First-year GD Trombone
If you’re anything like me, the idea of traveling home to family over the winter break is both an exciting and terrifying prospect. What begins as a joyful reunion of kin can quickly turn into an interrogation. “What happened to your nice shoes?” “Have you put on weight?” “When are you going to give me some grandchildren?” The possibilities to antagonize are seemingly endless, and the relief only temporary. A safe haven from the stress of familial interaction lies in private practice. Locking ourselves in a room away from external worry is what we musicians do best. Here follows a guide to maximizing your outcomes while home for the holidays. If you follow these simple suggestions, you will definitely come back to NEC a different musician than when you left. Enjoy your breaks and happy not-practicing, everyone!
1. Make sure to leave at least some, if not all, of your important music in your locker at school. A common rookie mistake is to believe that you need to read music to be able to play it. It’s OK, I’ll forgive your trespass. In fact, I’ve never read a sheet of music in my life! 2. Remember that it’s not necessary to bring all musical accessories with you. In line with point one, you don’t need all that extra junk! Broke a string? Replace it with some copper wire from the hardware store! Need some valve oil? Tears of a jilted lover work fine! You don’t need a tuner and metronome to play well. Do you think Ashlee Simpson uses any of those things? Correct– she doesn’t use them, so neither should you. 3. Practice only between the hours of 10pm-10am. All good bohemian artists waited till sundown to let their creative juices flow. Preferably after consuming a few alcoholic beverages, get your kit out in the dead of night and let it rip. Nothing will receive more of a reaction than your bold statement of purpose as an artisté. 4. Abandon scales, etudes, and technical studies. Are pieces made up of scales or easily identifiable motifs transposed through harmonic modulations? If you answered no, then give yourself a gold star! You don’t need to practice all that other stuff when you’re staring the Bach Cello Suite No. 2 down the barrel and nothing’s gonna stop you. Just dive in and play it through many times at breakneck speed without stopping. You’ll have it under your fingers in minutes. 5. For expert level achievement, leave the
instrument in its case for the entire duration of your stay at home. Most people underestimate the power of the mind. Why, once I learned the entire trombone part to Mahler’s 4th Symphony while also finishing a particularly difficult level in Halo 3. Remember, the best practice is the one done in your head. Your muscles will be very happy when you surprise them with Prokofiev’s Chamber Symphony the week after you come back to school. They’ll let you know!
First-year BM Soprano
♫ “When you know the notes to sing, you can sing most anything–” ♫
[music stops, play grinds to a screeching halt]
Brigitta: I thought you just said ONE WORD FOR EVERY NOTE?
Maria: Yes, I did, Brigitta, that’s right.
Brigitta: But when you sing “a-ny-thing,” you are using up threeee notes on ooooone word. I find that confusing.
Maria: Well, sometimes we do that. Hm. Maybe I should have said, “one syllable for every note.” Thank you for clarifying. Any more questions from the peanut gallery?
Kurt: Please explain to me the vocal mechanism by which phonation is produced.
Gretl: What exactly do you mean by “when you KNOW THE NOTES to sing?” Do you mean, when we know the syllables that go with each note? Or when we know the order in which to put the notes so as to form the song in question? Or when we know the pitches of the C major diatonic scale, excluding all other notes from
different keys and tonal systems?
Marta: What does it mean to KNOW something? How can we separate knowledge from our own selves and our own existence? What is truth?
Maria: I’m so glad you asked. I was hoping you wouldn’t notice that I hadn’t explained these things to you, but you’re cleverer than I thought. Let’s abandon this silly song, and let’s try to find all the gaps in the two-minute music theory lesson I’ve just given you. After I’ve answered all your questions, we can really start at the very beginning, go back a few thousand years to Mesopotamia, and look at cuneiform notation…
…The Von Trapp children never sang again.
Fourth-year BM Oboe
December 1st deadlines have passed. Thank God. Why is everyone who’s graduating still stressed out? It’s because we don’t know what we’re doing next year! DUH! Please stop asking us if we are stressed or what our plans are. We will continue to be in “unknown territory” until we find out.
Grad school is the obvious next step for many people here. People have been working their butts off in order to get pre-screening material recorded and applications submitted, while still trying to be a person and a student. Oh yeah, it’s finals season too, right? Some people have even started applying for summer festivals! How many applications do we need to submit!? We haven’t even thought about how stressful February will be with so many auditions. Yikes.
For those who aren’t in this boat yet, please relish in your freedom. The time will come for you to submit 20 million applications and pay 20 million dollars in application fees (why do they make us pay so much?). I’m not trying to scare you. Just be aware and plan ahead.
Here is a suggestion for those of you to whom this does not yet apply: Check the application/recording requirements early on. Start early. Record your tapes when it isn’t 30 degrees outside and when your reeds are actually vibrating and sound half decent. Really, do this. You won’t regret it.
Here is a suggestion for everyone else: Everything will be okay. We tend to think there is a prescribed path one must follow (at least in the classical world) in order to be successful and win a huge orchestra job with the Boston Symphony or something of the sorts. But everyone is going to get there by different means. Who knows what’s going to happen– it’s the future! We can try to control as much of it as we are capable of, but we can’t control it all. Things happen for a reason. Trust in that. Trust that NEC has put you in a position after (insert how many years you’ve been here) to be successful in one way or another. Stop freaking out. Know we are all in the same boat. Take a deep breath. Go buy a holiday latte at Starbucks.
Second-year BM Oboe
It’s that time of year again; Boston’s icy winds threaten to tear off your face every time you set foot outside, Christmas decorations go up all over the city, and the Boston Pops put their noses to the grindstone for a month of holiday pops concerts. It’s a magical time of the year.
But not all was magical last weekend at Symphony Hall, when the slap stick player missed his entrance in Sleigh Ride, ruining the entire performance. In case you haven’t willingly listened to Sleigh Ride since December 2008, the sound of a whip is the biggest solo part in the entire piece. Leroy Anderson writes for the orchestra to drop out for an entire beat, leaving the whip all alone (ba-da dum, bum bum bum bum, bum bum bum BUM…..*CRACK* ba-daah, etc.).
There was a bare, silent gap in the Pops’ performance during which maestro Keith Lockhart gave the percussionist a death-glare, which caused the musician to drop his instrument and miss the second whip crack. The concert inexplicably continued, and the percussionist picked up the clacker and nailed his last few entrances of the number, barely salvaging the experience for the audience.
After that performance, Lockhart demanded that the orchestra rehearse Sleigh Ride again and again, to make sure the whip cracks were always in the right place. It is estimated that during this week, the Pops rehearsed the piece more than they had rehearsed it in the past ten years combined.
Musicians trudged out of the rehearsals, complaining that they just couldn’t get that jazzy variation out of their heads. However, since that awful performance, all the Pops’ holiday concerts have been spectacular, and the whip player hasn’t missed an entrance since.
First-year GD Trombone
I sit in Margie Apfelbaum’s office on a very comfortable couch, and I ask if it’s good for sleeping on. “I don’t know,” Margie says. Though I’m inclined to believe her, there’s a hint of something else in her smile.
Margie is a benevolent, cheerful, hard-working stalwart of NEC. Now entering her third decade in service as the Administrative Director of Orchestras, she interacts with most of the instrumental students who come through the school. And she has an awesome couch in her office.
Aside from the couch, I ask, what’s a good part about working at NEC? “It’s a really nice community of smart, talented people– talent both in and outside of music. People seem to be well-rounded and articulate, and I learn something new just about every day. I also get to work with young people, so it keeps me young and energetic.” I wonder aloud if NEC has changed in the years that Margie has been here. “Tremendously,” she replies. “I think we’ve always had very, very talented students here, but – to use a sports terms – we have a very deep bench now. There were years that the orchestra department had, like, three bass players and five violists; the orchestra department has grown very well since that point. The quality of what happens in the orchestra is just really, really high.”
I ask Margie about the sports term “deep bench.” Is it a baseball thing, I naïvely think? “Well, the term applies to any sports. It means there’s a lot of talent throughout the team. I’m a big sports fan.” Is she a Red Sox fan? “Of course!” she grins. “I watched one game at LAX before a red-eye flight, and an entire pizza place in the terminal had been taken over by Red Sox fans. One waiter told us that the Red Sox weren’t going to win the World Series, and went on about how much he hated them. I really wanted to fly back as soon as the Red Sox won and just go…” (She makes a, ahem, colorful physical gesture that can’t be described here.)
Back to music– what’s the worst excuse Margie’s seen from a student for missing orchestra? “Oh! I get some pretty funny emails. I once had a student who said they couldn’t come to rehearsal because of the Boston Marathon. I asked, ‘Are you running in it?’ and they said, ‘No, but I’d like to watch it.’” One of her craziest memories was witnessing a student show up drunk to a concert. She recalls, “The student enlisted a relative to tell me that before the concert a bottle of whiskey had fallen on him, so that’s why he smelled like alcohol!” With a knowing smile, she says, “I’ve been doing this for a while, so I can tell when people are making stuff up.”
We talk about some of Margie’s dreams for NEC. “I’d like to do a festival around the first week of April dealing with humor in music,” she says. “I love comedy, and I’ve done some stand-up as a hobby. I think there are so many humorous pieces, and the festival could coincide with April Fools Day.” Who knows– maybe now that people are reading this article, they’ll become interested in making it happen!
As for upcoming holiday plans? “My partner and I got a new puppy this year, so we won’t be vacationing away during the break. One thing I try to do is invite students staying in town over the break away from family without anywhere to go. [My wife and I] try to get in touch with them and have them over on Christmas Eve for a nice meal.” So maybe she’s a stickler for orchestra attendance– but she gives away free food!
Margie and I talk for quite some time. She’s easy to talk to, and we have many topics to talk about. There’s the time that Bruce Springsteen opened for her during the dedication of the Zakim Bridge (Margie sounded a shofar at the end of the ceremony, and Bruce played at the beginning!) We look at pictures of her beautiful puppy, Louie, who is half Australian Cattle Dog, half “not-quite-sure.” Margie does a lot of photography and has a professional certificate in photography. Very into politics, Margie was always down at the State House around the time that same-sex marriage was in debate in Massachusetts. It’s very important to Margie, as it enabled her and her long-time partner Meridith to finally marry. We also talk about Margie’s resident town, Watertown, which became world-famous for all the wrong reasons this past April as television viewers across the world witnessed police cars and military tanks close in on her neighborhood. “As horrible as the whole thing was, it really was an amazing time in Boston’s history. What terrorists don’t realize is that they galvanize people to care more for one another. The response by everyone at NEC was so amazing. It just showed how thoughtful, articulate, and soulful everyone is here.”
As we part, Margie leaves me with one final gem: “I say that one of the reasons I love what I do is because I’m able to get rich. It’s not measured by money, but by the experiences of my life, the people I get to meet, and the places I get to go. Every time we have a concert here, I watch the transformation from infancy to full-growth. It’s amazing.” I think so too.
Second-year MM Guitar
Coming out of Thanksgiving this year, I’ve had the chance to consider all the things for which I am thankful. I’m very lucky, and have been given opportunities that most can only dream of. Although Thanksgiving is a holiday celebrated exclusively by Americans, the internationality of NEC has given me a new perspective on this time of year as well as the world at large.
Leaving one’s country is an incredibly brave thing to do; I have the utmost respect and even jealousy for those who are living their lives abroad. Even though I have not left my home country, being surrounded by those who have at NEC has given me the sensitivity to the challenges of living abroad. NEC has exposed me to so much of the world by just attending school, and for that I am thankful.
Americans have a reputation for being naïve, especially in regards to the reality of other countries. Perhaps this comes as a result of shopping centers and restaurants appearing the same from sea to shining sea, a homogenous feel that stretches over a country the size of a continent. Though it may be convenient to order a hamburger in Boston and Los Angeles and expect the exact same lunch, it creates a nation scared senseless of something that stands out from the crowd. Embarrassingly, the first year I spent here I was surprised to find out that not everyone left town to visit family for Thanksgiving as I had grown so accustomed to. Similarly, I was surprised to discover holidays recognized by some of my peers that were not a part of my own calendar. I was unaware of my own international ignorance until my first semester here, and even though it was humiliating, I think now I’m a bit more aware of the customs of others. To students at NEC, differences in international customs are intuitive; it’s a non-issue. Unfortunately, outside the walls of the conservatory, unawareness of cultural diversity still persists.
Along with the end of the semester, the holidays are now upon us. This is the time of year that is recognized and celebrated the whole world over, each culture branding traditions to look forward to. Music, already the signature of the cultures themselves, often serves as the cornerstone on which these holiday traditions are built. Just hearing the music of holidays transports us vividly to them; it carries incredible power. Living abroad may displace you from immersion in the holiday traditions of home, but it will be a time in life you will always remember. Because in the end, we don’t remember the times we were comfortable, but instead the times we were not. The times we stepped out of our comfort zones and into a world we never knew existed. Later, we will call these moments of discomfort nostalgia.
So wherever you call home, transport us there. Whatever songs you sang in December as a child, sing them now with might. America suffers from a mild and childish ignorance to culture, and it’s our job as musicians to expose anyone unfamiliar with such cultures to their wonder and beauty. The diversity we have within ouf conservatory is truly one-of-a-kind, and through music we all have the power to share and experience it in the most potent of ways.
First-year GD Trombone
December: the month of holidays. Mention of it conjures up an entire backlog of memories of hot chocolates, scarves and mittens, and perhaps warm nights indoors by the fire in defiance of the cold outside. At least that’s what I think it does for you! Where I come from, December is a month of the outdoors, of late sunsets and early rises, BBQ and cold drinks, tank tops, and flip-flops. Just as my perception of the holiday season is informed mostly by second-hand information from Hollywood and friends, so then would your perceptions be of the land far, far away known as Australia. Allow me to give you a first-hand introduction as to what it’s like to experience a Christmas down under. (Incidentally, flip-flops are not known as such back home. We call them thongs. It makes sense if you think about it.)
Like any child growing up in the nineties, I got most of my education from The Simpsons. The very first episode of the show is a sweet story about how the family receives their dog one Christmas; this was likely my first exposure to the phenomenon of a Northern Hemisphere winter. A couple of things passed through my mind as I watched the episode:
A. What is this magical substance they refer to as snow?
B. Why are they all walking around with lots of clothes on– isn’t Christmas supposed to be hot?
C. Where’s the emu?
I’ll get to that last one soon, but the other questions answer themselves. Indeed, when I finally did experience a Northern Hemisphere winter for the first time at 20 years old, I couldn’t quite shake the nagging feeling that I was walking through a real life movie. None of it seemed like it could be real, as I’d only ever experienced it through the lens of the television.
My family video collection contains footage of a particularly legendary Christmas from when I was a boy. A mischievous uncle had gifted my siblings and me with Super Soakers that year, and he brought along some of his own to make things interesting. What started as three children playfully soaking three burly adults (my two uncles and my grandfather) shortly turned into a full-on war. In my favorite part of the vidoe, my five-year-old self screams, “Hey, that’s cheating!” as my grandfather takes sniper shots out the window from the relative safety of the inside of his bedroom. This is the sort of diversion you can afford to have when it’s 110º outside on Christmas Day in Sydney.
Still, not all traditional Christmas ideas are thrown out the window in warmer climates. Poor, suffering Santa still labors away underneath mountains of woolen fabrics. Christmas pines are still erected, and often inexplicably adorned with fake snow. Chestnuts are roasted, turkeys are consumed, and eggnog flows abundantly. Ever-popular Christmas songs survive intact. Well, almost all of the time.
A popular push was made in the late 1980s to ‘Australian-ize’ the lyrics to many popular carols. Tunes such as “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” have survived fully as they have no reference to colder weather, but tunes like “Jingle Bells” had all Northern Hemisphere references removed and replaced with Australian sound-alikes. Sometimes the results are better than others; take “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” for instance. After the refrain, “On the ___ day of Christmas, my true love sent to me,” the Australian version goes:
An emu up a gum tree
2 pink galahs
7 koalas climbing
8 possums playing
9 wombats working
10 lizards leaping
11 numbats nagging
12 parrots prattling
I remember singing this in elementary school, but I still don’t quite know what a jaibiru is!
So, as you sip your warm drinks and curl up away from the cold with family this holiday season, spare a thought for those suffering under the tyranny of a shining sun and endless beaches in the Southern Hemisphere. I’ll be home in Sydney for Christmas for the first time in three years this year, and I have lots of new cousins – I think I know what Santa is bringing them all this year!
Chamber Music Chair
I have lived long enough to have many stories of how I have dealt with stage fright. One friend asked if I had ever considered bungee-jumping. ‘Why would I want to do that?” I countered, “I already know the feeling of jumping off a cliff.” Here is one story from my past that you may find helpful.
Sometime during my college years, I read about the Malaysian Senoi, best known for their work with dreams. They teach their children such ideas as “Never run away from danger in a dream. If you see a monster, either overcome it or make friends with it.” I know my monster, I thought: stage fright. Can I overcome it? Can I make friends with it?
I went back to my little bedroom in the rustic cabin I shared with other young musicians, and curled up in a fetal position underneath the covers, pillow over my head. “All right, Mr. Dragon of My Fears, I challenge you! I will fight with you, and not run away!” My mental challenge struck me as childish, but I stuck with it, imagining the absolute worst thing that could happen. The fear began to grow, and I still kept it as an image right between my eyebrows. After a few minutes I was shivering under the blankets. What if I totally blew it? What if I played out of tune? What if I messed up? What if my peers thought less of me? What if my teachers were disappointed? What if I embarrassed myself? Maybe I would get out there and not be able to do it at all. Suddenly instead of fear I began to feel anger. “Stop it!” I screamed inside myself. “SO WHAT? My mother just died a year ago – that matters. Is all this important? I’ve worked, haven’t I? Fierce Dragon Fear, I defy you!! Do your worst!” On and on I ranted, trembling. Then, just as I began to tire of the anger, I began to feel strength surge through me. “OK, Mr. Dragon, I am strong enough to overcome you. I don’t have to worry about you any more.” Then it all fell apart and I cried. I can’t be perfect, I thought. And a voice came to me, “No, you can’t be perfect. You don’t need to be. Life isn’t perfect. It is beautiful, but it isn’t perfect. Just sing of your sorrow, sing of your grief, sing of your loneliness, and you will reach people.”
Oh. Sing of my sorrow? My grief? My loneliness? I can do that. I can share that with the listeners.
Then a calmness came to me, and I rested. I remembered the love of my mother, the caring person I missed so much. I can sing of my love for her, I thought. I can sing of the joy I shared with her, and when the music calls for it, I can sing of the difficulties we had. As I sing of my love for her I will sing of Love. As I sing of my loneliness and grief, I will be singing of Loneliness and Grief. The personal will be transmuted into the universal.
I will sing through my violin, and I will not be perfect. I will be human, and some listeners will hear human sorrow and joy, loneliness and love. That is enough.
First-Year GD Trombone
As a precocious child during the mid-90s in Australia, I despised Halloween, but I wasn’t scared of it. There were other more important reasons for my animosity. Now, as what some may consider an adult but in actuality more like an overgrown version of the kid from Problem Child, I have learned to appreciate the numerous gifts that “All Hallow’s Eve” has to offer. The gift of drinking, mostly. But also the gift of friendship, the ushering in of the beautiful season of Fall, and also the drinking. One thing still bothers me about the holiday of Jack ‘o Lanterns and cinnamon, though – call it a fear, even. There is nothing that scares me more about Halloween than the titular parties themselves.
Getting actually scared at Halloween seems to be a rarity. The costumes are usually too fake to be legitimately scary or too humorous to be taken seriously. But the fear of social judgement? That is a real fear. Specifically, the act of choosing a costume terrifies me. This terror, I believe, took root in my childhood.
My birthday falls on October 28th (and yes, I did just subtly invite you all to wish me a happy birthday on that day. I’ll be twenty-six this year and the gift I want more than anything is a Bandai Tamashii Nations Super Robot Chogokin Megazord). The year I turned seven, my birthday happened to fall on a Friday so my loving parents organized a birthday party on their next free day of the weekend – Sunday the 30th. Naturally I attempted to invite every person I knew to this party, which was surprisingly easy for a seven-year-old whose social circle was confined to school and places his parents dragged him along to. I knew it would be a party of epic proportions and, most importantly, people would bring me gifts!
At the time I remained unaware of the predominately North American tradition of trick-or-treating, but as I was extremely sympathetic to the idea of dressing up like someone else, my guests were instructed to come in their best “fancy dress.” I dressed as a clown, a costume I found hilarious (unlike every other observer).
As the party rolled along, I remember inviting all the guests in through our large front door. As the doorbell rang once more to signify what I assumed were more party guests bearing presents for yours truly, I galloped down the hallway and tore open the door. Imagine my shock when I was greeted by a flock of kids older than me, bigger than me, and wearing skeleton costumes! On top of that, did I hear them asking me for candy? Or had I fainted and started hallucinating? No. They WERE asking for candy, and my parents gave some to them!
Of course, this is a perfectly reasonable action to any adult. But explaining to a seven-year-old why some older kids were getting MY candy on MY birthday was never going to be easy. To make matters worse, one of the uglier of the bunch sneered, “Clowns aren’t even scary!” through his bloody skeleton mask at me. “Clowns aren’t supposed to be scary,” I thought to myself. Surely, this was before I’d seen Tim Curry as Pennywise in Stephen King’s IT.
Remember when I told you my party was on the 30th? It wasn’t even technically All Hallow’s Eve until the next day, yet the holiday had been indelibly tainted for me from then on. It came to signify a time when everyone was supposed to be paying attention to me and my birthday, but instead had other things on their mind. Well, until I grew up and learned the wonders of giving (and drinking). But growing up is never particularly amusing, is it?
As for me, I’ll conquer my fear of choosing a costume. It’s a constant struggle, but I think I found the answer this year: the Sexy Bacon Costume from yandy.com. If I go on an all-carb diet, I may be able to squeeze into it by the 31st!
Happy Halloween, everyone!
First-Year GD Clarinet People that might have never touched a piano in their life, they have the option to touch one, play one, see how it sounds and feels… – Shane Simpson
What do a baby, a singer-songwriter, and a classical pianist have in common? No, this isn’t the beginning of a bad joke. Many of you may have noticed or even played on the painted piano that was installed outside NEC for the first two weeks of October. This piano was just one of 75 pianos installed throughout the city as part of The Street Pianos Boston Festival presented by Celebrity Series of Boston. The installation is an artwork created by British artist Luke Jerram, called “Play Me I’m Yours!” First seen in the United Kingdom in 2008, Jerram’s work has toured internationally, appearing in Paris, London, Barcelona, and other cities worldwide.
Though the installation “tours,” the pianos do not. Each of the 75 pianos seen throughout Boston was transformed by a different local artist. So, what would the world be like if there were a piano on every street corner? As it turns out, the answer is: Really fantastic. The beauty of this festival is that the pianos are free and available for absolutely anyone to use. There were some scheduled professional performances, but most of the time anyone on the street could simply walk up and play. Kids all over the city could be seen plunking out a few notes, discovering the piano for the first time. Amateur pianists had a chance to try their hands at Chopsticks or Für Elise for a captive audience. And often, someone would sit down and stun crowds with their unexpected piano talent.
Jerram’s piece aims to foster collaboration and community. It has done that and so much more. The pianos provided venues for emerging artists to be seen. Singer-songwriter Caitlin Timmins even recorded a live music video of her song, “Stop, Rewind, & Pause” on the piano at City Hall Plaza. Strangers on Newbury Street crowded around for a singalong of “Sweet Caroline.” And during one particularly rainy afternoon, a crowd braved the weather to gather around for an impromptu performance of the Super Mario Theme by EMI Artist Niu Niu, who stopped by before a live taping of “From the Top” with Chrisopher O’Riley.
NEC students Shane Simpson and Linda Numagami performed together on a piano that was installed at the MFA. Since Shane is a jazz major and Linda is a classical major, they performed an arrangement of “It’s Only a Paper Moon” for viola and piano. When asked what it was like to perform on the MFA piano, which was decorated with a larger-than-life painter’s easel, Shane said he found it a bit “bizarre” at first, but thought it was fun to perform for people who might not otherwise get to experience live music. Both agreed that the community aspect of the festival is in large part what makes it so rewarding. By bringing pianos out into the open air, people who might not otherwise have access to live music can witness it up close, and artists have the opportunity to interact with their audience on a more personal level that isn’t necessarily possible in a concert hall.
In an explanation of the installation, Luke Jerram offers the following:The idea for “Play Me, I’m Yours” came from visiting my local launderette. I saw the same people there each weekend and yet no one talked to one another. I suddenly realized that within a city, there must be hundreds of these invisible communities, regularly spending time with one another in silence. Placing a piano into the space was my solution to this problem, acting as a catalyst for conversation and changing the dynamics of a space.
Thank you, Celebrity Series, for helping us break the silence and bring our art to the community around us.
Photos provided by the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.
BM Flute, 2010
The world lost a wonderful musician last week, and for many a great friend. We celebrate the life of Andrew “Drew” Thompson (NEC Class of 2011), contrabassoonist and bassoonist for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. He fulfilled every musician’s dream when he landed a job in his hometown. Drew’s Boston family will forever remember his intense loyalty, intellectual curiosity, ready smile, and big shoulders. Members of the NEC community share their remembrances of Drew…
I feel like Drew had the “right” balance: he worked hard but knew have a good time and appreciate the simple and most obvious things. I can’t count how many times we would hang out after a concert, or wait together for our respective lessons at the backstage of the BSO. Drew had the real NEC spirit and I will surely miss him terribly.
– Maya Jacobs (Class of 2011 · MM in Viola Performance)
Drew will always be family to me. During our growth at NEC, we celebrated our accomplishments together and supported each other through tough times. His fearlessness gave us a model of how to perform and live life to its fullest potential. Drew, it has been an honor performing with you – thank you so much for the impact you made in all our lives!
– Randolph Palada (Class of 2012 – MM in Clarinet)
Drew had that perfect combination of being a laser-focused, professional, dedicated musician while investing in his other passions (like swing-dancing & flame-throwing) and being a wonderful, happy person on top, always kind and welcoming whether a new acquaintance or old friend. He truly lived his life to the fullest and the world lost a HUGE talent. Drew, thank you for those years in Chicago and Boston together, whether it was performing beautiful music with you, teaching me how to swing-dance, playing Mario-Kart at your apartment, having Starbucks together, hanging out with our dear friends, trying new things, meeting new people, or just teasing the heck out of me (especially when you called me “Slagathore”). You will always be my favorite bassoonist, inspire me, and make me smile.
– Cecilia Huerta (Class of 2011 · MM in Cello Performance)
Andrew was exactly the kind of friend anyone would want in music school: an inspiring player, a hard worker, and tons of fun. Our ability to blend well started even before I knew his name, and once we figured out we were both swing dancers, we knew this was a friendship that was destined to last. He was always warm, forgiving, and ready to find the humor in any situation. So much more can be said to honor this incredible person, but what matters most now is for us to remember that Drew loved his friends more than anything in the world, and his memory will be kept by the love we have for him.
– Jennifer Berg (Class of 2011 · MM in Oboe Performance)
I first heard Drew’s voice when I was desperately searching for a place to live in Boston and anxious about the upcoming major life transition of moving up North. He called me and offered me an open room in his apartment, which instantly relieved all my stress. His calm, inviting voice was a welcome comfort for someone who had never lived in a big city or attended a music conservatory. Living with Drew was a pleasure beyond words. I will remember his gentle demeanor, virtuosic bassoon playing, and his desire to seek out and share camaraderie and friendship wherever he went. For those looking to pay tribute to Drew, I’d recommend taking a quick trip down Huntington and having a Gulden Draak at The Penguin, his favorite neighborhood bar.
– Mark Williams (Class of 2013 · MM in Vocal Performance)
If there is one thing that Drew taught us, it is to live your life to the fullest: he danced his way into our lives, and his music will always be in our hearts.
First-Year GD Trombone
If you haven’t met Steve Drury yet, I suggest you do so as soon as possible – he’s a fascinating person! An NEC graduate himself, Steve joined the piano faculty after completing an Artist Diploma as a student of Patricia Zander. In addition to teaching and soloing, he serves as director of the renowned Callithumpian Consort and director of NEC- based Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice.
Steve has worked with many of the big players in music of the 20th and 21st centuries, including John Cage, Helmet Lachenmann, Christian Wolff, Chaya Czernowin, and Lee Hyla. However, he also enjoys collaborating with non-musicians. Notably, Steve performed with choreographer Merce Cunningham, John Cage’s partner, in 1999– the last time Cunningham ever danced in public. Drury played Cage’s Music for Marcel Duchamp while Cunningham and Mikhail Baryshnikov danced a duo around the plastic boxes Jasper Johns designed in tribute to Duchamp.
“Cage would write a new piece for Merce, they’d agree on how long the piece was, and that was it,” Drury recalls. “They’d show up for the dress rehearsal and Merce was hearing the music for the first time. I asked Merce if he had made choreography to go with the phrases [for the performance in 1999] and he said “No, no.” In fact, I was a little worried because I was on stage at the New York City Theater and I didn’t want to be on there using music for a simple little piece. But the memory is tricky and I thought if I had a memory slip it would throw them off.”
Not just content as a soloist, Steve is the founder and director of the successful NEC-based group Callithumpian Consort. Callithumpian Consort is filled with former NEC graduates, some of whom have also participated in Steve’s summer festival at NEC – SICPP. Both Callithumpian the group and Steve the soloist have several engagements down the road at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum throughout the season.
Along with his wife, Yukiko Takagi, Steve is pioneering an interesting new concert series called In and Out Monday Afternoons at the Gardner’s impressive Calderwood Hall (editor’s note: the Gardner is only a 15-minute walk from NEC!) This was the brainchild of museum curator Scott Nickrenz, the husband of NEC faculty member Paula Robison. Calderwood Hall consists of a perfect cube with a flat floor, in which the stage forms the center of the cube with rows of chairs along the walls on the floor and two elevated balconies above. This unique design will allow museum-goers to slip in at any point in the performance, “hopefully quietly,” Steve reminds, and stay anywhere from five minutes to two hours. Drury’s former teacher in New York, William Masselos, used to give similar concerts for hours on end. “He would put a note in the program that said ‘Ingress, egress as you please,’” shares Drury, “and the idea for In and Out is essentially the same.”
At an In and Out concert in the coming spring, Steve and Callithumpian will be working with Roger Miller, former lead of punk band Mission of Burma. “I wasn’t a punk, but I followed [Mission of Burma],” Steve says. “For me Roger Miller was a legend, so it’s a real trip to be working with him.”
In closing, Steve once again reiterates his passion for contemporary composers: “There’s no reason to assume that there’s not a composer alive today that you feel that you can commit to in the same way you would commit to playing music by Chopin, Brahms, or Haydn…God knows we have enough piano players playing Pictures at an Exhibition. There’s gotta be [a new composer] out there for you. If there’s not, man, get out of music and go be a banker or a politician. Young people are writing the music now, and that’s where my work came from.”
The NEC administration and Board of Trustees is thrilled to welcome our 4 new student senators! These students were chosen after a highly selective application process and they are here to serve YOU! Now that you know who they are, make sure your message is heard – email them with any concerns (or compliments!) you have about NEC: firstname.lastname@example.org
Classical guitarist Raley Beggs remains passionate about sharing and enlivening the rich traditions of the guitar. Currently pursuing his master’s degree under esteemed artist and performer Eliot Fisk, Raley has found a suitable podium at New England Conservatory for which to share the music of his instrument. Raley performs widely throughout the Greater Boston Area as a soloist and chamber musician, and is an active member of the Community Performances and Partnerships Program (CPP). In addition to performing, he also enjoys writing for the Penguin and running unreasonably long distances.
Born in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, British-American Konrad Herath is a sophomore horn major at NEC. Apart from loving the works of Mahler, Stravinsky, and Richard Strauss, Konrad’s non-musical interests include traveling, learning foreign languages, and reading the works of author John Irving. Much of his leisure time is spent watching Downton Abbey or shows connected with vampires. Konrad is also a big fan of late singer/actress Judy Garland. His family residence is now in the great state of Vermont, and he welcomes you to contact him at his NEC e-mail address: email@example.com.
Tong Wang is an aspiring Canadian pianist currently in her sophomore year studying with Bruce Brubaker. Off stage, she…practices. But! She also loves to write and draw for the Penguin, hang out with friends, watch movies, eat out, jam, laugh, and play volleyball and badminton at Cambridge every weekend. Tong is excited to be part of the Committee of Student Activities, and is seeking all of the interesting student voices and ideas waiting to be heard! You can reach her at her NEC email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Elizabeth (Liz) Wendt is a sophomore studying classical voice. Last year, Liz was an honorary Committee of Student Affairs member where she shared her experience as a first year undergrad. This year, Liz will return to the round table as a member of the CSA where she hopes to contribute ideas to help make NEC and even better place. As a Student Senator, Liz is eager to hear the issues and concerns that NEC students would like to be addressed by administrators. If you have ideas that you would like for her to bring up in the next CSA meeting, contact her at: email@example.com.
First-Year GD Clarinet
The first session of the day addressed a question that I think weighs on many of us: what’s next after I graduate? Ensemble members shared their own stories about how they navigated the transition, and it was interesting to discover how completely different paths led each of them to Fifth House. The founding members of the group met at the Chicago Civic Orchestra, but have also enjoyed unique careers along the way. Violinist Andrew Williams told of how the teaching job he never really envisioned for himself turned out to be one of the most rewarding facets of his career. Flutist Melissa Snoza discussed the practicalities of interviewing for a job, and Jani Parson, the group’s pianist, shared strategies for building a private studio. Eric Snoza explained that every job, whether musical or not, should be seen as an opportunity. There were times that he had to take non-musical jobs to pay the bills, and he has brought the skills he learned along the way into his work with Fifth House. That’s right, guys. He had a day job. And he didn’t die! As a matter of fact, he now has a successful photography studio in addition to his music career.
Lunch gave us another opportunity to speak one-on-one with ensemble members. I had a memorable conversation with hornist DeAunn Davis. One of the founding members of Fifth House, she has left Chicago and is currently pursuing her DMA at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Her goal is to land a university teaching job and mentor a generation of hornists free from the “orchestral-musician-or-failure” mentality.
The afternoon was split into two parallel sessions. I opted to attend the “funding your dreams” session, which was far more valuable and straightforward than I could have ever imagined. Melissa Snoza discussed the differences between for-profit and not-for-profit business models, walked us through the basics of working contracts, and demystified the grant writing process. The session served as an excellent get-started guide for those of us with entrepreneurial projects in mind. For me, Melissa’s presentation filled in the daunting gap between having a great idea and taking the first step toward bringing it to fruition.
After a quick coffee break, Fifth House gave a moving performance of Black Violet, an original program that combines music by Walter Piston, Johannes Brahms, Jonathan Keren, Heitor Villa Lobos and Greg Simon with a story and artwork created by graphic-novelist Ezra Claytan Daniels. From the first note, there was something extremely special about the performance—I was struck by the passion and joy radiating from the group. These artists love what they do. If that wasn’t enough, there was an engaging and beautifully illustrated story to go with it. Having witnessed their performances, it’s no great surprise to me that Fifth House has had such success in reaching non-traditional audiences. Who would have imagined that a story about a spoiled black housecat in 17th century London could be so riveting? After a performance that was more than an hour long, I still wanted to hear more!
The Expo ended with a session entitled, “Putting Your Audience Center Stage,” in which ensemble members discussed the origins of Black Violet. To further their goal of bringing new audiences to classical music, Fifth House has found creative ways to bridge the gap for non-classical listeners. By offering an immersive experience that pairs their music with Daniels’ storytelling, they have created an opportunity to introduce graphic novel fans to the beauty and power of classical music.
I consider myself very fortunate to have spent the day with Fifth House Ensemble. The ensemble is comprised of some of the most creative and driven people I have ever met. I was truly inspired by their enthusiasm and their willingness to share their hard-earned knowledge. Melissa explained that she had no fear of being put out of business by sharing her experiences because the number of creative, innovative ensembles that would have to exist in order to put Fifth House out of business would certainly ensure a culturally-rich world.
Save the date for next year’s EM expo! October 26, 2014
First-year GD Clarinet
For many of you, this is your first time away from home or your first time living in your own apartment, and that probably also means that it’s your first time trying to cook on your own. For those of you who fit in this category, I beg of you: no more ramen noodles!!! I hear all kinds of reasons from people who don’t cook for themselves: it’s too expensive, it takes too long, or it’s just too hard. But I want everyone to know that cooking doesn’t have to be any of the above! You don’t need to be a gourmet chef in order to enjoy healthy, delicious home-cooked meals. Trust me, you’ll thank me when all the cafeteria food starts to taste the same.
If you’re eating on a budget, the trick to saving money is to know which foods to buy. Generally pre-packaged or processed foods cost a lot more than their raw counterparts. Red meat and cheeses can also run up your grocery bill. You don’t have to avoid them altogether; just use them sparingly.
Eggs, on the other hand, are extremely cheap and very versatile. There are more than 100 ways to cook them! Beans, lentils, and other legumes are also inexpensive, especially if you buy them dried. Plus they’re good for you! In the veggie department, carrots, onions, celery, and broccoli are your best bets.
If you don’t have a lot of time to cook, there are a few tricks that will save you hours of time. You really can spend all day cooking if you want to make something really fancy (I once spent four hours making tamales from scratch, yikes!), but there are tons of recipes out there that can be made with little prep time. In general, I look for recipes with short ingredient lists. The fewer ingredients, the less time you have to spend peeling/chopping/sautéing them. Also, never shred your own cheese. Just pay a dollar extra for the pre-shredded stuff. I promise it’s worth it!
Another big time-saver and a must-have for novice cooks is a crock pot or slow cooker. If you don’t have time to stand over a stove for an hour, there are literally hundreds of crockpot recipes that take maybe ten minutes of preparation. After that, you just toss everything in the pot and turn it on. Recipes usually take 4-8 hours to cook this way, but they’re meant to be left alone during that time, which means you can turn it on before you leave in the morning and come back to a delicious dinner just ready and waiting. They can cook just about anything too, like soups, breads, desserts and even whole chickens! I recommend avoiding overnight use unless you want to be awakened at 3 a.m. by the smell of chili (Yes, this has actually happened to me).
To close, I’d like to put to rest the myth that cooking is hard. It’s really something that anyone can do with just a little practice and patience. I know it can be intimidating at first, but start simply and slowly build your skills. To the right, you’ll find three recipes to get you started. You can try them when you get tired of the usual fare, or use them to impress your friends at your next fall party. Two of them can even be made in
a dorm room!
Second-Year MM Guitar
I can’t stand cold weather. For as long as I can remember I’ve complained to no end about the pain and misery surrounding the feelings of any temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, vowing forever to avoid climates unsuitable for palm trees and board shorts. Well, like so many youthful promises I’ve made to myself only to be broken, here I am. Boston. Famous not for its excess of palm trees and sunshine, but instead for unpredictable and ruthlessly cold weather.
Perhaps this feeling isn’t so foreign to all of us. One of the finest qualities of NEC is the incredible diversity of the student body, which includes those of us who are not accustomed to below-freezing temperatures. Those of us who have never faced questions like: How can it be this cold and still be raining? How much snow is enough to cancel school? Who in their right mind decided to stay here in the 1600s? Some of you haven’t been here long enough to ponder the bulletproof logic of staying inside for a month or more, but we now find ourselves at the very end of days that guarantee warmth and now peer over a cliff of uncertainty (and a whole lot of snow!). This cliff, in New England, is named “Fall.”
Fall is one of the four seasons, another new concept for some of us, and is marked most famously by turning leaves of trees all too familiar with what is to come. Fall is the part of the year where you start to very seriously doubt the functionality of your wardrobe. Fall is the gravestone season atop any delusions you’ve held thus far– delusions like comfort, warmth, and physical and mental well-being.
Last year, Fall was when I myself began to wither and lose my leaves. I started to forget all the things that made up my personality, which had become delirious and numb from my first encounters with plummeting temperatures. I turned inward and cold, less from the changing seasons and more for the discomforts of being in a situation and climate I’ve never experienced before. Clinging to my familiarities, I fought it. And fall, above all else, is not to be fought.
What nobody told me then was that fall is a time for rejuvenation. Fall is a transition from the superficial, rocket-fueled types of fun associated with summer into the pensive and thoughtful rewards of winter. It is itself a personal growth– a shedding of one’s past to make room for one’s future. To deny the transition is to deny nature.
I hadn’t learned these lessons until facing their inevitability. I recognized my whining wasn’t helping, and that the seasons would continue as scheduled– with or without my approval.
Thinking back, that fight seems preposterous. Fact: Boston gets cold. I’m not claiming to have been logical about the process, I’m only admitting to my childish resistance to the seasons. When you haven’t experienced them they somehow seem avoidable, like they don’t apply to you.
To those of you now gearing up to experience your first round of seasons: don’t resist them. You’re from a warmer climate– yes, we’ve heard. But now you live in Boston, and you’re likely to stay for awhile. There are two ways you can handle this new reality. The first involves a long, prolonged, and exceedingly cold plummet into the pits of winter, accompanied by a distinct feeling of being a fish swimming upstream. Last year, this was my choice. The second involves two investments: good boots and a really, really good jacket. It also involves acceptance and a keen eye for the beauty found in places the planet hasn’t had the chance to show you yet. With the proper clothing and a smile, the cliff you now peer over will seamlessly turn into a fall you won’t forget.
Editor’s note: Florestan and Eusebius are two fictitious personalities created by composer Robert Schumann. They represent two sides of his bipolar personality.
Florestan: Eusebius and I have noticed that you’ve been paying a lot of attention to Robert Schumann and his music. But you don’t pay nearly as much attention to us.
Eusebius: It’s understandable, because both of us are best friends with Schumann, and all three of us are composers. It may be difficult to distinguish which one is which.
F: We’ll try to make it easier for you.
E: The basic difference is that Florestan is bold, rash, and passionate, while I am thoughtful, lyrical, and dreamy.
F: So, I’m a man and Eusebius is a girl.
E: Your name is Florestan.
F: Or you could think about it like this—I skydive and swim with sharks, and Eusebius picks flowers. I’m really fun to talk to, and when you talk to Eusebius, you get confused because sometimes he stops talking and his eyes glaze over.
E: Florestan likes to say outlandish, silly things, and then he changes his mind. I take the time to choose my words carefully, so when I do say something, it’s quietly profound.
F: Eusebius will move you to tears, and it’s very, very painful.
E: Hey! We don’t normally fight like this. Without Schumann, the balance is totally off.
F: Sorry. We’ve been under a lot of stress lately.
E: Commanding the League of David is tough. Suiting up every day to fight the Philistines, battling mediocrity in all its tiresome forms… It’s brutal, thankless work.
Dude: No way! You guys are on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?
F: Are they anti-Rossini?
E: Have no fear. The enemy will be overthrown. It may take a couple hundred more years—but we will slay every one of those tasteless Philistines. Just saying.
We’re working hard. Doesn’t hurt to give a little credit where it’s due.
F: Ask yourself—when you’re drifting off to sleep at night, happily humming symphonies of Beethoven and Brahms—who’s keeping you safe from harmful music? Who do you have to thank for protecting you from all the bad music out there?
E: Think about it.