Yesterday I got to participate in a really unique experience. The Crown Point Bridge is a local piece of history. It connects New York and Vermont and (although I don't know any of the details) played some sort of role in the Revolutionary War. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to play for the 400th year anniversary of the bridge. We had a small orchestra who played a suite by a local composer that chronicals the bridges history. It includes traditional melodies from the times when the bridge belonged to the French, was passed to the British and, finally, became an American bridge.
Recently, the bridge was put out of service (I mean, the thing is over 400 years old so it's understandable) and rebuilt. Yesterday, we celebrated the re-opening of the bridge! We performed the same piece as well as some other tunes with a small group of string players. I think it is so cool to be able to pay such a tribute to a historical landmark!!
I am officially back home! And what better way to spend my first night home than with a late night practice session? I definately got an idea of the thhings I want to accomplis over the summer. Here are a few:
-Develop a good spicatto for my bowing etude (which is not Mazas 5)
-Get the majority of my pieces for next semester learned (which include some solo Bach, the deBeriot and Sarasate Playera)
-Work on my new scale packages (3 scales and 8 arpeggios...ahhh quite scary) and memorize the fingerings
-When we get our orchestra excerpts, practice those like crazy!
So, those are my plans for the summer. Hopefully i can accomplish most of them! I also plan on playing at a lot of different places. I had to laugh because, the minute I got home, I got a call about a gig for this weekend :p It's going to be a busy (but fun) summer!
I have to say that I have the best teacher ever! At the end of every semester, he and his wife invite our whole studio to a party at their house. They make delicious food and we just all hang out and have an excellent time. It's a great stress-free way to end the semester!
This is one of the pieces my teacher assigned me for next semester. I really like it, but it sounds super hard. Has anyone ever played it? Is it as hard as it looks/sounds?
We had an interesting discussion in my last cello class. Our professor was basically saying that, as music educators, we should expose ourselves to as many different musical genres as possible. I have always agreed with this, because I think it is important to be able to relate to what our students are listening to. I mean, chances are that our students will not be blasting Beethoven on their iPods. Our professor was interested in seeing what everyone listened to outside of class and, let me tell you, I was quite surprised at the variety. In this small group of string players, we had interests that ranged from alternative to rap to Irish rock.
Personally, I mostly listen to classical (including movie soundtrakcs, which I love!), Broadway, contemporary Christian and some pop (just to keep up with what's current).
So, I am interested to open this question up to a larger community of string players. What musical genres do you listen to?
Today was officially the last day of classes for the semester. I figured now would be a good time to look back and reflect on how I have grown as a musician this past year.
When I first came to music school, I realized that I was quite behind violin-wise. Although I certainly wasn't a "bad" violinist, I was lacking a lot of technical skills. I had never played a 3 octave scale. I had never worked on etudes or solo Bach. I had very little experience with "real" orchestra music (although I loved listening to it, the orchestras I was in were never good enough to play any of it)...I was so used to playing arrangements. It was really frusterating to realize how unprepared I was and how much I had to do to catch up.
I spent the first semester working on a lot of technique. I worked on Mazas and Trott etudes, most of my scales and Presto from Bach Sonata No. 1. In addition, I was exposed to some great orchestral pieces. We played Symphonie Fantastique for our first concert of the year! I left first semester with a pretty good idea of what I needed to do to succeed the second semester.
When I came back from break, I knew I was going to be doing my level, so I worked really hard to prepare all my pieces, etudes and scales perfectly. And, in the end, I think all my hard work really payed off. Even though I didn't pass my Kreutzer etude, when I look at all the stuff I DID pass my hard work really shows. I passed my scales, even though just a few months earlier I was learning them for the first time. I passed a double stop etude, I had never seen anything like it before coming to college. And I passed both a Bach and Vivaldi piece.
So, I guess what I'm saying is that, even though I am still upset about not completely passing my level, I can now realize and appreciate that 4 out of 5 isn't too bad. And I plan to work just as hard this summer and come back to pass Kreutzer like nobody's business. I guess, for now, all I can say is...What A Year!
It's the one thing that is hard to understand as a musician. How can we "fail" at something we love? It's like failing at watching TV or eating chocolate cake. But the fact is that failure presents us with the oportunity to improve and we are faced with some tough questions to answer before improvement can begin:
Why did I fail?
How am I going to fix it?
Who are the best people to have help me fix this problem?
Unfortunately, the answers to these questions aren't always the answers we want to hear. Failure can make us realize things that we never wanted to realize. So what do we do with these realizations? How do we use them to help prevent failing again? Well, I honestly don't know the answer to that...but I will let you all know if I ever figure it out.
So today was my level. I was super confident going in because I had a really good practice session before hand. We randomly select our scaled from a hat which is the most nerve-racking part. And wouldn't you know...I picked C#...the one scale I have had so much trouble with. I also picked B and Eb. But guess what???? I played them all perfectly!!!!! I was so excited because that was the one part I was worried about!
So heres the second bad news: I failed my Kreutzer 2 bowing etude. I am really mad because that has been the one thing throughout the semester that my teacher has said was solid. Apparently my spicatto was not correct and this was related to my bow hold. But here is why I am really mad: my teacher never told me there was anything wrong with my bow hold. If I would have known that there was a problem, I totally would have fixed it (that's how I passed everything else...he told me there were problems and I worked my butt off to fix them). How was I supposed to fix something that I didn't know was a problem?
Sorry for the unusually negative tone of this blog. I just really wanted to prove to myself that I could pass this whole thing on the first try. (Basically now I just have to re-do the etude next semester). Hopefully I can solve these issues by then!
So I went to have practice session part one and started out with a lovely Ab scale. Then I attempted to play my arch enemy...C#! I played the major and minor scales with out modulating but I ended my minor arpeggio on a sharp C# and by the time I finished the major arpeggio I was on a D. UGH! I tried it like a gazillion more times and was semi-successful...I sometimes ended a little sharp but I guess that is better than full out modulation.
I totally pulled a muscle in my lower left shoulder. I don't know if it's from practicing cello a lot for my cello final or if it's from violin. Either way, it really hurts :( And I still have to practice viola tonight for my test tomorrow.
Well, that's enough ranting for me. Tomorrows level day and I can't wait to see what happens! Wish Me Luck!!!!!! (and that I don't pick C#!)
So tomorrow is the last day before me level. I am sort of freaking out because I have been working so hard and want to pass SOOO badly! I will be playing:
- 3 randomly selected scales (major, melodic minor and the respective arppegios)
- Kreutzer 2 (with diff bowings and rhythms)
- Trott 18
- Vivaldi Winter, 3rd Mvt
- Bach Partita 2, 1st Mvt
My etudes are great (as long as I keep my focus) and my pieces are for the most part fine. Although, I do still have some blurriness in my eye from having pink eye so I am hoping that doesn't get in the way. But it is the scales that I am really freaking out about. I had a "scale convention" with a friend and played them all right ecept for C#...so hopefully I will be able to work out my problem with that tomorrow. Throw in the the fact that I have 5 other exams this week (and 3 more next week) and I am in for a CRAZY two weeks. I am so glad the semester is almost over!
When I was in High School, I mentored a small number of Middle School orchestra students. Basically, I would stay after school with them or meet up during a free period to help them with their solos or orchestra music. Sometimes we would just have fun and play duets, or we would just hang out and talk about what was going on in school. During the summers and other extended breaks, these kids would contact me through facebook to tell me about a new instrument they got or to ask where they could find music to a solo they wanted to learn.
This year, when I went off to college I lost contact with them (since I obviously wasn't seeing them at school anymore). But after a few months, I would get messages from a few of them asking how college was and telling me about their latest adventures in music. Our zone recently held our NYSSMA solo festival and I recieved messages from a few of them telling me about their scores and how they thought they did etc. They are asking when I will be coming home and want me to come visit. It really touches me that these kids are staying in contact with me because it means that, whatever I did for them, it made a difference in their lives. It makes me realize that becoming a music educator is the right path for me!
***Disclaimer: I do not actually believe any of this stuff...it's just for fun!***
Let me explain to you the hierarchy of the orchestra. I’ll start with the brass section. Brass players are notoriously stuck up and snobby. They think they are so great just because their instruments are loud and they will take every opportunity they get to prove just how earsplitting and deafening they can be. It is because of this simple fact that brass players are placed in the back of the orchestra. If possible, try your best not to wander into their section during a rehearsal, as you may find yourself stepping into a puddle of saliva. Spit valves are one of the dumbest things ever invented, by the way, because of where they are positioned on the instrument. The spit never actually ends up back on the brass player (where it belongs) but, instead, on the floor where other innocent people could possibly step on it. Or, in many cases, it may end up on the back of a woodwind player.
The woodwinds sit right in front of the brass section. I don’t know what they did to deserve such a horrible punishment, but it must have been pretty bad. Honestly, most woodwind players are pretty cool and enjoyable to be around, except for those oboe players. Don’t get me wrong, oboists are very nice people but that instrument is just obnoxious. I don’t think I have ever actually heard a good oboe player in my life, and I’ve heard a lot of them. I seriously think that someone in the renaissance invented the oboe as a joke, but the baroque musicians didn’t get the joke and decided to include it in the orchestra anyway. To top it all off, why would they put such a horrible instrument in charge of tuning the orchestra? It is questions like this that I ponder late in the night for hours on end.
What do you call a person who hangs out with musicians? A Percussionist. My initial reaction when I heard this was to laugh at the joke. Then I realized how true it actually is and, well I’m not gonna lie, I just kept laughing. The percussion section is in the absolute back of the orchestra. Personally, I think the woodwinds hired percussionists to get revenge on the brass players. Boy, that plan sure backfired, didn’t it? The percussion section consists of instruments that can be struck to produce vibrations. So basically, it’s a bunch of people running around with sticks and banging on things. What amazes me is the “skill level required to play the part” to “number of times the percussionist messes up” ratio. I mean, I’ve been in orchestra where this number was like 1:47.
The strings are a very interesting section because there are so many of them in the orchestra. The strings sit in the front because they are the most important; at least, that’s what they think. For the most part, violinist and cellists are pretty normal. It’s the bassist and violists that you have to look out for. Bass players think they can get away with not practicing just because their instruments are so low that no one can tell if they are playing out of tune or not, which is true, but it’s still not very courteous of them. The violists require a completely separate paragraph, which I will start below.
If you don’t understand why people hate violists, you’ve probably never actually had a conversation with one. Honestly, the only good viola players are the ones who played violin first. They switched because they realized that they could get much better seats as violists since the real viola players all stink. One of the biggest problems is that viola music is written in the alto clef, which means that other musicians have a hard time reading it. Unfortunately, this also means that the violists can’t read it either.
Speaking of people who can’t read music, the conductor is the person who stands in front of the orchestra waving their arms. Basically, he or she is in charge of making sure everyone is at the same place in the music at the same time. The conductor uses a series of beat pattern to express each measure of music. However, when they get lost (which accounts for about 50% of the time), they will resort to flailing their arms around and making odd hand gestures. Often times when a section gets lost, the conductor sings their part to try and get them back to the right spot. This is counterproductive, however, because not only are the musicians still trying to find where they are in the music, but now they have to cover their ears too. But in the end, no matter what happens during a performance, the conductor gets all the recognition. If you don’t believe me, take a look at CD covers. They say something like “Beethoven’s Fifth: conducted by Leonard Bernstein” not “Beethoven’s Fifth: with John Smith playing the third trumpet part”. Isn’t it ironic, that the one person not playing an instrument gets all the credit?
Occasionally you will get the privilege..... I mean, be forced to work with vocalists. This can be a rather traumatic event for both the instrumentalists and the audience. In situations like this, earplugs are the best way to go. The problem with vocalists is that they can practice their instrument anywhere, whether they are walking through the grocery store or sitting in calc class. And they take full advantage of this ability by singing random sentences or attempting to have a conversation while singing. Really, the only instrumentalists who have this privilege are the percussionists because you can practice tapping a rhythm anywhere. (But we all know that this would never happen since percussionists don’t practice.) One would think that since a vocalist gets so much extra practice they would be a really good singer. This, however, is not true. We instrumentalists just have to realize that vocalists will be vocalists and there is absolutely nothing anyone can do about it.
Despite all of the faults possessed by each section of the orchestra, somehow when everyone joins together to make music, it all works out. It’s as if everyone’s flaws cancel each other out to create a harmonic equilibrium. Well, everyone except the trumpet players, that is.
So I am in New York preparing for our performance tonight in Avery Fisher Hall. This morning I awoke to a not-so-lovely surpries; Pink Eye. This will definately create quite the challenge for the performance tonight...especially since I don't want it to look like I partied all night! I guess this goes to show that musicians should be prepared for anything.
Previous entries: April 2012