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Keeping Tempo Volume 1, Number 3 February 2010

Curtis String Quintet to Offer Master Classes To YOBC String Students

Inside this issue: TCNJ Interns Help at YOBC Rehearsals


Conductors’ Notes: Got Style?


Student Spotlight: YOBC’s New Student Representatives


Notes from the Executive Director: The Art of Conversation


Behind the Scenes of the Fall Concert


Important Dates: 

Sunday, March 7: Trumpet Master Class with Gary Feinberg.


Sunday, March 14: Curtis String Quintet Master Classes for all YOBC strings.


Thursday, March 18: Joint TCNJ / YOBC Wind Ensemble Concert


Saturday, April 17: YOBC Spring Concerts.


Sunday, April 18: Moveup Auditions.


Saturday–Sunday, May 15–16, New Member Auditions and Flute Moveup Auditions.

On Sunday, March 14 students from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia will join YOBC string students in a special master class. A group of five students from the Institute—two violinists, a violist, a cellist, and a bassist—will provide a day of coaching, performance, and questions and answers to students in our junior, intermediate, and advanced divisions. The Curtis students will work with each YOBC string ensemble in separate sessions. During the coaching sessions, the YOBC conductor will rehearse the group with spring concert repertoire. The Curtis students will listen, then coach the YOBC students through instruction and demonstration. Curtis students will perform one or two short selections for the younger string groups. For the older groups, they will have a mini-recital, performing for about 25 minutes. Both performances will be followed by an interactive “Careers in

Music” session where YOBC students can ask questions they may have; for example, how to look for a music school, how to prepare for a college audition, what life at a music school is like, how to practice, and how and when Curtis students decided to pursue music as a career. YOBC is opening this special master classes to area high school students who are recommended by their school orchestra teachers. We are offering space on a first-come, first-served basis to motivated students who would like to take advantage of this opportunity. Guests from the community will be asked to pay a nominal $10 registration fee to guarantee their spot at this event. We are very pleased to have an opportunity to collaborate with the Curtis Institute on this special day. The Curtis Institute of Music is widely

considered one of the world’s leading conservatories. Their mission is to educate and train exceptionally gifted young musicians for careers as performing artists on the highest professional level.

Keeping Tempo Congratulations to YOBC Symphony violist Dena Greenstreet for winning the newsletter naming contest. Her suggestion received 35% of the vote from the top five entries. Dena won two free movie tickets, and the new name now appears on our quarterly newsletter. Thanks to all who participated in the contest!

TCNJ Interns Help at YOBC Rehearsals This spring semester YOBC is enjoying the assistance of two interns from The College of New Jersey. Eileen Belluscio and Brian Plagge, both Music Education majors at TCNJ, are assisting YOBC conductors in Concertino, Prima Strings, and Wind Ensemble. Both learned about YOBC opportunities from our first TCNJ intern and YOBC alumnus, David Somerville. Eileen is a violinist from Hamilton, NJ, in her second year as a YOBC intern. She helps out with our junior division string ensembles. Eileen graduated this past December and is just starting a job in Cranford, NJ teaching strings to 3rd–8th grade students. She cred-

its her experience with YOBC over the last two years—first with Symphony and now with Prima Strings and Concertino—with helping her get her first job. Eileen notes that YOBC helps students meet other young musicians with common interests; she admires the involvement of YOBC parents helping their children strive to do well. Brian is a trumpeter from Scotch Plains, NJ. He is a senior who just completed his student teaching in a middle school band program. He says the best thing about working as a teacher—in school and at YOBC—is the students who are so much fun. He believes his YOBC experiences will

TCNJ interns Eileen Belluscio and Brian Plagge

make him more marketable as he begins to look for a job; he gets to play different instruments (timpani is harder than it looks!) and conduct which helps him stay fresh. Our students enjoy working with these student teachers and we wish Brian and Eileen best of luck in their future endeavors.

Conductors’ Notes: Got Style? What is it that draws us to a piece of music or a particular genre of music? Is it the notes and rhythms alone? Is it the particular key in which the music is written? Is it just the instrument or group of instruments? These factors play a part in our enjoyment of a piece, but none could really keep our rapt attention standing alone. All music must be performed with style. Musical style is the way notes and rhythms are performed, giving each time period, genre, and piece its own unique personality. Articulations, dynamics, tempo, expression, attitude, and energy are all vitally important to creating style. As young musicians, it is of utmost importance to first pay attention to the many varied musical styles we encounter. The beautiful, simple elegance of the Classic period is quite different from the rich, enveloping harmonies of the late Romantic period. Lively, energetic Latin Salsa music has very different stylistic characteristics that make it unique, too. As we listen to music we should pay attention to the components of style. Listen for articulation; are the notes staccato, legato, or accented? Page 2

How are the dynamics used: stark and sudden, or gradual? What is the mood of the music? Is the tone bright or dark? This may be an unusual way to think of style, but what kind of performance attitude is used in the style? The ability to change and control tone color, texture, and expressive energy (attitude) are important qualities in a high-caliber musician. While practicing, we often get bogged down in the notes and rhythms, to the point that we forget to play with style. I’ll bet many of us have experienced something similar to the following: A private teacher assigns a specific passage of music to be practiced repeatedly until the music is polished. The student practices the passage over and over with limited results. At the next lesson the teacher listens and comments, “That’s better. Now try it with a crescendo that peaks at the end of the phrase.” The student tries the suggestion and finds that the passage is much easier to command while keeping the musical style a priority. I wonder how many hours of lessthan-meaningful repetitive practice could have been transformed into

efficient practice sessions by considering musical style? I know it is not always easy to practice with style, especially if the passage asks for particularly challenging technique. I also know how crucial constant musical sensitivity and style are to becoming a wellrounded musician. Try mixing up a tired repetitive practice session by changing the style of a passage. If it asks for forte and legato, try it once piano and staccato. Try varying your tone color from bright yellow to a deep purple. If you are practicing a running passage marked leggiero, try it once con forza. Need a major change of pace? Try out a completely new style of music. Maybe trying blues and jazz gets you out of your comfort zone. Maybe a Baroque or Renaissance piece gets you thinking differently about music. Of course, don’t forget to expand your repertoire of musical styles by listening to recordings of fine music of many eras. Little things like this can help liven up a practice session and help keep attention to musical style a priority. —Molly Jensen, Conductor Prima Strings and Concertino



potlight: YOBC’s New Student Representatives

In February we held the first meeting of the new YOBC student council. The students who volunteered to serve on the student council were told they would have two objectives: to plan a social activity for the Advanced Division students and to give input to the YOBC Board of Directors regarding their ideas and suggestions for improving YOBC’s mission. Thirteen students from YOBC’s Advanced Division volunteered to serve in this capacity: Claire Buhr, Vicky Zhao, Brian Shuie, Hayley Busch, Genna Cohen, Jennie Benson, Abhijit Basu, Ivan Karavitchev, Gabe Franc, Will Holstrom, Melissa Gansworth, Ian Sibner, and Kevin Li. The goal of the first meeting was to choose officers and brain-

storm for possible direction. The students were engaged and focused on the job at hand. They exchanged information about the qualifications of the various members and elected a president, Claire Buhr; vice president, Brian Shuie; and secretary, Victoria Zhao—all members of YOBC’s Symphony Orchestra. Claire then led the council in forming a special event committee and coming up with a plan for accomplishing their tasks. The council had a lively discussion—creative and reflective—regarding ideas for making YOBC a better experience. The president and vice president will be presenting their ideas to the Board at the March meeting. Meanwhile, there is a new Student Council page in the Members

The newly elected leaders of YOBC’s new Student Council (l to r): Victoria Zhao, Secretary; Brian Shuie, Vice President; and Claire Buhr, President.

Area of the YOBC website. Check there for news and information about upcoming events.

Notes from the Executive Director: The Art of Conversation We all talk. All day, every day, in different ways and for many reasons, we talk to each other—a lot. Despite all this practice, for one reason or another, some conversations just don’t seem to work. Most conversations go into epic failure because they are not interesting! Have you ever found yourself trying to plot a graceful exit strategy to escape a long, boring conversation? The classic, one-sided conversation is another communication disaster. Some people are very good at talking, but just don’t seem to get the listening part of conversation. Good conversation is interactive— an exchange of ideas and thoughts requiring both listening and speaking. But, even during great conversations, there can be problems— interrupting, talking louder than others to drown them out, and planning our own comments instead of listening when others speak. We all have great things to say Volume 1, Number 3

and we want to be heard. Bottom line—using these strategies may get us heard, but they are conversation killers. Our important thoughts and ideas are lost in the noisy confusion of conversation chaos. Conversation

When we pick up a musical instrument to play, we are engaged in a conversation— an exchange of artistic ideas with other musicians. works best when we actually try to understand what others are saying. Music is exactly like that! When we pick up a musical instrument to play, we are engaged in a conversation—an exchange of artistic ideas with other musicians in the ensemble. Just as in spoken conversations, our musical voice must be interesting. If we don’t have something interesting to say with our music, no one will listen. And just like spoken

conversation, important ideas can be lost in the noisy confusion of musical chaos. Musical conversation involves both listening and “speaking.” We work together to bring out the message of the music, listening to each other and balancing the different parts of the conversation. If someone plays a part in a way that dominates the musical conversation, the important melodic thought may be lost. We actively listen to each other and try to understand the musical idea so we can fit our part into the conversation. The really amazing thing is that when we listen, we change the very character of the music. We are no longer many individual voices, unaware of each other, striving to be heard. We become a unified voice, working together, making room for each other and exchanging ideas in a seamless musical conversation. —Colleen Sweetsir YOBC Executive Director Page 3

252 Hollow Branch Lane Yardley, PA 19067 Email: More than music; more than musicians!

The YOUTH ORCHESTRA OF BUCKS COUNTY, Pennsylvania (Y OBC) was founded in 1991 with the sponsorship and support of Bucks County Community Co llege. Its mission is to provide talented yo ung musicians in the northern suburban areas of Philadelphia with an advanced classical musical experience to augment their school mu sic programs. In 18 seasons the organization has grown from a single, 60-member ensemble to nine ensembles with nearly 200 young musicians.

Behind the Scenes of the Fall Concert Do you ever wonder what goes on behind the scene before a concert? Here is my story! An urgent task from the last rehearsal—7 days before the concert: We could all feel the pressure. This time, we were only focusing on phrasing, expression, and articulation. On our way back home, my brother Michael announced that he had to change from the first violin to the third violin in FinaleSerenade No.9 by Mozart. Conductor Jenson made this decision because Concertino did not have any viola player. This adjustment would permit a better harmony. Michael spent all week working on this new assignment. Nothing fits at home—5 hours before the concert: I pulled out my white blouse and black dress pants Page 4

from my closet. I yelled in panic: “None of my clothes fit me!” Since last year, I’ve grown more than three inches. My mom looked at me in horror as she sprinted to the door. An hour later, new clothes were delivered to me. I was finally able to brush off the sweat on my forehead! Live from the green room—2 hours before the concert: I was late because I had a piano lesson. When I walked into the room, I saw that my crew members were already there. Sam, Lauren and Jenna were playing poker. Jessie was looking at his music. I rushed to Conductor Lambert. She tuned my flute three times. Finally, I settled down to read my book and relax my mind. Last chance—1 hour before the concert: This was our last chance to

experience the stage. This preparation was especially important for percussion because we had to make sure all instruments were in perfect condition. Conductor Sweetsir ran through the weak spots and reminded us when and how to come on the stage. We were almost ready for the concert! Chaos on stage—30 minutes before the concert: Bam! The bass drum fell off from its base as we stepped down from the stage. My heartbeat went up. We only had 30 minutes before the concert. Fortunately, we had two wonderful assistants. They fixed the drum in no time! —Melissa Lu Melissa Lu, 10, is a 5th grader at Maureen Welch Elementary School and a member of YOBC’s Flute Choir and Wind Symphony.

Keeping Tempo February 2010  

YOBC's quarterly newsletter

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