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Mendy Smith

Interlochen with V.Com Friends

August 30, 2011 at 12:33 AM

This year's Interlochen's Adult Chamber Music Camp was special in many ways.  First was making two new V.Com friends:

Elise Stanley, Mendy Smith and Amy Sexauer at the closing reception

I met Elise first before registration began in the hallway of the hotel.  After giving her time to change rooms and get settled, I knocked on her door and said "Let's Play!".  Elise, my good friend Josh and I played through the Beethoven Terzetto.  She did a marvelous job sight-reading the piece.  Afterwards, we broke for lunch and then headed down to register for camp.

A few hours later while waiting for the opening meeting to begin, another very tall person came up and asked if I was Mendy.  It had to be Amy (which it was)!  She was already "adopted" by another "camper" on the flight over, both having had their luggage lost on the flight.  Luckily she had most of her essentials and viola with her.  A little digging through what I brought with me handled the rest until her luggage arrived the next morning.  This year there was a bigger shortage of violists than usual.  Within minutes, Amy, Josh and I were bombarded with requests to play with various groups.  Sooner than I would have expected our dance cards were filled up.  

This year, Josh and I signed up for three days of coaching on Frank Bridge's "Lament" and Michael Daughtery's "Viola Zombies" with my former teacher Joel as our coach.  During our first coaching session with Joel, he suggested that we perform the "Lament" at the participant's concert.  More on that later....

Amy, Josh and I had the opportunity to play Kimber's "Reflection" for 3 violas.  She did a marvelous job.  The first read through was beautiful!  Josh and I also had the opportunity to play some Mozart Quintets with Elise which was one of the most enjoyable groups I had played with that week.  

At the participant's concert, Elise was before me and Josh.  She played a gorgeous piece for violin and piano (Elise, you will have to remind me the name of it).  She played very well with a poise and confidence that I was hoping to inherit in a small way.

After changing the setup for Josh and I to perform and introducing the piece, my heart started racing thumping very loudly.  My first though was "NO!  Not Now!!!"  I had several measures of Josh playing solo in order to compose myself.  With a deep inhale & exhale, I started playing.  There were a few moments where I thought my bow arm shakes would come back, but luckily they were held at bay.  After the last note died away we were blown away by the applause and didn't quite know how to react to it.  Most of our performance experience has been at our church where an applause simply does not happen.  

The moment was bitter-sweet.  That performance was our last one together for quite some time since Josh had moved to Atlanta on the drive up to Interlochen.  I am going to miss him dearly.  

With luck, I will see all three of them again next year.  

From elise stanley
Posted on August 30, 2011 at 12:43 AM

What a lovely account!  And I just have to take the opportunity to thank you for all the help and advice before and during camp.  An unexpected major benefit of being a member!   Interlochen was all I imagined and hoped it would be - and much more.  Meeting you and Amy and a plethora of other sensational musicinas, all the 'trial by fire' playing (walk into room, sit down, play chamber music you've never seen before) and the freedom to just play when you want to were all highlights.  Oh, and the breakfast fried tomatoes at Bud's diner!

And thank you also for the generous comments on my playing - to be honest, it always felt as if I was struggling to keep up, the standard was very high.  I also felt that quintet aftenoon session was a high spot of the camp - lets see, Mozart #5 and Mendelssohn #2?  BTW the violin-piano (with David Moore) piece was Melodie by Gluck (Kreisler arrangement).   Its funny that I came accross as self assured - I was petrified up there and felt it was awful at the time fortunately my recording actually wasn't too bad.  However, your duet stole the show - beautifully phrased and a pleasure to hear.

Can't wait till next year.....

From Mendy Smith
Posted on August 30, 2011 at 1:59 AM


Geeze, thanks!  You deserve the compliments yourself.  I think your dancing background has a positive influence on your violin performance.  You exuded a poise that I envied.  Looking back my own performance, I'm now nitpicking every flaw.  What is it with my first finger flying up in the air all the time and why am I bobbing my head?

 Re: the sight reading extravaganza.....  Can't say I didn't warn you about that ;)  Over time, sight reading chamber music comes easier.  It takes time and practice like anything else.  You did much better than I did my first year there a few years ago.  I was just as glad to pass of the viola 1 part of Mozart #5 to Josh!  

Start looking through the violin/viola repertoire.  I know of a few pianist that go every year and we can pre-arrange a coaching session or two with the goal of performing....

From elise stanley
Posted on August 30, 2011 at 3:48 AM

Actually I do think you are right with respect to the dancing and presentation.  One thing that you have to do is look confident all the time, even if you fall over!  I would be very pleased if that carried over.  But I still only hear flaws - I was unable to let go in the manner that I think I am capable of.  Still its a major step forward for me....

Rep?  I don't know about piano-violin-viola.  If we can snare a cello I think the possibilities go up astronomically.  I think Phillip might be game...

From Christina C.
Posted on August 30, 2011 at 4:25 PM

Hooray for v.commie bonding! And thanks for sharing it here.

I'm just back from camps myself & I was very much struck by the role of appearances in playing. I had a friend who was drafted to perform as one of 2 soloists in a casual performance. I knew she was nervous. She even had some intonation issues during the performance, but she played out and with confidence whereas with the other soloist, I didn't hear any glaring errors, but what I noticed the most was that she seemed to be 'playing safe' or even 'playing scared'... same as what I saw in quite a few of the other players in their performances.

The other observation I had was with a violinist friend. He's a phenomenally good player and I was so impressed with his interpretation of the music during a free-lance reading session. He really seemed to pay attention to & execute every nuance on the page... a good reminder of what I could use some work on, in fact  (I'm also being struck by how much of what chamber music coaches say really just boils down to paying attention to what's actually written in the music, but that's a whole 'nother topic). He then performed in a group that included a playing coach and while he played a difficult piece wonderfully, his playing really seemed to pale in comparison to the coach. The coach played with expression & ease ( enjoyment, even)  that was hard to miss. I'm still trying to figure that one out- how much of it was the visual perception vs. how much was the difference in playing levels.

In my own experience I'm finding that approaching playing with a 'just go for it' attitude seems to work for me.... it's more fun too.

*end ramble*


-Fabulous playing, Mendy, that does not seem like an easy piece! I saw some vibrato there and it definitely made for a lovely warm sound.

From Mendy Smith
Posted on August 31, 2011 at 3:23 AM

 Thanks Christina.

It was not an easy piece and was two years in the making to get it to that level.  It is so full of chord progressions that require independent finger movements it ain't funny.  Vibrato is nearly impossible for me with simple double stops as it is.  Add to it the fear factor of performing, and I'm happy that I got any vibrato in at all.

Something to work on....

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