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Showing posts from August, 2013

"Standard Concerto"

I LOVE auditions.  Have I mentioned that before?  It is so inspiring to hear wonderful players performing beautifully for us, and I always learn something that I can apply to my own work.

Friday we listened to Cello, Bass, and Violin auditions here in South Bend.  In each case, the candidate was asked to start with the exposition of a “standard concerto”.  In practice, this means that everybody played a different piece, which in many cases was unfamiliar to me.  A concerto that bass players learn as a “standard” is not necessarily one that is frequently performed in the orchestra, and even a piece I’ve played many times, like the Sibelius Violin Concerto, sounds different when I’m listening from the house and not playing at the same time.   How, I asked myself, is this segment of the audition relevant to me?  As the token wind player on the committee, I figured I’d just wait for them to get to the excerpts; since everyone would be playing the same material I could then compare apples …

Upcoming Concert: Bringing the Community In

We’ll be doing a Community Play-In at the end of our Saturday night park concert - an arrangement of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy (with all the vocal parts and the hard parts removed).  The South Bend Symphony will be joined on stage with nearly fifty players from the community.  These range from young high school students to senior citizens, and I think that this will end up being a thrill for us and for them.

We had a rehearsal the other night with these community players.  Only a handful of symphony musicians were present, and we worked on an eight minute piece for two and a half hours, which felt to me like a recipe for a dreadful evening. 

And it did feel interminable at first.  The group started playing, and fell apart completely at the first time change.  We corrected, restarted, and fell apart again in some string section counterpoint.  I was already checking my watch. 

The work we did was not as directed as it would have been in a professional group.  Pretty much we just played litt…

Time!

School has started!  I now have FOUR GLORIOUS HOURS of uninterrupted grownup time every day where before I had to fight and beg and bribe for every minute of practice and reed work and thought that I got.  I’m already planning my approach. 

I read a book this summer: Laura Vanderkam’s “168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think”.  I’m not exactly recommending it - there are plenty of spectacular productivity books out there and this was not at all one of the best - but I was inspired by her way of considering the week in terms of total hours - so that you can decide how to spend your time over a longer block than a day or an hour.

It’s a little bit obvious - that if a week is composed of 168 hours you can choose how to spread your work and life out within that time, and plan hours for sleeping, working out, cooking, and DOING GOOD WORK.  But somehow I’ve never thought of it that way - as a big chart instead of a little one.  I often feel bad if I don’t get to practice, run, write, co…

GREAT Chamber Music

I attended a concert Monday night!  This just about never happens, but it was utterly good for my soul.  I’ve been inspired ever since, both in my practicing and in my planning for the season ahead.

I went out to Michigan City, Indiana, where my friend Nic’s Michigan City Chamber Music Festival is in the middle of its twelfth season.  I had never made it to one of their concerts, although they are located less than an hour from my home, during my slow season of mid August, and some of my good friends and colleagues are featured performers.  We were in Colorado last summer, but beyond that I have no excuses whatsoever. 

And the concert was wonderful.  Friendly and informal in all the right ways, beautifully professional and uncompromising in others.  The musicians were completely accessible - there was no backstage to speak of and so they stood right at the back of the hall until everyone was seated.  I got to visit with them on the way to my seat.  They spoke before almost every piece …

Final Parks Concert - New Oboe!

Yesterday our outdoor concert moved indoors, due to torrential rain, and because we were inside and climate-controlled I could not resist playing my new oboe. 

Yes, I bought a new oboe.  Just a few days ago.  A Bulgheroni Opera model, and I was pretty sure I loved it - but playing alone in your room for a week is a great way to talk yourself into some doubts.  I was eager to get it out in public, just to make sure that it was a team player. 

After all, I could play the oboe in tune with my tuner, but matching with other players is another factor altogether.  Did every note have the flexibility I needed?  Would I be able to easily change the sound to blend with a flute or a trumpet or to bring a solo line forward?  Was it easy to USE, in other words?  I knew I liked it in isolation but needed to know how much it would fight me in the orchestra.

And it was great.  I know I’ll write more about this instrument as I get to know it better - but right now it seems to be giving me exactly what…