Posts Tagged ‘Michael Hovnanian’


Sunday, September 25th, 2016

For what seems like a year, but is really only about 10 months, CBE has done next to nothing: no rehearsals, no performances, no get-togethers. And even before that, there was little activity that I could brag about. I had a line on a precious few performance opportunities, but life being what it has been, I wasn’t able to execute and bring them to life.

I wanted CBE to be a performing group, not a rehearsing one. And while Doug, Michael, John and I did spend a lot of time to our benefit ‘just rehearsing’ back in earlier days, it became clear that they also wanted to perform more than we did–more than I organized and led towards. So the lack of regular performances probably led to the mostly-disbanding of that lineup.

But one of my other (admittedly undeclared) goals was to play with others who were my equal or better, and in doing so, learn from and be inspired by them. So, to that end, I’m going to take CBE in the direction of being a regular ‘workshop’ for the time being.

Those of you who went to music school will recognize the concept of studio class: all the students of one teacher (or several teachers of the same instrument) gather regularly to play for each other, demonstrate and learn technique and repertoire and work on chamber works together. For the immediate future, Chicago Bass Ensemble Workshops will have two areas of focus: individual development and repertoire exploration. The former will be about learning from each other and improving skills. The latter will be about playing chamber music for basses and soliciting compositions or composition sketches (works-in-progress, ideas) from composers writing for the bass.

I’m glad that I’ve finally announced this idea–it’s been much too long that I’ve let this idea foment in my mind without taking action.

If you’re a bassist, especially one living in the Chicago area, please get in touch with me to be invited to participate. (This will be open to all.)

And if you’re a composer or someone interested in trying out musical ideas with a group of basses, please get in touch. I welcome the opportunity to try out your ideas and give you feedback.

And everyone, I welcome your comments here or via the contact form on the website.

Audition Daily Blog 09

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

23 November 2015

A day of very little practicing. An ordinary Monday, true, but for attending MusicNow tonight. That meant that practicing was limited to a few minutes (I think three excerpts, it was a long time ago) in the morning before work, and once through each excerpt tonight, starting at about 9:30 pm.

That late start time meant working with a heavy mute on the entire time, and even with the mute, playing very quietly. There’s a family to be not-kept-up-late after all.

So not the best practice conditions. And I have learned from experience that I tend to take intonation very casually when playing really quietly like I was tonight. So it’s possible that I did myself more harm than good. Or maybe not. It is heartening that I could more or less play each excerpt without doing a dry run first. If I really thought I was doing myself harm, I guess I wouldn’t have done it.

But there’s no control group here, so we will never know with absolute surety.

About that third finger. Some years ago, after doing a week-long course with Dr. Mark Morton, I started using my third finger in place of the fourth finger from about the position of first finger on d on the G string and up. I do think that there are some advantages in terms of hand position. But I have never been diligent about making sure my intonation was up to snuff while doing that. Michael Hovnanian has called me on that a number of times. But this time I’m heeding his advice and I’m going back to a more Simandl-like use of the fourth finger. Habits die hard, but I think my intonation is better for it. When I’m paid to play, I’ll tackle the third finger again.

Time’s up! Off to bed … not that I’m going to get 10 hours, but better 8 than 7.

Audition Daily Blog 01

Sunday, November 15th, 2015


My audition date for the Lyric Opera orchestra is coming up in 14 days. I’m going to share some thoughts – five minutes at a time. I have a lot of practicing to do, so five minutes a day is all I want to spare. Background: the upcoming audition is for a regular spot in the orchestra of the Lyric Opera of Chicago. It’s one of the best opera organizations in the world, and it would be a plum of a gig for any musician. I have only a few days left to prepare.

So each of those next days, I’m going to use this blog platform to share some of what I’m putting myself through. Today is two installments: this five minutes of context, and five minutes of “what I’m feeling today.” That will be my rule: five minutes. Minimal editing. Off it goes into the aether.

(I’ve got almost two minutes left…) I’d love to get this gig, but I’m realistic: after I absolutely wiped out in last weekend’s substitute list audition for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, I will be relieved to just get past the required solo piece in the Lyric audition. But wow, winning this spot … I could actually play music for a living. I long for such a life.

That’s my first five minutes for today. Back to practicing, with another five minutes blogging to follow below.

2015 November 15

Okay, it’s the end of the day (8:30 pm). I didn’t keep track of how many hours I spent today, but it really was the better part of the day. I believe that I played nearly every one of the 23 excerpts twice today. And when I say “played” I actually mean played, worked on and played again. Really, it feels like a good day of work.

I had a coaching a few weeks ago with Michael Hovnanian, and he said something to the effect of “don’t waste your time panicking now, there will be plenty of time for that right before you go on stage for your audition.” I LOVE that idea, and today is a day when it’s comfortable to feel that. I did get some stuff DONE today. It’s not always that way.

(I’m about halfway through my 5 minutes.)

Today I did manage to start something that I should have been doing all along: keeping track of my ‘current best’ tempo for each of the excerpts. Tracking that will allow me to be more deliberate about my preparation. Should’ve been doing it all along. And from now, also something I should have been doing all along, always a metronome as I go through excerpts. As you might expect where there are tricky passages, inconsistent tempo is troubling me throughout.

I thought that I would be writing something more philosophical right now, but I guess I’m on enough of a practice high that I just feel good. So that’s my five minute blog for tonight.