Ever wonder why you need to take math, if all you want to do is play in a rock 'n' roll band?
I found the answer to this eternal question while carpooling last week to New West Symphony rehearsals with my friend, Melissa Reiner, aka, Rock 'n' Roll Melissa.
Melissa not only wears cool shoes and plays in rock 'n' roll bands, but she also earned her degree in violin performance from Peabody Conservatory. She's a reliable stand partner in orchestra, attentive to musical details. Plus she's a bookworm who learned to read when she was two.
Last week, between almost nightly orchestra rehearsals, she was also putting together a string quartet arrangement for Joshua Radin and his band, with whom she will play tonight on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
"Making an arrangement is very mathematical," she said, during a break from Beethoven 5. "I remembered a lot from my theory classes; I was really glad for all that rigorous training at Peabody."
Melissa has played for quite some time with Joshua Radin, so when he fell in love with the idea of having a string quartet accompany his song, "Star Mile," she was the logical person to take what she already had been doing by ear and set it on paper for a string quartet. She put herself to the task of balancing what she knew about the singer's genre and preferences with her own ideas about what would work with a string quartet. Also, she was balancing the instrumentation, because they would have to forego some guitar to get the right number of musicians on stage.
She wanted to make it interesting, but still within the bounds of comfort for the band.
"For example, singers don't necessarily like a lot of passing tones," she said. "But having a few in there is really nice."
Since her arrangement would see its premiere on national television, she had a few friends come over Sunday night to play it through, in case there were any bugs.
"It was really exciting to hear what I had done come to life," she said today, on her way to the studio. "I wasn't thinking of it as a big creative endeavor, I mean, it's someone else's song, but it was creative and fun to do."
The song "Star Mile," which is rather Simon and Garfunkel-esque, is featured in the movie The Last Kiss, which came out Sept. 15. The movie's star, Zach Braff, hails from the same school as I do, Northwestern University, and you can hear the song by simply clicking over to Zach's MySpace page. And if this suddenly makes you want more well-crafted, new pop music (a rarity these days, and not easy to find on the radio), here's some fun video.
As musicians, we owe it to our society and to ourselves to harass everyone we know about coming to our performances.
I had this thought when I realized that my upcoming concert with the New West Symphony had the following program: Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, the Tchaikovsky piano concerto and a West Side Story medley.
Who could possibly turn away from that? Call them "warhorses," but a warhorse is a reliable animal. Still, after playing the ubiquitout Beethoven 5 to the point where I could probably go it without the music, it's hard to remember to "sell it" to people.
This time, with a concert at 3 p.m. Sunday, a time when children can attend, I decided to assemble as much of a fan base as I could. I asked friends I'd seen at my high school reunion, have a not to allmy students, asked my family and told fellow parents at my kids' elementary school. I told them how great the music was, and helped them to understand that it was music they knew. I even sang to people. Then I assured them I'd love to see them there.
So most of them couldn't come. It is across town, and on a weekend. But at least a half-dozen are planning to come, and many others seriously considered it. That means that if I continue to harass them, they might come one day, or they might think about another classical music event as a result of my personal invitation to this one.
People who are already inclined to enjoy classical music tend to be a little more interested when someone they know is playing in the violin section.
Do you have any friends or acquaintances like that? Do you have any performances coming up? Then don't hesitate: HARASS.
By the way, can you come to my concert? :-)
"I don't want to play the piano, I want to play FOOTBALL!" my six-year-old son implored. "You said I could play FOOTBALL!"
I suppose I had. But football... it's so violent. I envisioned a much bigger Brian barreling toward my boy to tackle him, prematurely ending his piano playing days. It's yet another activity, and homework has to come first, and we have to practice piano.
We've tried not to over-schedule our kids with activities. A friend, in contemplating possible activities for her three-year-old twins, looked to us for affirmation by asking, "You guys don't Orange County your kids, do you?"
It was the first time I'd heard "Orange County" used as a verb, but you could insert the name of any community where parents are trying too hard to give their kids too much: piano, violin, Girl Scouts, karate, horseback riding, soccer, football, tennis, art classes...
Somehow I'd have to get him to practice, and to games. Where to fit football, with his school and piano? With my teaching all day Saturday and Thursday, orchestra gigs in several far-away towns, quartet rehearsal, teaching Suzuki group class....
Wait a second, who is it that's overscheduled?
"Buddy, you're going to play football this fall," I said.
I'm making it happen. I dropped some things, and I completely rescheduled my students, fitting that puzzle together differently to free up Saturdays. Because on Saturdays, I'll now be watching first graders play flag football. I really don't want to be doing anything else!
A few nights ago I went in to check on my sleeping son. He had cast aside his stuffed bear: he was sleeping with his new football.
Music isn't the only thing in life, is it?
This just in from the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis:
Sixteen violinists, chosen from a field of 45 who performed during four days of Preliminaries, have advanced to the Semi-finals round of the 7th Quadrennial Violin Competition of Indianapolis. Eight countries remain represented among the sixteen violinists, with three violinists from the United States. In a competition field heavily represented by women, only one man has advanced, Augustin Hadelich of Germany.
Japanese, F, age 25
Thurs., Sept. 7, 7:30 PM
Bulgarian, F, age 27
Thurs., Sept. 7, 9:00 PM
Dutch, F, age 20
Fri., Sept. 8, 1:00 PM
Chinese, F, age 23
Fri., Sept. 8, 2:30 PM
Japanese, F, age 24
Fri., Sept. 8, 7:30 PM
Japanese, F, age 16
Fri., Sept. 8, 9:00 PM
Korean, F, age 21
Sat., Sept. 9, 9:00 AM
Korean, F, age 18
Sat., Sept. 9, 10:30 PM
Korean, F, age 18
Sat., Sept. 9, 12:15 PM
Bulgarian, F, age 20
Sun., Sept. 10, 9:00 AM
Japanese, F, age 16
Sun., Sept. 10, 10:30 AM
German, M, age 22
Sun., Sept. 10, 12:15 PM
American, F, age 22
Mon., Sept. 11, 1:00 PM
American, F, age 22
Mon., Sept. 11, 2:30 PM
American, F, age 19
Mon., Sept. 11, 7:30 PM
Italian, F, age 20
Mon., Sept. 11, 9:00 PM
The Preliminary Round featured solo works by Bach, Paganini and an accompanied encore work. These sixteen semi-finalists will now progress to the second round of public performances featuring sonatas by Beethoven and the compulsory piece by Bright Sheng, which was commissioned by the Competition.
The next announcement of the six finalists will be made on Monday night, September 11 at approximately 11 p.m. from the stage of the Indiana Historical Society. These six violinists will perform concertos by Mozart or Haydn with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra on September 13 and 14 at the DeHaan Fine Arts Center on the campus of the University of Indianapolis. The Finalists will then perform a concerto from the 19th or 20th centuries with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Michael Stern.
The medalist’s awards ceremony will be held at the Scottish Rite Cathedral on Sunday, September 17 at 5:00 p.m.
To hear and view Competition performances live, log on to www.violin.org for the liveeaming webcast. WFYI 90.1 FM radio will also broadcast the entire Semi-Finals. Archived performances of all the Preliminaries are available online. Tickets are still available for all rounds of competition by calling (317)639-4300.
More entries: October 2006 August 2006
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