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Lumina String Quartet

Festival Blog Archive 2009

Week 1

Week 1, Day 1 (Post by Carolyn)

Today was the first day of the Chamber Music Institute for Young Musicians camp. This year, the camp is taking place at the Palace Theater in Stamford, rather than the Rich Forum from last year. Everyone seems delighted by the beautiful setting the Palace Theater has to offer. We were asked to get there early today because the first day, as tradition goes, is picture day. I’m pretty short, so I’m typically sent to the front of group photos. This time, I was quick enough to plan ahead, arriving at the camp with a nice one-inch heel. My shoes allowed me to slip towards the back of the group, and I felt the happiness one feels from a cheated victory.

After picture time and a few inspiring words from Asya, the director, we were immediately sent to work. The quartet I’m in, which is coached by Asya, was lucky enough to get the stage as our rehearsal room. At first, we weren’t allowed to rehearse in the dead-center of the stage, but Asya, with her charm, got us the permission to do so. Rehearsing in the middle of the stage and playing out to the hundreds of seats in the theater felt so different from rehearsing in our usual room. We were able to experience with projection, and we learned how to handle our quartet piece, Shostakovich #8, on a stage. We were able to play through the whole Shostakovich, with stops here and there for fixing, right before lunch came.

I went to Subway for lunch, since it is conveniently close to the Palace Theater. I got a nice 6-inch sandwich, but I have to say, I did not enjoy the service there. My brother and I were incessantly rushed to order, even though there were no people behind us on line. I guess next time I go, I’ll just have to decide what to get before I enter the store.

After the nice lunch break, we were back to work. Asya, the first violinist of the Lumina String Quartet, had to rehearse with her quartet on stage, so we went scouting for another room. The only rooms left were a storage closet and a small room with a shower. We decided the small room was too small for a whole quartet to fit in it, so we set up camp in the storage closet. Turns out, we had a good deal, since the storage closet included an elevator that allowed us easy access to the upstairs bathrooms.

We had an excellent rehearsal. It’s hard to be productive when you don’t have a coach with you, but Asya’s driving spirit stayed with us for our private rehearsal. Some people who took rather long breaks popped into our room, which could have served as terrible distraction, but somehow we were able to avoid letting them ruin our fun. By the end of the day, we played through the second movement of Shostakovich #8, which I think our whole group can agree upon the fact that it is one of the most difficult movements to put together as a quartet, twice in a row without messing up!

Week 1, Day 2 (Post by Carolyn)

Today was the second day of camp. It was also a private lesson day. This meant that each member of the camp was privately taught by a coach/teacher for 50 minutes to an hour. It’s a good time for us to go over with a professional musician either our quartet music or our solo pieces. My lesson was at the start of the day, and I was able to go over my solo pieces with my teacher. It was nice to have my lesson at the beginning of the day, because I came out of my lesson having goals to accomplish by the end of the day.

Today, when we didn’t have our lesson, we were practicing. My brother found a room with a fridge and microwave. It had strangely good acoustics, so I ended up practicing there. The room allowed me to distinguish out-of-tune notes more easily, which was kind of annoying but beneficial at the same time. I tried to fix the solo pieces that I went over with my teacher. Sometimes I took a break and switched to playing through my quartet piece. I had a nice block of time to really concentrate and work on anything I wanted to work on.

Before I knew it, it was lunchtime. Due to the Subway incident yesterday, I was determined to prepare my own lunch. Last night, I cooked up some pasta for today. It was my third time cooking pasta and I was surprised at how good it was - it was nice and al dente. I’m not trying to boast, but I’m the kind of person who can’t even microwave a meal well.

I arrived back from lunch to the Palace Theater early today. While I was waiting for quartet rehearsal to begin, my coach proposed a great idea. She thought it would be exciting for there to be an entertainment time on Thursday. During or around lunchtime on Thursday, the camp’s members can sit around eating while a series of performances takes place. In addition to there being wonderful quartet musicians at this camp, there are some really talented country fiddlers, jazz musicians, dancers, and more! I think it would be really cool for these people to share their other talents outside of quartet playing to their fellow members. Sure, this camp is mainly for quartet music. But the coaches aren’t forgetting that we’re still people and they’re always able to create an atmosphere that brings all of us together as a family.

Soon it was quartet rehearsal time. We played through the whole Shostakovich #8 in the beginning so we would know what sections to work on. During the play through, we got through the second movement together again till the end. We were so happy, we all celebrated with a cheer, throwing our hands up in the air. We were certainly overcome with emotion, and thankfully our first violinist was able to pull us back on track. Shostakovich #8 is written “durch komponieren” or “durchkomponiert,” meaning composed through. The movements are interconnected and we don’t stop playing until the end of the last movement. Our first violinist enters the third movement a few seconds after we finish the second. Today, each time he began the third movement, I was caught off guard because I was still ecstatic about the second movement.

It’s only been the second day and we feel so much more improved already! I’m really looking forwards to tomorrow and what we’re going to accomplish.

Week 1, Day 3 (Post by Carolyn)

Today was day 3 of the quartet camp - Wednesday. Many of the members, including myself, could not believe it was Wednesday already. Just the thought of the approaching concert on Sunday makes me want to shut myself up in a room and practice until I faint.

I got to the PalaceTheater by train today. It was my second time taking the train to Stamford. At first, I was pretty apprehensive about taking the train, because I’m terrible with getting off the train at the right stop. Also, I’m clueless when it comes to directions. I always think, after I get off the train, what happens? Where do I go? Luckily, today my brother spotted another camp member at our town’s station, and we tagged along his side all the way to the Palace Theater. I realized I really had nothing to worry about, though. The Stamford station is pretty distinguished and from the interior of the train, you can see clear big letters that say “Stamford.” Also, the Palace Theater is conveniently close to the station. All I did was go under a tunnel, take a right, and keep walking straight. So one day, if your parents can’t drive you to camp, the train is a great option!

This morning we had quartet rehearsal with our coach. We started out by playing through the whole Shostakovich #8. Then, our coach took us through the parts of the piece that needed work. Our group was delighted by the fact that our coach was impressed with our 2nd movement. Now we know our hard work was worth it. At the same time, it was good motivation to keep working hard to get the whole piece spectacular.

After that period of high concentration, we got to relax our brains during lunch. I wanted to try out the place at the mall’s food court called Great Wraps. I have to say - the wraps there are pretty great.

With a full stomach, our quartet was ready to work on the tricky parts of Shostakovich #8. We focused mainly on the 4th movement, because it seemed to serve as the weakest at this morning’s rehearsal. Without our famous friend Lucy the metronome counting out each beat, it is hard to play together as a quartet. One of the greatest challenges of the 4th movement is that everyone has to continuously subdivide beats in order to come in at the same time with each other. By the end of the day, we were able to communicate better during the 4th movement, which helped a lot.

After camp, we had a special treat. The Lumina String Quartet performed at the Ferguson Library in Stamford. It was a concert honoring the 200th Anniversary of Haydn and Mendelssohn (200 years ago, Haydn died and Mendelssohn was born). They celebrated this well, by playing Haydn’s string quartet in B flat Major “Sunrise,” and Mendelssohn’s string Quartet in f minor Op. 80. I happened to sit behind two ladies who were friends. Each had blond hair, cut in the same short hairstyle. They were sitting in a way that I could see the whole quartet, and their heads framed the stage. During the first movement of Haydn, the lady on the left turned to her friend, whispering, “beautiful!” They shook their heads in amazement at every wonderful moment (in Lumina’s case, it was every second). The audience loved the performance so much that they clapped after each movement! It was a great experience to see our coaches/teachers perform on stage. It also was a good time to watch professionals play beautiful music. Sometimes in the middle of the week, you need something to keep you going. This concert is going to keep us going. It gave us a sweet taste of inspiration that will carry through to Sunday’s performance.

Week 1, Day 4 (Post by Carolyn)

Today was another private practice/lesson day. With last night’s concert still fresh in our brains, we began our day with studious practicing. I went back to that nice room with the fridge and microwave. My lesson was during the second time slot, so I was able to warm up beforehand. I went over my part for Shostakovich #8 with the second violinist of the Lumina String Quartet. I, being the second violinist of my quartet, was able to get good secrets from a musician who once played the same piece and part at a professional level. After my lesson, I worked on my own solo pieces. The room I was in shut out noises pretty well, so I was able to concentrate on only my sound. The only distraction there was in the room was that occasionally, the light automatically shut off. This would cause me some momentary distress and confusion, but overall, I loved the room. I was able to practice well in it, and before I knew it, it was lunchtime.

For lunch today I had something that I don’t know how to say in English. It’s almost like a sushi, but triangular and larger. I would say it’s a cross between a sushi and a sandwich - perhaps a sandshi? It’s very convenient to eat, since you can just hold it in your hand, and it doesn’t get messy. My mom made it for me, and it was very satisfying.

After lunch we had the very entertaining talent show. We set up chairs on the stage in a semi-circle, so everyone could see the performers. The first act was a country fiddler playing with a bassist. The country fiddler fiddled pretty fast, and it was fun to hear. What was also really amazing was the fact that the bass player was a violinist in the camp who was using the cello as a bass. What a combination of string instruments! I don’t even know how he processed all of that, but it seemed pretty easy for him to do. The second act was my quartet. One day, we were resting after practicing the first movement, and the cellist started playing Bach’s prelude from his Suite I in G Major. Then, all of us had the same idea - to connect the 1st movement of Shostakovich to Bach’s prelude. And we tried it out, and it worked! The last note of the 1st movement of Shostakovich #8 is a G sharp, which builds up in a crescendo for the exciting mood in the 2nd movement. What we did was we built up the G sharp and then relaxed it into the G natural of the first note in Bach’s prelude. It was a hilarious joke at first, but then it developed into an act for the performance. Who would have thought that would happen? Then, a camp member danced two acts of ballet. She didn’t have music in the background, but the dancing completely outshone the need for supporting music. The bassist/violinist playing the cello then performed again with another violinist in the camp. They played some jazzy tunes, and it was nice. The performance ended with the bassist playing the violin with the other violinist. The two violinists supported each other well in their duet and it was a cool end to the amazing performance. It was a good break from the morning’s hard work, and I’m sure everyone had tons of fun!

After the show, we all went back to work. Our quartet practiced by ourselves again, and this time, we focused on the first movement. We experimented with making it more interesting, and then played through the whole piece. There are fewer places where we have to stop due to mistakes in counting, which is great. We’re getting closer to focusing on making musical statements now, and I’m excited.

Week 1, Day 5 (Post by Carolyn)

Today was Friday, day 5 of the quartet camp. During school days, Friday is the day you can relax, knowing there is nothing to worry about because of the carefree weekend you have in front of you. This week of summer is different. Friday is the day you start getting nervous, because the big day is on Sunday. Stress is building up and everyone is rushing to cram in high improvement during this short timeframe.

We had our last official quartet coaching session this morning, and our playing still had some flaws. We grew really anxious about these mistakes, and worked hard to try to improve the piece. When we went upstairs to try out possible places to perform, our coach said we sounded better. That brought our spirits up, and we’re hoping to keep getting better until we’re spectacular for the concert.

For lunch today, I went to Great Wraps again, because they do indeed have great wraps. This time I got a Philly cheese steak sub. It was pretty good - but on the salty side. But you’ve got to remember that this restaurant is specialized in wraps, and was reaching out of its comfort zone to cook up a sub. And I’ve got to say, this sub I ate for lunch was better than the subs at Subway.

After lunch we had quartet rehearsal. We moved to a church next door for rehearsal, and we got a nice room. This time, instead of playing through the whole piece, we focused on each movement in greater detail. We tried to eliminate as many problems as we could solve from each movement. In the first, it was more about making it exquisite and interesting. It has a lot of whole notes, and we found it challenging for us to play the movement slowly while making it sound moving at the same time. The second movement was all about staying together. Every member’s part is singular, and we had to rely on our ears, counting, and communication to stay together. The third movement had problems with speed. The time signature changes constantly, and that sometimes messes up our tempo. The fourth movement is also about staying together. Before, it was all over the place, but today, it was much better. I think it’s because we worked on a lot of communication, and it helped us a lot. Before we got to work on the fifth movement, it was time for Round Robin.

Round Robin is a time where each quartet disperses into different groups. Each quartet gets to site read new music. Some people found it stressful to site read music on the spot, but I thought it was pretty fun. It’s good to practice site reading, plus, it’s really exciting. If you think about it, it could almost be like a game. If you get the right notes and rhythms, you feel good. If you get the wrong notes and rhythms, you feel flustered and then try to catch up with your group. Worse comes to worse, your group will stop and find a place to begin again. Everyone is very good-natured about site reading mistakes. In my group, we tried out a Beethoven quartet, which had lots of fast runs. I really tried to play every note, but most of the time, I was fudging around. It was fun, and everyone just laughed along. Site reading is better than a game - there’s no losing. Also, with Round Robin, we were able to site read some of the most beautiful pieces written for quartets. It was a good chance to get sneak peaks at songs you might want to play for next year. I also like Round Robin because you get to play with new people. It’s great because you get to meet others that you’ve never gotten to speak to before and in the meantime, you play great music with them. I think it’s an excellent way of being introduced to someone. We ended our day with everyone playing the Brandenburg Concerto, with the violist of the Lumina String Quartet conducting. Everyone was gathered around playing together, and it was really fun. It was a great end to the day.

Week 1, Day 6 (Post by Carolyn)

Today was the 6th day of quartet camp - otherwise known as the day before the concert. It started out with each quartet performing in a master class to all the coaches of the camp. Each group chose a specific movement from their piece to perform, and after they played, the coaches took turns giving their input and suggestions to the players. My quartet was scheduled to play last, so we took advantage of the time to prepare for the master class. Shostakovich #8 is relatively short - it’s only about 20 minutes long. Since each quartet was given about 30 minutes for the master class, our coach decided that we had enough time to perform to the coaches more than one movement. We decided to begin in the middle of the third movement and play straight to the end. That’s why we decided to practice the third movement through the fifth at the start of the day. We worked our way through the piece nicely, and after we felt satisfied with our master class excerpt, we went back to fine tune the first and second movements. We finished through the whole piece just in time for the master class.

We were in the church again, and the master class took place in the big, spacey hall of the church. There was a nice stage in the front of the hall where the quartets set up to perform. We were a bit nervous about playing there, because we knew the acoustics were going to be much different than from the room we practiced in. When we began playing, it seemed fine, only that there were more echoes around us than usual. We played through the master class like we were performing. We zoned in on each other, on ourselves, and the music. In the back of our minds we could see and hear people walking around the back of the hall, but that didn’t stop us from staying focused. I thought it was great to have the opportunity to perform for the professionals. I felt a bit nervous on stage, knowing that the people listening to our music were people highly educated in quartet playing and had scores in their hands to cue them in on our mistakes. Getting through that meant that I would be ok during the concert performance. If I already performed to professionals, what would a few more people in the audience matter to me? I’m sure none will be holding scores of Shostakovich #8 (well, I hope not), and I feel confident that my quartet will perform wonderfully. After we finished playing, each coach gave constructive criticism to us and it helped a lot. Most of them added that it sounded good, so that made us really happy. It’s good to play music that sounds good!

We left for a quick lunch, since we were going to be the first ones to have a dress rehearsal. I went to Great Wraps again, and got a combo meal. I got a gyro wrap and it was pretty tasty. My only concern was that I wasn’t sure what kind of meat I was eating. That’s always bad - when you don’t know what you’re eating. It’s like eating the mystery meat from a classic school cafeteria.

After lunch, we had the treat of having our coach with us during our rehearsal. She explained to us many specific details that lowered our level of playing when they went unnoticed. We fixed some slight intonation problems, and that already made a huge difference. We also worked on staying together, with clearer cueing and precise counting. All the small improvements that we made piled up into a great progression in our playing by the end of the day.

Week 1, Day 7 (Post by Carolyn)

Today was day 7 of the camp - concert day. When I woke up this morning, I took my time to get up and start the day. Then I realized it was concert day, and my perspective on everything changed immediately. I knew it wasn’t just any day. It was a day to share good music, validate the week’s hard work, and prove to ourselves our strength in mind. Time flew by so quickly during this past week, yet the amount of progress my quartet made convinced me we’ve been at camp for a month. It’s been so hard to keep track of time, and bam, today was concert day.

We got to the Palace Theater two hours earlier than the concert. This allowed us a lot of time to get used to the stage. My quartet played many excerpts from our piece, and by the time we got off the stage so another group could try it out, we felt really comfortable with the performance area. After we tried out the stage, we went to our practice room. We alternated between practicing and relaxing. I thought it was good to have a break here and there, since it helped keep down our nerves before the concert.

Before I got to the Palace Theater, my parents took me to Dunkin’ Donuts to get a box of munchkins. My quartet played a game using these munchkins. One of us would start in a random place in Shostakovich #8, and whoever caught up with him or her and started playing at the right place got to eat a munchkin. We were all good sports though, so no matter who “won,” all of us ended up eating munchkins after each round anyway. The game helped us concentrate on the music and gave us a secure feeling that if anything happened in the concert, we would know when and where to come in.

When the concert neared to the 5th quartet (there were nine quartets playing, and ours was the last on the program), my quartet started getting a bit nervous. All of a sudden, we had to go to the bathroom very frequently. My hands felt tingly and my stomach started to hurt. It was only when we played our music that we seemed calm. One by one, each quartet came back with smiles on their faces. I heard a snippet of each quartet, and everyone sounded great. Anyone could tell that all the quartets worked hard all week, and I was happy for them and their performances. The only thing was that the more the performers came back relaxed, the more tense my quartet felt. I think we were all feeling the same way; we were all hoping we would also be coming back from the performance with smiles on our faces.

Our long anticipated event came soon enough, and we were shortly on stage. We waited to collect ourselves before we started. Then, we were off. It was like taking flight. Sure, pilots have learned and practiced flying before they started carrying people around. But once they have passengers, their flight feels different, and they can only rely on their confidence and the knowledge and experience they’ve collected in their past to guide themselves and their passengers to the correct destination. Performing was like that. We went through multiple lessons, a master class, and even some small audiences before this performance. Today was different because there were many new faces listening in to our music. Once we started, we could not back out until we ended the piece. And we were determined to give our passengers the nicest flight by sticking to all that we’ve learned and rehearsed in the past week.

As I was performing, I realized something. In the second movement, during my 27 measures of rest, I counted that I had 15 measures of the same passage. Then I remembered myself practicing this piece before I got together with the quartet to play it. I remembered saying, “wow, this is really boring”. Today when we were playing, I felt so different from the first time I looked at my music. There is so much more music in my part than I ever saw in it before. What made the difference was that I was playing with my quartet. It makes sense though, doesn’t it? That quartet music only sounds good when playing with a full quartet. My coach told us once that a quartet is like a car, made of four wheels. When even one wheel isn’t present, the car can’t run. And I realized that only when playing with the quartet can you find the little secrets and messages composers like Shostakovich leave for performers to find. The music isn’t complete until you find your three other wheels. My coach also said that quartet music is one music for four people. And on stage today, we were like one, playing one music. And we ended still together, still playing the same music, the same beautiful music that we’ve worked so hard to reach. And after we lifted our bows from our strings at the last second of the piece, I’m sure we all felt that we’ve reached the destination we were aiming to fly to.

We got a nice rich applause, which made us really happy. Hopefully we made Shostakovich proud of his piece. We quickly packed up our instruments and when we reached our parents, everyone seemed in a great mood. Good - that means we didn’t bring them down with our music.

I couldn’t believe the week was over. It’s been such a great experience and is something to talk about during the rest of the summer and school year. I’d like to thank all the teachers/coaches and everyone else in the camp because they all made the camp really special - a nice place to play music and enjoy each other’s company while doing so.

Week 2

Week 2, Day 1 (Post by Jon)

After an amazing concert yesterday, I came back for the second week of The Chamber Music Institute for Young Musicians Camp. I felt more comfortable walking in than I did the previous week. Like usual, we had to take a group picture. Since there are 8 groups this weeks instead of 9 it looked like there were fewer people but I couldn’t stop thinking that there was someone missing.

After the picture we went to our respective rooms and started rehearsing. Unlike like the usual quartets, my group this week is a quintet consisting of 2 violinists, 2 cellists, and a violist. We are playing the Schubert Cello Quintet in C major which is one of the last pieces Schubert composed before he passed away. My coach this week is the Lumina String Quartet’s amazing cellist Jen. I’ve had her as a coach before and remember her helping me a lot during previous years. I’m also pretty familiar with my group this week so I know we’ll have a lot of fun (:

We started our rehersal attempting to run through the piece. Having only met once before, not everything we played was great. With the help from our coach, we were able to fix some problems and help the piece flow better. While we were playing, it felt a bit lonely being the only violist in the group. The violinist and cellist were able to work with each other about their parts while I was alone thinking through my part by myself ): Moping aside, our group had a relatively successful rehearsal before our lunch break.

After lunch, a very talented violin maker Alexander Tulchinsky came to teach us a little bit about our instruments and give them checkups. He taught us the importance of sound posts and how a little adjustment can really change the sound. A couple violinists in the camp brought their instruments for him to look at it. With a metal tool, he adjusted their sound posts a little bit and the change in sound was noticeable.

I’m a lot more relaxed than I was last week, probably since it’s my second week. I felt that our group got a good amount of work done today even without a coach during the second half. Personally I find cellos a bit too loud for my tastes but the cellists that I was playing with today really showed me how great the cello can sound. I really enjoy listening to them play (:

Week 2, Day 1 (Post by Fabian)

Hi all!! I am the mysterious blogger No.2 (or, No. 1, depending on how you count it). I hope that those of you who read this will enjoy it. I also hope that I'm not being repetitive with the other blogger.

Anyway, so, this is my second week, after having attended the first week of the camp, and having played the concert yesterday. Naturally, I was tired this morning, and somehow found myself on the train heading towards Stamford. I've been going on the train the entire last week for the first time. Quite exciting at first, but it got boring really fast. Although, it IS pretty cool when they don't get a chance to punch your ticket, or think you've already been punched and you end up with extra tickets. I bought the 10 time ticket last week, and I ended up having 5 left.

It was orientation day again when I got to the Palace Theatre, with an almost whole new set of people. Half the people from last week were here again, myself included. As usual, we took the yearly picture. People were complaining again, but I realized it was much better inside the air-conditioned room, compared to the usual spot outside the Rich Forum, in the blazing heat.

We headed off into our places, and began to practice. Since I am a mysterious blogger, I guess I can't exactly tell you what piece I'm playing, or who I'm with, but that really doesn't matter. (By the way, if Phil still keeps my identity hidden, I'll give a free hug to whoever says Hello mysterious blogger first to me) The piece that we are playing is a wonderful masterpiece. I don't think I'm entitled to call a piece that, but that's the only word that comes to mind. It has so many great parts, considering it is a quintet. The harmonies really match up well, and the piece soothes you from the first note. It gets really "epic" and has beautiful melodies. As I have heard it, this was Schubert's final piece before he died. (Hint) We were working hard with out coach, and amazingly, managed to work all the way up to 12:00, lunch time.

For lunch, we went to McDonalds. I know what you must be thinking. McDonalds? That's not a very good place to go to. My plan, like last week, was to start at the worst possible place to eat, and during the week, gradually work my way up. Tomorrow, I'm thinking Subway.

We headed back, and started to practice a bit again, without our coach. Of course, we weren't really too focused, but we were definitely a lot more focused than my group last week. We went over the things that our coach told us, and we added our own little intricacies that we thought would help the piece. I hope we'll be able to play it well.

Alas, it was the end of the day. I almost missed my train ride home, but I made it in the end. And here I am at home, writing this and listening to Schubert. I hope this blog has been informal, and I will see you tomorrow.

Week 2, Day 2 (Post by Jon)

Since it was Tuesday, today was a private lesson day. These days are good for people who still aren’t very familiar with their parts because they allow us time to practice while waiting for our lessons. The teacher or coach we have will either go over solo pieces or quartet music. Today I had the same teacher that I had last week and I looked forward to listening to his advice. The teacher I had is not a coach but a very talented violist who was previously a student at the high school I go to. We went over the playing style of the Schubert Quintet and the bow technique used in the piece. I felt like I learned a lot in the little time we had together during our lesson. (:

Afterwards, I went looking for a place to practice when I ran into one of my quartet mates. He was practicing one of his solo pieces The Variations of the Rococo Theme, I believe it was called. I really enjoyed listening to him play his piece on his cello. Listening to him made me think that I should perhaps practice some more than I do :P

While waiting for a friend to finish his lesson, I decided to peek in to see what was going on. Recognizing solos in the Schubert piece, I found my way to the room where my friend was and listened to him going over different ways of playing his solos with the teacher. His teacher was my coach and cellist from the previous week. Playing with him myself, I know that he is a talented and great sounding cellist and that he has played in many places around the world. I was amazed at the many ways you could play a passage in a piece and the different effects that it makes when you play them. After his lesson, we decided to go to the convenient store to get some drinks. Another friend of mine bought some beef jerky and had a bit of trouble trying to eat it. I ended up buying some different flavor of ice tea which ended up being a tonic which tasted a bit…different.

After the lunch break, we returned to our rooms to once again rehearse our piece with our group. With our coach with us, we were able to get more done and fix problems that we previously had before. It’s clear that we get more done with a coach who has musical experience greater than we do. But even with our amazing coach, not a lot can be done if our group isn’t totally ready. From our rehearsal today, we realized that there was a lot more we had to get home ourselves and that tonight we would have to practice more to be more ready for the next day.

To judge myself individually, I felt that I should become more familiar with my part and practice some of the parts I find difficult in the piece. One thing that stood out the past two days was the strong motivation to work from the younger members of the quintet. When our group would discuss and get slightly off topic or goof off instead of rehearsing the younger members would be the ones to get us back on track. As one of the older members of the group I feel like I should act more responsibly.

Week 2, Day 2 (Post by Fabian)

Hm, I realized today that nobody reads the blog... Oh well.

So, today was a little different. I got to get a ride with my mom and my brother, who had a clarinet lesson this morning, so I was saved the walk from the train station. I went inside the Palace Theater, and again, everyone was out in the building, in completely random places, practicing their instruments. Yes, today was private practice day, where we are supposed to "practice privately" from 9:00 to 2:00, attending our private lesson, and somehow fitting in lunch. Luckily, this time, I found a good stand and chair, as well as a nice little corner to practice in. (Last week, I was stuck reading my music from a bench.)

Ugh, it's really hard for me to practice. I know that I'm supposed to do it, but I can never really motivate myself to do it well. Of course, whenever I come to this camp, I always seem to practice wayyyy more than I usually do. I think it's because I see and hear my fellow colleagues practicing, and I hear how much better they've gotten, and how much I....suck. I was practicing next to a friend, and although he hasn't really spent much time on his instrument, he seemed focused on his music, so I just kinda slipped back into my work.

I had to go to Subway for lunch by myself, because my buddies were at their lessons. It was okay though, because I got to eat back at the Palace. I was stupid for not bringing enough money, and I ended up getting the "5 dollar footlong" deal, with spicy Italian, jalapenos (where are those peppers Phil???), and wheat bread, as I desperately need to lose weight.

I finally went to my lesson with my past teacher. He's a great teacher, who lives to inspire. He always comes up with unusual fingerings and helps me with the seemingly impossible. I got some great new stuff for the group the afternoon which was ..... EPIC FAIL. The room felt really hazy, and my head wasn't in the right place. I kept messing up, and I need more practice. Basically, we still need more work. Everyone's tension was a little high. I think it was the room's fault. Stupid room. We worked especially hard on the (my) third page, which has some complicated rythyms. It really made me, and others, frustrated. Oh well, tomorrow just has to be better.

Thanks for reading! :)

Week 2, Day 3 (Post by Jon)

Practicing a bit the night before, I was really tired walking in to rehearsal today. In fact, I’ve forgotten a majority of what happened today so please bear with me while I recall today’s events. Before starting on something new, my quartet decided to finish the movement so we could get an idea what the ending sounded like. Everyone including our coach was tired in the morning so it was hard to keep focus but we managed through and played to the end, somewhat successfully. We cleaned up some spots and rehearsed straight to lunch.

For lunch my friends and I decided to go to the Stamford Mall. We ate food from Great Wraps which is one of the many places you can get food on the Food Court. After a quick lunch, we returned to the Theater to listen to a string maker talk about the way strings work. Sadly, I was unable to attend the event and don’t know what really went on but the other blogger will probably have more detail on that event.

Those wondering what I did instead of going to the demonstration should know that I was having a lesson. This was because my lesson teacher is unable to teach me tomorrow. We went over the whole piece and changed fingerings and playing style to make the piece sound better. After the lesson, I practiced what my teacher went over and therefore was unable to attend :P

After the lecture ended we decided to run through the whole piece, since we’ve yet to do that yet, in order to see what needed to be worked on today. We had a rough start but slowly the piece started to work out and we managed to get through the whole piece, just not very well. After our somewhat bad run-through, we decided to work from the end to the beginning. Our coach gave us many tips on our playing. She told us what we should and shouldn’t do and how to make the piece overall sound more musical. Though she is very picky about things, she is very nice about it and understanding which made it less stressful for the group (:

Once again, an overall look at how things are right now. Our group isn’t perfect there are still spots that need work and parts that have to become more comfortable, but in general things are going well. I will probably spend the majority of the practice time tomorrow becoming more comfortable with my part. Also, like my fellow blogger said, the room we play in is quite hazy and feels uncomfortable to play in. Hopefully we can move into another room where we can actually breathe :P

Week 2, Day 3 (Post by Fabian)

Hello all!

So, today was a pretty intensive day. The fact that our room is really dinky didn't make it any better. You just can't seem to think in there. Anyways, our group is really intense. We do a lot of work, but it's clear that we still need a lot more. Our coach is great though. She picks out the biggest and smallest problems, and helps us to fix them, prodding and poking us until we get it right. We worked right up until lunch.

For lunch, I was planning on getting something a bit better, but ended up going to Great Wraps in the mall. It's not a bad place. In fact, they have some really good wraps, and you get to get these curly fries in a bag that you can add different seasonings on (I kept getting it up my nose, and sneezed and coughed for a while). We ate in the bottom of the mall, and left when our violist had to go back for a lesson.

When we came back, we listened to a presentation by Fan Tao (NOT Fan Wong, as it said in the schedule), from D'Addario. Of course, everyone really only knows him as the free strings guy. He gave a much different presentation from previous years, this time making it "interactive" and having us participate by listening to different audio tracks. It was quite fun, and I was thankful that I was able to actually understand the complex words and theorems he was talking about, thanks to my physics class. :) Sadly, this time, we didnt get free strings (I think only cellists got some? But I'm a cellist too, and I didn't get any...), but we at least got rosin and pencils, which was exactly what I needed at that moment.

We got back to practicing, and our coach, who had recently taken a quick nap, was up and full of energy again, showing off her radiant smile. :) We had another intensive time, and we actually managed to finish our piece! It still needs a lot of work though.

I hope tomorrow is awesome.

Week 2, Day 4 (Post by Jon)

Having slept a bit more last night, I woke up with a little more energy than I had the day before. I was still exhausted when I got home though. Anyways, today was another lesson day at the Chamber Music Institute Camp. It was another one of those days where we have time to practice on our own and get lessons from our teachers. However, because I already had my lesson the day before, I did not have a lesson today. I pretty much spent this time to practice my part to be more prepared for the afternoon rehearsal. Apparently it wasn’t enough :P

Though I’m not really a part of this, one very popular thing at camp is Pepper Eating. Every year Phil brings us peppers from his garden that he grows. Previous years I’ve participated in this popular event but this year I decided to spare my taste buds. The peppers Phil grows are very hot. People who attempt to eat pieces of them usually end up crying or running for water. However there are certain people, Phil call them “Champions”, who are able to handle the peppers without flinching. So far, according to him, there are 2 people who are able to handle his infamous peppers, one being my fellow blogger. Today, Phil brought in his peppers since people have been asking about them this week. They are green and not fully mature due to the weather this year, but are still very spicy. Since this week had a lot of new people in the camp Phil told then to see if they could endure the spiciness. According to Phil there are 5 new “contenders” who are able to handle the peppers without any trouble. I didn’t take part of it since I wanted to be able to taste my lunch :P

Speaking of lunch I had a great lunch today. Once again my friends and I went to the food court in the mall. Looking around to find a place to eat, we came across a place that we haven’t seen before. Under renovation last year, the “Ichiban Teriyaki House” I believe it was called, had finally opened. I haven’t been there yet so we decided to go try it out. The service there is really nice. When we walked closer to the counter they offered us free samples of their food. It tasted great (: After tasting the delicious samples, we decided to order our lunch there. I ordered Chicken Teriyaki, which was the sample they gave us, along with a BBQ-eel Roll. Both tasted really good and for a good price as well. I highly recommend giving Ichiban a try (:

After lunch, we had to go back and rehearse our piece since the concert is coming up again pretty quickly and there’s no time to slack. Finally, we got to play somewhere else other than our musky, uncomfortable room. We moved up to the place where we will play the concert to see how we sound but also for the chance in environment. We ran through the piece to see how the acoustics in the room was like. Sadly, according to our coach I was unable to be heard the majority of the time. I was a bit disappointed in myself for being unable to play out more. The seating position in the quartet makes it very hard for my sound to reach to the audience so I suppose I have to work harder on playing more loudly :P

Overall this day went quite well. Although I didn’t eat a pepper it was fun to see all the newer and younger camp members try this tradition of eating Phil’s infamous peppers. Although I feel like I have a lot more work I need to do, I think that our group has progressed well and will hopefully do well in the concert Sunday.

Tomorrow is one of my favorite days during camp weeks, Round Robin Day. Like mentioned in other blogs, Round Robin is where we mix up groups and sight read a quartet piece together. It was a lot of fun last week and I’m sure it’ll be fun this week too (:

Week 2, Day 4 (Post by Fabian)

Hello everyone! (everyone who's reading the blog, that is)

Ah, today was quite a relaxing, yet stressful day.

It was private practice day again. Lucky for my violist, he had to do his lesson yesterday, and didn't have any today, but he still worked very hard. Again, I was inspired from just watching him practice.

Practicing was a bit frustrating, especially because I had to practice some really fast passages, and they were not forgiving...

So, I went to my lesson with my old cello teacher again. Again, I was inspired to play. These days, I seem to be losing a bit of hope in myself, but every encounter I have with someone makes me feel a little better. We went over things like how to play with my "true self" and such. Knowing where my "pocket" is (don't make me explain).

After, me and my buddies went out to lunch. Again, I went to Great Wraps, as the "Franz" finally brought the peppers. I put them in my wrap, and it was as good as I had hoped. Apparently I have more contenders. I don't know, nor do I really care. Meh, it's fun though. My other buddies got something from Ichiban in the mall. It's a Japanese Teriyaki by Cantonese people. The mall is definitely diverse.

Afterwards, we went back to practice, and we finally moved to a bigger room. It was absolutly great, because we were able to hear the acoustics for the concert, and we had more room, MUCH more room. We practiced intensely again, taking no break (not that we actually needed or wanted it) (Did you know that our coach loves to eat pencils???).

I'm a little worried about our progress, but I'm sure we'll make it through. So, I'll just have to wait till tomorrow. Oh, and if, as Franz says, that everyone is reading the blog, MAKE SURE TO BRING YOUR STANDS TOMORROW!!!! I think he forgot to mention that today, so make sure to bring it, as we are going to the church in the afternoon. Thanks all!

Week 2, Day 5 (Post by Jon)

Today is the day I look forward to the most during the camp. The reason is that on the 5th day of the camp there is a special round robin event that occurs. To be honest, I didn’t really enjoy today’s round robin. For me, it lacked the usual round robin tradition.

Most groups today also chose a movement to perform at during the master class on Saturday, where all the coaches watch you perform. Our group, however, is only playing one movement, a really long movement, so we are trying to get it to sound great in hopes of performing a great concert on Sunday (:

Anyways, today was the usual tiring morning. Now back in our old room instead of the nice, open, fresh concert hall, we now felt the same musky feeling as before, though it’s been better than usual. Due to failed communication, our group started rehearsal a little later than planned but due to the help of our amazing coach, we were able to get a lot done even with less time. Overall, our morning rehearsal went really well. I had some sight issues since I forgot my glasses at home, but luckily I knew enough of the part to be able to play. Today our improvement from the day before was noticeable and we were very pleased with our progress. Many of our remaining problems were fixed during our hardworking morning session.

After rehearsal, I went to lunch with some friends and some of the coaches. We decided to all go to an Indian Restaurant that my group’s coach found. Our coach led the way while we walked towards the restaurant. It reminded me of ducklings following their mother. After a good 5-10 minute walk we reach the restaurant and actually arrived before the restaurant opened. We were one of the first customers there. The food at the restaurant was quite exotic. I didn’t know what I was eating (there were labels, but I couldn’t see), but it all tasted really good (:

After lunch, we went to the church to continue our rehearsal. Last week, my previous group and I got a nice refreshing room in the church. The interior of the church was nice and cool, but once inside the room you could feel the heat from outside. Although it was very hot, we attempted to work since the concert is coming up very soon. We rehearsed until we were free to go for round robin, or so we thought :P

Round Robin is where members of different groups can mix around and sight read different pieces of music. Every year it has been my favorite event at this camp. HOWEVER, this year was quite different. After rehearsal ended, I looked around outside for the list to see who I was playing with. To my surprise I saw that I was in the same group of people playing the same piece, but only different movements. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy playing with my group, but I was looking forward to switching around and playing with other people. Plus, I was hoping to get a break from our piece :P

I look forward to our master class tomorrow so we can see what the other coaches think of our playing. Hopefully next year I’ll have a better Round Robin time.

Week 2, Day 5 (Post by Fabian)

Hellooooooooooo! Today was hot, and I apologize for it. I can't help it, but I'll try to be cooler next time. :)

So, I missed my train for the first time, and I arrived at the Palace Theater late (I'm sorry), but it was okay. I immediately went into the action when I arrived, as my group was hard at work. My group was, again, very intense. We still have lots of problems, but I'm sure we'll do fine (I think??). Our piece is really coming together. I just hope it's good enough...

For lunch, we went the infamous Indian Buffet. It was interesting, and I got to try all the food. I'm just a little sad that the food wasn't exactly hot enough for me, but considering my stomach and my mouth have differing opinions, I'm sure this was preferable. I ate two plates, and used up all of my dollar coins that my mom gave me to use for food and such. I feel stupid using them, but money is money.

We came back stuffed, and we got a room...that's a tad small, and was very hot. I was unlucky enough to sit in the only seat that had the sun shining down upon it, so I was sweating. We still practiced hard though, and again, we were intense.

Next was "Round Robin," where you USUALLY are supposed to go with other random people and play other random music. This year, it was different for me and my group, who were stuck in the same Round Robin group, and had to play the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th movements of our piece. We attempted, but ended up going back to what were were playing before, and practiced all the way till the end.

I hope tomorrow's Master Class goes well!

Week 2, Day 6 (Post by Jon)

Today is the second to last day of the Chamber Music Institute Camp :O It’s been a fun experience going to this camp for 2 weeks this year. I had some great memories and had a lot of fun playing the pieces I played these weeks. Though this blog might have not that many views, I hope you learned a lot about the fun experiences we have at this camp (:

We started the moring by preparing for the master class, where the coaches listen to your group play a movement of your piece. Since our group is playing one movement, a 20 minute one I might add, it would be like playing the concert for them. Because we are second to last in the concert, we are also second to last for the master class. While waiting for our turn we frantically tried to fix problems that might occur during our run through. We basically went over intonation in many parts of the piece and balance of sound during solo parts. When it finally got to our turn, we started to worry and get nervous. It’s only natural that this occurs since we are playing for a group of professionals who have played your piece before. Any mistakes we make would be noticed. When we finally went up, we shook off our nervousness and played through the piece. Although there were some minor mistakes it overall went well. The coaches told us that we did a good job and gave us advice on how to make our playing better.

After we played, we decided to go to lunch since it was a good time to take a break from playing. We went to Katie’s which is a deli in the area we rehearse at. My friends got sandwiches and I got something called a “Hula Burger”. I thought I was a very unique type of burger since it had pineapple in it along with some ham. It tasted pretty good (: Afterwards, we ran back to the church to resume our rehearsal.

Asya, the director of the camp, offered to help us on our piece to make it sound better. We were very grateful that she took the time to help our group in different parts of our piece. We fixed up all the issues that occurred in the master class and also fixed problems that were not noticed during that time. After Asya’s help, we decided to rehearse in the center of the church since our rooms were just way too hot to play in. After a while, other groups wanted a chance to rehearse where we were so we moved into other people’s rooms to avoid the heat :P When it ended, we thanked our coach for the help she gave us and looked forward to tomorrow’s concert.

Thanks to a very talented hard working group-mate, who always pushes us to work, we probably one of the groups that worked the most this week. With only minor errors to fix up tonight, I’m sure the concert will turn out great.

Week 2, Day 6 (Post by Fabian)


Today was very tense and stressful (not really). The "official" starting time for the camp was 10:00, so I was glad to sleep for one more hour. When I got there, it was immediately time to practice again. Masterclass day is always very nerve-wracking, as it is when we are judged by the other coaches, often ending with bad results. In my opinion, I think this should happen earlier in the week, so that people actually have the time to practice what they're been taught.

When our group went, we were all kind of nervous, but tried our best. I messed up a couple times, but I don't think anybody really noticed...(and if they did, I apologize). To our surprise, we actually got some compliments. Of course, there were criticisms, but that's to be expected. I'm actually quite proud of my group. Honestly, I can say that they were possible the most hardworking group I've been with so far, and they deserve the compliments (excluding me).

So, we then went out to lunch. We went to Katie's, the ever delicious "sandwich place," where I got a roast beef sandwich (it was awesome), and a beef and bean chili. Our second violinist ended up spending 20 dollars on his lunch. As me and my violist know, as asians, we don't like to spend a lot of money.

We went back to the church, and we began rehearsing with the camp director (I'm not sure if I can state her name here??). It's always a little reassuring to rehearse with her, because you know that after her advice, you WILL sound better, no matter what.

For the rest of the time, we practiced with our coach, and then cleaned up the church. I hope we sound good tomorrow, especially because of the horrible acoustics in the place. Oh well, we'll just have to manage. See y'all tomorrow! (To those of you reading the blog)

Week 2, Day 7 (Post by Jon)

I’d like to start this day’s blog by thanking the people who took their very valuable time to read the blogs we write on the Chamber Music Institute website. Although we don’t get much comments, I know there are a few people who read what we write everyday and I thank you (:

I woke up today not knowing that camp was over. It took me a while to realize that when I wake up tomorrow, I won’t be driving through morning traffic to get to the Palace Theater. I also forgot what our group decided to wear for the concert today. One thing that I did remember was a red tie. Sadly, most of my formal clothing is in black and white so I had to go to Wal-Mart and buy one :P I ended up wearing all black with a red tie since that was my usual concert outfit. I remember that last week I wore a white shirt and a bowtie and I looked very much like a waiter.

Anyways, when I arrived at the Palace Theater I realized that our group didn’t really coordinate our attire well. Although we were all wearing black and red, we didn’t really fit well together but I guess it worked. Our group was second to last in the concert, so we decided to use our time wisely. Although it would be good to practice until we were called, we didn’t want to get tired before we went on stage. However, we also needed to warm up so we had to plan wisely. Our coach advised us to go over only certain spots of the piece so we don’t get tired before we play. We went over some problem spots and had a dress rehearsal on stage to warm up. Some members of our group started to get nervous and started thinking about the “what ifs”. The worst thing to do before a concert is to think about what could go wrong, so in order to calm ourselves down we did some slow breathing to help our minds. After a regained confidence we relaxed before we went up during the intermission of the concert. During the intermission we tuned our instruments and got ready to play. There was one group before us after intermission so we stayed backstage and waited for our turn.

After the other group finished, we wished each other luck and walked towards the stage. When I got to my spot, I noticed that my stand was bent about 60 degrees. It was a bit weird playing music at an angle but I adjusted to it accordingly :P I felt that our performance went well. It wasn’t perfect, but overall it sounded great and we even heard a “bravo” from the director which made us very happy. After we played, we packed up quickly and went back up to listen to the rest of the concert. My favorite group at today’s concert, other than my own, was the duet played at the very end. Having played with both musicians, I know that they are amazing musicians.

My group-mates this week were one of the best I’ve played with and I really enjoyed playing with them. We had a lot of fun this week and worked very hard to make our piece sound great at the concert today. I want to thank my group-mates and our fabulous coach for giving me a fun time this week at the Chamber Music Institute Camp (:

Week 2, Day 7 (Post by Fabian)

Hello everyone, and good bye.

It's been a pretty good week. Lot's of interesting stuff, and overall, a fairly good two weeks of music. So anyway, here's how today went down.

I got to the Palace Theater a little early, with my red shirt and black pants. I met some of my other quartet members, and honestly, I thought we looked really awesome, with out red, black, and white themed dress.

We went upstairs to get tuned by the director, and we WERE supposed to go next for sound check (as the place is a little weird sound-wise), but we ended up going a lot later. When we DID go, the piece sounded okay, but it could have been a little better. Of course, we went in cold so....yeah.

Going back downstairs, we practiced our piece with our coach for one last time, who gave us good advice (WWBD), and was just an overall awesome coach. We then proceeded to freak out constantly, and sweat (or at least I did. My hands get sweaty, and it's REALLY annoying).

We got up, and tuned for a little until....intermission. It was a really weird concert, as they changed the order of the groups, and we got confused. Oh well. We ended up being after another group after the intermission.

ANYWAY, so we got up, and played. I felt like an Epic Fail, but apparently we did okay. The 1st cellist did awesome, and so did the 1st violinist, and the 2nd violinist. BUT, especially awesome was the violist. He just owned everyone in the music, enough to make it legendary. :)

After, we went to reception, where, as always, I eat my dinner for the day (teehee). I said my thanks and goodbyes, and left the Palace Theater.

I hope everyone had a good time, and hope they come back again, or at least find a chance for us all to play together again. Thanks!

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