Sunday, October 27, 2013

halloween cheers...

Date: 10/24/13
Orchestra: CYO
Attendance: good
Repertoire Rehearsed: Faure and Brahms
Little things I noticed: so quiet without SYO...
Wow, it seems like the sectionals last week went really well! You guys sound like a different orchestra now. And thanks to Mr. Lin and Mr. Luckenbil, who led the sectionals!

The Faure sounds much smoother, as if it's starting to get easier now. I bet you it is for most of you. You all seem to understand the music well now too, which is excellent. I'm starting to get some really nice textures.

There may have been a few note issues with the score and some of the parts, but I'll have everything sorted out by next week.

Please remember that slow 4/4 doesn't mean you don't need to think about rhythm. Rhythm must be accurate slow OR fast, which makes slow music much more rhythmically difficult (because of larger margin of error), which means that you actually must concentrate EXTRA HARD in slow music. :)

I was quite impressed with how well you stayed together through all the different tempi (plural of "tempo", I think. Am I right?) of the different sections of the Brahms! And those little crescendos were great! I think this one will be quite good. I'm excited.

To first violins - look at those 16th notes again. Those need to sound happy, but if you are struggling with them, they will not come out happy. They might come out like something fitting for the holiday...

Have a wonderful Halloween everyone! Go easy on the candies.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

into the realm of what's not written

Date: 10/12/13
Orchestra: Chamber
Attendance: good
Repertoire Rehearsed: same ol' two pieces
Little things I noticed: I guess from now on, walking into a room where a dance class was held a moment ago, means walk into a ac blasting frozen death trap. I hope this trend doesn't keep up during winter...
I think we had a pretty productive rehearsal today. It felt pretty focused to me. In terms of rehearsal technique, I used the same method I used for CYO a couple days before, which was to pick a small section and to concentrate on it. It is what I call a "quality over quantity" method :)

Once you learn how to work a small section in great details, you can, and (sometimes even subconsciously) will, apply the same method for all of the other sections, and even to the whole of the piece.

What's important for me is that I don't talk about how to enable you to play the notes, but that I talk about in what way, should the notes be played, how to play the notes in those specific ways. I want you  to think bigger. I want you to think of the world beyond notes. The world of music. Notes, intonation, basic rhythm and fundamental ensemble skills are definitely among things that we should talk about, but I want these topics to be talked about as review basis. Let's check each other out to see if we are all there at those basic level. But let's try not to dwell on it. I'm not saying we should ignore, but I'm saying let's practice well enough to graduate from those trivial problems as quickly as possible, so we can do things that are much more interesting, more meaningful, and a thousand times more fun. Let's think of your act as an effect. Every little thing you do on stage will change the effect you have on your audience. In rehearsals, we need to be talking about what exactly we are going to show the people and the world. We need to be discussing what kind of musical effect we want to have on the audience, and how to go about doing that.

We are way too intelligent, creative, bold, talented, and imaginative to be stuck on the superficialities of what's "written" on the pages. We need to think what is "implied".

Let's talk more about this next time.

bits and pieces

Date: 10/10/13
Orchestra: CYO
Attendance: good
Repertoire Rehearsed: the sad piece and the schizo one
Little things I noticed: the longer I wait to write an entry since the event, the harder it is to write in this section. I will try to post earlier from now on...
So in this rehearsal, we took very small sections of the pieces and concentrated on clarifying confusing passages, and worked on small details that make a big difference in the end.

We started with the end of Faure. This piece is interesting in a sense that it stays quite simple for pretty much the whole duration of the piece, but only at the very end, we see modifications, and some developments to the theme, and this can be a bit shocking and weird for performers that are not yet familiar with the piece.

But there is nothing too complicated here. I think it's just a matter of being familiar with it.

In complete contrast to the Faure, the Brahms is quite a bit schizophrenic. It changes it's character 180 degrees in a matter of a few measures. From serious to comical, from happy to sad. And we have to act all of them up. The notes are easy, but there definitely is a LOT of difficulty in this music, especially because we have to make each section of the music different, but complimentary to each other, and each of them need to come alive, and be clear, and do all that with the 30 of us as a single unit.

But I have a good feeling that we will be successful :)

Reminder: This week (10/17) is a sectional rehearsal. You will be slightly more exposed so you might want to look over your parts extra hard this week. If there is any technical confusions, difficulty, awkwardness, questions, etc., THIS is the time to ask your coaches, so be sure to ask them lots of questions.

I'll see you next week!

Monday, October 7, 2013

CYO rehearsal schedule for October

Please ignore what I said about the next rehearsal in my last entry.

Here's the correct schedule for this month

Oct. 10th - full orch. rehearsal (regular rehearsal)
Oct. 17th - sectionals (I will not be there)
Oct. 24th - regular rehearsal
Oct. 31st - regular rehearsal (for now)

I will let you know if there will be further changes


swing, miss and think

Date: 10/05/13
Orchestra: chamber
Attendance: very good
Repertoire rehearsed: same two piecesno new piece yet, but perhaps next week!
Little things I noticed: So on the weekend, I guess we have a different custodian/engineer/stage hand (not sure what his title is....) at the MAC. I already forgot his name (I'll ask him again next time), but I LOVE how he remembers howI set up the chairs, and that formation is waiting for me when I get there! Thank you, Mr. Custodian/engineer/stage hand!

Although it's getting closer, we are still not very comfortable with the Bulgarian piece, yet. I'm sure we will get there soon, but it seems to me that we are way too afraid of making mistakes. I dare say this, but I think the way most adults teach kids about how bad making mistakes is, is wrong. Mistakes are exactly what teaches you NOT to do. So long as you know that they are mistakes, you will try to avoid them next time. A teacher is there to point out those mistakes in case you don't notice. But if you hide by playing quietly, or not playing, then you've just shut your own door to the future. There is nothing either one (teacher or student) can do to improve, if you won't let yourself be heard, by yourself, or by anyone else. By playing, you are constantly experimenting. Even if you play well, by playing, you are asking yourself, "can I do this even better?". So you make yourself try things in different ways, and approaches, and methods. Many of the things you try may not work, but you will learn that sound, and how to produce them, so maybe you can use that sound for something else in the future. That's how you learn things and cultivate YOUR OWN sounds and "voice". And that's what all great artists have - their own "voice" - their own unique way of looking at the world, and not being ashamed of sharing it with the rest of the world - being confident that what you've cultivated over the years brings some kind of benefit (whether it is inspiration for your fellow artists and your students, or simple joy for the audience).

Even if you are still at the point where you are struggling with the notes and rhythm. The more you try, the quicker you'll get it. That's simple enough, right? Isn't that why we are supposed to practice? Practicing is simply, doing, or try doing. It's all the same. Rehearsals are also practices. If there is ever a place to make mistakes, it is during those practices. That is what they are there for.

At the same time, what you need to consider is that, a rehearsal is where you try things out as a group, NOT individually. Meaning if you are hiding, then you are not participating, and the whole practice is wasted, because we won't have all the sounds we need. So it is essential, that you have your notes down somewhat comfortably so people in the group can hear how the piece goes and where you are as a group, so you can figure out how much work you have to do, as a group AND individually. But if there are a few of you too scared to play, we can't even make the first step towards any direction. But even if you make lots of mistakes during rehearsals, it is better to make them LOUD than soft. If there is a loud mistake, everyone will know, and then we can stop and fix it, which is a good thing. If we can't hear the mistakes, we may not notice, and those mistakes will go unfixed, and we cease to improve. THE BIGGEST MISTAKE YOU CAN MAKE IS TO HIDE BY NOT PLAYING OUT!

Please understand that, when you sign yourselves up to join a group, you have given yourself a rather big responsibility. The more often you swing your bat, the more you will miss, yes. But the more you miss, the more and harder you think about what you can do to change so you can hit the ball next time. The more audible you are the quicker we (or yourself) can fix things, and obviously, the quicker we improve, the further we can go, and that's always a good thing. So swing your bat often and hard, at home AND during rehearsals.

everyone looked lovely on this picture day

Date: 10/03/13
Orchestra: CYO
Attendance: very good
Repertoire rehearsed: New piece and a bit of Mozart
Little things I noticed: You all looked great today. There is something about dressing up from time to time. I think it helps sharpen your minds sometimes too. Speaking of dressing up, I'm looking forward to our holloween day rehearsal :)

So the new piece by Dvorak has a lot of tempo changes as you all noticed. But other than that, the piece is pretty straight forward. The notes are easy, the rhythm is easy, and it is in an easy key for everyone (for once). So with this piece, I am aiming to hone our ensemble skills - being aware of, and paying attention to what's going on in the music and your surroundings, paying attention to me (the conductor), being flexible with time, and listening carefully to your colleagues, so that your sounds are united, not only in a rhythmical sense, but also in terms of timber, character, and quality.
The easier the piece gets, the more I am going to demand from you, so brace yourselves :)

I thought though, in this rehearsal, you guys sounded so much more mature and even confident, than you did in the last two rehearsals, which is great! There were a lot more noticeable differences in dynamics, and characters, and I definitely heard some changes in character of the sounds you are making, which is wonderful. Keep that up! Once everyone in the orchestra is able to control their sounds at will, we will sound AMAZING.

Just remember, playing the correct notes is not your goal here. Music making is much more than that. All of your notes are representations of an image or an idea, or a part of an image or an idea. To make music as an ensemble, we need to collectively agree on the image that we will "paint", and then agree on HOW we will "paint" those ideas and images. A musician is a painter, a poet, a dancer, sculptor and an actor. Our job is to tell stories just like all other artists, but our tool of choice is SOUND - one of the least developed of all five senses that humans have. That's why music is difficult. We need to be EXTRA sensitive to be able to hear such subtle differences and understand them, and then reproduce them in exactly the way we want to, so that we can hope that the audience hears our little stories that we are making.

NEXT REHEARSAL is a sectional rehearsal. Mr. Lin will coach the strings and Mr. Luckinbil will take the winds/brass downstairs (but please meet at the gallery first!). I will miss you guys, but I will be looking forward to hearing your vastly improved sounds in the following rehearsal. See you then!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

beautiful day took the flats away

(sorry, I had an unexpected last-minute birthday party I had to attend to... can't seem to keep my words...)

Date: 09/28/13
Orchestra: chamber
Attendance: very good
Repertoire rehearsed: same two pieces
Little things I noticed: It was so gorgeous out today, so I took my cello out to a photo shoot before the rehearsal :)
Ok, so I really want you to blossom with your FULL potential. And I feel like those stupid flats are getting in the way. So I decided to change the key of the Bulgarian piece by lowering it by one half step. Now you have ONE sharp to deal with instead of four flats. This should make your lives a bit easier. Although now the clarinet part has three sharps, as opposed to two flats it had before (not sure which is better or worse...). But now that your lives are easier (at least for the most of you), you know what that means, right? NO MORE EXCUSES! :)

The music is easy, really... I expect you to be fairly proficient with this by the next rehearsal.

With the Haydn, please continue imitating the recording I sent you. REALLY listen carefully to their sounds. What kind of sounds are they producing?  Soft, loud, articulated smooth, thick, thin, heavy, light, serious, comical, sad, happy??? Try to do the same.