Thursday, March 30, 2006


The Masterworks Chorale, under the direction of Dr. Megill, is performing (among other things) Stephen Paulus's Visions From Hildegard, Part III in our spring concert. I am an intern for the group, meaning I show up and sing, and run sectionals when necessary. Since Paulus was in New York for the week, and he and Dr. Megill are friendly, he came to our rehearsal today to talk about the piece and work with us. It was quite an excellent experience. We sang through each movement, and then he would talk about what he thought were important musical points, what he had been thinking about when composing it, and his feelings about the text. He also fielded many general questions about his life as a composer. He was very down-to-earth and somewhat self-effacing. It was great to see him warm up over the course of the rehearsal and feel more and more comfortable talking about himself. He presented his work and his life as a composer in a very simple, accessible, and charming way. He also talked about the spirituality of the work (the text is all by Hildegard von Bingen) in a manner that made it feel very accessible and personal to me - he was very careful to be inclusive, and I came away from the discussion feeling more personal ownership of the piece. All in all, it was a great rehearsal, and a great experience.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Post-Concert Post, WC tour

It will probably come as no surprise that I passed my concert. Although it was a rocky road getting there, I was happy with the result. I programmed some fairly challenging music, and we all performed it very well. However, my primary feeling about the whole matter is relief that it's over!

The other major event that passed since my last post was the Westminster Choir's tour to England. This was not a particularly happy event. I did appreciate the chance to get to know the choir better, and feel that the group is a remarkably positive, energetic, and generally nice group of people. However, there were problems with the schedule, which was far too busy, and left us all exhausted and unable to fully appreciate the experience. There were also problems with the leadership. Due to these factors, our musical performance was not nearly what it could have and should have been.

This whole event brings up a very pertinent question about blogging, which is how to address negative issues. Obviously, saying bad things about people, especially personal acquaintances, can lead to problems. I know that certain of my readers who care about me get very concerned when I say anything that might offend someone. However, I also don't want to present a picture of my life, and especially my musical experiences, that is utterly skewed towards sunshine and roses. Sometimes things may be really, really hard. In the musical world, especially, I have already come into contact with a profound amount of drama and unprofessional behavior, and I'm young yet! I don't think it's to my benefit or anyone else's if I pretend those problems don't exist - I want this blog to tackle a wide variety of issues, and sometimes that will mean the problems I encounter. Another aspect of this question is that I feel society in general views musical careers through an extremely romanticized lens. Conductors, especially, are often viewed as a breed apart. One of the purposes of this blog is to chronicle the passage of one conductor in a realistic and down-to-earth manner.

Wil Wheaton (formerly Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation, now a writer, actor, poker-player, and well-known blogger) addresses this question in his book Just a Geek. He chronicles the history of his blog (which is now hugely popular) and explains that in the beginning, he used it as a front, only saying positive things, and pretending things were going smoothly when they weren't. It was when he started honestly confessing that things weren't going well for him, and writing deeply about the issues that he was facing (at that time, as a struggling actor) that his blog really took root, and his readership expanded.

Obviously, being honest with the struggles one may be facing is quite different from publishing negative remarks about people, or being insulting. Every blog must find its own point of balance about such matters. I try not to write anything in an entry that I would not say to anyone who might possibly read this blog (and to me, that means anyone alive on the planet.) Sometimes, no doubt, I will cross the line. Feel free to weigh in - what do you think about being honest with negative experiences when blogging?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Concert post, #4

I am happy to report that I passed my jury today!

In the middle of the last week of rehearsals, the conducting faculty drop by to make sure that your chorus will be able to sing your music in concert. It is understood that you have a little rehearsal time left, but you have to get through all the pieces. With only a few mishaps, we were able to do this. I am enormously relieved.

However, these last few days are going to be a huge amount of work. If you wish to see the final product, my graduate conducting recital is on March 4 at 7 pm in Bristol Chapel on Westminster Choir Campus. Hope to see you there!