Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Last night, I was scrolling through my iTunes library, trying to put together a new playlist to listen to.  I've got a lot of different kinds of crap in my library.  I've got CDs that I bought when I was a kid, ones that I bought/downloaded as an adult, ones that I know by heart, and ones that I took off of other people's computers but never listened to.  I've got a bunch of albums where I just wanted one song, but I burned the entire CD anyway and still haven't listened to it.  I've got Broadway show albums (the only one I have from a show I haven't seen in its entirety is Avenue Q, but I've seen most of it).  I've got singles, I've got random video game music, and I have classical music.  Of the classical, I've got flute stuff and orchestra stuff, things I've played and things I haven't.

Among the classical things I've played are a slew of MYWE (Massachusetts Youth Wind Ensemble--acronym pronounced "MY-wee") albums.  Most of the ones from my later years in MYWE are CDs provided to us by our conductor/assistant conductor of the pieces that we were playing that semester.  I still don't understand how I used to get by without hearing a recording of the selections; it's a fantastic way to get the tempos right and to pick out the melodies and other interesting lines.  Otherwise, you just get used to hearing and thinking about just your own part.  Hearing the entire piece, played by professionals (sometimes semi-professionals, but always superb) means that you're going to play the entire piece of music, as part of the group.  You won't just be your one self playing your one part.

Other ensemble musicians can back me up (I hope).  Playing in an ensemble that really clicks is an incredible experience, where you really feel like you're a part of this group consciousness.  It's when you feel like an individual, when you feel separate, that you're fucking up.

Anyway, that's not what I wanted to post about, or not really specifically.  People who know me well, especially people I've known since middle school, understand how important MYWE still is to me, five years later.  I auditioned back when I was twelve without knowing exactly what I was auditioning for.  I also was terrified when I first started going to rehearsals that if I didn't know my part perfectly, I would be kicked out (looking back, I understand now that no one who was mediocre enough to be kicked out was ever really accepted in the first place, as far as I can tell).  But what I do know is that for the next six years, I improved as a musician.  I improved much more than I would have if I had just done school band.  And while there's nothing wrong with school band, and while our school bands were always excellent ones, an ensemble made up of some of the most talented middle/high schoolers in Massachusetts is going to be more advanced.  And so I was pushed to be a better musician, far more than I would have been pushed in school band.

The friends I made in MYWE, although I don't see or talk to many of them anymore, were some of the most interesting, kind, fun people I've met and gotten to know.  My first serious boyfriend was a member of MYWE.  I went to Italy with the group and had a blast.  I always enjoyed myself.  I never really felt annoyed that MYWE meant that I was busy Friday nights.

So, last night, as I scrolled through my library, I found a song from one of the MYWE CDs.  While the CDs from my last few years are ones that we were given to listen to (and therefore are professional sounding, in tune, played correctly, etc.), the early CDs are the actual recordings of our concerts in Jordan Hall in Boston (MYWE is run through the prep school at the New England Conservatory).  And the song I was looking at was from my first year (I can't remember if it was the first or second semester).  It was Frank Ticheli's version of Shenandoah, which is played in a lot of middle school and high school bands.  It's not too difficult, but it's very lyrical and beautiful.  Ticheli writes very engaging fun music, even when it's something like this piece.

I remember playing Shenandoah because somehow, I ended up on the flute solo.  There were six of us that year (four 1sts, two 2nds--yes, we were accidentally top heavy, with two 1sts also playing picc), but we all got along pretty well and shared solos.  At that point in my career, I was still pretty insecure, especially in MYWE (remember, I thought I could get kicked out by making the tinest mistake), and so while I negotiated solos more later on, I never would have even TRIED to get a solo at that point.  But while we were playing Shenandoah for the first time, for some reason we never talked about the solos and for some reason I was the only person who picked up their flute when the solo came along during the playthrough.  We never discussed it (we also never discussed the flute trio, I don't think, or maybe we did.  But it's a round and easily evenly split, so that wasy easy and fun).

It was my first solo in MYWE, as far as I recall.  I DO remember being extremely nervous to the point of shaking when it was done.  Of course, I still get shakey after solos.  Go figure.

So I listened to Shenandoah last night.  It was out of tune all over the place, the brass players were constantly having problems getting their notes to sound from the beginning of their entrances, and there was one hilarious point (that I also remember at the time) where none of the flutes was confident about an entrance in a high register (so we all come in tentatively and late--awesome!).  But there was my solo, shared with the oboe and one of the trumpets, I think.  It was out of tune, although I blame the oboe, like I always do (What?  Do you know how much trouble I had in GBYSO my first year during the Suk?  DO YOU?  When a flute and oboe are playing together in a duet, and the flute is in tune with the orchestra while the oboe isn't, the flute sounds out of tune.  If the flute tries to play in tune with the oboe, the flute sounds out of tune again.  I say fuck it, and blame the oboe).  And then came the flute trio, which was actually very nice.

And somehow, I ended up crying for some reason listening to this very flawed performance.  I don't really know why.  Maybe it's because of what MYWE meant to me.  Maybe it's because the piece is lyrical and Ticheli's a very good composer.  Maybe it's because it was my first MYWE-solo.  Maybe it's because I cry at everything.  I don't know.

So, the entire point of this post was, "I cried last night listening to a recording from a wind ensemble concert when I was thirteen."  It took me a while to get there.

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