to make you look better?
Nathan Cole: Counting was part of a whole attitude. I sat up in my seat.
Akiko Tarumoto: I think you can do these things without counting.
Nathan Cole: You could, but for me that was …
Akiko Tarumoto: Not that I don’t count!
Nathan Cole: It’s one thing to say, “I’m going to look better or I’m going to act more responsible,” but the counting thing was a very easy…
Akiko Tarumoto: Seems like a lot of work. You know it’s terrifying …
Nathan Cole: You have to do that.
Akiko Tarumoto: No, I do but it’s not like… I mean the few times when I am concertmaster, it’s a terrifying jump from being second chair, being 99% sure to having to be 100% sure. It’s a big deal.
Nathan Cole: Yeah, well I was hoping that this would maybe prepare me for that transition and it did. I mean you have the same thing, well you had the same thing and you have the same thing now. I mean you have to …
Akiko Tarumoto: No, but I guess playing concertmaster so infrequently I only have to think about it really once in a while. When I do it’s like: wow, can I please go back to sitting somewhere else?
Nathan Cole: Well I think it’s contagious though too, right? It’s not always that because you’re counting the person next to you doesn’t count. I feel like often that makes the person next to you count as well, and then the two of you work together and it just reinforces. I don’t know, but that particular thing, it was not exactly playing related and I won’t say that it made me a better person.
Akiko Tarumoto: No, that’s interesting though. Maybe I’ll try this tomorrow, it’s interesting.
Nathan Cole: No, don’t do it tomorrow, because then you’ll be judging whatever decisions that I…
Akiko Tarumoto: Are you concertmaster tomorrow?
Nathan Cole: Well actually no, I’m not, so yeah go ahead and do it.
Akiko Tarumoto: All right. It’s a deal.
Nathan Cole: Yup, tomorrow we go back to work. Zubin Mehta is conducting, it’s all Brahms.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yay!
Nathan Cole: We’re closing out our Brahms cycle with …
Akiko Tarumoto: I’m a big Zubin Mehta fan.
Nathan Cole: Yeah. Third and fourth symphonies this week and Pinchas Zukerman is coming in with the violin concerto.
Akiko Tarumoto: A double, quadruple yay, because he’s my favorite violinist of all time!
Nathan Cole: Can you imagine I’ve never heard him play the Brahms concerto live? Have you? No, you’d remember if you did. I’m sure you’ve never heard him play it.
Akiko Tarumoto: Well I guess you’re right. Did he not play it in Ottawa or something?
Nathan Cole: No, Brahms? No.
Akiko Tarumoto: Okay, he played Berg.
Nathan Cole: We’ve never heard him play it.
Akiko Tarumoto: He played Berg and he sounded amazing.
Nathan Cole: Yeah.
Akiko Tarumoto: Okay.
Nathan Cole: We’re about to hear Zukerman play Brahms for the first time ever in our lives!
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, it doesn’t matter how it sounds, he’s still the best. It’s like listening to Lawrence Olivier read the phone book or something. As he tunes his violin, it’s like, that’s enough. I’ve got my money’s worth.
Nathan Cole: Yeah, well speaking of that, if you haven’t gone on YouTube and seen his video of him totally eviscerating a student over their tuning, go ahead and look that up.
Akiko Tarumoto: I thought you were going to say talking to Nathan Milstein.
Nathan Cole: No, you can also go on YouTube and see him talking to Nathan Milstein, but yeah, there is a video where he’s teaching a lesson and the student barely gets past tuning their violin. Akiko’s taking a picture of the dog.
Akiko Tarumoto: Sorry, she looks so cute. Anyway, okay.
Nathan Cole: Well we are so happy to have you with us and we want you back next episode as well, so make sure you subscribe via iTunes, Stitcher, wherever you listen to your podcasts. We’ll be back and we’re going to have a lot of special guests this season, a lot of our colleagues.
Akiko Tarumoto: Like who?
Nathan Cole: I just talked to Bob DeMaine, our principal cellist is going to be on soon, and a lot of fun things in store. We want you there with us and standpartnersforlife.com is the website. That’s where you can subscribe, leave us a rating and a review. And happy new year! Hope your resolutions all work out and if your resolutions are playing related, if they stick, may they give you the great benefits that we’ve had. If they don’t, then hopefully they don’t for some good reason like ours.
Akiko Tarumoto: Just resolve to annoy the neighbors and you can’t fail.
Nathan Cole: All right, have a great rest of 2019 and we’ll see you next time on Stand Partners for Life.