Monday, May 12, 2008

Lots of fun experiences, plus memories, plus brother helping, plus julia/purchase

So the last few weeks have been beyond busy ... they've also been tremendously incredible!! Going very far back in time (to April 30th), I performed the Mozart Requiem at Lincoln Center as part of Manhattanville's Chorus ... To be honest, just like when I played at Carnegie Hall, I was very non-plussed by the actual concert, but the preparation for and the rehearsals were absolutely amazing! It was so amazing to go from preparing it with an accompanist (and a rather amazing one at that!) to playing it with an orchestra. What was especially cool was getting to watch the cello section (which even had a high school kid in it - absolutely nuts!). But anyway, the music just came alive in a whole different way ... extra incentive to win the concerto competition!!

Then there was my jury. I played the Courante from the 1st Bach Suite, and Popper #11. The Popper I had to take a bit on the slow side (which I realize kind of defeats the point) due to my not fun tendonitis experiences at the time (It's not 100% healed at this point, but daily stretching and lots of playing has made it seem like it is ... along with some serious technical re-evaluation!!). Anyway, they told me that my Bach was the best performance that they had heard all day, and on top of that, one of the judges said after the Popper that he felt my playing was too good for my instrument - which is a tremendous compliment to say the least! My teacher thanked me for making music out of the Popper, to which I responded that one of the things tormented Popper was that cellists always played his music like they hated it.

So then, after that, the semester ended, and the day after I moved out, I was playing in an orchestra concert (for anyone in the area - check out the St. Thomas Orchestra!) ... I really wasn't prepared at all, and in many ways feel like I probably brought things down, because the cello section is so amazing, but anyway, it was a good experience, and involved lots of faking, and was good for networking (plus I only had 2 rehearsals with them & had tendonitis - so I can't beat myself up too much!).

Also relating to St. Thomas, I finally met Claire (a cello teacher in New Rochelle) who I've heard about for quite a while. She seems like a cool person, and apparently does some electric cello stuff (and apparently some string quartet tributes according to ...)

In the midst of all this, I started another student, who is 6 years old, and whose parents wanted to do hour lessons ... when I pointed out that there's only so long you can hold someone's attention at 6 years old and suggested 2 30 minute. lessons a week as a better medium, they went with 2 45 minute lessons a week ... On one hand, I'm not sure this is good for a 6 year old ... on the other I don't see why not ... on top of that, it means I have to drive twice a week, and as much as I love all my students, the driving gets so tiring, especially as the gas goes up ... on the other hand, I get more money & more teaching experience ... really wish I had some high school kids to work with though ... I'd feel so much more comfortable...

So anyway, fast-forward to this week - I accidentally scheduled the 2 lessons for the new kid at the same times I have rehearsal/performance for my friend's sr. recital - what was I thinking! (actually I had lost my planner on the day we had the lesson ... it was a rather overwhelming day... ). Rescheduled one, the other never took place b/c they never got back to me ... not exactly encouraging ... I saw Apocalyptica in concert ... that was an interesting experience. I was depressed at the time (going in), but came out happier & it was really interesting to watch ... I felt like their musicality was sacrificed for showmanship at times, and I felt like they could have used more tonal/dynamic variety at times, but holy shit can they play!! It was very cool to watch who was doing what, cuz it would really catch you by surprise ... it's weird, it felt almost out of place for a concert venue, almost like it would have worked in a more classical setting ... but it would have been horribly out of place there too ... guess that's what Break of Reality's for - bridging the gap between those two worlds ... I think they're better anyway ...

So lessons went well ... sort of ... Hillary's didn't happen because I was at Lincoln Center (she's my older student), Ellie's did happen & we got to read some more music & finally introduce the scale! I'm glad, because I love scales & I think it will help us move forward faster; Maria's one lesson was good, but dragged a little, cuz I haven't had a chance to get another copy of "solo time for strings 1" (which now that I've mentioned it, I still need to pick up - which is great, because I need to go to a sheet music store in Greenwhich anyway - potentially more students in the future!).

The next exciting event involved rehearsal and performance for Danny Gray's Sr. Recital. Again, I felt underprepared, and wish I could have done a better job, but overall, it was a very fun, amazing event & the music was sooo cool!! This was also good for networking. On top of that, I got to see some friends I haven't seen in a while, got asked about doing a quartet in a month or two (awesome!) & got to meet two really amazing cellists. One of them suggested that I sit in on their cello class in the future (so cool that that even exists in the first place!), and I emailed Julia Lichten asking if it was ok, and she said I could - incredibly cool!

So since then, I've been doing some serious practicing, working on Yampolsky, Elgar (which I'm performing in 1 week!), Saint-Saens (long overdue), Rick Mooney's Thumb Position Books, and random other things for sight-reading/taking a break purposes. Elgar, I'm trying to work on the first movement musically (and trying to "trace"/analyze DuPre's style & the way she feels/plays the piece so that I can incorporate elements of it into my own interpretation & make it more full.). Saint-Saens, I'm up to the double-stop passage in the first movement ... It's fun ... a good amount of work. I can't wait to start on the second movement of the Elgar, but I think I need to do some more solid technical work first!

Speaking of technical work ... I've been trying to really incorporate what Julia told me when we had our lesson together, and I've been trying to really incorporate breathing and relaxation as much as possible. On top of that, I'm working on building up a running technique and being able to play at faster tempos/triplets & 16ths with ease, b/c it is my giant weak-spot - well one of them!). Yampolsky is doing wonders for this, as well as giving me an incredbile challenge ... I feel like I need to develop a scale routine beyond what I have now. I think it will include: whole note scales, Rhythmic Variations (Quarter, Duplets, Triplets, Quadtuplets & Quintuplets), Ladders, Broken & Unbroken Thirds, 5ths, and 6ths (Broken & Unbroken). Additionally, I need to develop an open-bow routine - definitely double stops help tremendously ... I'm doing the "see how long I can hold the bow out" exercise at Quarter Note = 40 currently, and I think I want to add in stuff for the faster tempos.

Speaking of bowing, my brother helped me figure out/remember a few things:
1. Bow must be parallel to bridge
2. Double stops help this along
3. Though the source of power is the upper back, the elbow initiates bow changes & direction. The key to bowing straight is to concentrate on the elbow motion (elbow as a hinge, also, dead hand - which is Ostrofsky's idea, and fits with Julia's comment about not bowing with your fingers)
4. The key to figuring out if the bow is straight or not is to keep the bow very nearly on 2 strings (which is also a key to efficient playing that my teacher described to me a long time ago ... sort of like keeping my fingers down, this is tricky mentally, but physically much better/easier...)
5. The upper body, and shoulders absolutely must be relaxed in order for bowing to work well - it's very hard to maintain that relaxation while playing, but it's essentially to really getting a clean & loud tone!

So now that I've written a whole essay on my cellistic life over the last 3 weeks, I should chill out & do the dishes soon ... tomorrow I'm visiting O - can't wait!


Edit: Visited O today, discovered that I can't play for their concert b/c I'm going to see Dream Theater that night :( It was a fun visit anyway though ...

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