GPS for the Brain

Sally's violinThis past Sunday’s rehearsal was the only one so far where I’ve had only one job the entire time- to lead a section.

During most rehearsals I switch roles, going (sometimes not so seamlessly) from concertmaster to soloist.  Physically, I really only stand up and move about three feet and turn to face the windows at the back of the rehearsal hall. That part is manageable and really not intimidating. Mentally, it’s a huge switch. Changing my mindset to be able to play my concerto in the technical aspect while weaving together the musical ideas to complete the picture is a daunting task. It’s not a mental state I can get to without preparation and a very good idea of where my music “head” is in relation to other emotions.

For example, if the thought ceaselessly running through my head is “Hmm, I wonder if there’s any coffee left in the kitchen… Also, can’t forget to study Asia and the Middle East for the geography quiz tomorrow…” I need to make a mental U-turn and find my bearings. It would be fantastically helpful to have a mental GPS…

Sally (far left) and VYO members in France - July 09

Sally (far left) and VYO members in France - July 09

I associate many musical ideas in the Saint-Saëns concerto with memories, and quite a few of them are from the VYO’s France Tour this summer. During one chorale melody I’m with my friends on the balcony of our hotel in Paris, watching the Eiffel Tower light up at midnight. At one point in the development section, I’m walking through the winding streets around the Museé d’Orsay looking for
somewhere to sit and eat lunch. The only memory I want to stay as far away from as possible is the jetlag. That disjointed, sleepy and over-caffeinated feeling (which is a pretty accurate description of most mornings in France!)…well, I don’t know exactly what that would sound like musically.

The concert still seems far away. It hasn’t quite hit me yet that in roughly three weeks, I actually have to perform. It won’t be too scary though, because no matter how nervous I get (and trust me I’ll be pretty terrified), about 80 of my friends will be there with me, and I know I can always look over my shoulder and remember they’re right behind me.

Sally Bruce, violin

Editor’s Note: Sally has been a VYOA member for 12 years; this is her second season as concertmaster for the VYO. She will be performing the first movement of Camille Saint-Saëns Violin Concerto No. 3 with the VYO during their upcoming Fall concerts:

Friday, October 2 at 8:00 pm – St. Mary’s Church, St. Albans

Sunday, October 4 at 3:00 pm – Flynn Center for the Performing Arts

For additional information on both concerts, visit /index.php?events/action/show/id/event/yr/2009/mon/10

(Photos: Stina Plant,  Duncan Yandell)

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