Tuesday, June 27, 2017

When Expectations are Exceeded

Isn't it a great feeling when you walk into a project expecting one thing and your expectations are completely exceeded?!

Well, this happened to me today. You see, today was the second day of rehearsals for the Intermediate Concert Orchestra at Interlochen Summer Arts Camp. Yesterday, our first rehearsal was fine. I met the students and we sight-read two of the pieces that I selected for the first concert. The kids did great. I always like to start with music that isn't too difficult for students on this age: something that everyone can read or at least feel confident that they can prepare in the course of the week. Going too difficult too fast can be demoralizing for some students and I wanted to make sure that everyone knew that there was a place for them in this ensemble. They took in all of the information that was given and worked very hard through a two-hour morning rehearsal. I walked away from the rehearsal feeling very good about those two pieces, but I was a little concerned that another piece I selected would be too hard for them.

Today, for the first hour of rehearsal, I had the pleasure of welcoming my faculty colleagues that will be running sectional rehearsals into my my large group rehearsal. They are magnificent professionals from all around the United States, most of whom I have worked with on numerous occasions previously. When they come to this rehearsal early in camp, I simply have them sit in the first chair position of each section and play along with the ensemble, occasionally demonstrating or remarking on various parts in the repertoire. Today was no different. We started with the two pieces that we had worked on yesterday. I had assigned these pieces to the students to practice overnight. The kids did a great job and the run-through with the faculty went great. After these were done I decided to read the more difficult work. This is Mendelssohn's Sinfonia 2 in D Major. The Mendelssohn Sinfonias are wonderful works for string orchestra that Felix Mendelssohn composed during his teenage years. But, don't be fooled. They can be quite difficult to pull off in a student orchestral setting.
To my pleasant surprise, the first read-through of the first movement went very well. I decided next to simply run it a second time with the faculty members again leading each section. We did so and then, to end the first hour of rehearsal, I had the faculty members perform the first part of the first movement for the kids. I wanted the students to hear and see all of the best practices that these magnificent colleagues would demonstrate to end that portion of rehearsal. I couldn't help but to smile as they demonstrated such beautiful ensemble and individual musicianship. It was a great example for the kids.

We took our break, said goodbye to my faculty colleagues, and I decided that we would spend the next hour wood-shedding the Mendelssohn. As I often do, I spent the second hour of rehearsal with my instrument in hand, demonstrating parts and helping the students get an early feel for the style and technical demands of the work of the work.

The second hour of rehearsal flew by and by the time we finished, we had framed out the exposition and had begun the slow process of learning the development. Much was accomplished and the benefit of having my colleagues in the first hour of rehearsal was certainly palpable.
We finished out our final portion of rehearsal reviewing the two pieces that we had begun the day before. Everybody left with a huge smile on their face and I believe that the students felt proud of their accomplishments. I know I was very pleased. My expectations has certainly been exceeded. I really didn't think that the Mendelssohn would be within our reach after the first rehearsal. That said, the students dug in and really impressed me today. Now, I am considering doing more than just the first movement. I challenged the students to come back tomorrow with the first movement under their fingers. I told them that if they did so, I would consider starting the second movement as well. Wouldn't it be great if we could perform all three movements by the end of the three-week camp!

And so it goes. Sometimes our expectations are exceeded. It's the greatest feeling. Isn't it? And in many ways, that's what happens here in Interlochen. Students are challenged and they rise to the occasion.

What surprises will be in store for me tomorrow?  I wonder!



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