Chinese Proverb

"Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I'll understand." - Chinese Proverb.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Week 1 - Day 6 (Friday 8/2): Goodbyes & Concert

Lot's of changes going on in my cello world, with the major one being that Clayton is moving to Omaha, Nebraska! So for all you lucky cellists living in Omaha, that's where he will be headed.

Ugh! I've never been "attached" to a teacher before, and honestly, I didn't think I was that attached to Clayton, but apparently I am! I thought it was kind of strange to have such a strong emotional response, so I thought I would apply the 5 Steps of Loss to my situation. ;)

1) Denial & Isolation 
2) Anger
3) Bargaining
4) Depression 
5) Acceptance

Obviously people experience the stages in different orders and some stages concurrently.
So recently, I've been trying to avoid thinking about cello lessons and him in general, and have been using a lot of avoidance - I'm really good at that! ...hmmm... probably not a good thing...

If I were to apply the different stages, I'm experiencing one and two the strongest, because right now I just don't want to deal with it (even though I have to look for another Music Director to replace him for our group ASAP) and one of my reoccurring thoughts seem to be, "you SUCK for leaving Clayton!" Okay, so I guess I am a bit "angry." Lol! :)

I'm also pretty bummed that he's leaving (4 - Depression) and have thought about Skype lessons or something (3 - Bargaining). However, I came to the conclusion that I shouldn't prolong the inevitable; that is, I won't be able to take regular lesson with him any more. ...nooooooo!!!  Apparently, I'm going through a lot of stages at the same time.

Most people remember their teachers from grade school, (which I do: Mrs. Cox - 1st grade, Mrs. MacClendon - 2nd, Mrs. Webber - 3rd, Mr. Torkelson - 4th, and Ms. Dement - 5th grade) because they have such a profound influence in our development as human beings.

However, I think with the pursuit of personal learning of this nature; that is, making music and learning to play the cello, we must be affected on a much deeper level. As adults we are making the conscious decision of leaving ourselves vulnerable to making mistakes while simultaneously learning to create and share something that is beautiful, enjoyable and fulfilling! So perhaps my emotional response isn't that uncommon?

All I know is that I'm really going to miss Clayton.  ...argh... you SUCK Clayton... He has just been such a wonderful influence in my life and I don't think I could have found a kinder, more talented human being! ...why did you have to win the audition?? ..grrr... 

Anyway, I wanted to take a moment to tell all you cello teachers out there that read my blog: Thank you for making our lives beautiful, know that you are leaving a legacy behind, and that you are making a MUCH bigger impact than you think!

...ugh... I don't want to think about that/him anymore so... back to CelloSpeak... *double sigh*


There was definitely excitement in the air as everyone was doing some last minute practicing. For myself, I was trying NOT to get too excited and was trying to take it as easy as possible to save up my energy for the concert by trying to pretend that it was just like any other day.

I made sure that I at least got more food in me to keep my energy reserves up for the concert and made sure I ate a banana, which I learned about doing during last summer's camp. I don't know if it's a placebo affect, but for me, I think it helps. Although... even if it is a placebo affect, than so be it, as long as it has a positive affect! :)

For those who are unaware of the "Banana trick" before a performance, bananas can provide some benefits when eaten before a performance because:

1) It contains potassium
According to studies, eating a large banana boosts potassium intake by 10% of our daily intake. Since potassium plays a role in muscle functions, deficiencies in potassium can lead to cramping and discomfort. More importantly, since I'm a HUGE sweat-er when I get nervous, it will help replenish my potassium levels since our bodies lose potassium through sweat or prolonged physical activity. I think our final rehearsal and final concert definitely falls into the "prolonged physical activity" category!

2) It contains manganese
Studies show a large banana provides about 21% of the daily recommended intake for women and 17% of the recommended intake for men. Manganese plays a key role in our metabolism by helping our bodies access energy from the foods in our diet, so it basically supports our performance by helping our body get the most from our meals.

3) It contains carbohydrates 
A large banana can provide 31 grams of carbohydrates, and since our body uses carbohydrates as fuel, it's a good idea to have carbohydrate stores to increase endurance for a performance.

Honestly, I also think it depends on whether I think it will work, my state of mind and obviously my body chemistry. And yes, state of mind, because if I'm completely frantic or in a panic mode, eating a banana isn't going to help!
Anyway, this time, I decided to start eating a banana earlier so it had time to digest. Although in retrospect, it would probably have been a good idea to eat a banana each day for breakfast? I'm going to have to try that next year. Good thing I'm not allergic to bananas or dislike them. :)

Technique & Group Ensemble
Unfortunately, I don't remember specifically what we did during these classes, but I think it was going over some trouble spots in the small ensemble pieces.

Large Cello Choir
Our conductor asked if someone in our section could move up and fill the second seat next to the first cello since everyone was avoiding the seat and sitting towards the back. Since I'm a big ol' chicken, I decided to sit farther back. Luckily, Rob volunteered and he sat up front. I decided at that point, if Rob could do it, I should at least try sitting up front for ONE rehearsal next year!

Large cello choir rehearsal.
Photo Credit: Time Points Photography

I have to admit that I really enjoyed playing in the middle, I could see the first cello for bowing cues and I could hear people from behind and in front, so I knew if I was playing a wrong note. Sitting in the back, I couldn't hear myself (sound seems to disappear back there) and couldn't see bowing cues. The less confident cellists sat in the back so I couldn't necessary go off of their cues either. And good luck to the people sitting behind me because I definitely wasn't bowing correctly some of the time! Oops!

During rehearsal, they handed out two new pieces of music, which was sight-readable for me. I thought it was a great idea that they didn't send it out with the rest of the music because the number of music we received in the mail would have been overwhelming. Although I kind of felt bad for those who don't do so well sight-reading.

We ran through all of the songs and this rehearsal went really well for me!

I wasn't very hungry but I made sure too eat more than normal since we burn more energy during performances. I also shared the trick of eating a banana before a performance with my table, although during that time I didn't remember specifically why it was a good idea to eat a banana, only that it worked for me! Luckily, someone else knew of the trick and could explain that it contained potassium, manganese and carbohydrates. I'm fairly certain once I post this entry that I'm going to forget the reasons why eating a banana is good for performances. I have terrible memory! Lol!

I discovered that the cellist I was borrowing the cello from (I had two cellos I was using!) was leaving camp early and had to take the cello with her. I'm going to call it the "Rose" cello since the owner of the cello named it and I can't remember the entire name, only that it had Rose in it. Anyway, I absolutely LOVED playing on  that cello! It had the sound I was looking for and I swear I couldn't play a wrong note on it!

It was also a Montagnana cello, which I had mentioned in previous posts that I wanted a cello in that pattern (or Gofriller pattern) because I love how deep those patterns tend to sound, but I always felt those patterns were too big for me. However, this cello did NOT feel like it was too big and I even liked it better than the Jan Szlachtowski cello which was much more expensive because I tend to like darker sounding cellos. And it was SO easy to play!!! I was seriously considering buying the cello too. Anyway, I was kind of bummed that I couldn't play on the cello during the concert so after lunch I hurried to my room to practice scales so I could get used to the finger spacing on the other cello since I had primarily been practicing on the Rose cello.

Private Lesson
I was surprised to discover that I had one more lesson left with LB because I had assumed we didn't have lessons on the concert day, so I wasn't prepared to go over any material with LB. Although in general, I felt ill-prepared for our lessons because I didn't bring a lot of music. Next year, I'll bring more music to work on.

We discussed the Rose cello a bit since LB was also considering buying a cello at camp. LB recommended that I bring it to the luthier to do a free assessment and also mentioned that it fit well with my body too! I really loved the sound of that cello and how well it played.

We continued with our vibrato lesson, and focused on 4th position vibrato because it felt more different vibrating in 4th than 1st position so I felt certain I was doing something wrong.

Next year she recommended that I sign up for the next level (Elementary, not Beginner level). But I think the level was perfect because it took a few days for me to get over being jet lagged / sinus headache / caffeine withdrawals to start playing like I normally do, and if I was at a higher level, I think I would have felt a bit overwhelmed with the music (especially since this was my first time) and I would not have had time to work on my vibrato. I'm still debating whether or not I should move up a level, although my 2nd week chamber coach had also recommended that I move up a level.

Anyway, I have to credit LB for making vibrato sink in! Without her lessons I think I would still be struggling with my vibrato. I'm still currently working on it, but at least I don't feel like it's out of reach any more.

I've also discovered that learning vibrato has three motions/movements that make it work (for me anyway):
1) the sticky-finger up-and-down motion
2) rotation of the arm motion
3) loose finger joints

I'm still experimenting with this, but I'll go a little bit into more detail on this later. Anyway, without the "rotation" part, I don't think this would have clicked for me! Thank you LB! :)

Final Rehearsal 
I arrived on time, but apparently later than most cellists because everyone was already seated and ready to go! I wanted to sit at the end, instead of the middle of the row, so I people wouldn't have to move, but they ended up expanding the rows and making everyone move down a seat anyway. Oops!
I also wanted to hide in the back where the other cellists I used to play next to in rehearsals happened to be seated, but there wasn't any more room.

Note to self: Arrive early for final rehearsals! 

I discovered that due to the room's different dimensions, people had to sit at different spots from where they were during rehearsals, and in most cases not next to the person they were playing with during rehearsals. This was kind of a shock to me since I relied heavily on cues from the person next to me.

Another note to self: Learn the music better so I don't have to rely so heavily on the person next to me!! 

I played really well again (surprisingly) so I was fairly confident about the concert. The conductor let us out early so the faculty could work on a surprise performance with an opera singer and asked that we leave the cellos in the building. They didn't want us lugging our cellos back and forth, and also wanted us to get some down time! Apparently they had anticipated the fact that we just wanted to continue practicing, which I did!

Final rehearsal.
Photo Credit: Time Points Photography

I ate a large meal and a banana, and went to close my eyes for a bit. I wasn't sure when the faculty would be done, but I timed my alarm so I could dress in concert attire and be their as early as possible!

I arrived early so I could warm up with scales and get tuned. I also wasn't used to the weather so I wanted to get there early so my body could get used to the temperature of the room and get my heart rate down.

Practicing scales before the concert. Thanks DH for the photo!

We were going to start with the small ensembles, which meant that my group was up first, so I setup early and did some scales to get used to the Szlachtowski cello which was bigger than the Rose cello. The audience drifted in and I could feel myself getting antsy and stiffening up, so I tried to pretend that it was "time for a nap" to settle down a bit. 

I had been focusing and practicing the small ensemble music for most of the week, so I was comfortable enough that I was able to look up and watch the conductor for cues and also send my awareness out to listen to other members of the ensemble. Overall, I was happy with my performance. :)

Beginner Small Ensemble.
Photo Credit: Time Points Photography

After we finished we took our cello, bow and music and walked down the side aisle as the next group came up the center aisle to setup and perform. After the other groups performed we all headed back onstage to perform the large ensemble pieces. 

This is the part where I performed terribly and was the WORSE performance that I've ever had... ever
I don't know what happened, but I got lost in all of the pieces, and during the last two pieces I completely lost my place and couldn't find my way back in the music. I ended up air bowing and vibrating open strings during the last two songs! Seriously, no exaggeration! Completely air-bowed... :(

Even though I did terribly I still enjoyed performing and had some great learning experiences.  
One of my fears is getting lost and not being able to find my place again, and now that's happened to me (twice during this concert!) I don't feel like I have to worry about that any more because it's not that bad - kind of embarrassing, but not too bad! Although I wish someone recorded that concert because I want to see how noticeable it was! Lol! :) 

Anyway, once I got lost, I started to panic and tried to recognize where everyone was playing, but couldn't find my way back, but once I settled into air bowing, I had the chance to discreetly look around. I was surprised to discover there were a few cellists who were smiling and enjoying the concert!
I even made some eye contact with a few of them. I'm unsure if they knew I was lost or not, but they smiled back and we shared some "moments"! Lol! :)

I even had the chance to see 3rd section do the "troll playing" which I found absolutely HILARIOUS!! Okay, so there was only one person who did it (DS), everyone else was staring too intently at their music sheet, but his expression and playing was priceless!! If I wasn't too busy pretending to be playing, I would have busted out laughing, but I'm fairly certain I had a big ol' goofy smile when I saw DS play that section. 

Obviously, I need to take my eyes off the music more because there seems to be a bunch of stuff that happens during the concert that I've missed because I'm staring at my music! 

Anyway, after some reflection, I think I know why I totally blanked out during the large ensemble performance. First, I hadn't practiced the music that well since I was focusing primarily on the Small Ensemble music and secondly, I was over confident that I would do well. I had some really great rehearsals and wasn't having any issues playing the music so I let my guard down! With the Small Ensemble music I had practiced it consistently and yet didn't have very good rehearsals so I was alert and counting like crazy. 

It seems to me that every time I've had good rehearsals, I've had bad performances and vice verse. I think it really boils down to over-confidence. When I have a bad rehearsal, during the performance I'm actively trying to avoid mistakes and am alert and focused, especially when I know problem areas are coming up. But when I have good rehearsals, my mind kind of goes on auto-pilot because I know I've played it well before. ...hhhmmm... I wonder how I can have good rehearsals and good performances? 

Everyone! Large ensemble group.
Photo Credit: Time Points Photography

After concert:
They had some great snacks for us for our post-concert celebration, and of course they had bottles of wine, and even two types of Sangrias! Yum!! 

We all sat outside on the patio during this hot humid night and spoke to one another about our experiences at camp, and how wonderful we thought the camp was. I was able to speak with a lot of campers that I hadn't met before, including DH who had commented, "I think you're the youngest camper here, did you just get out of high school?" I immediately thought, "Do I really look that young? YEESSS!!!"

DH you're awesome - you totally made my day... few months even!! :)

Anyway, I had some really great conversations with campers and didn't want to leave the party so soon, but I HATE saying goodbyes (there's that avoidance thing again!), so I snuck out as I excused myself to pretend to get a refill of wine.

I like to remember moments as they are (and at a high point), which I think sometimes gets spoiled by saying goodbyes. Anyway, I thought that moment captured the mood, camaraderie and newly formed friendships perfectly: everyone relaxing and having a good time, smiling and laughing beneath a clear night sky, while recounting their most memorable experiences during camp.


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