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Mendy Smith

'New Job' - Day 2

February 3, 2009 at 6:18 AM

After diligently studying my scales, etudes, and Bloch all weekend, I "thought" I was prepared for what Joel had in store for me in my accelerated lesson plan for the next month.  WRONG!

Without the benefit of my scale book, and only the scale "cheat sheet" (it only includes the fingerings and shifts for all the scales - sort of), Joel started drilling me on my scales.  First, one of my choice:  D minor.  He told me that the judges will be looking for more than just intonation on scales, they will also be watching my technique, tone production, etc...  Then he started asking for various scales both major and minor.  Somehow I remembered how to play an E-flat major, then the minor.  Thank goodness I learned the trick of finger patterns.  I at least knew how to play any scale requested of me - it may not be perfect right now, but I won't be looking the judges in the eye with a blank stare.  He then worked me over/taught me martele bowing on the 2nd etude I'm studying. 

Then onto my audition piece, from the piano score this time.  One wonderful thing happened while studying from the score - I finished memorizing the piece, and now I'm looking at the piano part while I practice rather than my own.  This time I didn't make it past the first line without being stopped.  Apparently I "pulse" the beats a bit with my bow.  Yikes!  Then a major workout on one BEAT with a 16th note triplet followed by a regular 16th, again focus on the bow (last note is not accented even though it is marked that way).   

After torturing me enough on what I need to work on for the next few days, he began playing the piano part on viola with me again.  Through this experience once again I found out where my counting was just a bit off.  3 on 4 rhythms aren't easy.  It takes a tremendous amount of focus to keep the beat in your head and not be thrown off by what someone else is playing.  Add to that an accelerando and things become that much more difficult.  My teacher and I were both elated when I picked the uber high Eb from thin air.  But then I started slowing down instead of speeding up on the descent , the biggest problem being the shift from 5th on F# to 3rd position on D.  The rest of the piece went off without a hitch.  He had me play that descent from Eb again with accelerando no matter what happened.  I need to work on that part more over the next few days.

Lessons have suddenly changed from a part time passion to a grueling full-time practice regime.  Joel is expecting more from me now than ever before.  Every flaw in my playing that he was addressing with me in a more relaxed manner is now getting a renewed intense focus - to the point where I actually begged him to stop and promiced to work on it over the next few days.  All of this still comes with a tremendous amount of support and encouragement.  We both know what is at stake.  A - scholarship and B - my mental health while searching for a new "day job" and prepping to go back to school.  So far "B" is being accomplished. 

From Dottie Case
Posted on February 3, 2009 at 2:22 PM

Mendy, I think it's awesome how you are grabbing hold of the opportunity that has arisen out of a difficulty.  It will be so interesting to walk along with you and see where this all leads you.  I would love to be doing what you're doing, but it's not possible without a move for me....the nearest music program is 3 hours+ away.  Enjoy and thanks for sharing with us!

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