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Getting to Carnegie Hall

By billalpert | violin

Jul 12

Mimi Zweig
The irrepressible Mimi Zweig leads a master class at the String Academy of Wisconsin on the Campus of University of Wisconsin, in Milwaukee.

When accomplished 15 year old violinist Brian Zhang signed up to play for Mimi Zweig, he was probably thinking of Mozart, Bach or Barber. Little did he know he’d soon be taking a 90 minute journey through the A major scale! Ms. Zweig, noted violinist, pedagogue, educator and mentor to many world class musicians (including violin/celeb Joshua Bell) has a way of turning complex problems into simple solutions.

“There’s a Zen to playing scales,” says Zweig, “that can calm even a teenage student who just had a fight with her mother.” Within the scale routine, and its dozens of variant bowings and rhythms, can be found the technical basis for almost any element of violin playing. And today for Brian, the simple act of remembering to play an open D string instead of using his 4th finger, provided a challenge almost as great as the Sarasate showpiece he performed just hours earlier.

Be it playing first base for the Yankees or playing Brahms, the greatest performers and athletes always focus on the fundamentals. The slight over tilting of a head, a bit of tightness in the shoulder joint, a posture that looks a little closed at times: these are among the dozens of subtle elements that never escape Zweig’s eye. She seems to have a certain ESP that brings the most relevant issue into focus within just a few notes of a scale. It’s a pleasure and inspiration for teachers everywhere to see her in action.

So remember, students: If you’d like to get to Carnegie Hall, or even if you just need to polish up your next Suzuki recital, the fastest way might just be playing your scales!

For more information about Mimi Zweig and her work, visit the string pedagogy website.

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