Hangover Cures and Quick Links

I think that I’ve found the perfect cure for hangovers: conducting concerts. Every time I’ve conducted a concert, no matter the physical or emotional state of being I am in (exhaustion, illness, angry, sad), I have a renewed sense of energy, and my body is always back to par (at least momentarily). If the adrenaline can cure all of these things, why not a hangover? Shall we experiment some time?

This was a crazy weekend. In addition to all of my music gigs, I also spend about 30 hours in an office job for CSU’s Department of Music, Theatre, & Dance. My latest project was oversight for approximately 160 auditioning students this weekend. When I began the office job in January, all of the files were chaotically organized into countless spreadsheets. For any of you who have ever had an office job, you know fully well how much room there is for error when copying and pasting information from sheet to sheet. Or how easy it is to forget to change the sixth spreadsheet when you manually changed the first five. Next year, this will all be in a database. Muah-haha.

My youth orchestra concert went fabulously. It’s amazing how much these young musicians grow from concert to concert. Thinking about the cringe-worthy first rehearsal, it’s nice to hear a polished product. We’ve got one more to go, and then year two recruiting. In a lot of ways, I think the first year (affectionately dubbed SURVIVAL MODE) is not nearly as important as the second year (which I think we shall call DEFINE YOURSELF YEAR). If we can double our first year numbers, we will be in pretty good shape; when all’s said and done, I think we have that capacity. A gentleman came up to our Executive Director after the concert, blown away at the emotional maturity from the musicians during their transcription of the Lauridsen O Magnum Mysterium. What a beautiful piece. It is the perfect illustration of beautiful dissonances in many of the cluster chords used. V7 chords with tonic thrown in for mix – what beautiful colors.

I’ll have to spend some time evolving my thinking on using popular music for youth ensembles – the experiment seemed to be pretty successful.

This week should be less action-packed than the last two abominable eighty hour work weeks. Thank goodness for small favors.

A couple of links:

Adele, the human brain, and the appoggiatura:


A chronological survey of the opening chords to Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony: truly fascinating. Tuning pitch, recording quality, articulation and note length, tempo, the space between the first two chords. It’s amazing how many unique and different things create a composite of this wonderful thing we call interpretation.



Beethoven 9 (again!)

I know, all I’ve talked about lately is Beethoven 9. Still. Last night was the first combined rehearsal with the orchestra and choruses. And there is nothing like hearing the fourth movement to Beethoven 9 live. There’s something mystical about it, something that a recording can’t truly replicate. Particularly when the chorus numbers in the hundreds. Here is an excerpt from rehearsal last night. It’s interesting how such large numbers, such loud moments, can cover up some of the intonation issues (not all, of course) in an orchestra.

Excerpt from 4th movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9

Anyways, I’m actually looking forward to a massive performance on Friday. For all of my gripes about tempi choices, intonation issues, not counting, the scherzo in general, there are tutti moments like this that make it all worth it. All right, one more excerpt.
Beethoven 9, excerpt #2


Then and now…

The life of a musician, particularly one at the student level, is often a frustrating daily venture of practicing and incremental, perhaps imperceptible,  development.  Too often, at least personally, one gets frustrated at the routine of technique development for the exact reason of not being able to track development.  Only after a long period of time, in reflection, does one see the value of dedication and consistency.  Having the opportunity to work on Beethoven 9 this week has provided many challenges and offered the chance for self reflection.  I conducted excerpts of Beethoven 9 at the Bard Conductor’s Institute back in 2007, when I was quite the undergraduate.  I put a comparison video up between then and now.  It’s a good feeling to know that, over time, you are doing something right, and steps forward are being taken, even if they’re  not discernible on a daily basis.

Cheers for Fridays.


Daily Dose of Crumb

Good morning folks.  It’s 9:20 am, and I’m prepping for classes today by listening to both Bartok’s second string quartet and Crumb’s Black Angels (not simultaneously, of course, thought that might prove interesting!).  Those of you who know me personally are probably aware that I am not a morning person whatsoever, and being up in the 8:00 hour is a difficult endeavor for me.  Needless to say, coffee works wonders.  As do Bartok and Crumb to wake one up.

Speaking of coffee, I’ve begun writing a non-serious one act operetta called The Music School.  More to come later, but the basic plot line revolves around a certain number of stereotyped characters you might expect to find in the music school, professors and students alike.  The opening number for the operetta will feature a “Graduate Student” chorus singing about their addictions to coffee.  I’ve begun typing up some drafts, but I’ll post more as I do more with it.

Today’s agenda includes lecture/discussion on Bartok and Crumb (surprise!), a conducting lesson, rehearsal for the Brahms Clarinet Trio in a minor, Beethoven 9 (movements 3 and 4), then a coaching session with the string faculty for the Brahms.  Then, a bit of free time and helping a friend design a poster for her upcoming graduate recital.

Beethoven 9….What’s your favorite movement or part?