July 13, 2011

Still Kicking

Well, I guess I survived the audition mostly intact. Though my lips felt awful yesterday and I spent a near sleepless night filled with dreams of having to quit the trumpet and work at Subway, I guess all the detailed focusing work I did in my last practice session must have done some good.

After my 8:00 Deutsch Klasse I warmed up nice and slow and got to where I could feel some "spin" happening again. I took lots of rest in between every exercise and tried to focus my thoughts back in time to when I was warming up at IC or in the park across the street from Rob's apartment. To my surprise, after about 10 minutes I reached a soft, but tonefully present, high C.

The audition itself was ok (which is stellar considering where I was last night). The Hummel concerto went fine. It was good to get things started off with a piece on which I could "sing." Then the dreaded Zarathustra... (Du..Du...Dunnnnn!). It wasn't perfect by any means. I cracked a couple key notes (but got them when given a 2nd chance) and fizzled out a bit on the ends of some of the higher notes, but hey...at least they were THERE! I made it through with only minor embarrassments and a feeling of relief that was almost palpable. I found out later that I'll be playing 4th on Zarathustra (YES!!!!) and (surprisingly) first on the whole first half of the concert, which features Fanfare for the Common Man and Wagner's Prelude & Liebestod.

In the lesson I had with her at the end of last quarter, Professor Butler insisted that I shed myself of my obviously long-standing fear of high notes and start each day by playing into the top of my register within the first 10 minutes of my routine. Of course this doesn't mean that I'm supposed to blast a fff high C right away, but rather to approach my sound and thinking so that I'm "centered" or "at home" closer to my upper register. The low notes then are supposed to "always be touching" the high notes and everything should be colored with a brilliant resonance rather than becoming mired within the fat, heavy, dark tone I've always tended toward. It was her assertion that my difficulties with range stemmed from a disproportionate love of a dark tone at the expense of using the higher frequencies within my sound to facilitate an easier and more fluent upper register.

As much as I hate to admit it, I think she was right on the money. After that lesson my sound immediately changed. Not from beautiful to crass, as some of you might be thinking, but from beautiful to scintillating, sparkly, and wonderfully piquant--the kind of sound I always heard from great players who could sound soar over an orchestra. Along with the new sound my ability to play above the staff easily and consistently was almost instantly enhanced. I know I'm using a lot of superlatives here, but the difference really was night and day. One day I was struggling to play above an A above the staff or just about any one page etude, and the next these things were just flowing out of me as if they'd always been there.

After a week-long "honeymoon period" I started having my more typical stiff days here and there and had to figure out how to work through the rough stuff to get the "brilliance" back. Despite these inevitable troughs, by and large the trend has been progressive and, especially during the past couple weeks in Ithaca, I've begun to feel as though I'm really starting to make the magic happen again.

One thing I still have to learn however is how to weather the rough spots with a bit less panic and a bit more assurance. I appreciate the kind notes (and emails) of encouragement some of you sent to me last night...reading your words helped to get my head back in the game and out of terrified puppy mode. I know the war's not over. Rehearsals start tomorrow and I've got to be a principal trumpeter right off the bat (yikes!). There are quite a few players at AIMS who already have full time jobs in professional orchestras (those without summer seasons obviously) so my goal is to remain calm, to listen to those around me, and try to enjoy the moment.


  1. I am literally in tears. I am so pleased for you that the audition went as well for you as it did. You are so amazing and I admire you in every way. I love you SO much.

  2. Good on you for your audition! We just watched "Exit" last night so it was cool to see a reference to it. I sent you an email about our travel plans. Let me know if it works for you. We'd love to see you!

  3. Rome wasn't burned in day Kelly. As you make these changes for the better you will have good days and bad days. I am changing from matched grip to traditional grip on my left hand and sometimes it really sucks. But at least my wrist doesn't hurt after practice.

    You will get there kid. Just keep rowing the boat.