First, I would like to encourage all students to sign up using the link below for SUMMER LESSONS. These lessons are at Crockett with me on Tuesdays throughout the summer and for FREE!!! You can sign up for as many or as few as you need due to travel plans. We will work on any techniques you might have trouble with, scales and tuning, Region Audition material, and get a head start on your solo for the Pancake Breakfast and UIL Solo & Ensemble in January. It is a great way to keep up your practice and progress over the summer.
Second, any student in Crockett orchestra for 2018-2019 should attend orchestra camp in August! We combine with the Austin High Orchestra program and work on technique and Region Audition music with instructors from the Austin Symphony and professional musicians for each instrument. These instructors normally charge anywhere from $60-$120 per hour, and students can work with them at camp for the low price of $35 for the week. At camp we also have games and prizes, and time with our ensembles where we choose the music for next year. If you want to vote on what we play next year, come join us at camp!
Finally, one more opportunity to help students prepare for Region and All-State Auditions. These auditions are very rigorous, so any student who is serious about these auditions in October will have to work very hard over the summer! In addition to these etudes, students will receive excerpts in the fall that them must also learn. The workshop (open the document below) is located at Bedichek Middle School.
I hope to see you at one or more of these events this summer! Happy Practicing!!!
We had a great turn out at the Crockett Course Showcase last night! Thank you so much to all of the students who came, performed, and chatted with potential Crockett orchestra members:
You all did a great job and it is students like you, who care so much, that are the reason our program is growing!!! Keep up the good work!!
Shout out to the Mariachi violinists who also performed:
Nancy Del Bosque
It's almost here! The 2018 Pancake Breakfast is January 20th from 9am to noon. Students should wear semi formal attire and arrive 30 minutes before their scheduled performance time.
Sign up for your time slot and what you want to bring!
Here are the pieces we are choosing between for the Spring Orchestra Concert on May 23rd at 6:30pm.
Not all of the recordings are the best, but they are the best of what I could find. Listen to them, then listen while watching your part. We have to be ready to vote by Thursday this week. Happy Practicing!!!
Varsity orchestra will perform for UIL Contest and Sight Reading on Thursday April 13th at AISD PAC at 11am. The bus will be picking us up from Crockett at 9:15am to be at the PAC for our warm-up time of 10:30am.
Students should come to school WEARING their uniforms and bring clothes to change into and some money or a sack lunch.
We will be picked up at the PAC around 1:15pm to be brought back to Crockett. Students will miss 5th, 6th, and half of 7th period. It is the students responsibility to talk to teachers ahead of time and to make up any work missed while at this UIL event.
Our last early morning practice is tomorrow, and we only have 2 practices left before contest!!! Please practice at home, use your metronomes and tuners, and let's give our very best effort and show what Crockett Varsity is capable of!!! Go Coogs!!!
Murphy's Jig by Susan Day will be our first piece performed at UIL. While it is only considered a grade three, there are several techniques involved which make it quite challenging.
The ornaments, in this case trills or turns, look and sound easy until you take the piece at tempo. Our goal is 100 beats per minute. We have practiced scale exercises with one turn on each note, ascending and descending. If you are still having a difficult time, practice this exercise at home starting at 60 and gradually increase the tempo every day until you are faster than 100. This way, 100 will feel comfortable and not like a struggle. Remember, we want to make it look easy!
The second thing that makes this piece deceptively difficult is the fast slurred string crossings and lopsided bowings. Again, start slow, but make every movement purposeful. Make sure you are moving in the smallest way to achieve your goal. Extraneous movement will slow you down. Use wrist motions to change strings and elbow to draw the bow. Most of the aggressive string crossing sections are accompaniment, so you don't need to try to be loud. Balance between melody and accompaniment has been an issue so far, so allow yourself to relax!! The same can be said during double stop sections that need to be quieter.
This piece is considered folk music, or music of the people, and in this case Irish! There is a lot of repetition in Jigs, no matter if they come from Cape Breton or Ireland or Scotland. Traditionally, Irish jigs have a swing to them which is reflected in shuffled steps used in dance. The form is usually built as an ABA and each of those sections can contain an ABAB. This may seem like a lot of music, but the melodies can be quite short so musicians often repeat the entire Jig with a Reel in between, as illustrated in the video below. You can tell when the Reel starts because the meter goes from compound duple (6/8) in the Jig section to simple quadruple (4/4) for the Reel. This is one of the fundamental compositional differences between the two.
Now, knowing how jigs and reels are performed means knowing about the dancers performing steps with the music! The next video gives a point of reference for the dance steps involved. Notice how some of the steps are very quick and close to the ground, while others are slower and require bigger movements or jumps. You may also notice how the melodic repetition is represented in dance form. Sometimes the steps are repeated first forwards then backwards, or side to side, and sometimes with the right foot leading, then the left.
Absolutely too cute and too fun! I do love Irish fiddle music! Happy Practicing!!!
The second piece in our UIL set is The Gift by William Hofeldt. It is described in the composer's notes as an "Aria for String Orchestra." An aria is an expressive melody or melody line, a term that is almost exclusively used in describing operatic solo voice compositions. As string players trying to emulate voice, we need to smooth out and hide all bow changes, use wider and usually slower vibrato, and take time to breath between phrases.
Since the melody is more like a solo, the accompaniment must follow the flow of the melody both with its slow build and quick decline as well as any tempo liberties that are taken for expressive purposes. We need to think of it as a living, breathing musical being and not like a performance in a box.
Singers work very hard to sustain notes and phrases, creating sweeping lines full or gorgeous dynamics. To do this, we must concentrate on bow use, placement, and focus our sound through the longer tied notes. If you think "crescendo" through arm weight in the longer down bows, it helps to maintain dynamic. If you are trying to crescendo, a lane change will be necessary. Practice our lane change exercises before you work on The Gift so you know what your instrument and bow are capable of and what you have to do with technique to get it! Remember that vibrato can crescendo and decrescendo as well, so practicing the exercise with different fingers is also very helpful.
String crossings and slurred arpeggios in the accompaniment are also a reoccurring feature of this piece. For lower strings, getting the bottom pitches to sound can be tricky. When the string is still, it takes more effort to start it vibrating. One trick I've used in situations like this is a small "hammer strike" with my left hand finger. This gets the string to start vibrating before the bow tries to start the string, and can allow for smoother articulation in the bow with more speed to project the sound without the tone becoming crunchy or wispy.
Some other good examples of similar style are Hofeldt's pieces In the Company of Angels, and Lullaby.
The Gift is arguably a programmatic piece. The composer wrote it for a particular event, the birth of his son, and while we play we try to emote this gift: the gift of life, the gift of love, the gift of legacy. Any of these ideas could be Hofeldt's intention or many more. This made me consider a poem with the same title by Li-Young Lee. What gift could the author be writing about and what emotions would be tied with it? How could we express those through performance?
Some critics have also compared Hofeldt's The Gift to the following piece by Ennio Morricone for the similar sweeping melody, sostenuto style, and arpeggios in the accompaniment. I have included a Crockett favorite, Itzhak Perlman, performing an example of the Love Theme from the movie.
Hofeldt is a commissioned composer, which means he often writes pieces for specific occasions when asked by an orchestra or other institution. His current full time job is as a CPA. His 52 works for string orchestra published through the Neil Kjos publishing company have been for High School orchestras, state Honor orchestras, or youth symphonies. I think of some similarities when I listen to Vaughan Williams and below is his Dark Pastoral for Cello and Orchestra for comparison.
Blog research by: Carissa Torres & Citlali Santibanez.
The Ice Cream Social is right around the corner and I couldn't be more excited!!! Not only do we get to combine with Covington and work with one of my favorite middle school directors, Mr. Hall, and we get to eat ice cream, but we also get to play one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite composers, "I Got Rhythm" by George Gershwin.
First, lets talk ice cream!!! It takes quite a few gallons to pull off this social, and anything you can donate is super helpful! The link below takes you to a a website which will help us organize all of the donations we need to make the evening a success.
Now let's talk Gershwin!!! The song I Got Rhythm is featured in the 1951 musical film An American in Paris. Gene Kelly sang the song and tap-danced, while French-speaking children whom he had just taught a few words of English shouted the words "I got" each time they appeared in the lyrics.
Gershwin also had great fondness for this piece, so he orchestrated " I Got Rhythm" and added variation for a tour in 1934 with the Leo Reisman Orchestra.
I Got Rhythm originally came from the 1930 musical, Girl Crazy. Ethel Merman made her stage debut in this musical production and it also turned Ginger Rogers into an overnight star. Between the syncopated rhythmic figure and the chord progression, they make "I Got Rhythm" the most quoted piece of music to date. Quotes can be heard in pieces such as "Salt Peanuts" by Dizzy Gilespie, "Rhythm-a ning" by Thelonious Monk, and "Meet the Flinstones" by Hanna & Barbara.
In the mid-1920s, Gershwin stayed in Paris for a short period of time, during which he applied to study composition with the noted Nadia Boulanger, who, along with several other prospective tutors such as Maurice Ravel and Arnold Schoenberg, rejected him. They were afraid that rigorous classical study would ruin his jazz-influenced style. Maurice Ravel's rejection letter to Gershwin told him, "Why become a second-rate Ravel when you're already a first-rate Gershwin?" ~wikipedia.
There were many “firsts” for Gershwin: the first to combine serious and popular music in his jazz concerto, “Rhapsody in Blue” (1924); the first to score a Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, Of Thee I Sing (1931), which was one of the Gershwin brothers’ “serious” musicals employing social satire; and the first to write an American opera, Porgy and Bess (1935), further distinguished by its all-black cast, its roots in African culture, and hits such as “Summertime.” ~excerpt from Jazzbiographies.com
Gershwin started his musical endeavors as a "song plugger," or someone who demonstrates new songs in a public setting to promote new sheet music in Tin Pan Alley in New York. He then was found by a recording company where he began arranging and recording piano rolls. Piano rolls were continuous pieces of paper punched with holes relating to the pitch and duration of notes. These rolls were sold to be used in player organs or pianolas in peoples homes to reproduce live performances without the performer needing any knowledge of how to play the piano! Gershwin's piano rolls have been collected and recorded on many albums today. From here, Gershwin teamed up with his brother Ira to write for Broadway until moving to California to write for film. It was in Los Angeles that Gershwin died at the early age of 38 from a malignant brain tumor.
Gershwin's music was extremely popular during his lifetime and after, which is why so many critics and historians categorize him in the Pop genre, although his classical works stand up to under the same scrutiny used to measure his contemporaries in the classical genre. Despite which category you put him in, this prolific composer demonstrated creativity, collaboration, and innovation which made him extremely successful. These are also the skills the Ice Cream Social and Concert inspires in students by bringing together so many talented musicians and artists!!! This year we are including guest artists: Thomas Mann, jazz pianist; Piper Smith, arranger; and Crockett's own Duncan on drums. It will be awesome!!! Happy Practicing!!!
The next big event for us is the Solo & Ensemble Pancake Breakfast on January 28th. Every student has been assigned a solo appropriate for their instrument and level. Students need to click the link below and sign up for a time to perform on Saturday.
It is so important to learn how to research as a musician. To perform a piece, it is essential to know what era the work is from and the common performance practices from this era. Composers often have a specific intention for their pieces, reasons or inspiration for their composition, and this should also have bearing on how a piece is performed. This week , orchestra members are required to research their solos. Students should find out all they can about the era, composer, and original intention for the piece and its performance.
The second part to this assignment is a practice plan. With very few days left til the performance, students need to make the most out of their time and opportunities to practice. Students should make a list of all of the days and times they have available to practice between now and the Pancake Breakfast, and then assign goals to each practice session. These goals can be as small as "fix this measure" to as large as " perform the piece from memory for an audience of strangers." Now, these plans can change according to what the student needs and masters from session to session, but it is important to have a practice plan to start from. I can't wait to hear everyone at the Breakfast! Happy Practicing!!!
This week is all about our Winter Concert piece, Amadeus! by Hoffman. It is a version of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Symphony No. 25. To achieve a superior performance, our orchestra must learn how to perform with an authentically classical style.
There are many identifying characteristics of Classical Era music including homophonic texture with memorable melodies, simple yet driving rhythms, subtle, narrow vibrato, and light, clean spiccato.
There are some great resources out there to help us reach our goals!! I have included some links below of things we will look at in class and some other websites and videos for extra help. My favorite video is the masterclass with Henning Kraggerud. While he is giving a masterclass on Mozart's violin concertos and not his symphonies, his insights are still applicable. I love how he challenges the students to treat the music like voices of opera characters and portray different emotions while the phrases converse. I can't wait for us to try it too!! Happy practicing!!!