September 18, 2011
This week started out like any other. Classes, homework, rehearsals, with a tad of stress. What made the difference was this weekend. Saturday morning LCSO held it’s annual Orchestra Play Day. No, we don’t actually play games, but rather have a three hour rehearsal, and no, it’s not as torturous as it might sound to some. Dr. Baldwin holds this rehearsal so that the orchestra can get a head start on the year. We not only rehearse the music, but how we play the music together. Even though many of us are veterans of LCSO, a new dynamic is created every year, which effects the way we play together. I rarely feel that productive on a Saturday morning, I have to say.
That same afternoon, the LCSO cello section headed to “Cello Daze,” a festival at the University of Iowa to celebrate the awesomeness of cellos. With one van of cellos and two of musicians, and a game of “Hey Cow!” along the way, we made it to the U of I music hall in time for a recital by Zuill Bailey, a world-famous cellist and guest artist of the festival. He shared three Bach cello suites that evening, and I think all 13 Luther cellists fell into a ‘cello daze.’ Of course, Bach’s repertoire is open to interpretation like any other music, and he shared a different style than what’s deemed ‘traditional,’ but it was inspiring nonetheless.
The next morning, we were treated to a master class taught by Zuill Bailey. For those of you who are unfamiliar with a master class set-up, it includes a student playing a prepared piece for a teacher and being critiqued... In front of an audience. Four students, including one of our own, played their solos, pretty much putting their hardwork on the line for the sake of education. Mr. Bailey was an interesting teacher, warning that he would be blunt but helpful. He used such comparisons as, “your sound is like grating hard cheese,” not a teaching technique that would resound with every musician, but still an effective method.
After a quick lunch, we practiced for the festival concert that included a cello choir of over 50 cellists. The sound of that many cellos in four-part harmony is overwhelming but heavenly. The cello is such a diverse instrument, and that was evident this weekend. Our LCSO group played a lively piece that we learned last year, and the cello choir played the theme from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” as well as some traditional Bach and Schumann. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many cellists in one place before, and yes, we had fun “nerding out” over an art that has defined and dominated most of our lives.
On our long ride home (mostly due to the weather, but also to ineffective GPS navigators), I realized that the most important thing I gained from this weekend was inspiration. It would be easy to get bogged down by all the talent on display and to say that I could never play like that. However, it would be better to take what I’ve learned and just keep working. The varying abilities and ages at the event reinforced that music is a lifelong learning process that, in all honesty, I might never master. I can only get better, and why would I ever choose to stop learning?