Utah Music Festival

I'm excited to be teaching at the Utah Music Festival in Park City, UT from July 23 - 29.  The festival features chamber music with faculty, private lessons and orchestra.  This is an excellent opportunity for any students age 8 and up to have a fantastic musical experience in a beautiful environment!

Click here for the application and outline of fees.  Basic fees are $50 for application, $250 for tuition, $75 for housing.

Encouraging the Musical Impulse

You have a child playing an instrument, they are already taking private lessons, maybe playing in orchestra at school, what other things can you do to encourage your child to go deeper into their journey with the violin or viola?

Here are three things that will encourage and develop the musical impulse in your child:

Listen, Listen, Listen!!!

There is no better way for your child to develop their sense of style and ear for tone than to listen to recordings or attend live performances.

Not having anyone to guide me, when I was young I purchased CDs with titles like "The Top Ten Pieces of the Baroque Era." These recordings weren't great, but they exposed me to many different composers and styles, leading me to discover the composers I liked, which led me to buy more CDs of my new favorite composer's music! Eventually I subscribed to a CD club and received a few CDs a month featuring artists like Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, and Yo-Yo Ma. Growing up in a place where artists of that caliber rarely visited, getting their sound in my ear was life-changing.

With YouTube there is now the opportunity to hear countless recordings of artists like this at any time, and yet many students don't take advantage of it. Here are two YouTube channels I created featuring some of my favorite violinists and violists

Make Daily, Organized Practice a Habit

Daily practice is the only route to mastery of an instrument and having a structure to your child's practice allows them to feel a clear sense of improvement and prevents aimless playing.

The Practice Habit

One of the most common questions I get is: How long should my child practice, and how frequently?  It is far better to practice 20-30 minutes each day (with a day off a week, and a week or two off at a time for vacations) than say 45 mins Monday, nothing on Tuesday or Wednesday, an hour on Thursday etc.

Let me stress that it's important to make practicing a habit.  Try and make practice time a regular part of the daily schedule, right before your child leaves from school, or after they finish their homework.  This will make it much easier to ensure that they practice regularly, and they will be encouraged by their progress. No matter how smart or talented your child, sporadic practicing will result in slow progress.

Organizing Practicing

Try to organize your child's practice time this way (based on 30 min session, should be scaled for longer sessions):

  • 10 Mins - Building Time - Scales, Etudes, Technical exercises (see saw, g/d/g)
  • 10 Mins - Polishing Time -  Practice current songs/repertoire (play through a few times, play problem areas, practice with methods below)
  • 10 Mins - Performance Practice Time -  Review old repertoire, sight read or improvise!

To encourage variety, mix up the order of these so that they don't get stale!

Practice Is More Than Playing the Instrument

There are SO many beneficial ways to practice without ever putting the bow on the string!

Here are a few:

1) Listen to recording of the piece and watch music
2) Sing the piece (with solfege if you can!)
3) Shadow bow
4) Finger the piece
5) Clap the rhythms
6) Say the pitch names or finger numbers aloud (in rhythm or without rhythm)
7) Write a story about the piece
8) Determine the form of the piece and its high/low points

These methods can be combined (singing will fingering, saying note names while shadow bowing) for an endless variety of practice methods!  This not only keeps practicing from getting stale it will also deepen your child's understanding and grasp of the piece.

I hope you find these suggestions helpful, and let me know in the comments if you have ideas of your own on how to encourage the beginning player on their journey! 


Musings on Simon Fischer's Mind Map

Simon Fischer's Mind Map - Click to Enlarge

I just came off a three week musical sprint (is such a thing possible?) that included a recital with the 5 Ensemble at Point Loma Nazarene University, two performances with Camarada, a performance and recording session with the Palimpsest Ensemble at UCSD, and wedged in between that, an Art of Elan performance in Breckenridge, Colorado! 

Throughout these three weeks I've been thinking a lot about practicing, and this picture of Simon Fischer's mind map on practicing has been circulating among my Facebook friends.

I love this because it's rare that you get to see inside the brain of such an amazing teacher! Many of these ideas, like building time/interpreting time/performing time, are things I incorporated into my own practicing and teaching a long time ago. 

Others are improvements or reminders of things I SHOULD be doing.  For example, I consistently rotate the technical material I practice (scales, double-stops, shifting, bow strokes etc.), but I'm not so great about tracking it (which would be an interesting thing to do). 

Additionally, there is one aspect of technique I haven't rotated in a long time, my scales fingering!  I've been in a practice rut of Flesch scales for the past couple years, and I've never tried rotating in other fingering systems.  I tried this out this week, working on Galamian scales, and it's been great! The new fingering forces me out of my muscle memory crutch, making me feel like I am filling in little holes in my mental map of the fingerboard.  This is hard, but great!

Some suggestions in this map, like Mental Rehearsal, are things that I've only begun to explore, but have already seen great benefit in.  With all the music that I had to play these past three weeks, I didn't have nearly enough time or physical energy to practice everything to the level I wanted to.  One piece in particular, the Beethoven Serenade for Flute, Violin and Viola, felt especially neglected, with very little time actually practicing the piece on the instrument. However, I spent a good amount of time listening to and studying the piece, and shortly before the performance I silently fingered and internally sang the whole piece from start to finish and I'm happy to say it went very well!    

Another excellent reminder in this mind-map: choosing etudes and techinical studies suited to your current repertoire.  This is something we should all be doing, simply for effeciency.  It stands to reason that each of us has technical weaknesses that are not limited to the problems in our current music, but there's no way we can address all these problems at once!  Therefore, we should choose etudes, technical studies and scale variations designed to tackle these problems away from their musical context. 

An example from my current practicing: the Fugue from Bach's Sonata #1 for Solo Violin (transcribed for Viola) has tons of thorny double, triple and quadruple stops, which present many problems for me, mostly related to intonation.  To speed up my learning of these tricky passages, in my building time I've been practicing lots of double and triple stops (thirds, fourth, sixths and octaves) in different positions and different strings in the keys of the Fugue.  

  1. How could you incorporate this idea into your current practicing? 
  2. What specific technical problems do you have in your current repertoire? 
  3. What etudes, technical exercises, scale variations, or other practice methods could you use to address these problems in your Building Time?

Now Offering Skype Lessons!

I'm excited to begin offering violin and viola lessons via Skype!  The audio and video technology in this great tool has progressed to the point where it's almost as good as being in the same room with me!

Now those of you travelling from far away can save money on gas, and, more importantly, spend less time in the car...and more time practicing! 

A few details:

  • Only students in Suzuki Book II and later may take Skype lessons.
  • You must have a computer with a good internet connection and a video camera. Decent speakers are also helpful.
  • Skype lessons are for a minimum of 45 minutes.
  • Students that study primarily via Skype will be required to come in for an in-person lesson periodically (to be decided by me in consulation with the student and parent). 

To setup Skype, follow these instructions:

  1. Click here to download Skype for your system
  2. Install Skype to your computer.
  3. Add travis.maril as a contact
  4. From the "Contacts" screen, call the "Skype Test Call" to make sure that your sound is working properly
  5. I will Skype call you at the appointed time

Please contact me if you have any questions.

Art of Élan presents Mexicali


Tuesday, October 11 | 7pm
San Diego Museum of Art
1450 El Prado (Balboa Park)


I'm looking forward to performing again with Art of Élan, one of my favorite local chamber music presenters.  I can't believe it's their 5th season already!  This program "Mexicali" presents works by a number of Mexican composers and includes works for guitar, maracas, string quartet and more.

I'll be playing on a piece originally written for Quartetto Latinoamericano by Arturo Marquez called Homenaje a Gismonti, with Kate Hatmaker and Pei-Chun Tsai, violins and Abe Liebhaber, cello. We just had our first read through last night, the piece has a great swing to it.

Hope to see you at the concert!