A little over a week ago my teacher mentioned to me that there is a festival coming up at the end of the month. The kids attend it each year and are tested on their playing. At any rate, there's a recital at the end for adult students. Only they rarely have any, so usually the high schoolers take part. Oh, and hey, why don't you play something?
I was engulfed with a sick sense of panic. The last time I played in public was at the spring recital. With less than 48 hours notice, I dragged out a piece from Suzuki book three and tried to dust it off. I got exactly one run through with the pianist five minutes before the recital. Almost needless to say, I bombed terribly. If it could go wrong, it did - every shift missed, shaky bow, wrong notes. It was dreadful. At least I didn't cry.
And here we are, five months later, being asked to commit to another public
shaming opportunity. However, we don't learn performance without practicing performance; and as an adult, those opportunities are far and few between. With that in mind, I hesitantly said yes, figuring I could probably warm up one of the Seitz movements in time.
Instead, my teacher asked me to pick from something in Suzuki book two. Book two? Really? I'm playing the Vivaldi A minor for heaven's sake! But then I remembered the recital in May and grudgingly chose Two Grenadiers. We went over it a few times and yes, it's still there. This one I can do.
This morning I got an email that listed what each of my teacher's students are playing. There are three others, all high schoolers. Each one of them is playing multiple pieces from Suzuki book 6 and beyond.
Talk about intimidating! Sure, they have been playing since they were tiny, but I'll bet they have vibrato, and confidence and great bowing skills. I'm older than their parents and am playing a piece from "the baby book" sans vibrato or confidence. The bowing skills are debatable.
Then I remembered that this opportunity is a gift. It's a gift of trust, and one of encouragement. As I said earlier, chances to perform are severely limited for middle aged desk jockeys. So what if I'm playing "Two Grenadiers"? I should go out there and play the best darn "Two Grenadiers" ever. After all, if it wasn't beneath David Nadien, who am I to turn my nose up at it?
Last night I had the opportunity to sit in on a local adult string ensemble. A recent acquaintance of mine is a member and suggested that I try it out. The group has no audition requirement and I was assured that the music was well within my capabilities.
My ensemble experience is limited to some early music jam sessions, and three studio performances. None of my previous experiences involved a conductor or much in the way of defined parts. Because of my limited exposure to group playing, I was very nervous about going. My friend offered to let me come with her so I wouldn’t walk in alone. She showed me where to stow my case, where to sit, and introduced me to people. Everyone was very friendly, and I felt more at ease once the conductor gave me the music and I realized that I could indeed play it.
The music is easy, but I’m glad it is. There is enough to do trying to figure out how to blend into a section, follow a conductor, and sight read never before seen music. I missed pretty much all of the dynamic markings, and some key changes last night. Counting appears to be my biggest obstacle right now. Yes, that was me playing not one, but two solos during the rests.
I discovered that hearing the melody line is hard when seated behind the first violin section unless the cellos are mirroring it. Having a conductor direct the sound and help massage the dynamics is much different than having it dictated in a lesson. In the practice room, it’s easy to tune out and just play the notes, but in ensemble it seems important to play with feeling. There’s a sense of partnership with the other voices that I haven’t really experienced in the past. You don’t want to let anyone down by being the rotten egg in the back row.
This is probably old hat to many of you. For me, this is what I imagine I missed out on by not having orchestra class as a child. I wish that all of my adult starter friends had this as an option if they want it. Being surrounded by a group of like-minded individuals trying to create a unified sound despite our varied backgrounds is a wonderful thing.
I can’t wait to go back next week.
More entries: September 2014
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.