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.