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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. 

Top 10 things You Need If You're A Freelance Musician 

When you gig so frequently, you learn and make mistakes on the job. It's perfectly normal, but you want to avoid making mistakes as much as possible. Even if it's a simple wedding, or you're asked to fill in for someone the day before, you need to always be ready.

Here are the top 10 things every freelance musician needs to have a successful gig:

Your Equipment is Ready To Go

Going to a gig or a rehearsal with your instrument sounding bad will not give people the best impression of you. Make it a daily habit to check if your equipment is in good shape so that you continue sounding awesome. 

Have A Sturdy Music Stand

During wedding season, you're most likely going to be playing outside and possibly a windy area. Make sure to find yourself a sturdy stand for outdoor gigs and events so that you don't run the risk of having your music fall off while the bride is walking down the aisle. That's a no-no.

Keep an Extra Set of Strings Handy

This one's a given, but always worth mentioning nonetheless.

Sheet Music/Know the music

Again, really obvious, but make sure you or someone else at your gig has the music. 

Contractor/Coordinator

Knowing who the contractor and coordinators are for the event will help make your life easier. It's also not a bad idea to get their email or phone number just in case something happens. 

Address

Know where you're going? Good, double check to make sure you arrive in plenty of time. 

On-time arrival

Don't be the last one showing up for the gig. The rule of thumb is that if you're on time, you're late. Always arrive a little before the call time. It gives a bad impression if you're late. Always communicate with the coordinator your ETA. Oh, and make sure you have enough gas in the car. 

Business Cards

You never know who you're going to meet so it's always a good idea to have business cards, make the investment to get high-quality cards, that will leave an impression. 

Professionalism 

People never forget first impressions. Make sure people perceive you as a professional. In addition, It's also important to make friendly conversation so that people know you're human. 

Have a good time!

I can assure you that by achieving these 9 steps, then you'll have a smooth gig experience. 

 

Music Is Not JUST A Profession 

Music Is Not JUST A Profession

The life of a musician can be tricky.

Any job someone takes in the music industry can be exhausting and even frustrating. That's why music is more than just a profession, it's a lifestyle. Vienna is arguably the classical music capital of the world. To the Viennese, music is embedded in their culture. They can't live without and breath without it. The Viennese put a hierarchy on music over sports. Can you imagine?

Of course, it would be unfair to compare sports and music. They're entirely different things. If you're reading this, you're probably a teacher, orchestra performer, quartet member, or all three. My friends, you need to know how to do everything in this field. And isn't it amazing that we have the chance to do everything? 

I'm so grateful that I have variety in my career. Music to me is much more than a profession. Taking my life into various settings and playing music continues to be a joy to me and I never get tired of it. The countless hours of practice and dedication we put if you don't love what you're doing then why bother?

You go to the practice room and I get frustrated if I'm having a bad day. I get it, it stinks. I've been there and I know you've been there too. But the feeling when you go on stage and make music with the right people at the right time, it's priceless to me. And those are the moments I live for. 

How to learn repertoire quickly 

I'm heading into the summer with a lot of new repertoire to learn and trying to learn this violin rep as well as I can so that it's performance ready. 

There are many ways to learn rep but I hope that this post will help you get an idea of how to reach our violin goals faster. 

Click Here to check out my practice tips

Before we dive in, I want to address that not all of these things may work for you. But I hope some of them will and get to use these in your daily violin practice.

Stick to a system

Violinists want balanced and organized practice sessions but hardly ever achieve them. 

Why is that?

Systems work because they give us structure. However, you need to be diligent and motivated in order for a system to work. By establishing a system, you improve your playing and learn repertoire faster. 

You can't play well if you don't feel well

Let's face it, you can't play if you're sick. That's a given...

What I mean is that you should put yourself in a position where you can feel confident about your playing. Lack of confidence won't help you learn rep quickly, it will instead make you spiral down into a hole making it impossible to get out. Putting yourself in a position for success will help you get results. 

and finally...

Rest

I've talked about rest before. Not only do I love to sleep (haha) I think that sleep is probably the most important out of all three points here. WIthout rest, you can't do the other things on this list. Getting good quality rest will help you accomplish your goals because you won't run the risk of mindless practicing. 


So there you have it!

3 things I swear by to help me get better at the violin. 

Have any practice tips? Leave your comments below!

Gratitude in the Freelance Community 

An important thing I've noticed in music recently is that it's important to treat your colleagues the way you treat yourself. Gratitude in a competitive gig/freelance economy comes a long way if you're trying to make it. 

When you're performing in a violin section, your stand partner is going to forgive you if you miss a note in a performance. We're only humans and it happens. Yes, you and your violin playing make an impression. But gratitude will help you continue getting work as a violinist.

There will be a moment where you'll have too many gigs and don't want to run the risk of double booking yourself. All of a sudden you're in a position where you have the opportunity to help contract gigs!

I recently handed over a violin gig to a colleague recently and I'm glad this person was able to take it.  A few years ago when I was trying to get my name out in the Boston freelance scene, there were people who believed in me and believed in my potential even when I was starting out.

It's all about giving gratitude to the people around you and believing in them

It's a reminder that we're all in this together. If we help instead of compete then we create an awesome musical culture that will help violinists continue getting work in a communal effort. In the end, we'll continue doing what we love and make our audiences happy. 

The music world is small and people are watching whether you like it or not. Pay the gigs forward and good will come your way!