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Is Talent Enough? 

Is Talent Enough?

"Eric, you're talented. But, talent is not enough"

Those words have defined who I am and how I wanted to be portrayed for the last 8 years.

Nowadays it's important to know that playing the violin very well isn't enough to have a sustainable music career. 

Here are some of the things I think about as a violinist:

Building Relationships

For musicians, building relationships are something outside the practice room that we need to get comfortable knowing how to do. We practice countless hours perfecting our craft, and it would be a shame if we don't get to share the same passion as other musicians! Building relationships allow you to collaborate with people you may never expect. 

Understanding Your Audience

As co-artistic director of the Chicago Chamber Music Project, my colleagues and I are always trying to learn the needs of our audiences. People want different things and it's up to us as artists to understand what they want! Researching trends and talking to audience members are only a couple of simple ways for your audience to attend concerts. 

Making Mistakes

This point is the most important one of all. Classical musicians work hard every day and face rejection countless times in the course of their careers. What's important is that a musician needs to be comfortable with being rejected because rejection gives room for growth. A musician's goal is to grow every time they pick up their instrument.

I hope that these quick tips give you ideas to create a fearless musical entrepreneur mindset. 

Eric Mrugala, violinist

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Rebranding the Podcast 

Dear Friends, 

After considerable thought, I have decided to rebrand the ETV Podcast into the Everyday Musician Podcast. I've realized that the name can be confusing for people who don't know me but want to learn more about the everyday lives of musicians. The format will be the same as usual! Here is the new logo!

 

Stay tuned for this week's episode of the Everyday Musician Podcast where I get to interview a cellist in Boston. 

Personal and Professional Goals 2019 

Violin Goals 2019

Happy New Year!

I'm glad to get back into the swing of things now that I'm fully rested and ready to go. I reflected on 2018 and am incredibly grateful for the opportunities that came my way. 2019 will present its own challenges. Here are some things I'm thinking about for the new year:

1) Grow the Chicago Chamber Music Project 

This year my colleagues and I gave our inaugural concert as an official group, the Chicago Chamber Music Project. This year I want to expand the project into a two-city tour. We're looking into making this a reality! Check out the project at www.chicagochambermusicproject.com 

2) Exercising more and eating well

The past year I haven't had much energy to go to the gym. But I can't make that into an excuse. Everyone is busy. My goal is to get into the gym at least 3 times a week in addition to my violin schedule. 

3) Growing the ETV Podcast 

Podcasting has been an interesting medium that's allowed me to tap into the lives of everyday musicians doing amazing things. I have learned so much on how to get better at my communication skills with my audiences. My goal is to grow the ETV Podcast so that it's available for people who aren't musicians but are interested in the life of a musician. 

4) Staying Focused

This year of all years will be an interesting year because of the amount of work that needs to be done. Staying focused on the bigger picture is my goal for 2019. I was at the end of ropes in 2019. My body was so exhausted from the year that I got sick and couldn't recover as quickly as before. Managing my time well will be important.

What are your 2019 resolutions? Leave your comments below! 

Southwest Airlines Instrument Review 2019 

Southwest Airlines Instrument Review - 2019

It seems like musicians are having airline troubles more and more these days. I'm on a mission to help people who are always on the move and flying with their instruments so they make an educated decision when they purchase their next flight ticket somewhere. 

To make my airline reviews simple, I created 6 categories:

  • Check-In Process
  • Social Media Response
  • Boarding Process
  • Overhead Bin Space
  • Flight Quality
  • On Time Arrival

I think that these 6 things are important to every musician traveling. I'll be using a 5-star system in each category and then average the score towards the end.  Let's get right to it! 

Check-In Process - 5/5

The check-in process on Southwest was good. I tried checking in and retrieving my boarding pass on the mobile app but it looked there might have been a glitch on my end. Nonetheless, it was fine. I was able to get my boarding pass at the airport. What I'm impressed with is the complimentary check-in bag with each ticket. With airline check-in bag fees going up, it's refreshing to see that an airline is treating their customers well. This is also important because other customers who are checking in their bags for free means that there is more space in the overhead bins. 

Social Media Response - 4/5

Musicians use social media all the time to spread the word about everything. I thought if I were heading to a gig and a flight gets canceled, or a worker at the front desk is giving me a hard time for not allowing my instrument on board the aircraft, what would be the quickest way to get a hold of management? Twitter was the first thing that came to mind. Luckily I didn't have any problems with the flight so I didn't have anything negative to tweet at Southwest Airlines. But if I did, how quick would they respond in that very moment?

I was happy to see that Southwest replied to my tweet. If I were to get picky though, I thought the response rate could have been faster. If I was having trouble and needed help right away then a quicker response would've been helpful. 

Boarding Process 4/5

Out of all the airlines I've flown in the US, Southwest has the most unique boarding process I've seen to date. Each boarding pass gets a boarding section and a number. The employee near the gate door announces boarding groups A and shows 1-30 on the screen. There are silver pillars that have numbers on both sides depending on the number you have and they go in 5 number increments. You would go to the side that displays the group letter and stand in the section where your number is. In this case, I was in boarding section B and number 43. I was pleasantly surprised by how efficient it was. Everybody was standing in a single file line and walked straight onto the plane.

However, the one thing that could make or break a cellist from buying a ticket on Southwest is that there is no assigned seating. Some musicians like to bring their cellos on board having the guarantee of having a seat assigned to it. The flipside is that for a small fee you can do early boarding and choose your seats. But, a cellist could have a delay on another connecting flight and will barely make their connection. If the connecting flight is fully booked flight, then you're in trouble. 

Overhead Bin Space 5/5 

No complaints here. Because of Southwest's awesome free 1st checked bag policy, the overhead bins were free. Here's a picture of the amount of room I had after the plane landed at my destination. 

Flight Quality 5/5

For my first Southwest Airlines flight, I was pleased to be greeted on board by a friendly flight attendant. A nice smile and friendly customer service. As the plane reached cruising altitude the flight attendants started taking orders for drinks and provided us with snacks. It made me smile that their snack was a plane-shaped cracker.

I appreciated the attention to detail. Good job, Southwest! 

A common trend in the aviation industry is that airlines are no longer putting screens in front passengers. Instead, airlines are offering passengers WiFi access to their library of TV shows and movies. Southwest even had live tv. I was impressed by how fast the live tv started playing on my device. This section easily gets a 5/5.

Lastly, the flight was smooth as butter. I'll admit that the plane is a little on the older side because of how loud it was in the cabin. If you're trying to sleep on Southwest flights, I don't recommend it unless you have earplugs or headphones in to consume your media. 

The seats were comfortable and had plenty of leg room. If you're an oboe or clarinet player it's easy to put your instrument under the seat in front of you. 

On-Time Departure/Arrival - 5/5

Again, no complaints here. The plane left the gate on time and landed on time. Exactly what a musician needs when they're in route to and from a gig. 

 

Tallying up Southwest's score....drumroll, please!

28/30! 

I hope this review is helpful for all instrumentalists out there looking for a painless way to fly. Comment below and share on Facebook or Twitter (@ericmrugala)

Happy Birthday, Beethoven! 

He is the man that perfected the symphony, and the string quartet. A man whose innovation has inspired generations of composers to innovate. 
Happy Birthday, Ludwig! 

Best gifts to give string players in 2018 

Best Gifts To Give String Players In 2018

'Tis the season to be jolly!

This year we have a lot to be thankful for, why not get that special classical musician in your life a gift that they need? Here are my recommendations for making your classical musician happy that will help them for 2019:

 

Strings

First and foremost, I think that buying a set of strings for any classical musician who plays the violin, viola, cello, or bass would make them the HAPPIEST person on the face of the earth. Strings do tend to get pricey once you factor in the amount of times they have to switch a frequent basis. I can't speak for the lower strings on this one, but here are some strings that I use. 

Warm Sound

Obligato from Pirastro

Stable tuning

Dominant by Thomastik Infeld

Articulate and loud sound

Vision Solo by Thomastik Infeld

 

Strings on a budget

Tonica by Pirastro

Books

People who know me know that I like reading a lot of music business books. Inspire the classical musician in your life to do what they love and create a business out of it! I recommend the Entrepreneurial Muse. I've taken away a lot of interesting points the author makes that helps musical entrepreneurs like myself find success in the classical music business:

 

Recording Equipment

An absolute essential for all musicians! We all know that the smartphone recorder app can all get us so far. I've been using the Shure MV51 for the ETV Podcast and for my other side projects. I love how versatile this mic is for the price. It comes with two separate cables, a micro USB to lightning for iPhone, and microusb to USB for your computer. They have a great promotion going on until December 31st so you don't want to miss out on that! You can check out the quality of the mic by listening to ETV 17. 

 

 

Accessories

Last but not least, we need to give our string player some accessories to help them dominate 2019! Here are some accessories I can't live without:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why we're going back on tour to Chicago  

Last year's Indiegogo Project enabled my colleague and me to start what we hope will be a long-term endeavor; to create a chamber music series around the Chicago-land area that audiences can get excited about! 

Chamber music is what we love to do because it enables us (the musicians) to perform music that has stood the test of time. 

Furthermore, we believe that Chicago is a world-class city that is open to projects like this. Our group, the Chicago Chamber Music Project, aims to target audiences who enjoy classical music in various settings. Our vision includes commissioning works by living composers, performing different genres of classical music, and exploring various chamber music works. 

We hope to see you in the concert hall and experience Mozart, Piazzolla, Beethoven, and Fuchs with us!

Why I don't practice 7 hours a day 

Why I don't practice for 7 hours a day

Well, I used to practice 7 hours a day in my youth. Although back then I didn't really know how to practice efficiently. 

In high school, I was practicing hard and not getting the results I wanted. It was until I reached college where I realized that practicing smart and establishing a daily routine can be better for me in the long run than playing mindlessly for 7 hours. 

Here's why I don't practice 7 hours a day

It's physically exhausting

It's physically exhausting for me to practice 7 hours a day. Also, practicing that long might lead to injuries as a result of overusing your muscles and joints.

I lack focus after the 4th hour

Have you ever felt that you do something repetitive for many hours that your mind starts to wander? That happens to me ALL the time. You're not alone! I even tell my students that it's better to divide up your practice into sections if you have the time. My mind isn't focused if I've been at it for 4 hours straight (with breaks). For me, taking breaks and letting my mind rest from the daily exercise I do with my instrument helps me stay on track .

Staying in a practice room won't teach you about the secrets of music

Music helps us understand our humanity. Being a good player is not enough. Knowing the history behind the music, studying the score, and being curious about the composer's life are just a few things that practicing won't help. 

Now, there are people who are capable of practicing 7 hours a day. But I encourage anyone who wants to tackle a extensive practice regimen to draft a practice plan to prevent injuries and have smart, focused practice. 

I'm gonna go practice now :D 

3 Things you might not know about me  

Things you might not know about me:

1) I'm a HUGE Marvel Movie fan. 

2) When the world cup is around, I stop everything and watch the games (or practice while watching, although I don't recommend it)

lastly, 

3) Fried pork chop with co slaw and mashed potatoes on the side is my absolute favorite dish. Mom makes it best ;) 

Collaboration 

I'm just bouncing off a gig in Maine and I want to write this all down for you while it's still fresh in my mind. 

This weekend I traveled a thousand miles by car, performed in two states and played over 2 hours of music 4 times. 

However, this time around these performances was different than anything I expected. They were special because of the musicians in the group. It's what made it an incredible experience. 

Collaboration is what we do on a daily basis. But in order for collaborations to work, there needs to be mutual respect amongst your colleagues. When people are prepared to do the job right, it makes the process so much more enjoyable!

That's when you can truly make amazing music together. Today, I'm off to Europe to embark on another musical journey in Italy.  


Find Eric on iTunes by clicking here to hear the latest on the ETV Podcast and subscribe! 

Conceptualizing Sound 

Conceptualizing Sound

 

Sound. What do you think of when you think of sound when you play the violin?

We listen to music and sound differently then we used to 40 years ago. I bet you watched a bunch of different violinists on YouTube and thought,
"Wow, I want to sound like that."

Every musician on the planet has their opinion on sound. This leads me to a question on my mind, what determines a good sound from a bad sound? 

Is it their violin, bow, or strings? Perhaps it's a combination of everything? 

what would you say if I told you that achieving your next level sound is all in your head?

Every string player's instrument is going to sound different. And you know what? Thank GOODNESS for that! If we lived in a world where we all sound the same, it would be, simply put, boring. 

Listening to your sound in your head before you play helps you think critically about what you want to produce.

It's a state of mind

Conceptualizing your sound for the music that you're playing will make you sound the way you want to sound. 

Now, another question to ask is, "How do I do this as a violinist?" 

You can achieve this goal by simply going back to the basics and focusing on your violin technique. Another great and simple way to see how you're doing is by recording yourself. this will let you stay grounded and very much aware of the sound you want to get out of your instrument. 


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Finding The Special Sauce 

Finding The Special Sauce

(2 min. read)

The picture above is EXACTLY what I'm looking forward to eating when I step off the plane. Some fresh tomatoes, basil, and pasta from the town of Piobicco. Also on the to-do list, drink a quality cup of Italian espresso every morning no matter what! 

While all of this sounds amazing, my duo partner and I are working hard to make sure that we perform well at the festival in preparation for our tour to Italy,. We talk about making sure that we perform at a high level, but also making sure that our musicality isn't bland. 

I mean, how many different interpretations can you have for a Franck sonata? (I've heard hundreds) 

You play music that has traditions that go along with it and generations of violinists have said the same thing about how to make the sonata sound good, what kind of vibrato was appropriate at the time, interpretation, history, etc.

That is the case with most instrumental music out there. 

We talk about finding special qualities in a piece all the time during rehearsal, and I call this process, finding the special sauce. 

Is it vibrato? Is it your interpretation of the music? Is it your research that influence both? Communicating these to your audience verbally or through performance is important because many people in your audience are going to sit there and not know the music, the history, and the traditions that come along with it. 

Your audience will remember the special ingredients that you share with them and will want to be coming back for more for your artistry. This will take a little bit of thought as to how you're going to do it. But if you cook up an amazing dish, your voice will be heard. 

Practice Performing 

Practice Performing

Classical musicians that I've talked to recently say that the older they get, the more difficult it is to handle their nerves on stage. 

Why is that the case? Is it due to the lack of performance opportunities or the amount of pressure that we put on ourselves when we perform in front of an audience?

It may be a combination of both. 

That's why it's important to know your tendencies and learn how to control them. 

Each performer has their pre-concert rituals that help ease their sweaty palms and twitchy fingers. But there will be a performance where you won't have the luxury of your pre-concert ritual. 

What will you do then?

What it comes down to is the amount of time you practice and perform. We're so concerned as musicians to get everything perfect in the practice room that we forget that we actually need to get comfortable performing in front of people. 

If you're a conservatory student, then one of your options is to play in front of your colleagues in a studio class. Or, maybe you practice performing behind closed doors and you perform for your friends. You have the control of the venue. it doesn't have to be anything fancy! 

The only way you get better at it is by doing it more. It's also important to know that you shouldn't be thinking about perfection. You should focus on playing your absolute best in different settings. 

Performing doesn't need to be scary. Performing more gets you out of your shell and will help you improve on the bigger goal: sharing music with others.