In my conversation with performer, educator, entrepreneur, and cellist of the Bayberry String Quartet, Laura Usiskin, we discuss how the Coronavirus pandemic has affected the performing arts; the Bayberry String Quartet’s journey towards Bandlab virtual rehearsing and their plans to share their process with the world; and why it’s important to be patient with ourselves as we grow and change.
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2:25 – Laura talks about how she got started with her first cello teacher, the legendary pedagogue, Gilda Barston.
6:30 – Why Laura studied neuroscience for her undergraduate degree.
7:14 – How Laura’s quartet, the Bayberry String Quartet, got started.
10:02 – The Bayberry’s community-minded mission of “a quartet in every home” and how that informs their work.
12:37 – The ways chamber music creates connection for musicians and audiences alike.
14:05 – The Coronavirus pandemic and its affect on the performing arts, institutional teaching, and, in particular, the teaching of chamber music and collaborative work.
15:52 – Laura talks about how and why the Bayberry String Quartet began their experiments with virtual rehearsing. Laura shares some tips for how to get started.
Bandlab (Free! The app that the Bayberry’s use)
Acapella ($ – An app for video recording and stitching together remote performances)
18:51 – Laura’s first realizations why virtual rehearsing can be better than live rehearsing. “I felt like I was doing things I couldn’t do in person.”
20:00 – How virtual rehearsing enhances and accelerates score study.
21:25 – “Bandlabbing”: how virtual rehearsing doesn’t replace in person rehearsal and performance but is also an incredibly useful tool to augment the rehearsal experience.
21:56 – Some of the limitations of virtual rehearsing.
23:48 – How the Bayberrys’ are responding to the needs of musicians in the era of Coronavirus by generously sharing tips, tools, and transparency of their process.
25:48 – Laura talks about the Bayberrys’ one-page guide to getting your own virtual rehearsing practice started. “Virtual rehearsing can’t replace in person rehearsing but it’s been so much more helpful that I thought it could be.”
27:53 – Why commenting while “bandlabbing” is an integral part of virtual rehearsing.
30:40 – More tips on how to rehearse musical nuances remotely and the challenges of deepening the rehearsal process when we have to remain physically apart.
32:22 – “Some [virtual rehearsing] is even better than rehearsing in person.”
32:46 – The parallels between virtual teaching and virtual rehearsing.
34:25 – The importance of weekly/regular video chats to complement the virtual rehearsals and to promote communication and bonding in your ensemble.
36:45 – The Bayberrys’ goals to perform and rehearse entire sections and movements virtually.
37:32 – The surprising challenges of virtual “playthroughs” and how they make you a better player. The bravery and vulnerability required to record yourself and share works-in-progress.
38:35 – Are there certain repertoires that lend themselves to virtual rehearsing more than others?
41:00 – How does the Bayberry String Quartet decide who “leads” rehearsal in virtual space? Laura shares some of her quartet’s strategies and the challenges of organizing digital space.
43:43 – The ways virtual rehearsing can be “gamelike” and how it introduces an element of “play” into the rehearsals and learning process.
44:56 – What is the role of chamber music instructors in this new frontier of virtual rehearsing?
45:29 – Laura’s suggestions for how instructors can guide and support student learning in virtual rehearsing and performance.
48:11 – Laura’s thoughts on how virtual rehearsing can be fun, helpful, and rewarding to all students: professionals, pre-professionals, and amateurs.
49:39 – How virtual rehearsing allows for a “tangibility” of performance. How students and performers can have a stronger sense of ownership through virtual rehearsing.
51:36 – Laura shares some tips for navigating the technological pitfalls as you begin “Bandlabbing.”
53:45 – Laura talks about the Montgomery Music Project, an El Sistema program she founded and ran in Montgomery, AL.
56:50 – Laura shares how running the Montgomery Music Project taught her many arts administrative skills.
58-10 – Laura talks about her debut album, “Reimagining Bach” and how she asked her filmmaker friends from college, Sarah Adina Smith and Jonako Donley, to make these three stunning music videos of her playing Bach, Patrick Greene, and Peter Susser.
1:01:28 – Laura’s series, “Chamber Music at AEIVA,” that presents concerts that connect visual art and music.
1:03:54 – What Laura would tell her younger self about being enough: “just because it’s not perfect doesn’t mean there isn’t quality in it.”
1:05:26 – How the pandemic causes us to reevaluate external markers of success and progress and how many classical musicians are struggling with losing their will to practice.