Thursday, September 25, 2008

Classes begin!

After yesterday and today I've gone to each of my classes for the quarter, with the exception of oboe masterclass. I have to say, I'm a bit underwhelmed with my classes. I think that my expectations were too high.

My history class will be very close to the two medieval and renaissance classes that I took in undergrad, and the professor is quite scatterbrained. Plus, her comments, though probably not meant that way, got me all up in arms about not putting modern musicality and musical sensibilities onto the ideals of the past. My theory class will in fact be much easier than it was the first time around, as the class isn't a seminar and doesn't require a 14 page paper. Piano will be enjoyable and friendly. And my seminar on Broadway and opera will be both interesting and frustrating. The subject matter is great; we're talking about 9 musicals, including West Side Story, Jesus Christ Superstar, Les Mis, and Rent. However, I don't get to write any actual papers. Instead we have a class long "journal" and 9 one-page papers on topics that would suit much longer ones. I'm still a little unsure of the professor, who came in and wrote an outline on the board for such topics as "class introduction" and "syllabus," but who seems pretty funny and engaging, and a little bit eccentric: he looks exactly like a tall Joel Gray, and since taking a class in poetry at age 16, he has written his name all lowercase in imitation of e. e. cummings.

But while my classes were a bit underwhelming, orchestra was fantastic. I'm playing first on Tchaik's Romeo and Juliet, and second on 1812. Rehearsal started with Romeo, and I have to say that I was completely terrified the whole time we were playing that piece. It was the first time I'd played first in a real orchestra since, well, high school, and I'm so
used to having my teacher there in rehearsals to give me helpful tips. (I was also nervous because I'm told that the conductor is very intense and can be sort of mean. Yesterday, however, probably because we were all sight-reading, he was very nice.) AND YET. AWESOME. The cellos started going, and I started grinning madly, and all was well. 1812 was obviously less nerve-wracking, partially because of the fact that you can only hear the winds as a whole about three times in the entire piece. (I have to say that Tchaikovsky? What is up with that piece? That whole extended full-orchestra-unison section on running scales in the middle? It is very strange and boring.)

The brass! The bassoon! The STRINGS! Oh, the strings. We have so many of them, and they are all top notch players, mostly masters and doctoral students. Unfortunately they're sitting 1st - cello - viola - 2nd, which is not an orchestra arrangement that I care for, but they're rocking it. Plus, it means that I'm sitting smack in the middle of the middle/low strings, which I love.

I held my own in both pieces, which made me feel pretty good about my playing. That was nice because the few days before Wednesday I'd been very frustrated at my inability to concentrate when practicing, and I was feeling very unmusical and disconnected. And then I got to rehearsal, and all was well. I need to get some louder reeds, though, playing first, and with that large of a string section.

This morning (far too early this morning) I also had a short lesson. I watched my audition tape, and was very pleasantly surprised to hear myself. I was unhappy after the audition because I had perceived my tone as being very flat and heavy, but on the recording (and in person at the auditions, according to my teacher) I actually sounded quite vibrant and sparkling. I do still need to work on having a more consistent tone, though, and on making sure both that my fingers and tongue are absolutely lined up and that I don't let my fingers get in the way of my air on pieces like the Strauss. I also got a compliment on my vibrato which absolutely shocked me, as I have to really work for my vibrato, and I've never thought of it as particularly fluid. Apparently my work over the spring and summer has really started to pay off. :-) I also got some tips on reeds, and I'm going to try making some that look more like my teachers, with a shorter scrape and heavier rails.

Things to work on this quarter, then, include:
Consistency and fluidity
Not scraping the rails off of my reeds
Dynamic range
Emphasizing the small notes

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