Thursday, April 26, 2012

International Clarinet Association High School Solo Competition

Today, I found out I made the finals of the ICA High School Solo Competition.  This competition is open to clarinetists who are 18 years old or younger all over the world.  The final round will take place during the first week in August in Lincoln, Nebraska at the ICA's Clarinetfest.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

It’s Progress Anyway…

Now that it’s been more than 2000 hours of practice, let’s look to see if there has been any progress.  I only count practice room hours, not rehearsal time with my chamber groups or orchestras or any other ensemble.

This is a video of me in 2009 after a couple hundred hours of practice.
After a couple hundred hours of practice at age 12.

This is a video of me in late 2010 after 1000 hours of practice.
After 1000 hours at age 13.

This is a video of me in 2012 after 2000 hours of practice.
After 2000 hours at age 14.

So practicing is definitely helping, but I feel like I still have a long way to go.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Master Class with Jon Manasse

On Saturday, I played in a wonderful master class taught by Jon Manasse along with four other students:  Ryan Toher, Konrad Pawelek and Miguel Hernandez.  I thought Mr. Manasse was as good of a teacher as he is a performer.

I played second in the program on Weber's Concertino.  I started kind of tense, but after the beginning, I relaxed and played much better.  After I finished, Mr. Manasse asked how old I was.  When I told him 14, he said, "Wow!  I played that piece when I was fourteen."   He had a lot of good things to say about my playing, which made me feel a lot more comfortable -- I was really nervous.  He was an extremely nice and supportive teacher as well as being an informative one.

After that, we worked on tuning.  He first told me that there were 5 states of tuning:  in tune, sharp, flat, I don't know, and I don't care.  He said we could probably rule out "out don't care," and he had me play a tuning note with the piano.  He asked me if I thought I was sharp, flat, in tune, or I don't know.  I thought was out of tune, but I had to admit that I wasn't sure if I was sharp or flat.  Mr. Manasse said, it was good that I knew I wasn't in tune, and he said it was really hard for wind players to tell when they are a little off.  He said string players have an advantage, because they have to tune every time they play, so they have a lot of practice at hearing what it is to be sharp or flat, as they had to make adjustments every time.

He then asked me to play the beginning of my piece and told me to pay more attention and to adjust if it was out of tune.  Well, he told me that I tended to play a little sharp.  So he gave me some advice about how to work on tuning.  He said to put a tuner on a drone, and tune so you're really sharp.  Learn what it sounds like to be sharp.  Then, tune really flat, so you can be aware of what it sounds like to be really flat.  Then he said to work on different notes, and figure out what notes tend to be sharp or flat under differing conditions.

I liked the idea he had to learn how to recognize whether you are sharp or flat by playing sharp or flat on purpose in an exaggerated way to increase your awareness of your tuning.

Mr. Manasse was a really nice and informative teacher.  It was an amazing master class.  He gave me such good advice, and he did it in a way that made me feel good about my playing.  In fact, the theme of the master class was to remember why you play your instrument, to remember what you like about your playing, instead of taking a negative approach and focusing on what you don't like about your playing.  It's easy to get caught up in trying to perfect everything, and forget how much you love playing music.  I definitely do that sometimes!

Manasse Nakamazing Duo

Last Friday, I heard clarinetist, Jon Manasse, perform with pianist, Jon Nakamatsu at Northeastern University.  It was a breathtaking concert.  Both men are amazing musicians, and Mr. Manasse was really funny and entertaining when he spoke with the audience.

The first piece the duo played was the Brahms clarinet sonata.  This sonata is a gorgeous piece, and they played it beautifully.  Mr. Manasse's tone and expression were exquisite.  I think my favorite movement was the first, because Mr. Manasse conveyed a real sense of melancholy that was very moving.  One part of the performance that I particularly liked was Manasse's movement, which was very expressive.  Both musicians communicated really well, and they both seemed comfortable together.

After they played the Brahms, Mr. Manassee talked a little.  He spoke about the sonata, and he noted that a lot of composers seem to die after they write solo music for the clarinet.  Mozart, Brahms, and Poulenc, all apparently died after composing their famous clarinet pieces.  Mr. Manasse said he used to think that writing solo music for the clarinet must have killed them.  Although, he quickly noted that composing solo clarinet music now extends the lives of composers.

The last piece before intermission was a solo piano work by Chopin.  Mr. Nakamatsu was so technically proficient, but his phrasing and musicality were stunning.  I loved how he kept the sense of musicality even though the fast parts.

After the intermission, Mr. Manasse talked with the audience some more.  He was fun to listen to, and he started calling Mr. Nakamatsu "Nakamazing"  which I thought was pretty funny.  The first piece they played after intermission was Leonard Bernstein's Opus 1, his clarinet sonata.  This music has a few glissandos and I really liked how Mr. Manasse played them.

The last part of the concert was "Four Rags for Two Jons."  This was a really fun piece that Manasse and Nakamatsu performed astoundingly well.  It has a lot of parts which were meant for the audience to laugh at.  In many sections of the piece, the audience snaps with the soloists, and the pianist shouts things and stomps.  The end of the work is especially funny when the piano starts to play the Mozart Clarinet Concerto and the clarinet keeps playing the theme from the piece.

Afterwards, the audience kept calling for ovations, and Mr. Manasse finally went to the microphone and said, "Well, you asked for it!"  He then played an arrangement of "I've Got Rhythm" for clarinet and piano, which I just loved.  It was a great end to an amazing concert.