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NYC and beyond

I can hardly believe it... I conducted in Carnegie Hall! Let me backtrack. Way back in June I heard Francisco Nunez talk about his Transient Glory workshop. It sounded so exciting I wanted to apply. Months later I did and was accepted. I was to be one of eight young-ish conductors selected to conduct as part of this three-day long workshop. After our second Simon Boccanegra performance, I flew overnight to NYC.

In the green room at the 92nd St Y with composer David del Tredici before the first performance

In the green room at the 92nd St Y with composer David del Tredici before the first performance

What a whirlwind of a time. It's hard to even remember details, much less recount them. I was so happy to have family and friends supporting me through the concerts. It was a lot of information handed out by different people in such a short amount of time. Hopefully I have absorbed some of these good lessons for the future. If nothing else, I was very proud to be part of the whole symposium as well as proud to lead the Young People's Chorus of New York City in a rendition of David del Tredici's Four Heartfelt Anthems. I learned the importance of pleasing a composer, of being flexible and adaptable, and the crazy life of a traveling musician. I'll need to work especially on that one. Too many redeyes hurt, but somehow others are able to manage. I met many great musicians, people, colleagues. I hope we are able to stay in touch. I know the music world is small enough I'll run into some of them again. And then I flew back for our matinee third performance of Boccanegra. What a quick trip!

The stage door of Carnegie Hall (seemingly under construction), and I am on my way in. 

The stage door of Carnegie Hall (seemingly under construction), and I am on my way in. 

We've also managed to hold Chorus auditions at LAO. I love hearing the diversity of voices singing a wide variety of arias. It is intriguing to hear what cycles through as the popular arias of the season though. It is always a surprise. Fortunately most everything has run without a hitch, though illness has taken down a few singers and put them into the makeup auditions.

Anyway, it has been great to conduct a group in public again. It has been educational to hear so many singers in short succession. Who knows what will happen next?

Much of muchness

A lot of projects are coming to a head at the same time. There is both the sense of anxiety and busy-ness and yet the thrill at taking on new challenges.

I was thrilled to be able to sing with the enormous chorus of Mahler's Eight last weekend. I had no real expectations other than this would be a landmark event for the city and for me. The chorus rehearsals had been so much fun. I enjoyed the LAMC only rehearsals, singing next to such fabulous musicians with their beautiful voices. I was intrigued by the challenge of the tutti rehearsals and amazed by the deftness of both Grant Gershon and Gustavo Dudamel at steering a very large vessel through unknown waters.

The view from my seat during a rehearsal break - as Dudamel is among the group standing next to the podium, you can get a sense of the distance between the chorus and conductor

The view from my seat during a rehearsal break - as Dudamel is among the group standing next to the podium, you can get a sense of the distance between the chorus and conductor

Once we started singing with the orchestra, however, the challenge added new frustrations. How could any organization plan for such a feat other than to make educated guesses that might not have handled all considerations. Sightlines were a problem. Acoustics were a problem. I could hardly see the conductor or hear any soloists or orchestra in the first rehearsal, but by the performance enough had changed to make the end result rewarding for me as a performer and seemingly incredibly rewarding for the very warm audience.

No rest though. This weekend LA Opera opens with it company premiere of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra. In my role, I want to brag about the Chorus, but the entire show is excellent - cast, production, orchestra, yum, yum, yum! I hope we are able to bring in large audiences, and I've seen lots of discount deals available online. So... no excuses. Opera lovers, buy your tickets post haste!

In the midst of all this I have been collecting applications for our Chorus auditions. We'll have full sessions again this year certainly. AND I'm preparing a four movement work for the Carnegie Choral Institute. It will be my first time conducting in New York City, and I am tremendously excited to work with so many prestigious people and have friends and family cheering me on at the performances.

I've been missing the opportunity to be conducting out in front, and while a workshop is a bit of an artificial environment I appreciate the chance to make some music with new people in a creative environment.

Mahler, Mahler, and more Mahler

When I was a student at Indiana University, we were required to take quite a few music history classes. I was encouraged to find a course with the legendary Dr. Peter Brown, and the only thing that ever fit in my schedule was his Mahler survey, which I took in my very last semester of my Masters degree. Oh, how I remember the struggle to absorb the gargantuan forms of Mahler's symphonies. And, oh, how I remember a slightly curmudgeonly professor absolutely glow in his rapture at discussing these works. As hard as it was to do well in the course, the course certainly did well by me. Now we in Los Angeles have the Mahler Project. How foolish I was to wonder who would pay to hear all these symphonies played in just a few weeks. It is a wonder that I live in a city that gets so excited about these kinds of events. On my tight budget unfortunately I could only go to Mahler 5. The performance was last night and my first opportunity to witness the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra live. [I do dream of a time when we would celebrate our own North American youth and young people's orchestras while I celebrate the achievements of El Sistema.] Pasion [the catchphrase for Mo. Dudamel's first season] is right. The performers moved with the same energy as the conductor while clearly enjoying the grandiose moments. I missed some more subtle shadings but did get wrapped up (as did the entire audience it seemed) in the joy for performing for the sake of art and of expression, in the uniqueness of Mahler's voice, and the sense of living in the moment.

On February 4 I will be fortunate enough to be one of the many (and I do mean many) participants in a once in a lifetime chance to be a part of the legendary "Symphony of a Thousand." Already the rehearsals have been thrilling. Tomorrow we will get to put the chorus together and see how well we can hold together. I feel so lucky and eager. I dedicate my participation to Dr. Brown and hope to keep delving further into this music and someday conduct it myself.

Getting started with the New Year

Greetings, all,

It's been a while since I've tried blogging, but I figured I should join the 21st century and get myself back out there.

It's so hard to believe it is 2012. I remember the changeover into Y2K so clearly - the hype, the fears - and now we've embraced the whole "Twenty-something" era. Maybe that's a good thing, but somehow the transition into a new year always make me think back to the past and consider how much has changed and how much has stayed the same.

Right now I'm in rehearsals with the Los Angeles Master Chorale. We will be part of a choir of 600 performing with the LA Phil and the Simon Bolivar Orchestra. As you music geeks may have guessed or known already, this is all for Mahler's "Symphony of a Thousand" [his Eighth]. What a masterwork and what a challenge. I first heard of this piece while preparing it for my Masters audition at Yale. Believe it or not, we were asked to conduct sections of this in a choir and piano rehearsal. And, guess what, that took place in 2000. I love opening my full score and seeing the younger me in the heavy markings. I highlighted themes, wrote in quotes, outlined the form.

And now I get to be part of an actual performance, and I get to sing with such esteemed colleagues. It is almost too thrilling for words, but here I am trying to blog again. So it has to be... words, words, words.

Anyway, to all reading this, may 2012 be merry and bright, may we find many good things to back to in this year when we reflect back on this time decades in the future. Cheers!

Happy New Year... oh wait, it's February already

Goodness. Time passes all too quickly. I feel like I need a cat's nine lives to accomplish everything (including maintaining a blog).

I should wrap up the Sweden experience a bit (looking back all the way to October). It does help to have more perspective on the trip. The organizers were wonderful and generous, and I am so grateful to them for arranging everything.

There is a kind of interesting cameraderie that can blossom between competitors. I really enjoyed meeting everyone. Hopefully I will get to take many of them up on their generous offers of hosting me in their respective countries.

I owe very belated thanks and acknowledgements to the following people (in no particular order):

- Dr. Annette Johannson, Swedish diction and translation coaching
- Dr. Jo-Michael Scheibe, conducting coaching
- Dr. Richard Sparks, research assistance
- Grant Gershon, conducting coaching
- Dr. William Dehning, research assistance
- Eva Wedin, Swedish Radio Choir
- Phillip Cheah, research assistance
- Ross Parker, French translation
- John Poole, French translation
- Herve Blanquart, French translation
- Akiko Ando, Japanese translation
- Dale Jurgenson, Laurendale Associates
- Marg Daly, Pro Coro Canada
- Matt Tresler, research assistance
- Andreas Johnsson, tour guide :)

There are probably many others I'm forgetting right now. It takes a village to raise a conductor, or at least this one.

I really hope to return soon, and I still have to think about cultural differences and stereotypes. My biggest lesson of the trip was to really take to heart that one person cannot completely or accurately represent a group to which they belong. Many people asked me about American politics, etc. as though I could answer for what every American was thinking. I also realized that there was a greater diversity of personalities in Sweden than I had foolishly assumed.

I also feel like one's nationality influenced the way they were perceived in the conducting competition. We cannot give our auditions behind a screen like an orchestral musician. Our physical appearance, our speaking voice, our personality, and many more components come together to creat the subjective sum of our conducting ability. It is such an ambiguous art.