Sunday, April 30, 2006

Awesome, Dude!

We have just completed week 1 of a 2-week educational residency program with the Chamber Music Society of Detroit, and I must say, it's been action-packed! We have been visting various schools (grades K-12) in the Detroit area, and presenting lecture demonstrations to the students.

Going from school to school is an adventure, as we never know what the piano will be like (usually it's an upright piano) or how the kids will react! Thankfully, we have had wonderful responses so far, and there have been some notable thank-you letters from our young audience members! Listed below are passages from some thank-you letters:

“I hope to play as good as you one day…I am still playing because of artists like you who show the hard work you do to keep playing, and that is why I am still playing today.”

“Thank you for coming to our school. We hope you come everyday. Your music is great. You all should be on TV.”

“Thank you Claremont Trio for the performance. I really liked it. Guess what I have? A piano recital in June on the first. Would you like to come?”

“Dear Chamber Musician, I love your music. Thank you for coming to my school. You all were perfect! I want you to come back and do another song for us. The instruments were beautiful and I would love to play the piano, violin, and the cello. Thank you for coming and you did a perfect job. P.S. They should call you the Perfect Chamber Musicians.”

“Thank you Trio for coming to my school. It means so much that you taught me another kind of music instead of hip hop…I liked the music a lot.”

“Thank you Claremont Trio for coming to our school. I didn’t know that classical music was so awesome, dude.”

WMUK broadcast - 5/1/06

Tune in tomorrow morning (Monday) at 9am to hear us on WMUK, the NPR station in Kalamazoo, MI! In the Kalamazoo area you can tune to 102.1 - everyone else check out the live webstream at

We actually recorded the show today down at the WMUK studio at Western Michigan University. We spoke with Cara Lieurance and gave a live performance - a movement from Mendelssohn's c minor trio and Paul Schoenfield's Cafe Music. Martin Klemm took care of the sound board as our engineer.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Fan Club Presidents

Accepting the risk of offending many people, I am going to say that my parents are the Claremont Trio's biggest and most loyal fans. They have travelled to three continents to hear us play in places as exotic as Australia, Italy, and Switzerland, and as seemingly lacking in non-trio attractions as Waco, TX and South Bend, IN. My father in particular has a long history of arguably compulsive listening. He sat through just about every youth orchestra rehearsal we ever played! Both Mom and Dad seem to have a never-ending willingness to enjoy yet another performance of one of our favorite Mendelssohn trios. I know plenty of musicians who get nervous when their parents come to their concerts. But since I've been blessed with the most wonderfully loving and supportive parents ever, it's always a special treat for me when they show up in their favorite spot: the front row.

Mom and Dad were actually Julie's and my first chamber music partners. They are both excellent amateur players: Mom plays violin, piano, and flute; Dad plays viola. When they first heard they were going to have twins they decided the two kids would play violin and cello so they could have a family string quartet. Whoever came first would get the violin. (Yup, they're serious planners!) We played family concerts along with my other sister Amanda for many years, and we still love to read through string quartets for fun when we go home. I feel so lucky to have had such an early and fun introduction to chamber music!

Here's a picture with my parents and my aunt and uncle (also loyal fans!).

Emily, Sam (Dad), Debby (Mom), John (Uncle), Frances (Aunt), Julie

Sunday, April 23, 2006

A Coastal Drive

I love being by the water! When we were in Carmel, CA, we had some free time and it happened to be a rare sunny day (it has been raining madly in Northern California) so we decided to take a drive south of Carmel along the Pacific Coast Highway. We also managed to walk on the beach in Carmel, where they let dogs roam freely; it was such a joy to watch dogs enjoying themselves in the sand and surf! Below are some pictures from our little drive -- we stopped frequently at scenic overlooks!

Some breathtaking stuff, huh? I would love to go back sometime and just spend some good quality time there!

Friday, April 21, 2006

My Sick Cello

During our last trip, my cello developed a persistent buzz and by the time we came home, it was a a real rumble! I took it to Emmanuel Gradoux-Matt at Renee Morel's shop in NYC, my cello doctor, and the news was bad. Certain cracks that the instrument has had since I bought it had opened up, leaving the top (front) of the cello very unstable.

Emily and I both have the great luxury of owning and playing beautiful antique instruments. Both are French - her violin a Lupot from 1795, and my cello a Vuillaume from 1849. Because our instruments are so old we worry about them semi-constantly, trying to keep them humidified so the wood doesn't crack, buying an extra seat for the cello on airplanes so that it won't get crushed by big suitcases in the bagage compartment, and taking them with us everywhere! But all the travelling we do and all of the different climates are very hard on them.

Emmanuel was worried that if I took my cello on our next tour, the cracks would get worse. He wanted to take apart the instrument and repair the cracks right away. This will take a number of weeks of painstaking work.

It is frightening to see my cello opened up like this - any time you do repairs this significant the instrument is almost guaranteed to sound different when it's put back together. It could sound better, but it could be worse. I'll just have to trust the pros and keep my fingers crossed....

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Old Friends

One of the greatest things about all the travelling we do is being able to meet up with old friends in different places. Because of my early days on the West Coast and current days on the East Coast, my friends are scattered all over the place.

So, when we played at Stanford University, an old friend, Julian, came to the concert and brought his very witty girlfriend, Susan. Julian and I, we go way back to the days of piano lessons and student recitals with Lorraine Ambrose at the Vancouver Academy of Music. He is multi-talented; he is a great pianist, cellist, as well as...programmer? (sorry, Julian, I don't really know what to call you). He currently has a very cool job working for Pixar and seems very happy in the Bay area! The day after the concert, I had some free time so we caught up over dinner and drinks at an excellent tapas place in Oakland.

Then, in Carmel, when we played for Chamber Music Monterey Bay, another old friend, Sharon, managed to catch up with us the night before the concert. She also had her husband-to-be in tow (Tilman), who is a really nice guy! Sharon, who is a wonderful cellist, is entering law school in the fall at Harvard! You go, girl! Good luck to Sharon and Tilman on their new life together! Here is a picture of us after the concert:

Sunday, April 16, 2006

San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf

After our recent concert at Stanford University, we had a free day to catch up with friends and family. Fortunately for us, it was one of the few days it did not rain! It turned out to be a beautiful day so we took a stroll along the Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco.

As we neared Pier 39, we heard continuous "arf-arf-arf-arf-arf" noises. Dogs? Nope. As we got closer to the source of sound, we discovered the sea lions lounging in the sun on the floating docks! They seemed to be enjoying themselves, mostly sunning and relaxing, though there were a few who were seemingly more territorial and aggressive than others.

Along the Wharf, we caught great views of the formidable Alcatraz, in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. I have always been fascinated by the place but have never visited the island. We didn't have enough time to take the ferry out there, so I'll just have to go back next time. (On the subject of "The Rock", I re-watched the movie earlier today -- still an enjoyable movie with good action and pacing.)

One of the other highlights of our walk along the Wharf was the Boudin Sourdough Bakery. Not only did this location house a bakery, there was a museum and demonstration bakery, where visitors could watch the bakers at work. There was also a bistro on the second floor. One of the cutest things I've seen is a crab (pictured here) made out of sourdough bread. There were also sourdough bunnies, lobsters, get the picture!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Observed at the Airport

A 7-year-old boy in a suit having his shoes shined, sitting earnestly with a wad of $1 bills in his fist, anxious to tip.

A sales person wandering in the boarding area using little stuffed airplanes to tempt passengers to sign up for the United Airlines credit card. Who knew stuffed airplanes could be so cute??

A man at the rental car counter: having left his driver's license at home, he was trying to convince the agent that his passport was good enough. Dude... come on...

A baggage handler who had just finished unloading the suitcases from the plane's hold onto the conveyer belt leading down to the truck. Rather than hopping down from the plane, he rode down the conveyer himself on his stomach, head first, like he was diving. Fun!

Views From Above

Usually I am fast asleep on a plane, especially during the final descent, but I happened to be awake this time and caught some spectacular views. We were headed for California from Illinois (Chicago to San Jose) and made a connection in Salt Lake City. Here are a couple of pictures I managed to snap from my window seat as we descended:

I should really try to stay awake more often. :)

Wednesday, April 5, 2006


Yup, it's been the trip of drama. We were eating dinner in our dressing room about an hour before our concert at the beautiful Mitchell Museum at the Cedarhurst Center for the Arts in Mt. Vernon, IL when the lights and air conditioning suddenly clicked off. Because the weather earlier had been totally dry, we were a bit surprised when we peeked outside and saw a huge storm raging.

The torrential rain and violent wind lasted less than 10 minutes, but as we got closer to the scheduled concert time, the lights stayed off. As optimistic audience members began to gather in the lobby with flashlights, we discussed our options with the presenters. When the news trickled in that a transformer was down and the entire grid would be out for a while, we decided to relocate to a nearby church where they reportedly still had power. The piano wouldn't be as good, and nobody was completely sure there wasn't another event going on there that night, but we and our most persistent audience members drove over anyway.

Upon arrival we spent a few frantic minutes dragging the piano, chairs, and music stands into position, convincing a band rehearsal to finish early, jumping into our dresses, and trying to calm down and refocus. When we finally sat down to play, it was a great relief to concentrate only on music.

Tuesday, April 4, 2006


Hm, so here I am, sitting in my pajamas, using the business center at the Sheraton in Palo Alto. Firemen are milling about and hotels guests are waiting around by the pool and in the lobby of the hotel.

We checked in about an hour ago, after a very long day of travelling. We were settling in for a good night's rest when suddenly, the fire alarms sounded. These are LOUD, folks. Anyway, we have been standing around, waiting for the fire (nobody sees flames but there is smoke) to be "controlled".

Such high drama...sleep is so appealing right now. The bed is so near, yet so far. I'm also cold in my boxer shorts...

*An update: Fire is out, hallways are still smoky...turns out the fire was caused by the hotel's dryer. *

Monday, April 3, 2006


As our drive from Chicago to Quincy, IL was going to be a rather long one, we decided to stop along the way and stay with my mother-in-law in Decatur, IL. It was much nicer than staying at a hotel -- what service! We were greeted with wonderful platters of fruit.

Here I am, pictured with my mother-in-law. She had just bought a new puppy (a Yorkie-poo), Beebee. Puppies are just too cute! We all took turns playing with our new friend. Oh, and for all of you wondering, I DO get along with my in-laws!
As energetic as the puppy is, Julie managed to catch her and hold her still for a photo!

My mother-in-law went all out. Not only did she prepare delicious fruit for breakfast, but she also made pork chops, corn, veggies, and salmon! Yum! (I realize, once again, I have wandered onto the topic of food. We love it!)

Sunday, April 2, 2006

April Fools

This evening at our concert in Quincy, IL I walked on stage for the second half with Julie's cello. Donna carried my violin and sat down in my seat. Julie sat down at the piano. We settled in for a moment, waited for silence. Donna gave a dramatic cue, and then we made extremely raucous noises on the wrong instruments.

The audience looked very surprised (the first half of the concert had been considerably less raucous) and a bit confused... Then they laughed. A lot.