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Getting Older, Getting Better

So we have a concert tonight in Northwest Indiana, and may I say, I am so happy to be getting older.  I distinctly remember a time when it would have stressed me out to be playing Daphnis and Chloe, with its 12 pages of awkward solos and WICKED hard technique, or Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, with the fiendishly delicate high solos and scary rhythmic holes to fall into and WICKED hard technique, or the Korngold Violin Concerto with lengthy complex rests to count and nonintuitive exposed entrances - but not now. 

If I am not actually playing EVERY note of the Ravel, I’m coming close, and if I don’t hit EVERY one in the moment, at least I know that I can do it in my practice room.  I am able to sit back a bit and think about musical choices and tone colors in the solos, instead of merely hoping and praying that the notes will speak.  I can enjoy the presentation of our soloist, the excellent Corey Cerovsek, instead of counting with all of my might and all of my conscious mind to get to my next entrance.  I can notice the shifting pitch centers in the orchestra instead of always being caught up in them and swept away from reality, and I can make choices to join or to resist when the group rushes or drags against the pulse. 

It’s hard to describe just how liberating it is to know that I know what I’m doing.  It’s not exactly that I won’t make a mistake or play something out of tune or miss a note - but that it feels like it’s all in perspective.  I probably won’t be the sole reason the concert is ruined, and probably the concert won’t be ruined at all but will go just fine.  Our rocky dress rehearsal last night doesn’t make me anxious for tonight.  It’s great music and we have rehearsed plenty and it will be fun. 

I think this is different from being cocky or overconfident.  I still know that I suck, and I am always working to improve.  But playing in the orchestra?  I can do that.  Doesn’t matter if it’s hard.  I can do that. And that’s a feeling I didn’t have when I was 22. 

Everything has gotten easier over the course of nearly twenty years of professional work.  I remember being terrified and traumatized by Kodaly’s Dances of Galanta the first time I played it, but last week in South Bend we had simply a blast doing it.   The Lutoslawski Concerto for Orchestra, similarly, was a maze of hard notes when I encountered it 12 years ago, but now as a grown-up I can grasp the compositional techniques, the formal structure, and the patterns within the technical passages, and nothing feels as hard. 

The fact that my life is overwhelming, with far less time for practice and reflection than I would like, does not take away from the fact that I am MUCH more competent at my job than I used to be, and it’s a great feeling.  I love my life.

Northwest Indiana Symphony Concert tonight!  Details HERE.


  1. I am truly sorry I didn’t know about the NWIndiana concert. Unfortunately other commitments preempted it. The program seemed so delightful and hated to miss it. I have never heard the orchestra before, nor Cerovsek playing the challenging Korngold which is intriguing surely. But I regret missing Daphnis and Chloe with its inimitable, alternating wind games….
    I did NOT miss last Saturday’s SBSO concert which I enjoyed. Tsu Yeh is very ingenious in picking programs. He manages the ideal combination of popularity of pieces and the engagement of his musicians. Kudos!!
    So you have reached the phase in your musical life when the sense of doing things right converge with the sum total of the efforts of years and become the most enviable reward. Please don’t stop. Keep singing…

  2. Yes, wasn't that SBSO concert a blast? We muttered and questioned the programming the whole week, and then LOVED it that night. Actually, the same thing happened in NISO, now that I think of it. Perhaps I should just stop second guessing things and enjoy the ride!

    Thanks, Dimitri!

  3. Great post! This weekend's concerts left me with a similar feeling: We performed Gershwin's American in Paris, which amazingly had not been in my musical rotation since HIGH SCHOOL All-State Orchestra. Ha! During the concert I was musing that I can simply enjoy collaborating with my fellow musicians and sing out the parts and not worry about tricky parts, exposed sections, etc, etc, etc. It's no Daphnis and Chloe, but it is nice to realize that some things improve with age (when there's lots of practice in between). And good to hear about Corey! He's an old friend of mine and I bet his performances of the Korngold were riveting. Warmest regards,


  4. So cool to see that the years of work are making their magic. To quote my student, "Go, Practicing!"

    Thanks for reading, Christa!


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