Tag Archives: interlochen

Summer Breaks

Another big summer event for string players in just around the corner.  Interlochen in Northern Michigan hosts the annual Adult Chamber Music Camp next month, for a full week of playing in small groups.  For those who can’t do the whole week, there’s also a String Chamber  Orchestra Weekend.  While I’m pining to go, my schedule this year – with Baltimore and all – just can’t spare the time.

Rebecca Nichols

Meanwhile, how does a professional violin player spend her summer?  Rebecca Nichols, the coach of our chamber group at the BSO Academy and a first violin player with the Baltimore Symphony, is spending her summer on a sailboat with her husband, sailing up the East Coast to Maine.  You can read about her experiences and see some great pictures on a blog she’s writing: Becky’s Sailing Adventure.  And, just because she’s sailing (or battling seasickness) doesn’t mean that she stops practicing.  She isn’t taking her best violin on the trip, but she is playing as they go!

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BSO Academy: Day 5-Talent on Display (Georgeann)

After a lighter day yesterday and a much-needed break, it was back to intense music today at the BSO Academy.  Our group’s rehearsal with the full orchestra and Marin Alsop wasn’t scheduled until 11:30am, so I had some time this morning for intense practice of some of my “trouble spots” in the orchestra program, and in the movement from the Dvorak String Quintet my chamber group is performing Friday night.

At the orchestra rehearsal, we received our final seating assignments, and I was surprised and pleased to see that I had been assigned to the 3rd desk in both the Second and the First Violins.  I’m sitting next to Assistant Concertmaster Igor Yusefovich in the First Violins.  He’s the engaging Russian who led our violin sectional on Monday. The assignment was even more surprising when the afternoon and evening showcased the amazing talent that is here among the 88 amateur (and mostly midlife!) musicians attending the academy.

BSO Concertmaster Jonathan Carney coaches a BSO Academy player.

BSO Concertmaster Jonathan Carney coaches a BSO Academy player.

During the afternoon, Concertmaster Jonathan Carney led a master class for violin and viola players.  Eight musicians played.  Carney proved himself to be a master teacher, gently coaching each musician into a better sound or more musical approach to their playing.  I learned a lot from watching and listening, and am sure my own abilities to play will be greatly enhanced.   (I am planning to post many of the tips and concepts I’ve learned this week elsewhere on this blog in the next few weeks.  Stay tuned!)

After dinner, 24 musicians from the BSO Academy class played in recital at Meyerhoff hall.  Most were solo performances, with a few small groups thrown in.  There were performances by every kind of woodwind, brass instrument, and stringed instrument from the orchestra, but the real star of the night was BSO Violist Mary Woehr, who in less than two months prepared the piano accompaniment for all the musicians: 24 different pieces of music!  She endured hours at the keyboard helping the musicians prepare this week for what turned out to be a delightful evening.

Tomorrow, a long rehearsal is on tap, then a break for some yoga.  In the evening, 16 different chamber groups will perform.  I’m in group #2, along with Viola Judy, an ER doctor from Hershey, PA on cello, a doctor from DC on string base, and Rebecca Nichols, a BSO violinist and Interlochen Arts Academy graduate.

Wish me luck!

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Interlochen Day 5 (Chuck)

Four days.  That is the thought running through my head this evening. I cannot even to begin to adequately describe what I saw and heard this evening.

Tonight the various classes and small groups had a chance to show what they accomplished this week.  We had four days to prepare and present music that we first saw Monday.  Individuals from all across the country jelled into a group, from the Intermediate Clarinets – where several members first picked up their instruments a year or so ago – to the Advanced Jazz Band, that could rival any big band in the nation.

Every group was practically flawless, and every band member proud of what they accomplished.  The evening held a few surprises. The Conch Shell Class did a great job on “Amazing Grace” and who would have thought you could get melodic sounds out of shells like those heard on “Ain’t She Sweet”?

One of the highlights of the Advanced Big Band performance was watching Greg Pope, the drummer from our band in Canton reading the lead sheets. Greg played with some of the Motown greats when he was a youngster, but never learned to read music. Tonight, he was practically sight-reading.  Watching him this week was like watching a kid in a candy store. The week at Interlochen was a dream come true for him.

Tomorrow morning, the Intermediate and Advanced Bands will perform.  It will almost be like a graduation.   We’ll be playing music that we stumbled over Sunday night; that after Tuesday evening’s rehearsal we all walked away shaking our heads thinking we had only two more days to get it right.

Four Days!!!! Four days to accomplish something that most bands spend weeks or even months to perfect. We were strutting our stuff tonight, and we were all proud.

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Interlochen, Day 4 (Chuck)

We are starting to see an increase of activity around the camp as college students begin to arrive for the official opening of Summer Camp. Over a thousand students are employed as cabin and dorm monitors, security, life guards and other camp functions.  They are also sprucing up the camp in preparation for Saturday’s Garrison Keeler’s Prairie Home Companion radio broadcast.

Meanwhile, New Horizon campers are busily preparing for Thursday evening’s small group performances.  The Jazz Ensembles along with the various instrument choirs will be performing, all proceeded by a strolling band outside the Fine Arts building.

It is amazing how much progress the Intermediate Band has made in the past few days, thinking back to  when we were stumbling over “La Cumparsita” and Bob Margolis’ “Fanfare Ode” and “Festival for Concert Band”. Tonight’s run thru of Sousa’s “Northern Pines March” may have had the March King turning in his grave, but hopefully we can get the kinks worked out in the final rehearsal tomorrow morning.


It is just hard to believe there is just one more full day of camp before heading back to the real world. It’s just amazing how many mid-lifers (and older) are enjoying a chance to play (and sing) many for the first time. There have been so many stories about other camps. I am already starting to eye the calendar for October 2012, they say Chautauqua, New York is a great camp….

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Interlochen, Day 3 (Chuck)

I took my first stab at conducting this afternoon, did ok on preparing the group for the downbeat and release. However once I was finished conducting part of Haydn’s Surprise Symphony in 2/4 time there was a nice pile of firewood for the meeting room.

It’s still an informative class and former Wayne State professor Joe Labuta does a good job of teaching.  Joeis also director of the Saline, Michigan New Horizons Band.  It’s just another chance to put a face and meet some of the legends of Detroit’s music history as well as some of the best band teachers around the country.

Some of the music we have been playing is starting to come together. The saxophone ensemble has been working on Duke Ellington’s “Satin Doll”, a great version of “Jeri co” and an “Amazing Grace” arrangement that gives each individual in the group a chance at the lead.

The Intermediate Band has been supplemented the last couple of nights by members of the Advanced Band, which has helped a lot. I’m finding myself keeping up with the “more experienced” players. I even held my own with a solo on a version of the Shaker Dance.  The Tango (La Comparsita) is coming along nicely the St. Louis Blues. I’m not sure what part I’ll end up with since I’ve played both first and second, I ended up doing the sax solo during the sectional.  We are also starting to get a feel for  Sousa’s Northern Pines March.

Another full day of music, more tired lips, the night’s finale, 1812 Overture, running thr0ugh my head, the good news is we all finished at the same time.

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Interlochen, Day 2 (Chuck)

Today was the first full day of band camp. In many ways it was a feeling of back to school. The beautiful campus at the Interlochen Center for the arts, people scurrying in all directions heading to class, instead of a backpack of books, instruments in hand, folks getting to know each other during meal time in the cafeteria. I’ve met midlife musicians from California, Montana, Florida, North Carolina, as well as members of New Horizons Bands from around the state.  They all have pretty much the same story, they either played when they were younger and  began playing again after 30 or even 40 years, or decided it was something they wanted to do after they retired.  Many of them have been only playing a couple of years, and a few have attended several camps each time coming away learning something new.

Bears statue at Interlochen

This statue of a mother and baby bear is a favorite meet-up point at Interlochen.

I’m taking a fairly basic schedule this week: there is a saxophone ensemble class first thing in the morning. There are six of us in the class, two are good, the rest of us are fairly green, but we manage to get through the music without too many major mistakes.  The Intermediate Band is fairly small, the woodwind section is fairly green (there were two alto’s at the sectional rehearsal) but with practice I think we will sound okay at our concert Friday morning.

After the morning sessions, I need to rest my lip a bit, lunch, and a free period. Today was spent in one of the practice huts working on Intermediate Band music. Tomorrow may be used to work on technique for the only afternoon class I have, beginning conducting.  Gotta work on what comes after the downbeat.

Other courses being offered this week include, conch shell  playing, introduction to percussion for wind players and a class that seems a bit intriguing, “Way Back and Far Out”…(Bach and after Beethoven). There is also a strolling band class, and classes on jazz styles.

Then there is dinner and another chance to meet my fellow campers, and an evening session for the Intermediate and Advanced bands. Then maybe a little time to unwind, and maybe a little more practice if the lip holds out.

So far lots of walking, enjoying the wonderful Northern Michigan weather (sunny, highs in the low 70s) and casual conversations with some great people.

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Interlochen, Day 1

Chuck is attending the New Horizons Band Camp at Interlochen this week, and is filing his reports, while Georgeann attends the BSO Academy in Baltimore.  This is the first of Chuck’s daily reports.

Practice Hut at Interlochen Music Camp

A practice hut at Interlochen. Each has a grand piano inside.

New Horizon Band founder Dr. Roy Ernst has described Interlochen Center for the Arts as the Carneige Hall of Music Camps. It has a history dating back to the mid 1920 as the nation’s premiere music camp. John Phillip Sousa conducted the National High School Band here in 1930 and wrote his Northern Pines March after that experience.

This week about 200 Midlife Musicians from all across the country are spending time among the pines, soaking up the atmosphere, renewing old friendships and and playing what to many of us is somewhat challenging music. It is the New Horizon’s Music Camp, one of several held around the country each Summer.  New Horizons Music programs were developed by Dr Roy Ernst 20 years ago as a way to give adults an opportunity to learn music in a setting similar to that offered in school. Many of the participants have either played at one time and and came back after a long absence or taken up music for the first time. The organization now has over 182 bands, orchestras, choruses and other ensembles across the country.

Classes this week include ensembles for Brass, Woodwinds, Saxophones, Flutes, Clarinets and Percussion. As well as a few fun things like Dixieland Band, Strolling Band, Conch Shell Choir and introduction to conducting, a look at music before Bach and after Beethoven.

It’s going to be an interesting week, I’ve already had great conversations with midlifers from Florida, San Diego, Durham, NC as well as fellow midlifers from Michigan. We all have one thing in common, a love for music, most of us took it up again after leaving it in high school or college.

We will stumble this week, make a few mistakes, but have fun. And live by Dr Roy’s New Horizon Band Motto  ‘your best is good enough.’

http://www.newhorizonsmusic.org/nhima.html

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The Tempo of Life

I’ve been thinking a lot about tempo lately.

BSO AcademySome of the thinking has its roots in the music I’m struggling to master for next week’s BSO Academy.  I’m starting to get my fingers and bow around most of it — but at half-speed.  I’m nowhere near as fast as the recordings I’ve been listening to of Hindemith, Rimskey-Korsakov, and now the Dvorak String Quintet in G (my designated chamber music piece – 2nd violin).  And the thought of trying to play as fast as the music demands fills me with terror. Continue reading

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