Sam B. ’23, Viola/Piano
Scherzo a la Russe by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
I was shown this piece a little over a year ago. When I was first introduced to it, I was definitely a bit hesitant to learn because I knew it would be a technical challenge. Over time as I started to piece it together and make sense of it, I learned that this was a jaunty and joyful piece. Throughout the whole piece, the melody always remembers to go back to the main theme that was introduced at the very beginning of the piece. It starts small and adds more and more elements onto that initial melody until it is practically bursting with energy.
This piece was definitely a long term project. It was originally planned for a competition, but the competition was canceled. Then we decided to use it for a recital, but that was canceled as well. After the recital I dropped it for about half a year and let it go to save it for another time. I'm actually glad I had the opportunity to relearn this piece in order to see the details I didn't notice the first time around, and I was able fix up many messy sections that I didn't have as securely as I wanted.
Although there is still so much more I could do, I am really happy that I have been getting more comfortable with performing and accepting my mistakes. I still get very nervous, but I think I have been more able to push out of my comfort zone by reminding myself that I know my piece well, and that people are listening to appreciate the music with me, not pick out mistakes.
Very often in solo work there are technical risks you have to take in order to do difficult passages. An example could be a passage with a big jump. I very often got nervous when I approached it, which either caused me to overthink it and make a mistake, or play it very quietly in fear that I might make a mistake. My teacher recommended that I have trust in myself and my ability, and to just go all out for the jump every time. He said to not worry about the notes, and pretend that the piano is like a drum, like there is only one percussive note and no such thing as missing. Although at first it was much more scary and I missed more often, overtime I found myself able to play the passage confidently, and it came together much stronger than it could have been if I had always played it safe. I've found that I am able to apply this, just "going for it," to a whole variety of different things in my solos.
I'm looking forward to having my first in person Emma artists day!
Mairi C. ’23, Violin
Mazurka by Emil Mlynarski
I like this piece because it is upbeat and fast. A challenge in this piece is the intonation of its quadruple stops. Listeners should listen for the rhythm of the piece because it was written for dancing.
A success of this year was being able to find new ways to approach specific techniques needed for specific pieces. A challenge of this year was trying to better my understanding of music theory.
I grew as an artist because practicing for recitals and having specific goals in mind made violin become more of a priority in my life.
I was surprised by how nervous performing live makes me--over the pandemic I forgot what it's like to have a live audience.
I am looking forward to finishing the Spring Sonata and performing it next year.
Claire L. ’23 - Dancer/Choreographer
Lock and Key
Music: "Insomnia" By Ben Trigg
As I became a junior this fall, the college wave hit me hard. When I tell people I am a dancer they ask if I will do that in college and study dance. And while I love what I do, I want my love of dance to stay pure and devoting my life to it, I fear, would twist it into something different. Letting go of this dream and facing reality has been a hard pill to swallow. So as I reflected on my credentials and ranked myself as a contender for college I spiraled. I went to my advisor and said "Ms. Webb, how am I to apply to college? I have spent all my time at a dance studio everyday after school and have nothing to show for it." She showed me a very different way of looking at it. She said "That's not true, it shows your passion for dance and dedication and commitment to your studio and what you love." Since then, working on this piece has taught me immense gratitude and appreciation for what I do every day. The day will come when I won't have the comfort of knowing I have dance every night and so whenever I feel frustrated, tired, not good enough, and run down I remind myself of the privilege I have and to make the absolute most of it. Dance has always been, and will continue to be my key for all my locks in life, and this piece has become a physical representation of this complicated relationship.
Olivia L. ’24 Soprano
Se tu m'ami, se sospiri by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi
I have sung this piece in the past, but I wanted to come back to it because of the memorable melody and flow. This piece has a quirkiness to it that I enjoy, and the English translation (the piece is in Italian) is up to one's interpretation. This piece was a bit challenging for me because of the key change and the expression. I have previously sung this piece in a different key, and getting used to a higher key took some adjusting. The expression component was difficult for me because this is not a typical love song. Instead, this piece depicts a sassy woman who wants to do her own thing and not commit to anyone. Something you should listen for are phrases that have double consonants. They create a brief pause in the sentence to keep the audience engaged.
A success to my musical studies this year was sight singing. I feel like I have a better grasp on the concept and I am not as afraid of it as I was last year. On the other hand, a challenge to my musical studies this year was enunciation. I worked on enunciating words during warmups and focused on singing clearly in pieces.
In ensemble work, I have grown as an artist because I am able to listen to others around me and mesh my voice with them. I am also able to be confident in my voice part if I am singing next to an alto or soprano II. In solo work, I have grown because I am able to adapt to the acoustics of different rooms. SInging in the Chapel for my lessons is different from practicing at home, and I have managed to adjust to the room I sing in.
Something that surprised me artistically this year was in a performance in February. I sang a piece that had a high note at the end, and even though I practiced the ending multiple times, I was nervous about it. On performance day, I hit the note and surprised myself because it was the best I had sung the piece overall!
I look forward to listening and watching my peers perform during Emma Artists class and in recitals.
Tiffany M. ’23, Violin
Violin Concerto No.3, Op. 61 by Camille Saint-Saens
III. Molto moderato e maestoso
The first thing that drew me into this incredible concerto was the overwhelmingly fiery and passionate melodies as well as the contrasting themes recurring throughout the piece. The third movement (finale) in particular is my favorite one out of the other two because of the huge variety of stylistic passages and melodies. The finale begins with a glorious introduction followed by a couple energetic and melodic main themes that reoccur several times throughout the piece. Although the last movement first starts off with a bold and dramatic minor chord, it moves towards a more optimistic and proud ending as the major-key themes are intensified towards the end. One of the biggest challenges in this movement was to make the fast melodies sound light and dance-like and the lyrical melodies sound sentimental and smooth. Therefore, bow distribution and weight play especially significant roles in this piece.
Two major things I’m working on this year are my musicality and techniques. In terms of musicality, I’ve been working on producing full and resonant tones on my violin by experimenting on bow angles and sounding points etc. I’ve also learnt the importance of relaxing my arms and wrists while playing because that greatly affects my tone quality. In terms of technique, I’ve been working on my left hand articulation and my bow arm mechanics by minimizing my bow hisses as much as possible. A major challenge for me has always been keeping the consistency of my intonation throughout the piece especially in fast and tricky passages. I’ve been trying to improve on that by doing effective slow practice and practicing scales and arpeggios accompanied by a drone.
I’ve grown as an artist by letting my interpretation of the piece come through in my playing clearly. I’ve also been actively listening and studying the orchestral part of the concerto in order to know how my part fits well into the orchestra.
During one of my lessons with my teacher Ms.Silver, she talked about the importance of actively listening for overtones when playing in order to let my instrument resonate and ring as much as possible. For instance, if my instrument is fully resonating, people all the way at the back of the hall would still be able to hear me clearly even when playing a soft passage because the overtones are filling the entire hall up. This piece of advice has stuck with me since then and has improved my playing.
I look forward to performing on Emma Artists day as well as listening to my peers play.
Hanh N. ’24, Cello
Toccata by Girolamo Frescobaldi
I remember hearing the piece for the first time, and I really liked the light hearted theme that reappeared every few lines. One big challenge was during my high chords, bringing out the melody with good tone was difficult since the high chord notes would often come out as squeaky or sharp.
One success I had this year with my musical studies is becoming comfortable again with performing in front of people and memorizing my pieces. Especially for piano, since it had been over two years since I did a real live performance, it was stressful for me to play in front of people since I was used to recording myself again and again until my songs sounded decent (for online performances). Memorizing was also something that I wasn't used to, since I wasn't asked to memorize for performances/recitals before this past few months. But, I decided to challenge myself this year and memorize all my pieces for each of my performances, since not only does it look more professional but I'm also able to truly focus on the sound of the music I'm playing, not just the notes on the sheet. These aspects were definitely challenges for me at first, but with more practice I was able to turn them into successes.
In solo work, I became more confident and aware of my music. I started to focus on really making sure every single note I pressed was the way I intended to do it, so that the piece as a whole would sound much more connected and better. It was really tedious work, practicing very slowly and trying to notice even all the nitty gritty things but this definitely paid off in my performances. In ensemble work, I learned how to interweave myself with the rest of my cello section together. I realized how important it is for a section of instruments in an orchestra to stay together because it really isn't a race to see who can get to the end of the piece first.
The times where I performed in front of my fellow peers at Emma Artists really surprised me. At first I didn't realize how nerve-wracking it really was to perform in front of people besides my piano teacher, since because of COVID I hadn't actually performed live anywhere. The first time I performed I made quite a few mistakes, but then the second, third and fourth time I performed, I felt mentally so much better about performing and also played my piece much more solidly. When the real recital came in April, I wasn't very nervous and confidently was able to play my piece decently in front of an audience.
I am really looking to learning new repertoire both on piano and cello (solo and ensemble) in the next few months as well as showcasing those songs in performances for everyone to hear!
Sadie O. '24, Soprano
Ah! Je Veux Vivre by Charles Gounod
The joy of the piece is what drew me to it as well as the difficulty that it would pose. A big challenge for me was learning to pronounce the French and singing the entire piece fluently.
Challenges in my music included being solely virtual with my instructor, and finding my place musically at Emma. I would say a success in my music would be the recital I performed in.
I have gotten more comfortable singing in front of crowds, and hope to sing in more ensembles in the future.
I look forward to performing in the Emma artist recital and learning more pieces.
Ivyann S. ’23, Piano
Ballade No. 2 by Chopin
I was drawn to the subtleties, contrast, and overall story of Ballade No. 2. Last year, I interpreted the piece as a nameless hero’s tale that ends with his demise; this year, I think of Achilles in The Iliad—specifically, the build-up to and aftermath of not his death, but that of his friend/lover Patroclus. The peaceful yet slightly foreboding A section is Achilles’ childhood alongside his friend Patroclus, and the jarring and violent B section is the Trojan War the two are drawn into. A brief respite occurs with the return of the A section. The return of the B section, representing Achilles’ rage, is triggered by news of Patroclus’ death at Hector’s hands. The frenzied, climatic coda section is the fight between Hector and a vengeful Achilles, who emerges as the victor. The piece dies down with an echoing of the opening theme, but this time in a melancholy A minor, which I think represents Achilles’ relinquishing of Hector’s corpse to Hector's family, his exhaustion, and his grieving for Patroclus.
One challenge this year has been balancing my junior-year workload and extracurriculars with piano. I think I have improved my listening skills.
During a performance of Ballade No. 2 in an Emma Artists session, I experimented with “letting go of the reins” slightly. I was surprised by how much more passionate my performance sounded.
I look forward to continuing my piano studies throughout the remainder of high school and beyond. I am excited to refine the pieces I am playing now and to branch out to some new ones.
Yolanda S. ’23, Dancer/Choreographer
Music: “Freak” by Sub Urban
My dance is called “Entangled Natures,” dancing to the song “Freak” by Sub Urban (ft. REI AMI). One’s nature is somewhat strangling, weaving through myriads of layers, and who we think we are is not who we are deep down. Through this dance, I explore our animal nature, the chaotic and unconditional nature we try to subdue and conceal. With my back arching and caving and my arms resembling tentacles, I hope to ripple through the air, crackling and reclaiming my animal nature. As the animal state is caged and shunned as a ‘freak’ or being ‘uncivilized,’ a term employed to order the subjugation of many peoples and minority groups, the black background forms a cage around me. My white clothes represent a constructed purity, whimsical and obedient and pure, like the standard that is placed upon many of us. However, I seek to break out of my skin, the clothes, the construct, and the cage with my outward-exploding movements in the last moments of my dance. In the coming-together of the choreography, I was pushed to find deeper meaning and allow my emotions to flow into my piece. I found that the most authentic movement came from the movements fueled by others’ extreme emotions like deep, burning anger. Creating this piece has opened my eyes to the beauty of my inner monster and taught me the sacred embodiment of my other nature, and I hope it could also be a key to your reflections back to your own suppressed natures.
Robyn W. ’24, Piano
Romance in D flat major, Op. 24 No. 9
by Jean SibeliusRomance in D-flat
is a more obscure piece that I was introduced to by my piano teacher. Initially, the piece looks easy with a repetitive melody and accompaniment. However, as the piece climaxes, the music gets more difficult with big chords and runs that ultimately end in a triumphant recurrence of the main melody. Be sure to look out for the many instances of the main melody and how it intertwines with other themes throughout the piece.
This year, a success and challenge was gaining more performance experience. Especially with COVID-19 these past few years, performance opportunities were scarce resulting in an increase in performance anxiety and a decrease in overall performance. Thankfully, COVID-19 has slowed down and this has allowed me to perform more often! Additionally, I was really surprised by how much more I could give to a piece. I remember the first time I seriously recorded myself: I almost didn’t recognize my own playing! The tone and body posture of my playing was so different from how I imagined it, and being able to see and hear myself brought a new dimension to my performance and allowed me to expand upon the quality of my pieces.
As an artist, I've learned what tone means for my instrument. This semester, playing contrasting pieces like this romance from the Romantic period and a sonata from the Classical period has taught me the wide range of colors and tones a pianist has to be able to achieve. While I haven't quite mastered it yet, I'm definitely on my way to comprehension.
Overall, I look forward to more opportunities to perform and share my music next year! This year, I wasn't able to play at any of the recitals because of conflicting events, but hopefully next year won't be the same.
String Quartet: Hanh N ’24, Tiffany M. ’23, Sam B. ’23, and Isabella H. ’25
String Quartet No. 21 K575 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Movement 4 - Allegretto
The main thing that drew us to this piece was the sweet recurring melody that we heard through the piece. The melody started with the cello and then was passed along in each of the instruments. However, one of the main challenges of this piece was bringing out the musicality aspect of it together. It was and sometimes is still hard to match each other’s playing styles but definitely listening to one another was very helpful in improving the musical aspect of this piece. One thing the audience can listen for is for the melody and variations of it, which is sometimes hidden!
One success we had was learning to listen to one another and how each of our parts weaved in together. It was definitely hard at first to do this when this music was new to us, but slowly as we got to know the music better, we were able to see the “conversations” each part would have with another part in the sheet music.
One way we improved our playing was by breathing together and making eye contact before, throughout and after the piece. We all didn’t realize how important it was at first, to coordinate entrances with one another but then soon after listening to recordings of ourselves and running through parts of the piece many times, did. Learning how to play together in general was definitely a challenge at first since sometimes certain instruments had to quiet down so that other instruments could increase in dynamics.
Recording our piece run-through definitely surprised us. One time when we did this, we realized that the way some of us were playing didn’t match others at some parts of the piece. Of course we didn’t notice this while we were playing since we were too focused on our individual sheet music. This made us realize how important recording ourselves and playing for other people was, so that we can get a different perspective on our playing and could improve as a group.
We are really looking forward to learning many more new pieces and performing them at future recitals whenever at school or in the community and beyond!