As my freshman year nears its end, it has been and is a very busy time, with lots of end of the year activities! With all of the performance opportunities recently, it’s felt more and more like things are returning to normal. Within a two week span, there have been three major performances, with the last one 48 hours. Here’s the rundown.
This past week, I had the unique opportunity to sing for a seminar for student conductors led by Professor Donald Schleicher, who is retiring at the end of this year. This workshop was centered around arias from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, and I was lucky that Dr. Julie Gunn recommended me for it. I am always happy to sing anything from this opera, as it is one of my favorites, and the role of Count Almaviva is a staple of lyric baritone repertoire (my voice type). I agreed instantly to help out with this and was eager for the opportunity to sing with a reduced orchestra! I love singing with strings, and it always provides a welcome variety because even in non-pandemic times, rehearsals are typically with piano. Moreover, the aria I was designated to sing at the workshop was “Hai già vinta la causa,” Count Almaviva’s aria from Nozze, and this was an aria I sang many times throughout my audition season. I was eager to use my skills with the aria in this real-world application.
As a current vocalist and former cellist, I don’t get the chance to dive into the realms of cello playing like I used to. Luckily enough, I was told about the Illini Student Musicals production of Little Women needing a cellist for their pit orchestra. I couldn’t turn down such an opportunity as it allows me to perform the cello again. Prior to this experience, I have never performed in a pit orchestra because I was always more involved in the acting aspect of the show. I always knew and have been told that pit orchestra is way different than a regular orchestra, but I never really quite understood until we started to practice.
If you know me, or if you’ve read my “about me” on the blog, you’ll know that I am a violinist exploring conducting! Here are a couple of reasons why I’m considering this as my next step:
Last week, I sat in on the first orchestra rehearsal for Lyric Theatre @ Illinois’ and University of Illinois Symphony Orchestra’s concert presentation of excerpts from Samuel Barber’s Vanessa. I could not wait to begin working on the music with the talented chamber orchestra, and today, I had the opportunity to do so! This was quite a big deal for me because it was the first time I had sung solo in the Foellinger Great Hall unamplified (one of my greatest Illinois memories was singing the Sergeant of Police in The Pirates of Penzance in November 2018, but that performance utilized microphones). The acoustics of the Foellinger Great Hall are renowned, and some of the world’s greatest singers, including many of my vocal idols, have enjoyed giving recitals on this stage. It felt amazing singing with an orchestra in this space which is so kind to singers and provides plentiful natural amplification.
Winter Break was extra long this year. For me, this meant more practice time, which I found to be, depending on a variety of factors on any given day, both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, more time to practice = more time to study the repertoire I was preparing for the annual Paul Rolland Violin Award Competition. On the other hand, more time to practice = more time playing the violin alone, without anyone to structure my day except me. While I do appreciate a slow, meditative practice session, I find it a difficult lifestyle to maintain without the routine expectations provided by a “normal” weekly schedule of playing in lessons, studios, and chamber groups, and orchestra rehearsals; all of which I am lucky to experience in-person this year. I think that’s why I felt all the more grateful at my first in-person orchestra rehearsal experience of the second semester.
Incredibly, the last time I was in the Krannert Center’s cavernous Foellinger Great Hall, one of the great treasures of our university, was March 2020, almost a year ago. The last day before the pandemic fully took hold, I was on that familiar stage performing Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13, “Babi Yar,” with the Men’s Glee Club, non-treble voices of Oratorio Society and Chamber Singers, soloist Ricardo Herrera, and the University of Illinois Symphony Orchestra led by Donald Schleicher. This was also the last time I performed with a large ensemble for a large audience, and even the last time I have been in a room with that many people for any purpose. This performance took on particular weight when we found that we would not perform the piece at Carnegie Hall and that this would be our last chance to communicate Shoshtakovich’s fiercely relevant political message. The performance was life-affirming in every sense, and its memory still thrills when I think about its eternal temporal place on the edge of a pre-pandemic era.
Hello readers! This is my first post, and I wanted to start with something simple: my typical Thursday. It’s more entertaining than it sounds, I promise.
Like the teenager I am, I woke up at the early hour of noon and grabbed some classic chicken and rice from the dining hall. After freshening up and a short walk to the Krannert Center, it was time for rehearsal! I’m a member of an ensemble called Chamber Orchestra. However, violins are not needed for the opera we are performing, so on those rehearsal days, we also get to play in the String Orchestra. Both are super fun and high-performing groups. We played two different pieces, Serenade by Josef Suk, and Starburst by Jessie Montgomery. A fun bit of information, Josef Suk was the great-grandson of the highly esteemed composer Dvorak. I originally met him when I was 6 years old during a violin trip to Prague.