Here is a link to the soundcloud recording of “La Ruta Puuc”, a series of 5 short movements written over several years by Bern Herbosheimer. Bern was very enamored by the culture, landscape, and rich history of the Yucatán Peninsula. La Ruta Puuc is an official name given to a 41 km network of secondary roads through Yucatán state, along which one can tour Mexico’s Mayan Puuc cultural heritage.
I had the absolute pleasure of premiering these movements, one for each summer at Midsummer Music Retreat in Walla Walla WA, from 2009-2015. Bern passed away on January 13th, 2016. This performance was done as part of a tribute concert from January 13th, 2017, the one year anniversary of Bern’s passing. The chamber concert was organized by Bern’s husband Aidar, and was very well received.
Bern, and his amazing music, is sorely missed.
The movements of “La Ruta Puuc” are as follows:
1) La Gruta De Loltun
2) Tlachtli: A Game of Ball
3) La Cantilena de X’tabai
5) Canción de Cuna de los Zopilotes
The performers in this recording are Christina Siemens (piano), Kevin Morton (clarinet), and Thane Lewis (Viola)
The recording was engineered by Christopher Wilson.
I have been doing a lot of thinking lately, most likely from the latest audition experience with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra clarinet section, about musicians. When I say musicians, I am talking about those who have devoted a large amount of time and money into the art of making music, usually over many years. Being a musician means you practice to get better. Being a musician means you enjoy participating in the music making process, which includes passing on what you have learned to others. Being a musician means you bring something unique to the musical table.
I have come to realize over the years that I am a very competent clarinetist. I have also learned, after several auditions, that I can’t expect my playing to be equal to or better than the clarinetists that do nothing else in there life but make music. I have a full time corporate job, I teach privately two days a week, and I workout to stay physically active at least 4 times per week. That doesn’t leave enough time to practice hours upon hours each day. That does leave enough time, if I am diligent, to maintain a playing level that I feel can still exhibit my own strengths. I am finally getting comfortable with the fact that even though I might not be a “top tier” clarinetist, playing with the top orchestras in the world, I still have a lot of musical ability to share with others. My phrasing, my tone, my approach to teaching musical concepts, are all things I can bring to the musical table for others to enjoy. Maybe if I had taken a different path I would be solely making music in my life. Maybe I would be playing with the San Francisco Symphony. Maybe I would be in the 1-3% of the clarinetists in a national audition that move from the first round to the second. But would I be happier?
The point here is that as musicians we tend to be critical, to scrutinize every detail, especially of our own playing. The audition process can make you feel like you have failed if you don’t advance, like you have nothing to offer. The truth is that everyone who devotes their efforts to becoming a better musician every day has something to bring to the musical table. The key to being a happy musician is to key into what makes your playing truly yours and bring that forward in every performance. Be the best you possibly can be in each moment and let go of everything else.
What do you bring to the table?
Northwest Sinfonietta Performs “Soundscapes”
Come join the Northwest Sinfonietta February 14-16 in a stunning program of works that will inspire breathtaking images and take you away from the stress of everyday life.
Check out the program details here:
Soundscapes Concert Details!
With works like Beethoven’s sixth symphony and Vaughan Williams’ Lark Ascending, this is sure to be a beautiful concert!
Support your local Northwest treasure, the Northwest Sinfonietta!
Well, the audition day has come and gone. I did not advance passed the preliminary stage of the auditions. I know that I am not alone, but the process is still difficult. I prepared well, I practiced in an organized fashion, I tried to go into the auditions with an open mind.
The end result is a simple, hard truth. When you take an audition with a major orchestra, on a national scale such as this was, you simply MUST play perfectly. Orchestras can now focus on those that are able to play without error, those that are unaffected by nerves, the elite. I did not play without error, although I felt I played some of the excerpts quite well. That is not enough.
So life goes on. I learned how an audition of this magnitude is organized. I know better what to expect next time (if there is one). My ego is a bit bruised, but I still feel I have something to offer musically. I will continue to play to the best of my ability, and won’t turn down the opportunity of another audition if it should arise.
It is now the week of the Seattle Symphony audition. This will be the most important, and most life changing, audition I have ever taken. Win or lose, the process by which I have readied myself for this undertaking has already made me a better musician. The practicing has been going well, and I feel that I will be peaking on many of the excerpts at the right time.
The goal, now more than ever, is to enjoy the process, get out of my head, and play like I know I can. The audition committee won’t know who I am, and they want to hear beautiful music. They want to hear someone who exudes confidence, passion, and joy. No one in any audience, captive or otherwise, wants anyone to fail. I will do my best to think of the committee as a paying audience, one that already enjoys my playing, and has come back for more.
The countdown continues…
Audition like you already have the job…
Last night I had a mock audition with some of my music friends to help me prepare for the upcoming symphony audition. What a revelation! I would highly recommend holding a mock audition with as many listeners as possible, and as many distractions as possible, to test your readiness for the real thing. The mock audition was in a community center, in a very large room, with bright lighting, no screen, people staring at me, and in an uncomfortable, noisy chair. I did not warm up very much, and felt quite nervous. These are all good things for a mock audition. The idea is to create a situation in which you must adapt or die. OK, perhaps I wouldn’t have died, but I had to deal with situations outside the norm, and yet manage to play well anyway.
Results? I learned a ton about myself, my playing, and about my excellent friends. The job I am auditioning for is a principal clarinet chair of a major orchestra. I learned last night that I sometimes don’t play like I am worthy of that position. If I expect to advance from the preliminary audition I have to actually play like I already own that seat. Every gesture needs to be worthy of a principal clarinetist. Every note must have meaning and direction. From the very first notes of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto, I must command the listener to pay attention. If I bring the soft pianos up to a “concert hall” level, and also bring the forte up as well, the contrast will still be there, but the sound will carry to the back of the hall. I must stick to the music, yet have the attitude that I believe every note I am playing. I can’t convince myself in an audition setting…I should already KNOW I am more than capable.
Many of the excerpts went very well, and some did not. I now have two weeks to concentrate on focusing efforts on consistency, potency, and belief. I am humble and encouraged. I am also thankful for honest, talented friends who shared their suggestions with sensitivity and brutal honesty at the same time.
and the work continues…
As I edge closer and closer to the audition date I am discovering a multitude of information about myself. I am discovering that the only person that ever held me back was myself. I am discovering that my limitations are set within my own mind, not by others. I am discovering that the audition committee is not who I need to win over to my side. Rather, it is I who must become a believer in myself.
The excerpts are just notes on a page. Making something worthy of listening to is beyond what is on the page. Getting to the point of actually making music out of those notes comes from spending many hours on the basics; fingerings, dynamics, effective repetition, appropriate tempi, etc. Once the basics are solid it takes a great amount of faith in yourself to take the music elsewhere, to interpret the music based on your own musicality, rather than from memories of what you were told to do in your lessons. Does what is traditionally done make sense musically? Is what you’re playing moving you in some way emotionally? Are you believing what you are playing?
It has taken 44 years of living for me to get to this point of musical awakening. I do have something special, something unique to offer. The goal is to be able to convey this thought in a stressful audition setting, to let go of the opinions of others and hold on to my own self worth. I know now that if I become a believer in myself I automatically encourage others to do the same.
Audition Preparation. What does that mean exactly? You sent in your resume, you have the list of the required repertoire, you have the audition date. Now what?
I am certainly not an expert in taking auditions, but I have taken enough of them to know how I personally react in high pressure situations. This knowledge helps me prepare the audition repertoire in the most efficient and thorough way possible, which will send me into the audition with a sense of confidence. The more confident you feel in your preparation the better the outcome. Auditions mirror so many different situations in life. Be as ready as you can, practice diligently, instill confidence in yourself ahead of time. However, when the day of the audition comes around, be open to the unexpected; let go of everything you don’t have control over (which is almost everything once you are at the hall waiting your turn).
I have separated the audition repertoire into two different categories: known and unknown. The pieces/excerpts that I know very well I am setting aside until about two weeks before the audition. Those can wait. Those that I am unfamiliar with, or are just extremely difficult, like Daphnis and Chloe, I am working on daily at a reasonably slow tempo. My goal is to build confidence every single time I practice. Never practice mistakes! If I make a mistake I slow it down and build from there. I have more than two months, so I feel I have enough time to be diligent, careful, and accurate.
More to come on this…
Audition Date: 11/14/13
There are moments in one’s life when things that have been only distant thoughts become reality, when dreams become possible. I am just a humble clarinetist, but I have been working towards becoming something more. The Seattle Symphony is now accepting resumes for highly qualified applicants for the principal clarinet auditions, which are to take place at the end of October. I am putting myself in the “highly qualified” category, as I emailed my resume in yesterday. I have never been so excited to prepare for anything in my life. I have already started to try to approach the Mozart concerto and standard excerpts with a new approach, something worthy of a discerning ear. I will continue to update the site as I have new revelations along the way.
The audition is what we all dread: a moment of reckoning, endless hours of repetitive practice funnelled down into a micro-second. But the audition is also what we most need to help us become a musician who inspires others to be more than they accept of themselves. I hope that no matter what the outcome of the audition is I will be more than I was before the process began, yet even closer to nailing down the elusive qualities that make the clarinet sound so intriguing.
So it begins!
Here’s another piece I participated in at MMR in 2012. Ritmo Jondo, by Carlos Surinach, is a piece for clarinet, trumpet, two percussionists, and hand clappers. It was a lot of fun, although I really could have used a couple more rehearsals…the music is very challenging!
12 Ritmo Jondo