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The Mind Over Finger Podcast

Mar 8, 2019

I’m very excited to have the talented, brilliant, funny, and (as you’ll see) engaging Tessa Lark to the show to talk to us about joy in practice and music-making! 

In this episode, we discuss her views about tackling work with the right mindset, the ways she sparks joy in her practice, and how getting in that joyful headspace not only makes it more gratifying for her, but also helps increase her productivity!

I’ve been thinking a lot about Joy, self-compassion, and using positive self-talk in practicing and performing for the past few years and I ended up researching that topic in the context of my doctoral studies: the idea that high quality work can flow more easily when we are in the right mindset, the right disposition.  High-level results stem out of high-level thinking and solutions to problems come more easily when we’re in a positive and open state of mind.  It is absolutely possible to have rigor without rigidity in the practice room!

I had a wonderful time talking with Tessa about this topic that’s really close to my heart! I feel like it’s a way to approach practicing that can be very impactful and I hope this episode affects your next practice session in a positive way!

We elaborate on:

  • Her childhood in the foothills of Kentucky, starting with the Suzuki Method and enjoying attending Marc O’Connor’s fiddle camps
  • How she was introduced to fiddle music and blue grass and how it stays with her to this day
  • Her experience with the The Cincinnati Starling Project in Cincinnati, studying with Kurt Sassmannshaus
  • How she met and went on to study with Miriam Fried in Boston, and how Ms Fried helped her develop artistic integrity
  • How the Naumburg Competition helped launch her career
  • Practicing in ways that spark joy – searching for “things in your practice that bring you joy, as opposed to looking for all the things you’re doing “horribly” wrong”
  • The “talent” misunderstanding
  • The misconception that “hard work” should feel “hard”
  • Why we need to aim for “focused” and “efficient” work and, YES, that can feel good!
  • Getting into the “joyful headspace”
  • How struggle can be part of the process but its’ not “necessary”
  • How emotional depth can also be reached from a positive headspace and mindset
  • Increased productivity
  • How while joy is not a neutral feeling, the process to get there can be neutral
  • The importance of knowing yourself and knowing what can get you to this joyful headspace
  • The importance of setting goals, a positive mindset, reduce distractions, and find a physical space that feels inspiring and is conducive to efficient work
  • How the language we use with ourselves is so important
  • How mental discipline is important and can help us negotiate the variables that can affect performance
  • How she uses a timer in her practice to improve her productivity


More about Tessa:




YouTube channel:

YouTube videos featuring Tessa:

More articles about Tessa: click here


The Cincinnati Starling Project:

Kurt Sassmannshaus / Violin Masterclass:

Kenny Werner Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician:




Violinist Tessa Lark, recipient of a 2018 Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship and a 2016 Avery Fisher Career Grant, Silver Medalist in the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, and winner of the 2012 Naumburg International Violin Competition, is one of the most captivating artistic voices of our time. A budding superstar in the classical realm, she is also a highly acclaimed fiddler in the tradition of her native Kentucky. Since making her concerto debut with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra at sixteen, Ms. Lark has appeared with dozens of orchestras, festivals, and recital venues including Carnegie Hall, Ravinia, San Francisco Performances, Amsterdam's Concertgebouw, the Buffalo Philharmonic, and Marlboro Music.

Highlights of her 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons included multiple performances of two works for violin and orchestra written for her: Love Letter by bassist-composer Michael Thurber, and Sky, a bluegrass-inspired concerto by Michael Torke premiered and recorded with the Albany (NY) Symphony Orchestra. Additional recording projects include a fantasia-themed album including Ms. Lark’s own Appalachian Fantasy and works by Telemann, Ravel, Kreisler, and Schubert; Invention, a debut album of the violin-bass duo Tessa Lark & Michael Thurber that comprises music of J.S. Bach along with non-classical original compositions; and a genre-bending disc in collaboration with such artists as multi-instrumentalist/composer Jon Batiste and American fiddling legend Michael Cleveland.

Recent and upcoming activities include Australia’s Musica Viva festival—a four-concert engagement highlighted by a duo collaboration with bassist/composer Edgar Meyer—and debuts with the Seattle and Indianapolis symphonies. Scheduled for May 2020 is a Lincoln Center recital debut on its prestigious Great Performers Series. Ms. Lark is a graduate of New England Conservatory with an Artist Diploma from The Juilliard School. She plays a ca. 1600 G.P. Maggini violin on loan from an anonymous donor through the Stradivari Society of Chicago.



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Most sincere thank you to composer Jim Stephenson who graciously provided the show’s musical theme!  Concerto #1 for Trumpet and Chamber Orchestra – Movement 2: Allegro con Brio, performed by Jeffrey Work, trumpet, and the Lake Forest Symphony, conducted by Jim Stephenson.

Also a HUGE thank you to my fantastic producer, Bella Kelly!