Catching up

As usual, it’s been ages since I’ve posted anything here. In the past few weeks a few people have asked me to write again and now that it’s summer I have some time. My second year of school was a lot more intense than the first year. Consequently, practicing and then homework had the highest priorities. I did graduate this May with an Associate degree in Music.

As was true of my first year of school, I really enjoyed all my classes again this past year. Theory was still my favorite. It took some work to understand some of the more advanced analysis of tonal music but I got it and I really like digging in and figuring out the structure of a piece. The last month of the class covered atonal music and the twelve-tone row. Although this music is not my favorite, analyzing it was very formulaic and I found it really easy.

I had a great teacher for music history and I did very well in the class. Back in September I didn’t do that well, getting a grade in the low 80s on the first quiz, until I figured out how to study for it. Once I came up with a method that worked for me, I aced all the exams – high 90s and then the last three 102 for each test. It took a tremendous amount of work – hours and hours of homework or studying almost everyday – but doing really well in the class made the work worth it. Plus I really found the material very interesting once we got past the 5th century chant stuff.

Aural skills remained the hardest class for me. I still struggle hearing intervals and with rhythm which made dictation tests very difficult, especially at the end of the year when we worked on bitonality. Fortunately, I had a wonderful professor who took the time and had the patience to help me get though the class. (In fact, all my professors at Suffolk were really excellent and I think that is a big reason why I was able to stick it out and graduate.) The other thing that saved me is that I do very well with sight singing so my grades on sight sighting balanced out my not so great grades on dictation tests.

I played in both the wind ensemble and the symphonic band at school, plus the two community bands I’ve been in for a few years. I did find that all the playing was hard on my chops. Most days I was playing at least three hours and at least twice a week, five hours. In the fall semester that wasn’t too bad because I was playing mostly low horn parts but in the spring semester I was playing 1st in the school bands and that’s when I started to really feel the impact to my chops. I ended up with a split in my lip right where the mouthpiece edge sat on my lip and ended up with a bloody mess on more than one occasion. Although my lip is healed I can still feel where the split was and I have to be careful not to split it open again.

I did a lot of performing this year between recitals, juries, some chamber music, master classes and auditions. I am very slowly getting past the insane nervousness though I still don’t play my best when I perform. I hope that eventually this will change. I can tell that I am playing better than I did last year. Improvement is slow but relatively steady. My biggest problem is still air – “I didn’t hear you breathe” or “you didn’t take a big enough breath” are typical comments during lessons.  Next is probably rhythm, or maybe intonation, or maybe articulation, or maybe accuracy, the list seems endless.

I will write on my choice of a four year school, the 2nd BSO academy that I attended, and SummerTrios in the next few days.

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