Monday, November 30, 2009

It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing!

Happy holidays, music lovers! I'm so excited about Saturday's concert at the Rosslyn Spectrum Theatre. Not only is "The Nutcracker" one of my favorites, but we get the original and a special treat -- the Duke Ellington version! To get more information, go to the Website.

I'm having trouble finding Duke YouTube videos, but here's a version of the Duke Ellington band doing "Jingle Bells:"

Here's Duke and his band doing "Don't Mean a Thing:"

And, finally, Ellington's version of "The Nutcracker," as performed by the U.S. Army Blues Band:

Monday, November 9, 2009

Violin soloist prepares for the variety and fun of the Nov. 14 concert with the ASO

Violinist Olivia Haijoff says preparing for the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra's Nov. 14 performance at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall has been both challenging and comforting.

The playlist includes one of her favorite pieces to play – Arnold's "Concerto for Two Violins," and something she’d never even heard before, Piazzolla's "The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires."

"I think this is a particularly good program; there is so much variety, the pieces are really fun, and there's nothing to be scared by -- everyone is familiar with the Vivaldi; the Piazzolla is really fun; the Arnold is short, and has a rhythmic quirkiness, when we've played it to audiences before, they really love it and find it interesting … the middle movement is very sensual, slinky and special…. And the Brahms is really warm. It's not the usual thing."

Haijoff will be performing, as always, with her husband, Marc Ramirez. The couple have been married since 1997. They live and teach violin in Vienna, Va., and met while studying violin at the University of Maryland. She came to the U.S. from England on a Fulbright Scholarship.

"We met in the violin class," she said. "He was nice to me after I played."
Haijoff said both she and her husband grew up with musicians in the family and came to the violin early on. She was 4 when her mother, a harpsichordist, took her to a concert, and Ramirez was 7 when a violinist performed for a small party at his parents' home. Both his parents, Connie and Abad Ramirez, had at one time served as president of the Arlington Symphony.

Both Ramirez and Haijoff are also past winners of the Lasley Scholarship program -- co-sponsored by the Symphony Orchestra League of Alexandria and the ASO -- that helps support and teach young musicians.

Haijoff said the competition really helped her develop into a professional musician.

"Just having to get ready for something like that, preparing a concerto, a major concert, makes you work hard, gives you a goal. And you know it's going to be taken seriously. Marc judged it a few years ago. The judges are people the students really respect, so it really stays with them."

Since then, the couple both taught at Shenandoah University, and now teach out of their home and perform all over the country and the world as Marcolivia violin duo. She said it's not difficult to both work and live together.

"Before we got married, we started doing duos in school, so we'd already been working together," she said. "I think we agree on quite a lot of things musically. We both try hard not to argue or bring other things into it, from our daily life. There's never been a piece that we disagree on. We like the same things. We are technically similar, we went to school together and learned from the same people, and teach the same way."

Haijoff said she loves to teach violin to people, whether they have a future as a professional musician or not.

"I just want them to always have music they can come back to later in life, whether they play in an orchestra, or just are able to go to orchestras and really love it. I've never been one of those teachers who say, 'You have to do it this way,'as long as they want to learn and show respect for the music, then I'm happy."
She said the beauty of teaching the violin is that amateurs and professionals are both always working on the basics -- it's not as simple as reading a note and then playing that note.

"It's like solving a puzzle -- there are always things to work out. I like to bring that out of them," she said. "The violin is really hard, it's much harder than anything they will do in school, or even anything they will do in life, but if I can help them to enjoy the puzzle solving, then they will know it's not something you're supposed to know how to do, and that's why they should love it."

"Lots of people come up to me and say, 'I played the violin once, I wish I hadn't given it up,' But no one ever says I wish I didn't play the violin."

The Marcolivia duo will bring that love of music and the violin to the stage on Nov. 14 with the ASO -- the only problem was deciding who would get to play what.

"I think I really wanted to play the Piazzolla, and I'm the more pushy one," she laughed. "This Piazzolla is unlike anything I've played before. I think the quirkiness really appealed to me; it's different, so it's always going to bring something new out. It's something like playing jazz -- there’s that freedom you get that you have on stage, there's a little bit of that."

Listen to Marcolivia at