Posts Tagged ‘music’

Terry w YoYoMa Now croppedterry-muir-with-yoyoma cropped

As a young cellist, I knew every recording Yo-Yo Ma ever made. I saw him perform live on numerous occasions and was lucky enough to meet him after a concert, when I was in college. So, I was thrilled to learn I would be sharing the stage with him for the inauguration of the new Gaillard Center. It proved to be a highlight of my career and entire musical life. Yo-Yo is extremely warm, approachable and generous. And oh yes, he plays rather well.

Rehearsal was full of great music and fun. Yo-Yo likes to look around the orchestra while he plays and he will lock eyes with you, making you really feel like you are playing together. Even though I was sitting on the fourth stand, I had a clear sight of him and we had a number of such moments. One of those moments in the slow movement must have been particularly intense, as I got totally lost. For the concert, I made sure to wear my music reading glasses and not look at him. After our first play-through, Yo-Yo walked over to the cello section and traded his cello with Damien, the assistant principal. He still sounded great while playing on a strange cello, and Damien got to play one of the most famous and valuable Stradivarius cellos in the world for the the remainder of the rehearsal.

After rehearsal, I ran into him in one of the backstage hallways and got to visit with him for quite a while. He remembered the concert where we met 31 years ago. We joked around about how old we are now, but he insisted we “still have it!” He also signed the underside of the cello podium next to my signature. As to be expected, the concert was spectacular. It was a day of music and camaraderie I won’t ever forget.

Yoyomaw podium cropped

written by Terry Muir, CAM cello faculty


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This week, we met with another guitar student. Milena Urroz is one of the recipients of the Financial Aid award, and has been taking guitar lessons at CAM since the start of the program. In fact, she was one of the first students that began taking guitar lessons at CAM. Not only is she an accomplished guitar player, she is also an experienced clarinetist. 

milena oringal cropped


When did you start learning the guitar and the clarinet?

I began playing the guitar when I was 5 years old. Well, I remember plucking the strings as a 4- year-old, but I wouldn’t count that as playing! As for the clarinet, I was in my 6th grade when I started. My Dad put on a CD of Beethoven’s clarinet music, and I fell in love with the sound of the clarinet. I made a sound right away when I tried blowing on the mouthpiece for the first time. That usually is a good sign, if you are considering learning a woodwind instrument!

How do you divide the practice time between the guitar and clarinet? I mean, you play both instruments so well. 

Honestly, it does get tough to find the time for both. But since muscle memory is so important when learning to play instruments, I try to practice the clarinet about 4 times a week and almost every day on the guitar. I do have soccer practices and games, so it’s not always easy.

So, you’ve been playing in CharAMGO (CAM Guitar Orchestra) this semester and in the Guitar Ensemble previously. What do you enjoy about ensemble playing?

When I first began taking guitar lessons at CAM, there were hardly any other students who took guitar lessons. It was tricky to figure out where I was in comparison to other students. Playing in this ensemble lets me to see and hear how my peers play, and it is a lot of fun to playing and performing with others. It is especially neat when Ulyana brings in other instruments, such as percussion, trumpet, cello, and flute. We performed at many different venues, including the assisted living community at The Bridge, to a very appreciative audience.

What do you enjoy most about your lessons?

My teacher, Ulyana, is very supportive and really funny. This makes every lesson fun, and I look forward to it each week.

Do you have any favorite musicians or bands?

I love The Beatles. They are a huge inspiration. Dad and I always listen to them, and I grew up listening to their music. In fact, I have a thick Beatles fake book (book with guitar chords, etc) at home! I enjoy singing and playing all of their songs.

What is the role of music in your life?

Music and literature are the 2 things that are very dear to me. It helped me get through some sad times. For instance, I remember getting quite depressed about leaving France, after living there for a year. I’d made so many good friends during my time there. It was really hard to leave my friends behind, and that’s when I started singing and accompanying myself on the guitar.

Also, whenever we have big family get-togethers, there is always music. Dad and I would get out our guitars, and play some Beatles. Then my Mom would dance – she used to be a ballerina. My brother, Nicolas, plays the violin but also enjoys singing. We even tried out some violin and guitar duets. In fact, we are visiting family in Mexico this summer, and I really want to get a piece ready for my brother and me to play for the family when we get there. I am really looking forward to it.

What took you to France?

We were there for about a year, because my Dad was on his sabbatical. I found a clarinet teacher there who opened the door to the world of Jazz. It was a real eye-opener, and jazz was a whole new world. It’s almost like learning different accents or languages.


This accomplished young lady hopes to be able to save up for college by utilizing and combining her skills in languages and music. She is fluent in Spanish and French, and would love to teach children music and languages while babysitting. Thank you for sharing your story with us, and we wish you all the best. 


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In celebration of Lowcountry Giving Day coming up on May 6, we are sharing special stories made possible by your generous gifts. Every gift goes further if you give on May 6! Your gift will make it possible for us to share more stories like the one you are about to read.

Meet one of our Financial Aid Award recipients – Jon Medina-Valencia!

Last December, Charleston Academy of Music (CAM) took part in a national day of giving called Giving Tuesday. The donations received on that day made it possible for CAM to offer Financial Aid awards . One of the award recipients is a dedicated and committed 9 year old cellist, Jon Medina-Valencia. Jon is one of the few that received a full-year scholarship, which allows him to take cello lessons at CAM with Terry Muir. We met with Jon, his mother Natasha, and his teacher, Terry to listen to his story.

When did you start learning the cello?

I was 9 years old when I started. I am turning 10 this year.

What do you enjoy about playing music?

Whenever I feel a bit down, playing the cello cheers me up.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Astronaut! I enjoy math and science at school.

I understand that this is your 2nd semester being part of the Kidzymphony Orchestra Program. Tell us about your experience in Kidzymphony.

I enjoy practicing and playing together with my friends. We sometimes get nervous about performing, but also feel very proud to present pieces we have been working hard on. I especially enjoyed performing in the concert last December. Sometimes there are times when some of us do not feel like rehearsing. But I try to cheer up others by telling them that it’s good for us that we get to play, because it’s a privilege – not many kids get the privilege to play an instrument like us.

We also asked Jon’s teacher, Terry about what music can bring into children’s lives. He believes that “learning to play an instrument can teach you discipline, teamwork, and how to learn other things by applying these skills.”

His mother, Natasha, is evidently his biggest fan and supporter. Having played the clarinet herself, she is “exceptionally supportive” when it comes to Jon’s lessons, according to Terry. Not only does Jon have a supportive mother, he has the support of the whole family. Terry considers this an important factor in the Jon’s impressive progress. In fact, when Jon auditioned for the Financial Aid award, he even performed over the phone for the other family members who couldn’t be there to hear him perform.  According to Natasha, the family loves to get together and make music. It wasn’t hard to guess where Jon’s positive outlook on life came from, when we met with Natasha. Natasha also says that “for Jon, practicing the cello is not a chore…he just really enjoys it. He will even ask the family members if we want to hear his new piece quite often.”

Thank you Jon, Natasha, and Terry for sharing this story with us. We wish Jon all the best in his future with lessons and school!




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Terry Muir has been teaching at CAM for the past few years. A truly versatile musician and teacher, Terry enjoys teaching children as well as adults. Not only has he performed with celebrities such as Elton John and Sheryl Crow, he has also recorded for many independent and Hollywood movies. At CAM, we are offering free cello rentals for new students who will study with Terry this year! What a great opportunity! We recently interviewed him about his experiences – read on to find out more!


1. When and why did you start playing the cello?
I started playing the trumpet when I was 9 but I was never very good at it. When I was 12, I slipped in the shower and smashed out my front tooth. I couldn’t play the trumpet anymore and the music director at my school told me that they needed a cello player. Playing the cello was a completely different experience for me and I knew within the year that I would do it for the rest of my life. It was meant to be!

2. What are some of the fond memories you have from your vast performing experience?
I still remember most of the performances I did as a student and how much I loved being part of concerts. I knew it was something really important for my development as a player and a person, and because I wanted to share it with other people. Since becoming a professional, I’ve especially loved starting chamber music series in Seattle, WA and Boise, ID, playing in experimental jazz and dance performances in Austin, sharing the stage across the country with musicians as varied as Pavarotti and Elton John, and many others I can’t remember off the top of my head. I keep a diary with all the performances my cello and I have done.


3. What is the role of music in your life now/what else do you do other than teaching at CAM?
I play regularly with the Charleston Symphony, which is a great orchestra and a source of much satisfaction. I’m also beginning to play more chamber music in Charleston. Come hear my colleagues and I at CAM perform the Brahms Clarinet Trio at the Rush Hour Mini Concert on April 29! 


4. What brought you to Charleston and CAM?
DeAnna, my wife, was hired at MUSC and I decided to come along. (CAM: We are so thankful for that!)

5. What are some of the benefits for a child studying the cello?
The cello is the best instrument there is, so one can’t help but benefit from studying it. People will also think that you’re the sensitive artistic type if you play the cello, which will also be true. And all the general neurosciencey stuff, that my wife studies.

6. What is your teaching philosophy?
I try to get as much technique as possible into a student so that they can do whatever they like musically. I love to explore all types of music with my students. Studying the cello also helps one learn how to learn, which is helpful in just about everything in life. Discipline is fun!



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