Sunday, June 17, 2012

Assault on Brevard 2012 -- Introduction to the Brevard Music Institute and Festival from the Eyes of One of its Performers

By Matt Lammers of Fein Violins

In February, I was comfortably seated in my chemistry lecture when I felt my phone buzz. I glanced at it quickly, trying not to miss the finer points of organic intermolecular interaction and polarity, but the text caught my attention. My teacher and quartet coach from home, Ray Shows, a generally enthusiastic though not alarmist individual, left me a message saying, "cakl mw imnediatuly". I did some code-breaking and realized that he wanted me to give him a call as soon as possible. Hoping that something hadn't happened to him or his wife, Nancy, I ducked out of class after being informed that we were learning about colloids for the novelty of it, even though they wouldn't show up on any test. I dialed him up and was relieved to hear an anxiously excited Ray instead of a morose Ray. He ordered me to write down a phone number and call it as soon as I emerged from the Stevenson Center basement, which is irritatingly void of reliable cell service. He told me I'd be discussing a valuable summer opportunity with someone he ran into earlier that day, and that I would be a fool to ignore it.  

The extent of the day's chemistry education: milk is an organic colloid


 I called the number, not knowing what to expect, and it rang through to voicemail. Having taken my fair share of orchestral auditions, I'd listened a lot to a recording by William Preucil, revered concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra and former member of the Cleveland Quartet, which outlines the objectives of commonly requested orchestral excerpts (Don Juan, Brahms' 2nd, etc.). When that same voice came spilling out of my phone, I was dumbstruck and so speechless that I hung up without leaving a message! After I collected myself, deciding how to concisely and intelligently introduce myself via voicemail, I tried again. After one or two rings, I was talking to the man himself:

     "This is Bill Preucil, I'm sorry I missed you the first time, may I ask who's calling?"
     "This is Matt Lammers, Ray Shows suggested I give you a call" (in my head: "whoa, whoa, whoa, wasn't planning on this, what business does he have answering his phone? How is someone too busy to answer and then free five minutes later?")
      "Ah yes, I spoke with Ray about you this morning, thanks for getting in touch. Has he told you about the situation?"
      "No, I'm sorry--"
      "No worries, no worries. I'm on faculty at the Brevard Institute, and the spots in my studio are usually spoken for by this time. This year, though, I have one opening left, and after my chat with Ray I'd like to give you the opportunity to claim it."
      "Oh, that would be fantastic! I'll certainly take you up on it." (in my head: "surely not, what's Ray up to? Who did he find that sounds just like Preucil?")
      "Don't you want to check your summer schedule?"
      "No, to be honest I'd cancel anything that conflicts regardless."
      "Alright, then I'll call admissions and have them put you on my list. Glad to have you round out the studio."
      "Great, thank you. I'll email you and be in touch as we get closer to the summer."
      "Sounds like a plan. By the way, I think applications and tapes are officially due tomorrow."
      "Okay, no problem. I'll talk to you later."

It was a problem. They were due tomorrow. Thank you to Dorothy in admissions for the extra week. 

Bill Preucil in Severance Hall

Concertmaster Bill Preucil at the helm of the Cleveland Orchestra

After throwing together recordings of the first movement of the Mozart A Major Concerto, the first page of Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream, the infamous page of Brahms' 2nd symphony, and the Allegro of Beethoven's 6th symphony, I was accepted to the college program.


Now, after working at Fein for the last month and a half, I will be flying out to the Brevard Music Center  for six weeks of musical immersion. Armed only with my violin, some resilience, and a computer to continue blogging about it (I'll be posting updates every week or so) I will be taking on all that the Institute's College Program has to throw at me; the Brevard Orchestra will perform full programs on a weekly basis, I've opted into a violin-clarinet-piano trio, private study with one of America's leading concertmasters, which is by no means something to be taken lightly, and scholarship obligations will consume the energy I have left after performances, rehearsals, practice, and parts-learning. I will be rubbing shoulders and learning from some of the best chamber, solo, and orchestral musicians and students in the field, which will stretch my technique and musicianship like bow hair on a pea-soup humid day. 

Brevard Music Center orchestra in performance

My teacher at Vanderbilt, Chris Teal, and I decided that I would let the Mozart simmer until Brevard to use it in a concerto competition. Mozart will also be an interesting topic with Mr. Preucil, given the blend of orchestral and soloist playing required to play it effectively. It would be a shame not to pick the man's brain for some words of orchestral playing wisdom, so I've also prepared excerpts from Strauss' quintessential Don Juan, Beethoven's 6th and 9th, a couple of Mozart symphonies, and the Mendelssohn and Brahms once again as well. As far as additional solo repertoire goes, I will be bringing Bruch's Scottish Fantasy to audition for orchestral section placement, and the Brahms G Major Sonata, at Mr. Preucil's request. On top of this, the Brevard Orchestra's concert calendar is significant (see Brevard Orchestra repertoire). I've also opted into chamber music and will be studying Bartok's Contrasts for violin, clarinet, and piano with a fellow Vanderbilt student and pianist to be determined.

Bartok Contrasts for violin, clarinet, and piano (mvmt 1-2)

Bartok Contrasts for violin, clarinet, and piano (mvmt 3)

So, it is with excitement that I bid Minnesota adieu for six weeks. Keep an eye out for my updates from the BMC where I'll share and discuss the trials, tribulations, terrors, vices, victories, and virtues of one of the great national music festivals. 

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