About Life in Flow:Flow in Life

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Audition #2

My second audition was for 4th horn with a community orchestra in the north suburbs and was scheduled for September 2, a week and a half after the last audition. I know the bass trombonist in this group and he kindly wrote a sort of recommendation for me.
The audition list included 2nd horn excerpts from Beethoven Symphonies #3 (3rd & 4th movements), #7, and #8, Tchaikovsky 5th Symphony (Finale), and the Haydn Symphony #31 (Horn Signal); 4th horn excerpts from Beethoven's 9th Symphony, Mendelssohn's 3rd Symphony, Saint-Saens Symphony #3 (the Organ Symphony), Schumann Symphony #3, and Brahms Symphony #4. Great music, but a lot of it! And I had never played even the excerpts from the Haydn, Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Saint-Saens. I also needed to play the Mozart again.
I had started learning this music before audition #1, but I was feeling the time crunch now. At the end of August we had made two round trips to Bloomington, Indiana and one trip to Milwaukee. Then teacher institute days began. September 2 would be my second day of school with my new class. I also had another audition to get ready for the following week. I was very disciplined and practiced for an hour and a half or more each evening after working all day. I listened repeatedly to all the pieces on my iPod (thank you, public library!).
However, as September 2 approached, I could tell that I wasn't going to have all of these excerpts nailed. I just didn't have enough time.
On September 2, I drove over to the hall where this orchestra performs. Checking in with the personnel manager, I met another auditioning horn player. He was quite a bit younger than me. I had been coaching myself not to be nervous, but when I got in the room with the conductor and two orchestra members who were judging the auditions, I was nervous. I know it affected my playing, and I already felt I couldn't play a lot of these excerpts as well as I wanted. I played. They thanked me.
So, I felt I had done the best I could with the music and the time I had been given, but I was disappointed that I had again been plagued with nerves.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Audition #1

August 2009. I'm getting ready to send my children off to college, thinking about my own school year starting up, and practicing, practicing, practicing. The first few auditions that I was able to schedule were in September.
Then, on August 15, I was invited to audition for the conductor of a community orchestra in the near western suburbs. The conductor is a member of the Chicago Symphony brass section. It wasn't really clear what I am auditioning for because neither the personal manager or the conductor have said there's an opening. After an email exchange about schedules, he invited me to come to his house to play anything of my choosing for him. It is August 19 and I will be going to this audition on August 21. Yikes! At least I have been practicing plenty of excerpts and the Mozart.
I chose my excerpts: Shostakovitch 5th, Brahms 3rd, Til, Beethoven 9th (4th horn), Beethoven 3rd (2nd horn on the trio), plus the first movement of the Mozart. The trill is still not falling into place.
On the afternoon of August 19, I dress up nicely, pack up my horn and music, and drive off to the conductor's home. It's a long drive and by the time I get to his town, I need a rest stop. After stopping at a handy Walgreen's, I promptly get lost. This is an older suburb, much more city-like than the farther-out suburbs, and very congested at this time of day. Fortunately I have a little time and a map and get myself turned around and find his house. He answers the door, along with his dog, and leaves me to warm up in the living room, which I find has amazing acoustics.
When he comes back and asks me what I'm playing, I start with the Mozart. I have been keyed up all afternoon, but now I'm really nervous. Shaky. I remind myself I'm playing to make music and that helps somewhat. He does not stop me before the trill, which of course sounds really lame. Then I go into the excerpts.
This man is a brass player and he had definite, clear instructions on what he would like to hear. In the Beethoven 3rd, he asked for the upbeat to be in time, rather than delayed or "mannered." As I played more, he asked if I could make my attacks sound more definite, and less like I was sneaking in. At this point I felt like a high intensity lamp was suddenly shining on my performance and everything I was doing wrong was suddenly clear to me. Most alarmingly, I realized my tongue was way too far back to clean tonguing -- no wonder it sounded like I was sneaking in. As I tried to correct the tonguing problem and make other adjustments he asked for, a familiar feeling of frustration descended on me. I hadn't felt this way in years, but now I remembered what it felt like to get to the point where getting better is so hard. I had not been challenged like this in the community band or the chamber music I had been playing. It was not a good feeling.
He finished up the audition talking for a bit about his orchestra and the music they were going to be playing. There were a couple big pieces calling for extra horns scheduled for the season and he said he would give my name to the personal manager and the principal horn. I couldn't decide if he really meant it or was being nice to me.
So I came away from this audition feeling like it had not gone very well, but that spotlight on my problems was a gift. I went home and immediately began working on tonguing. I got recordings of all the pieces that I was playing excerpts from, and kept working on the excerpts and trills.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Search for an Orchestra Position

My kids are back at their colleges after spring break and I am mostly recovered from a bad cold, so it's time to pick up the story.
As I noted in my last post, the world was not beating a path to my door asking me to play in other groups. I was having a good time playing chamber music and in the band, but I really did miss playing orchestral music. So, it was time to take action.
August 2009, I began searching on the Internet for community orchestras in my area. Many of them I knew about, so it was mostly a matter of finding contact information and scoping out who was listed in the roster, who was the conductor, and so on. I found five community orchestras that gave an email address that were within distances that I would be willing to drive for rehearsal every week. I put together a music performance resume, a cover letter/email, and sent them to the five orchestras. I got my first response within two hours, asking if I would come in to play for the conductor! Three other orchestras responded within the next several days, all asking me to audition. The fifth group I never did hear from. Two of the orchestras had actual openings, one for 4th horn (my favorite!) and one for assistant first. These both sent PDFs of the audition music. So much more convenient than the old method of getting a list and finding the music yourself! (And this just shows how long it had been since I had taken an audition!)
Now I began to practice in earnest. Unfortunately it was late August, the time when I start teaching again, so time was at a premium. There was also a lot of music to practice. There was very little overlap between the two lists and I also needed to play a movement of a Mozart concerto. I picked the first movement of the Mozart 3rd because I know it the best of all the Mozarts, but I still needed to work on many aspects of the piece -- technique, intonation, phrasing, and trills. I practiced those trills endlessly, every day. I got to the point where I was pretty happy with everything about the Mozart, except the trills, especially the one on G. I began hoping that no one would want to hear more than a few lines of the piece and would stop me before the trill.
Next: Audition #1

Friday, March 5, 2010

And the band played some more

Getting back to the story of my return to horn playing, my husband and I began our 2nd year of playing in our community band. I don't know what other bands are like since this is the only one I've played in. Our band is a no-audition band, so we have members who are music teachers, lawyers, dentists, nurses, etc. We play a variety of music from junior high level (Grade 3?) to difficult transcriptions to modern band music that is very challenging. there's something for everyone. We play two concerts during the school year, each with a theme. Our upcoming concert is Blue on Blue and we're playing the Blue Danube, the Air Force March, Blue Shades, Blues for a Killed Kat, and so on. Previous themes have included movie and dance music, and comedy in music. We also play several Christmas concerts are local churches in December, and an outdoor 4th of July concert. Sometimes we have other outdoor concerts in the summer as well.

Our second year in the band was our daughter's senior year in high school. Much to our dismay, her first youth orchestra concert conflicted with our band concert. The orchestra was playing Pictures at an Exhibition. However, we had already committed to playing the band concert, so we missed her concert. (We also experienced a nerve-racking attempt to help her drive to downtown Chicago via the phone to get to her concert. She did make it safely and on time.) When the second band concert conflicted with her final youth orchestra concert, we opted out of our band concert. The conductor was unhappy with us, but we both felt that we had made the right decision.

I also had more opportunities to perform chamber music with band members this second year. We did the Mozart Wind Quintet for piano, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon several times. We also played the Strauss Serenade for 13 instruments and our brass quintet did the Dahl brass quintet on the spring chamber music concert. Both the Strauss and the Mozart are such wonderful pieces. Once again, I had to step up the practicing leading up to the chamber music recital both the learn the music and to build up enough endurance to make it through the program! My woodwind quintet also kept busy with a number of performances.

The best things for me about playing in the band are the chamber music and the nice people I have met. I realized though that when the chamber music recital was over that I was bored with just playing in the band. The world was not beating a path to my door, as apparently had happened to my horn player friend in Oregon. It was time to try something different.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Youth Orchestra

And the Orchestra Played On

I played in a youth orchestra for three years in high school. The Young Artists Philharmonic, directed by Mr. Princiotti, was the best group I had played in up to that point. The young musicians came from towns in southwestern Connecticut and even nearby Portchester, New York. Mr. Princiotti was as inspiring as Mr. Kupchynsky (in the article linked above), and he has now influenced several generations of music students. We played standards of the orchestral repertoire, my first time playing these great pieces.

The truly amazing thing to me is that he's still doing it. The Young Artists Philharmonic is celebrating its 50th anniversary this May, and Mr. Princiotti has been the director for all 50 years. The celebration includes a reunion concert. I wasn't going to go -- it's expensive to fly from Chicago and stay in a hotel, I can't fly with my horn because the case won't fit under the seat, it's right before the end of my school year... However, since reading the piece about "Mr. K," I am seriously reconsidering. I think I should go celebrate this wonderful musician and teacher and 50 years of music making. Time to check out expedia.