Sept. 6, 2021

29 - Marcelo González

29 - Marcelo González

Marcelo Gonzalez is a violinist from Chile and the creator of the newly released G-Model Ultralight Shoulder Rest. Marcelo talks to us about his teaching, his performance career, and how he became a musical entrepreneur. 


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Eric Mrugala


ladies and gentlemen thank you so much again for coming on the violin podcast with me today on zoom call i have marcelo gonzalez who is currently based in chile how are you today marcelo very good very good thank you for inviting me yeah absolutely i see a plaque right behind you can you tell me a little bit about that plaque oh that is my uh performer certificate from uh peabody johns hopkins right and as i as from our little briefing right before we started recording you also have a certificate in viola right and you play violent and viola i was a minor in viol miner in viola okay i know minor in viola yes that's okay i won't hold it against you i like viola players also um marcelo well first and foremost i want to talk a bit about yourself because this is the first time i'm meeting you we have no affiliation together whatsoever we do have a you know mutual friend per se we both know the concert master of the philadelphia orchestra and his david kim which i encourage everybody to listen to that episode because it was a very valuable uh insight into the world of a constant master but i'm uh correct me byron you're also a orchestra player yes yes i i joined the uh symphonica de chile when i came back from the states uh i studied in peabody with uh bersanovsky shilly givens and took the viola minor with uh roberto diaz so well family things and stuff i decided to come back to chile and i joined the symphonica when i was 23 now i just turned at 48 last sunday so i've been in the orchestra world long time uh i feel lucky because uh i met great great conductors and soloists and well in my orchestra i happened that i am the principal second violin and we have the possibility of playing solo with orchestra every two years so also i made some solo playing chamber music and teaching of course teaching

this is fantastic because i feel like the second violence section is truly underrated can you talk to me about the specific role the second violin plays in an orchestra well yes uh people used to because yeah because because it's such you know everybody just looks at the first violence right right but they often neglect the second violin role and the second violins are so important i would love for you to speak right right it's a interesting topic uh even local mozart wrote in his book that if you're not a very good violin player you should play second violin and if you're not very good second violin player play the viola he's in his book but uh we have a big stigmatized you know thing but since i am i played concertmaster also in universe universidad los angeles for many years in the chamber orchestra so i i've done both but i i like to think first second viola cellos bases as a the whole tessitura of a piano you see so uh we in the second violin we make a very important role about the whole spectrum you know so i i rather think like that that everybody is important you know well accepting the straws once you know that we wrote from from back in great great great composers uh everyone is important so i don't feel less because of playing second violin and leading the section leaders as a principle second is a tough job tough job because usually usually you play in between very high pitch you know and low and it's hard to listen to yourself in the orchestra and really mix and match together with the rest so it's not very very easy task i i met mr jampolsky victor jampolsky a very good conductor who was a principal second in boston uh orchestra boston symphony orchestra with segy osawa that time and we talked about this thing and he felt the same way it's not an easy easy task but i enjoy it very much very much sometimes the difficult thing is to match the bow wings because the first violins has some phrases and you have to match the sound and phrasing not you not exactly the bowie so that's a difficult thing to get a little get along with with the concert masters and stuff like that but other than that i enjoy very much the uh my job in the orchestra i remember playing second violin in string quartet and you are i remember listening from a mentor that the second violin plays a very intelligent role because you have to make sure you please the first violin but you also have to make sure that you i mean you are an inner voice with the viola so you have to make sure that you are making both parties happy and do you do you find that's the same when you translate your second violin role into chamber music do you play second violin in a group or first violin of course of course i i come from a family musicians uh all string players my father used to be a cellist and i have an older sister who is a great cellist and my other sister is a violinist who went to julia brett when she was very little and i have a brother who plays the viola so we have a string quintet that we call fun music fun as family music you know so we play a lot a lot chump of chamber music since i was in the beginning of my my studies of of the instrument very little i started to play chamber music and i think it's very important so the orchestra is chamber music with more uh more people that's tall that's all when you were young playing the violin what was some of your favorites

because because when i when i you know i come from a suzuki tradition like traditional suzuki background right but i exactly yeah so my chamber music experience is more mostly with violins actually and the first time i played in an orchestra was in fifth grade in elementary school but then i'm like okay the level's not so high the conductor is kind of shaky so i'm just going to wait until high school because the high school orchestra i heard was great right but my i actually before then i didn't even know what chamber music was what what kind of chamber music did interested you or what was the first piece you remember that you played when you were young and chamber music-wise well since you mentioned the suzuki uh philosophy philosophy or suzuki system i happened that i took the philosophy class in suzuki because i'm very related to suzuki because my my my daughter started the suzuki system with her mother uh which is a specialist in in beginners so uh realizing that when i started to to the music world i started within the suzuki philosophy which is in fact since you are born listening to music as a mother language so my house was surrounded of music and many good players came to rehearsal with my father i was listening all the time but i remember the first pieces well i used to play uh a second violin also in the in the quartet and quintet with my family and i remember very well some mozart quartets when i was like 10 years old and i wasn't so good in sight reading you know so my sister used to get mad at me oh you're taking so slow and come on read it faster for the rec for the record i was like that too my sight reading was not good at all when you know when i was a baby but i i i'm so glad that you resonate with suzuki and you know your family is embedded into in the suzuki tradition because i think people often get misled like oh this is the suzuki method you need to follow the structure but as a matter of fact when i was interviewing um ruth bronze who is the inventor of the bohold buddy and i and i and i encourage listeners of the violin podcast to go back to that episode she mentions that her one of her fa she's like a fourth generation musician similar to like what you are you know family was embedded around the house and she met um her mother invent no excuse me this is why we edited the her mother was in a suzuki conference in japan i think it was maybe a violin conference and bumped into dr suzuki in the elevator he's like oh hello my name is dr suzuki he's like hello my name is miss brandt so suzuki method ruth bronze method so i like to think of the suzuki method kind of like a template and then as i'm sure you know you're teaching wise teaching philosophies are more or less the same with the talent education but you can work your way around it as such do you um you said your daughter is a violinist did you teach her or did you did your wife teach her teacher her mother teach teaches her yeah her mother she's two years old yeah her mother is specializing suzuki roland and stuff like that yeah yeah and talk to me about your teaching philosophies how was your teaching experience the last couple of years with uh with the midst of the pandemic and the zoom lessons and and whatnot well um to tell you the truth is kind of frustrating because i i teach for for uh private lessons now because i i i got tired of the uh college teaching and stuff like that the organization is kind of difficult so only private now and he's frustrating the pandemia because on zoom you can work on rhythm or intonation maybe but really nuances some colorful of the music and phrasing is difficult difficult with a machine it's much easier i mean without with in a screen you know a digital screen i i prefer person of course much more so in that way is frustrating but they say that the most successful people adapt so we have to adapt to to the reality in the whole uh world you know so i feel lucky that we have that kind of technology now you know imagine the pandemia 30 40 years ago that we used to dream about a video call with someone huh we used to see cartoons imagining that you remember these japanese cartoons

and we are talking to each other in the same timing thanks to to that so we have to appreciate what we have too right i'm grateful for technology also but from what similar to your experience i also deal with a lot of beginners and some advanced and intermediate students and i felt for me the people who the kids who suffered the most were suzuki book one so age six through eight and then kids in middle school who were you know 9 10 11 years old i felt for me those were the the age groups that were kind of difficult to connect with because they're still trying to develop their identity and also just like the vile implants you say the nuances in person it doesn't compare to what a machine can do you know although we're grateful it's a good supplementary supplementary case like you can supplement the computer into the education but you can't make it full time in my opinion right i agree i agree yeah so in addition to teaching can you give the listeners maybe one or two tips on practicing because i love to ask different guests about practicing you know we have a lot of beginners who listen to the violin podcast and also you know working professionals and freelancers and performers around the world and i would love for you to get your insight on what you teach your students sure sure well it's a very interesting question first thing i would say to students is get rid of the myth that practice makes perfect i it just doesn't work and i'm going to explain why we have this neuromuscular system that has memory uh you repeat something and it be becomes natural that's the idea so i will change that slogan that is being for so long attempting against our brain for the next one practice makes permanent what you practice so if you repeat wrong 10 hours per day it doesn't work if you practice smart for one hour a day is much better so i would say to students repeat the right way and i have this is funny because uh with the students i have the experience that they practice wrong wrong wrong until they get it and then they stop no the practice starts in that exact moment just figure out how to do it and do it right do it well and repeat that as many times as you need in order to already not need to think on stage about it that's the first thing and second thing and i think there's no more as leonid cogan said uh get get the love the love for practicing more than for performing get love for practicing and that's very very nice i tell to my students practice practice practice and and take it as a very uh religious religious thing you know like praying just practice practice and practice practice well if if the passage is working keep practicing keep repeating it uh i just saw a very interesting uh youtube video of this dorothy delay uh series um linda sugerman so smart just talk about these things just practice and the next day we humans have this uh funny brain that we forget things so next day you have to repeat again and and the love for that is like a martial arts like everything gymnastics we forget because of the artistic uh part of it we forget that we are athletes on our fingerboard with the ball the athletic and gymnastic things you have not you you shouldn't forget about it you have to keep in in shape yeah i think that's one of the downfalls of the suzuki method because the suzuki method like teaches repetition and it's like no practice makes perfect practice makes perfect i feel like as a culture as a society we've you know we want things really quickly like if you practice a lot you'll perfect it but i absolutely agree with you actually it's so funny you say that because i have made a recent video on youtube about making practice permanent i think it's the ability to make it um a regular part of your day as a practice even if it's like an hour and a half you're keeping that consistent time every single day to practice and i have a third third point third oh please do please do share don't forget your scales and arpeggios some double stops some maybe double stop are not completely necessary all the time but scales and arpeggios are very very important amen and why because intonation is not just playing one pitch correctly it's intervals you see it's the uh relativity of intervals it doesn't matter if you have perfect pitch or relative very good train at a relative pitch i don't have perfect pitch i have a relative pitch so it's very important to have the intervals played correctly which is very hard on a long time long journey in scales so for students don't forget your scales every day scales you can say intonation is a lifelong battle right right right intonation is a lifelong battle for someone who says that they've i wouldn't i wouldn't say battle but long long time searching and maintaining i'll have to use that can i see that from you of course of course because it's very important what uh words we use with students that are the most friendly not brain brain friendly words you can say the same thing without uh heavy words you know battle versus journey i prefer journey it's very important i have very good uh results changing the language

i would love for everybody to take note of this because how we trick our brains is very important because i've because i heard someone maybe a mentor or a teacher say yeah intonation is a lifelong battle but i love the way you rephrase that it says you know you want to make sure not practice makes perfect practice makes permanent and having a love for practice journey with good intonation search for good intonation that is just gold for anyone who would want to get better intonation because skills and arpeggios are the way to go in western classical music you're all you're doing is just playing skills and arpeggios right right um but but then we get to a certain conversation about equal temperament just intonation you know melody that's a very very interesting uh subject too if we play with orchestra with piano i rather and this thing i had a lesson with loma means once we were talking about this thing and he is totally right about it go temper temper well temper clavier use that intonation on your violin now if you're playing some back solo uh sonatas and perdidas maybe you can use natural intonation uh but although you think that your open strings are not gonna match all the time yes especially that especially that first chord of the bach g minor adagio you just have to tune in you kind of have to pray before before you play it so that way the top g matches the the open g and make sure the open strings are not out of tune right exactly yeah

i would love to we've talked a lot about practicing we've talked a lot about your role in orchestra but i want to talk about your role as an entrepreneur because i love this topic of music business in combination with the classical music world and you've created a very unique product and you're the first person that i have on the on the violin podcast that has invented a new kind of shoulder rest so talk to me about your shoulder rest how you make it the design the inspiration behind the design and uh we'll go from there okay okay well that also had been a very long journey uh since i remember i i felt in love with music and with the violin with the instrument itself and uh always inventing new things i used to make my own changes when i was like 11 years old i craving and as a matter of fact i have it right here it's my my first chin rest you see the holes there cool i love it but i don't use it anymore but i varnish it myself when i was 12 or 11 years old it was pretty it's pretty flat from what i see am i right blood pretty flat and maybe should have been more curved but this is a piece of uh history in my in my uh you know drawer so always always investigating about this and to tell you the truth as many many violinists though if they don't confess it i know they have filled this uh they would love to play without shoulders maybe for many reasons uh first of all when i when we are just beginning and we're in love with violin we think that it looks so beautiful the violin without any shoulder rest and also the great masters didn't use shoulder rest but be careful on this one because the old master didn't use anything on the violin but they all use something under the uh the clothes you know like this with a sponge or something harder you know pink superman used to use the uh door stopper from galamian studio huh i didn't know that really did he do that why why because was stiffer than a sponge yeah he played a couple years ago with our orchestra and i had a conversation with him and we talked about this now he uses a bunch of handkerchiefs wrapped in this uh carpet thing you know so he puts under the uh the clothes and doesn't doesn't move too much but still not as a sponge but uh imagine a lot of handkerchiefs wrapped in that is stiffer stiffer so uh well that was uh a couple of years ago that i had that very lucky conversation with him in life but uh going back to the to the roots of why i came with this shoulders i try everything you know sponges under the uh clothes uh a sponge with an elastic band to the violin attached to the violin the [ __ ] rest and the wolf for the primo forte second everything let's not mention the ban musica well all of them well but musica was later it was later but the [ __ ] was one of the first one so then i started to play without any shoulders at all because didn't like anything you know but since my i am strong believer that in order to have a healthy posture you have to try to raise the shoulder the less possible maybe it's impossible not to raise it because you have to get the violin you know with a nice grip here but you have to fill in that space if the violin doesn't do it so my teacher vero sanofsky had a very very short neck so he put in the violin and a very straight shoulders like this and the violin was just there so imitating that is not good maybe imitating the sound and musicality that's better but the poster you have to adapt to yourself so i didn't like the [ __ ] i didn't like the way they sounded the way they looked so i started to develop uh this uh design of the shoulder risk based when i was older i you know i studied the math and stuff like that i i knew the fibonacci's golden proportions and i know the the strat model this is strat model not a strap but the strat model are made like that you know all in proportions so i had to design something within that and it took me about six months to design that very simple shape because if you see the shoulder rest it's an asymmetric piece you see it's an asymmetric thing that has to match the the violin you know so to make this asymmetric shape a in golden proportions you have to use a compass and draw and look for the uh calculating the golden numbers make every curve of it match you see so i feel that my shoulder rest is not an invention because shoulder is uh from invented for a long time ago but i see that new design see yes so i have the uh white part of the violin and the narrow part and and this matches the the parts of the violin so i came up with the materials like using cork in conic shape because it's within the violin you have the pegs cutting specs the end pin so i feel that that this is part of an instrument and what's the matter of putting something to the violin like this uh and using something again uh under your clothes is very similar so i feel this is more uh natural natural and and wood made so plastic i don't like too much although they make some very good uh plastic uh teal pieces for for cellos and it sounds good but i i feel it much maybe not for all but uh i i felt that way when i designed it so the other thing that i like about it is uh that you can put it anywhere on the violin see so you can rotate it move it this way because you are not depending of the edges of the violin that's why we use the uh the special glue but you can use a rubber band too and uh i can tell you that every test that i made with this uh in some violins is more powerful the sound in some species more sweet sound in other ones is uh brighter in other words it's darker but in all of them is a more free sound because you're not squishing squishing squishing sorry you are not squishing the violin so it's very natural you just raise the the violin it looks very natural i have to say and it's such an interesting design because actually i i follow you on instagram also and you use do you use wine cork to attach no no no they are torques that they made for this uh essay tubes uh uh glass tubes you know and it comes in different uh for for biochemics and scientific people you know of course yeah i mean i don't i don't i don't suggest people like you know using a wine cork and then putting glue and then another violin of course right right but it's such an interesting design and what i i the right off the bat i noticed that you're it's also flat so you're trying to replicate that um that close to body experience but i'm noticing that near on the side of where the chin rest is the side the large um the the oh you i see you have do you use a centerpiece chin rest i can't i couldn't tell no i

right i was i was just gonna say that it's actually quite the opposite of what you are doing because when you go down to the shoulder you would expect that it's a larger surface area that you need to cover but you're actually doing the opposite the larger part of the shoulder rest actually lays on the shoulder not so much on the chest right well this one is uh as uh my friend yora smith said it's more for collarbone players because you feel the collarbone in one side on the shoulder and the other one so you have two important points and the points of contact here yes i'm and i'm i'm one of those players i'm a collarbone player too what i don't like about the curve like this is that you have only one important uh contact point uh and you can see after using so many years uh a shape like that the the feet of the uh of the shoulders they tend to open a lot you know they do so y flat since you mentioned flat i like flat because it helps a little more this motion that you need to do playing the g string going to the e string and this motion is very important you know i'm not saying that you cannot do this with a hoon or any other shoulders but for me it's easier with this one and it's more natural you see and based on what i heard with your sounds now it sounds quite resonant it sounds very clear and articulate so when you try to base down of the violin at all these shoulder risks you can like it or not but it's very um how do you say they

it doesn't harm the sound of the instrument it doesn't only yeah it only improves it it only enhances it right which is what i want to emphasize to the to the listeners which is it's a very fascinating design because there are a lot of wooden um there are a lot of wooden shoulders that i can think of there's the [ __ ] bravo there's the over 300 perostra one and that one you can like put in the microwave bend it a certain way i know like the nadi's kavakos plays on that one and then um but no but this is a very simple approach like there are two contacts you put on the violin my one can you talk about how you stick it on though because you have like a little like a like a glue adhesive right because i think that's

a foam disk of

it's kind of a eva foam but it's harder you know and you put some glue on it and you stick it to the varnish of the balloon it doesn't harm the varnish at all maybe you get a little dirty but you can do any you can use any violin polish like the heel polish and it goes away very easily well the glue thing is not new uh i also had some lessons with the elmer oliveira many years ago and he used to use the red sponge attached with a rubber cement to the violin so the idea is in my history for many many years also ilya caller used to do that and my former teacher sergio prieto that was a former student of yehui di menuin also used that sponge for for a while so i know the glue for many many years and since the instrument i i mean the good instruments are all glued uh and this has that this doesn't have any screw on it and all glue why why not taken taking advantage of this uh already proven method you know now we have this we have all these micro suction tapes and this whole new materials that are for for sticking the the cell phone to the car and believe me i tried it and maybe it works for the uh kids version that we're working on right now but it takes away a little bit of the sound but it's an alternative for some people that doesn't want to use the uh the glue but the glue is the best for sound right now and some some violins are with funny arching you know you say arching right the arc of the violin and are not very even so sometimes they have any problem getting the forefit to land on the on the insulin but you can adjust it with extra pieces of foam or anything you know i i leave that to the to the player i know that they can fix their own there's no perfect uh solution for anything but i i felt that this uh shoulder risk can help a lot and i'm very very happy that many great violinists have used my my shoulders for many years like uh sergey kriloff and ray chen also is a very good friend of mine that i designed a special shape for him but he used the same system he used to use these things i don't know now that's why your shoulder rest is familiar because i feel like i saw him play on that shoulder rest in the youtube video or something i'm like he's playing on something very unique but that is your shoulders i'm glad to know that it was a mysterious song maybe for many many years but uh yeah i i designed the shoulders for him yeah that's fantastic i love your your creativity towards uh you know the shoulders i i mentioned earlier that you created a shoulder rest but like you created a type of shoulder rest you are not the inventor of the shoulders that happen hundreds of years ago but this is this is also fantastic and i feel like right now that we are entering a new age of like musicians the idea of entrepreneurship and music is is not new right mozart did it beethoven did it this is not a new idea but the way we uh communicate and the medium in which we perform has changed um and uh yeah i love having these conversations with violinists and such as yourself because i feel like now we're gonna be starting this new age of like solo premieres and entrepreneurs and creating products and you know playing music but you're not just playing music now which is the point i'm trying to make you can create a product just like marcelo did and it's just fantastic it's fantastic i've taken too much of your time and i just want to say thank you so much there's one last thing that i want to ask you what what are some of your hobbies outside of outside of violin you know because everybody has a hobby outside of music that they want to take a break from and and yeah what you do well uh i have many hobbies huh many hobbies starting for tennis playing which i don't play too much now because i have the rotator cuff repair you know because of playing without shoulders too many years no oh no well both yeah yeah well also also for students i if i can uh share my experience uh we know franco belgium bohol right oh yes i teach that okay and we know the russian bohol which actually is not russian because it's only hours pupils and our our was from hungarian right and he has this boho but russians also use the franco volume so if you see this rotates your shoulder and this one release so i also try this in my youth not good for me because the shoulder gets injured with time maybe you can do different sounds but now you know i'm more more fun of the franco belgium bohol so it's the same thing i i do the same thing because um and this is what i tell my students all the time so i'm going to have them listen to this episode and i'm so glad that you say that because you know it may sound cool right like you know the you know the there are violinists out there like kavakos and joshua bell they do the russian bow thing yeah like for me it doesn't work i'm like you belgium franco nice and relaxed try to keep the shoulders balanced and bouncy so i can play and say relax for longevity of playing the violin well i i mean my father used to say if it sounds good well do whatever you you want but also you have to think in long term healthy posture because already playing the violin is not natural at all so we have to just uh fight a little bit or find uh the the best way to to get along with that uh poster you know but going back to my hobbies well 10 is all so i don't play much now but i i love table tennis i'm a very very uh table tennis lover and water skis nose key and lately rc uh planes you know i love them i love i also carve in wood i like carving wood obviously because you created a fantastic shoulders which i hope to try out one day um and hope to visit you in chile that i've never been to chile and i have a lot of friends in america south of it okay well i'll have to definitely pay a visit to you i have to pay a visit to my friend ecuador and brazil i have like i have like country i have to bounce from country to country in latin america so i'm really looking forward to that time but marcelo thank you so much for offering your wisdom and if you're not following marcelo on instagram take a look at his shoulder assets it's super interesting design and i'm definitely going to try to make sure that i will get a hold of one myself and people uh marcelo how can people get a hold of you if they have any more questions about the shoulder rest or if they have any questions about it yeah they can write me a dm in uh instagram on instagram uh marcelo gonzalez it's a kind of long but also you can visit uh uh gera smith uh webpage and you can pre-order the shoulder rest there and any question i'm willing and able and more than happy to answer and collaborating about any uh many any doubts that uh maybe students have and stuff like that sure yeah and of course this episode of the violin podcast will be on youtube and i'm going to try to make a separate link of you this um of you describing the shoulder rest and i'm going to put that in the in the podcast notes for you to take a look at i'm also going to include marcelo's instagram handle in the podcast notes so for you to follow and take a look at as well marcelo thank you so much for your time i really appreciate you yeah thank you so much

Marcelo GonzálezProfile Photo

Marcelo González

Pedagogue / Entrepreneur

Marcelo began his studies at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, with Professor Fernando Ansaldi, at the age of 5 and later with Professor Sergio Prieto. He has performed as a soloist with the Orchestra of the University of Santiago and the Chamber Orchestra of the Catholic University, also in the Chamber Music Festivals of Lima, Peru, Cochabamba, La Paz Bolivia. He is the winner of the Young Performers Contest to perform as a soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra of Chile under the baton of Irwin Hoffman. He continues his studies at the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University with Shirley Givens, Berl Senofsky and also viola with Roberto Díaz where he obtains his Performer`s Certificate. He is currently a professor of the Fammusic Strings Academy Violin Chair, soloist of second violins of the OSNCH National Symphony Orchestra of Chile and principal violinist and director of the Camerata Fammusic.