While at Meadowmount I try to write a journal entry each day. At the end of the week I tear out the pages and send them home to my family. This is taken from my first week of journal pages:
Meadowmount starts today! I’ve been a little discombobulated due to arriving so late last night. (I’ll spare you the details of delayed flights and missed ferries, and the resulting looong taxi ride south to cross Lake Champlain by bridge.) It was about 4am that I got to bed! I awoke at 10am to find the rest of the people in my dorm already hard at practicing. I went to check in and saw Mary McGowan (and Bubbles!) again. They don’t have the Silverstein groups posted, so I’m not sure about that yet, but discovered I am 1st violin in group no. 38. People are sounding really good this year.
Orientation went well and I met Mr. Ribeiro. My first lesson is tomorrow. We were warned to be on the lookout on campus, as there is a mama bear and her cubs hanging around here. Our dorm meeting in the basement was broken up by a bat. It’s good to be back at Meadowmount!
Today I had my first lesson with Ribeiro! He is an excellent teacher who inspires students to work harder with a combination of encouraging advice and blunt criticism. We worked a huge amount on my tone and sound quality, and vibrato, which is going to be a big focus for me over this next week. More specifically, we worked on developing a core to my sound, and a slower wider vibrato to enhance this more mature sound. He was extremely detailed (“The contact point should be in the middle of the 1st finger where there is more flesh and space for a wider vibrato, not on the side by the nail. The hand should form an acute angle to the string, not a straight angle. The hand, specifically the thumb, must under no circumstances squeeze the neck of the instrument”, etc.), but he never lost the big picture (“Do you see those stones outside? Well, you have an instrument that has the ability to make those stones cry. You have to learn to do that.”)
All in all this was a pretty good day. I practiced for 8 hours and attended Sloman’s studio class and Setzer’s studio class. A student of Sloman’s who attends Curtis, delivered a flawless (I don’t know the piece, but every single note down to the last was perfectly in tune) performance of Bartok’s 2nd concerto. Setzer’s class focused on “how to practice”.
Today I did something I have never done before at MM, and that is, attend Mr. Larsen’s masterclass (for piano). I gleaned a huge amount from watching how musical the pianists were. The following 3 excerpts are copied from my notes:
“Subtleties in timing make all the difference in creating magic in a phrase.”
“To avoid being static with the music, one must create TENSION in the line. Grab the listener by the shirt, drag and deposit them someplace they have never been with your playing.”
“A slow movement or theme has to have shape and direction just like a fast one, or else you are painting a picture of a grey void.”
We had a good chamber rehearsal today. The group is definitely serious. We have 2 cellists and are working on the Shubert cello quintet.
Pretty good day. Had a check-in with Ribeiro and I think he sees progress, but still infinity work to be done. Listened to Pavoratti sing a Puccini Aria upon Ribeiro’s request, and learned from it the most important thing I’ve learned so far at MM this summer:
Musicality is what happens in between the notes; the connection of the notes; the searing passion and intensity, or the quiet whisper that conveys emotion, and is the glue that holds all of the notes together.
I thought there was an Alexander class tonight, but apparently there wasn’t, so I got a 30-minute private lesson.
Wasn’t terribly optimistic about dinner when I heard it was eggplant, but once I discovered it was mostly tomato sauce and cheese I ate it merrily.
Almost had a burnout tonight from over-working, but pulled myself together and got some rest.
Today our quintet had our first coaching with Mr. Schwede. Our 2nd cellist, who arrived yesterday, currently attends Northwestern University, and is a fantastic player. Our whole group is actually quite excellent, and we played very well in our coaching. I think if we work very hard we will have a shot at winning playoffs. It’s great to come to chamber group rehearsals as they are always meant to be – very high level of playing and everyone completely prepared. It’s both exciting and gratifying.
Tonight was the first concert and it was the faculty concert. Mr. Zenaty (the new violinist, from CIM) played the Bach Partita no. 2. I think DK would be pleased: it was played in a very authentic baroque style with an expressive bow and minimal vibrato. He is quite a violinist.
The evening concluded in fine style with a Dvorak Piano Trio which featured Mr. Larsen, Mr. Zenaty and Mr. Greensmith (cellist, formerly of the Tokyo Quartet, principle cellist of the Royal Philharmonic in London, and just joined MM faculty).
Today I practiced for 5 hours in the morning and 3-one hour intervals in the afternoon/evening. Had an intense quintet rehearsal and really helpful Alexander Technique lesson. Although it may not seem like a very eventful day, these are the kinds of intense “practice days” that eventually add up to the progress you see at the end of the summer. Here was my schedule for today:
7-8 shower, breakfast, study Mendelssohn
2:30-4 quintet rehearsal
4:30-5:30 Alexander Technique lesson
7:15-8:30 study, analyze recordings:
Oistrakh Tchaikovsky Concerto
Shubert Cello Quintet
Heifetz Mendelssohn Concerto
9:30-10 study Bruch Scottish Fantasy
11-11:30 analyze recording of my Sarasate, take notes
12 go to bed
All while not pressing with my chin and staying relaxed ☺ Not all days are like this of course, but I take advantage of it when I can. You will want to know, yes I do get breaks in between while walking across the large campus for these various rehearsals, lessons, meals etc.