Category Archives: Performing

I have confidence?

From the Post Dispatch review of Winter Opera St. Louis’s performance last weekend (of Massenet’s Werther):

In the pit, Scott Schoonover offered rather choppy conducting of the lush score, but the 22-piece orchestra did a good job, with some really lovely moments.

I’ll absolutely take credit for those “lovely moments” as concertmaster, though I really don’t see how the reviewer was able to notice “choppy” conducting when the orchestra didn’t reflect anything of the sort.  Either I’m just that good, or really, reviewers have very little idea of what they are talking about and need to fill a certain amount of room?  I do think I should have been mentioned by name for my “really lovely” solos though 😉

I’m trying to bring a certain amount of aggression and confidence into my teaching, playing, and life.  (I was testing it out in the previous paragraph!) My trainer is encouraging me to be more aggressive in my workouts, and I am trying to bring my workouts into my life.  I could probably use a bit more aggression, or at least a bit more confidence and assurance, in my life…I guess I’ll add that to the list of “tweaks” I am trying to make!  This whole adulthood thing just keeps getting more challenging.  Or I just need to remember, no one is really paying attention to me after all, so no need to worry what they think.  (But…are people reading my blog?  Then YOU are paying attention, right?).

Save the date:  February 28.  Quartet concert at St. Margaret of Scotland Church.  With members of the SLSO in addition to a couple of just awesome freelancers (including me).  Time TBA but afternoon (baby steps, I know!).

Christmas Vacation

Now I am in the relaxing portion of Christmas vacation–I spent a week visiting my boyfriend’s family (and seeing my parents briefly as well!) and now I’m relaxing at home.  Ideally I would be resting up for a hectic spring, but it looks like things are pretty calm so far.  The one crazy week will be a week of Columbus Symphony AND ProMusica Chamber Orchestra at the same time!  Columbus is playing an all Shostakovich concert, including Shostakovich Symphony no. 10, which I have never played.  I know I will be exhausted (my schedule will include two triple service days and one quadruple day) but hopefully in a good way.

What is a service?  For orchestras, our week is divided into “services” which is either a rehearsal or a concert.  Usually these would be either 2 or 2 1/2 hours.  If you are paid by the week, there would be a limit of services per week, with the average being 8 services.  For part time orchestras, generally we are paid by the service, so…the more the merrier!  Except you do get really exhausted, both physically and mentally.

This is such an odd time of year, between Christmas and New Year’s.  On the one hand, there are several days where one should be working and getting things done, because, really, we can’t ALL take two weeks of vacation.  On the other hand, why can’t we all take two weeks of vacation??  I did teach a few students, but I decided generally I needed the time off.  There’s something so decadent about not having work for several days, and really feeling like you can settle into a fun project at home and not worry about what you are wearing!  Of course I’m currently just on the computer sitting next to my cat (who is curled up next to me sleeping), but the point is that I could be doing some fun project.  I do have some projects to work on, both musically, and just for fun.  More about those later, when I get to them!

Happy New Year to you all, dear readers!

After the video…

We watched the video of my teaching in class the other day, and it was not nearly as awful as I thought it would be.   In fact it was REALLY helpful.  I should probably record myself again in the future.

What did I learn?  In a nutshell, I talk too much.  I shouldn’t talk so much, or so fast, and simply do.  That might mean playing for the student, it might mean demonstrating a motion, or it might mean moving their body/fingers into the position they need to be in.  Less talk, more action!  I tried to keep that in mind for my next students (and also to slow down my speaking voice for young students!).  It will take practice, but I hope I’ll get better.

I also learned I was doing some things well, which is nice to know.  So often I feel I am not doing things well, or that someone else could be doing a better job with my students (or my life 😉 ), and it’s nice to feel as if I’m doing something well.  I know I am too hard on myself…it’s just that my standards are so high!  Silly conservatory training…

I am looking forward to a musical weekend.  I am playing three concerts with the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra.  One is a Messiah sing along, and two are the same, a  Baroque Holiday Concert, which includes Pachelbel Canon.  The really cool thing is that one of our concerts is sold out!

Next week one of my violin classes (the second year one) will be performing a few Christmas songs for the school.  I know they will be wonderful!  I am so proud of how well my class is doing.  It’s two girls and one boy.  The boy just started cello at the end of September, the girls have been playing violin since last September, and they are playing in three part harmony already!  It’s just wonderful, and makes me really proud.  Wait.  Maybe I’m doing well teaching after all?

Struggling for balance

Somebody asked me recently if I taught or if I performed.  I answered that I do about half of each.  That’s really my goal right now.  I love teaching and I love performing, and for the past few years that balance has been reflected, both in my schedule and in my tax returns.

It’s funny.  I think most people struggle to achieve balance between their career and home life.  I am struggling to achieve balance in my career.  My home life has always been the time left over, and sometimes that balance is very much off (especially once you include practicing and lesson planning).  But that’s a story for another day!

When my work goes out of balance, I feel it.  For instance, there were many times last year when I was doing hardly any teaching.  I would talk to teaching colleagues who were full of stories about their students, and I felt left out, and frankly, sad.  I had just left about 20 students in Cleveland, and missed seeing them every week.  Lately I have been fortunate enough to have several new students (10 private, plus two small classes), and the teaching aspect of my life is feeling very much in balance.  Or has it?  Am I devoting too much of my recent time to teaching?

Last week I played with my orchestra in Columbus, ProMusica Chamber Orchestra for the first time this semester.  As we started rehearsing, I realized I had missed playing in orchestra.  I used to play a concert almost every week until I moved to St. Louis, and now I only play occasionally.  I do play many weddings and receptions, but its not the same feeling as orchestral playing.  My orchestral balance has been off.  Perhaps I need to make sure that at least half of my performing is through orchestra…so that would be at least 25 percent of my total work time.  Balance is a tricky thing, and the orchestral opportunities here (unless you are a symphony member) are few and far between.

I am a substitute player with the Columbus Symphony, but so far this fall I haven’t been able to play any of their concerts.  I love playing with the group, but it’s a trek from here to there, and it means canceling/missing everything I am doing here.  Between teaching, my pedagogy class, weddings, and other commitments in town, I just can’t make a trip out of town at this point (other than my already scheduled ProMusica concerts, of course).  I’m hoping in the spring that might be more possible.  Perhaps other orchestral opportunities closer to home will appear!
On a similar note, I recently was appointed Concertmaster of New Opera St. Louis (Winter Opera St. Louis) and I look forward to the season beginning in November.  It’s a very small orchestra, but I relish the thought that even in this economy,  new arts groups can survive, and hopefully thrive and grow.