When I submit a blog entry it is always giving my viewpoints and amazing experiences as an audience member. This is entry is encompassing my viewpoints as a performer in a concert side-by-side with the PSO on the Heinz Hall stage on April 10, 2012.
I applied for the PSO Audience of the Future & EQT Side-By-Side event and was selected among other high school students to perform in a concert side-by-side with a PSO member as a stand partner. This was the 17th annual concerto of the PSO’s award-winning Audience of the Future Program. This program is designed to give students practical experience in planning, producing and implementing a PSO concert with the guidance of the PSO Staff Mentors; the concert is planned by students for students.
I received my acceptance letter and three pieces selected for the students to learn one month prior to the first rehearsal. There were four rehearsals in all, the first two with PSO Assistant Conductor, Thomas Hong that were participant-only, the 3rd with PSO sectional coaches, and the fourth and final rehearsal with the PSO on the day of the performance. The anticipation of not knowing which great player I would be seated side-by-side with was almost too much for me to handle. I was in the first violin section and I know the name of every player in that section, and a few of them personally, so I continually went over in my mind of whom I could possibly sit next to. Before the unveiling of my stand partner, (yes, you must anticipate too, or cheat and skip ahead, which I might add I didn’t have that choice) I will share more of my experience.
The experience to perform side-by-side with a PSO musician is a surreal experience in itself. If I had to narrow it down specifically to a helpful and educational aspect I would say from the experience with my stand partner that they were helpful in guidance with the performance of the piece and willing to answer questions about anything you had concerning this event or about their life with the PSO, or anything music related for that matter, which would fall under the educational aspect. Also, to observe the PSO perform (which they did in the first half of the concert) is educational in itself for you can learn by observing the skill they exercise to perform at the high level they do. If you are an aspiring musician it is a wonderful experience and education to see and work with the professionals.
It was much fun to work with Mr. Hong. He was a communicative conductor and fun as well as he used imagery to convey to us the feeling of the work at hand.
In my sectional, our coach, Hong-Guang Jia, Assistant Concertmaster in the first violin section, was very helpful in communicating to us how an aspect of the piece should be communicated to the audience. He also helped with fingering suggestions and phrasing of the music.
On the day of the concert, earlier in the day before rehearsal with the PSO, there was a recital given by the PSO musicians Meng Wang and Ryan Murphy (viola and cello). Their performance was quite enjoyable. Mr. Wang and Mr. Murphy, both extremely talented and accomplished musicians displayed to their audience (many of which are aspiring musicians) where hard work can take you. Their playing was soulful and engaging full of skill and technical proficiency that made me think, “What steps must I take to achieve that same level as a musician?” They were both willing to answer and connect to the audience while answering various questions on how they came to the PSO, and musical questions in general. They conveyed how difficult and hard work it is to get to their level, but with determination it can be done.
Finally, it was time for rehearsal with the PSO and to be matched with your stand partner. It was such fun to walk on the stage sitting behind a PSO musician and see them all around, and to look out at the hall. It seemed to me every student was getting paired off with his or her PSO partner, and I was not. It was not the case I am sure, for I simply could stand the anticipation no longer. PSO musicians passed the vacant seat next to mine…Ellen-Chen Livingston, no, Christopher Wu, no, Sarah Clendenning, no, Kristina Yoder, no, Jeremy Black, yes! I had been seated with a very fun and amazing musician. He engaged in helping me with fingering, phrasing, and subdividing tips, as well as carrying on a conversation to make me feel comfortable.
The rehearsal was energizing and might I add slightly intimidating. Now, when I say intimidating in no way do I have reference to any of the PSO musician’s attitudes, for they were all lovely and quite funny. The intimidating aspect was for me personally as I sat next to Mr. Black, and behind Ellen-Chen Livingston and thought “Wow! How does one attain this much skill?”
Then came the charming dinner in the Regency Room in Heinz Hall. I wish I had photographed the room for it was set up so quaint and elegant, I felt I did not belong in my casual wear. I did however whip my phone out and captured my fabulous meal.
As I said, during the first half of the concert the PSO played seven charming pieces, all of which I will not name. But, the one I loved the most was Debussy’s Children’s Corner, Suite for Orchestra VI. Golliwogg’s Cakewalk. It made me smile and want to dance in my seat… After the intermission was our turn to perform with them with the pieces we had been given to prepare. They were gorgeous, yet technically challenging selections: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Overture to Don Giovanni, K. 572, Bedřich Smetana’s “The Moldau” No. 2 from Má vlast, and Les Préludes, Symphony Peom No. 3. I enjoyed myself so much up there on that stage with these world-class musicians I wished I could perform the same concert the next 2 nights.
I have definitely gained that hard work and determination are what makes the PSO as a whole and the individual musicians in it so amazing. They display top quality performances and artistry concert after concert. As an aspiring young musician you can cling to the fact that if the PSO musicians have risen to that level then with the same attitude of determination and strive for excellence you can too! It was truly exhilarating to sit side-by-side with some of the best musicians on the planet. This event made for an unforgettable experience and served as a motivation to work as hard and as diligently as you can to reach that level.