June 4, 2013
Having been immersed in studying pedagogy for the past 8 years, I’ve been unravelling the mystery of what worked and what didn’t. I had always been a good, dutiful student, but I needed to transcend this in order to become an autonomous musician. I’m starting a short series of essays on this process here.
This post focuses on auditions.
Below is a letter on behalf of musicians, past and present, who experienced this approach to audition preparation.
Dear master teachers,
When we come to your master class, we are a room full of passionate people who would die for music. We are no yet finished paintings, but we love music to the core of our beings. We come because we want it so badly. We are hungry for advice and hang onto every word you say. For instance, at a master class that I attended back in the day, a teacher made a recommendation in passing, an innocuous one, that we eat a banana before an audition. Six months later, word had gotten out and there was not a single auditionee in the warmup room that was banana-less. It was as if the banana became a the magic food that would calm our nerves, create refined musicianship and repair faulty technique. The passing comment became an irrefutable truth. We heard banana and we came with bananas. I’m not for or against the banana but I think this illustrates the craving we have for advice and the respect we have for you.
We’ve been micro-managed. We’ve been told exactly where and how to play everything. How loud, how soft, how long, how short, how everything. We’ve been told what to think, when to breathe, before and during an audition. We prepare with metronomes and tuners. We prepare with pianists. We study recordings and scores. Your teaching, an unfortunate consequence of its nature, touches a childlike, subservient place in us. You teach us what to eat and how to breathe.
What we haven’t been given is freedom. We rarely hear about autonomy. We haven’t been taught that the audition is a comfortable a place, a private space. We haven’t been taught that an audition is a place where you can let spontaneous musical expression happen. We haven’t been taught that an audition can inspire musicianship and bring out new ideas, even experimentation. We’ve been taught to have a plan and to strategize.
In German, they say, “lass es passieren” or, let it happen. This isn’t the American idea of letting go, as in letting go of attachment to the outcome. It is an active space of letting ideas happen: allowing for a spontaneous new ornament or seeing a phrase in a new way. We’ve all felt energized when we’ve been able to perform this way and as listeners, we cherish this in live performances. We can move from auditions that are well executed to auditions that are alive.
To all of the teachers, please allow me to show you how differently the audition looks without you. I can, even through a closed door, hear the musical plan. I can see the desire, the nerves, the effort to clam the nerves, the strategy. I can hear the strategy. What was missing was you. You weren’t there inspiring us. There aren’t genuine smiles. There’s not even nervous laughter that comes when we stand up to play for you. I didn’t see joy. I didn’t see fun.
Can I ask you a favor? I am too old and too far out of school for this to apply to me, but can you encourage independence? Can you treat them as artists and help them develop their own voice? Can you teach them to support each other? Can you honor their musical ideas, even debate them?
To the students who have read along, can you change things yourselves? Can you can change the mood of an audition and make it a party. Can you make it like it is in the summer master class? In those classes, you support each other, get new ideas and come through changed. Can you huddle around the door and clap for the person who comes out. Can that person then bow, proud of having taken another step along the path?
Please, if you dare to try this, let me know! I’d love to see this somber audition mood transformed. I’d love to see you play better for having been there.
Thanks everybody! Thanks for reading. This is a letter and therefore welcomes replies.
June 2, 2013
April 1, 2013
This invite to a conference on music and science was sent to me from Psyche Loui. She is brilliant, as is this conference.
“You are invited to a FREE collaborative conference sponsored by Berklee College of Music’s Music Therapy department that is celebrating the intersection of music and science.
Conference participants will be encouraged to tweet their thoughts throughout the day.
Music & Science: Practice & Convergence
An Organic Symposium
Welcoming musicians, scientists, educators, music therapists and educators, students, researchers, and others
April 12, 2013, 9:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Berklee Performance Center
136 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston
Keynote Address by: Dr. Aniruddh Patel, author of Music, Language & the Brain
Other speakers include:
Dr. Concetta Tomaino, Director, Institute for Music & Neurologic Function
Dr. Psyche Loui, Harvard Medical School
Dr. Lisa Wong, Author of Scales to Scalpels
Dr. Richard Boulanger, Author of CSound
We will be streaming the event live, so you can invite people from all over the world to watch, listen, and tweet their questions and comments. “
This will be streaming here:
and you can Tweet #musicscience
This looks great!
Please also visit the Facebook page.
March 25, 2013
The audience laughter in this speaks for itself. Peruvian conductor Andy Icochea Icochea engages a Korean audience with gestures, clapping and two words in Korean: Well done!
February 20, 2013
Many of you probably remember the previous posts that discussed the situation with Sibelius and its continued development or lack thereof. There is now an update to that story: the fired Sibelius development team has been hired by Steinberg (makers of Cubase) to develop a new software notation environment. The complete story can be found here:
February 7, 2013
I thought that many of you would be interested in this site put up my the Swiss flutist Mats Möller. It’s a mini-textbook of sorts for extended flute techniques that includes both audio and notation examples.
February 5, 2013
“To be a world-record holder in the mile, a man must have the arrogance it takes to believe he can run faster that anyone ever has at the distance; and the humility it takes to actually do it.’ - Herb Elliot
I ran across this yesterday and have been playing around with the idea of humility in breaking a record. What does that actually mean? The arrogance part of it makes perfect sense – before victory comes belief. The humility part isn’t so clear. It is hard to picture a runner in the starting blocks as humble.
Then, this morning in an unrelated article in the New York Times, David Brooks states that more self-confident people use fewer “I” words, including me and mine – contrary to what we might think. The reasoning is that they are more focused on the task at hand and less on themselves.
This idea balances out the confidence needed to get up on a stage, the bow showing respect for the audience’s time, and then immersion in the task at hand.