Monday, December 22, 2014

Trust and Gratefulness

"Grateful" - is the first word that comes to my mind when reflecting upon last week's concert. I am grateful for the students who worked hard and did their best on stage, grateful for the Rockit kids and staff to come join us for this concert in the midst of their busy schedule, grateful for the audience members who showed appreciation and support, grateful for the board members and the MAC staff who did everything they can to help the event go as smoothly as possible.
Overall, I am extremely grateful for every single one of you who had anything to do with this concert at all, for supporting me, and above all, trusting me to let me do the things I wanted to, no matter how ambitious, unusual and experimental they might have seemed in the beginning.

I decided to give it a go for these ideas for I trusted in your openness and that students' capacity and talents to handle them. I trusted in the parents and the coaches that they would welcome my ideas. I trusted in the materials themselves, for them to possess educational values, while being entertaining at the same time. And you in turn, trusted me. And I am tremendously grateful for that.

And it starts from the smallest thing. Letting us have a run-through on our last scheduled rehearsal day was tremendously helpful. All small concerns I had such as chairs and music stands setup and striking before and between the groups, the microphone situation, knowing exactly how the concert will begin, etc. were all met with calmness and professionalism.

As one of the characters from a show I was binge watching on internet (an old show I'm too embarrassed to name...) defined, "trust" is "believing and following someone you do not know that you can trust anyway". It is a leap of faith. It always involves risks. But somehow, your faith in the positive outcome, your positive outlook, seems to scale the odds towards your favor.

To be honest, in previous years, many of these things did not happen, and I always felt rushed and slightly panicked during NJSYO concerts. I often felt that I couldn't do things at my own pace and was always adjusting to situations someone else had created, and felt that the performances suffered from all the "accommodations" I had to make. Running around tuning students' instruments, discussing concerns about their dresses, music stands and sheet music, setting up the chairs for both groups myself, rehearsing, deciding/practicing what to say on stage (as many of you know, public speaking is THE worst nightmare of mine), having concerns about my own instrument for when I perform with the chamber group, trying to give students pep talk while I myself was panicking and being rushed to be on stage, while not knowing exactly how and when things were to happen, just wasn't working.

But this year, none of that happened, or if they did, they happened in the most controlled manner. Partly because I was determined and vowed to myself that I'd do things at my own pace, but more importantly, it is because you let me. All of you. You trusted me. And each and every one of us communicated our concerns to each other, and each of those concerns were taken care of calmly by all of us .

This is a good team. And by team, I mean to include all of us, the students, board members, coaches, parents, the staff at MAC. This works, and I am very proud to be a member of this fine team.

Thank you all. And I wish you the happiest holidays and a happy new year!

See you all next year!

Monday, December 8, 2014

even the greatest genius needs our help - the proper tone

Now that we added some dimensions in Mozart, I think it sounds 100 times better. Playing a music is much like sculpting. Not that I know anything about sculpting, but I'd imagine chiseling away at a rock until it becomes something recognizable and further until it becomes a work of art that would be admired for centuries, is similar to the process of plainly playing the notes on page, to creating grooves, shadows, peaks, angles, breaths, plateaus, valleys, rifts and lifts to make shapes and stories out of those notes.

But they must be done. Just because the piece is written by one of the most brilliant geniuses ever stepped foot on Earth, it doesn't mean that we can simply play the notes and expect magic to happen. 

Mozart was a composer. Composers write ideas. But ideas require voices so they can be uttered and heard. So long as there are musicians, Mozart will always have voices. Right now, we are one of his voices. And the voice will have a better effect on the audience, if the tone of the voice properly reflected the tone of the idea. Therefore, the voice always needs a brain. Obviously we have one in each of our heads. But we have to use them to understand the music. Who was Mozart? What was his ideal? What were his values? What was his philosophy? What was the world around him like? What was he influenced/inspired/fueled by? Who did he want to be? Who was his audience? What/How did he want us to think?

These are the things we need to know, and mix it in with our own imagination inspired by his notes on page, and only then, we can have the "proper tone".

Obviously, this goes with any piece of music you will ever play. So no, Mozart does not get a special treatment, ever. Every music has characters and ideas. Some deeper than others, but nevertheless they all require some degrees of understanding and imagination. From J.S. Bach to Busta Rhymes, from Ravi Shanker to Dean Martin.

For Down on the Corner, I'm glad many of you found the recording I made helpful. Decide on EXACTLY what you will play for each section, then all you do is practice going through different sections (take a couple at a time, then eventually the whole song). I'm so glad it's coming along!

Friday, December 5, 2014

yin and yang - things to improve and things to be proud of

Two conflicting thoughts.

1) Just as a warning, from now on esp. starting January, I will have less tolerance to in-rehearsal ill behaviors. We meet less than two hours each week. Just to put in in prospective, ALL professional orchestras meet every single day for two and a half hours to four hours, and these are old geezers who have been playing their instruments for decades. It is inexcusable for us to have to waste the little time we have, on me yelling at you to stop talking, and stop playing while I'm talking. Just not acceptable.

2) That being said, otherwise, I'm so proud of you. I am. I did not write an "easy" arrangement for you for Viva La Vida. I gave you a challenge. You accepted it, and you are about to own it.
It is incredible how much progress we made since the end September, and that's just basically two months. You have potential, and you have proven yourselves that each and every single one of you do.

Now, imagine, if you could just focus during rehearsals...

Next week, we will have a run through of the whole program. That means we are just going to run through things including the two pieces we haven't done in a while. Please don't forget that they exist, and make sure you practice them extra hard this week, so you don't come back rusty. the best way to prepare yourself is to make time for listening to recordings, as well as for practicing.

We will have Rockit! kids come and join us next week. Let's try to impress them!