Monday, November 16, 2009

Practicing 5 Hours in 1 Day!

Today, I started working on the first movement of Beethoven's 1st Symphony, which my youth orchestra is playing.  I think Beethoven really must like oboes, because there are a lot of oboe solos in the piece.

Also, today I practiced for 5 hours for the very first time in one day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

IMEA District 7 Music Festival

On Saturday I went to the IMEA All-District festival. They are the people who put on the solo and ensemble festival and the all-district and all-state band concerts in Illinois. It's for kids who play music in the public schools. Earlier in the year I tried out for it and made it.

On Saturday, I my mom woke me up to get ready for IMEA. I was tired, but excited. I went downstairs, ate breakfast, packed my clairenet, and grabbed my music. I got in the car and my mom drove me to the high school where the IMEA All-District festival was taking place. The building was big and confusing with a bunch of different wings. My mom's strategy was to follow the stream of kids dressed in black pants and white shirts. This led us to the orchestra rehearsal room, which was on the exact opposite side of the school from where the band was rehearsing. I did warn her that we were following people with violas and violins. Fortunately, the school's choral director walked us across the school to the band rehearsal room. When we got there my mom left to find my school band director. I unpacked my clarinet and went to the band room.

The band room was basically a plain room with chairs, music stands, and lots of quotations on the wall.  While I waited for the conductor to show up, I got out my music and practiced the Stamitz Concerto. When he arrived he made a speech about how honored he was to direct this band. He told us to introduce ourselves to the people next to us. I was sitting 6th chair between two 8th grade girls. They were very tall, but they were very nice. There weren't very many 6th graders there, but there were several kids from MYA there.

After that rehearsal, we went to the stage where we were going to perform, and had another rehearsal. The second rehearsal was much longer than the first. We practiced Chimes of Liberty and Nettleton on the stage. Then we went back to the rehearsal room, and practiced again before lunch. We mostly worked on the third movement of the Fanfare Ode and Festival. We had already played about two and a half hours and we were only half way done! I practice a lot at home, so I wasn't tired yet.

At lunch I met my brother Ari's friend Raffi. Raffi plays trombone at MYA in the Concert Orchestra. We ate lunch together. Raffi was playing euphonium, not trombone, because he wanted to do something on his euphonium for a change. We were in the lunch room for about forty-five minutes. We had sausage pizza for lunch, and it was great. I spent the last fifteen minutes of the break practicing the Stamitz Concerto some more. While I was practicing the director, Dr. Cunningham, walked up to me and asked me if I was playing the Stamitz Clarinet Concerto. I said, "Yes!" He told me that I was playing it really well.

After the break Dr. Cunningham told us that we had some really talented players here. He said that he had heard some really great solos during the break. When he said that, he was looking at me, which made me feel really proud! We rehearsed for about an hour and forty-five minutes. That made a total four hours and fifteen minutes of rehearsing. I thought it would be more like five hours but I was fine with less.

Finally, it was time to go to the concert. I was very nervous at first, but I felt fine after a few minutes of talking with my friends. Chatting with the others made me feel more confident. After the junior chorus who performed before us went offstage, it was our turn. We came onstage and got ready to perform. The pieces went off with only a few mistakes, which were all almost unnoticable. We went offstage, turned our music in, and I went to meet my mom downstairs. It was an exciting day.  I had a great time!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

MYA Concert

I had an MYA concert at the Pick Staiger Theater at Northwestern University on Sunday. There were five other groups performing besides the Philharmonia, which is my orchestra. Philharmonia was playing March to the Scaffold by Berlioz and The Prometheus Overture.

I arrived around 10:00 am, and I read a book called Maximum Ride till my friends got there. I arrived early because my brother, who is concert orchestra, had a dress rehearsal for his orchestra a couple of hours earlier than mine.

Nathan, the horn player, and Natalie, the principal violist, are two of my friends, and they arrived early for the rehearsal too. We talked until it was time to go to the dress rehearsal, which was on the stage. We talked about music and about the upcoming performance. Finally, it was time; I put my clarinet together and warmed up with chromatic scales and got in the line for the dress rehearsal. The rehearsal went smoothly, and we only had to play March to the Scaffold once and The Prometheus Overture twice. Mr. Pearson seemed to think that we were ready.

After the rehearsal, My brother Ari and I went to the Student Union to get lunch. We had sushi for lunch. It was okay sushi, but not great. It was fun to hang out at a college on my own with just my brother. While we were eating, I saw Anatole there, who was also getting sushi. Anatole is another of my friends in the orchestra. He plays the violin and likes to garden. After we ate, we played foosball in the Student Union until it was time to go to the concert. I dominated. We stayed at the Student Union for about an hour.

The concert was starting at 2:00 pm, but I arrived at 1:45. I went up to the balcony where all the people in MYA, who weren't performing until after the intermission, were sitting. The kids were mostly quiet but a few were talking.  First, we watched the Reading orchestra play. The orchestra was tiny, but they were very cute. Then the Jazz Ensemble, the Cadet Orchestra, Voices Rising, and the Jazz orchestra performed. Nathan didn't like the two jazz groups. I didn't either. They were really good, but we're not jazz fans.

When the intermission started, it was time to go backstage. I was kind of nervous, but I was determined to stop feeling nervous before performing. The kids were very serious backstage during intermission. They weren't talking very much, and some people were practicing their parts while we waited. When the intermission ended, it was time to go on stage. Being on stage was terrifying, but it was short-lived, because we were only on the stage for eleven minutes, and I really liked the pieces we were playing.  When we were finished, there was a lot of applause, and I think the applause is my favorite part of performing. After we finished, we packed up our instruments and went up to the top of the balcony, so we could watch the Concert Orchestra play. They were amazing! They played two movements of The Reformation Sympony by Mendelssohn. Listening to the Concert Orchestra perform was the best part of the day.

After the concert, my family and my grandparents went out for sushi. We ordered a little to much but we still finished it off. I was so stuffed, I didn't even want ice cream for dessert. When we finally arrived home, I thought on the events of the day. I decided then that this had been the best day I'd had since school started in August.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

On Sunday I'll be going to my Midwest Young Artists concert. I'm very excited about it. In the concert my orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra will be playing March to the Scaffold by Berlioz and The Prometheus Overture by Beethoven. My orchestra will be performing at Pick-Staiger at Northwestern. It's too bad that I'm not playing first part or the solo but I'll still have a great time. I can't wait!

Here's a link to the concert page.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Third Chair Disaster

I just found out on Saturday that I made third chair in my MYA seating audition.  When I looked at the chair seatings, I found the clarinet section, and I looked for my name. It was the third name on the list. I felt sick to my stomach. I cared a lot about this seating audition. I practiced a lot for it. In the month leading up to the audition, I had practiced the selections for hours and hours. The day before the seating audition, I had practiced the audition selections for 3 hours total!

There are 4 chairs in the clarinet section in the Philharmonia Orchestra.  So that makes me second to last, and I have the 2nd part.  The 2nd part is so much easier and less interesting than the 1st part.  I have a 27 measure rest in The Prometheus Overture!

When you try really hard for something, and you don't succeed, it feels terrible.  You feel like you aren't very smart and you're not very good at what you are doing.  It crushes your confidence. 

After I found out my audition placement, I was really upset for around 15 minutes, but then I said to myself:  even though I'm third chair, I can still get the solo when we have an audition for that, because there is a short clarinet solo in March to the Scaffold.  I had also worked hard to learn how to play the solo well.

But then there was another disaster!  When we were rehearsing March to the Scaffold with Mr. Pearson, and we got to the solo part, all of the clarinets played it.  Then Mr. Pearson said that the solo was supposed to be played only by the first chair clarinet.  But it wasn't even a part of the seating audition!

Before the chair seating results, I was feeling great about practicing everyday.  I practiced a lot, and I practiced eagerly.  But after getting third chair, I didn't really want to practice at all.  I didn't practice on Saturday, and I only got to practicing on Sunday at 10:00 at night.

I found this web page that helped me think about the situation in a different way.

The article talks about 3 different ways to deal with failing at something you have worked hard for.

1.  Some people give up, blame other people, and blame circumstances for failing.  Don't do this.

2.  Some people keep doing the same thing over and over again with more determination without changing their strategy.  You can do this, but I wouldn't advise it.

3.  Some people change their strategy and try again.  If they fail again, they change their strategy again and try again.  They do this until they succeed.  This is the best idea.

Today and last night I changed my strategy and tried again.  I assumed that the problem with my practicing wasn't that I didn't practice enough, but that I didn't practice deliberately enough.  So last night and today, I practiced my scales and my technical exercises for a long time very very carefully.  I payed attention to my tone and the connections between the notes.  When I played some solos for fun after this type of practice, I played them better than I usually do.  Maybe this strategy will work and I won't make 3rd chair again. 

Maybe it won't.  If it doesn't, I'll change my strategy and try again.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Synergy Brass Quintet

Last night I went to see the Synergy Brass Quintet at MYA. It was a fun experience. Before the performance, I saw three of my friends there. I was expecting to see Nathan. Nathan is a horn player in my MYA orchestra. He's a pretty cool guy. He's a lot like me, I think. He's really good at playing his horn, he practices a lot, and he likes the same kind of music I like: classical. I was surprised and happy to see Micah there. He plays on my soccer team, and he doesn't play at MYA so I wasn't expecting him there. I was also surprised to see Matthew, a trumpet player from my school band. Matthew and Micah don't play at MYA, but they were there for similar reasons. Micah's brother and Matthew's nephew wanted to see the quintet, and so Micah and Matthew came along with their family.

Here's a youtube video of Synergy Brass Quintet.

The quintet was really good. They played mostly classical pieces for the first half, and for the second half, they played mostly contemporary music. The first half of the performance was my favorite part by far. The quintet played some fun classical pieces. They played In the Hall of the Mountain King by Grieg, a Norwegian composer. I like Grieg because I'm part Norwegian. They played a Mozart horn concerto, which was really good. The tuba player played an extremely hard violin concerto, which was really funny, because the violin concerto moves very fast, and it is much harder to play fast on tuba than it is on a violin. It was amazing that the tuba player could do it. The trombone player played Flight of the Bumblebee, which was funny, because you don't usually think about the trombone playing it.

I loved the first half of the performance, but I didn't like the second half as much. The pieces they played were more contemporary, and I don't like contemporary pieces as much. They also had movies playing during some of the pieces in the second half, but I found that kind of distracting, because I really wanted to just listen to the music. Still, even though I didn't like that type of music as much, they still played really well. For the last song they asked whether the audience wanted a jazz or a classical piece to end their performance. Nathan, my sister, and I were shouting that we wanted a classical piece, but they played a jazz piece instead, because that's what most everyone else wanted. The jazz piece was so loud that it kind of hurt my hears. I'm not much of a jazz fan. But other than that it was a fantastic performance.

In between songs, and during the intermission, Nathan and I talked about the music, how it was played, how we liked it, and about our own music. Watching a performance with a friend was so much more fun and enjoyable than watching it with my mom or by myself, because discussing the performance was as much fun as watching it.

After the quintet finished, we stayed for a bit. First my sister Eowyn went to get all of the players autographs. She especially wanted the Horn player's autograph because she plays the French Horn. They whole band was really nice about autographs and talking about their music, and they even let me take a picture of my sister and the horn player. I also met Nathan's dad and his sister who plays the flute.

All and all it was a great performance and I had a great time.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Day at MYA

Tomorrow I'm going to MYA.  MYA stands for Midwest Young Artists.  It is a youth orchestra program that meets in Highwood, IL.  I play in the Philharmonia Orchestra which is the middle level orchestra in the program.  I love MYA for five main reasons:

1.  Mr. Pearson is really cool.  He is my orchestra conductor.

2.  The music there is challenging, but fun, and I love playing orchestra music.  This concert, we are playing the Beethoven Prometheus Overture, at least I think we are.  And I'm sure we are playing March to the Scaffold by Berlioz.  March to the Scaffold has a cool clarinet solo, which I want to try out for.

3.  I like the competition for chair seating.  Every concert we have a seating audition to determine ranking in each section.  It's okay if you don't do well, because there is always the next seating audition to work for if you don't like where you're placed.

4.  I like the music theory program, especially this year, because Mr. Kupfer is back from Europe.  Mr. Kupfer always makes you do what's hard for you.  For example, I am bad at remembering my flat scales, and so Mr. Kupfer always makes me work on that during my theory class each week.

5.  The kids are really nice.  I have made lots of friends there.

Every week, I look forward to going to MYA.  Sometimes I have conflicts because I play travel soccer.  Tomorrow, I have to miss a game to go to rehearsal because I've already missed two rehearsals, and if I miss 3 rehearsals, I can't play in the concert at the end of the month.  I don't want to quit soccer, but I prefer rehearsals to soccer games.  And that's saying a lot, because I love soccer.

Here's a link to MYA's website.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Deliberate Practice

I found a website today.  It talked about practice, but not quantity like I said in my earlier post, but quality of practice. 

Here is the website:

This was relevant today to my clarinet lesson which I had in Evanston today.  My teacher's name is Dileep Gangolli.  He's a good teacher.  He's very nice, but he is very deliberate and painstaking during my lessons.  This is a good thing, because it helps me learn to be a better clarinetist.

Today we worked on E minor scales and etudes and Fergeson's Four Short Pieces.  He was unhappy with my tone.  He said my technical work was great, but my tone really needed some work.  I think he was right, but I still sulked for a few hours.  This week, I think I need to work more on listening to the sound of the music I play and improving on my tone and the quality of my sound and the connections between the notes.  Dileep said that the way to do this is to slow down and play them over and over again before moving the tempo up.  This called deliberate practice, which is what the website that I posted above is about.

Today, I only practiced clarinet for one hour, because I was tired.  I also practiced piano for 35 minutes.  The problem with one hour practices, though, is that if you play for one hour a day, five days a week, it will take 40 years to get those 10,000 hours in.  In forty years, I'll be 52 years old!  I want to get there LONG before least 20 years before then.  Probably sooner than that.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Practicing 4 Hours in 1 Day for the First Time

You Tube video of me practicing.
This is the progress I've made in around 200 hours of practice from when I first started playing clarinet.

Today, I practiced my clarinet for four whole hours. I practiced for 4 hours, because it moved me closer to my goal of 10,000 hours. Some people say that you need to practice 4 hours a day, seven days per week for 10 years to become a virtuoso. That comes out to 14,600 hours of practice. But I've heard that 10,000 hours is how many hours you need to practice something before you're an expert. 10,000 hours is really around 7 years if you are practicing that much. Still, who doesn't take a day off from time to time. Maybe 10 years is more reasonable.

Here's an article about this.,000-hours-of-practice-to-become-a-genius.html

Anyway, today I practiced for four hours. It was very exhausting, maybe because I played 3 1/2 hours of soccer yesterday with little to no breaks in between. I did take take 2 breaks on my clarinet. My first practice was 1.5 hours, my second practice was 1 hour, and my third practice was 1 hour, 35 minutes. By the end of my 3rd practice and now an hour later, I'm blown out. It kind of feels like someone spent several hours twisting my lips, and now they are kind of numb.

I'm not practicing my clarinet anymore today, but I think I'll practice piano.

Making I.M.E.A.

A couple of weeks ago, I tried out for I.M.E.A.  IMEA stands for the Illinois Music Educators Association or something like that.  They are the guys who do the all-district and all-state bands and orchestras.  Because I'm in sixth grade, I can only try out for the junior band.  There's no all-state junior band, just all-district.  It's still a big deal, because it's 6-8th graders competing for spots.

Going to the audition was very exciting and also very nerve-wracking.  I like auditions, because it is a challenge to prepare and I like competition, but they make me very nervous.  I try to pretend that I am totally prepared and ready for the auditions and that I'm not nervous, and it makes me a little less nervous, but really I am still am very nervous.

When I arrived, there were tons of people coming in and out of the school where the audition was, and some of them I recognized.  I was the only one from my school auditioning.  I walked into the school with my mom, my sister, and my baby brother.  My mom asked the person at the desk where the practice room was and where we should go for the audition.  She told us where both the rooms were and we went to the practice room.

The practice room was in the gym.  It was very crowded, and I saw my friend Marc there.  Marc was another 6th grade clarinetist who was trying out for IMEA.  I know him, because he is in the same youth orchestra as me last year and this year too.  Marc is a nice kid, and he is also very funny.  He likes sports like me.  He plays hockey, and I play soccer.

There wasn't very much time to warm up, and all I managed to do was a chromatic scale.  I was too nervous and too busy chatting with Marc to focus.  Were were talking about the audition and how few sixth graders were trying out.  Finally, it was time to go to my audition.  We left the gym and went back to the room with the information desk and then went upstairs.  The room where I was doing my audition scales was a science lab with all of the tables and equipment put to the side or in the closets which were overflowing.  The judge was at the teacher's desk, and there was a music stand and chair all alone in the middle of the room.  It made me feel even more nervous, because there was no one in the room except for the judge and me.  I played the audition scales well.  I was surprised.  I thought I would make more mistakes than I did.

Then I went down the hall to the room where I did my etude and some selections from the concert pieces I had to prepare.  I had to wait for someone else to finish.  The person after me got to go ahead of me, because I was a little late.  When I listened to the other kid play, I heard that she made a lot of mistakes.  It made me feel more confident that other people were making mistakes.  When she was finished, it was my turn, and I went in.  This room was similar to the other room with a judge and chair and a music stand in the middle of the room.  First, the judge asked me to play my etude.  I played it, but I made a few mistakes.  At the time, I was sure I wouldn't make it because of my mistakes.  Then I played a part of Canticle and a part of Chimes of Liberty.  I played them both as well as I could, and I didn't make any obvious mistakes with the notes or the rhythm.

Then I left the room.  I found Marc waiting outside.  He said he thought I did well.  Then he went in.  I listened to him play through the door.  He played very well, and I was sure that he was going to beat me.  Marc is a very good clarinetist.  He plays very differently from me.  He plays short staccato parts better than I do.  I like the long melodic legato parts.  I hate my staccatos!

After Marc finished his audition, we took a picture together.  My mom always brings her camera, and takes too many pictures.  It's kind of embarrassing.  It was time to go all the way to Highwood which is like an hour away from the audition school to get to MYA for pictures.  I had to change clothes in the car, and put on my uncomfy jacket and white shirt and bow tie for orchestra pictures.

All of this happened on Saturday.  I was sure I wouldn't make the audition, because of the mistakes I had made.  But, when I went to band on Thursday, my band teacher told me I had made first chair!  I felt really good about that (and surprised).  The way that they tell you if you made section-leader is to put a star next to your name.  There were two names among the clarinets who made it with stars by their names.  One of them was me and one of them was a kid named Theodore Mavrakis.  Theodore is really really good.  He won the junior woodwind divisionWalgreens Concerto competition last year (I think) and he plays in the Concert Orchestra at MYA, which is the orchestra above me.  My older brother plays viola in that orchestra. 

Anyway, it turns out they made a mistake.  The next morning, I woke up and my mom told me that Ms. Williams had emailed her and the star by my name was a mistake.  I had actually made 6th chair.  I felt really disappointed, but I wasn't really surprised.  I thought the day before that they might have made a mistake, because Theodore is really a lot better than me right now.  Besides how could they have a chair big enough for two clarinet players to sit in it at the same time?!  6th chair seems pretty good for a 6th grader.  Plus, it gives me something to shoot for for my 7th and 8th grade years.  I still get to play 1st clarinet at the concert on November 7.