Today is Sept 11, 2013 and we have completed about 4 weeks of school already. My orchestra at NCSSM is settling in and we have our first performance this Saturday for "Family Day." We will be doing two string orchestra pieces: On A Hymnsong of Phillip Bliss, by David Holsinger and Boisterous Flight, by Joshua Reznicow.
Today's post is simple. We played as a true ensemble for the first time today. I am thrilled.
Now, at first glance, one may think that this is a negative remark. A whole month into rehearsals and we are just playing as an ensemble today? But in reality, this is no small feat. Back in the 2nd week of August, a group of 45 string players showed up in my class from all over North Carolina. They have been bombarded by new classes, new roommates, new experiences, and for more than half of them, they are living away from home for the first time in their lives.
In our rehearsals, I have been introducing concepts that for many of them are new and/or foreign. Some of these students are all-state caliber kids with tons of experience. Others have very little experience and are working very hard to keep their heads above water. I have been asking them to watch and react to me and my conducting. I want them to make eye contact with me. I want them to breathe into and out of phrases. I want them to move with the music. I ask them think about line, about the inner rhythm, about the harmonies. It is incredibly demanding and incredibly intense and we have an incredibly small amount of time each week.
Last night we did a small, impromptu performance for our colleagues in the wind ensemble and chorale. That was the catalyst. It is amazing how a performance brings out the urgency in an ensemble. And, our wind ensemble played an amazingly dynamic performance for us. We heard the impact of dynamics as we listened to them. And, suddenly, today, it became urgent. It became real. And in rehearsal, we truly became an ensemble today.
I have seen this time and time again. It happens with festival orchestras, with summer camp orchestras, and with school orchestras. There has to be a day and time where everyone realizes that we are stronger together than could possibly be individually. At least for this day and time, we had that realization.
Now it is my job to keep that going. Our first opportunity to show it is Saturday morning at Family Day. I can't wait. Making music really gets fun when you get in front of an audience!
That is it for tonight. I will let you know how it goes!