Tag Archives: baltimore symphony orchestra

d-d-d-defense!

first things first, i think it’s curious that the one time i have a week off from EVERYTHING (google: snowpocalypse baltimore) that i didn’t blog. i was too busy being completely wrapped up in the beginning of my thesis and having crippling cabin fever. now that i’ve re-entered society, the blood is flowing and my mind is a little more agile. (so get ready for a barrage of posts)

now to this post…i had my first lesson in two or so weeks due to conflicts, snow and illness and i was really looking forward to it. i had done a lot of work on the allemande movement of the fourth Bach cello suite and any time my teacher and i work on Bach is a good time. my lessons tend to be a lot more concept-oriented and i think Bach brings out the best in my playing. i sit down and play the whole movement, repeats and all. PK rubs his chin and just looks at me. this induces a serious amount of worrying on my part. he looks at me and says, “the feeling that i get from that is that you’re holding back…”. i interject with, “do you mean, like, time?” and he says no. he meant sound wise but more importantly, musically. he continues on with this speech about how the conductor of our orchestra talks about me, how he likes what i do in rehearsals and in performance (which apparently means that he and i gel, whatever that means) but in orchestra, i don’t have to take risks, it’s not needed. here, in my solo work, i wasn’t being gutsy enough. to paraphrase (in a way my teacher would NEVER say), i was playing like a pussy.

well sure enough, as soon as he got to his point, i started to tear up a little. why? because he had hit a super sweet spot. he was right, i wasn’t taking any risks but it was subconscious. last year, i took lessons with BSO principal tubist David Fedderly, and one of the most important things i took from those lessons was that i was afraid of being musical because growing up, so many people had told me that i was being too risky and emotional with my playing. so i bottled up all of the emotion because i was a kid, what did i know. and after all of that time, i put up a wall. my collegiate professors (and even my peers) say the same thing: we can see you thinking about the music, but we don’t hear it.

and yes, i cried in those lessons, too. a lot.

so we spent the majority of the lesson trying to get me to open up. of course, i was amenable, that’s what i want but it’s hard to put yourself out there on the edge. it’s really scary. but isn’t that what performance is, anyway? that same night, i went with a friend of mine to a BSO concert (Brubeck, Ansel Adams: America; Mussorgsky, arr. Ravel, Pictures at an Exhibition) and while i was watching certain players, the first word that came to my mind was histrionics. and attached to that word was a certain kind of repulsion that really bothered me. but was that the kind of musical bravery that i was lacking? in an orchestral setting, it’s hard to tell, but it is definitely food for thought.

why do we allow our students and ourselves to hide behind a wall of proficiency? just like certain things that kids do intrinsically, we have to learn to trust our musical instincts and see them through, even if it means crashing and burning a few times. i see this as being a possible life-long battle, as it has taken years to build up these defense mechanisms. but there is hope, even if that means shedding a few tears.

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twelve drummers drumming

well i’m snowed in here in baltimore, which presents the unique opportunity to either a) get a lot of things accomplished or b) do absolutely nothing. you can take a guess how the day played out. in any case, a handful of musical tidbits for this particular season:

  • a fabulous post from the guys over at Amusicology, on, ironically enough, how to get to work on your dissertation. i should really implement this…
  • this is the season when everyone puts out a christmas album (much to my dismay) and my time working at the gap has taught me to guard your music wisely! Pandora is working well as i made a “This Christmas” radio station (after the classic Donny Hathaway song & my favorite christmas song), try it out if you’re looking for some new music.
  • a yule log doesn’t hurt (even if it’s electronic)

this past week has been interesting and has raised a lot of issues and thoughts that, i suppose, need addressing. i’ve been taking a class this semester called Community Engagement and we all had to give final projects at the end of the year. mine took place on friday — a selection of musical theater songs with some theater games and info at a baltimore city middle school. over all it went well but there were moments when i wondered if i knew what i was doing. first, what we were up against: middle schoolers. no matter what part of the country, what class, race or socio-economic strata, middle schoolers are all the same. too cool for everything and hormones, hormones, hormones. so the thought of getting 20 kids to listen to me talk about rodgers & hammerstein seemed highly unlikely. and i was right, partly. the first group of kids (all girls, actually) was really excited and seemed cooperative. the group that followed wanted nothing to do with me and i choked. i learned a valuable lesson, many, actually, and tried to keep moving forward. my performers were unfazed which is testament to their professionalism and willingness.

but how do you lose the academic veneer that you’ve been working on? how do you make music history approachable to 13 year olds? i had an interesting conversation with my performers before we started about how to reach people. in the last year of my undergraduate, my new music ensemble along with students from the drama department took a full version of Stravinsky’s L’histoire on tour. our second stop was a high school in bay ridge (brooklyn) where we performed parts of l’histoire and parts of Steve Reich’s Drumming. they seemed unimpressed, at best. my pianist mentioned that they may just not have known how to express interest because, let’s face it, who hears Reich and Stravinsky live in their high school?

so i hoped in vain that part of this project would hit home and i think it did. an adorable 7th grader came up to our vocalist asking all sorts of questions. made me feel good even if i kind of flaked. (if you’re wondering, i got a B+ in the class which was to be expected). i think sometimes, we’re so caught up in academia and the impractical aspects of our field that we forget about their very practical applications. as far as getting out in the community, i’m a little rusty but i plan on rectifying that (in the form of an internship at the BSO’s ORCHkids program). how many musicologists, professors or what have you would have been able to do what i did on friday or would have even entertained the idea? if middle schoolers and church goers and kids at the Y don’t know about a symphony, what’s the point?

you can contend that point if you wish. my platform is that there isn’t one, but that’s just my take.

for something a little less existential…i was lucky enough to receive, as a thank you for my GA work, two tickets to the Berlin Philharmonic’s Digital Concert Hall from my advisor. i’m taking advantage of this present tomorrow and watching Donald Runnicles conduct Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem. i really have fallen in love with this thing, on so many levels. for the inner tech geek in me, the quality of this is just outstanding, from the website to the actual production. it’s a pleasure to watch and feels like a grand event. and, of course, the music is just first rate. it seems that this is a venture that the Berlin Phil is strongly behind, using it to allow people all over the opportunity to hear great music. their outreach program that is tied in with this (with the help of Deutsche Bank) is also outstanding. so maybe it is related to what i discussed before. programs like this and the Met Live in HD (their cinema showings and their online player) make me slightly less worried about the future. it’s work on both ends of the scale that matter.

well, if i don’t see you before the new year, merry christmas and happy holidays. relax, be safe and love one another. i’ll leave you with a song from my very well guarded christmas mix, James Taylor’s cover of Joni Mitchell’s classic, River.

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