Berklee String Chair: A New Life

Berklee String Chair: A New Life

Berklee Logo Berklee String Department

It hardly seems possible, but it’s been a full semester since I moved to Boston and became Berklee College of Music‘s String Department Chair. Beyond the busyness and the whirlwind of changes, I feel a tremendous joy and excitement:

As Berklee String Chair, I serve and lead the most creative string department in higher education. I have so much to share, but for now, I’ll do it through a few media items:

Violist David Wallace Takes the Reins at Berklee College by becoming Berklee String Chair

Check out the third headline: Violist David Wallace Takes the Reins at Berklee College!

Strings Magazine Cover Story

The December 2014 edition of Strings magazine includes a cover story about my transition from New York City to Berklee. It’s rare that something another person writes or says about me brings tears to my eyes, but writer Rory Williams really got the story right. -That includes the embarrassing and difficult parts of my musical journey.

Life in the Berklee String Department

As I work to stay one step ahead of my students, I sense that my ear, technique, and rhythm improve each week. Through the walls, I even learn by osmosis as I hear amazing Berklee String teachers impart their wisdom.

Without a doubt, I look forward to Mondays more than I have in years. When you watch this four-minute video that we produced, you’ll know why!
Each week, new opportunities surface as I learn of new job responsibilities, or find myself faced with unexpected opportunities. (The latter has ranged from redesigning Berklee’s summer string program to being called to play “Songs in the Key of Life” with Stevie Wonder.)

Recruiting Berklee String Department’s Next Generation

Naturally, one of the major responsibilities of the Berklee String Chair is recruitment. You might enjoy a fun video describing some of my job responsibilities that I posted to my YouTube channel. Because this particular video targets my high school YouTuber audience, the style is quirkier and less formal:

Doc Wallace, Berklee String Chair, 16 November, 2014

A Surreal Drugstore Encounter with Hank Williams & Charlie Parker

A Surreal Drugstore Encounter with Hank Williams & Charlie Parker

Every now and then, my inner-city radar picks up something that is not quite right. In these moments, my subconscious throttles my awareness because the atmosphere is wrong. -Something is about to happen. Something peripheral is asserting itself. The circumstances do not match the circumstances; be ready to react!

Once upon a Labor Day. . .

I was picking up some odds and ends at a Rite Aid Pharmacy in Washington Heights right under the George Washington Bridge. As I compared per-ounce prices of various products and pondered whether Rite-Aid’s generic knock-off of Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser was truly as meritorious as its box proclaimed, my nervous system went into high alert. I felt particularly startled because nobody was standing close enough to cause it. A split second later, I realized why I had suddenly dropped a can of Ajax and looked up at the ceiling: it was the steel guitar.

Instead of hearing muzak, hip-hop, pop, salsa, or smooth jazz on the Rite Aid P. A. system, I was actually hearing a steel guitar. Not just any steel guitar, mind you- this was one of the most recognizable and beautifully recorded steel guitar licks of all time. My jaw dropped. Here, in a drugstore at West 179th Street and Broadway, Hank Williams Senior‘s original posthumous 1953 hit recording, Your Cheatin’ Heart, was filling the air.

Exhibit A: Hank Williams (NOT Muzak!)


At first, I didn’t quite know what to do; this wasn’t supposed to be happening. It’s not so unusual for me to dream musical incongruities, but I was certain I was perfectly awake. The music seemed slightly louder than usual for a drugstore; I glanced around to see if anyone else detected anything unusual. The women coming down my aisle browsed and conversed in Spanish as if they heard nothing but their own voices.  I stood still, listening, involuntarily and silently mouthing a word or two as Hank entered with his inimitable vocals:

Your cheatin’ heart 
Will make you weep
You’ll cry and cry
And try to sleep

I decided I’d better continue shopping before two security guards (looking my way) mistakenly decided I was the anomaly that demanded immediate attention.

I made some swift decisions about cleaning agents and moved to the next aisle.  A young Rite Aid stocker stacked Cheerios boxes and mumbled along, dropping syllables and consonants as he phonetically rendered the instrumental breaks: “Slee’ won’ come. . . Bearw! Bearw! Bearw!. . .whole night through. . .Hmmm cheatin’ heart. . . . will tell on you!” Although this made the scene a little weirder, something about the nonchalance and absentmindedness of his singing encouraged my own mind to drift again.

A Timelessness Time-Trip

When did I first hear this song, anyway? I don’t even know. It’s something that’s always been there like the sun or the moon or gravity. . . my father occasionally used to sing it and accompany himself on guitar. I used to spin a 45 RPM record of it that I either permanently borrowed from him or got from a garage sale. In Texas during the seventies, the song could still make an occasional appearance on the radio, at a pizza parlor, or on the country music shows that formed the mainstay of primetime weekend television.

Brushing aside an impulse to ponder the song’s sudden reappearance for any omens or personal relevance, I envisioned the music filling a darkened bar or a diner in Harlem almost sixty years ago . . .

Legendary be-bop musician Charlie Parker was notorious for pumping Harlem jukeboxes full of nickels as he punched in requests for Hank Williams tunes. His friends ribbed him for it:

“Bird, how can you listen to that hillbilly music?!  It’s so corny!”

“Listen to the words, man; do you listen to the words?!”

Parker died only a few years after Williams, but I’m sure he spun this record many times. I’ve never quite managed to connect the chromatic complexity of a chart like Parker’s “Hot House” with the earthy directness of a three-chord Williams ballad. Once again I struggled to build an aesthetic link from one to the other.

Exhibit B: Charlie Parker’s Hot House (Also NOT Muzak!)

But I couldn’t bridge that gap, nor could I imagine what Charlie Parker might have been thinking as he silently brooded over his beer and listened to Hank’s sad story unfold because I was becoming aware of some strange sounds emanating from deep within the Rite Aid stock room. Once again, I had the sense that something wasn’t right, but this time I couldn’t identify the sounds. I only knew that they were vaguely human.

Then it hit me: somebody is yodeling.  Badly.

The sporadic muffled yodels unpredictably joined the song at various intervals. Either somebody in the stockroom was loving the music and having a great time exulting in it, or he was mercilessly mocking it and Williams’ tendency to pass fluidly and frequently between his head and chest voice in the great American passaggio tradition of artists like Jimmy Rogers.

-Or worse. Maybe this whole scene was the brainchild of some sadistic manager who was using Hank Williams’ music for evil. I tried to stifle the image: a bound, blue-and-red-uniformed Rite-Aid employee is being tortured. He’s being forced to yodel along to an endless-repeat cycle of “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” until he finally breaks into a chorus of “Please Release Me,” flees the building and drowns his sorrows at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, where he can listen to an Upstarts! group perform a sophisticated, Charlie Parker retrospective set curated by [email protected] Center, after which there will be absolutely no Hank Williams tunes playing on the nonexistent jukebox.

Somebody even deeper within the bowels of Rite Aid laughed and bantered happily. The yodeling continued.

Your Cheatin’ Heart Will Tell on You

Slowly, I realized this was not a yodel of duress. Whether exulting or ridiculing or merely groaning because he had to endure somebody else’s favorite music, the employee in the back was definitely having a good time. Like it or not, great music of any kind refuses to be ignored.

No longer on alert, I savored the moment. In twenty-two years of living in New York City, I had never heard any Hank Williams music in any store. It will likely never happen again, unless the guys in the Rite Aid stockroom have a deep and abiding love for timeless music. (Or a penchant for the quirky inside jokes that help us to tolerate tedious work environments.) Bring it home, Hank!

When tears come down,
Like falling rain,
You’ll toss around,
And call my name,
You’ll walk the floor,
The way I do,
Your cheatin’ heart, will tell on you… 

After the steel guitar tag faded away, a forgettable, more contemporary country song softly wafted through the P.A. system. Appropriately, everyone ignored it. The scene gradually shifted to resemble any other chain drugstore in New York City.

-Some brilliant producer needs to bring back the steel guitar and the yodel.

Happy Labor Day weekend!

-Doc Wallace

Ear Shot: Eavesdropping at the NY Philharmonic

Ear Shot: Eavesdropping at the NY Philharmonic

With Ear Shot, The New York Philharmonic issued a bold new call for scores. Ultimately, six finalists emerged from dozens of submissions. Let’s listen!

Chris Rouse and Jesse Jones listen at New York Philharmonic Ear Shot

Chris Rouse and Jesse Jones listening to “Innumerable stars, scattered in clusters” Photo credit: Chris Lee

Hands down, leading pre-concert talks is one of the best perks of my job as Senior Teaching Artist at the New York Philharmonic. Why?

For one thing, I actually get paid to study great music. Then, I excitedly speak about it and listen one to of the world’s greatest orchestras dazzlingly perform it. What’s more, the concerts usually feature marvelous soloists like Midori and Alisa Weilerstein (both performing this weekend)!

Preparing the Biennial Concert Talks

This year, my opportunity comes June 5-7, during the NY PHIL BIENNIAL. In short, the biennial is an eleven-day, twenty-one-concert, new music extravaganza. At last Saturday’s concert, soprano Lucy Shelton and Philharmonic musicians premiered my own orchestral song cycle, William Blake Rhapsody.

Currently, my music studio is totally cluttered. I’m surrounded not only with pages from complex scores by Christopher Rouse, Elliott Carter, Matthias Pintscher, and Peter Eötvös, but also with SIX amazing new scores that were read at this morning’s Ear Shot National Orchestral Composition Discovery Network readings in Avery Fisher Hall.

After this morning’s reading, Philharmonic musicians, Music Director Alan Gilbert, Composer-in-Residence Christopher Rouse, and other esteemed composers will give feedback to all six finalists. Later, a top-secret committee selects three of the works to include on this weekend’s concerts.

Ear Shot #1: Dark Sand, Sifting Light

Julia Adolph’s Dark Sand, Sifting Light automatically gets a strong nod from me because she features our Principal Violist Cynthia Phelps in a gorgeous solo. The rest of Julia’s score is lyrical, colorful, well-balanced, and clear, with other engaging instrumental spotlights.

Ear Shot #2: Into Focus

William Dougherty’s Into Focus gets a prize for most direct and instrumentally idiomatic application of the overtone series. As a meditation on how our consciousness tends to drift between different degrees of focus and clarity, it relies heavily on drones. The orchestra resonates naturally in ways that truly do, in fact, impact our consciousness and sense of time:

Ear Shot #3: Bismuth

Bismuth crystal Max Grafe New York Philharmonic Earshot Max Graf

Can you imagine this crystal as music?

Max Grafe’s Bismuth: Variations for Orchestra aims to embody the structure of a pure Bismuth crystal.  (The chemists in my family surely would want me to lobby for this one).  Indeed, Grafe’s structure is clear, bold, angular and colorful. Moreover, the score contains some of the loveliest oboe and bassoon writing of the six:

Ear Shot #4: Innumerable Stars, Scattered in Clusters

Jesse Jones’s Innumerable Stars, Scattered in Clusters sounds exactly like one would expect from his title. Brimming with harmonics and bright mallet percussion, his orchestration undulates, swirls, and sparkles.

Ear Shot #5: Scenes from the Bosco Sacro

In contrast, Wang Lu’s Scenes from the Bosco Sacro musically depicts some of the fantastic monsters from Rome’s sacred grove of the same name. Hers was by far the most grotesque and dissonant work of the day, but with a good dose of playfulness, quirkiness, and humor. Judging from photos of her inspiration, I think she succeeded marvelously.

Ear Shot #6: Strobe

Andrew McManusStrobe rounded out the set.  Strobe presents a kaleidoscopic whirlwind of musical images, which McManus describes as “flashing lights, stop motion, faded, photographs, electronic dance music.”

You can learn much more about each piece and each composer at the American Composers Orchestra’s Sound Advice blog.  I must say, I’m glad that I wasn’t on that secret committee because I enjoyed all six scores immensely. In my book, each piece is a winner.

UPDATE: Congratulations to Julia Adolphe, Andrew McManus, and  Max Grafe. Respectively, the Philharmonic will perform their works on June 5th, 6th, and 7th. Let’s catch ’em all!

Doc Wallace, 3 June 2014

Biennial! – My New York Philharmonic Premiere

Biennial! – My New York Philharmonic Premiere

I am SO EXCITED that the New York Philharmonic and soprano Lucy Shelton will perform the world premiere of my orchestral song cycle William Blake Rhapsody! Part of the Philharmonic’s 2014 Biennial Festival, my concert is on Saturday, May 31st at 11:00AM at Merkin Hall.

Curated by Jon Deak, this free program features music from the Philharmonic’s  Very Young Composers project.  Emerging teen composers will have their own new works performed alongside premieres of their mentors (me, Daniel Felsenfeld and Richard Carrick).

I genuinely believe that William Blake Rhapsody has something for you. . . so, let’s take a closer look!

NY Philharmonic Biennial Rehearsal of “William Blake Rhapsody:” (l to r) Michael Adelson, Lucy Shelton, David Wallace

William Blake Rhapsody

William Blake Rhapsody embodies our struggle to find enduring love, joy, and faith amidst a broken world fraught with suffering. Blake’s poetry and imagery drive the work.

In each of the three songs, a soprano personifies, amplifies, and deconstructs Blake’s poetry with her melodies. (Yes, you heard that right: I’m a composer who actually believes that singers should have melodies.)

As the soprano projects our love, joy, grief, and woe, the orchestra conjures Blake’s poetic images with sound. Sometimes, we hear literal depictions of birdsong or infants. Other times, recurring themes and motifs symbolize Blake’s theology and worldview. Occasionally, the orchestra represents malevolent or benevolent forces acting upon the soprano’s personal Heaven or Hell.

Are you curious to know which poems I chose, and to hear how the music sounds? You can read the full program note and libretto here, but I also play and sing a bit of it in the “making of” video below:

The Making of a Philharmonic Biennial Premiere

Because I wanted to share some behind-the-scenes secrets, I filmed a “Making of the William Blake Rhapsody” video for my YouTube channel. Although I’m embarrassed to be singing instead of Lucy, you’ll still get a sense of the piece:

Lucy Shelton

Lucy Shelton, soprano & Elliott Carter, composer.

Premiere Musicians

As I mentioned, William Blake Rhapsody features phenomenal soprano Lucy Shelton. Through the years, Lucy has premiered and recorded works of Elliott Carter, David Del Tredici, and countless other masters. Longtime New York Philharmonic conductor Michael Adelson conducts a chamber orchestra consisting of New York Philharmonic members. To a person, everyone involved in the project has been a dream.

William Blake Rhapsody Eternity Manuscript David Wallace New York Philharmonic Biennial

Blake’s Manuscript for “Eternity,” the first song: “He who binds to himself a joy / Does the wingéd life destroy / But he who kisses the joy as it flies / Lives in eternity’s sunrise”

NY Phil Biennial in the News

For more information on the New York Philharmonic Biennial, please enjoy this NPR All Things Considered broadcast. Since this festival only comes every two years, I really hope you’ll make it!

Doc Wallace Joins My Talent Forge

Doc Wallace Joins My Talent Forge

David Wallace Technical Secrets at Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp My Talent Forge

Berklee String Chair, Dr. David Wallace sharing secrets at Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp

As a longtime violin and viola teacher, I am thrilled to join [my] Talent Forge! By joining this curated online learning community, my accumulated teachings are more available and affordable than ever.

The digital age has profoundly changed the way we can learn music. We now have twenty-four hour access to digital libraries of sheet music, recordings, and tutorials. As a result, we can study in the comfort of our homes without worrying about schedules or geographical access to a great teacher. What’s more, with [my] Talent Forge, you can gain access to an entire team of diverse expert string teachers.

I am particularly happy to align myself with [my] Talent Forge because this site exclusively features musicians with established reputations as outstanding teachers and performers. Without the quality control of sites like [my] Talent Forge, your job of separating the wheat from the chaff becomes prohibitive.

For example, type in “vibrato tutorial” into Google. You get over 386,000 results. Some are laudable, but far too many give horrible or even crippling advice. When I see bad lessons uploaded by amateurs who have no business teaching you anything, it breaks my heart!

In contrast, [my] Talent Forge subscribers learn vibrato from my nine-lesson series of vibrato secrets. You get the best exercises, information, and shortcuts I have gleaned and taught over the past three decades. Step by step, the videos sequentially teach you potent tips that I learned from my Juilliard professors and other legendary string pedagogues.

Given a choice, would you rather get the best vibrato lessons straight from a Juilliard professor, or do you want to try your luck with YouTube’s 103,000+ vibrato tutorials?

My Talent Forge has Zen Bowing Exercises

Some of my videos walk you directly through simple, powerful exercises. When practiced on a regular basis, these routines vastly improve your playing. For example, here’s a lesson that teaches a phenomenal tone production and relaxation exercise that I learned directly from Josef Gingold, Joshua Bell’s teacher:

 

My Talent Forge Brings Ergonomic Comfort

Other videos give you a few simple tips that instantly improve technique and comfort:

 

My Talent Forge Perfects Peak Performance

Recently, I’ve begun a whole series of videos to coach you 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 dozens of videos, and about forty pages of sheet music. My lesson topics include vibrato, tone production, comfort with the instrument and bow, stage presence, stage fright, left-hand short cuts, and revolutionary scale exercises. And [my] Talent Forge has literally hundreds of lessons by our other expert teachers.

Moreover, we continually develop new content according to the needs and requests of the [my] Talent Forge community. I love to respond to questions and custom requests from subscribers. So if you have topics you’d like to see, please leave a comment. I’ll gladly respond.

Ready expand your repertoire and skills? If you are, please join us! Oh, and when you do, use the coupon code DavidWallace for added savings! (Seriously, who doesn’t like a discount code?!).  Keep calm, and fiddle on!

-Doc Wallace, January 18, 2014

Reaching Out with the USCG Band

Reaching Out with the USCG 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 workshop with the wonderful musicians of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).

For the past two years, I have coached USCG ensembles on audience engagement skills. 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.

Finding Entry Points with the USCG Band

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

Although audience-interactions are still being refined and tested, the script definitely provides active engagement. Middle-schoolers will sing themes, clap rhythms with the ensemble, provide improvisational input for USCG performers, and visualize 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.

Unlocking a Modern Masterpiece

In the afternoon, I led the USCG chamber ensembles through the design process for creating activities that deepen listeners’ perceptions. Because I had worked with the USCG musicians before, I wanted to give them a challenging piece. 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 could confuse or bore a typical audience member. By the end of the workshop, however, all five groups presented successful strategies and approaches for intriguing first-time listeners. 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 musicians helped listeners to form personal narratives or make real-time artworks in response to musical details. Yet another group explored a movement activity simulating Ligeti’s diverse orchestrations of limited thematic material.

Barring any further shutdowns, in February, I’ll return to coach USCG chamber ensembles on their own original programs. Meanwhile, today’s work gave me some great ideas this Thursday’s New York Philharmonic workshop. After all, if the USCG Band can get middle-schoolers excited about Ligeti’s Ten Pieces, I can do the same for Krzysztof Penderecki’s dissonant, modern Concerto Grosso.

Peace & Prosperity!

-Doc Wallace, 22 October 2013

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

Zorn at 60: An All-Star Orchestra Concert

Zorn at 60: An 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 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.” Together, we would perform an evening of John Zorn’s new or rarely played orchestral compositions.

An All Star Orchestra

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, JACKEthel, Mivos, and Momenta. Moreover, we had musicians from mixed ensembles like Tashi, Decoda, Ensemble ACJW, International Contemporary Ensemble, Hat TrickTalea Ensemble, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Also present were legendary downtown musicians, and artists with rare pedigrees like Avery Fisher Career Grants and Juilliard doctorates.

From the first reading to the final concert, enthusiastic commitment drove us to deeper aesthetic extremes and fuller musical realizations. Although critics frequently evoke words like “anarchy” or “chaos” to describe Zorn’s music, an incredible amount of structure and detail underlies his seemingly frenzied exterior.  When performers fully realize every nuance and instruction, Zorn’s complex rhythmic juxtapositions and colorful orchestrations emerge as intricate, expressive, and oftentimes humorous tapestries.

Zorn’s Vintage Garden Shears

If complex new music exceeds its performers’ limitations or receives too little rehearsal, a jumbled, sonic mess can result. Believe me, John was pushing our ensemble to its absolute limits, and each second of rehearsal counted.

As we did our utmost to prepare the music, Zorn vigorously guided our process. He coached the trumpets’ dynamics for “murmurings.” Because a percussionist’s “cheap 1990s hedge clippers” just wouldn’t do, Zorn replaced them with his “1950’s vintage garden shears.” -When you want to punctuate a phrase with the perfect chop, actual sounds must match your imagination.

As always, Zorn embodied the perennially youthful, joyful, downtown “bad boy.” Sporting his signature camouflage pants and black t-shirts commemorating past seasons of his East Village new music venue The Stone, Zorn dropped double entendres and cajoled players by name.

I’m happy to report that our entire concert will be available on CD from Zorn’s record label Tzadik. Instead of pursuing commercial success, Tzadik has focused on supporting creative, non-mainstream artists, as well as his own work.

Can’t Get Enough Zorn?

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

For a taste of  Zorn’s eclectic downtown scene, enjoy the opening improvisation from my band KNOT’s debut at The Stone:

For further insight, read Steve Smith’s rave New York Times Concert review and 60 tributes for Zorn at 60. I also highly recommend this current,  in-depth NPR Radio interview.

Peace!

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! This fall, the Doc Wallace Trio will record a new live album at The Cornelia Street Café in Greenwich Village. Join us for one hot live set at 6:00PM on Thursday, September 12th and another at 6:00PM on Monday, October 14th. A $15 cover charge includes one drink.  Although reservations are not required, they are recommended.

A Follow-Up to a Live Album

Live at The Cornelia Street Café will be a long-overdue sequel to Live at the Living Room (2001), our first CD as a trio. In keeping with the original CD’s spirit, the new live album will consist of complete, unedited live takes. Once again, the repertoire will consist of rollicking old-time fiddling and swing tunes from the Texas fiddling tradition.

Live at the Living Room completely sold out of its first printing, but is still available for download. The entire album may now be streamed from the Doc Wallace Music YouTube channel; however, your purchases help us to fund the new record:

The Cornelia Street Café

Designated as a New York City culinary and cultural landmark, The 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 our jazzy, soulful music.

To get a better picture of the venue’s history and significance, please enjoy this short documentary. Learn why singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega, Tony award-winning playwright Eve Ensler, jazz musician Gerald Cleaver, and other artists love The Cornelia Street Café:

Our New Record Needs YOU!!

As you can tell from this performance at Lincoln Center, the Doc Wallace Trio definitely plays its best in the presence of friends and fans:

For that reason, we want to record our second record with YOU in the crowd at The Cornelia Street Café. Please join us for one or both nights!

-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 gives an emotional electric viola performance at the 2013 MWROC Festival

David Wallace gives an emotional performance at the 2013 MWROC Festival

I owe a musical debt to fiery collaborators of the great cellist Pablo Casals: Karen Tuttle, Julius Levine, Felix Galimir, and Alexander Schneider. Whenever these gurus conducted, coached, or taught me, they demanded 110% emotional commitment. Anything less was a crime. Just as they shared Casals’ passionate approach with me, I aim to impart their fervor to the next generation.

Going for the Emotional

This year, “Going for the Emotional” was my mantra at Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp (MWROC). My general sessions explored Karen Tuttle’s compendium of the five human emotions: love, joy, anger, fear, and sorrow.

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

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

Through gut-wrenching actors’ studio work, we conjured up deep personal experiences. We then modulated our emotional intensity using a 1 to 10 scale. (1 represents a mild manifestation of a chosen emotion. At the opposite end of the scale, 10 is where a person overflows, loses control, or has nothing left to give.) In addition to expressing ourselves through vocalizations and dramatic poses, we improvised and composed with our instruments.

Building Emotional Ensembles

In my small ensembles, we deepened our initial emotional explorations. One group, The Indubitably Sunny Phish, explored the mellow end of the spectrum. Since their improvisatory performance of Trey Anastasio and Tom Marshall’s Wading in the Velvet Sea greatly moved me, I vowed to sing it in 2014:

Meanwhile, a technically advanced ensemble, Harbingers of Darkness, explored the dark recesses of the human psyche. As a group, we reconstructed Tet Offensive from Billy Bang’s Vietnam: The Aftermath.

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. Without a doubt, my mentors would have been proud.

Walking the Emotional Walk

Because credibility means everything for a teacher, I must practice what I preach.  For my faculty concert on July 17th, I put together as emotionally loaded a set as I could envision. When you watch the performance, you’ll see that we encompassed all five of Tuttle’s human emotions. I actually pushed myself quite close to a 10.

After the concert, my collaborating MWROC faculty member, producer Matt Vanacoro sent me a priceless text:

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 (plural: #HarbingersOfAwesomeness). Simply put, Harbingers of Awesomeness are unforeseen portents of good things to come.

Twitter doesn’t recognize this hash-tag yet, though it does know #HarbingerOfTheMundane.  Since that sounds rather awesomeless, let’s tweet our #HarbingersOfAwesomeness and start a better trend.

But first, here’s some inspiration to get you started. . .

First-class #HarbingersOfAwesomeness

Before I went to bed last night, Delta Airlines gave me a surprise first-class upgrade. Thus emerged the historic first #HarbingersOfAwesomeness tweet:

Harbinger of Awesomeness Op.1, no.1

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

As Dave Carroll’s song “United Breaks Guitars” clearly relates, traveling with instruments can be a major ordeal:

If you still need convincing, here’s another woeful saga from Yours Truly: MY BAGS WENT TO GHANA AGAIN?!!!.

Naturally, flying first facilitates traveling with two instruments and a backpack full of electronics. Upgrades are doubtless #HarbingersOfAwesomeness, but so are the people around you. . .

People can be Harbingers of Awesomeness

Before I went to the airport, I encountered a human Harbinger of Awesomeness. 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, who was on her way home from an early morning jog.  Bridget was the original harpist of my trio that recently re-emerged as Hat Trick, with flutist April Clayton and harpist Kristi Shade.

In 2004, Bridget also toured with the Teaching Artist Ensemble of the New York Philharmonic on our inaugural tour. Whenever anyone encounters Bridget, something good follows, usually of a musical or spiritual nature. In other words, Bridget Kibbey is a certified Harbinger of Awesomeness:

Sure enough, on this morning, there was no traffic to LaGuardia Airport. As a first-class passenger, I circumnavigated the “infinitely long, plebeian, non-elite traveler” check-in line.

Even a TSA Inspection Can Equate to Awesomeness

Then came the next MAJOR Harbinger of Awesomeness. During TSA screening, my electric viola tested positive for explosives. Believe me, I want to give some EXPLOSIVE performances at Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp this week!

Electric Violas are indeed most explosive.

Electric Violas: most explosive, indeed!

I was tempted to photograph the large “EXPLOSIVES DETECTED” message on the computer screen, since this had never happened before. However, I didn’t want to arouse additional attention. -That’s because in a #HarbingerOfTheMundane, the TSA was predictably suspicious of 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 a full-body pat-down.

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

Under very special circumstances, I suppose that someone might consider such an intimate utterance to be a Harbinger of Awesomeness. In the context of a TSA inspection, though, we are reminded:

Harbingers of Awesomeness are not about business as usual. . . on the contrary, they are portents of exciting or extraordinary realities on the horizon. They are neither guarantees nor assurances. Rather, Harbingers of Awesomeness are hunches, sparking our minds and sensitizing our intuition. By waking us up, they open us up to transcendent realities and greater appreciation of the mundane. We just know that we’re onto something good.

Wishing You Awesomeness

To close, I’ll leave you with a short video from Robert Brooker. Robert’s a train engineer who works in the Toronto subways, and who also subscribes to my YouTube channel. Clearly, he gets the concept:

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

For more #HarbingersOfAwesomeness, please visit and follow my Twitter page.

Wishing you extraordinary realities!

-Doc Wallace 14 July 2013