Passing It On

This week, the VYO visited the Saint Albans Town elementary and middle school. During theschool-tour-photo-by-aprilse visits that we call school tours, our primary goal is to share music with the students; specifically, to inspire as many students as possible to play instruments and to participate in their school’s music programs. At the St. Albans school, we taught the students about our instruments and gave music lessons. The day ended with a full VYO concert.

During the morning, we visited first to seventh grade classrooms in small groups, arranged to demonstrate the various instrument “families”. My group included clarinet, oboe, bassoon and flute.  These sessions were especially fun for me because many of the kids hadn’t seen or heard an oboe before. As I entered one of the classrooms, a first-grade boy looked up at me and exclaimed, “Boy, that sure is a funny looking instrument.” I showed the class how this “funny” instrument could produce beautiful sounds… the excited chattering in the room when I played an excerpt of a Hindemith sonata was great! Taking questions from the students at the end of the session was the most fun with younger students. The questions ranged from logical (“How long have you played your instruments?”) to slightly offbeat (“Which of your instruments is oldest?”) to completely obscure (“Do you have your driver’s license?”). I love the unpredictability of these classroom visits!

In the afternoon, the entire school gathered in the gym to hear the VYO present a preview of music from our Spring Concert; we played Gershwin’s An American in Paris and the Carmen Suite by Bizet. This was great practice for our upcoming concert and it helped place a fresh perspective on our music. Mr. Peters explained many musical concepts to the students, including the role of the conductor, composition techniques, and dynamics. As I listened to him describe the story behind An American in Paris, I was reminded to play with emotion rather than being overly concerned with correct notes and rhythms. I wanted the students to feel the weight and beauty of each note we played.

The day consistently reflected my own journey in music. Although I can’t remember if my elementary school ever hosted a youth music ensemble, I distinctly remember being inspired by older oboists. When I was in fourth grade, I played in my private instructor’s annual recital for the first time. I remember being awestruck by the skill with which the high school musicians played. I thought they played at a level I could never achieve. After the recital, some of these older musicians made a point to compliment my playing. They told me that I could become an amazing oboist someday. I’m not sure that I believed them at the time, but I have never forgotten those kind words. There’s just something special and terribly important about older musicians mentoring younger musicians.
I hope that our school visit will have a lasting effect on the students we met on Wednesday. This visit gave us all a valuable opportunity to share our passion for music. I hope the kids enjoyed it as much as we did.

–April Burbank     (Photo: April Burbank)

Playing Like We Mean It

suzanne-blog-shot-of-horn1 I’m very excited for the spring VYO concerts.

This week’s VYO rehearsal went well; the orchestra is gradually sounding better as everyone practices their part and grows more comfortable with how the pieces sound. As part of the upcoming May concerts we are playing An American in Paris by George Gershwin; we will also play this piece when we are actually all Americans in Paris during our concert tour in France in July. This is an awesome piece, with great melodies, intertwining counter melodies, and an incredible enthusiasm inherent to the music.

Like the Ravel Piano Concerto we played with Sammy (Angstman) in the fall, the Gershwin is definitely influenced by jazz. One trumpet solo in particular has a cool groove. Gershwin also admired contemporary French classical composers. When the younger Gershwin asked Maurice Ravel for some composition lessons, the story goes that Ravel replied, “Maybe I should be taking lessons from you.

This piece has difficult spots for everyone in the orchestra, but this week everything started to flow together into a cohesive work, becoming cleaner and clearer. Mr. Peters always tells us to play like we mean it… We often hear, “I’d rather have you be wrong and strong, than right but inaudible.” It’s great advice. Following it is really important to making a great sound, but also to having a good energy in the orchestra. This Sunday I could hear that people were paying attention and playing with conviction, and it had a big effect on the music we were making together. If we keep this up, we will have superb concerts in May.

–Suzanne Calhoun     (Photo: Stina Plant)

Spring Arrives … with Fireworks

Concert season is in full swing at the VYOA and with it,  a continuation  of the VYO blog. From the beginning of April through May 3,  students April Burbank (oboe) and Suzanne Calhoun (horn) will be creating blog posts about their enthusiastic preparation fooutdoor-blog-shotr the VYO spring concert,  “Choral Fireworks”.  They’ll offer perspective, commentary and a glimpse into life at the Elley-Long Music Center at Saint Michael’s College during the height of spring rehearsals.

“Choral Fireworks” is an exciting musical program, featuring the first-time collaboration between the VYO and the VYO Chorus. Audiences will be treated to the sound of one hundred and fifty of Vermont’s finest, young instrumentalists and singers performing together, led  by VYO conductor Troy Peters and VYO choral conductor Jeffrey Buettner.

Catch the concert in two locations: Friday, May 1 at 8:00 pm at the Dibden Center for the Arts at Johnson State College, and again on Sunday, May 3 at 3:00 pm in Burlington’s historic Flynn Center for the Performing Arts.

Please feel free to check the blog often! For more information or for additional details about our concerts, please check our website at www.vyo.org.

Beginning Again

Tonight, for the first time in quite a while, I am not practicing. It feels like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. No more working on runs that have never been perfect enough, no more deciding between practicing for an extra half an hour or getting more sleep, no more figuring out where to breathe in a seemingly endless passage – not until tomorrow night, when I begin perfecting my college audition repertoire.

I am planning on going to college to become a music teacher, so these next couple of months will be filled with countless auditions and meetings with potential new flute teachers. I cannot wait until music will become the focus of my educational career and ultimately my profession. Sunday might have been the last time I perform a concerto with an orchestra (I hope not!), but it was certainly a step down my road to becoming a great musician.

“Are you sad it’s over?” was the number one question posed to me after the concert on Sunday. At that time I replied, “Yeah, it was an awesome experience.” Thinking back on it, I should have responded differently. A musician’s work is never really over. And, for me, Sunday was just the beginning.

–Kelly Herrmann

Variation On A Theme

The last paragraph of Kelly’s post last week is EXACTLY what I keep thinking about as the concert date draws closer and closer. I can only hope to trek across the stage and arrive at the piano unscathed…I know that once I sit down on the bench, I will be okay. Like Kelly, I can cover a mistake in my playing, but tripping and falling down in front of an audience would be mortifying.

I’ll try not to think about it.

Wasn’t it only yesterday when the VYO sight-read the Ravel for the first time? Actually, this was over a month ago! In Sunday’s rehearsal, we ran through the piece without stopping for the first time. It was very exciting for me. It felt like a mini-concert – there were even a few people sitting in chairs in the back of the hall! The orchestra’s part is challenging, both individually, and then put together. I will say this again: I am so fortunate that VYO plays this piece so well!

It is unbelievable that our first concert is only 3 days away. From a personal perspective, the next five days mark the culmination of a project that I have worked on (with a break here and there) for over a year. This concert is the entire reason I learned the Ravel. It is incredible that this entire experience will be over in less than a week.

–Samantha Angstman

Twelve More Days…

I’m already nervous.

“Don’t listen to the violins,” asserted Mr. Peters at last Sunday’s VYO rehearsal, “It will slow you down.”

I tried my hardest to drown them out, but it’s pretty impossible to ignore thirty violinists playing only a foot away from you. There are twelve days until I will be standing on the Flynn MainStage (not that I’m counting or anything…), but it feels like I am running out of time to make any improvements on my piece. Everything I play perfectly at the concert should already be perfect, right?

And honestly, I am less worried about something going wrong musically than I  am about tripping over my own feet. I can picture myself toppling over in my pretty silver shoes, flute in hand, and taking out half the second violin section… Missing an accidental is a mistake I can deal with. Taking a spill in front of all those people — my worst nightmare.

-Kelly Herrmann -Photo: Stina Plant