About Life in Flow:Flow in Life

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fixing Problems

As I wrote in one of the posts about auditioning, it was during an audition that I realized my tonguing was indistinct because my tongue had somehow moved too far back in my mouth. I immediately started working on correcting this. One of the most useful things I found was Jeff Nelsen's Morning Routine because it includes exercises that just focus on tonguing. Attacking notes repeatedly, I was able to concentrate on what my tongue was doing and move it to a better place. I still make a point of checking where my tongue is, but that issue has improved a lot.

Another problem I had since returning to the horn was intonation. This had always been an issue for me. My horn has a few notes that are almost impossible to get in tune with the slides or by lipping and using the hand. But I've also always felt that I just didn't have a very good ear. This was a problem, especially when I started playing more chamber music. So, I asked for a tuner for my birthday this past August and my husband gave me a wonderful tuner-metronome combination. I started using the tuner when I warmed up, just turning it on and looking at it without attempting to change the pitch. I also used it when practicing specific music to check pitches and adjust by fingering or lipping the note. To my surprise, after using the metronome this way, I started playing more in tune. What's more, I started hearing intonation better. I now know where the pitch should be and I know what notes are likely to be out of tune on my horn. This was amazing to me because I had had this problem since I was a kid and I thought it was an intractable problem.

Making progress on the intonation front gave me the impetus to try to fix other problems. I have never been able to double or triple tongue very well. I single tongue extremely fast, but it would be useful to be able to double and triple tongue. I had never worked on it much as a student, but now I have begun practicing double/triple tonguing exercises on a regular basis. I still don't feel confident about using either in performance, but maybe I'll get there yet.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Results

Four auditions done.
Audition #4 conductor had told me on the spot that as much as he liked my playing, he didn't have a position for me. The personnel manager of the orchestra from Audition #3 called to give me the news that the conductor "loved your playing, but didn't think you were right for assistant 1st." They wanted to add me to their sub list. I said yes.
I didn't hear from Orchestra #2 for quite awhile except for a phone call from the conductor asking me to check my schedule against their rehearsal and concert calendar. Wow! I thought, they are serious about me. Then one of the audition committee had a family emergency to attend to, so there was no decision. When I finally heard from them, it was an email from the personnel manager saying they had selected someone else, but I was welcome to audition again in the future. I emailed them back offering to sub or play extra. At least I knew they had seriously considered me.
The 1st horn player from the first orchestra I auditioned for called me about a month later and asked if I would be interested in playing on Ein Heldenleben as one of the extra horns. Yes!!! He was a little vague though, and we ended our conversation setting up a time for me to come play for him. He asked me to prepare some Strauss and Mahler excerpts. So I spent a week working up excerpts from Heldenleben and Mahler's 1st. I went to meet him, we found a practice room, and he got out his horn, too. We played quite a lot together -- he chose a number of duet-type sections. Unfortunately, he selected mostly different excerpts than the ones I had spent the most time on. At the end, he still wasn't completely sure what the plans were for choosing the extra horns. I left the building not knowing what to think. However, within a week he had called and asked me to play 8th horn. Yay!!!
I was so excited. I started telling all my friends and also notified the conductor of the band I'm in that I wouldn't be able to play one of the Christmas concerts. Then the principal horn called again to tell me that the conductor had cancelled Heldenleben -- the concertmaster, who has a huge solo in the piece, had injured his wrist. Maybe they would reschedule it for the next season. He was just as disappointed as I was.
Maybe to try to make up for not getting to play Heldenleben, he told me that a chamber orchestra in the area was looking for a horn player for a concert. So I called the contact person and ended up playing two concerts in the 09-10 season with the Salt Creek Sinfonietta. I had such a good time playing with this group. The first concert was Mendelssohn, including the Midsummer's Night Dream music, and the second concert was all Mozart, including Symphony #40. I played 2nd horn to two different 1st horn players, both very good. The conductor was also very good and the group had a lot of nice people in it. Best of all was getting to play with an orchestra again after so many years, and getting to play such wonderful music.
What I found out by going through all these auditions is that, at least in Chicago, getting into a community orchestra as a horn player is a daunting task. One of the horn players I met in Salt Creek said, "You can't ever quit a community orchestra because you'll never get back in." There are just so many good horn players here -- lots of nonprofessionals who are good, plus recent graduates of the excellent music schools in Chicago, and the members of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. I didn't give up on ever getting a permanent spot in a community group, but it didn't look like it would be happening this year.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Audition #4

I final audition of the fall was for yet another north shore orchestra. This one had not announced any horn openings, but the conductor invited me to play for him. This audition was almost two weeks after the last one. For this, the conductor had said to bring anything I wanted to play, so I brought basically the same excerpts and solo that I had to my first audition: Beethoven 9th (4th horn solo), Brahms 3rd, Shostakovitch 5th, Til, and of course, the Mozart 3rd concerto.
The auditions were being held at a very large high school in one of the north suburbs. When I got there I realized I didn't know where in this very large building the auditions were happening. I called my husband to see if there were directions that I had neglected to take along, sure enough, there were. So now I was searching in the dark for the stage door entrance, which turned out to be next to a loading dock. In spite of this, I felt almost completely relaxed. The personnel manager greeted me and introduced me to the conductor, who took me into a large back stage area. We chatted a little, then I started with the Mozart.
It was as though I had taken some of Harry Potter's liquid luck. Everything I played was as good as I could have hoped for. I played musically, I was not the slightest bit nervous, even the trill worked! In between playing, the conductor and I talked -- about why Beethoven wrote the 9th symphony solo for 4th horn, about pets, and finally, about his orchestra.
He was clearly pleased with my playing and gave me a number of nice compliments; however, they hadn't announced an opening because there was no opening. Not only was there no opening, but one of the concerts was strings only and another used only two horns. He said he would keep me in mind for subbing and extra work, but it didn't sound as if there would be any this year.
Nevertheless, I went home beaming from this audition.
Next, the results.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Audition #3

Audition #3 was for another north shore community orchestra. This orchestra was looking for an assistant 1st horn. The list of excerpts included Til, Tchaikovsky 5th Symphony (1st horn solo), Shostakovitch 5th Symphony (the low part part), the Eroica Symphony horn trio, the Brahms Symphony #1, 4th movement, and a Mozart concerto. Several of these had been on my other auditions and it was a manageable amount of music for me. Because the scheduled audition conflicted with Meet the Teacher Night at my school, I auditioned a day early, at the conductor's house.
The conductor was very pleasant. He had me set up in his living room. At this audition I was feeling confident and not nervous, and I played better, too. The trill on the Mozart still didn't respond for me and he asked if I would like to try it again. The second time around the trill wasn't much better, but then the excerpts went well! On the Shostakovitch I was trying to play tastefully. I had been told in the past not to play too loud on that excerpt. This conductor asked me to play it again "with more buzz." To me, "buzz" means what you do with your lips and so I tried for a fuller sound. He asked again for more buzz and this time it occurred to me that he wanted more nastiness or raspiness in the sound. I asked and he confirmed, so I let loose a little more, and he seemed pleased. I thought my strongest points were playing musically with a pretty sound.
One audition to go!