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Musings of an Insane High Schooler


DigiMark
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I have been told by five people in the past three days that I am insane.

I'm pretty happy about it.

I had my lesson on Wed. My teacher had called the other day to change our lesson time. My mom answered the phone. I was messing around with the first line of the Tchaikovsky violin concerto that I just ordered. He recognized it when he heard me playing it, and commented on my playing it.

At my lesson I explained that I wasn't going behind his back and playing things that are beyond me, I was merely curious about the Tchaik because I like it so much. He told me that as long as I worked on the things he gave me that improved my basic technique, I could work on whatever else I wanted. I then told him that I wanted to try out on the Tchaik for my senior solo for my school's orchestra...He cringed. He told me that while he didn't want to crush my dreams, the Tchaik was quite simply out of my reach.

I didn't accept that. I love the Tchaikovsky. It's beautiful. It is the only piece I want as a senior solo. Even if I can't learn it, I want to try. He told me I was insane for wanting to try, but that if I could learn it on my own, he'd gladly help me with it.

Now I have a year. I have already made complex lists and charts outlining a practice regimen to learn it. I have it down to the letter so that I will learn it in equal increments all throughout the year and eventually piece it together into one magnificent piece. I want this solo, want the chance to be up in front of everyone on stage and feel the emotional power of it all, want it more than I have ever wanted anything up to this point in my life. Not because of competition, or because of glory, but simply to feel the beauty of the music and to be a part of it. If it can be done, I will do it.

I had auditions yesterday. With knowledge of the Tchaik, auditions seemed stupid. No nervousness whatsoever, even if I played poorly. With so many of my peers on edge, a few were more than a little jealous of my calm demeanor. After explaining to one why auditions were essentially unimportant in one's musical advancement, she called me crazy. She simply didn't understand.

My two best violinist friends, upon hearing my plan to play the Tchaik, and upon looking at the music, declared me legally insane. Incidentally, one of those friends agreed that if I can learn the violin part, then he'll learn the piano accompanyment (he's also a pianist). I don't think he's planning on me learning it any time soon.

Is this insane? Am I overstepping my boundaries? I know many of you will say to never stop dreaming, but I also want a realistic opinion. Will it hinder my advancement as a player if I try to bite off more than I can chew at such an early age? Should I try out on an easier piece that I'd know I could learn? And do you think I have the technical proficiency to even attempt to learn it? (I'm at Kreutzer 11, in Flesch scales, recently played Bach A Minor, Mozart 3, and Romance 2 by Beethoven to give you an idea of where I am as a player) Keep in mind that I will have a year to work on it and will be working on it more than most mortal men would, should I decide to, because if I just casually worked on it like I do for some pieces I know I wouldn't have a prayer.

Thank you for any comments.

DigiMark

p.s. realized only four people called me insane, not five like I said at the top. And for some reason, I feel like writing this rather than changing the five to a four.

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Well, your teacher and your friends are fairly justified in their opinions. Do you have the necesarry skills to play the Tchaikovsky? The fast arpeggios up and down the fingerboard, TOTAL (you can't play it without this) knowledge of scales, and not to mention all the bowing techniques involved. I know you love the Tchaikovsky, so do I, but you should set your sights on some of the easier concertos. Perhaps the Bruch G Minor? Even the Mendelssohn?

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Mark:

Take this from a fellow high-schooler: I know you said that we are going to say stuff like this, but I'm saying it anyways. Go for it. Dreams are meant to be carried out and if it is in your heart-than do it. Make your dream a reality. I believe, if you work hard at it (which I know you will) you can achieve even your highest dream. It may take a while, but it'll happen. After all, your teacher recognized it didn't he?? That must mean something, you were playing it well enough that he knew what it was. I have followed crazy dreams of mine, too, and I have succeeded. As for those who call you insane,..........they just don't know how to believe in dreams. They don't understand that dreams are so important. I am not one to tell you if you are able of this or not, but (in my opinion) I think you can do it.

Sorry if this babbling of mine hasn't helped at all. Journey

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Hi, I'm a high schooler too, and I know exactly where you're coming from smile.gif This almost exact thing happened to me two years ago--Long story, tell ya later--but I think you should listen to your teacher when he says that you shouldn't play it. A year is not very long, and the Tchaikovsky is really hard.

When you play your senior solo, people will be listening to your PLAYING, not how hard the piece is--especially if it's beyond your reach. Remember: Faster is not necessarily better--the quality of your playing will be more noticed than how hard the piece was.

I agree with PAGANINI; why don't you try your hand at Bruch's G minor? It's not nearly so hard, but what average listener can tell? Besides, it's simply beautiful! smile.gif

Good Luck!

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Age isn't the issue -- I learned the Tchaikovsky when I was 16, and I believe there are a number of teenagers who post regularly to the board who have done this concerto... you can learn it as a high schooler, without being an extraordinary prodigy, IF you have the technique for it.

By your list of what you've been working on, I would be inclined to agree with your teacher and everyone else -- you probably aren't ready, technically, to tackle the concerto. (Your friend the pianist will be in for a lot of finger-busting, if you do learn it, though! The piano accompaniment is... dense. wink.gif )

It's not going to hurt you to work on this -- as long as you work through it slowly, making sure that you don't "practice in" bad habits. You might also find it extremely frustrating. To me, the first movement feels like it gets progressively more difficult, so this is a good gauge for what you're up against -- if the first two pages feel hard, the remainder of the concerto might well feel nigh-impossible. But don't get randomly intimidated by the forest of notes; the concerto falls into the hand quite well, and while, like most of the concerto repertoire, it's difficult, it is not insanely so.

(I remember my initial reaction to beginning to learn the Tchaikovsky was, "Wow. This isn't nearly as hard as I was led to believe!" If this wasn't your reaction, you are likely in for pain.)

The sheer length of the piece works against you, as well -- around forty minutes. It requires a ton of physical energy, a lot of concentration, and, of course, the practice time to learn and keep all of it in your fingers.

I think you will have a better chance of getting that solo if you play a work that's simple enough for you to do well -- ultimately, as Elissa says, HOW you play is more important than WHAT you play.

The recommendation for the Bruch G minor is a good one. If you want a Russian concerto, though, you might consider the Kabalevsky, which should be within your grasp technically.

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Ok, now for something completely differnt.

I have no clue how hard ANY of the pieces are. Not familiar with the Tchaikovsky, or the Bruch, or any of them.

Consider this. One of three things will happen:

A)You try, succeed madly, and prove to yourself that if you set your mind to it you can do darn near anything.

B)You try, and fail miserably.

C)You don't try, and don't succeed.

One sure thing about it, if you don't try you WILL NOT play it.

A quote from Calvin Coolidge:

"Press on: Nothing in the world can take the place of pereverance. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.

Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.

Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.

Persistance and determination alone are omnipotent. Press on!"

(taken from a Boyd's Bears statue. laugh.gif)

William

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Hi

I'm a junior in high school and i've been learning tchaik for about 2 months now. Yes I do agree with you about the fact that it is prolly one of THE most beautiful concerto out there and i luv every single moment working on it. Even though i wanted to play this concerto all my life (it was one of the landmark goals i had for my violin education.. to play tchaik well w/ all my heart), i ran into lots and lots of technical problems. I have learned to be patient in last couple of years and i feel that my technique has improved a lot. If i were to play this concerto say 2 years ago, i would have been soo frustrated that i would have lost the love for the music.

Similar thing happened to me when I attempted Wieniawski's 1st concerto (after falling in luv w/ every single piece wieniawski composed.. i thought i wanna tackle the 1st concerto) I just wanted to play the melody of the 1st concerto SOOO badly so i started it and.. gosh, i never knew 10ths, 3rds, fingered double harmonics, 6ths, downbow staccatos were SOO hard. I became soo frustrated that i had to drop it. I mean i didn't lose the fire for the piece but i just could not stand being frustarted anymore. I hope this doesn't happen to you. If u run into technical problems, just keep practicing it in other contexts such as etudes or sevcik until u feel like u've mastered it. Keep learning it with great patience and just strive toward that musical realm that u seek. Good luck on your journey. Remember.. be patient with yourself and imagine yourself playing tchaikovsky JUST the way you want to in the future.

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If you DON'T take on challenges like this regularly BY YOURSELF, you will never improve.

You're psyching yourself out by telling yourself that this concerto is unplayable.

If you keep doing that and corroborate it with charts, lists, and other excesses, you will ensure that it will STAY unplayable.

I highly recommend that you go it ALONE on this concerto. Your teacher's negative attitude will subtly discourage you at every turn - and don't even try to apologize for him in advance. Besides, everything you need is spelled out for you in the unadulterated Tchaikovsky piano score.

If I didn't play stuff "before" I was ready all my life, I'd have STAYED not ready for the rest of my life . . . and HKV as you know him would not exist.

You will sweat, you will bleed, you will suffer, you will hate your playing - and you'll be FORCED to improve.

By the way, Digimark, your need for peer acceptance is negatively affecting your innate expressiveness and individuality.

When one starts to ascend the mountain, he must prepare himself for the eventuality of one-ness.

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DigiMark,

I say "go for it!"

It will not be easy. You will have to learn techincal things you do not yet know - but they are in the music - and learning them therein is as good as anywhere else. (It's the same way a lot of physics grad students learn the math they need to do quantum mechanics - they learn it when they need it.)

As Lydia says, learn it slowly. I'd say set yourself a goal to learn perhaps at least 2 new measures each day. If they're easy you can learn more, if they are repeats, learn the next two (that's the way YoYo Ma learned the Bach cello suites when he was a lot smaller than a cello).

Also, whatever you do, do not listen to the Heifetz recordings as an example. Not only does he play it very fast, as far as I'm concerned, he plays it so much too fast that the music tends to dissappear.

And of course, the slow movement is exquisite, not very long and will stand as a solo all by itself - so if you want to play it first - polish it and then go to the first movement, knowing that when you finish that, you can go to the slow movement for dessert.

Finally - the last movement - actually much of it is no harder than a lot of orchestral music - it's getting it to sound neat enough for a solo at the given speed that makes it tough. But speed has a way of moderating once you know the notes. You will face the problem of deciding what kind of bowing strokes you will use for a lot of this, but don't overplay your violin's and bow's natural abilities in order to be able to be heard "above an orchestra." Just play with the strokes that work right for the style with your equeipment. If the day comes that you need to be heard over an orhcestra and can play this well enough, it will not be hard to find somewone who will lend you what you need.

No, you are not insane! A little crazy, maybe.

Good Luck.

Andy

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The concerto isn't so difficult that really tiny chunks are useful or advisable. You do not want to lose the lyric feeling of the concerto by over-isolating. If you need to break it down into small practice units, I would suggest one or two-phrase chunks (though you will end up isolating groups of notes for technical reasons, I expect). Nor would I equally divide the piece up to be learned over time, given that some sections are much more difficult than others. You might want to start with the first-movement cadenza, for instance, since you are likely to need more time to master it technically.

As you prepare the concerto, the musical interpretation needs to be there from the very start, even if you're working out the technical bits at a very slow tempo -- there's enough issues of timing of shifts, distribution of the bow, etc. that "music" and "technique" are inextricably interwoven.

I would agree with Andy that you don't want to force a tone, but the issue of projection should be in your mind as you work on this, since you're planning to perform it with orchestra. (This is the concerto that made my old teacher insist that I had to get a better violin.)

If you want to learn from a score, might I highly recommend the orchestral score, not the piano one. You can get it inexpensively in a Dover edition. The piano reduction is extremely dense, and you don't see all the interesting orchestral color. (However, the Auer/Oistrakh edition from International is pretty good editing. I remember having changed a lot of bowings, mostly to try to maximize projection. I've lost my marked-up music to this, much to my regret.)

I think DigiMark's teacher did the right thing by giving him an honest assessment. Note that he didn't offer not to teach it to him -- he just made him aware that the goal was probably not realistic. I think this is the correct, responsible, and supportive attitude.

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Thank you much all.

Just to clarify, it'd only be the first movement. Don't think I mentioned that in my original post.

To Huang: I appreciate your advice a lot. You always have a fresh take on things. But the last couple lines disturbed me....The point of this thread was not to gain peer acceptance. To be perfectly honest, I was going to do it no matter what was said on this board. I would hate myself forever for not at least trying. I merely wanted to try and get a better understanding of the beast that I am up against. So that's that.

And on making lists, you said that they would help to keep it unplayable for me...I really don't think it will complicate the issue. Passion alone will get me nowhere if I don't have some direction, which is exactly what they're designed to do for me.

But again, thanks for all the support. I formally begin on it Monday (though I know the first few lines already). Hopefully it will be the start of what will become my senior solo.

DM

p.s. Muon: Not pokemon, Digimon, but in either case I'll never give it up even if it will give me more time on the Tchaik. smile.gif

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Ah! If it's only the first movement, your work has been cut by about a third -- very good.

My recommendation, DigiMark, is that you sit down with your teacher and make a list of techniques that you will need for the piece that you have not yet learned or which are weak. Get him to assign exercises and etudes that work on those aspects. It will turn out to be more efficient than struggling with the bar-by-bar challenges -- solve the underlying set of technical problems and the entire concerto should become vastly more playable. You can also learn the concerto "out of order", taking sections as you pick up the necessary techniques; the first few pages aren't especially hard, nor are some sections after the cadenza.

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quote:

Originally posted by Andrew Victor:

Also, whatever you do, do not listen to the Heifetz recordings as an example. Not only does he play it very fast, as far as I'm concerned, he plays it so much too fast that the music tends to dissappear.

Good advice.

Just curious, DigiMark, have you played the Mendelssohn? I ask this because I think it would be wise to play something a bit harder than the Bach A Minor before going right to the Tchaik. It just seems weird to go from the Bach straight to the Tchaik. I am not saying it is impossible, it just doesn't sound like a logical next step.

However, you should probably noodle around with it just to see if it is a realistic endeavor. It would be nice to be able to pull it off. Good luck.

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You know, you could learn it but not determine to perform it at the end of the year. Its great for me to learn challenging things, but when I set deadlines and performances for them I often get frustrated and don't learn as much as I might if I was just learning it, well, to learn it. In piano, my teacher had me work on a couple of very difficult Chopin etudes all year. She said I would probably never perform them - and in any case not before I'm forty!- but I had a great time playing them and I improved my technique a huge amount. For performances, I learned a couple of other pieces that were easier but still beautiful.

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quote:

Originally posted by Jascha:

Good advice.

Just curious, DigiMark, have you played the Mendelssohn? I ask this because I think it would be wise to play something a bit harder than the Bach A Minor before going right to the Tchaik. It just seems weird to go from the Bach straight to the Tchaik. I am not saying it is impossible, it just doesn't sound like a logical next step.

However, you should probably noodle around with it just to see if it is a realistic endeavor. It would be nice to be able to pull it off. Good luck.

Good point. As my teacher said, I am free to work on the Tchaik in addition to scales, etudes, pieces, etc that he assigns me. So while I am working on the Tchaik, I will be progressing with increasingly more difficult pieces. So I won't go straight from Bach to Tchaik. My previous teacher had me going at a very slow pace (a.k.a. the Bach would still be in my future if I were still with her) and just within the past few months I have been taking the instrument much more seriously than I have before. I have been and will continue to progress much faster than I have up until this point, so that by the time I am playing the Tchaik, I will be much further along if not done with Kreutzer and will have a much more impressive reportoire of pieces.

To Lydia: love the "passage specific technique" idea. Thanks. And also, you said that when you learned it, it looked harder than it actually was. And you asked if whether I thought the lines of the piece looked like heck-incarnate or if they seemed difficult but doable. Thankfully, it's the latter. Slowly but surely, I know I can piece it together and make it sound great. And one other thing, yes, it is much easier with only the one movement. I kind of laughed knowing that you all thought I was doing the entire thing. If I can handle the 1st movement, I probably could do all three, but not in a year. I'll have enough trouble as it is with only the one.

DM

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If I were that good, I'd give it a shot too. But I'm not. I just stick with school music and teach myself out my brother's old Susuki books because I don't have lessons. I don't have piano lessons either, and right now I'm learning a hard piece on my own. That's where I'm coming from and I don't expect to pursue both instruments to a professional level. It seems you have the determination and I'm guessing if you practice so much you'll eventually learn it because nothing's impossible. Except maybe - wait, I just thought of David Blaine and Copperfield. Good luck nonetheless.

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Do post new musings from time to time to let us know how you're coming along on the Tchaik.

This is a wonderful concerto, of course--the first movement, particularly wonderful. And the second, although you're not going to work on it immediately, is one of the most deeply poignant works I know.

I knew an eleven-year-old who played this work, by the way, on a very small violin--she was small even for eleven--and she did a comendable job on it. She was very determined to learn it--as you are very determined to.

So, again, keep us posted from time to time on your progress.

Respectfully,

Theresa

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D***, I think I spelled "Susuki" wrong. Shows that I am, of course, the best musician in the universe. Nobody beats me, because I'm the whiz!

smile.gif

*I don't think that the administrators will dislike that 1st word, but if your post gets deleted I'm sorry and will email you 5 worthless imaginary dollars. I think I remember others with that or other words in it that were fine, though.

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quote:

Originally posted by HuangKaiVun:

Then, Digimark, do not call yourself "insane" before asking us if you are.

I didn't...others did.

I simply told my story as it happened so that all of you could better understand my situation and be able to offer your opinion. I don't think I'm being overly dependent on anyone when I simply try to gain as much advice and as many opinions as I can before attempting my endeavor. It helps to have others encouragement even though, ultimately, the strength needed to do this will come from myself.

I would support anyone here as much as possible just as I thank many of you for doing for me. Even if it is only a little advice or encouragement from this that I will use, it is still worth it.

DM

p.s. Other "musings" will certainly follow. I haven't many music friends so it always helps to be able to share these things with people who share the same passion as me.

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If you find yourselves falling short in practicing the concerto a few weeks before the concert, let DM play the piano part on his violin, and let miad play the violin on piano. Maybe this will miraculously and instantaneously ingrain the music in your minds.

-Mu0n

P.S.: The relation between digimon and pokémon is an isomorphism.

[This message has been edited by Mu0n (edited 09-18-2000).]

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