Bella B. ’21 - Piano
Étude Op. 10 No. 12 by Frédéric Chopin
The piece I am performing is Chopin’s Étude Op. 10 No. 12 or the “Revolutionary Étude.” I was drawn to this piece because of the fiery and passionate nature of it. Prior to learning this étude some years ago, I hadn’t studied a piece that required as much power and stamina. One of the most challenging aspects of studying this piece was building up the strength, stamina, and technique that the piece required to perform. Despite these difficulties, I enjoyed learning this piece. I really grew as a pianist from studying this étude.
I've been successful in practicing during small periods of free time that I've had this year. I've also gotten better at practicing smaller sections of pieces so that I could make the most of my practice time. I struggled with passion and inspiration for music for quite a while this year. With time, though, I've regained some of it. I feel much more motivated and excited to practice than I did a couple of months ago. I found that I've had the most motivation to practice when I practice regularly and can see the progress I've made. That makes me want to sit down at the piano the next day.
I've grown as an artist because I've learned how to maintain my passion and inspiration for music. I've learned that the best way to maintain it, even when I am struggling, is, again, to make sure I practice regularly and stay motivated by keeping track of my progress. If I can make a passage just a little better each day with practice, after a week, the passage will have improved.
I discovered this year that musical theory knowledge truly helps when you are learning and memorizing a piece. I like to talk through difficult passages in my pieces with my teacher to gain a better understanding of them. It makes it easier for me to tackle the passages when I am first learning the notes, and it helps me remember how to play and memorize the passages as I continue working on the piece. I hope to study music theory more in-depth in the future.
I look forward to continuing to study Chopin's Ballade No.1 in G minor. I have been working on it for a while and I really love the piece.
Lucy C. ’21 - Piano
Piano Sonata No. 1 by Ludwig van Beethoven
I will be performing the first movement of Beethoven’s first piano sonata. I was drawn to the piece because I liked the spot in the movie The Magnificent Rebel where he plays this piece. Beethoven goes to perform at a party, and his teacher has told him to play a piece by Bach. But he sits down at the piano and plays that first sonata. Associating that piece with a moment where Beethoven defied expectations always made me smile when I thought about playing it. In the first movement, there is a challenge in the form of keeping some notes quiet and some notes loud while playing them at the same time and in the same hand.
For me, the idea of Beethoven as a person is tied up in the music he gave us. As a child, I used to listen to a children's story called Beethoven Lives Upstairs, and at one point, Beethoven says, "Composers are made of fire." I like to think that I can hear that fire when I listen to Beethoven's music or play it.
As always, finding time to practice is a challenge for me, as I am at school until late at night and often have large amounts of homework. I continued to try to practice every day as well as studying some music theory, which illuminated choices the composers of different pieces made as I studied or listened to them. I found in the quarantine a previously unexpected amount of practice time, so that worked out well for me, and I began to study the second movement of the piece as well.
I think that studying music theory this year has taught me a lot. I have not gotten through everything there is to know about music theory, but my studies of the kinds of minor keys as well as types of chords have given me a deeper understanding of the pieces I play. Also, working on a cello-and-piano piece with my dad (me on the cello) has allowed me to learn more about playing with others.
I was surprised by how easy certain things are that I hadn't thought were easy before. There is a rhythmic passage of four against six, and I was shocked at how easy it was for me to play that as I have often struggled with that type of rhythm before. Luckily, my earlier struggles carried through and taught me what I needed to know.
I look forward to learning the rest of my sonata as well as learning the rest of the Weber Variations I have been working on. I’m also excited to learn more about music theory and play more four-hand pieces with my dad!
Anna D. ’21 - Mezzo Soprano
Gia Il Sole Dal Gange by Alessandro Scarlatti
Having a lower vocal range presents a challenge when looking for pieces, and after scouring all of the available Alto II pieces on the New York State School Music Association catalogue, my teacher and I came up empty handed. That is, of course, until she spotted it on the very bottom of the page, in the tiniest print. Gia Il Sole Dal Gange, by Alessandro Scarlatti, is a piece that sits comfortably in my range, and most exciting of all, a classical voice piece that sounds happy! It's not every day that you get to sing an upbeat, lively song, and it was an absolute joy to sing this one.
The most blatant challenge I've faced in my musical studies is our current world situation. Having limited to no access to practice spaces, sheet music, and instruments, along with the difficulties of practicing the arts virtually, has challenged me to find new ways to continue my studies at my current home. I've tried to turn my room (not actually my room, I'm with my grandparents in Alabama currently) into a makeshift practice area. I've printed out some sheet music and have taken remote music lessons through Zoom. I'm working with what I have. Vocalists are lucky, because we always have our instruments with us!
This year, I got to be a co-head of Junior Singing Group (JSG). It taught me so much about composition, music instruction, leading a group of my peers, and organization. I had so much fun! I also continued my solo studies, trying out all sorts of different pieces in many different languages. I've come to find that German is my favorite language to sing!
I would be lying if I said that being a co-head of a music group was easy. Creating music and leading a group to create music can be difficult, but it was so rewarding. JSG spent early Wednesdays and midday Fridays practicing, rehearsing, laughing, and singing pieces my co-head Tessa and I arranged. As the day of our performance approached, I was a little nervous. What if we mess up?! What will I do!?! The group, however, eased my worries. Every practice was a great practice, even if we messed up, or sang off-key, or came in too early. By the day of the Ring Dinner performance, I knew we were ready. We all met in Sage Browsing. I was a minute late, and one of my fake nails popped off and I had to glue it back on!
When I walked in, there was the group, singing the piece, and sounding so incredibly beautiful! We all put our hands in the middle, reassuring one another, and cheered! Soon, it was our time to show the junior and senior class what we had been working on for the last weeks. As Tessa and I cued in the parts, any worries, stress, or fear that I had was replaced with awe and pride as every single singer in the group blew me away. As the piece came to an end, I looked at Tessa, and then the group, and was filled with so much love and excitement for all of us! It was one of the proudest moments of my entire life, and I couldn't have done it without the incredible talent of every single one of my JSG members.
I look forward to hopefully getting back to school and continuing my music studies next year!
Ruibing Laura L. ’21 - Piano
Intermezzo Op. 117 No. 1 by Johannes Brahms
I will be playing Intermezzo Op. 117 No. 1
by Johannes Brahms. I haven’t played a Brahms piece before this one but have played a great number of Romantic pieces. The style of this piece is similar to that of other Romantic pieces but fascinated me with how powerful the melody is, even though it is tender and angelic. The first part is very tranquil. Its tranquility puts my mind at ease every time I play and I hope it would do the same for the audience as well. The second part has a poignant twist to the melody. It sounds agitated and is very thought-provoking. The conflicts are then resolved in the third part. I think this piece is unique in that it has both gentleness and an immense amount of power in it.
I was able to play a number of pieces this year and really learned to put myself in the composer's positions and imagine what they would want those pieces to turn out like. Despite how busy I was during the academic year, I still managed to practice as much as I could. The challenges I've encountered are mostly around the process of making my pieces "performable." I figured out that for me I not only have to practice an ample amount, but also have to be in the right mindset to perform.
I did mostly solo works but also worked with other pianists last semester to perform one piece together. I think I definitely grew in being able to work with others better. It's always about how the piece will come together as a whole, and therefore I had to figure out how to play my part to best fit into the group work. I think my understanding of as well as the ability to play different types of music also expanded and grew. I have been playing pieces from the Romantic era since I first came to Emma Willard, and even though I am playing a romantic piece one again for Emma Artist Day, I have been working on pieces from other times, such as the Baroque period.
Throughout my practices and lessons this year, a number of things have surprised me. On a general note, I’ve been surprised by how much joy music has brought me this year. Along with the rigorous academic schedule, music was never a burden for me this year. Even during times before big assessments, I would find myself in the practice room, and doing this has definitely helped me cope with stress as well. I was also surprised upon discovering Brahms this year. I’ve never had the chance to play Brahms before and playing his piece this year has definitely opened up a new horizon for me. The techniques required to play his piece are so unique, and the melody has such a strong grasp on the soul as well.
I look forward to being able to bring the fullness of this piece to the audience. I will definitely try to bring the emotions that are associated with this piece to the audience, despite that I cannot do this in-person at Emma Willard. I also look forward to meeting with the audience in the panel this year as I believe the conversations will be both inspiring to me and hopefully will also bring new perspectives to the audience.
Leave a Note of Encouragement!