Transforming the Landscape of Music Education via the Web

Transforming the Landscape of Music Education via the Web

David Wallace Sharing Technical Secrets at Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp

David Wallace Sharing Technical Secrets at Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp

The digital age has profoundly changed the way people learn music. With twenty-four hour access to digital libraries of sheet music, recordings, and tutorials, people now study in the comfort of their homes without worrying about schedules or geographical access to a teacher.

As a violin and viola teacher, I am thrilled to join the digital pedagogy age with, which makes my teachings available to more students than ever before.

I am particularly happy to align myself with [my] Talent Forge because this site only features musicians who are established as outstanding performers, as well as teachers. Without the quality control of sites like [my] Talent Forge, the learner’s job of separating the wheat from the chaff becomes prohibitive.

Having expertly curated lesson material is extremely important when you are learning a stringed instrument. For example, type in “vibrato tutorial” into Google. You get over 80,000 results. Some are laudable, but far more are bastions of horrible or even crippling advice uploaded by amateurs who have no business teaching anybody anything.

In contrast, [my] Talent Forge subscribers learn vibrato from my whole series of videos sharing the best exercises, information, and shortcuts I have gleaned over the past three decades from legendary string pedagogues.

Seriously, given a choice, would you rather get the best information straight from a Juilliard professor, or would you rather try your luck with YouTube’s 40,000+ offerings?

Some of my videos walk students directly through exercises that cause vast improvements when practiced on a regular basis. Here’s a lesson that teaches a phenomenal tone production and relaxation exercise I learned directly from Josef Gingold, Joshua Bell’s teacher:


Other videos share a few simple tips that can instantly improve technique:


And I’ve started a whole series of videos coaching subscribers on stage performance, performance anxiety, and peak performance.  Ever wonder how to conquer the problem of cold hands?  Here’s how!:

To date, I’ve created almost forty videos, and about forty pages of sheet music on topics including vibrato, tone production, comfort with the instrument and bow, stage presence, stage fright, left-hand short cuts, general musicianship, and revolutionary scale exercises. And there are more than 100 more lessons by other expert teachers on the site to further expand your musical prowess.

I’m constantly developing new content according to the needs and requests of the [my] Talent Forge community. It has been particularly exciting to respond to custom requests and questions of subscribers.  I hope you’ll join us!

Oh, and when you do, be sure to use the coupon code DavidWallace for added savings!

-Doc Wallace, January 18, 2014

Reaching Out with the U.S. Coast Guard Band

Reaching Out with the U.S. Coast Guard Band

Thankfully, the U.S. government is back in business, and I mean that from the bottom of my pocketbook. A week ago, the shutdown threatened to cancel today’s work with the U.S. Coast Guard Band, an ensemble I have coached on audience engagement for the past two years. Recently subject to budget cuts, layoffs, and government-imposed travel restrictions, the USCG Band and other military ensembles are increasingly required to perform in local schools and community venues to justify their existence beyond concert tours and ceremonies. (I like to fantasize about a future when professional ensembles are so inherently invested in schools and communities that they have to justify the occasional performance for bankrolling patrons or heads of state.)

From a purely selfish perspective, I enjoy working with the USCG Band because their live performances replace my everyday, string-centric reality with fresh sounds and musical perspectives. In that regard, I am no different from the fourth grader or senior citizen attending their community performances.

This morning, the band rehearsed an interactive concert designed for middle-school students. The program explores musical inspiration and reveals how musical compositions can emerge from almost anywhere. The far-ranging inspirations included historical figures (John Mackey’s Xerxes), the focused inner state of a dancer on stage (Warren Benson’s Solitary Dancer), a Saturday Night Live punchline (Scott McAllister’s More Cowbell) and several other contrasting sources.

While the audience-interactions are still being refined and tested, the middle-schoolers will be asked to sing themes, clap rhythms with the ensemble, provide improvisational input for USCG performers, and visualize their own solutions to compositional problems posed by composers. Each segment aims to give the young listeners entry points or “hooks” to focus their ears and minds on the musical materials.

In the afternoon, I led the USCG chamber ensembles through the process of designing activities for deepening listeners’ musical perceptions. Because I had already worked with most of the musicians before, I wanted to give them a challenging piece to think about sharing with new listeners. I settled on György Ligeti’s Ten Pieces for Woodwind Quintet III. Lento, a slow, intense, atonal movement. Here’s an excerpt:

Click here to purchase or download the full awesome Ligeti album!

At first, many musicians struggled with Ligeti’s contemporary material, which potentially could bore or confuse their typical audience members. By the end of the workshop, however, all five groups presented successful strategies and activities that would intrigue even a first-time listener. One group focused on the delicate, subtle shifts of color and developed an activity where an onstage color spectrum would provide a basis for interpreting the sound at any particular moment. Another group focused the audience’s ears on the organic blending and seamless shaping of the instruments’ pitches. Other groups helped listeners form their own subjective interpretations by encouraging personal narratives or making real-time artworks in response to musical details. Yet another group explored a movement activity that would simulate how Ligeti created diverse interactions among the instruments, even with limited material.

Assuming there isn’t another budget sequester or shutdown, I’ll return in February to coach USCG chamber ensembles on their own original programs. In the meanwhile, the USCG musicians have given me some great ideas for introducing middle school students to Krzysztof Penderecki’s dissonant, modern Concerto Grosso at the New York Philharmonic this Thursday.

Peace & Prosperity!

-Doc Wallace, 22 October 2013

PS Enjoy a playlist of some of my interactive concert presentations!

Reflections on the Zorn at 60 All-Star Orchestra Concert

Reflections on the Zorn at 60 All-Star Orchestra Concert

Composer John Zorn

Composer John Zorn

My mind and body still resonate from last night’s opening concert of Miller Theatre’s Zorn at 60 festival. In mid-August, I had received an invitation from conductor David Fulmer to join a “mega-orchestra to include all the most distinguished contemporary ensembles, quartets, and chamber formations here in New York City” to perform an evening of John Zorn’s new or rarely played orchestral compositions.

David wasn’t exaggerating; the all-star roster of eighty-eight musicians represented a staggering array of ensembles and renowned soloists. To name contemporary string quartets alone, we had representatives or founders from Kronos, Flux, JACK, Ethel, Mivos, and Momenta, to say nothing of mixed ensembles like Tashi, Decoda, Ensemble ACJW, International Contemporary Ensemble, Talea Ensemble, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, countless downtown ensembles, and musicians with rare pedigrees like Avery Fisher Career Grants and Juilliard doctorates.

From the first rehearsal to the final concert, everyone’s total commitment and enthusiasm drove the ensemble to deeper aesthetic extremes and fuller realizations of the scores. While people frequently evoke words like “anarchy” or “chaos” to describe Zorn’s music, an incredible amount of structure and detail underlies a seemingly frenzied exterior.  When performers fully realize every nuance and instruction, Zorn’s complex rhythmic juxtapositions, colorful orchestrations, and larger structures emerge as intricate, expressive, adventurous and oftentimes humorous tapestries, not the jumbled, sonic messes that too often result whenever new music receives too little rehearsal or exceeds the limitations of its players. Believe me, John was pushing the ensemble to its absolute limits, and each second of rehearsal counted.

While Fulmer and the ensemble did their utmost to prepare the music, Zorn guided the process by making sure every last actual sound matched his imagination, whether it meant experimenting to find just the right dynamics for the trumpets’ muted “murmurings” or making sure that the percussionists had heavy “1950’s vintage garden shears” not “cheap 1990′s hedge clippers” for the perfect chop to punctuate a phrase.

As always, Zorn embodied the perennially youthful, joyful, downtown “bad boy,” dropping double entendres, cajoling players by name, and sporting his signature camouflage pants and black t-shirts commemorating past seasons of his East Village new music venue The Stone.  I’m happy to report that our concert was recorded and you will be able to hear it in its entirety on a forthcoming album from Zorn’s record label Tzadik, which has selflessly furthered the careers of so many creative, non-mainstream artists.

Miller Theatre features additional concerts this week of Zorn’s chamber music and game pieces. All year long, venues and festivals around the world will continue to celebrate his vast and contrasting legacy.  If you don’t know his music, check out one of the many documentaries on YouTube and have a listen to some of his scores.

For a taste of the wonderfully creative and eclectic New York City downtown music scene Zorn has fostered, enjoy the opening improvisation from my band KNOT’s debut concert at The Stone:

Click here to view the full  John Zorn at 60 Orchestra Roster- arguably one of the greatest large-scale new music orchestras ever assembled!  Read Steve Smith’s rave New York Times Concert review.   Click here to read 60 tributes for Zorn at 60. Or listen to an in-depth NPR Radio interview with Zorn.


Doc Wallace

26 September 2013

Doc Wallace Trio to Record New Live Album

Doc Wallace Trio to Record New Live Album

Yes, it’s true! The Doc Wallace Trio is recording a long-overdue sequel to our sold-out Live at the Living Room album.  In keeping with our debut CD’s spirit, we will record one hot live set at Cornelia Street Café on Thursday, September 12th at 6:00pm. $15 cover charge includes one drink; reservations are recommended.

A designated New York City culinary and cultural landmark, Cornelia Street Café combines great food with over 700 stimulating performances a year. The warm ambiance and professional sound system make it an ideal venue for the Doc Wallace Trio’s rollicking, jazzy, soulful music.

To get a better picture of the venue and its significance, enjoy this short documentary teaser featuring singer/songwriter Suzanne Vega, Tony award-winning playwright/activist Eve Ensler, jazz musician Gerald Cleaver, and other artists closely associated with Cornelia Street Café:

As you can tell from this Doc Wallace Trio performance at Lincoln Center, we play our best in the presence of friends and fans like you:

We hope to see you this Thursday!

-Doc Wallace 9 September 2013

Doc Wallace Goes for the Emotional at MWROC 2013

Doc Wallace Goes for the Emotional at MWROC 2013

David Wallace Performing at MWROC 2013

David Wallace Performing at MWROC 2013

My musicianship owes a debt to fiery collaborators of the great cellist Pablo Casals: Karen Tuttle, Julius Levine, Felix Galimir, and Alexander Schneider. When these gurus conducted, taught, or coached me, they demanded 110% emotional commitment. Anything less was a crime.  Casals imparted this impassioned approach to them, and it is now my duty to pass their fervor on to the next generation.

This year, “Going for the Emotional” was my mantra at Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp. In my classes for the entire student body, I put everyone through gut-wrenching actor’s studio work as we explored Karen Tuttle’s compendium of the five human emotions: love, joy, anger, fear, and sorrow.

Facsimile of Karen Tuttle's Compendium of the Five Human Emotions

Facsimile of Karen Tuttle’s Compendium of the Five Human Emotions

We conjured up personal experiences and modulated our emotions on a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being a mild manifestation of the designated emotion, 10 being the point where one completely loses control, breaks down, shatters sanity, has nothing left to give). We expressed ourselves through vocalizations and dramatic poses, as well as instrumental improvisations and compositions.

While coaching small ensembles, I took the opportunity to deepen our initial emotional explorations. One group, The Indubitably Sunny Phish, explored the mellow end of the spectrum with an improvisatory performance of Trey Anastasio and Tom Marshall’s Wading in the Velvet Sea. A technically advanced ensemble, Harbingers of Darkness, explored the dark recesses of the human psyche in our performance of Tet Offensive from Billy Bang’s Vietnam: The Aftermath.

I was pleased to observe that when the entire faculty and student body came together as a magnificent orchestra for the final concert, we were not just playing loudly. Yes, we were rocking out, but we were filling every note with uttermost feeling. All my mentors would have been proud.

I strongly believe teachers must practice what they preach. Anything less smacks of hypocrisy and diminishes credibility. For my faculty concert on July 17th, I put together as emotionally loaded a set as I could envision, and pushed myself right to the emotional breaking point (9.8 level).

I’ll share the entire set as soon as the video has been edited and posted to The Doc Wallace Music YouTube Channel. For now, enjoy a priceless text message I received from fellow MWROC Faculty Member, Producer Matt Vanacoro after the concert:

Best. Text. Ever!

Best. Text. Ever!

Hey, David!  Karen just texted me. They found your soul onstage after you ripped it out and showed it to everyone. Might want to run back and pick it up!

Be Expressive!

-Doc Wallace, 29 July 2013

#Harbingers of Awesomeness

#Harbingers of Awesomeness

I just invented a new hash-tag:

#HarbingerOfAwesomeness.  In plural form: #HarbingersOfAwesomeness.

Twitter doesn’t recognize this hash-tag yet.  It does know #HarbingerOfTheMundane, but that sounds rather awesomeless.  Let’s teach Twitter this new hash-tag by tweeting our #HarbingersOfAwesomeness on a regular basis!

A little inspiration to get you started:

Before I went to bed last night, Delta Airlines notified me that I had received an automatic first-class upgrade.  -Which inspired my historic first #HarbingersOfAwesomeness tweet:

Harbinger of Awesomeness Op.1, no.1

Harbinger of Awesomeness Op.1, no.1

“#FirstClassUpgrade?! ALL bags fly free?! Boarding first?! Room in the overheads for my viper & viola? #Hallelujah! #HarbingersofAwesomeness.”

Traveling with instruments can be a major ordeal.   Here’s a reminder from Canadian musician Dave Carroll of Sons of Maxwell:

And if you’re not convinced, here’s another woeful saga from Yours Truly: David Wallace Delta Airlines Saga- “My bags are WHERE? Ghana! YOU SENT THEM THERE AGAIN?!!!”

As you can see, a first-class upgrade bodes well for a musician concerned about flying with two instruments and a backpack full of electronics.  It is a #HarbingerOfAwesomeness.

Before I went to the airport, I encountered another #HarbingerOfAwesomeness in human form. While making a mad, last-minute cash-dash for the bank, I was greeted by a soft, friendly, “David Wallace!”

I spun around to face a smiling Bridget Kibbey, on her way home from an early morning jaunt.  Bridget was the original harpist of my group that recently re-emerged as Hat Trick, and she toured with the Teaching Artist Ensemble of the New York Philharmonic on our inaugural tour in 2004.  Wherever anyone encounters Bridget, something good follows.  –Usually of a musical or spiritual nature.  Bridget Kibbey is a certified #HarbingerOfAwesomeness:

Awesomeness!  No traffic to LaGuardia Airport.  No standing in the “infinitely long, plebian, non-elite traveler” check-in line, as is my usual custom.  More awesomeness!

Then came the next MAJOR #HarbingerOfAwesomeness: during a Transportation Safety Administration inspection, my electric viola tested positive for explosives for the first time in over ten years of travel with it.  Believe me, I want to give some EXPLOSIVE performances at Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp this week!  I couldn’t be happier.

Electric Violas are indeed most explosive.

Electric Violas: most explosive, indeed!

I resisted a strong urge to cause more trouble by photographing the large “EXPLOSIVES DETECTED” message on the computer screen. I didn’t want to arouse additional attention because in a #HarbingerOfTheMundane, the TSA was acting predictably suspicious about one of my favorite electronics effects pedals:

Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler: #Awesomeness!

Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler. 100% probability of receiving a TSA inspection. Heck; who can blame ‘em? Admit it. You wish you could swab it right now!

TSA agent: What’s this?

Doc Wallace (with pride & enthusiasm): It’s the Line 6 DL 4 Delay Modeler!  It makes electric violas sound mad awesome!!

I daresay the agent cracked a smile before she nudged her male colleague to give me the full-body patdown.

“Sir, I’m going to gently pat your buttocks with the back of my hand.”

I suppose under very special circumstances, someone might consider such an intimate utterance a #HarbingerOfAwesomeness, but in a TSA inspection context we are reminded:

#HarbingersOfAwesomeness are not about business as usual. . . they are portents of exciting or extraordinary realities on the horizon.  They are neither guarantees nor assurances.   They simply are hunches sparking our minds and sensitizing our intuition.  They wake us up, and make us open and available to transcendent realities or a greater appreciation of the mundane.  We just know that we’re onto something good.

I’ll leave you with a short video from Robert Brooker, a train engineer who works in the Toronto subways, and who subscribes to my YouTube channel.  He gets it.

Hey, did I mention my plane arrived in Kansas City fifty minutes early?!! Awesomeness!

For more of today’s #HarbingersOfAwesomeness visit my Twitter page.

Wishing you extraordinary realities!

-Doc Wallace 14 July 2013

Look Out, World, Here Comes!!

Look Out, World, Here Comes!!

Dr. David Wallace performing at The Bell Center

I can hardly believe it. . .

After years of dreaming, procrastinating, and pouring all my energy into living the life of a musician, composer, and teaching artist based in New York City, I’m finally launching a website!  What’s that, Vi?  (Vi Wickam’s my web guru / personal-mentor-in-all-things-internet).  This post is actually the beginning of my Reaching Out with Doc Wallace blog?

Oh, man, I should say something pithy, momentous, or engaging. . . but I’ve only got a few hours to pack all my clothes and electronics gear for Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp!!  Come to think of it, MWROC is extraordinarily momentous; I’ll let next week’s events do the talking!

I’ll be performing on every faculty concert next week at the Bell Center in Olathe, Kansas.  My own set is Wednesday, July 17th.  I’ll be performing a movement from a string quartet I’m writing for the Marian Anderson String Quartet, some Lead Belly, my ever-popular Nahum: An Apocalyptic Prophesy for Electric Viola, as well as some surprises.  Other highlights include performing a Mahavishnu Orchestra chart with Joe Deninzon, Tracy Silverman, Lucas Shogren, and Matt Vanacoro on Monday; shredding heavy metal medleys and a movement of Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 3 in F Major, Op. 73 with Rachel Barton Pine on Tuesday; and joining the MWROC Beatles and Zeppelin orchestras for the final concert on Friday night.

Spread the word!  I sincerely hope some of you can make it out to some of the concerts.  Here’s a sample from last year to whet your appetite.  This is a 100% improvised psychedelic jam based on Janis Joplin and Big Brother & the Holding Company’s cover of Moondog’s All is Loneliness: 

Can you see why I’m so excited?!  But that’s just part of the adrenaline and endorphins:

During the day, I will be teaching and coaching inspired musicians of all levels and ages how to improvise, rock out, create their own arrangements, and thrive in an atmosphere where everyone is unconditionally loved, celebrated, and accepted.

So, I think that’s plenty of material for this first entry.  My website is still a work-in-progress, but it gets a little better and more complete each day.  I’m editing and uploading new content constantly, so check back frequently.  My goal is to have all sections fully developed by the end of July.  Meanwhile, please browse!

Thank you so much for sharing the journey with me!

Rock on!

Doc Wallace

13 July, 2013

PS While you’re at it, check out the Doc Wallace Music YouTube channel.  I’ve been developing it for over a year now, and it’s another great place to keep up with me.  If you like what you see, please subscribe.  That way, you don’t miss any updates!  Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a Gmail account; you just need to sign in.  Google will kindly walk you through the process.



Hi, there!  This brand-new site is still under construction, but feel free to browse.  New content is being posted each day!

-Doc Wallace, June 15th