August 17, 2010

Family Fun

Last night I was fortunate to play 2nd trumpet in one of the Utah Symphony's summer programs at Orem's outdoor performance venue, the Scera Shell. The repertoire was predictable enough: A few John Williams favorites (selections from "Star Wars", "Harry Potter", and "E.T."), a suite from Bizet's "Carmen", some up-beat Americana ("Yankee Doodle", "Strike up the Band", and Sousa's "Liberty Bell"), and a few other cheerful classical fillers (Brahms "Hungarian March", Smetana's "Overture to the Bartered Bride", and "Russlan and Ludmilla").

It was yet another beautiful evening and the mood in the orchestra was very laid back. I on the other hand was just a little on edge. Trumpets generally feature prominently in concerts like this and though the music was all fairly familiar and fun to play, I was only given 2 days to practice and had just one rehearsal with the rest of the ensemble. Also, on a couple of pieces at the rehearsal our conductor David Cho only went over the first 16 measures or so before saying "Ok. Good enough. You guys know this one fine." Which is certainly a fair statement for most of the players in the group, but it meant that I'd be playing through some of the music for the very first time in concert...welcome to the life of a freelance musician!

The performance went fairly well. We had a decent audience and despite minimal rehearsal and the less-than-desirable acoustic of outdoor performance most everything came together without issue. However, I would rate my personal performance as about a B- as there were a few things I certainly did better in the practice room than on stage last night. Most listeners probably didn't notice my mistakes, but I'm guessing the rest of the brass section would've heard them. One in particular was (in my opinion) an unforgivable mental slip during a piece I've known and practiced for years...the prelude from "Carmen". I had a brain freeze right before the infamous low F and stopped playing. ((Aggghhhh!!!!)) Fortunately, my part doubles trumpet 1 as well as the entire cello section, so the error was likely not audible. Still...that's a major excerpt that I've practiced a ton! I am a real perfectionist about this kind of thing and it can be a challenge for me to move on after I've made such an annoying mistake. Oh well...I guess it's something to learn from and improve for next time.

On the bright side, I think the trumpet section...which last night was Jeff Luke, me, and Joe Reardon...sounded particularly brilliant during the John Williams pieces. There were a lot of little trumpet trio licks throughout that really came together nicely and were a gas to play! "E.T." in particular brought back a ton of childhood memories for me. As we played the iconic music that accompanies the boy and his alien as they fly through the air on a bicycle, the contagious exhilaration almost made me want to jump out of my seat and dance around the stage! Ok, I know I'm a sentimental goof ball, but that exciting sensation is part of why I love performance so much. I'm glad I still feel it from time to time.

As I wandered back to the symphony buses after the concert, a number of people came up to wish me "good luck" with my fast-approaching move to Evanston. As I get ready to start my life in grad school I know I will miss the many wonderful musicians I've come to know over the years in Salt Lake...a surprising number of whom have connections to NU or Chicago as well. Many have given me some excellent advice about approaching my education and a few survival tips I'm hoping will help during the city's infamously frigid winters. Thank you to all!

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