DA Winter Music Concert

It was a huge treat that I got to conduct an ensemble, since opportunities when starting out as a young conductor are very scarce and hard to find. But, it was an amazing experience to work with musicians again and lead them to what was a pretty successful concert. Mr. Meyer and I had an interesting talk about what I was doing in this video of the performance that I put down below. He suggested that sometimes, there were moments where I was conducting them like a symphony orchestra and not like more of a band, since these players mostly have wind instruments. For example, as a band director, one has to be more precise and strict about the beat, while leading a symphony orchestra or even just string instruments, one can be more lenient about the beat. Now, this is not to say that string players need to lead themselves for beats or that they do not have to play together, but there is a difference between playing a instrument with a bow than with air or a mallet, and that’s just how pieces are written for them. In this piece, called “Fanfare for the Third Planet,” it is much more exact than a lyrical symphony movement by Mozart. Mr. Meyer said that my best work was starting from the time stamp 1:45 to 2:25, where I became much more strict in my beat and clearer in my cues. One more problem that we covered was the use of the left hand, as the section after that middle one, I started doing two-hand conducting, which refers to when both hands are conducting the beat. Now, this can be an effective technique, but in these long held notes, I could have been doing something else with my left hand that would direct them to firmly sustain those notes. Overall, Mr. Meyer was extremely pleased with my work, and that I will take as an accomplishment! When watching this video, please be respectful of these players; it may not sound like an upscale group, but they did put a lot of hard work into the rehearsals leading up to the concert.

Concert #2 with the DSO

Unfortunately, I missed the first half of the concert due to my own performance, which also was a success. This whole concert seemed to stem from the Classical Era, involving an overture by Haydn, and piano concerto by Mozart, and a symphony by Beethoven. The Second Symphony by Beethoven is what I will be focusing on, since that was the second half of the concert that I got to witness. This symphony is full of vivacity and a happier side of Beethoven, even though this was around the time he wrote his suicide note, called the Heiligenstadt Testament. The part that I wanted to focus on was the coda of the first movement. There is so much energy in this last part. After a huge introduction and a wonderful representation of sonata form, Beethoven leaves the listener with a finale to a movement that one cannot forget. After a reinstatement of previous motifs, there is a huge build up that leads to a climactic dissonance in the trumpets, later resolving in a vibrant push towards the end. With Maestro Davidson, even though he focuses much on his job of keeping the orchestra together, he proves that conducting can be also extremely fun. Go to the time stamp 1:22:14, and check out how much energy he gives to it in order to make it fun for the orchestra and the ears of the audience.

Thirteenth Week

I know I have been making excuses about not getting enough blog posts done in time, but my life has just been so hectic right now. It’s very hard for me to balance everything, especially with all the college stuff still bugging me to death. However, I still was very productive last week, since I actually conducted my first performance of this year! I think it was a success, since experience with conducting performances can be so hard to come by. On Thursday, Mr. Meyer and I will be meeting and discussing the concert, so there will definitely have to be a blog post on that. I can’t say when I will get to it since this week will also be crazy in work load, but I owe everyone these blog posts: my concert, my demo lesson, Beethoven’s Second Symphony performed by Harry Davidson, and my studies on Mozart’s Symphony No. 39.

Eleventh and Twelfth Weeks

Sorry for this update being late on both of these previous weeks. The days just don’t seem to stop filling my schedule to the brim. But, I have gotten many things done! The biggest thing of these past two weeks have been preparing for this upcoming concert with Mr. Meyer, where I will conduct one of the pieces, called “Fanfare for the Third Planet.” It is a fun fanfare that one would definitely think to hear at a band concert. I already got a chance to work with the group a bit on it last week, but I actually will get a chance to rehearse them fully today! Along with all this, Mr. Meyer and I did our first demo lesson, which was a success! We took the second movement of Mozart’s Symphony No. 39 (which I still need to make a post about), and he watched me do it with a recording. Then, we discussed interpretation, how to conduct the continuation of line, and many other aspects of how to help the orchestra follow me. I know I haven’t been fully on it this second quarter, but, over the next few weeks, I will try my best to make up for the lost time. Either by tonight or the end of this week, I will have a post done about Mozart’s Symphony No. 39.

Tenth Week

I already planned the second semester as an extension of my independent study, so I will be updating my current proposal with Mr. Meyer soon. I am thinking that a good way to show progress in what I have learned is by showing a video of me conducting the winter instrumental ensemble concert and analyzing my different choices that I use in performance to lead the group after the rehearsal process. Also, Mr. Meyer and I will be having demo rehearsals for Mozart symphonies soon, so I will actually start getting in the experience of actually being mentored in my own conducting. I have just gotten in contact with the theater teacher at Jordan High School to talk over plans about the musical too, so things are still coming together. It is nice that even through a course like this, things can keep developing throughout the study that will help it grow into something more than it already is at the moment. Over Thanksgiving Break, I will be adding more blog posts and catching up on my textbook, as I prepare for the concert on December 1.

Ninth Week

Sorry that this blog post was late, but a lot has been going on lately. Recently, I have secured a part in the musical, and I am planning on now talking over with Mr. Meyer on what my role should be with him as well as being a member of the cast. Also, we have talked about maybe having me conduct one song at the instrumental ensemble concert, which will be on December 1. We still have to factor in how we are going to add Mr. Nabors to the schedule, as well as doing some demo lessons. Also, I watched another one of my dad’s concerts this weekend, which was an opera gala, so a lot of interesting things there! I don’t know if I can secure any footage of the performance, but I will make some observations soon as a post. I also will write something on Symphony No. 39 by Mozart, so be on the lookout for these next posts!

Seventh and Eighth Weeks

There was a slight break from my regular posts, since I was very busy with performances during the seventh week. I had not only a performance with my jazz-rock band, “In the Pocket,” but also theater performances that would last late into the evening of the play, “Eurydice.” It was an extremely busy time, and therefore I had to take some time off from this study. But now, I have been back at it with still studying Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony, meeting with Mr. Meyer’s instrumental ensemble, and soon, I will be heading to Cleveland to watch my dad do a performance with the Cleveland Institute of Music. I will be making a report of that concert as well. I have also still been inching my way through my textbook, and hopefully, this second quarter will give me more opportunities for not only observing conductors, but actually going through rehearsal processes and conducting pieces myself. Since I am on the final movement of the Jupiter Symphony, which will probably take me all this week because of its complexity, I will be moving onto the greatest set of symphonies in all of music, Beethoven’s Nine Symphonies. So many exciting and new adventures ahead!

Concert #1 with the DSO

For coming back from Covid and basically having to start an orchestra fresh, the DSO did a really great job for a first concert back, and my dad was certainly pleased with the performance. There is one piece that my dad and I thought was played wonderfully by the Duke musicians, which was a cantata by J.S. Bach called “Komm, Süßer Tod” (“Come, Sweet Death,” in english). This is a very emotional piece, filled with heaviness and grief, and the Maestro Davidson really did a wonderful job bringing those qualities out. Before reading further, watch this short clip of the full concert (you can watch the full concert too!), which lasts from 7:30 to 13:00:

Throughout this piece, which is in 3/4, he makes his beats very clear mostly in a divided 3/4 beat, which means he conducts in six divided beats. The reason a conductor does this is because, especially in slower music, it can be hard delineate a slower beat. Therefore, orchestra players can follow the conductor in a better way, since the divided beats are much clearer. Also, he mostly directs the cellos, as they mostly have the melodic line in the beginning. However, when there are other moving parts, he also makes sure to give them attention, which drives more tension and helps the whole orchestra stay together. A final point to make through this is that with emotional pieces like this, a conductor cannot let their emotions get the better of them, which is why admire Maestro Davidson throughout this piece. Bach drives a personal connection with him, and so it can be very difficult when conducting something that he claims is a part of his soul. I know that would be a challenge for me if I were up there conducting that. Bravo Maestro Davidson for a great performance!

Sixth Week

This week, I have finished studying the first movement of the Jupiter Symphony, and now I have moved on to the second movement. What a strangely chromatic work for a classical composer such as Mozart. I also had a meeting and watched a rehearsal of Mr. Meyer’s instrumental ensemble, where now they have gotten new pieces that they started to work on, and he may even let me conduct one! Also, I went to a concert where my father was conducting the Duke Symphony Orchestra, and I’m going to post a video of one of the pieces they did and talk about it in further detail as to why he made that piece especially very moving. This week will be a very busy one, since I have dress rehearsals and performances every day, from Monday all the way to Saturday, so I may have to take a short break or cut down the hours of work for this independent study, but I promise I will try to balance everything as well as I can. See you soon!

Fifth Week

I have just finished my studies on Mozart’s famous Symphony No. 40, and soon, I will be moving onto Mozart’s critically acclaimed and ingenious work, Symphony No. 41, also known as “Jupiter.” I had an interesting rehearsal with Mr. Meyer, where I got to know each of the players from the instrumental ensemble. We talked afterwards about what we listened for when helping these musicians play in the best way they can. Another thing we talked about was how Mr. Meyer arranges music. Basically, the different instruments can be broken up into separate parts, so that when one is accounting for what part should play which line, they have an all-around line to take from. The line can be anything from the melody to one of the harmonies. I will display two pictures: the top one is the original arrangement, and the bottom one is Mr. Meyer’s revised arrangement for his smaller group.