Friday, June 10, 2011

NOI, Day 8: A Birthday

Today is my birthday! I'm glad to have already met some fun new friends here so I had people to spend my free time (what little I had) with today.

The day started off with an hour of warming up and practicing before my lesson with Ms. Winkler. The lesson itself was fantastic -- it almost made me want to go to Texas and audition to be a regular student of hers. I played part of the Bach C Major Fugue for her, and then a little bit of my 2nd violin part of the Mendelssohn Octet in the interest of working on bow strokes. She adjusted the angle of my bow ever so slightly, and my spiccato improved tremendously! I was so happy that I just stood there in my lesson smiling with amazement at how she was able to effect such differences in my playing. She's a good combination of tough and encouraging.

After the lesson Ms. Winkler and I walked together to our octet coaching session. When we got there, the other seven players were already ready to go, and someone said, "let's start from the beginning." They all lifted their instruments, which confused me since the movement we're working on is fugal and doesn't begin in unison. While I was wondering if I had misunderstood what we were rehearsing, they started playing -- the best rendition of Happy Birthday I've ever heard. {And let me tell you, I've had many good renditions.} But this was officially my first string ensemble birthday song, and I loved it. Singing is well and good, but as a violinist I naturally think nothing really competes with cellos, violas, and violins.

Really, it was so beautiful that sitting there listening, I thought I might burst with the happiness of music, friends, inspiring teachers, and all of life.

When we got down to the business of rehearsing, everything went pretty well. The group has come a long way, from virtually dysfunctional in terms of rehearsal and communication skills to fairly effective. Ms. Winkler helped us with lots of things in terms of articulations and matching strokes, keeping tempo, body movements to lead phrasing, etc. before wishing us all the best and leaving the festival for her next summer engagement. (She was only here for the first week of the program.) She had a lot of good things to say about the work we had done and the growth we had shown as an ensemble... of course, we couldn't have gotten much worse than our first coaching, so uphill from there was the only option! We are really having fun playing the piece now as a group.

One of my favorite things Ms. Winkler told us was something like this:

"You can only be as strong as your weakest member. If one person plays that line without life and energy, it doesn't matter what the other seven do so much, because it's like multiplying by zero: the end result is still zero. One zero can make the whole group a zero."

And another favorite:

"When you play the phrase like that, with intention and commitment from each one of you, you sound like professionals. If you stop paying attention to these details for even one moment, you sound like students. You don't get to be a part-time artist. There's just no such thing."

After coaching we all had rehearsals for the conductorless chamber orchestras. Tomorrow morning we'll have our dress rehearsal, with a concert tomorrow evening. I'm looking forward to the performance.

After rehearsals were over for the day, Brooke, Rachel, Ting-Ting, Vena, Mary, and I went and got Chinese food for dinner, followed by my favorite: tart frozen yogurt. There's an amazing frozen yogurt place just down the hill from the dorm that houses all the NOI students here. There are six different flavors, and you serve your own and then add whatever toppings you want. It may be my downfall. I've been here for nine days and I've already gone twice.

{But hey, it was my birthday.}

Then it was right back to the music building for a chamber music concert. The student groups get divided over two or three different concerts; my octet will be performing next week.

All in all, a very good {birth}day.


  1. Happy birthday Sarah! What a beautiful and unforgettable birthday experience! We sure are enjoying your daily reports. Aunt Sharan and Uncle Eric

  2. Happy birthday! I'm glad you had such a lovely day. And I really want to try some of that tart frozen yogurt!!

  3. Sounds like a great birthday! So glad your lesson with Ms. Winkler went well. It is evident from your daily updates that you are having a marvelous experience. I'm so happy for you.