Wednesday, December 22, 2010

MYA's Christmas Concert: Be Festive!

Saturday afternoon, Midwest Young Artist’s Big Band, Choral, and Symphony Orchestra performed their annual Christmas Concert at the Harris Theater downtown. They played exceptionally! When they took the stage, the first thing you noticed was the blinking lights on the bassoons and one of the basses. It looked so cool, and it was impressive that it didn't distract them from their playing. Also, on the wall there were projections of boughs of holly and other neat holiday things.

The orchestra opened with Holiday Overture, a piece by James M. Stephenson. It was an interesting mix of Christmas and Chanukah songs and very different styles of playing from orchestral to jazz to Klezmer and back again. I especially like the Klezmer clarinet solo performed skillfully by Theodore and Andrew. Symphony played stunningly until Big Band joined in with an interesting jazz style. Symphony jumped back in with the low brass leading and lively piccolo glissandos. The composition had a grand ending with the whole orchestra gracefully ending with The First Noel.

The next composition was also by James M. Stephenson and featured the entire bassoon section. It was called BasSoon it will Christmas. While the bassoons were getting set up Dr. Allan Dennis, the head of MYA and Symphony Orchestra’s conductor said that every piece besides Cool Breeze was by Mr. Stephenson, a parent of one of the violins in the Philharmonia Orchestra who is also composer. The piece started with the orchestra and then the Bassoons joined in.  It was a witty mix of Christmas songs and recognizable orchestral themes tied together in droll and interesting ways. I loved how the bassoons played together! It was a really fascinating piece with a lot of cool bassoon parts that probably would never be played by a bassoon normally.

The only piece that wasn’t by Mr. Stephenson was titled Cool Breeze. Right before the Big Band started Mr. Madison showed the audience his love of painful punning, telling us that he chose the composition because of the ‘cool breeze’ outside. I was an interesting jazz piece with lots of solos. My favorite solo was the bass plucking solo. The Big Band played the whole thing marvelously.

The next song was a lovely solo for three violins, Amy, Alan, and Emily. Dr. D said that it was instead of the three kings, it was The Three Strings and that it was a mix of different styles of playing. I loved how at the beginning Amy was playing a gorgeous melodic line and Alan and Emily were playing these really sensational harmonic lines along with her. I was enthralled by the virtuosity of these three violinists. It was really interesting how the different styles mixed together and it was amazing that the violinists could transition so smoothly from style to style.

Three of the choral members, Katey, Rebecca, and Miriam sang during this composition. They each sang a beautiful solo one at a time while the male voices among the instrumentalists were singing “Ba-Boom", "Ba-Boom” the whole time. Many people in the Symphony Orchestra were not Ba-Booming very enthusiastically, but the trumpets seemed to be very consistent in their Ba-Booms.

The Magic of Christmas, which was next, included the whole choral, directed by Gordon Krauspe. It began with a lovely harp solo by Ellie, and then Zachery played an enchanting solo. I really liked the ribbon on his French horn. The horns had a big part and they had an extremely smooth tone throughout. The choral came in and sang with an extremely pure and delightful sound.

Before Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Dr. D told the audience that they had covered just about everything so far in this concert except animals. So it’s just natural that he chose Rudolf to be the penultimate composition of the afternoon. I loved Michael’s trombone solo. There were a couple tap dancers who surprised us and made the concert even more entertaining. It got more and more exciting until the very end where everyone in the orchestra stood up for the finale.

They closed the concert with a fun sing along called A Holly and Jolly Sing-Along, again by Mr. Stephenson. The audience and the choral sang nearly every holiday piece from Deck the Halls to We Wish You a Merry Christmas. It was a great ending for a great concert.

I felt really happy as I walked out of the Harris Theater. I can’t wait for the next MYA concert in February.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ouch! Too Much Practicing!

Friday, MYA's Honors Wind Symphony played a concert with the Newington College Symphonic Winds, an Australian band on tour in the United States. 

Friday morning when I pulled out my clarinet to practice, my forearm really hurt!  It was hard to practice, and suddenly I found that I couldn't play the fast sections at full speed.  This was bad because I was supposed to play in two concerts this weekend!  I called my clarinet teacher, but he didn't answer the phone so I called my piano teacher Barbara.  She said, I had probably hurt myself, because I was practicing too much this week and tensing my arm while I was playing.  She told me to get Aspercreme and a heating pad and not to play my clarinet.

My teacher Dileep called my mom and told her that he would neck strap for the concert that evening.  He said repetitive injuries could be really serious and I had to take it easy.  I put the Aspercreme on my arm and rested with the heating pad until it was time for the concert.

When it came time for the concert, I was feeling a bit better after using the Aspercreme, heating pad, and advil.  I went to the MYA building in Highwood and warmed up in a practice room.  I had forgotten my mouthpiece, so I borrowed one, but it was really hard to use.  The day was not going well.  I was hurting a bit, but it was much better than the morning.  Sandra Wu, the organizer for HWS, told me it was time to start the dress rehearsal.  I went in and sat next to the principal clarinetist of the Newington College Wind Symphony.  He introduced himself to me.  He was really nice and he had a really nice tone on his clarinet.  It was fun rehearsing with the Australian band.  They were really good.  The Newington Wind Symphony left the hall so our Wind Symphony could practice their chamber piece, Old Wine in New Bottles.  It was hard to play with an unfamiliar mouthpiece and my arm was starting to hurt more.

After the rehearsal, we got dinner.  MYA had brought in food for both ensembles.  I ate some food and talked with my friends.  I was a little nervous to meet the kids from the Australian group, because I'm always a little nervous about meeting new people and many of them were a lot older than me.  After dinner, I went and got my tux on, which took me a long time, because it was hard to get the little metal buttons on right.  I went to the concert hall, and I got warmed up.  Dileep, my clarinet teacher, rescued me with a neck strap, because the neck strap would take some of the clarinet's weight off my arm.  My mom came in with my normal mouthpiece, so things were better.

We started the concert.  I played better than earlier in the day, but the neckstrap restricted my movement, making it harder to phrase.  I didn't think I played as well as I could have played.  That made me upset, because I felt like I had let my ensemble down, especially with my big solos in the third and fourth movements.  The rest of Honors Wind Symphony played really well. 

After we finished, the Australians took the stage.  The Newington Big Band played really well.  I especially liked the trumpet solos.  Then the Newington Wind Ensemble played.  They had a nice sound, and they performed really well.

Finally, Honors Wind Symphony and Newington Wind Ensemble joined together to finish the concert with a piece called Variations on a Korean Folk Song by Chance.  I played much better in this piece than in our earlier piece, because I was getting used to the neck strap.  By the time we finished the concert, I was in a lot of pain.  Still, it was a fun concert, even though I had to stay until 10:30 that night because my mom was loading the MYA truck for the Symphony Orchestra Performance tomorrow.  I couldn't help, because my arm hurt so much.

It was fun to meet the Australians in spite of all the problems I was having.  I'm hoping it will heal soon enough that I can play in the Walgreens compeition in 9 days.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Martin Fröst Plays the Lincoln Center

It’s not every day that you get to meet one of the best clarinetists in the world, but last weekend I got to do just that.

On Sunday, I went to see Martin Fröst play a solo concert with pianist Shai Wosner at the Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater. Martin Fröst is a clarinet superstar from Sweden. I had been looking forward to this concert for weeks. He launched the presentation with an amazing performance of Premiére Rapsodie by Debussy. I loved his movement while he was playing; it was like he was dancing.

Next, he played a sonata by Poulenc with such wonderful phrasing, it was like he was singing. He seemed so excited while he played, that it was fun just to watch him.

The next piece really captured the day. Fröst played the Theme with Variations by Françaix with unbelievable grace. The pianissimo notes were so astonishing that they could be heard throughout the hall. The expression of his body movement was so interwoven with the music; it was like he became the melody.

After the Françaix, the clarinet virtuoso executed the Brahms Sonata in E-flat major, No. 2 even more impressively than the piece before. His phrases were superb and his tone was just marvelous, like a flowing river. He just throws himself in the music, making every note gorgeous. He persuaded me that there was for that hour nothing else in the world besides his enthralling playing. Martin Frost has his own ostentatious style which no one could ever replicate.

Finally, he received such an ovation that he ended the morning with an encore. He played an animated klezmer-like piece called Csárdás from his album Frost and Friends which woke us up from his lulling, beautiful Brahms. He jumped right into it, and played all the technical parts with such enthusiasm. As the piece became more exciting, he played with even more eagerness. It was a grand ending and he pulled it off with virtuosity almost unknown to the clarinet.

There was a coffee reception after the concert where everyone got to meet Martin Fröst and Shai Wosner. Martin Fröst’s agent had given me and my mom his comp tickets when we found the concert had sold out, so we had to thank him, and I really wanted to meet him. I was really nervous while I was in line to meet him. When it was our turn to talk to him, I was so nervous that I couldn’t speak coherently. My mom and I thanked him for the tickets, and my mom asked him if she could take a picture of me and Martin Fröst. He said yes and my mom took a picture. She said that I looked terrified, and Martin Fröst was so nice that he said, “I looked terrified too, take another one.”

It was a spectacular performance and I hope I can watch him play his clarinet again soon even if he is Swedish and not Norwegian.  (The Bakkes come from Norway.)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Seeing the New York Philharmonic

I'm from Chicago.  I know what a world class orchestra sounds like, because we have one right here, conducted by Maestro Muti, when he gets back from Italy that is.

I was excited to see the New York Philharmonic.  I went to a concert they gave at the Lincoln Center on Saturday.  The program was Beethoven's 2nd Symphony in D Major and Twelve Songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn by Mahler. 

I wanted to see how the famous New York Philharmonic compared with my hometown Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  Unfortunately, I couldn't really hear the New York Philharmonic, and I could really see them either.  The hall they performed in was Avery Fisher Hall.  First, I noticed that couldn't see anything, in spite of having reasonably close seats in the first tier.  The angle of view to the stage was blocked by big black metal railings.  Also, you couldn't really hear the low voices very well. 

The acoustics problem was a big issue in the second piece.  The Mahler piece was a collection of songs sunch by two singers.  The soprano, Dorothea Roschmann, I could hear.  She sang quite nicely.  The Tenor, Ian Bostridge, I couldn't really hear!  I could hear his high notes, but not his low notes.

When I got home, I did some research on Avery Fischer Hall.  It turns out that the Hall does have acoustical problems.  It wasn't Mr. Bostridge's fault that I couldn't hear him.  The Hall was made too big, and the acoustics for the low voices aren't very good.

Also, the hall was ugly.  It was all brown.  The seats were brown.  The stage was brown.  The walls were brown.  It was like watching a concert in a big brown box.  On the walls, a bunch of brightly lit exit signs were glaring.  It was unpleasant.

When the Mahler was going on, they had a projector flashing a translation of the german up.  It was hard to concentrate on the orchestra, because the words were always distracting you.

On a postive note, I really liked principal clarinetist, Mark Nuccio, who had a lot of solos in the Mahler.  The horns stood out too, especially in the Beethoven.

Another problem was the audience.  At the end of the performance, while we were applauding, about one fourth of them got up and left.  How could they do that?!  The performers were trying to come back for their ovations, but it was awkward with all the people leaving at the same time.  I'm glad Chicago audiences don't act like that!

I would like to see the New York Philharmonic play in Carnegie Hall or the Chicago Symphony Center so I can actually hear them perform.  I'm sure they're great.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Risor Chamber Music Festival at Carnegie Hall

On Friday, I went to see Martin Frost in the Risor Chamber Music Festival at Carnegie Hall. The Risor Chamber Music Festival is yearly chamber music festival in Risor, Norway.

First, they opened with a string sextet by Richard Strauss. They played very beautifully. I really liked expression of the cellist, Audun Andre Sandvik. His playing throughout the evening was really memorable.

Next, there was an amazing performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 14 in Eb Major by pianist Leif Ove Andsnes. I loved how he conducted the orchestra as he played, just like Uchida does. There was only one problem with this setup: I could only see the pianist from the back from where I was. I couldn’t see his fingers and his face while he was playing. Still, it was a sensational performance. Also, in the performance, the principal first violin, second violin, and viola played a trio together separate from the piano. It was like a piece within a piece, and they communicated so well, it was almost like they were one person.

The last piece before intermission was Gustav Mahler’s Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen, starring Measha Brueggergosman, a leading soprano. She was accompanied by an odd group of two violins, a viola, a cello, a bass, a flute, a clarinet, a piano, a harmonium, and a percussion player. It was a stunning execution of this collection of songs. Brueggergosman was very inspiring. Whenever I tried to watch Martin Frost, who was my whole reason for being in New York that weekend, she irresistibly drew my attention back to her. I felt like she was singing to me personally. She was amazing!

After intermission, Martin Frost played Aaron Copland’s Clarinet Concerto. His first, flabbergasting pianissimo blew your mind away. It was so quiet but he still got a beautiful tone and his sound filled the entire hall. His physical movement during the first section, slowly and expressively, was very interesting. It was like he was dancing, as he played. He had his own ideas about how to move while playing the clarinet that aren’t quite like anyone elses. He played the cadenza that linked the two movements marvelously, executing all the difficult turns and twists perfectly. In the last movement, rather fast, Frost became very excited, and the expression of his body became even more thrilling. I loved how he played with the cellos and basses. I enjoyed this last movement even more than the first one.

For an encore, Martin Frost played a klezmer piece called Lets Be Happy for an encore. He said it was his own brand of Scandinavian klezmer, because it was arranged by his little brother. He got so animated during this piece that I think he liked it better than the Copland. It was a fun piece with a lot of fast parts and I think he played it better here than at any other part of the concert.

They ended the night with an incredible performance of Béla Bartók’s Divertimento for Strings. I especially liked the violas and cellos. The lower sections of the Risor Festival Strings really stood out. All around, it was a great performance.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Lesson with Anthony McGill

Yesterday in New York, I had a lesson with Anthony McGill.  Anthony McGill, if you don't know, is the principal of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York City.  He played at the Inauguration with Yoyo Ma and Itzhak Perlman.  He is one of the best clarinetists I've ever listened to.  The piece I am playing for the Walgreens Concerto Competition is the Weber Concertino.  I chose it, because in the spring I heard Anthony McGill play it with the Chicago Clarinet Ensemble, and it was very inspiring, because he has a very serene, emotional and expressive tone.  After hearing Mr. McGill play it, I really wanted to play it too.

I was supposed to meet Mr. McGill at the stage entrance of the Metropolitan Opera which is part of the Lincoln Center.  We got there early and waited until 2:15 which was when the lesson was scheduled.  Mr. McGill came out at 2:15 and told us that his rehearsal was running late and it would be 15 or 20 minutes more.  I was very nervous.  I had been a little nervous about playing for him for days and days, and having to wait a little longer made it even more scary.  I was really worried that I would embarrass myself in front of somebody I think of so highly.  I had to get up at 4:30 that morning to catch a plane to New York, and so I was also quite tired!

Finally, Mr. McGill finished his rehearsal and came out to meet me.  He took me to one of the practice rooms that is under the opera house.  It was a very small room with foam on the wall.  There were two chairs and a music stand in the room.  My chair was a spinning chair with wheels, like a computer chair.  Mr. McGill was very nice and friendly and he was always smiling.  That made me feel a little better.  There was a trombone playing in a nearby room.  Mr. McGill joked that we would have a trombone accompaniest for the lesson and he laughed.

First, he told me to take out Etude #2 from the Rose 32 Etudes for Clarinet.  It's a fast technical piece in 3/8 time.  I played through the piece once, and then Mr. McGill told me to play it again, but this time pay more attention to subdivision and make the phrases longer.  I played about half of it through, and he stopped me and told me I needed to project more.  Whenever I articulate a note, I need to sustain the breath as I am slurring, even though I am tonguing the notes.  Then we started taking the piece apart and working on it section by section.  After that, we moved on to the next Etude.

Mr. McGill told me to take out the next etude, which was #18 from the Rose 40 Studies for Clarinet.  This is a slower, more expressive piece.  I played the piece through once, and then he told me to play it again.  He stopped me after the first measure and told me that if I am playing a long note, I should either swell or fade away to make the note more interesting.  Then he had me play the entire phrase, and he told me to play it with more breath not to divide the phrase up the way I was doing it.  He had me play it from the beginning again, and he stopped me after the second phrase.  He told me to play the phrase with more expression, so I played the phrase again more expressively, and then he stopped me in the middle and said, "During the section with the triplets, you have to swell more, and fade away more."  He demonstrated.  I loved the way he played it.  We worked on the rest of the etude taking it apart phrase by phrase.  His advice was really useful.  He said to focus on playing with more breath support, emphasizing the dynamics, and playing longer phrases.

Then we moved on to the Weber Concertino.  First he had me play the entire piece through.  I was nervous, and I messed up on the runs at the end of the piece.  Mr. McGill told me to play the Adagio part at the beginning again.  He stopped me after the first note, and he told me to play the first note with more breath.  He said I was playing note too quietly, and not projecting enough sound when I played it.  I tried it again, and he said I had it that time.  That made me feel really awesome!

We worked a little longer on the first phrase, and then we took apart the entire Adagio section and worked through it phrase by phrase.  When we got to the Andante section, he told me to get a more singing tone, and tongue the notes more lightly.  He worked with me on changing the air speed when I changed registers.  He demostrated by blowing air.  Whenever I didn't play with enough breath, he blew to let me know to use more. 

After working on the first two sections, we moved on to the Poco piu vivo part of the piece.  This is where the piece gets technically difficult.  He told me to work on getting a more singing-like tone, even with the really fast, difficult parts.  We also worked on the phrasing.  When we got to the staccato runs, he showed me a way I can get a much sweeter sound on the staccato runs, and he made it much easier.  He showed me that when I was playing staccatos not to tongue so heavily, but to use my lightly against the reed and play the runs as if they were slurs, but with tonguing.  This helped my sound enormously.  I was surprised and pleased by how much better it sounded when I played it that way.

Then we worked on the triplet section.  He told me that I needed a sweeter tone on the slurred staccato parts.  I think this is called portato, but I'm not sure.  We worked on the phrases, and then we moved onto the next difficult passage.  I played it too fast at first.  He said to slow down and not to stop the phrase with my staccatos, but to keep my breath moving through each note to the next.  He had me use different amounts of breath.  The higher register needs more air.  We worked through each phrase like that, and then we moved onto the slow part that ends this middle section of the Concertino.  We worked on the phrases here, because it's a very slow and beautiful part.  That makes it harder to play.  Mr. McGill said to not play the sixteenth note after the dotted eigth note too fast, among many other things.

Finally, we moved onto the last section of the piece, the Allegro.  Mr. McGill demonstrated how to keep an internal beat going as I played through the passage by sniffing on the beat.  He didn't mean that I should sniff while playing, of course, but he demonstrated how to feel the beat as I played to keep the notes more even.  This section was a little out of control, so we worked on how to get it in control. 

We reached the first of the difficult runs at the end of the piece.  We worked on slowing them down so you can get all the notes in, and we practiced only one register at a time so we could practice the register alone without transitioning.  I skip notes sometimes when I transition between registers on these fast runs, and doing it this way helped me be aware of each note.  It's hard to get 13 notes in on one beat!

Next we worked on a slower sweeter part that divides up two fast technical sections.  We worked on the expression here.  He demonstrated on his clarinet, and it was amazingly beautiful.  He told me to play the part where it transitions into a minor key more expressively than the part before, because this makes a very good impression.

Finally, we reached the last section.  He got the music out, so it would be easier to do the twisty section.  I had been playing from memory up to this part.  We worked on slowing down the twisty section and getting it more in control.  Then we worked on the last three big, fast runs at the end of the piece.  We worked on slowing them down and dividing the parts in different registers up.  We were finally done. 

Before taking me back to the stage entrance where mom was waiting, he showed me the orchestra pit.  He pointed all the way to the top balcony which was really far away!  Mr. McGill said that I had to project my sound all the way up there even in pianissimo sections.

Anthony McGill is a fantastic clarinetist, but I also found out this weekend that he is a wonderful teacher.  He had a way of being friendly and positive even when he was correcting me.  His advice was incredibly useful, and it was great to have the opportunity to play the Concerto for him before doing it for the Walgreens.

Thank you, Mr. McGill!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

IMEA District VII Junior Concert

Last Saturday I attended the District VII Junior IMEA concert. Early in October, my sister Eowyn, who is in 6th grade, and I tried out for IMEA and made it. I didn’t know what chair I made until the concert. When I got to Wauconda High School where the concert was being held, my school band teacher greeted me and told me I made first chair.  I was so excited! I went to the band room and found my chair.  It was crowded with young musicians.  Leah, a clarinetist from my MYA orchestra, was second chair, and Steven who is also in my MYA orchestra was there too.

This is my sister who plays the horn.
After a few minutes our conductor got to the band room. She started us with a fifteen minute warm up. It was very interesting and I learned some things about breathing that I didn’t know.  She demonstrated how to breathe efficiently.  First you breathe out, and then you breathe in, and then you breathe in again a little extra in a slightly different way.  It's hard to describe, but it was very helpful with breath support. We worked on Cenotaph by Jack Stamp, then Shenendoah by Frank Ticheli, and lastly the first three movements of Suite Provencale by Jan Van de Roost.  After that we had a break.

During the break we had lunch. I sat at a table with a bunch of Midwest Young Artist wind players who made IMEA.  Being in MYA is like being a part of a family.  When we go to places outside of MYA, we are really nice to each other, and we hang out, and I like that.  After I finished eating, I went to the band room ten minutes early and played my clarinet. I was having a really fun time. When the conductor got back to the band room we worked on the last movement of Suite Provencale and all of Seventy Six Trombones. The conductor kept telling the clarinets that we were playing too loud a lot, and I agreed with her.

After that we tried out the gym that we were going to perform in. We practiced for about thirty minutes in a dress rehearsal. Finally it was time for the concert. The IMEA orchestra and choral came in and found their spots in the gym. We were going first.  It was really fun being first chair. After the band played, the IMEA choral and orchestra performed. They sounded great! It was a really exhausting day but also really fun. I can’t wait until next year when IMEA comes again.

Friday, November 5, 2010

MYA's Fall Concert

Dr. Dennis and me.
I had a Midwest Young Artists concert at Pick-Staiger last Sunday. Midwest Young Artists or MYA is my youth orchestra. We got to dress up in our costumes during the concert. It was very fun. There were two concerts, the first one at 1:30 and the second one at 7:00. Both of my ensembles played in the second concert.

I got to Pick-Staiger at 9:30 because of my sisters, who are in Concertino Orchestra, which had its dress rehearsal then. Afterwards, I went to a restaurant with my mom, my sisters, my friend Katie, my friend Nathan’s sister, and Nathan’s mom, Ms. Goldin. We got back to Pick-Staiger at about 1:00, and I sold raffle tickets until my friend Nathan got to the theater, and I went with him to get a seat in the audience for the first concert. I like watching the younger kids. They are adorable, but they play very well.

Mr. Pearson

The order of the first concert was Cadet Orchestra, Jazz Ensemble, Concertino Orchestra, Jazz Orchestra, intermission, Philharmonia, Voices Rising, and Choral. Cadet was conducted by Patrick Pearson, who dressed up as Michael Jackson. They played The Weber Suite by Carl Maria Von Weber, Dragonhunter by Richard Meyer and Boogie Man Boogie by Patrick Pearson. Jazz Ensemble was conducted by Jarrard Harris and played Moanin’ by Bobby Timmons and Carpetbaggers by Dean Sorenson. Concertino Orchestra was conducted by Patrick Pearson and played The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas and March from Carmen by Georges Bizet. Cadet and Concertino sounded great, so did the Jazz Orchestra, but I’m not so keen on jazz, so I’m never a good judge of a jazz concert.

After intermission the Philharmonia Orchestra played. Philharmonia was conducted by Patrick Pearson and played three of the four movements from Peer Gynt Suit, І. Morning Mood, П. The Death of Ase, and Ш. In the Hall of the Mountain King by Edvard Grieg. I loved the way they played it. The first movement was really nice, the second movement was heart breakingly beautiful, and the last movement was really cool.

Concertino Orchestra.  The principal cellist is my sister Rowena.
The next group that performed was Voices Rising who were conducted by Benjamin Gray. They they sang Kyrie by Greg Gilpin, Song for Mira by Allister MacGillivray, and Fireflies by Adam Young. Voices rising then sang with Choral for an amazing performance of Zion’s Walls adapted by Aaron Copland. Last but not least Choral were conducted by Gordon Krauspe and sang Frobisher Bay by James Gordon, Make Them Hear You by Stephen Flaherty, and What’ll I Do By Irving Berlin. I especially loved Frobisher Bay. It was such a beautiful peace, and they sang it perfectly in tune.

At 7:00, after two dress rehearsals, it was time for my concert. Dr. Ripley directs the Honors Wind Symphony, where I’m currently principal clarinet. We played the first and fourth movements of Old Wine in New Bottles by Gordon Jacob, and we played Chester, and When Jesus Wept by William Schuman, not to be confused with Robert Schumann. It was really fun to go first, and I really enjoyed playing in this performance. I had a lot exposure with a number of solos, which was a little nerve-wracking, but very exciting. Michael Cox, the euphonium, had a big solo part and duet with Avery DeMaria who is the principal trumpet. I loved their solos, they played some of the most beautiful music brass music I’ve ever heard. Tamara Winston, our oboeist, also nailed her solos. She has such beautiful phrasing.

Big Band, which is conducted by Chris Madsen followed us with another stellar performance. They played Coda by Garling, Self Portrait of the Bean by Duke Ellington, and Stompin’at the Savoy by Edgar Sampson. They have a big sound, and they don’t sound like kids. They’re quite professional and enjoyed their performance quite a lot, in spite of my renowned lack of enthusiasm for jazz music.

Concert Orchestra
 After intermission, Dr. Dennis’ orchestras performed. Concert Orchestra, where I’m 2nd clarinet went first. We played the first two movements of Dvorak’s 8th Symphony. I love this symphony. There are a lot of A clarinet parts, and I loved the sound of an A clarinet even more than a Bb clarinet. In the first movement, the piece transitions from relaxed and lyrical and beautiful, to insistent and exciting. The 2nd movement is really beautiful, and the ending is very dramatic and energetic, until the last few lines where the tempo slows down and Dvorak introduces a new theme – at least I think that’s the case. In February, we’ll play all 4 movements of the symphony. I can’t wait.

Finally, the Symphony Orchestra took the stage. This is what everyone waits for. My brother plays viola in this orchestra. They played Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra. This is really hard piece. It’s very demanding of all of the sections, and Symphony played it amazingly. I was very impressed. It seemed like the principal clarinet had solos running through the entire piece, and Sam Mattenson played them with astounding musicality. All the soloists were wonderful, but I pay close attention to the clarinets.  My favorite movements were the third, which started with a bassoon part, followed by the clarinets. It was stunning. The fifth movement was real show-stopper to end the concert. The audience was on their feet.

I can’t wait to play with this orchestra!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Martin Fröst visits the United States

In a month I am going to New York City to see Martin Frost perform!  I have heard recordings of him and he is amazing.  Martin Fröst is a Swedish clarinet virtuoso who is known around the globe. 

He played violin when he was six but got tired and moved on to sports until he was nine and he started playing clarinet.  I played violin and viola when I was younger, and I got bored and played travel soccer, and then started clarinet when I was 10.  Also, like Martin Fröst I am Scandanavian on my dad's side -- although Norwegian and Danish, not Swedish.

In addition to being a great clarinetist, Martin Fröst is famous for being able to play clarinet while roller skating backwards.  Check it out:

When he was fifteen he moved to Stockholm to study clarinet and later he also studied in Hannover.  He plays mostly classical music but he also plays some contemperary music.  I can't wait untill I get to see him, I know he will be amazing.

One really cool thing is that I couldn't get tickets to one of the performances in New York in December.  My mom wrote to Mr. Fröst's publicist to see tickets could be bought elsewhere.  They weren't being sold anywhere else, but Mr. Fröst gave me the tickets they set aside for him.  Now I get to see the performance, and I'm very grateful for this.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Muti Comes to Chicago

The buildings were decorated with lights that spelled out
Muti and CSO.
 On Sunday, I went to a free concert of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  It was free because the CSO was introducing their new conductor Riccardo Muti.  Riccardo Muti is a really famous Italian Conductor.  Muti was the principal conductor of La Scala, the famous Italian opera house from 1986-2005.

We got to the concert just before it started, because we came from the performance at the Spertus Museum.  It very very crowded.  There were 30,000 people in Millenium Park to see the concert.  We didn't have a good view, because there were so many people crowded around the Pritzker Pavilian.  Only my sister Rowena got a glimpse of Muti, because I put her on my shoulders so she could see.  She got excited about seeing the cello section too, because she plays cello.

This was our view.  We couldn't even see Muti!
They played a Verdi opera and "Les Preludes" by Liszt for the first half of the concert.  I wanted to see the second half of the concert, but I couldn't, because Sam and Nathan and Ari who were with me were really hungry and needed to get dinner.  So I missed the Overture to Romeo and Juliet by Tchaikovsky and Respighi's "The Pines of Rome" which featured John Bruce Yeh playing some really great clarinet solos.  I was really sorry to miss that!

I was sad to miss the second half of the concert, but it was really fun to be there with so many Chicagoans who must love classical music.

Maxwell Street Junior Klezmer Band Performs at the Spertus Center
Here is a link to the video of the klezmer performance.

Recently, I joined a youth klezmer group called Maxwell Street Junior Band.  Klezmer music is very interesting.  It is a traditional Jewish style of secular music that originated in Eastern Europe.  It is very different from classical music.  I like klezmer, because it is very free, unlike classical music which has very strict rules.  You can improvise, and the music is really fun.

My group performed at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies downtown.    The Spertus Institute is in Chicago where you can learn about Jewish culture.  The concert was part of an exhibit called "Uncovered & Rediscovered," which is about Chicago Jewish culture and history.

We played many pieces during the concert.  4 of the pieces were vocalist pieces, and the others were instrumental.  The performance lasted 45 minutes.  At the beginning of each pieces, Lori, the director introduced the piece and gave a little of its historical background. 

Lori is really nice.  She is the head of the Maxwell Street Junior Band, and she directs it with the help of other members of the Maxwell Street Professional Band.  My brother and I are new, and she's very enthusiastic about us being there.  She makes us feel very welcome, and she's always excited about everything.  I really like having her as our director.

Playing in the concert was very exciting.  I've never performed klezmer music on stage before, but I really like it.  Normally, I play in a bigger space with more musicians, because usually I play with my youth orchestra.  But with klezmer there are fewer people, and the music is all around you.

Afterwards, Chicago 3 Media interviewed a few people.  It was fun getting interviewed, but very scary too.

Watching My Teacher Perform

Last monday I got to see my teacher Dileep Gangolli perform at the Chicago Cultural Center.

The Chicago Cultural Center is a really cool building.  The building has a big colorful stained glass dome, and the theater inside has great acoustics.

My mom dropped me off in the morning at Dileep's house, and I went downtown with Dileep and his wife Janice who is also very cool.  Dileep soloed with a piano accompaniest, and he played really well.  He played a Brahms sonata, Charles Stanford's Three Intermezzi for Clarinet and Piano, and Niels Gade's Fantasy Pieces with pianist Huang Hao Hung. 

I loved the concert.  I really liked the selection of pieces.  They were all pieces I hadn't heard before except the Brahms sonata.  I like listening to new pieces, because I learn new things.  Dileep played very expressively, which is one of his biggest strenths.  He is passionate about the music, and it really shows when he performs.  His performance was very exciting, and he seems to enjoy every minute that he was on stage.  I hope I get to see more of his concerts in the future.

After the performance, Dileep took me out for sushi for lunch, and sushi is my favorite food.  And then we went back to his house and I had a 2 hour lesson with him.  Because my mom couldn't pick me up until the evening, I stayed at his house and read and had dinner and practiced my piano there. 

Not only is Dileep a great performer, he is also a really amazing and inspiring teacher.  I love his lessons and I look forward to them all week.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ensembles Starting Up Again

I'm really excited that things are starting up again! All my musical activities are begining. I have already have had one rehersal of Concert Orchestra at Midwest Young Artists, Honors Wind Symphony at Midwest Young Artists, MYA intensive chamber, and Maxwell Street Junior Klezmer Band.

I made Concert Orchestra at MYA this year. It is the second highest level orchestra at Midwest Young Artists. We are playing the first and second movements of Dvorak's 'Eighth Symphony' for a concert on Halloween. The first movement is played on A clarinet, which is exciting because I have a chance to use my A clarinet which I don't get to use normally. I hope we do well in the concert.

 Another ensemble I made in MYA this year is Honors Wind Symphony. It is the only Wind Symphony at MYA. We are playing Schuman's 'When Jesus Wept', Barber's 'Intermezzo', Reed's 'La Fiesta Mexicana', and Schuman's 'Chester' (Not to be confused with Schumann). The harder pieces are 'Chester' and 'La Fiesta Mexicana' . They are harder because they are faster, have more difficult fingerings, and go higher than the other two pieces.  The "La Fiesta" goes to a high A.  We have a two performances the week before the Halloween concert and one at the Halloween concert.

 Because I am in Concert Orchestra this year, I have a chamber music group at MYA. I am in the intensive chamber group in which we have more rehearsals and more performances than the other chamber groups. We are playing a wind quintet by Ferene. The second movement of the piece is played on A clarinet. It is cool that I get two pieces on A clarinet at the same time. We are going to get more music next week. I don't know when the first chamber performance will be.
The last ensemble that I am in this year is Maxwell Street Junior Klezmer Street Band which is a klezmer group that is run by the Maxwell Street Band. Klezmer is a really distinct style of playing.  In klezmer you must have a looser embouchure. Even though the format is so different from classical music, I still really like it.  It is very unlike all of my Honors Wind Symphony and Concert Orchestra music. I am so happy that my music is much more difficult this year than last year. I can't wait until my klezmer concert and my Halloween concert. I have so much new music to learn that I need to practice a lot more than I already practice to prepare everything.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Interlochen Fine Arts Camp

This is the Intermediate Wind Symphony warming up.
This summer I went to Interlochen Fine Arts Camp in Michigan. Interlochen is a summer fine arts camp for grades 3-12, which takes students from all over the United States and many countries around the world. You have to audition to get in to most of the middle and high school programs. I auditioned on clarinet, and I made 3rd chair, which meant I played in both the Intermediate Wind Symphony and the Intermediate Symphony Orchestra.

I had a great time. It was my first time away from home for three weeks. There were a lot of things I really liked about Interlochen: everyone was so involved in their art, everyone was really nice, the music fun, and I really enjoyed my classes. I wish I got to stay there longer.

I was surprised that everyone was nice and there were no bullies. That's surprising, because in most gatherings of middle school boys, like school, there always seem to be some kids who want to cause pain for other kids. At school, I can't just be myself, because some kids will be mean to me, because I'm different from what they think is normal. I love playing my clarinet more than anything, I love classical music instead of pop and rock music like most people my age, I love history, and I homeschool part time. At school, I feel like I can't be open about who I am. Interlochen was different. There is was okay to be myself, and people didn't make fun of me. I felt accepted for who I am. Sometimes people did things that bothered me, but no one was trying to be mean on purpose. I wish school could be more like that.

This is Kaelen, Nick and me with my baby brother Morgan.
Another thing that was cool about Interlochen was that everyone was very involved in their art which was amazing because I've never been surrounded by so many artists before. It was inspiring and motivating. It is nice to know that there are that many people in the country who love music, and drama, and visual arts. The music was interesting, and there was a lot of it. The toughest piece we played in orchestra was Katchaturian's Saber Ballet, but I had played it before, so it wasn't too much. The band music was easier, but there were five pieces to learn and perfect ever week, as well as orchestra pieces to prepare.

I loved my classes at Interlochen. I had five or six classes a day. The first class was Intermediate Wind Symphony, which was all the intermediate winds. My second class was either Clarinet Sectionals or Woodwind Sectionals depending on the day. My third class was practice hour. For practice hour, you have a practice hut, and a practice supervisor walks around to assist and encourage you to practice.

Once a week instead of practice hour I had a clarinet lesson with Sandra Jackson, who was my teacher at
Interlochen. She is very nice and she is an exceptional clarinetist. She's even performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

This is Nicholas, who came from London,  reading The Fountainhead.
My next class was Instrument Exploration where I learned about many instruments. It was fun to learn how to play new instruments, except the flute. For some reason playing the flute made me really dizzy and kind of nauseous. I must have doing it wrong. My fifth class was either Orchestra or Performance skills. Orchestra went on for two hours and was the best class of the day. We worked on the pieces we were going to play in the concert during Orchestra Class. Performance skills was basically a clarinet octet. We worked on chamber music most of the time and sometimes we talked about clarinet stuff. My sixth class was Orchestra sectionals. This was when the clarinets in orchestra worked on our orchestra parts. There were four of us, but only one girl. Her name is Julia and she was my stand partner. She comes from the Chicago area too, and she plays with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra.

We had two free days every week. The first two days of camp were free days. I mostly was meeting new people those days, but I had my seating audition on the second day.  During the third free day, I was hurrying around to concerts all day, and at night I went to the World Youth Symphony Orchestra, which is the top
orchestra of the high school program. It was amazing. I gave them a standing ovation as did everyone else. The second day of that weekend I got two board games in the mail: Small World and Stone Age. My cabin mates and I played both games many times through the rest of the time at Interlochen. The last weekend before the final concert basically all we did was play Small World and talk and play our instruments. Thomas Wolfgang, an oboe player in my cabin, especially liked the game and wanted to play it over and over again. It was a great time and I had a great cabin.

This is me with my practice hour buddies.
Hanging out with my cabin was one of my favorite things. Every night we had a bunk talk. During the bunk talk, we talked about many things. Sometimes the counselors, John and Theo, told very very scary ghost stories that gave us all nightmares. Sometimes they asked us questions about what we liked and disliked about Interlochen, what we were looking forward to doing at Interlochen and during the rest of our lives. We joked that we would all meet up again at Carnegie Hall. The last thing we did during bunk talk was listen to soothing music. I loved bunk talk, it was the most relaxing part of the day.

One of the best things about Interlochen were the performances. They were amazing. A few of the performances really stood out, like the WYSO performances, Aida, and the Parker String Quartet. The Parker Quartet played very beautifully and I loved the way they moved together while they played.  They communicated very well when they played.  Aida was also an amazing performance. The actress who playing as Aida was terrific. Her voice was beautiful, and I really liked how she played the character. The stage set was also very cool. The story was really interesting, it was about a Nubian princess who is captured by an Egyptian Captain. I think my favorite performances were the  WYSO performances. They were just amazing. When they played I was so totally entranced that I didn't pay attention to anything but the music. All the performances were unbelievable and I wish I could see them all again at home.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Clarinet Camp at Midwest Young Artists

Last week, I attended a clarinet camp at Midwest Young Artists coached by Dileep Gangolli, my teacher. It was so much fun! Every day, we played our clarinets for five hours. Then, on Friday, we had a final concert.

On the first day, we started by introducing ourselves. There were seven other clarinetists at camp, and two of them were from other states. The oldest kid there was named Robert Orozco, and he came from California. He starts his senior year in high school next year. He was a great clarinetist and a very nice person. He always had something nice and encouraging to say about everyone. Scott Greene from MYA was also there. I think we get to be in the same orchestra next year. There was also another kid from Naperville, IL there. He was named Addison. He is going to be a sixth grader next year, and he was really good! There were other cool kids there too. We all got to know each other well by the end of the week.

On of the things that we talked about was reeds. I learned many things about breaking in reeds. You need to keep a cycle of 8 reeds going. the moment you take a reed out of the package, you want to dip it in water for a few seconds before using it. The first time you play a reed, you want to do it for a short time: like less than 5 minutes. If you feel it becoming soft and mushy, you should stop using it. Keep using it for longer periods in future days, and eventually it will get broken in.

The first actual playing we got to do was in an ensemble, in which all eight of us played together. We prepared three pieces: Joplin, Haydn, and Respighi. After that, we split off into groups of two to practice duets which Dileep had just assigned us. I got paired with a boy named Addison, who is ten years old. Addison was really fun to play with. He was really good, really nice, and he was really easy to work with. We also did master classes in which four of us got to play during the week. I did not get to play in any of the master classes. That didn't disappoint me, because playing in front of people makes me nervous, especially people who know me.

On Friday, we had a concert where we performed our duets, solos, and ensemble music. First, Dileep had a dres rehearsal with Scott (who as playing an Arabesque) with the pianist who was performing with us. Then a camera man came in and filmed our rehearsal. After that, Dileep got interviewed. I think it was for the Chicago Clarinet Ensemble. They were looking at his work as a teacher. Next, we had dress rehearsals with the pianist.

When the concert finally came, I was really nervous that I was going to mess up. We first did our duets. Addison and I did really well. Next were the solos. I did well mostly, except that I messed up in the technically difficult parts. The pianist was playing faster than I could play and I didn't know how to slow her down. Still, I feel like I played really expressively, and I finished with a feeling that I did really good.

It was a really fantastic week, and I hope I can come back next year.

Thanks, Dileep!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Quintet Attaca - Woodwind Chamber Camp

This week, I went to a woodwind chamber camp directed by Quintet Attacca. Quintet Attacca is a woodwind quintet who are the 2nd woodwind quintet to ever win the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition. They are incredible musicians, great teachers, and really nice people. This is my second year going to their woodwind chamber camp. Both years, I had a great time.

This year was different than last year, because there were more kids there. I played in a quintet and a large chamber group. We performed a Beethoven woodwind quintet (Op. 71) and Gopak by Mussorgsky in my quintet, and we performed 2 movements of Gounod's Petite Symphony in the larger group.

I really enjoyed being a part of this. The coaching was really good, and the other kids were very nice. I hope I can go back next year, because it was such an amazing experience -- even moreso than last year.

Thanks, Quintet Attacca!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Knee Injury and Quintet Camp

Knee Injuries Make Time for Clarinet Practice

Last week, while I was playing soccer, I injured my knee. I dislocated my patella. It was the last game of the season, and my team had won ever game so far. I scored a goal and had an assist in the first half, and I was really excited about playing soccer because I had been watching World Cup.

But then it happened.

I was tackling another player, and stepped wrong and slid. My knee hurt, but I was wondering why. I just fell over! But then I looked at my knee and I panicked, because it was in totally the wrong spot! My kneecap was on the side of my leg! It looked horrible. I tried to unbend my knee, but the pain was unbearable.

They called an ambulance, and I got stretchered off the field and rushed to the hospital. I was in so much pain, they gave me morphine. I thought they would have to do surgery or something to get my knee back into place, but all they had to do was manipulate my knee, and pop! It went back into place. It still hurt a lot, but it nearly as painful once they relocated it.

Now I'm on crutches, and I won't be doing sports for 3-4 months. Oh well, at least I get to play my clarinet a lot more.

Quintet Attaca Camp

This week, I am going to Quintet Attacca Camp in Winnetka at the Music Institute of Chicago. It's a woodwind quintet camp, which means that there are oboes, clarinets, bassoons, french horns, and flutes.

I'm in a quintet with my friend Nathan, and Tom and Tom, a bassoonist and an oboeist around the same age. Our flute part is being played by Jennifer Clippert who is a member of Quintet Attaca. I'm also in a larger ensemble where we're playing Petite Symphonie by Gounod with several members of the Quintet Attacca.

I went last year and had a great time. So far this year it's a lot of fun, but the music seems a lot easier than it did last year. I think that's because I got a lot better this year, and the music isn't much harder than last year. Still it's fun.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Interview with Anthony McGill!

On Friday I had the opportunity to interview my favorite clarinetist, Anthony McGill, after the dress rehearsal for his concert with the Chicago Clarinet Ensemble. I went to the dress rehearsal because my teacher, Dileep Gangoli is in the Chicago Clarinet Ensemble. I had a lesson just before the dress rehearsal, and then Dileep took me to the rehearsal. After the dress rehearsal my teacher recorded me interviewing Mr. McGill. It was really fun, but I was terrified. I didn't know how hard it was going to be to interview someone famous.

Because my piano teacher Barbara Rubenstein suggested it, I wrote the questions out ahead of time and practiced them with a glass head with a beret. Mr. McGill was really cool and really nice. And he was very patient with me stumbling over my questions.

Interview with Anthony McGill

Video Transcription

Torin: Hello, I’m Torin. What’s your name?

Anthony McGill: I’m Anthony McGill.

I have some questions for you, Anthony McGill.


Okay, my first question is: I would like to know how you interpret a piece. I have the Weber Concerto on a recording by Martin Frost, Richard Stoltzman, and Sabine Meyer. I like the Martin Frost version the best, because it is less aggressive than the Stoltzman and it has a fuller tone than the Sabine Meyer Do you listen to other recordings before you try to interpret a piece?

Yeah, well, I actually when especially when I was younger used to listen to lots of different recordings, and it gave me an idea of what I would like to sound like and all of the different varieties of playing and phrasing and color that you can get in the clarinet, and so I think it’s actually very important to listen to other players so you can get a concept. Nowadays, I don’t listen to that that many clarinet players, but I admire lots of those people you just named. So, next question?

Is Itzak Perlman as nice as Yoyo Ma? Because my sister performed for Yoyo Ma. (And I should have said, my sister said he was very nice, but I was nervous and forgot).

Yeah, Itzak Perlman is really nice and Yoyo Ma is really nice as well, and they’re both really funny. They’re probably the funniest people I’ve ever met. And they’re also really great musicians, obviously.

Why did you choose clarinet as your instrument? Did you consider anything else? Did anyone influence your choice of the clarinet?

Well, my older brother played the flute, and so I wanted to play a wind instrument, but I wanted to play saxophone, but it was too big for me, so they told me to play the clarinet and switch to the saxophone later, but I never did.

I had the same thing with bassoon. I wanted to play bassoon, but I switched to the clarinet while I was waiting. (What I meant to say was that I was too small to play bassoon, so they told me to start on clarinet, and I’m never switching now because I love clarinet. But I forgot. Interviews are hard.)

Oh really?

What’s your least favorite part about being a clarinetist?

Oooh. Least favorite part about being a clarinetist…it’s hard sometimes , but then again, I guess every instrument is hard. You know, we have to try to find good reeds, and good instruments, and mouthpieces, and all of that stuff, but I really enjoy making music on the clarinet, that’s the really really fun part.

Oh, okay. Are you going to audition for the CSO, because I would like to see you perform some more often?

Oh, great. I have auditioned for the CSO, and I haven’t quite made it, gotten into the orchestra yet, but I, you know, I might keep trying.

That’s all the questions I have for you. Thank you.

Thanks a lot.


This is Sven. He is very helpful when preparing an interview.

Anthony McGill and the Chicago Clarinet Ensemble

On Friday, I went to a concert featuring Anthony McGill and the Chicago Clarinet Ensemble. For those of you who don’t know, Anthony McGill is the principal clarinet of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York City. He’s won all sorts of awards, and he is a well known virtuoso in the world of classical musicians. He’s most famous for playing at Obama’s inauguration with Yoyo Ma and Itzak Perlman. He is also my favorite clarinetist. This was a great concert, and I really enjoyed myself.

When he played the Concertino by Carl Maria von Weber, Anthony McGill really showed us what virtuoso he is with an amazing performance. I loved his phrasing and emotional expression. His slow parts had a very sweet and dark tone and his fast parts were very in control. He shaped his phrases so beautifully. His movement matched his musical expression, and he was very fun to watch. After the piece was over, I wanted him to play it again – maybe ten or twenty times.

The Latin American piece Four for Four by Jorge Montilla, started the concert. The bass clarinet solo really stood out. Mr. Tuttle had enormous control, especially the high register. He had a very full and big sound, but sweet. The first movement sounded like the bass clarinet was making a very important speech and the Bb and Eb clarinets were whispering, chattering, and laughing behind his back while he made his very important speech. All four musicians worked together very well.

The second piece they played was called Paquito by Andy Scott. I love this piece! I like how the high and low parts play off of each other, like they’re bouncing. It was like many things happening at the same time in a crowded room. The piece is very busy, but in a good way. The parts split off and go in different directions and come back together again. This was my favorite piece (outside of the McGill performance).

Throughout the entire concert, Rose Sperrazza was very funny between performances. I liked the way she talked to the audience like they were a group of her very good friends. She showed great leadership for the other musicians.

The last performance before the intermission was the world premier of Tres Canciones by Leo Schwartz who was there conducting. The first pieces of the concert were very physical and grounded in reality. This piece was very eerie and otherworldly. It was like you were floating around in a dreamworld. The third movement was like you woke up and you saw things how they really were again and that the world wasn’t just a dream. I thought the counter-tenor was odd. I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard a counter-tenor before, but Lon Ellenberger's performance was very good and it helped create the floating feel of the piece.

The Merit School clarinetists played Simple Gifts arranged by Ricky Lombardo. This arrangement of this famous American folk song played by students of Merit School made me think of the Aaron Copland Appalachian Springs movement that features this theme in many variations, and the John Williams piece from the inauguration. It was a great choice because it is a great tribute to Anthony McGill who was a student of Merit when he was young.

The concert ended with First Suite in Eb by Gustav Holst. It was nice to hear a Holst piece that WASN’T the Planets. I really liked how the clarinets could cover all of the parts of an orchestral piece that was written for many different instruments. It was neat how the clarinets sounded like clarinets, but at the same time, they gave the impression of strings and brass, and filled up the auditorium with their sound. Wow!

I wish I could travel in time so I could watch the concert again.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Anthony McGill Comes to Chicago

Tonight, I heard an amazing concert featuring Anthony McGill and the Chicago Clarinet Ensemble.  I would write more tonight, but I am exhausted, so I think I'll start the review in the morning.

The words that come to mind initially are:  amazing, outstanding, magnificent.  More tomorrow.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Waiting for Audition Results from MYA

At the beginning of April, I auditioned for the Concert Orchestra at Midwest Young Artists.  I know that the results should be mailed out this week, and I'm really nervous about whether I'm going to make it or not.  I think it may be more nerve-wracking to wait for audition results than it is to actually audition.

Lately, I'm working on the Danzi Concerto, a little on the Stamitz Concerto, and a lot on the Saint-Saens Sonata.  I really like the Saint-Saens Sonata.

Oh, and I'm thinking about going to the Geneva Grandquist music competition at the end of June. 

I really want school to end so I can play more music!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Three for Three Concert at Northeastern University

On Monday, I went to Northeastern University to see a piano trio perform "Three for Three." The trio was made up of a great clarinetist named Rose Sperrazza, a cellist from the CSO named Gary Stucka, who was also great, and Shirley Trissell, a pianist. I'm not sure, but I think I saw her at MYA playing the piano accompaniments for a master class. She's really good.

I went to the concert with Sam Sitzmann, a fifth grader who is a friend of mine. Sam is an outstanding cellist. The group played trios by Beethoven, Muczynski, and Brahms. I am playing the Beethoven, and my friend Sam and my brother Ari are working on the cello and piano parts so hopefullly, we'll be able to play it together soon. It took a long time to get from Buffalo Grove to Northeastern, so I was glad to have Sam with us. When we finally arrived, we had to look for a little while to find the recital hall where the performance was going to take place. We also had to find the parking office to get a parking permit so that our car wouldn't get a ticket. When we finally did all those things, we went to the performance, which was going to start in another 15 minutes.

They opened with the Beethoven. The first movement was really good with some technical sections that are hard to play. They played the first movement quite beautifully, and they made it look easy. The 2nd movement was carried off with great expression, and I enjoyed that a lot as well. While I enjoyed the third movement, and the musicians communicated very well together when they played it, I didn't like one decision that they made. Instead of putting in a slight pause between each variation, like a breath mark, they played through each variation in a row without pausing. The third movement is almost like a bunch of little songs (or variations on a simple theme) stuck together all in a row. I have a version of this piece on MP3 played by Richard Stoltzmann and Yoyo Ma, and in this recording there is a little more space between each variation. I could be wrong, but I like that better, because it there is time to prepare for the next variation, since each variation has a different feel. Still, I really liked the way they played this piece.

The second piece they played was the Muczynski. I think the 3 musicians played it really well, even though I don't think I like the piece very much. I have only heard it once, and I have to hear it a few more times before I decide. It is very wild and contemporary. After a short intermission, they played the best piece of the series by Brahms. The first movement of it was really fun and expressive. The second movement was beautifully smooth. The third movement was really nice and the last movement was really exciting. The last movement sounded very much like a conversation between the instruments, and when the mood of the piece changed, the musicians changed with it very well. I really want to play the Brahms now. Sam said his favorite piece of the three was the Brahms too.

I loved this concert, and I want to see all of these musicans perform again.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

New Practice Record and New Pieces

Last week, I made a new practice record.  14 hours and 45 minutes in just 3 days!  That made a total of 18 hours for the week.  I've practiced more in a week, but that was the most I have ever practiced over 3 days. 

Running track in addition to playing soccer caused me to have shin splints and Osgood Slatters, and my legs hurt too much to go to soccer practice or play outside much, so I made good use of the time.

Oh, and I'm working on some new pieces:  The Saint-Saens Sonata, the Danzi Concerto, and the Beethoven clarinet, cello, and piano trio.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

MYA's Last Big Concert of the Year

Last Sunday I had a MYA concert at Pick Staiger Theater at Northwestern University. It went really well! We played Saber Dance and Dance of the Rose Maidens by Khachaturian, Highlights From Wicked by Schwartz and a concerto by Vivaldi.

Before the concert, in the morning my mom took me to my clarinet teacher Dileep's house where I had a lesson. Then he took me to a neighborhood brunch party where I met some people from his neighborhood. They served crepes and grapes and lots of other things, but I only ate some grapes. I met two other musicians there. Dileep introduced me as his student and a good clarinetist. One of the guests said that he was interested in playing clarinet. He asked me what what was the most important thing for a clarinetist. I told him lots and lots and lots of practice and a little talent were the best combination.

After the brunch, Dileep dropped me off at the theater for my dress rehearsal. I met my friends Anatole, Nathan, Marc the clarinetist/saxophone player, Marc the trombone player, and Natalie, the first chair violist. First we played Dance of the Rose Maidens and Saber Dance. We did very well on both of them. The concerto by vivaldi didn't have any violins or winds so I sat out of it. It was really good. The four violin soloists gave a wonderful performance. Last we played Highlights from the musical Wicked which really needed some work. After the dress rehersal I went and got lunch at the student union. I have come to know that place well. I always get sushi there.

After lunch, I went backstage and waited for the concert to start. The Reading and Cadet Orchestras did very well. Finally, it was our turn to play just before the intermission. The Vivaldi was amazing. I think we pulled off the Khatchaturian pretty well -- Marc Turenne's saxophone solo was pretty awesome, but I think Wicked really needed a lot more work. Oh well, maybe next time. Alltogether, I thought we had a good concert.

When the intermission ended, the Concert Orchestra took the stage. My brother plays 3rd chair viola in this orchestra. This orchestra was amazing. Capriccio Espagnol by Rimsky-Korsakov was so stirring that I was almost in tears when they were done. This piece has a lot of clarinet solo parts. Theo Mavrakis has a great sound, and his phrasing was stupendous. I really got the music when he played it. The first violin Rachel Stenzel had some fantastic solos as well. She was amazing. She sounds so mature when she plays, more like a professional than a student musician.  It's hard to believe she's in middle school. Wow! Many times throughout the piece, it sounded like the Rachel and Theo were having a musical conversation. It was very exciting.  All of the soloists did a wonderful job.

The second piece they played was movements of the Carmen ballet by Bizet. I tend to notice the clarinet soloists more than other solos for obvious reasons. Liah Watt has several solos in this piece, which she pulled off quite well. She had a beautiful tone. I was surprised that they ended with this piece, because the ending of the first piece is more of a show stopper, but every thing I have seen his orchestra do this year has been great. The concert ended with the Honors Wind Symphony which played very well.

This was the last big concert of the year. Another great year at MYA!  I'm really looking forward to next year.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

MYA Audition

Two weeks ago during spring break I auditioned for MYA's Concert Orchestra. The pieces I auditioned on were the third movement of Five Bagatellas by Finzi and the first movement of Stamitz's third clarinet concerto. When I arrived at MYA, I went into a practice room. I was nervious. When I was warming up, I played too fast, and I messed up notes that I don't normally mess up. When I found out Mr. Pearson ( my orchestra's conductor) was the one recording my audition I was relieved. I like Mr. Pearson. He is friendly and energetic, and he makes everyone feel comfortable. Still, the same group of judges would look at my audition tape, even if the person recording me was someone I didn't know or someone who made me nervous.

Three of my siblings were auditioning around the same time as I was. My sisters played first. My sister Eowyn was auditioning on horn, and afterwards Mr. Pearson told me that she had done very well.

I went back to the practice room, and I kept practicing, better than before but still not as good as I normally play. After my other sister Rowena auditioned on cello, and my older brother Ari finished auditioning on viola, it was my turn. I started to feel really nervous again. I stared at the music stand, outside of the office that listed all of the people auditioning that day and their grade in school. My grade was listed as 78. I think my mom made a mistake. I laughed about my mom, and that made some of my nevousness go away. Mr. Pearson said that it was time, and I went in and started my audition. I played my scales really well, and I was surprised because I thought I wouldn't do very well, because I didn't do well in the practice room. I've memorized all of my major scales for 2 or 3 octaves, and I play them every day. Still, auditions make easy things seem hard. Then I played my orchestral excerpts, and I played the Finzi. Finally it was time for my hardest picece the Stamitz concerto. The piece seemed to drag on and onl, but I did really well.

After the audition I went home thinking I had done my best. If I make the Concert Orchestra, that will be great. I will be very excited. But if I don't, that's okay too. I like playing in my current orchestra, and there's always next year. If I've learned anything about auditions this year, it's that you never can tell what the judges will think.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Loren Kitt and Anton Stadler Both Play the Mozart Kegelstatt

The Kegelstatt Trio is a chamber piece for clarinet, piano, and viola.  It was written by Mozart while he was playing Skittles, which is kind of like table bowling.  I'm working on this piece with my brother Ari who plays viola and a pianist named Addison.  Mozart wrote the piece for his clarinet friend Anton Stadler. 

A critic from Mozart's time wrote, "I would not have thought that a clarinet could imitate the human voice so deceptively as you imitate it. Your instrument is so soft, so delicate in tone that no-one who has a heart can resist it."  (

This reminds me of a master class at MYA taught by John Bruce Yeh this past weekend.  Mr. Yeh said that you should sing your song before you play it to get a good feel for the phrasing.  He said that music should imitate the human voice. 

When he said that, I was terrified that he might ask me to sing in front of everyone, so I was determined not to volunteer to play.  I also didn't want to play, because a lot of the wind players there were older and more experienced than me. While I don't want to sing, because I don't like singing, it actually makes a lot of sense.

Here is a link to Loren Kitt,  playing the third movement to the Kegelstatt.  His playing is very soft and delicate, and I like it very much.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hope - A Review

At the 2nd half of the concert yesterday, the Chorale, Voices Rising, and the Concert Orchestra performed Hope, a piece written by Gary Frye, who is on staff at MYA.

I loved this piece!  First, there was a narration by John Hultman.  The whole thing was inspired by president Obama's speech.  The music was interesting.  I really liked the way the word "hope" sung in 4 part harmony swelled over the orchestra.  I also liked how the orchestra and the singing balanced each other out.  Each part was equally important.  The music filled me with joy and hope.

I'm not sure how to say how much I liked it, except to say that I loved every minute of it.  I want to hear it again.  They are performing it next in New York.  Maybe I should go there to hear it again...

A Good February Concert

Yesterday, I had an MYA Concert at Pick-Staiger Theater.  My group played the first movement of Beethoven's First Symphony.  Before the concert, we had a dress rehearsal.  The dress rehearsal didn't go so well.  My orchestra had trouble keeping a stead tempo.  We rushed through the easier parts, and we got lost in the faster parts.  Mr. Pearson stopped conducting sometimes, and just watched us.  The orchestra kept playing without a conductor, while Mr. Pearson just watched us.  It was obvious that we weren't watching him.  I was thinking that the concert was going to be a disaster.

An hour and a half later, it was time for the concert.  I didn't get to hear the first two groups perform because I was backstage.  That's too bad because I heard that the Cadet Orchestra played wonderfully.  Finally, it was our turn to perform.  We did much better than the dress rehearsal, but it wasn't perfect.  It wasn't the best we've ever played, but it wasn't the worse.  I think we can do better next concert.