Recital Preparation

Last week I blogged about one of the new pieces I am premiering on my recital, which is only one week away, on Monday 12 September at 7:30 PM in Sursa Hall (free and open to the public!). In addition to Daniel Sitler's piece, clarinetist Elizabeth Crawford and I are also premiering a work. It's an "unofficial" premiere, if such a thing exists. See, Libby and I commissioned the work and are "officially" premiering it at the National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors (NACWPI) conference in Santa Fe at the end of next month. She and I have played together before,  really enjoy it, and want to do it more. We've even come up with an awesome name for our duo: Violet. There's a surprisingly small amount of literature for clarinet and viola duet, so we are doing our part to expand the repertoire.

Having worked with Shawn Head before, and really liking his compositional language, he was a natural choice for our first commission. His Duet, I'll be honest, took a few run-throughs for us to start to understand, but now that we have a better feel for it, it has grown on us a lot. We rehearsed earlier today, and it sounds really good. I'm looking forward to my dress rehearsal tomorrow, so I can record the the Duet and send it to Shawn. So far, he's only heard it in his head and with midi instruments, so hopefully he'll like what he hears.

Perhaps I'll even share a few sneak peaks this upcoming week. Stay tuned, and as always...

Happy practicing!


World Premiere

This evening, the Ball State University New Music Festival begins! I'm proud of my Viola Choir, which is ending tonight's concert with a performance of the Festival Overture by Michael Kimber. It's an exciting and melodious work, and features Nataliya Nizhalova in a small cadenza. I'm so proud of my students for all of the hard work they've put in, getting this piece ready for tonight's concert. I'm also especially grateful to Michael Lund Ziegler, who is conducting the ensemble. He's actually a conductor, whereas I barely manage to wave my arms in the right beat patterns! The group sounds so much better since Mike joined us. I just got home from the dress rehearsal, and I'm sure that this piece will be a great end to the concert.

Before that, though, Mary Kothman and I will be premiering a work that was composed for us by Benjamin Fuhrman. He'll be there, working the electronics. It's an incredibly moving work, which in an email he described as "a response to a number of deaths of family and friends in the year leading up to composing it." I've really enjoyed working with Mary on this piece, and with Keith Kothman, who worked the electronics in rehearsals (as Ben is not local). I hope the audience enjoys it as much as Mary and I have. It's really quite lyrical and expressive, and I hope the piece gets the recognition I think it deserves. New music often gets a bad rap for being inaccessible and too weird, but this work is definitely accessible and wonderful. I hope Mary will be up for performing it again soon!

So, if you're in the area, come on out to Sursa Hall tonight at 7:30. The concert is free and open to the public. There are also a lot of other works on the concert, and I'm looking forward to it!

Happy practicing!


The last few weeks have been very busy-- so much so I sometimes wonder what I've forgotten or over-looked. I am pretty good about keeping track of things, but these days there are simply SO many things going on, I can't help but wonder if I haven't dropped the ball somewhere. But so far, if I have, no one has told me! So I guess that's a good sign, phew!

Today was a concert day. After teaching a productive lesson on intonation, I drove my quintet colleagues Anna Vayman and Nataliya Nizahalova to Taylor University, in Upland. We had the good fortune of performing our big chamber concert (which is on Sunday at 3 in Sursa Hall) at Taylor first today. There was a good number of people in the audience, and it was great to perform these pieces we've been working on intensely for these past weeks. It was also to play them back-to-back, as both pieces are quite physically demanding.

I have not performed the Shostakovich piano quintet until now, but it is such an intense and expressive piece, and I really enjoy it. Originally conceived as a string quartet, Shostakovich recomposed for the piano quintet and toured the work with the Beethoven Quartet. Apparently they performed it more than 75 times! While we don't have Shostakovich at the piano, we have Robert Palmer, who is a delight to play with. He and Anna and Peter Opie form the American Piano Trio, and it is great to play with my colleagues again (we collaborated last year). It's also fun to play with Nataliya, who is primarily a violinist, but also studies viola with me. She gave a stellar viola recital a few weeks back!

After the Shostakovich, Nataliya and Robert left the stage, and the rest of us were joined by Joel Braun, Ball State's stellar double bass faculty member. We performed the entire Arensky Quartet op. 35, which is a very difficult and demanding, yet completely gorgeous piece (on last year's chamber concert we performed the second movement, along with a few Albrechtsberger movements). It is an exhausting program, but very rewarding. I'm looking forward to playing it all again on Sunday!

Then this evening, after I got done running errands and such, I had the pleasure of attending tonight's BSSO concert, which was a holiday-themed concert. The orchestra performed Three Dance Episodes from Bernstein's On the Town (it was GREAT!) and then the Jazz Lab Ensemble  came on stage and performed Duke Ellington's Jingle Bells (which was also awesome!). Then the two groups came together for a very unique concert-- the orchestra would perform one movement of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite, and then the Jazz Band would perform Duke Ellington's version of the same piece! Ellington was a big fan of Tchaikovsky's work and wanted to do an arrangement of some of his music, and once he learned that the composer didn't object, he and Billy Strayhorn came up with the version I heard tonight (and you can watch it here for the next few weeks if you're so inclined!).

A very rewarding musical day indeed! Happy practicing.

Harp Recital

This afternoon I'm looking forward to performing with several of my colleagues in Elizabeth Richter's harp recital (3 PM in Sursa Hall, free and open to the public!). The program begins with a piece by William Grant Still for string quartet, piano, and harp. It's a very pleasant work! In addition to that, I am performing on Ravel's Introduction and Allegro for string quartet, flute, clarinet, and harp. It's an amazingly beautiful piece with a luscious cello solo towards the beginning that seems was written for Dr. Peter Opie. He plays it so beautifully! I don't know what else is on the program, but knowing how well Elizabeth plays, I know it will be a very lovely afternoon.

Happy practicing! 

Post-Bartok Fall Break

It's Fall Break here at Ball State University, and I am enjoying every minute of it! After Thursday's Bartok performance, I feel like I really deserve this break. The concert went really well, and I am quite happy with my performance. A few minor things occurred, but nothing that detracted from the music I was trying to express. Surprisingly, I wasn't very nervous when I went on stage. After last semester's recital, this was completely unexpected, but very welcome. I was calm and in complete control of my faculties. I felt connected to my instrument, my sound, and that I was able to portray my musical voice easily. It was a really wonderful sensation, and I hope it is the new norm for when I perform. I ate four bananas in the hours before going on stage, and I can't help but wonder if that was part of the reason? I've always eaten A banana before going on stage, but never four. I'll try it again for my next big performance and let you know...

It turns out the video is still available at this link, but I don't know for how much longer it will be active. It is the entire concert, so unless you want to watch the BSSO perform a beautiful Puccini overture, skip to 35:41, which is when I go on stage. 

Thanks for watching, and happy practicing!