Sunday, September 28, 2008

Extended Weekend/ Energy

It is Extended Weekend at NCSSM. These are weekends that are built into the NCSSM calendar that permit students to get home for an extra day over the weekend to rest up, see family, visit with friends, and generally reconnect with home. I noticed that my classes on Friday were particularly distant and clearly, the students were already letting their minds wander to the events of the weekend, rather than the tasks at hand. I understand that. It is normal to anticipate a long weekend a little early.

The thing is, I have noticed a large number of unresponsive students this year. Don't get me wrong. They are not disrespectful, unprepared, disruptive, or unwilling to work. Quite the contrary. They couldn't be nicer. But, in many ways, there is a wave of unresponsive students. I am really not sure why. But, here is my best guess. I think they are tired. Actually, we are all tired. I am convinced that we are all just exhausted in many ways. We are physiclaly exhaused from lack of sleep and busy schedules. We are mentally tired from working hard and thinking hard from the time we wake up to the minute we go to bed at night. We are emotionally exhaused from trying to do our best in all that we do. We all want to achieve and it takes energy. It takes physical, emotional, and mental energy.

So here is my thought for the day. Even when we are tired, we have to find the energy for every activity of the day. We have to approach everything as if we are rested and ready to go. Even if we aren't. After all, if we don't give it our best, with our best effort, what will we really get out of the activity. There are many days that I get going and just feel like I need another hour of sleep. But, by the time I get to work and my first class, I give it all that I have. I find the energy. I approach the class with the same energy that I expect to receive in return from my students. this doesn't happen without effort. One must make a conscious effort to be energetic.

I see it in orchestra the most. In order to make a wonderful sound, the musician must play with energy. It can be seen in theri posture, bow use, left hand, and can be heard in their tone and facility. Even if the players don't feel energetic, they must still play with energy. They must still rehearse with physical, mental, and emotional energy.

So, as you return to school on Tuesday, or to work on Monday, find your energy. Prepare yourself to give it everything. Give it your physical energy, mental energy, and emotional energy. Without it, you are short-changing yourself. And, trust me, your teachers, coworkers, and family will appreciate the effort.

Have a great week! May you find your energy.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Seating Auditions are Traumatic

Seating auditions are traumatic. Anyone that has ever played in an orchestra knows it. A musician's seating is a concrete expression of a musician's "rank" in the ensemble and one really can't hide from the number. (1st chair, 2nd chair, 14th chair, etc.)

I have to constantly remind my ensembles that auditions are like a snapshot. Sometimes photos give a very true impression of a person's image. Sometimes our eyes are crossed and we look horrible. Other times, we see a shot a person that just makes them look fantastic. They are all the same person, but that snapshot can go either way. Auditions are similar. Sometimes we go into an audition, get nervous, and end up being the subject of an audition "photo" that depicts our eyes crossed and hair totally messed up. Other times, we show better that we actually are. but, in the long run, generally speaking, the image is still us and we give some kind of general impression of the player that we are.

The beauty of the ensemble is this: once the auditions are over, we all have the same responsibilities - to prepare our parts, participate in rehearsals, lead from any chair, and work to be as intagral a member of the group as everyone else. Seating order ultimately does not matter. Yes, it provides a tangible "rank." But it really doesn't change anything. We are an ensemble. And, by definition, it is all about the entire group. Ensembles are only successful when everyone understands their importance to the sum and committs to that concept. (Just think of the last time you watched a dance ensemble performance where one of the dancers didn't operate at the same level as the rest of the group. Ruined the effect - didn't it.) He is where I usually go into sports analogies and the need for team play, but I will spare you that sermon today.

My orchestra received their seating on Wednesday right before rehearsal. It was a weird rehearsal that day. Players were getting used to their new stand partner, adjusting to the reality of that new "ranking" that they had just received, and generally getting comfortable. I really hope that today is better. This is such a fantastic group of musicians and I have such high expectations for the year.

For now, we move on as an ensemble. Seating doesn't matter. That is the first key to success as an orchestra. A chain is only as strong as the weakest link. Now we get to the real work of developing musicianship, artistry, technique, repertoire, and a commitment to the goals at hand. I will enjoy the journey!



Tour to Tanglewood

Last weekend, 23 students and 8 faculty and parents participated in the Tour To Tanglewood MS Bike tour and had a great ride. Hurricane Hannah put a damper on the Saturday portion of the ride, so we just had one day on the bikes. Sunday turned out to be a beautiful day and eveyrone had a great ride. Most of our crew rode 50 miles in the rolling hills of the Greensboro/Winston-Salem area. A few of us opted for the 75 mile route.

On a personal note, I had a great ride. It was a great day. I felt fantastic through the first 60 miles. If I am totally honest, the last 15 was a little more work. It started to get hot about that time and my legs started to cramp a bit after our last rest-stop with 10 miles to go. I was glad to see the finish line.

This weekend, after Family Day on NCSSM on Saturday, I am heading to New Bern to ride in the 2nd day of their event and plan for another 75 miles. The New Bern ride is much easier be cause of the flat terrain. I can't wait to get there!

To all who are supporting my efforts with the MS society, thanks so much. It is important work and your support means so much!!

Thanks and ride safe!