Greetings from the Interlochen Arts Camp!
I've been up here working all summer. When I'm not working I'm usually preparing a senior recital and trying to get literature ready for graduate school auditions. The practice set up at Interlochen Arts Camp is a bit different. There are practice huts instead of rooms and they are basically to keep the musician out of the elements; meaning there is no sound reinforcement and everyone hears everyone. While it can be distracting at times overall I believe it's an awesome thing. When practicing in these huts one hears not only some of the greatest young musicians in the world but awesome college and grad level musicians as well. Remember what I said about having great sounds in your ears? This is what I'm talking about.
THEN...this will occasionally happen.
I was working on the Third movement of the Ingolf Dahl saxophone concerto yesterday. It, along with the Fuzzy Bird Sonata, are going to be the two 'heavy' pieces on my recital. The majority of work I have left to do is getting from the cadenza to the end of the movement up to performance tempo. My plan of action yesterday was just breaking it down into phrase length sections and working each at half tempo multiple times (I believe I have written about this as well). Before I did this, however, I realized it had been a few days since I'd played the rest of the movement so I went back to the beginning of the movement and began to run through it at just below performance tempo to get it back under my fingers. As I was doing this I saw someone walk by with a saxophone case on their back. They proceeded to go into the next cabin and I thought 'Oh cool! I'll hear another saxophone out here!'. I hear the person blow some notes and then go straight into the beginning of the 3rd movement of the Dahl; very loud and much faster than I was playing it. I thought to myself 'Not cool, man.' but proceeded to move to another section and slowly work through it. As soon as I would change sections, this person would too and again, loud and faster than I was playing it. Within a few minutes I didn't even feel like practicing anymore. This person was playing this piece at a tempo far beyond what I was capable of doing. It made me question why I was even bothering. It made me question my recital, whether or not I'd even get into grad school, and in short, everything about my playing. There was nothing pedagogical about what this person was doing. He was simply trying to win a 'biggest, baddest dude on the block' contest. He was marking his territory. He was being a bully.
It worked. I was emotionally messed up for several hours. After a while, though, my emotions turned more to anger. I thought to myself "I have multiple grad school professors who want me to audition and attend their grad schools. I was the concerto competition winner at my school this year. The guy has great fingers but his sound sucked. What a total jerk for him to do that to me!"
I believe one of the big problems we now have in school music is the fact that everything seems to be based on 'who's the best'. Marching competitions, honor bands, everything our young students learn about the rewards of playing is based on trophies and honor band patches on their band jackets. What this often leads to is people who can never seem to get out of this mindset. That, or they are just wannabe bullies. What people like this don't understand is this-
I might be in a position to give this guy a job one day. Do you think this memory won't be etched into my mind? The only three things I know about this guy are that he works at Interlochen during the summer, he's a saxophonist, and he's a jerk who likes to show off. As my major professor says- 'Watch the bridges you burn.'. Well, buddy, you burned one.
As musicians, whether you are a middle school band student or the Concertmaster of the NY Phil, we should all be here to support each other and help each other continue to hone our respective crafts. Besides, we're all just people. Doesn't it just make more sense to be nice to others and not be the guy listed above?
Thanks for reading!