I'm not going to audition for the LA Phil this year.
I jumped through all the hoops: I applied, I got the same letter as last year, offering that I could audition on a stand-by basis (which is what I did last year). I sent in the next application for that, got the list, ordered the music, received the special music from the LA Phil that was not available to buy, I started marking in fingerings...
Then I took out my old Mozart 39. And I just couldn't do it.
To back up, I've moved rather a lot in the last 10 years, and in my travels across the U.S., I've auditioned for many orchestras. Many. The ones I can think of off the top of my head: the Omaha Symphony, Lincoln Symphony, Colorado Symphony, Colorado Springs Symphony (four times before I finally got in), the Greeley Philharmonic, the Central City Opera, the Boulder Philharmonic, the LA Chamber Orchestra (twice), the Redlands Symphony, the Pasadena Symphony, the New West Symphony, the Pacific Symphony, the LA Philharmonic.
I know I'm leaving out some of them, too. I won a good number of these auditions, played in most of these orchestras. I really love to play in the orchestra; it is insanity, but I love it. I want to play in a really, really good one.
But Mozart 39.
There are certain orchestral excerpts that one plays over and over and over when doing these auditions. I have played them so many times, I could play them in my sleep, standing on my head, possibly balancing on a beach ball a la Cat in the Hat.
Can I play Mozart 39 any better now? Better than I did last year? Or at the audition before that? Or before that? Or before that?
The answer, I have to admit, is no.
I have practiced it to death. In all its permutations, in every meter, with every kind of rhythm. When I looked at it again, I just wanted to cry. What more can I do?
Then I realized, the only thing I can do has nothing to do with taking an audition. The only thing I can do is become a better musician.
I caught a glimpse of how to do that last year, when my students were giving a recital, and I decided to play my Tchaikovsky first movement for it, too. Suddenly, I knew I'd be playing the whole thing, start to finish, for real people, not just the first page for people behind a screen. I cared about it in a different way, and I wanted to play it just for the fun of playing it. My good friend, Lorenz, who I respect a great deal and find to be a very intelligent musician, was kind enough to listen to me play it. He gave me such good advice, I really enjoyed delving deeper into it.
Then after I performed it, I felt marvelous. It was in my memory, in my fingers, something I wondered if I'd ever do. And yes, I did it in my 30s, juggling family, students, work and life.
It made me think about all the things I haven't played yet and still want to play before I'm six feet under. I have quite a lot of technique, a good head on my shoulders, why stop where I'm at?
The project that has nagged me ever since leaving college is finishing all the Bach Sonatas and Partitas, of which I studied four as a student. I have such respect for these works, I was afraid to just ... play them, with no advice!
My friend Lorenz told me to give it a go, work it out, then play for him. So I have delved into the C major Sonata, like a student. It took me forever just to pore over several editions and decide which bowings to use, then which fingerings, then, Lord, just to play it. And it still isn't there, nowhere near. It needs a ton of work. Lorenz gave me some really nice advice, and I feel inspired. I want to do it well.
I believe this is the only way to grow. And in order to take any more steps, I need to grow.
What I have in my violin playing is not a seed, as it is in my young students. It's a big plant. Probably a quirky one, too, that leaned this way for a little sun, and has a funny little shoot going that way, and a crooked stem. Quite possibly some dead leaves! It still needs sunlight. Good soil. Water. But mine, at this point, it needs bigger pot!
Maybe even some Miracle Gro!
Our interview with Sarah Chang is one of more than two dozen in The Violinist.com Interviews: Volume 1, which also features talks with Joshua Bell, Maxim Vengerov, and David Garrett, as well as a foreword by Hilary Hahn.
Here's our daily coverage of the ninth quadrennial international violin competition, won by South Korea's Jinjoo Cho.
Laurie Niles is from Pasadena, California. Biography
Please consider supporting Violinist.com by becoming a sponsor, and reaching our dedicated community of violin professionals, students and fans!