Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chicago Youth in Music Festival

Monday night I had the opportunity to rehearse under the baton of Miguel Harth-Bedoya with the Chicago Youth in Music Festival Orchestra at Symphony Center.  The Chicago Youth in Music Festival is celebration of the achievements of young musicians across the Chicago area.  Local high school students are selected in an audition process to play with mentors from the Chicago Civic Orchestra in a collaboration.  We auditioned in the fall, and we rehearsed through December and January with Cliff Colnot, a conductor, educator and musician and the Principal Conductor of the Civic Orchestra since 1994.

The experience was supposed to culminate in an open rehearsal with Maestro Riccardo Muti, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's conductor and music director.  We were all pretty excited about getting to play with Maestro Muti.  He is an amazing conductor and one of the best known known musicians in the world.  Unfortunately, Maestro Muti came down with the flu and had to cancel all of his appearances this week.  We were all really disappointed.  But, Maestro Miguel Harth-Bedoya agreed to substitute for Muti at the last minute.  He is a Grammy-nominated and Emmy Award-winning conductor who will soon be the Chief Conductor of the Norwegian Radio Orchestra in Oslo.  Now he is the Music Director of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and the Founder and Artistic Director of Caminos del Inka, a non-profit dedicated to performing and promoting the music of the Americas.  Maestro Harth-Bedoya was an amazing conductor.

I was playing 2nd clarinet with Joe Sanchez, who is a member of the Chicago Civic and a graduate of DePaul's School of Music.  Joe is a really talented clarinetist!  The two pieces we played were the first two movements of Tchaikovsky's 5th symphony and the overture to Verdi's Sicilian Vespers.   Both pieces have an important second clarinet part which was really cool.  We started with the Tchaikovsky.  The Tchaikovsky starts with a first and second clarinet unison soli that lasts a whole 2 minute.  The first time we played through it during the open rehearsal, Joe and I were not at all together at the beginning   We quickly got back together and play the rest of the piece extremely well.  After he orchestra played through the first movement, maestro Harth-Bedoya worked with Joe and I on playing louder when playing the piano at the beginning, and quieter when playing the pianissimo.  I think this really helped us make the beginning more dramatic while still following the dynamics.  He spent most the time working with the other people, getting them to accompany us better. 

Throughout the rehearsal, the thing I noticed most about maestro Harth-Bedoya was that he did everything with a lot of emotion.  You could tell he was immersed in the music, and that helped me get immersed in the music too.  During the rehearsal, you could tell that the orchestra was befitting significantly from his advice.  Another great part of the experience of playing in the festival orchestra was the advice Joe gave me on playing second clarinet.  For example, he told me I had to play louder than the first clarinet whenever I was playing the lower octave in a section.  This allows his high notes to have a solid base to float over.  I always thought that 2nd clarinet would play quieter than 1st clarinet, but Maestro Harth-Bedoya made a very good point, because the lower register doesn't project like the upper register.

The best part of the experience was probably getting to play in an orchestra of that level and getting to play in an orchestra that has a reasonable amount of people.  My orchestra is huge!  For example, it has 6 clarinets, 7 flutes, 6/7 oboes, and 4 bassoons.  In an orchestra of that size, you aren't anywhere near as exposed as you are in an orchestra with two winds on a part.  Also, you don't have to play as loud when you have solos because there are less strings to play over.  I loved playing in the orchestra, and I hope I'll have another chance to play in the festival orchestra in two years when it meets again. 

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