Thursday, October 29, 2015

Playing Beautifully

Here's something my students can all do, if I remind them.  They can play beautifully.  Some more beautifully than others, of course, based on their level of development, but they all know what it means. When I ask for it, they take care of the beginnings and ends of their phrases, and make themselves sound pretty.  It's an easy add-on.

Not one of them defaults to this without being reminded. Again, the more advanced they are the better they basically sound - but it gets better every time when I ask for beauty.

The regrettable aspect of this is that I, too, sometimes need to remind myself to play beautifully.

We can all get focused on the easy, quantifiable stuff - the notes and rhythms - and lose track of the overall aesthetic point. Of course, when I'm at my music stand at home learning the music for the gig that night, I'm not really thinking about the inherent beauty of my sound. I just want to make sure I'm not caught out unprepared in rehearsal, and I can take care of the pretty part when I get there and I'm in public.

But this is dumb.  How is the beauty of my playing going to improve if I don't work on it mindfully? Certainly my warmup deals with beginnings, endings, vibrato, etc - but how much better might everything be if everything I played, even in private, was done with exquisite attention to every detail?

Beauty. We know it when we hear it. Why do we think it's an extra element, to tack on at the end, rather than the ENTIRE POINT?

I resolve to do better.  Thank you, to all of my last week's students, for reminding me of this!

I've talked about this before, by the way - HERE.



Saturday, October 24, 2015

Sight Reading

I had a blast today sightreading the Joffrey Ballet's Sylvia performance. I've sightread performances before, in emergency situations, and compared to that this was a non-stressful gig, since I had had it on my calendar for weeks. I had had the music to prepare from, and I had attended one performance to hear the way the orchestra played and to practice watching the conductor's tempo changes.
 


That didn't mean that I wasn't a little tense about it. Being able to play all of the licks in the privacy of my room, at the tempos I set for myself, is one thing. But finding my place in the chords, picking my way through tempo and key changes in real time, and discovering in the moment just how my other colleagues were interpreting the tunes we play together is quite another.

What made this experience amazing was how nice all my colleagues were to me. I got lovely, clear, helpful cues from the principal flute, the second oboe, and of course the conductor. I felt supported and comfortable with the musicians behind me - I never felt like I was playing too loudly or softly because the group balanced to me seamlessly. Even though I must have been playing differently from the REAL principal oboe, they made me feel like I was doing it right.

There was even something awfully pleasant about fitting myself into this pre-existing ensemble. If I had attended all of the rehearsals I would have known all the ins and outs of the piece and would have been a part of the team that created the interpretation. But coming in as a stranger I got to enjoy my solo role without having to boss it, and what a pleasure that was! My job was simply to listen and  fit in and that's easy compared to the pitch and articulation negotiations that certainly went on during the first week of the cycle.

I'm on the train home now, as my colleagues set up and prepare for their second performance of the night. As much as I enjoyed my afternoon, I'm happy to let them go on without me. Reading Sylvia once was exhilarating and fun, but I'm not sure I have the energy in me to be the new girl again twice in one day. I was on HIGH ALERT for a full two and a half hours, and that really does take a lot. Everyone else in the pit is doing the show half asleep by now, and after a few more services I would be too, but after one tense show I'm glad to be able to let my guard down tonight.