Thursday, July 19, 2018

Jury Duty- Making Heads or Tails of Your Jury Sheets

Ahhh summer break....

   I'm enjoying another summer at Interlochen Arts Camp and while preparing my summer practice schedule went back to review my jury sheets from earlier this month. I'm trying to identify areas of need and the jury sheets provide some insight into areas of development for me.
   My jury day was......interesting. I had recently been diagnosed with severe obstructive sleep apnea (which was of no surprise to me or anyone who knew me) and the second sleep study, the one to determine which level of CPAP device I needed to correct the apnea, was scheduled to begin about five hours following my jury. I was looking forward to both my jury, for which I felt exceptionally well prepared as well as the sleep study, where I could finally work towards relief from the condition.
  Thirty minutes prior to my jury I was in a practice room warming up when I got a call from the doctor's office. I figured it was to confirm the night's appointment and answer. ' company denied payment on the study. Your out of pocket would be $1200.......'
  This was THIRTY MINUTES before my jury.


 Walk into my jury. Graduate juries are a bit longer than undergrad and as such I'd prepared Lennon's Distances Within Me as well as Boutry's Divertimento. These are stylistically different pieces; with the Lennon being very introspective and often full of angst (as the title would suggest) and the Boutry being much lighter.
  I used to dislike the Lennon. Now, with more life experience, it speaks to me like few other works and has become one of my favorite pieces. The Boutry I enjoy but it's just good music. It isn't cathartic, musically, like the Lennon was to me.

Yeah, so I mentioned the Lennon having a lot of angst? With the news I'd just received it was a bit moreso than normal. I get it. I was upset, I did too much with the bigger dynamics and my sound spread a bit. I WAS UPSET. I WAS FURIOUS...FRUSTRATED....feeling despair.

By the time I got to the Boutry I was a bit better; having worked out some of my frustration during the Lennon. Still, one of the comments I received on a jury sheet floored me.

I expected some of what I got. I could even hear it as it was happening and was too emotional to rein it in. "Sound spreading in higher dynamics. Some intonation issues.' I fully expected that. Then I read one which had me shaking my head in disbelief.

A faculty member had started a new section for the Boutry and began with "Ahhh, this is more YOUR STYLE of a piece'


Yo, dude! I just put my heart and soul and everything I am into the composition you just heard and something based on French cafe jazz from the mid 20th century is more 'my style'? I couldn't help myself and laughed out loud when I read the statement.

Here's the deal, though. That was that professor's OPINION. That's what that professor HEARD.

What's the point of all this?

Well, you should take your jury sheets seriously. There is likely something pedagogical in there which you can use to improve. Moreover, if you're playing a piece and doing things which stylistically are just wrong......and all of the faculty comment in a similar fashion....ok, look at how you played it and work on your style.

Having said that, a comment such as that? That is an opinion. That person may have the title of Doctor of Musical Arts but that doesn't make them necessarily right. That's often when you need to return to your professor (especially as an undergraduate) and ask about the statement.

Moral of the story- Sit down with your professor. Go over the comments- the good, the bad, and the weird. It's one performance...a snapshot of your playing. Don't dwell too long on the good or the bad. Take the useful bits and remember that professors aren't perfect or necessarily right. This isn't a subjective issue. There are a lot of things which in music aren't 'right' or 'wrong'. With juries, worry about the things that are and remember that YOUR voice as a musician is no less valid than someone else's. If you feel very strongly about the way you phrased a line and can defend that eloquently; then do so.

Oh, and I finally got the CPAP. I'm no longer nodding off during class...rehearsals...standing in line....

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