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.
For our first UISO (University of Illinois Symphony Orchestra) concert cycle, we are playing Mozart’s Symphony no. 35 and Ravel’s “Le Tombeau de Couperin,” neither of which I have performed before. But, as any violinist reading this might know, the 4th movement of the Mozart piece contains an (in)famous orchestral audition excerpt, so I was excited to play it in the context of the rest of the symphony. Our first rehearsal began as all orchestra rehearsals do, by tuning to the oboe, and then our conductor, Professor Schleicher, jumped right into a run-through of Symphony no. 35. His philosophy of first rehearsals, as he tells us, is to play everything before we get into the nitty-gritty of rehearsal, so as not to frustrate the musicians with too much detailed criticism without a chance to play the whole piece through. This practice was especially comforting this time because it was a chance to settle back into playing with our colleagues, something we hadn’t done for months. We also got to have this rehearsal on the Foellinger Great Hall stage, which felt a little surreal–
I hadn’t been on that stage since March 2020, during our last UISO concert before the temporary end of in-person instruction that marked the Spring 2020 semester. And so to be there, in February 2021, making music with my colleagues on that beautiful stage, was a reassuring reminder of our resiliency and force of will as musicians, learners, and human beings.