Our day began with a long practice session at the Green Center. All activities were scheduled to take place here today. A short Bach double run through. Much better than yesterday. The kids are already confident. The stage must be doing something to them as well. They play as if it’s for real. We should be playing like that all the time, but that’s just wishful thinking at one point.
A word about the hall – Very Strange! I’ve spent three summers playing at the Seiji Ozawa hall in Tanglewood and was told that the Green Music Center was somewhat of a copy. Well walking in was like walking into Ozawa Hall. Not only the stage, size, materials etc… everything is the same. The chairs have the same number of squares designed on them, the doors have the same patterns. It’s very pretty, though Ozawa Hall is still my first love. The sound is very similar as well. The backstage area is much nicer here, however. I guess they had more space to work with. It’s a great experience for the little munchkins to play here.
Super Strings day began at about 3 pm. The Hall was packed. Parents, teachers, friends, music lovers… It was a progressive event. More and more groups came onto stage until at the end we had over 200 players going through Offenbach’s Can-Can. The teachers had already joined the students so there was no less than a 60 year gap between the youngest and the oldest player on stage today. Midori and I played in the orchestra. We also did a few solos between the pieces. The conductors have trained these musicians very well. And the education coordinators with the symphony – Ben, Christina, and the local teacher Ivy Zenobi were flawless in executing the complicated procedures of getting all the students to their assigned places in the quickest and safest way.
Pictures, autographs, thankses..
Almost immediately followed a rehearsal with the Youth Orchestra. They played the Tchaikovsky Symphony, as well as some Verdi. After break, they called in Midori for the Mendelssohn concerto and spent over an hour and a half on it. Time well-spent. Tomorrow will be a blast.
Midori returned from LA just in time to meet the three soloists for the Bach two violin concerto before the rehearsal with the Young People’s Chamber Orchestra. Aaron Westman is their music director. Like Tim Zieminsky, Aaron went through the entire youth orchestra program in Santa Rosa as a student and went on to study violin, viola, and baroque interpretation. He’s now back in Santa Rosa teaching young musicians how to properly play the music of the baroque era, while continuing to play many of his high profile gigs around the Bay Area and Southern California. It’s extremely rare to see such a young conductorless group, much less one that specializes in baroque. The concert on Sunday will be great!
After the rehearsal, Midori and I answered questions on the integration of music into the academic university education, as well as regarding the differences between conservatory and university music teaching. Parents and teachers stayed for about 45 mins and we were literally asked to leave because the venue was past closing time.
Unusually late morning. I didn’t what to do with myself, so I practiced before our first activity. At 11, we had a meeting with the Santa Rosa Symphony leaders. They explained to us the ongoing programs so that we can better understand the trajectory of their education efforts. They are headed in a great direction. Midori made some suggestions, but I doubt they needed them. Everyone seemed really on top of it.
After lunch, we drove to the Sheppard School where we presented for two groups of students. We played right at the middle of their basketball gym. I loved the sound in there. Midori hated it. “The drier, the better” she says. “This reverb is unrealistic”. Unrealistic or not, it sounds nice.
After the second presentation was over, we headed over to one of the classrooms to listen to, and coach the Simply Strings program. These tiny kids have been playing the their violins since first semester and they can already get through two full pieces. Postures were great and so was the overall energy. One of their four teachers is Tim Zieminsky who has gone through all the youth orchestras in the area as a student and is now about to graduate the San Francisco Conservatory. He commutes every day taking classes in San Francisco and teaching back here. Very focused teacher and, from what I heard, a wonderful violinist.
Midori then headed to Santa Rosa High School where she taught three violinists in a masterclass. Sibelius, Dvorak, and Seitz concertos. Shortly afterwards, she left for Los Angeles to teach a few lessons. No sleep for her tonight.
We arrived late last night. It wasn’t supposed to be a long trip but the closest popular airport to Santa Rosa is Oakland, still over an hour drive. Luckily there were no early activities, although Midori went to the symphony offices to work before the sun was up.
Our first presentation was at Cali Calmecac Language Academy – a completely bilingual school where kids as young as kindergarten are taught to feel as comfortable in English as they do in Spanish and vice versa. We did our presentation for three different groups – first we had K through 2, then 3-5 and finally 6 – 8th grade. Each presentation was about 30 mins, although the questions the students had could have easily filled an hour. Unfortunately we have to cut the answers short so that the kids can get back to class.
In the sprinkling weather, we drove to Sonoma State University for a chamber music masterclass. There was a loud jazz concert going on next door but luckily the rooms were really well soundproof. State of the art facility really. The students played Dvorak Piano Quintet, Shostakovich Trio and a Dvorak Sonatina.
The rain had intensified meanwhile however. It took us some time to get to the Sonoma County Day School where Midori met with the Youth Orchestra conductor and then rehearsed the Mendelssohn concerto with the Side by Side Santa Rosa Symphony and Youth Orchestra. I saw lots of old friends from the Santa Rosa Symphony and had a chance to catch up. The rehearsal was also good. It was in a nice old-fashioned theater. The stage was small, so everyone was extra cozy, but we all know that’s how side-by-sides should be. After Midori’s portion of the rehearsal was over, she made her way to the library where she gathered the parents of the Youth Orchestra members and gave a 45 min talk on preparing for entering colleges with music as a major or a minor. She started with getting in touch with teachers and selecting the schools to apply to, went over scheduling auditions, proceeded to talking about the audition trip and the big day, and finished with understanding the results. There were quite a few questions and it turned into a nice discussion.
Entry from Cullen O’Neil from the Wabi-Sabi String quintet:
Attempting to properly illustrate the excitement and anticipation that the young musicians of Kalamazoo felt leading up to Midori’s residency would prove fully impossible, and the atmosphere among the string ensemble members was particularly charged. We looked forward not only to hearing Midori play, but also to gaining insights and experience from her that would translate to our impending musical endeavors. Yet we could never have fully guessed the extent to which Midori’s residency would impact our musicianship.
Our groups had a coaching from Midori and Moni before the first full orchestra rehearsal of the residency. We spent much of this time preparing the speaking portions of our school presentations. Although we were surprised at first at the amount of time dedicated to this seemingly insignificant component of the presentations, it ended up becoming one of the most beneficial experiences of the residency. My quintet allotted to me the responsibility of delivering the introduction of our piece, Schubert’s two-cello quintet. Like many musicians, I have long feared the oral aspect of musicianship; during the night before our full day of outreach, my terror resurfaced to such an extreme that I fully wished that I had never even been part of my ensemble and this horrendous situation. But as I found myself living through the next day, I realized how much this experience will change the way I speak and perform in the future. Between destinations, Midori and Moni gave us kind advice on our onstage behavior and coached us on projecting our voices. By the end of the day, we all felt incredibly more comfortable on stage. Midori and Moni realized that guidance on the overall presentation of our performances would have the most long-lasting and beneficial effect on us of any other possible instruction.
Not only did our amazing day of outreach with Midori include much helpful advice, but it also gave us the unbelievable opportunity to experience a day in her incredible career. We warmed up with Midori, sat backstage with Midori, and answered student questions with Midori. Just this day gave us a remarkable idea for what her life must feel like on a regular basis.
Most inspiring of all during Midori’s residency was her overall approach to stardom and professional musicianship. In the days preceding Midori’s arrival in Kalamazoo, excitement and publicity began mounting and the five of us had started to expect, perhaps both unconsciously and unfairly, to meet a musician who strove to maintain a certain high-profile image. Nothing could have been further from the truth. In front of large audiences of awestruck students, Midori never seemed to play to impress—she seemed always to value communicating music to her audience more than igniting admiration. Considering the often-competitive atmosphere of the music world, particularly among serious students like us, this approach was inspiring to witness in such a brilliant musician. During our first orchestral rehearsal with Midori, Liya admitted missing many of her cues as she gaped at Midori’s musical conviction. Most amazingly, Midori emanated humility, kindness, and respect toward every musician she encountered, from the beginners at the outreach destinations to the professionals who coach our ensembles.
Because of Midori’s example and guidance, I doubt any one of us will approach music and musicianship quite the same way again.
Response from cellist Hanna Rumora:
My experiences during Midori’s Residency in Kalamazoo were absolutely incredible. I will never forget spending time with Midori at various outreach performances, and the advice she gave me will continue to assist me in my music-making.
It was refreshing to learn from such an experienced musician in a different setting. Traveling with Midori to participate in outreach performances taught me far more than a simple masterclass would have.
As a highly accomplished musician, I expected Midori’s advice to be very complex. I thought that it would be hard for her to communicate her ideas to a very young or inexperienced audience.
What It Was
Even though Midori’s advice was at a very high level, she was able to explain her ideas in such a way that even the youngest students could understand her thoughts. This was very impressive to me, and I plan to work to be able to communicate my ideas in the same way.