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Laurie Niles

Back Behind the Screen

April 25, 2006 at 1:35 AM

Well, this week is my LA Philharmonic audition and I'm ready. I think. At least I've done all I know how to do to get ready.

It all started 29 years ago when I said to my mom, "Mom, I want to play the violin," and she said, "The violin?"

Hah, you laugh! But it's true.

Then for some inexplicable reason I kept doing it, kept wanting to be in orchestras. In fact, I joined my first youth orchestra only a few years after taking up the fiddle. When I could barely eke out a Mozart concerto (and I shouldn't have been doing it, it really was a few years in my future), I tried out for the big youth orchestra in town... and didn't get in. I was undeterred; I switched teachers and got in the following year. In high school I never was in fewer than two youth orchestras, plus school orchestra, plus whatever anybody asked me to play in.

I really loved to play in the orchestra.

When I was at Northwestern I got so fed up with the violin that I quit taking lessons my senior year. But I stayed in the orchestra. While I was getting my master's degree in journalism, I still was taking lessons, playing juries and playing in several area orchestras. When I worked full time as a newspaper reporter, I was in two professional orchestras, and I was teaching.

I remember when I was trying to "be a journalist," and I had to "do things for my resume." For example, I had to write some stories for the college newspaper about stuff I found to be utterly uninteresting, so that I could have "clips" of my writing. And I had to get an internship at a magazine. It was work, just to even think about what I was supposed to do to "build my resume."

My resume for the violin is simply my life, no contrivances.

I did this audition two years ago, and did not do it last year. I spent a while learning to like my violin again and playing things other than excerpts, like a lot of Bach. This with much help from the very wonderful teacher, Lorenz Gamma.

I was toying with the idea of doing it this year, casually learning the excerpts. A good number of them I've obsessed over for years; others were downright pesky to learn!

Then Barry Hou of Marquis Violins put this Gagliano in my hands. I thought, I should give my new friend, The Italian, a shot at playing in a really fantastic orchestra. Don't you think? Barry agreed. I suspect he knew I'd be unable to part with it if I had it that long, and I pretty much am!

At any rate, I studied my excerpts and pieces well. It's a process of reduction, starting with the slow ordering of notes and articulations, moving to phrases and gestures, and then ultimately, the whole excerpt and feeling behind it.

I realized that pretty much every teacher I've ever had has put his mark on my playing, or at least on all this sheet music. I think I've finally arrived at a place where I'm putting my own mark on it all, too. I practiced a lot, made some changes and decisions.

Yesterday I had a great "excerpt party" with a friend. One might think that the stress, the feelings of competitiveness, etc., would make this a dicey proposition just days before the audition. But really, it was so perfectly collegial; we'd been studying all the same music, and we were facing the same rather formidable situation. We each found a few errant notes; a good thing to find before and not after the big day! Somehow our different approaches to all these excerpts and pieces were more interesting than anything else.

Lastly, and I'm sure you will all understand why this has been the most difficult thing of all, I've given up coffee for the last week. Robert has been sympathetic, "Life isn't very exciting without your best friend, Cuppo Joe, is it?" I've been....narcoleptic. Today I fell asleep at my son's piano lesson, WHILE the teacher was talking to me!

So I hope that my ten minutes in the middle of the stage at Disney Hall are ones of great lucidity, clarity, concentration and calm. And whatever happens, there's a medium vanilla latte waiting for me at Peet's Coffee in Pasadena when it's all over!

From Ben Clapton
Posted on April 25, 2006 at 1:50 AM
Good Luck Laurie!!! I'm sure you'll do great. Having just gotten back from heading over to my parents place for a coffee, I know how hard it can be to give up coffee, so enjoy that coffee after the audition!
From Marty Dalton
Posted on April 25, 2006 at 2:00 AM
best of luck to you! please pass the audition! :)
From Christian Vachon
Posted on April 25, 2006 at 2:23 AM

BEST OF LUCK LAURIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!


From Kelsey Z.
Posted on April 25, 2006 at 2:30 AM
We're rooting for you all the way, Laurie!
From Peter Wilson
Posted on April 25, 2006 at 2:33 AM
Break a leg, Laurie!
Hope those C#s are coming along!
From Pratik Desai
Posted on April 25, 2006 at 2:44 AM
Good luck, Laurie! You'll do great!
From Ray Randall
Posted on April 25, 2006 at 3:17 AM
Your attitude should be slightly keyed up and alert, but whatever happens, happens. Let the Italian speak for you.
When you're playing, step outside yourself and enjoy listening to yourself from standing next to you. It's not you playing, that means zero pressure, so enjoy it.
Oh yeah, good luck. we wish you only the best. Now quit reading these and get some sleep.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on April 25, 2006 at 3:57 AM
The answer, Peter! I suspected as much, thank you for checking!Thanks you guys! Yes, an out-of-body experience sounds like a good plan....
From Neil Cameron
Posted on April 25, 2006 at 4:48 AM
I'll keep my eyes crossed for you Laurie!

Take no prisoners.


From Karin Lin
Posted on April 25, 2006 at 5:44 AM
All the best to you and your Italian! ;)
From parmeeta bhogal
Posted on April 25, 2006 at 6:08 AM
Wishing you all the best-read= get in, get in...
From Elizabeth Chavez
Posted on April 25, 2006 at 6:10 AM
GOOD LUCK!!!!! =]
From Sydney Menees
Posted on April 25, 2006 at 10:44 AM
Go Laurie! Represent!! :D
From Oliver Bedford
Posted on April 25, 2006 at 12:20 PM
Best wishes !
From Christina C.
Posted on April 25, 2006 at 2:03 PM
Go Laurie go!
From Ella Gunn
Posted on April 25, 2006 at 2:06 PM
Dazzle them Laurie!
From Carolyn Plummer
Posted on April 25, 2006 at 2:24 PM
Best wishes, Laurie
I am sure you are technically very well prepared with your excerpts. In addition, to being prepared, I try to build upon this by remembering the 6 Cs in any performance - of any type - comfort, confidence, commitment, conviction, concentration, and communication. Build your rapport with the audience by making them comfortable.
From Carley Anderson
Posted on April 25, 2006 at 3:35 PM
Peter Wilson: Didn't you mean break a peg? ;)

Do well, Laurie!

From Ray Randall
Posted on April 25, 2006 at 4:17 PM
"Break a peg." That's a good one.
From Maura Gerety
Posted on April 25, 2006 at 4:39 PM
Break a peg! Classic! :)
Good luck Laurie!!! If you get the job, celebrate by, shall we say, "making an honest fiddle" of that Italian. :) You need to get that violin!!! :)
From Colleen Russo
Posted on April 25, 2006 at 6:54 PM
Good Luck!!! you'll do amazing :D
From Stefan Avalos
Posted on April 25, 2006 at 10:14 PM
Have FUN!
From Laurie Niles
Posted on April 26, 2006 at 4:58 AM
I'll tell you guys all about it on May 3, when the whole process is over...I want to respect the LA Phil's request that nothing be said, to keep things as anonymous as possible. Thanks for all the well wishes! Laurie :)
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on April 26, 2006 at 6:19 AM
Go, Laurie! I wish you and The Italian the very best of luck. We all know you're great and we'll continue loving you no matter what the outcome of the audition.

BTW, I've wondered why you switched from violinist to journalist and back again. I suppose you returned to yourself. I'm glad that you're making your own marks on the music now. That's a real triumph, maybe even more important than winning the competition for a spot in The Orchestra.

From Rick Floress
Posted on April 26, 2006 at 12:06 PM
What an awesome story! Proof that hard work, perseverance and passion will get you a shot at your dream!! As my son would say, you are like Batman dude (FYI...that is meant as a compliment). Best of luck!!
From Laurie Niles
Posted on April 26, 2006 at 6:04 PM
I have a five-year-old son, so wow! Thanks! I know that's high praise! ;)

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