Yup, it's summer! The weather finally started becoming nice, enticing me to spend more time outside in the garden rather than inside practicing. Last weekend was a perfect example of this phenomena. Temperatures finally reached above 60 degrees, so I spent the weekend planting, weeding, and repairing my lawn sprinklers (which by the way, was a fun experience with the neighbor kids when the temp got near 100 degrees).
I have now officially began my summer without lessons. I still have one more concert in two weeks with another local community orchestra (got a panic e-mail pleading for more violists in the area), and then Interlochen in August.
I'm determined to not slip into bad habits and to try to keep up on my own what my teacher has been working on with me until lessons start again. But I'm going to focus it down to one thing - bowing. I have a tendancy to lock my thumb straight rather than keep it relaxed. So, for the next few months, I'll be telling my right thumb to "Relax already!!!". We'll see how this goes.
I might even pick up my cello for fun every once in awhile.
Tonight, I had my last lesson until next fall. Between my teacher doing his normal summertime routine (traveling to festivals, vacation, etc..), and me with a long business trip, I won't be having my regular private lessons again for quite some time.
So, to take advantage of this last lesson night, Joel helped me dust off the 1812 overture for a concert I'm playing in soon. He's also playing the same in a different concert a week before I do. Funny how that worked out :-) Before tackling the 1812, we started on scales to warm up with, my choice of key. So I chose the scales that are in the overture - 6 sharps and 6 flats... I got a little worried when Joel said of my choice "This should be interesting"... Oh my! Well, it wasn't so bad afterall - except I kept missing the C-flat on the A string - aka B-natural in first position, and the transition to B-flat on the D string (back in a "real" second position again). ::::sheepish grin::::
And then, I got some "professional help" on a Mozart quintet my quartet-sometimes-quintet group sight read a few weeks ago. The first viola and first violin play the melody, and it is a very typical violin-ish melody. It may be easier to play on a violin, I wouldn't know having never played violin before. Turns out my teacher never played this piece before either. Needless to say, he figured it out faster than I did, and helped me with the sections "filled with black" and "micro-notes". At least now I have something to work with to practice this piece a bit more at home.
The next time I will be seeing my teacher is at Interlochen this August. There are a few other folks from Oregon that will be there. My teacher, his wife, maybe a few of the other Oregonians and I will be getting together for a cocktail before the camp starts. I'll be the only amature in this group of musicians. The others are all professionals and part of the faculty.
I'm so looking forward to this musical vacation.
Borodin, Bruch, Bach & Beethoven
All the pieces I've been playing this past week are "B" composers.
For myself, I'm playing the Bruch Romanze and Bach Cello Suites - again. Summertime is a time to cycle back to pieces that I've played a number of times to work on some of the finer nuances.
Then, for my quartet group, we played Borodin #2, and Beethoven Op. 18 #3 tonight. Both were a sight read for me. The Borodin was a sight read for all, with another surprising viola solo worked in there somehow. Both were very fun to play.
Other news: I got a call the other day from the Williamette Falls Symphony (a CO in Oregon City). They needed another violist. So, orchestra season is not quite over for me yet. We are playing the 1812 Overture (a 3rd time for me), Finlandia, the Magic Flute and "some marches". Doesn't seem so difficult, which is good since I can only make 3 rehearsals (maybe) before the concert on this short of a notice.
Probably one of my most interesting and funny lessons ever just finished tonight. I blogged before how many times I have conference calls right UP to lesson time. Well, I thought tonight would be the same. However lessons started a few minutes early and I was still on a conference call!!! So I figured... I'll put the phone on mute, set-up and tune-up, then the call should be over, and if it wasn't I'd excuse myself. My teacher is very understanding of me finishing calls while I'm walking into his studio.
Well, things were going quite well at first. Joel & I chuckled about extreme multi-tasking. I got my music out and he starting looking through it, then set-up my shoulder rest, tightened my bow and then applied a little rosin. I had to stop and answer a quick question on the call, and THOUGHT I put the phone back on mute. Joel gave me an A to tune, and I began tuning. On the other end on the line (phone), someone said "What is that noise? Is that a fire alarm going off somewhere???" OMG!!!! I hurridly put the phone on mute. I told Joel what just happened. We both laughed soooooo hard!!!!! "Chinese Fire Drill!" (I was on a call with China - again). I excused myself from the call.
We tuned again for real, both laughing about checking for fire alarms, then warmed up on a scale, both of us still chuckling. I'm soooo glad my teacher is so understanding and has a good sense of humor.
After warming up, and recovering my decorum, Joel asked me to play the Bruch instead of the Clarke. I had written to him earlier about picking this piece back up again for a play through and surprising myself with how much better it sounded. He wanted to hear it for himself. It wasn't a perfect performance by any means. I stumbled on a measure or two, and called a "do-over" on one measure of double-stops that I got totally wrong the first time. The verdict? His assesment was the same as my own. I had improved ALOT. It was much better than before, and that was with only practicing that piece ONCE since January.
The remainder of lessons was spent on tone control, dynamics, and shifting without just a hint of a slide or none at all. We never did get to the Clarke.
Hi, its me again, with thoughts of lessons on my mind and preparing for summer.
I e-mail my teacher about once or twice a week with progress notes, and admitting guilt to not practicing a particular "homework assignment". He says he always enjoys reading them. I sent him an e-mail earlier in the week about travel plans for the summer. We are both going to the Interlochen Adult Chamber Music camp - he as a member of the faculty and me as a student. I can tell he is quite excited about this. He told me that I would be one of the "spring chickens" since there are very few people of "our generation" at the camp. He also mentioned that the "old ladies" often hold parties during the week and lamented that the faculty was rarely invited. I should probably make sure I invite him and his wife (also a faculty memeber) to a party or out for a cocktail. :)
After the usual warm-up scale, my teacher announced he had something for me to take with me on my next trip to China. I was thinking, what in the world could this be?? He presents me with a single piece of paper, given to him by Heidi Castleman years before. On it is every single scale in a consensed format - fingering numbers and a list of scales. He also told me he was going to condense some of the fingering exercises for me to take as well - "to save on space and additional weight" on my trip. How thoughtful!!!
On to Clarke. We start on the last page. Those 32nd note arpeggios are still giving me some fits in transitioning from one to the next. So, "guitar" practice for me - just fingering the chords while holding my viola in a guitar position and plucking. "Guitarists do it ALL the time!" Heh, I would definitely NOT make a good guitarist. I can't even pluck all my strings in that position. Oh well, I will learn. Then back to the beginning of the piece. We worked some dynamics, shifting styles, and some refinement on rhythm.
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Mendy Smith is from League City, Texas. Biography
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