August 2008

Three Years Later

August 31, 2008 15:17

While I was going to post something else, this seems somewhat more appropriate...ironically, I had the honor of meeting John O'Neal, the theatre director mentioned in the end of this article, in 2006 at the New Haven International Festival of Arts and ideas.

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Transitions

August 11, 2008 15:51

Well...after a very LONG travel day (that took place yesterday) I am at home again.

This was a fantastic summer, and there are so many things of which to speak about which I am truly grateful, as well as the many memorable things, including both seeing and hearing my dear friends Vanessa Schukis and Danielle Hermon perform as Mazeppa and Electra (respectively) in Gypsy, and again in Into The Woods. One of the most interesting things about participating in a summer festival for many years is that one does develop relationships with other artists, and those relationships can of course make performances even more meaningful on a personal level. I met both of these women in 2001 and of course, being the sap that I am, both laughter and tears flowed.

This summer also included the opportunity to reconnect with baritone Christopher Holloway, whom I first met when we both studied at the Shepherd School of Music. Chris was also quite impressive onstage, most specifically in the "premiere" of Talk To Me Like The Rain, a one-act opera written by Larry Delinger...and of course the list could go on...

Personally...well, what can I say? What SHOULD I say? For some reason it seems more appropriate to remember as it does to put all of the feelings and experiences into words, but once again - much like the summer of 2006 during the New Haven International Festival of Arts and Ideas - it seems that many life experiences came together in "the moment". In 2006 there were the memories of different teachers and places. This summer consisted of remembering the years of watching and learning from various concertmasters while preparing for taking on that role and feeling a great sense of life having made sense during the two orchestral concerts for which another old friend, Yi Ching Fedkenheuer, served as the leader.

Yi Ching and I both studied with Kenneth Goldsmith at Rice University, both graduating in 1998, and while we have kept in touch this was indeed one of the first times that we have spoken to each other in depth - and in person - since leaving Houston. It was always a joy to listen to Yi Ching in studio class, class recitals, and her degree recitals, but sitting in her section was very special in that it was a reminder of those three years during which we at the Shepherd School of Music really learned how to play in an orchestra and how to play like a section.

I do of course take some pause as I share these thoughts: they are by no means sharing the opinion that the Shepherd School orchestras are the best in the country (I have not heard many other conservatory orchestras). However, while we do all learn and grow flexible as we grow in this business, playing under the direction of different conductors and in different ensembles, there's something so freeing about being able to sit in a section and watch - and know both instinctively and deeply how to fit in.

There was an article in The Strad a few years ago in which the violinist interviewed spoke about the excitement in actually seeing "the system", knowing "the school" from which someone came just from watching and listening. I have to say that I agree.

Now, though, as we change gears from summer to autumn, there is lots to prepare for - but there will be a little vacation, that vacation including going to shows this Wednesday and Friday during Baltimore Fashion Week to support my friend Dermain Johnson (Madison Walker) - and a trip to Cortlandt, New York where I myself will be the subject of a little photo shoot...

More from the road,
Sam

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Havanaise, and Understanding

August 5, 2008 15:23

Well...these blogs are such funny things. I WAS planning to write many things about myself (as that's what blogs are supposed to be for, right?) but have to start with having had the opportunity to sit in on a piano rehearsal of Aida featuring the cover cast, led by Maestra Karen Keltner and accompanied by pianist Stephen Carey.

In the four years that I have been coming to Logan, Utah to play with the Utah Festival Opera I have indeed enjoyed playing under Karen and thoroughly enjoy watching her rehearse singers, as both her level of knowledge and commitment to the craft are truly astounding. During the act to which I listened (and I will, should time allow, be going back into the next room to hear the rest) I saw another facet of this woman, that being the very positive and (if I may) nurturing professional. Having played orchestral excerpts for Ms. Keltner in the past I was of course "not surprised", but I WAS also surprised and filled with a deep sense of gratitude to be reminded that in this wacky business that we call musicmaking there are still people like Ms. Keltner who not only understand all of an artist's transition points and takes - graciously - the role of being the guide.

Listening to this group of artists I was also reminded of what Jorja Fleezanis meant many years ago, but now - at age 37 - I understand (a bit more) the concept of keeping sound alive...

...which brings me to a recent (yesterday) performance of Camille Saint-Saens' Havanaise that I gave on one of the Logan Tabernacle Concerts....This is a piece that I performed first in a competition and later in a recital during my undergraduate. Then (this was 1994) I had the great privilege to take a lesson with Fredell Lack - and also met Kenneth Goldsmith (and life took a pretty healthy turn then). I have since played this piece in recital twice, those times being in 2007 during the Columbia Festival of the Arts, and decided to give it a go again this summer.

Being a violinist (and I'm sure that many of you will understand these thoughts) I found myself fretting a bit about the tempo of the second page and the issue of clarity AND the sixth and seventh pages (which are filled with chromatic thirds, sixths, and tenths, all to be played at a pretty rapid clip). Doing these drills was of course beneficial, but I do have to say - humbly - that I found myself somewhat stymied when playing the "easy parts": HOW do I keep the sound from dying on the long notes? How do I NOT play this as if it's simply an exercise in making clear differences between triplets and eighth notes?

Well, after listening to the recording, I guess I accomplished part of my task...but now, after this afternoon's trip into Verdi's vision of Egypt, I know the rest...for the next time...

More from the road,
Sam

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