Alternative Strings and the New Golden Age of String Playing

Alternative Strings
Julie Lyonn Lieberman’s Alternative Strings by Amadeus Press (2004)

For some time ASTA (American String Teacher’s Association) has been focusing on training string music teachers to develop Alternative String programs.  Last year I had decided that I need to formally join the organization (which I haven’t done yet but still intend on doing) so that I can be better informed about the programs, literature and techniques being created by those involved in the organization.

ASTA apparently has an “Alternative Styles Award competition” which I learned about after reading Rory Williams “Report from an ASTA Roundtable: ASTA roundtable finds alternative-styles education moving a step ahead—slowly” in the Strings magazine from the conference in Georgia in 2009.  Here’s what sparked my interest in the organization:

Vighnesh Viswanathan, 14, milled about the exhibit hall with his father and sister at the 2009 American String Teachers Association National Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. What set him apart from the several hundred teachers, dealers, and performers that visited that day in mid-March was not just his age, but his name badge, which proudly proclaimed “winner.”

“It’s for the Alternative Styles Awards competition,” he said, smiling from ear to ear.

One of 12 string players chosen out of 35 applicants, Viswanathan, of Westford, Massachusetts, won the Junior Division of the “Recognition of Established Traditions” category. His specialty: Carnatic (Indian) violin.

“He studies classical music, too,” his father says.

Viswanathan is part of a growing number of bilingual string players—those who can play both classical and alternative styles—who are seeking a well-rounded education. But nearly a decade after ASTA first embraced alternative styles as a viable pedagogy, the question remains whether teachers and institutions—from the elementary to the graduate level—can accommodate these students.

Continue reading “Alternative Strings and the New Golden Age of String Playing”

Sunday Spotlight on the Non-Western Cello: Saskia Rao-de Haas and the Indian Cello

Saskia Rao de Haas
Saskia Rao-de Haas

This week’s installment of the Sunday Spotlight on the Non-Western Cello is about Dutch cellist, Saskia Rao de Haas.  I first learned about her and her work playing Indian music on the cello some years ago.  I finally picked up a copy of the CD, Creating Waves (released on Rhyme Records), that she and her husband Shubhendra Rao (disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar)  for which I am very grateful as at the time only a few audio clips of Saskia’s work was available at her old website.


from her bio:

Saskia Rao-de Haas is a brilliant cellist and composer from the Netherlands. She is based in New Delhi, India where she is recognized as a well-known exponent of Indian Classical music. Saskia is hailed as a pioneer in the world of music for introducing her Indian Cello. Speaking about Saskia in an interview on National Television, her Guru Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia said,“Saskia has been taught by God and everyone should listen to her music”.

Here’s a video of Saskia in performance with Shubendhra:

Continue reading “Sunday Spotlight on the Non-Western Cello: Saskia Rao-de Haas and the Indian Cello”