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Jul 20

Beast Takes Rancho by Storm

By billalpert | Reviews , Student News

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Full company sings “Be Our Guest” from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Musical direction by Melanie Alpert

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Cesar Quintero
as Lumiere with Can Can dancers.

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Studio alum Taylor Pearson as Darque in Maison des Lune

Congratulations to all studio students who participated in the Broadway Experience/Los Osos High School production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. What a rousing success! This production broke all attendance records and raised the bar for community based musical theater in Southern California.

Jul 12

Getting to Carnegie Hall

By billalpert | violin

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.

Jul 11

Milwaukee’s brewing up some fine music

By billalpert | Events , violin

String Academy of Wisconsin
Master Teacher Darcy Drexler explains the finer points of violin vibrato to seven year old Academy student Margaret Knox.

Every summer, string teachers from across the country make a pilgrimage to Milwaukee. This week, I’m here with a dozen other teachers to observe what is arguably one of the finest models of string education in the world. For teachers, it’s a four day intense program of immersion simply entitled Teaching the Violin to Children.

The String Academy of Wisconsin, founded in 1990 by well known pedagogue Mimi Zweig, is hosted at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. The event draws its inspiration from the teaching philosophies of Shinichi Suzuki and Paul Rolland. These two violin luminaries were certainly some of the most influential violin educators of the 20th century. Currently Executive Director Darcy Drexler, along with Zweig form the core faculty of the Workshop. For violin teachers, it’s a rare opportunity to draw upon years of experience distilled by some of the most effective violin teachers in the world.

For me, a trip like this is great fun. Every day is non-stop violin: lecture, demonstration and recitals. It’s inspiring and motivating, exhausting and at the same time exhilarating. For my students: it means.. well they’ll be finding out soon enough 😉

Jul 02

The Touch of the Master’s Hand

By billalpert | The Kitchen Sink , violin , voice

I ran across the following old poem, and thought I’d share:

’twas battered and scarred and the auctioneer
Thought it scarcely worth his while
To waste much time on the old violin,
But he held it up with a smile:

“What am bidden, good folks?” he cried,
“Who’ll start the bidding for me?”
“A dollar! A dollar!” then “Two! Only two?”
“Two dollars, and who’ll make it three?”

“Three dollars once, three dollars twice . . .
And going for three . . . ” but no.
From the room, far back, a gray-haired man
Came forward and picked up the bow.

Then, wiping the dust from the the old violin,
And tightening the loosened strings,
He played a melody pure and sweet,
As a carolling angel sings.

The music ceased, and the auctioneer
With a voice that was quiet and low
Said, “What am I bid for the old violin?”
And he held it up with the bow.

“A thousand dollars! And who’ll make it two?
“Two thousand! Who’ll make it three?
“Three going once? Three going twice?
“And going . . . and gone!” said he.

The people cheered but some of them cried,
“We do not understand!
What changed its worth?” — Swift came the reply,
“The touch of the Master’s Hand.”

And many a man with life out of tune
And battered and scarred with sin
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd
Much like the old violin.

A “mess ‘o pottage”
A glass of wine
A game and he travels on.
He’s “going” once
And “going” twice
And “going” . . . and almost “gone”

Then along comes the Master, and the foolish crowd
Never can quite understand
The worth of a soul or the change that’s wrought
By the touch of the Master’s Hand.

By Myra Ross Welch (1926)

Jul 01

July and August Studio Lesson Schedule

By billalpert | violin , voice

VIOLIN STUDENTS:

There will be NO lessons the week of July 6-12. I’ll be attending a special session for for violin teachers at the String Academy of Wisconsin.

Yes, I will be teaching from July 13-19.

However, I’ll be taking an extended vacation in late July. Hence there will be no lessons between July 20-August 8. Lessons will resume as normal on August 11.

VOICE STUDENTS:

Due to our vacation and Beauty and the Beast production schedule there will be no lessons between July 21-August 21. Lessons will resume as normal on Monday, August 25.

Please make a note of these dates.

Thank You,
Bill and Melanie Alpert

Jun 11

Studio Recital photos

By billalpert | Events , Student News , violin , voice

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Alpert Studio Recital, June 2008
Photo courtesy: Deb Tracey Photography

Congrats to the over 30 studio students who performed at the June 7th recital. It was an exciting afternoon in a packed full recital hall. Of special note are the following students who made their very first recital performance, Faith Ferry, John Ferry, Marylou Ferry and Zachary Rustenburg in violin and Marissa Henkel, Zeke Gonzalez, Eryn Moore and David Mao in voice.

Senior students performing were Cesar Quintero and Gabi Martinez in voice. Gabi will be attending Oberin Conservatory of music in the Fall, and Cesar is planning on attending the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Los Angeles. Kudos to all of our performers!

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Cesar Quintero making Mozart’s Dalla sua pace sound easy

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Relaxing after a job well done (from left): Sarah Hinrichsen, Michael Sturgis, Sarah Jackson, Cesar Quintero, Maggie Anderson and Kaitlin Orr.

May 27

Studio Recital Reminder

By billalpert | Events , violin , voice

Just a last minute reminder: our Spring studio recital will be held on Saturday, June 7 at 4:00 p.m. in the studio performance hall.

Rehearsal will begin between 5:00-7:00 p.m. on Friday, June 6, also at the performance hall. Students will be assigned a specific rehearsal time slot during their lesson. We will try to accommodate your specific time request, if possible. Please try to be flexible.

Remember, all violin and voice students are expected to participate in the recital. Please remember to bring your music, properly taped up and in order for our accompanist. Please dress appropriately for a performance; no jeans or flip flops. Thank You.

May 27

Big Weekend for the Studio

By billalpert | Events , Student News , voice

Brandon Alpert and Dawnn Lewis

Brandon Alpert, backing Dawnn Lewis in Norman’s Ark, Ford Amphitheater

Studio graduates Taylor Pearson and Brandon Alpert made a professional appearance in the new musical Norman’s Ark, currently running nightly at the Ford Amphitheater from May 27 to June 8. It’s a modern retelling of the Noah’s Ark story suitable for the entire family. We caught a sneak preview and thoroughly enjoyed the production. We highly recommend it! For information and tickets visit the Ford Amphitheater website. There’s a bit of background on the show on my last blog entry. Also, here’s an LA Times article about the show.

Congratulations to Daniella Samuel on being cast in the part of Wendy Darling in the Candelight Pavillion’s production of Peter Pan, running July 12 – August 17. For information and tickets, visit the venue website.

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Pictured from left, Sarah Jackson, Cesar Quintero, Melanie Alpert, Mercedes Machado
Back row: Michael Sturgis, Kathryn McGuire

The Alpert Studio swept the vocal division of the 2008 John Child Walker Competition, held last weekend at Bridges Hall of Music, Claremont.

First place winner in lower division was Mercedes Machado, with Michael Sturgis taking second place. In the upper division, Sarah Jackson placed third, Kathryn McGuire took second and Cesar Quintero captured the first place prize. Congratulations to you all; you’ve made us proud once again!

May 02

Excitement Abounds in May and June

By billalpert | Events , voice

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Jason Robert Brown

May promises to be an exciting month for Alpert Studio students. To start, May 10 marks the first cast meeting and rehearsal for the BE production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Also, several students are participating in the Los Osos High School production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, including Lindsay Rupp and Sarah Jackson. Performances are scheduled for Friday and Saturday, May 2 and 3. If possible, please come out and support your fellow students.

Composer/Lyricist Stephen Schwartz of Wicked fame will be performing at Citrus College on Saturday May 3. It’s a wonderful opportunity to hear Schwartz’ famous musical theater tunes as well as his antecdotes from the world of Broadway. Here’s a link for more information and tickets.

Also at Citrus’ Haugh Performing Arts Center on Saturday May 17 is Jason Robert Brown in Concert. From the event website: Jason Robert Brown has been hailed as “one of Broadway’s smartest and most sophisticated songwriters since Stephen Sondheim” (The Philadelphia Inquirer). He won a 1999 Tony® Award for his score to Parade, which also captured the Drama Desk and New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards for best new musical. His “extraordinary jubilant theatre music” (Chicago Tribune) thus far includes scores for The Last Five Years, Songs For A New World, collaboration onUrban Cowboy: the Musical, and the just-produced world premiere of Thirteen. He is currently at work on the score for the upcoming musical version ofHoneymoon in Vegas. Join us for a special evening with this rising – and Broadway Bright – star! For tickets and infomation click here.

Here is video of Brandon Alpert singing Jason Robert Brown’s Shiksa Goddess. (PG-13)

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June is no less exciting; the new musical Pazzazz! by Broadway legends Richard Sherman and Milt Larsen, makes its world premier at Citrus’ Haugh Performing Arts center on June 13-15. The production is co-directed by Alpert Studio family member Barbara Hinrichsen’s husband and Sarah’s dad, Greg Hinrichsen along with choreographer John Vaughan. Don’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity. Event website.

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Last, but not least, studio alumni Brandon Alpert and Taylor Pearson will be appearing at the Ford Amphitheater in the west coast premier of Norman’s Ark, A New Musical. Written by American composer Glen Roven ( here’s an interview regarding the project) and directed by Lion King Tony Award winning produced Peter Schneider, the production is a family-friendly retelling of the ancient bible story in a modern setting. Performances run from May 27-June 8. From the event website: Broadway comes to Los Angeles when Glen Roven and Jerome Kass retell the Noah’s Ark story of hope in the context of a Post-Katrina world. The entire family will thrill to the entrance of 100 children as the animals on the ark. Emotional country ballads and smokin’ rock-a-billy tunes along with the giant gospel choir would raise the roof if the Ford Amphitheatre had one! Tickets and information.

May 02

Making Magic

By billalpert | The Kitchen Sink , violin , voice

Fifty-six years ago, a handsome young Edwardo made the long journey to Mexico City with his new bride. It was their honeymoon, and though he had little money in those early days, he wanted to take her to the most elegant restaurant in town. And so he did, and he thus marked the beginning of a lifetime together.

Today, Edwardo and family came together to comfort his wife. Laying in a hospital bed, she was connected to oxygen and faced the end of her life. From their darkened room Edwardo heard strains of violin music floating down the hallway into the open doorway. It so happened he heard me playing selections of music for my mother, as I frequently do when visiting her convalescent home.

And so, a still very handsome 80 year old man appeared at our doorway. He shyly asked if they could listen for a while. Edwardo knew his music, and recognized everything I played, from Bach to Schubert. At one point he recited the Spanish version poem of Schubert’s lovely Serenade, while I played the melody.

It wasn’t long before I found myself down the hall, playing for Edwardo, his wife and company. The request: Monti’s Csardas, the very same piece the young married couple remembered from their honeymoon, more half a century ago. The proprietor of that Mexico City restaurant played it that night for the newly married couple. I had the honor and privilege of recreating that moment, as Edwardo cradled his very weak wife’s head in his arms, as he once again affirmed his love. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room, including mine. It was a tender moment I’ll never forget.

Such is the joy and magic of music. It transcends borders and crosses generations unabated. It’s truly a gift of the spirit and the highest expression of humanity.