Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Audition Preparation

With audition season coming up I feel like every time I look on my FaceBook newsfeed I see something about orchestral excerpt preparation. In lue of that, I was looking for a bit of wisdom myself as I prepare the Suk Fantasticke Scherzo and the 3rd and 4th movements of Dvorak's 8th symphony for my own orchestral audition. This video that I stumbled upon is top-notch and gives some helpful hints for performance practice and excerpt preparation from one of the best orchestral cellists in the world.

Here are a few other tips:

  1. Slow It Down - Take out the rhythm and play each not for two beats at 60bpm. This practice method will rock your world! Your shifts will be absolutely solid!
  2. Use Your Metronome - It's amazing to see how the rhythms come into place as soon as you identify where the down beat is.
  3.  Play for Peers - Practicing/performing in front of people always helps me identify which passages I don't feel comfortable with and which passages unravel when nerves are present
  4. Listen - Find the music on Spotify or buy it off of iTunes and listen to the passages over and over again. This will aid you immensely when it comes to comfortability and ear recall. 
Good luck, all!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Yoga and the Cello

Until recently I was a skeptic. I've had many friends, cello teachers and acquantainces fervently tell me that yoga was the solution! I would nod and smile all the while thinking "the crazies!"Perhaps I've joined the ranks of the crazies or perhaps I've simply come to realize the truth in what they were saying. Needless to say, I am now a yoga fanatic.

My recent discovery regarding yoga came about when I was faced with a difficult dilemma.

In May I was diagnosed with Scoliosis and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. This is bad news for a cellist and for someone whose former choice of exercise was running. I had been in a lot of pain, had to stop running, and eventually had to take a break from the cello. 

Which leads me to the present: Yoga Addict

My first step toward "recovery" was establishing regular chiropractic appointments which would ensure that my back stayed aligned and healthy. But in between those appointments it is still my job to make sure that I'm being a good steward of my body and using it in a way that will help my career be a long one. Yoga does this.

When I was running regularly I would often wake up with neck and back tension. I also would frequently experience pain in my knees and shins (I've had people tell me that the pain I was experiencing was probably shin splints). Now I know that running doesn't affect every person this way, but it did me and I had to make a choice - keep running and hurt my body or switch exercise methods and continue on my career path.

I chose yoga.

For the past two months I've been doing yoga first thing when I wake up in the morning, in between rehearsals and also before I go to sleep. This has immensely helped my performance level and my ability to keep up with the demanding life of a classical musician.

I roll out of bed in the morning (sometimes I start the first few poses while I'm still in bed!) and begin my routine. Most of my morning poses are simply focusing on breathing life into my body, waking up my mind and waking up my sleepy joints and muscles. It used to be that I was stiff and inflexible in the morning. But now after a good twenty minutes of stretching and breathing I feel awake, limber and am able to start my cello practicing. 

This summer while I've been at Ohio Light Opera I've been taking advantage of our ten minute intermission during shows and using it for a time to open my shoulders up and stretch my neck and lower back. This aids in my durability (since the shows range from an hour and a half to three hours and 15 minutes!).

Lastly, before bed I like to do some light stretching and deep breathing that focuses on calming down my body and mind and preparing myself for bed. Shows can often go late and when you get back to your room at 11 PM and are wired after being physically and mentally active for the last three hours it can be quite difficult to calm down and fall sleep. This is where gentle movement, breathing and meditation can really help get you sleep-ready.

I'm still a newby at this but am completely loving my experience so far! Feel free to ask questions or share suggestions below!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Life in the Pit

As of 4 hours ago, six out of the seven shows we're putting on at The Ohio Light Opera this summer are up and running. It's exciting and exhausting to think that while we only have one show left to open we still have four weeks of summer left. Wow. 

After finishing the season I will have played a total of 47 performances over the course of eight weeks. I would call that an intense schedule. Wouldn't you? Yet despite the insanity of performing so often I am really enjoying myself. 

Every day I wake up, dress in black, lug my cello across the campus, unpack and proceed to crawl into the tiny space in the orchestra pit that's provided for me and my cello. And every day, just as regularly, my heart starts to beat a little faster as the pit is raised, the lights on the stands turn on, and my bow grabs the string for the first time. Performing is one the most exhilirating experiences and it never ceases to remind me why I chose this career path. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Trying to Make a Home

This summer has been interesting, to say the least. It's been so busy with rehearsals and performance out the wazoo. AND, I never realized that performing made one feel so tired!!! When I get out of a show all I feel like doing is going back and staring blankly at my computer screen while I watch something on Hulu. Some days I don't even remember what I watch. I've been a bit brain dead . . .

From the moment that I arrived and moved my belongings back into a dorm room (something I never expected to do) I wanted the space to feel more like an apartment than anything: a place where I could relax and unwind. There's not much to do though when you have limited resources, limited decor and the room is lit by fluorescent lights. But I did my best. 

My three musts for making a place feel like a home are the following: 


I honestly don't know if I could live in a place without those items. I think part of my soul has been frankensteined with that of a 1970's era hippy and the other half is 1920's flapper. The best combination, in my opinion. Because of this I always need to be surrounded by flora, my body craves tea like nobody's business and my mind longs for a good novel. It's pretty much all-encompassing. 


What makes your house into a home?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Life and Poetry

Lately I've been doing my best to stay productive. Orchestral pit work, just like any other job, can get extremely exhausting. So after a three hour rehearsal and a three hour show my arms are not the only thing that need a break. But one thing that I've realized is that while a break is all well and good, you also need to push past the exhaustion in order to live a healthy and productive life. So that brings you up to date on my week. 

I made the decision to be productive. Shocking, I know.

The first thing that I started with was shutting down my Hulu tab (there's practically nothing on in the summer anyway!) and picking up a book. A few different books. The first one I picked up, Betsy and the Great World, was sent to me by my younger sister. I had emailed her a list of things that I needed sent to me from home and on that list I included "a novel of your choosing. I trust you". I am very happy to say that she proved me right and this book was exactly the right read for this week. I hadn't read it in quite a few years and it had such a different feeling than the last time I read it. Now I'm the same age as the protagonist and have had my own adventures in Europe which makes this book twice as exciting.

The second thing I picked up was my beautiful antique book of Keats' poetry. I made it my goal to get through the entire thing before the end of the summer. "A beautiful goal" as my dearest friend called it. I think people see me as a poetry person but I'm not sure why. I struggle grasping the meaning behind a poem just as much as any other person. But I think the thing that keeps me loving this art form is the need to wallow in it. It's not straightforward or shallow - it's something that gains more meaning after years. All in all I think reading poetry is a wonderful process. 

So, in honor of my most recent endeavor - here is a poem. Wallow in it. 


ON DEATH - John Keats

Can death be sleep, when life is but a dream,
And scenes of bliss pass as a phantom by?
The transient pleasures as a vision seem,
And yet we think the greatest pain's to die,


How strange it is that man on earth should roam,
And lead a life of woe, but not forsake
His rugged path; nor dare to view alone
His future doom which is but to awake.


One last thought and link before I leave you. I stumbled upon this interesting article today regarding reading and understand poetry. The author writes:

"It comes to you slowly. . . .
You read it, 
work out some details, 
get lost, 
come back again later."

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Dear Summer - Last Forever

I have never considered myself a "summer" person. Autumn has always been my season. I love the crispness of the air, pulling sweaters out of storage and being able to actually wear "an outfit" without feeling like you're being smothered. This summer, however, has won me over. It hasn't been extremely hot, there've been nice breezes and summer thunder storms (which are absolutely wonderful. Am I right?). And one of my favorite things about this summer is that I've been eating fresh fruit out the wazoo!

Last time I went to buy strawberries they were 2 lbs for $3! How can you pass that up?! Well, I obviously didn't because I've been eating strawberries every day for the last two weeks. 

I love the fact that when I go to the market everything is fresh and delicious and colorful! It has taken a lot of self-control not to eat every minute of the day. But even if I did - it'd just be veggies, so what's the harm?

"Thanks, summer, for all of the delicious food you bring. Please make strawberry season last into July.

Yours Truly,