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

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

The Buzz on Ravel

Sunday’s rehearsal was very focused.

As I sat in the performance hall eating my lunch, I listened to the first two movements of the Borodin and Chabrier’s Joyeuse marche. The only distraction came in the form of a wasp buzzing around the clarinets, but Mr. Peters quickly captured it and let it outside. After this wasp incident, the orchestra quickly regained their focus and continued playing.

I have been working on the Ravel Piano Concerto for a while now. It is really coming together, which is a relief because the orchestra part is pretty difficult. I am grateful to have an orchestra learn the music so quickly and play it so well!

There is a huge difference in my playing from the front of the stage than from the back of the group, where I usually play. The sound I hear from the orchestra when I am situated in front of them is so much richer. Also, the ability to glance up at Mr. Peters to catch the tempo is really convenient.

The VYO really understands the “jazzy” elements of the Ravel, especially the syncopated rhythms in the fast sections. That syncopation and the bluesy character of the slower sections, are the reasons I love playing this piece – as a jazz musician, I think it is awesome that Ravel incorporated the jazz style of playing into some of his compositions. Hearing the VYO play this piece so well three whole weeks away from the concert…I cannot wait to hear how “together” it will sound next week!

-Sammy Angstman      -Photo: Stina Plant

A View from The Other Side

It feels so weird to be on the other side of things.

When I was younger, and even during the past couple of years in VYO, the senior soloists always seemed so…intimidating. They played their pieces perfectly. They would stand in front of the orchestra with such confidence, obviously having worked toward playing their solo for a very long time. It seemed so easy for them. I would marvel at their talents from the audience or from my place in the middle of the orchestra, thinking that they wouldn’t see my mouth hanging open in total awe.

I know now that they could.

When I stood in front of the VYO in rehearsal today, and looked out at my peers, I didn’t feel nearly as confident or play as fluidly as any of my predecessors. When I saw the faces of the VYO members staring back at me, I felt like they were expecting perfection. But, remembering my younger, open-mouthed self, I thought hopefully that at least one person in the orchestra might look up to me as I had looked up to so many others in the past.

–Kelly Herrmann