Tag Archives: musicians

BSO Academy, Round Two

20120624-220700.jpgWe’re off and running on another BSO Academy. There are more than 100 musicians here this year to play side-by-side with members of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and under the baton of Marin Alsop.

So far, the week is off to grand start. A big difference this year is a partnership between the BSO and the Baltimore School of the Arts. Our first sessions are taking place in rooms that were purpose-created for teaching music, meaning there are lots of music stands and pianos everywhere to support playing. There are dozens of rooms for practicing and private lessons in the middle of Baltimore’s Mt. Vernon neighborhood.

There have been some lovely events to help us get acquainted with other musicians here. Among attendees I’ve met so far are a retired violinist from the Kansas City symphony who is now playing the harp and another violinist who works on environmental issues in Maryland but also plays the flute and saxophone. This year’s roster includes a significant number of teachers — finally able to attend because this year’s Academy is a little later — after school has let out for the year.

Today, we eased into playing with a fun session of string orchestra and a helpful master class — both led by BSO ConcertMaster Jonathan Carney. In the evening, chamber rehearsals began, and I worked on Mozart with the delightful Ivan Stefanovic of the BSO.

Sectionals take place tomorrow as we begin work in earnest on the Orchestra repertoire, with our first rehearsal in Meyerhoff Hall scheduled for Tuesday. We’re aiming for a great concert on Saturday evening, June 30th.

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Studies: Music Improves Your (Aging) Life

Members of the Orchard Lake Philharmonic Society gathered for a picnic yesterday with new conductor Nan Washburn and members of the Michigan Philharmonic.

And, it’s thanks to Nan that I can share two recent studies that reinforce the feeling many of us have that playing music — especially in groups — improves our lives as we get a little creaky in the joints.

The first study, published in the April 2011 journal Neuropsychology and reported in the Huffington Post, comes from researchers at the University of Kansas, who examined the mental abilities of people between the ages of 60 and 83 who play music.  They found that people who had begun studying music early in life and had played for more than 10 years performed significantly better on both visual and verbal tests.   While the authors conclude more study needs to be done, they theorize that learning to play music reorganizes pathways in the brain in ways that help ward off the effects of Alzheimer’s or other dementia.   The finding would seem to be in keeping with the studies that have been done on children who study music, which have found an significant larger number of connections between the left and right hemispheres of the brain.  Or, as the Huffington Post headline declares, “Musicians Are Probably Smarter Than the Rest of Us.”

Even more surprising to me was a study reported on NPR this month, coming out of Northwestern University.  In the report on NPR, the researcher reported that musicians may have an edge warding off hearing loss.   Because of their training, musicians were 40% more likely to discriminate words from background noise than non-musicians.   As someone who has spent most of her career in environments with lots of potentially damaging background noise (one audiologist physically blanched when she saw my workspace next to those old 1960’s vintage AP teletype machines!), that study gives me great hope!

 

 

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Summer and Fall Fantasies …

Received word today that the Minnesota Orchestra in Minneapolis has announced a fantasy camp this fall.   They are looking for 50 amateur musicians – all parts – to take part in a two-day camp in mid-September.  The repertoire is Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances, which is scheduled to be performed with the symphony in the second half of their September 16th concert.  You can get more information on the Minnesota Symphony site.

Nan Washburn

The information comes courtesy of Nan Washburn of the Michigan Philharmonic, who has just been named the new conductor of the Orchard Lake Philharmonic Society Symphony Orchestra.  The appointment received some coverage in local papers this weekend. Speaking both as a new board member of OLPS and a member of the orchestra, I’m delighted that Nan is coming on board.  The repertoire she has chosen for our fall concert is intriguing (Gluck, Ravel, Sibelius, Berlioz, and Mao Yuan).

The OLPS Symphony is looking for additional players, especially all strings.  If you play and want to get involved with a group, now is your chance!  Rehearsals begin Thursday, September 15th at West Bloomfield High School.  Additional information and registration materials are available on www.OLPSMusic.org.

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BSO Academy, The Final Day (Georgeann)

BSO AcademyI can’t believe it’s over.

As I write this, I’m on the road home.  So much has happened, and I’ve learned so much that it will fuel this blog with content for a couple more weeks, at least.

Dress Rehearsal

BSO Academy Group 1 Dress Rehearsal with Marin Alsop conducting.

Saturday brought dress rehearsal with Marin Alsop and the orchestra.   Our group, Group 2, finally had a chance to sit in the hall and listen to the rehearsal of Group 1.  Group 1 had a different repertoire to perform:

  • The Overture to Candide, by Leonard Bernstein (an Alsop mentor!)
  •  Alborada del gracioso, by Maurice Ravel, and
  • The first movement of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony #2.
Dress Rehearsal-Correcting a problem

Marin Alsop works with the orchestra to iron out a problem.

The Bernstein is a favorite orchestra concert opener, and is full of light-hearted humor and fun.  The Ravel is a French Impressionist composer’s take on Spanish music, and was very different from the Rimskey-Korsakov take on Spanish music that our group had in the Capriccio.   The Mahler was alternately thrilling and ethereal, appropriate for a Symphony that has the subtitle, “Resurrection.”

Dress Rehearsal-Cellos

Group 1 plays Mahler at rehearsal.

Our group one colleagues returned the favor as our Group took the stage for our final rehearsal.  My extra practice on the Capriccio paid off, in a compliment from my stand partner on the progress I had made in 24 hours.    A “class photo”, lunch and a Q&A with Marin Alsop followed, and then we had the afternoon off to relax, rendezvous with our families and friends, and prepare for the final concert.

The Meyerhoff was about three-quarters full for the final concert; the size of the audience surprised the BSO musicians.  The Symphony had also billed the concert as a “Donor Appreciate Concert” so the private boxes were well populated.  The concert was also free to the general public, so we also attracted some local fans of the symphony.

Unlike most of my colleagues who sat in the audience, I listened in the Green Room with another Academy member – an oboe player – during the first half of the concert.  It turned out to be strategic:  I was able to hear Marin’s comments as she came off-stage after the Mahler.  She was clearly happy with the Group 1 performance.

Then it was time for our Group to take the stage.  I felt surprisingly relaxed – no attack of nerves like I had suffered on Friday during the chamber performance – and it was all over way too quickly.  The Capriccio and the Hindemith are both such show pieces, that the audience immediately left to its feet at the end, giving us a standing ovation and three curtain calls.

We were all exhilarated.  We had done it!  We had played side-by-side with the BSO, and had learned so much and worked so hard.  None of us were ready for it to be over.

We have many memories and a host of ideas to improve our playing for the future.  So, where do I sign up for next year?

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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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This and That: Music, Work, Life

First, the news.

Detroit Public Television LogoI have a new job and a new title.   Senior Vice President, Content and Community Engagement, at Detroit Public Television.   I’m working on plans to address DPTV’s five key issue areas:   Energy and Environment, Leadership, Arts & Culture, Health, and Kids/Education.   Continue reading

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29 Musicians Make A Wonderful Sound

Just back from Camerata Ireland’s performance at the brand-new Palladium in Carmel, Indiana.

Palladium Stage, Carmel Indiana

The view from our seats in the new Palladium in Carmel, Indiana

First of all, the facility is a winner.   Chuck and I bought seats in the choral terrace behind the stage, and they were great.   It was almost like sitting in the orchestra, with a full view of Barry Douglas conducting and nearly close enough to read the music on the stands. Continue reading

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Symphony Fantasy Camp

BSO AcademyThe envelope was large, brown, and addressed by hand.

“Dear Georgeann,

“Congratulations!  After careful review of your application, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is pleased to offer you admission to the second annual BSO Academy …”

I’m in. Continue reading

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Catching Up …

2011 has started in a rush, and it’s already a week into February!

Just back from the 2011 Sphinx Competition, which featured final performances from the Junior Division this year.   Congratulations to Alexandra Switala, who captured the first place price with a passionate, charismatic performance of Mozart’s Violin Concerto #5 in A Major.  Her animated performance stole the show from Annelle Gregory, whose more restrained classic performance was gorgeously rendered, but which left her in third place.   My row, however, was rooting for Xavier Foley, the young bassist who captured second place while bending in half over his instrument to play notes in positions never intended on the bass in his performance of the Dittersdorf Concerto in E Major.   Continue reading

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