Michael O'Gieblyn of ViolinExcerpts.com on life, auditioning, and the future of classical music
March 10, 2015
When I find interesting people on the internet doing interesting things, I always want to share it with my fan base / internet students. I came across a really convenient youtube video for practice tips by Michael O'Gieblyn, which you can check out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5WY1JQctQA&spfreload=10 , and he also runs a great website calledviolinexcerpts.com , which is a database of excerpts for auditions, as well as an online audition room, which really got me interested while I was writing my article about stage fright. So I got in touch, and he agreed to be interviewed for the site-score!
**How did you get started playing the violin?**
Well, the exact detail are kinda fuzzy, because I was only 3 years-old when I started. I vaguely remember my mom asking me if I wanted to play the violin and I said….ok. She took me to Suzuki lessons and classes for years and years, I was mostly ambivalent about it until around 11 or 12, when I started to really enjoy and take it more seriously.
**What do you think is the secret to what got you to continue playing the violin as a teenager in order to reach a professional level of playing? How do you help your students get through the difficult intermediate period and what are some ideas you have for students, parents, and teachers to help students continue with their instruments?**
I think what made a big difference in my enjoyment of playing the instrument, and deciding to work harder at it was when I starting playing it in ensembles-both youth orchestras and my church band. Up until jr high or so it was always just practicing in my room, some recitals, maybe a Suzuki group class once in a while, but basically it was pretty lonely
When I started making friends in youth orchestra, it made a big difference and was encouraging to keep at it. I also started to enjoy being a part of something much bigger, the orchestra music we played was really fun, and much bigger than anything I could do on my own.
Likewise in the church band I played in sometimes, I would improvise over the simple songs, and I started to feel like my small part of the puzzle contributed to making a beautiful, bigger picture.
**Do you feel like you have stayed true to the classical violin model in your teaching and playing? Who are your greatest violin influences?**
Oh, yes and no. I've definitely dabbled in a lot of different styles and ensembles, but ultimately have stayed pretty classical. I did my undergrad at Carnegie Mellon, studying with Cyrus Forough who was a student of David Oistrakh. So I just soaked up as much as I could from his recordings, and the technique he passed down through his students.
I think the classical foundation is absolutely essential for violin playing. It doesn't matter what you play, or where you play it, or what you're dressed like when you play it. Having good sound production, intonation, rhythm and musicality can take you far in any direction you want to go.
**Do you teach private lessons? Do you incorporate your multimedia programs in your private lessons?
Do you teach over Skype? Do you think that there is any way to make lessons over the internet comparably effective as meeting privately with a teacher?**
I do only a little bit of teaching over Skype (although I recommend Fuze these days). Videoconferencing in general has come a long way. Even with the "slow internet" that I have, there are no longer delays, or freezing like there used to be. I think it's ok once in a while, and for intermediate or more advanced players for sure. There is some kinesthetic aspects of playing the violin, however, that cannot be expressed over the internet though. So, I'm not sure it's the best to use for beginners or 100% of the time.
**In what situation would you send a private student to your site to learn instead of working on it in lessons?**
I'm becoming very excited about the idea of the "upside down classroom" that some schools are catching onto. The idea is: instead of coming to class to listen to a lecture, and then going home to do the "homework", turn it around so that you watch the video of the lecture at home, and do the work in the classroom and get help from the teacher when you are stuck.
There are a lot of great resources out there, and so if I know of a video or a blog post that can say something better than I could, I definitely tell people to just go look it up.
**That's such an amazing concept. I love it! Speaking of upside-down classrooms, are there any areas of teaching where you feel like you would prefer to send students somewhere else? What are a few of your go-to resources?**
Oh absolutely. I often have violinists ask me how to learn pop songs, or video game songs. It's not something that I really want to take up lesson times working on, but I think that enjoying making music is absolutely vital to staying with it. So, I think working on pop songs *in addition* to your other repertoire is great.
I think violinlikethat.com is a lot of fun and a great resource for learning covers. I'm also a fan of what my friend Patti is doing with video game music:
**What Patti is doing is so cool!!! What is your favorite violin memory?**
Well, there's a few. Mostly I enjoy all the places that playing the violin as taken me. I played with a string quartet on a cruise ship for a while, and the last month we went from San Diego, CA to Rome, Italy in 32 days! It was quite an experience. But recently I got to play with the Nashville Symphony when James Ehnes played the Elgar violin concerto-it was just so beautiful..I can't really describe it better than that.
**Can you tell us a little about your business model and how you make money from your youtube channel, practice programs, and teaching programs?**
Well, to be honest, it's taken me a while to think of what I do as a business. I started violinexcerpts.com as more of an organizational tool for myself to listen to excerpts. Then I saw it as a resource for others who needed to do the same. And only recently have I started to see it as a business.
I say all that, because so many people think that they can put up a blog, or video, sell some ads and watch thing go viral and make money overnight.
It's really a long road to earn people's respect and trust. With so many people waving their hands, and using the great megaphone of social media to get you to "like, and subscribe!" it's hard to cut through all the noise.
What people are looking for however, (and what I am trying to create) is valuable information that solves a real problem, and helps them transform their life.
That is the plan that influences everything I do from creating videos, or a subscription plan, to recommending other services and products as an affiliate.
**What are your goals and dreams with your violin playing and teaching? Do you feel like you are taking active steps to be where you want to be in ten years?**
One of the best things I have done is to actually write out my goals...and rewrite them...and rewrite them.
When you first dream up where you want to be in ten years or so, your subconscious flat out rejects it and says "you'll never get there...you're never make that kind of money, etc."
By rewriting them, and re-reading them, you keep pushing them back into that part of your brain, until you actually believe you can, and will then start making plans to get there.
**Do people ever ask you to play "X" song? What is the most popular song people ask you to play?**
When I was on the cruise ship, we were always asked to play "Pachelbel's Canon" we eventually got an arrangement that gave the melody to the cello for a while, otherwise she was not too happy about that request.
And of course, I always get "The Orange Blossom Special" and "The Devil went down to Georgia"
**On a similar note, what do you think will be different about violin teaching in ten years? In twenty? What different tools do you think that musicians will have to gain in order to compete in today's competitive market?**
On one hand, the supply of talented musicians graduating from music schools, and ever shrinking demand for orchestral players seems very dismal. But on the other hand, there's never been more opportunity for anyone to create their art and reach an unlimited audience, than there is today.
Instead of waiting to get picked or discovered, waiting for someone to retire (or worse?), trying to ascend just one more rung on the ladder, trying to fit your square head into the square hole, why not pick yourself. Start something, create something. The average laptop has the technology that would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars 15 years ago, and the capability of reaching the amount of people that only record labels, and tv networks could access. Those days are over, but so many musicians are not acting like they are.
Start a website, a wedding music service, a concert series, an informational product, anything. You're gonna have to hussle, and be persistent, but it's worth it.
I have an eBook that I sell related to my YouTube video. Your viewers can pick it up for free at:
Wow, Michael, thank you! That's so awesome of you, and it was so awesome hearing all of your insights.
Reader, if you're looking for a place to get your audition repertoire, check out violinexcerpts.com, something Michael didn't mention is that they have a really cool "audition room" where you can sign up for and play for other musicians and get their critique.