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Pauline Lerner

Mission Impossible

June 15, 2007 at 3:53 AM

Many of my students play in concerts given by their school orchestras at the end of the school year, and some of them are offered the opportunity to play a short solo, duet, or trio piece of their own choice. One of my first year students wanted to play a duet with a friend who plays cello, so I found a few easy pieces scored for violin and cello for them. They chose Swallowtail Jig, which my student plays very well, especially for a beginner. (I’m proud.) The cello part is harmony and easy to play. Their performance went very well.

The issue was more complex for another of my students, who is finishing his second year of classroom lessons, first year of private lessons. He comes from a very musical family. His father, brother, and sister, all play trumpet. I congratulated him on having the courage of his convictions. His extended family is full of brass instrument players, young and old. Twenty of them marched and played in a local Memorial Day performance. There were 19 brass players and one fiddler. Hurray for the fiddler! My student, his brother, and a friend who plays trombone decided to play a short piece together as part of the school orchestra concert. How could I find an easy piece scored for violin, trumpet, and trombone? I couldn’t. The school orchestra leader gave them a short segment of the theme from Mission Impossible to play. I shuddered when I saw it. It’s written in four flats in 5/4 time. It is aptly named. The orchestra teacher coached my student one-on-one during a few of his recess sessions, which he happily gave up for the coaching. His teacher annotated the piece thoroughly with l2, h3, etc. I coached him on it, too, and he practiced it diligently and enthusiastically. He learned it well in a short time, and I was proud. The three kids had rehearsals at home with my student’s father conducting. At his last lesson with me before the concert, my student said that the hardest part was coming in at exactly the right time. There were 2-bar rests and short segments of solo or duo playing. I wanted to help him with that, and his mother, who was present at the lesson, said that she had heard it so many times that she could sing the trumpet part. We tried that, but it didn’t work quite right. My student said that he thought that his brother played the same notes he did but two measures earlier. I tried to play the trumpet part on my violin as he described it, but, again, it didn’t work quite right. Then we called the brother at home, set the phone on “speaker,” and had the two boys play the tune together. (Isn’t technology great?) They got it right. The boys’ father wanted to conduct the trio at the concert, but the school orchestra teacher said no, she would conduct. However, at the concert, the father was able to stand behind the teacher, where she couldn’t see him but the three players could, and he conducted, too. The mother videotaped the whole performance and showed it to me. The players started off a little shaky but recouped quickly and gave a very good performance. Mission Impossible was made possible. Bravo!

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