Do you ever wonder "why did I do that?" after the fact and then have no way of getting yourself out of it? I kind of am feeling that way right now. I've entered a local music festival competition. You can enter a maximum of 8 classes and I'm in 7. I have quite the eclectic mix of things that I'm playing too! All the way from Bach, to stuff written in the last 15 years! My program of pieces for this competition which has to be played in a little over a month from now consists of: Barber violin concerto, Beethoven Sonata No. 8, Bach C major sonata (luckily just the largo), Vieuxtemps Souvenir d'Amerique, Robinovitch Adieu Babylon and the Caprice No. 1 by Gary Kulesha. All I can say is, I better not have to play the Souvenir d'Amerique right after playing the Barber, or I'm a dead performer!
Alright - done venting!
I've been teaching for two months now. It never fails to amaze me how completely different each student is. Not just as people, but in their playing, where they lack and excell in skill and their general approach to the instrument. Some of the students treat their instruments like a delicate piece of china, scared to press into the strings for fear of breaking something, others who would consider their instruments a good ball and who you constantly are trying to keep their attention so they don't drop their bows or violins as they tell you about their week the moment after you've explained something to them.
How do you get really talkative kids to be quiet and actually appear to have listened to what you've told them? Creative analogies? I thought my rag doll one the other day was pretty good.... How do you tell a student who loves their lessons, but is so incrediably hyper and excited the whole time that they are dropping their instrument and talking and bouncing around, that they need to calm down without hurting their feelings?
I am loving teaching. Each student is presenting it's own challenges for me and the best part is it's never the same. You have to constantly be thinking. You can't use the same analogies over and over, if you find yourself doing that, you obviously haven't made something work the first time, so you have to be creative, and you are always having to think. Then there is the challenge of "well this kid has a bow problem, but she also has a left hand tension problem" which of these do I work on this week and what can be allowed to rest for another week?
I have a few very talented kids in "my" studio. One child in particular who fascinates me is a child with autism, a very high functioning autistic child, this kid has some major talent when it comes to music. Half an hour is too short a lesson to cover things with him I find, I always want to spend more time with him. What is it about a student who excells at it or has obvious potential, that makes you just want to keep the door closed and keep working on stuff even though you know there is another student sitting out there? This student has a really beautiful sound, excellent intonation, catches onto things fairly easily, and when you get him engaged the magic that happens when he plays and when he's learning is really a phenomenal thing and makes my day so much better then it already was!
It really takes a special kind of person to teach, I think. There are so many wonderful performers out there today, but do they really posses the skills to teach? I think, probably more often then not, they don't, or their ability to explain multiple sides of playing the violin is limited. The more I teach, and the longer I teach, the more I enjoy it and love it, but ultimately, I'm gaining a much huger respect for the teachers I've worked with who really can teach well and who truly are passionate about their students. I really have a profound respect for the teachers who are selfless in themselves and put their students first because they fully believe that that child deserves the opportunity or attention. I feel so incrediably blessed and lucky to have that with my teacher.
Another cool thing about teachers and students. I love how when you have a student who really likes taking lessons with you, and who seems to be getting a lot out of them, at the end of a lesson gives you a hug or asks their Mom to leave because they want to be alone with you, or when you know them outside of the violin world as well. It's exciting when the student feels enough closeness to you to tell you about something exciting that happened to them at school or at swimming or at dance. That openess, and no fear and ability to connect I think, I hope enhances the learning experience for my students. I know it enhanced mine with my teacher. She's a person I feel totally comfortable and at ease with and she always made my violin lessons the highlight of my week. I was always really excited to go to my lessons (still am!) even if it's going to be a lesson of pure technique, because of that connection and huge enthusiasm on my teachers part (not over-done enthusiasm, but a sense of "I know you can do this and you'll be all the better of a player for doing so! come see the bonds it will release and I'll help talk you through getting them undone")it makes me want to work harder and be the best I can be at it and makes me more willing to work hard on it.
Thank you to all the really awesome teachers out there! You are all an inspiration in my everyday practicing and teaching.
Rehearsals began last Wednesday for the symphony tour. I had re-schedueled my students that I needed to from that day to Tuesday, so a long day going into the tour. The afternoon rehearsals I felt very good about overall. My music, for the most part, was well learned and under my fingers despite the short amount of time I had had to prepare the music. I started having problems with a cough at the end of the afternoon rehearsal and by time 9:30pm rolled around I was pretty convinced I was sick.
The hotel I was staying at was really nice. It had a pool and a hot-tub, both of which I made breif use of. I had taken some cough medicine late Wednesday night after arriving at the hotel after the afternoon of rehearsals, and had a hot shower, which felt really nice on sore, achey muscles. I felt fine, more or less, when I woke up but after a swim I started to become rather dizzy and nauseaus feeling. Not fun. Even less fun when you know in the back of your head that is' "x" many of hours before you are supposed to begin another long afternoon of rehearsals.
I am not totally sure how I managed to get through the afternoon that day, but my gosh, the body is a resiliant thing. It knew I had a job to do, and it gave me enough grace to let me do it and not be fighting nausea or dizziness. This of course meant that my dinner break and time not playing in rehearsals or concerts was pretty miserable, but at least I didn't have to deal with it while I was having to play and perform.
Friday, I felt pretty awful first thing in the morning, but by time I rolled out of bed to get ready to to go the open dress rehearsal and concert I was feeling a little more perky. Both those went very well from my own personal playing perspective. Saturday I felt for the most part alright aside from the cough but the concert unfortunately did not go so well for me. I was just really not totally with it the whole evening, and we had lighting problems on the stage so that was a bit distracting. I was kind of mad with myself for not doing better, but I guess we all have our off nights.
Sunday evening's performance, for me, went quite well overall. I was feeling the most sick that I had felt for any of the concerts and for some strange reason is had me being totally more alert and in control of what I was doing then at the other two performances. I had a few tense spots where I was trying incrediably hard to not cough and by the end of the concert I was playing with all new, painful sensations that I had never before associated with playing violin.
The show must go on. I got through the weekend and tour and I'm still alive today! Yay! I guess it was a character building experience. In what way, I'm not totally sure yet, maybe the "I know I can do it if I haven't a choice" factor is a positive thing to have recieved from the past several days. I do know it brought some really stressful moments for me and some times of self doubt.
I'm back to school and teaching now. I'm starting to get better and I only have one major exam left this exam session so hurrah!!
I have a couple of weeks now to get ready for the next character building experience - 7 performances, 4 cities, 3 days and the chance to educate kids in music, so the character building aspect will make the very full few days worth it.
Or let it rain? Hmm.... I guess I'll have to mentally gear up for the possibility that all the beautiful snow that's fallen since Christmas, will all be ruined by the end of the week with the predictions of warmer tempretures, just warm enough to let it rain and melt the snow. *weep* I love this beautiful white stuff and all the cold weather! There's something enjoyable about being bundled up with a scarf, mits and warm coat walking around town as the snow falls or when the sun is out making everything so brilliant and bright, or with a hot chocolate in hand as you sit and wait for the bus. I love it and I'm not ready for it to leave yet, please weather....just one more week of it??? Please?
I'm really excited! On Wednesday I begin rehearsals for this weekends symphony tour. We have 3 concerts and an open dress rehearsal which is basicly a concert where we don't have to adhere to the concert clothes rule. It's a fun program, though rather eclectic. Arvo Part's Fratres, Hovahness' Symphony No. 6, Respighi's Trittico Botticeliano, and then two Mozart divertimenti, K 136 and 138. So a rather strange mixture, but fun program none the less. I just finally received the remainder of my music on Saturday, which was good. I started seriously to work on everything yesterday, and overall it's coming along really well. I think the thing I'll need to focus on most will be the Respighi, particularly the first movement. It's quite fast and challenging.
A couple of really exciting things happening a couple weeks after the symphony tour is a piano benefit concert. I'm playing a bunch of duets and at least one piano quartet. I'm right now also wavering as to what piece to do for a solo. I am trying to decide between the Andante from Beethoven's Pastorale Sonata or Greig's Wedding Day at Troldhaugen. If anyone has any insight as to which, feel free to e-mail me or comment. Both are a lot of fun and I'm equally comfortable with the two pieces. The Greig might be a more suitable piece as it's more light hearted. Hmm...I'll keep thinking on that.
I finally have a Bach picked out for the piano! The A flat major prelude and fugue from book one. It's a lot of fun, full of life and personality. I've had a hard time finding one that I really like that you don't hear very often or that my siblings haven't played, but after narrowing down to this one and one in d minor I really took a liking to this one.
On Friday I was in Vancouver for a concert and a lesson. I got to see the Borealis String Quartet. They were really good. They played three pieces, two contemporary works by Canadian composers Imant Raminsh and Stephen Chatman and the Ravel String Quartet. Imant Raminsh's work was really amazing! It was written to the memory of a friend of his, and someone I have been in direct contact with myself. The friend had been shot by an angry coworker who had been laid off from his job. The emotion and power behind the work was amazing and the quartet did a wonderful job of the piece, I'm really looking forward to hearing it when it's broadcast on CBC radio later this year.The Chatman piece was really neat, it had a guest pianist playing. Again, wonderful playing by the quartet and it was cool to hear the composers introduction to the piece before they played it. The Ravel, well it's one of my all time favorite string quartets from the popular repertoire and it was just pure fun to watch them play it and hear the wonderful skill in their ensemble playing, flowing directly into each others playing and imitating it so perfectly it was hard to tell which instrument had the theme or part that was most dominant.
The main reason I was in Vancouver was for a lesson with Jasper Wood. It will never cease to amaze me just how many things there are to learn about playing the violin and to master before you can become a really good player. It was a really excellent lesson. I learned a lot and have so much stuff to work on! Jasper Wood's patience with me was greatly appreciated and he has a really compatible approach to teaching for me. It was a highly motivating lesson and I'm looking forward to working on and mastering the things we worked on. He had some really good comments/suggestions on fingering and noticed right away my dislike for vibrato with the 4th finger.
I have all my music festival competition repertoire picked out and entered now, so the pressure's on! I'm one piece below the limit. I've usually only entered 2 or 3 things in the past, but this year I'm in 7 classes. Vieuxtemps Souvenir d'Amerique, Beethoven Sonata No.8, Barber concerto, Bach Sonata No.3 (Largo), Kulesha Caprice No. 1, Robinovitch Adieu Babylon and sight-reading. That should keep me busy for the next few weeks. Right now I'm trying to prioritize as to which pieces to do by memory. The Bach and Kulesha are already memorised, the Beethoven doesn't need to be memorised, and both the Viextemps and Barber are at least partially memorised. I'm thinking if I can get the Barber and Vieuxtemps memorised, then I won't worry too much about the Adieu Babylon, as it's a challenging contemporary work that's very easy to get mis-guided in, much like Bach. You modulate wrong and you end up in the wrong spot. I'm sensing much mental practicing will be going on the next month and a half to prepare for this.
On that note (no pun intended) I think I will head off and get ready to teach and maybe squish in some practicing before my student arrives.
2004 held a lot of really neat experiences and milestones for me as a musician. In January I got my first chance to play a truly professional symphony concert. With just over 24 hours to learn the music when I got it, it was a really memorable experience for me. One thing that made it really inspiring and such an honour to do is so many of the other musicians on stage I knew from various experiences in the past. Our youth symphony conductor was and still is the principal second violin, the second desk was (and still is) made up of a teacher who I've learned a lot from and been really inspired by as well as another musician who I had had the chance to previously play alongside. In the first violin section, my current violin teacher and my previous teacher were both playing, and the front desk, I've played in masterclasses for both players and played next to one of them as well. To get the chance to play with such amazing musicians truly dedicated to their art form and the people who have moulded my ability to play and make music really was a huge honour, and I still feel very blessed everytime I walk on stage with those people.
February: the above mentioned youth symphony conductor is a really special guy. He's an amazing composer, conductor and violinist, and he has more patience then any one of us in that youth orchestra deserves. But he really is a special person. Our youth orchestra is very unique in that any member of the orchestra can write a short composition for the orchestra, and our orchestra will not only read through it in rehearsals, but we will perform it during our spring tour. My first year I let the idea float around a bit, but didn't seriously do anything about writing a piece. The second season I was determined to take part in such an amazing opportunity and I wrote a short work for the strings section of the orchestra. Now, not only did I get to play this piece with the youth symphony, but I was given the chance to conduct it. Last season, 2003/04 season, was my last season with the youth symphony and I wrote my second work, for winds and strings for the youth symphony, again receiving the wonderful opportunity to conduct my own work. To make it an extra special last year with the youth symphony I also was one of three soloists, playing the Dvorak Romance. I can't think of a more special way to say goodbye to so many friends and a wonderful 3 years of making music together. My brother and I also had a neat performance this month. A local composer had written a work with us in mind, that we got to premiere at a fundraiser concert, with the composer in the audience. It was a really neat challenge to learn something never recorded and get to go and work one on one with the composer.
March: What happened in March that was exciting for me musically? Nothing terribly interesting or exciting happened, it was my month "off" to get prepared for music festival and some other things happening in April! So to April now..
April: April was an interesting month. It was my third tour with the professional symphony, and if I remember right we played Mussorgsky's Picture's at an Exhibition, the Brahms piano concerto No. 2 and then some of the principal players played Michael Dohearty's (sp?) Dead Elvis. This was a fun program. I loved playing the Mussorgsky, the building and climaxes that you get in that piece are amazing. This month also held a music festival competition in which I played a concert group (Vitali Ciaccona, Eckhardt-Gramatte Caprice No.3) and I played the opening movement of my suite for solo violin. I was the only person to enter in those categories and at my grade level, so the competition part wasn't really there, but the feedback I received from the adjudactor was really beneficial and I felt really reflected my performance that day. April also signalled a new direction in my musical studies and how I approached everything in the practice room and how I spaced things. I had a lesson with Jasper Wood, who was incrediably patient with me. I learned so much in the short time spent with him, and I know I would never, technically or musically be where I am today without that lesson. He helped me with my vibrato (which I still struggle with, but it is forever getting better!!! yay!) and probably the most impacting thing was bow placement/divison and tone. I always thought I could play loud and had a nice sound, but I never knew I could play as loud or as nice as Jasper Wood freed me up to do. He challenged me in new ways and in new heights of things to acheive on the violin and I am forever grateful and thankful for it and the time he spent with me.
May: I wrote my music history 3 exam in this month of 2004. Not a particularly fun exam, but it was a step closer to my goal of theory requirements for the year and I was happy to accomplish it and pass it. I got to play a bunch of fiddle/celtic stuff for the International Children's Festival in May. That was a lot of fun to do and a lot of fun to get to play with so many other players as well (both advanced and beginner). Sort of musically, but not exactly, May signaled the end of dancing for me. I had done some form of formal dance training for 12 years and I said goodbye to that this month. We had several dance concerts, for which I performed. It was sad to say goodbye. This month was also a little scary for me as I had my first real orchestra audition. It was a good experience though and the experience in doing something like that is incrediably valueable as is the repertoire you gain and practice in quick preparation.
June: Was a lot of fun for me! I learned Lark Ascending and performed it this month for my teacher's year end recital, as well as I accompanied my own student in a Bach Minuet that she had been determined to learn specifically for this recital. It was a good finale to the year of regular music lessons. The piece my brother and I did in February got it's second public performance this month as well, again with the composer in the audience. :)
July: Another fun, enlightening month, at the end of June rehearsals began for an annual Canada Day concert that I've participated in for the last few years. It's free admission, and we usually get about 5,000 people show up. I stayed with a friend who was playing in the orchestra, and we had a good time together. I also got to see some other good friends (and a teacher of mine from a couple years back!!) who I don't get to see very often. After a couple day's off from the Canada Day a few of my teachers students, my teacher and I performed another celtic style program for the second year running at the Highland Games competition held here. We performed in the Beer Garden's which is a rather easily pleased crowd, but it was fun! There's nothing that beats playing with other people who really enjoy playing with other people. I learned how to play viola in July and I was challenged to new heights in my chamber music abilities. I had played in a piano trio before, but never as the pianist, and I had never played viola before either. I played in the "orchestra" on viola, played first violin on Mendelsohhn's Octet (that is a HARD piece), violin was also played in the Handel/Halvorsen/my name/cellist's name Passacaglia (we did some editing to have it playable for an audience in 5 days:). The rest of the stuff I played was on viola that week. It was a lot of fun!! I played violin in a masterclass and had a private lesson with the out of town clinician who came in to teach at this "camp," and received a lot of helpful, valuable feedback and I've never in my life met someone so enthusiastic about teaching.
August: Was pretty laid back. I played at a couple of weddings and other then that took it easy with just expanding my own repertoire.
September: My favorite month! Well, maybe not, but I do love how the weather starts to change at the end of September the leaves change color and the beginning of a new season of concerts school and new experiences. I played with the symphony that I had auditioned for back in May. I guess they figured I played alright enough to keep me around! :D It was kind of an eclectic, but fun opener for the concert season. Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Roccoco Theme, with the very talented and charming cellist, Paul Marleyn , Beethoven's 5th symphony which I had never played before, and something completely "alien" to me as far as my own performance experiences had gone so far, Rautavarra's Cantus Arcticus. The birds were really loud in the the rehearsal hall which had several players (myself included) pulling out earplugs, but it was a really neat piece, and interesting to sit and listen to. (The strings don't really get to do that much in comparison to the rest of the orchestra)
October: I'd been back to teaching for a month and still enjoying it, as well as my own private music lessons. This was the month I started back at piano! Yes, I had practiced during the summer!!!! My playing at lessons and practice though were rather limited by the end of the month when I applied to do my music history 4 exam on the December 8/9 exam session. I went to Vancouver for a couple of days to meet up with a musical friend of mine and take in a concert at UBC (University of British Columbia) with Jasper Wood playing violin (I'm still trying to figure out how he still can play after that concert, it was amazing). A good friend of mine was soloist with the symphony after winning the chance to play back in the spring. She played part of the Prokofieff second violin concerto (though she could/would have done the entire thing had another player not tied with her). I was happy to not be playing that tour (due to being away) so that I could sit and listen to her. It was really just incrediably amazing to watch her play such a massive, powerful work that fit her personality and playing style so well. To end off October was a halloween recital where I made my "solo" viola debut playing Schubert's Arpeggione Sonata. My only complaint was that out of the 200+ people there at the beginning, by time they got to me, 48th on the program if I remember right, last anyways and 3 hours later, the audience was down to maybe 30, if that. It was an overly satisfying first solo performance though! My teacher even stayed through the whole concert even though, aside from the first performance, I was her only student to play.
November: I can now say that yes, I have seen Pinchas Zukerman! Another trip to Vancouver to visit relatives and the chance to observe a masterclass conducted by Pinchas Zukerman. I found it interesting to hear the playing level and hear what Zukerman had to say. I felt his comments were good overall and some really interesting things he touched on, but he never really went in depth, which I would have appreciated. You could tell who all played violin in the audience though when he started talking about vibrato, I even caught myself trying out what he was trying to explain. And yes, another symphony tour took place this month, though with a slightly different spin on it. It was JAZZ! It was a really fun program. The soloist, Dee Daniels, and her trio were really fabalous and a blast to work with and I've never gotten to yell from my seat before during a concert. That was fun. :)! As part of an attempt to get Canadian classical music out to a wider audience those of us involved in the music world hold a Canadian Music Week and have a recital to kick off the week. This year I played a Caprice by Gary Kulesha. A truly amazing Canadian composer. It received some "interesting" responses. A lot of people seemed to really like while others seem to have felt rather challenged by it.
December: My first taste of leading and playing in Suzuki groups!!!! This was fun, and different for me. I really enjoyed the experience and am really excited about starting to teach my own Suzuki group this year (starting tomorrow, Jan 5th!!). My music school where I take lessons and teach had a big Christmas recital where I helped out with the Suzuki groups for my teacher who was going to be away and accompanied the more advanced groups. I did a fiddle piece with a girl who's been one of those never ending "personal fan club" members ever since she started taking violin. She's a really sweet kid and is like your Grandmother, always loves what you do and is always there and will sit through a long concert just to hear you play. I was really excited to get to play a duet with her, I know it meaned a lot to her as well as it did to me! I also played a couple of solos, back by popular demand, the Caprice No.1 by Gary Kulesha as well as the Bach C major sonata, Largo. Both by memory, both unaccompanied, which was a fun change from playing with an accompanist, though I really do love having that extra person there to play with. Part way through the concert I was asked if I would like to play in the chamber orchestra that was playing last on the concert. (I had played with them previously but stopped playing to focus on my then upcoming piano and violin exams) I jumped at the chance! I knew most of the music, though I had played different parts for all the pieces then the part I ended up playing. It was a lot of fun to play with them again though!! I also completed my music history 4 exam this month! A personal highlight of
December was doing a mini-recital at a dinner by the organization that has sponsored me for the mentorship program that I auditioned and won the spot of in the symphony. Meeting the people who were making it possible for me to do the traveling involved and awarding me a scholarship to help aid my musical education costs was a really neat thing for me and I felt honoured to be the one there that evening and the people were all so incrediably nice and supportive.
Ok well that was 2004's musical experiences, in a nutshell!!
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