Is it normal to be stressed that 4 days before my university career begins, I still don't know who my violin teacher is going to be???????
I'll start off today by summing up my experiences at YAE. I was really challenged and pushed this year. Playing the Shostakovich was an especially big learning curve when it comes to playing chamber music but more than just the music, the other activities really helped me to appreciate where my strengths are (dance, music) and to really respect where they aren't and the people who excell at those areas (theatre, sciences, art). I've grown so close to so many of the people there in such a short time and since it ended, nearly two weeks ago now many of us have remained in touch. The trio I worked with for the Shostakovich is planning to get together throughout the year since I'll be living full time in Vancouver starting next week. I'm really looking forward to that. The guys were awesome to work with and their humor and musicianship just makes it so much easier to let go and give it your all in a performance and by the end we were starting to get comfortable with speaking out if things weren't gelling or we were frustrated over certain spots.
The concerts were so much fun (and sometimes stressful!) to do. I was so incredibly sad when the final 4+ hour marathon gala concert was over. Saying goodbye to my new friends and old friends from last year and the faculty was hard but at least this time around, I'll be back to Vancouver sooner and be staying so I'll get to see some these faces a little more often again. Some of the workshops that we did throughout our two weeks were drumming, a variety of dance workshops in hip hop, tap, salsa and jive dancing, Shakespearean Theatre, music sensory/perception, astrophysics, conflict resolution, art drawing, new music and so much more. I had so much fun this year, like last year and it was so very hard to leave after the concert despite the fact my body was tired and felt like a piece of lead.
Now that YAE is over and I'm slowly getting over the sadness of not going to music camp, I'm starting to get really excited about school! This last year has been nice to not have the commitment of being in classes all the time from 8am-3:30 everyday but I'm really thrilled to be going to university and studying what I really want to and what I've dreamed of studying for years. It's still surreal that it's actually materializing but I'm sure once I've been there for a few weeks it will start to sink in as I have to begin preparing for midterms and such. I still don't know who my private teacher will be yet but a lot of other things are looking very positive and exciting for this year. It's going to be an exciting, and I'm sure challenging, journey this year.
Yesterday in theatre our coach from Bard on the Beach went around the circle of the 20 some off students that have been here at YAE this year. She instructed us to pick a single word to describe how we were feeling about being at the end of the program. Almost everyone said, "sad". It's hard to say goodbye to the people with whom, over the course of two weeks, you've been challenged, pushed, encouraged, scared, nervous, excited, thrilled etc. etc. It's amazing how quickly you build friendships with people and how easy it is to support each other as we are all forced to explore bits of ourselves that have never been explored. The thing I find all the more fascinating about this is that if I were at any other place, in any other program, I don't think I would be able to take that plunge and let myself go and I think the same could be said for most of the students at YAE. We've bonded somehow through music and this has made us friends and given us the courage that we can try new things because we're surrounded by friends who will be there to catch us if we fall and to encourage and cheer to keep us going. Likewise, the faculty are there doing the same, some of them also stretching their boundaries of experiences by participating in the workshops presented at YAE.
In my previous write up about YAE I talked mainly about the repertoire I've been working on in my chamber groups. The Brahms has really gelled nicely and become a joy to play. We've performed it twice already not including the in house concert and will be performing it again this evening at the big gala. Shostakovich is still an incredible challenge. More now than just the notes, it's an endurance test of your concentration and commitment to the part and the music. On a more cheeky side, it's also an endurance test of my index finger and Evan's (cellist) thumb. We both have massive blisters on our fingers from working on the lengthy pizzicato sections. Evan has actually bled on his cello twice now when working on that section, once in a coaching and once in a masterclass when we performed it for Carl Oscar-Osterlind of the Young Danish String Quartet. Shostakovich has not really been an outreach suitable piece for most of the venues so far but today we get to perform it twice. Once at an afternoon outreach concert and then again this evening at the gala. I won't got into much detail over repertoire right now though except to say that aside from my two chamber works we are doing a hip hop influenced version of Amazing Grace with the orchestra in addition to Tchaik's serenade for strings, Warlock's "Capriol Suite" and the Russian Shostakovich's "Spanish Dance" (played by Chinese people as Bo Peng pointed out at our last rehearsal lol).
The Young Artist Experience 2007 is proving to challenge me and push my boundaries and abilities as a musician and person. Shostakovich keeps me on my toes while sending me to dark places I never thought I'd explore while Brahms pushes my patience with the precision of rhythm and consistent technique that is needed at all times. These aren't introductory pieces anymore. Each day I play and rehearse I am getting deeper into the musical mind of these two composers, especially Shostakovich. The coaching sessions have been intense and rewarding and at times frustrating. Spending as much as 30 or 40 minutes on only a line or two is maddening but necessary and worth it in the end in order to do the job right.
The Brahms Quintet has been the most "playable" of my two assigned ensembles this year. It's rhythm is fairly basic with only a few tricky passages. The real challenge in the Brahms is matching each others sound and locking into one another when it comes to articulation and musical gesture. It's relentless but satisfying when it comes together. The coaches I've had in just the first few days have been excellent in helping us achieve and match the other members in our group. The piece is unsettled at times with it's off beat theme and has moments of triumph when all the players join together in unison but the unsettled gloom of what's in the fog ahead always returns.
Shostakovich is one of the most distressing, unnerving things I've ever played and not because it's hard. It is definitely hard. At each rehearsal I realize that it's even harder than I previously thought. It doesn't just push the boundaries of being a musician technically, it pushes the boundaries that were in place at the time the work was written and it pushes the musician who performs it to dig down deep into some of the darkest and most horrifying places one can go. Coachings on this particular trio have been the most intense. It's struggle to play and it's hard to allow yourself to get lost in the gloom, loneliness and darkness of it all for fear of messing up the notes and even more in fear of not being able to escape the darkness when you're done playing it for the day. We've spent literally hours both in group and independently working on small passages trying to capture the mood and master the technique. I loved how Rena Sharon described the violin part in one section as being in a field where there was once a massive amount of death and the eerie, lonely, sad quality that it has on a human being standing there knowing the events that occured. Another description was that of corpses dancing, finally freed from their living hell. The whole piece is so dark, filled with musical irony and Shostakovich's voice, sharing his emotions in the only way he could at the time and had he been discovered he would have been killed or exiled. Why would someone take a chance at being caught? Rena tried to get us into the mind of Shostakovich, giving us three options to pick from and all of us had the same response. I have no idea what I'd do. It's so hard to travel to a time and place and mindset when you've never been given such an ultimatum before and thankfully for most of those alive in North America today, we will never have to chose like that but for a musician performing a work by someone who has, who's music is drenched in it, we have to try and put ourselves in that position, no matter what, in order to really feel the piece. In jest I've suggested that by the end of YAE my trio and I will need counseling by the end of it and you know what, I'm starting to think that that isn't such an unlikely possibility anymore.
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