Day 3: Why Won’t My Hands Stop Shaking…

Disclaimer: I’m really sarcastic today.


We had our first sectional today. It consisted of each of the percussionists going up on stage in front of Cynthia Yeh and Jauvon Gilliam (of the Chicago Symphony and National Symphony respectively) and playing music. I succeeded at the percussion part. I didn’t show up to the brass sectional. I got up on stage, and Cynthia and Jauvon were there watching me. That’s where shaking ensued. The first excerpt was okay. Porgy and Bess on Xylophone: a formidable excerpt but not terrible if you know what you’re doing. What wasn’t okay for me was time. So children, listen to mom and dad when they tell you to go practice with a metronome.


Next up were cymbal crashes. That was fun. I went fifth and forgot how to crash. It was fine. Sound came out, that somewhat resembled washy crashy stuff, but nowhere near where I wanted it to be. Cynthia later said of the section’s crashing as a whole, that it was “not to be desired” and that we’d be allotting time just to work on cymbals later in the week. She’s…blunt. [End sarcasm: To be fair, I really like working with her, it just takes some getting used to how straightforward she is. By the end of the day, I felt fairly comfortable playing for her.]


I thought timpani would be a nice break from the terrifying stuff because I had worked a lot on the Britten concerto and felt pretty comfortable with the majority of the piece. So, Jauvon announces that he’d like to hear three measures of the Britten and a large section from Mambo in the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. It’s that one section that you just go: “Bernstein, why do you, just why?” [Sarcasm seemed appropriate again] That was great, because within the first six measures I folded and needed to restart. I love it when that happens in an audition setting. It just helps me feel so much better about myself.


The next few segments went pretty well, with some hand-drumming/tom playing from Mambo as well and then some vibes from Cool (also from West Side). I was okay with how I played there. It wasn’t perfect, but at least I feel like I put my best foot forward.


The last thing I played was a long roll (essentially the big push from Bydlo in Pictures at an Exhibition). I started off all right, but Cynthia was giving me dynamics hand (arm up = louder, arm down = softer). Her arm went up. And up. And up and up. She wanted more from me, and that really was the feeling I had for the rest of the sectional. I’m not going to say I’ve never felt that before; I know that I have. But it was so direct and so emphatic, how she pulled out of me what she wanted to hear. Most of the time, I didn’t quite deliver, but the push was I think a significant wake-up call for me. Like, “Summer’s over, Aaron. Now’s the time to go from lethargy to determination.” I think those moments are really why I wanted to come here. I know that I can always get better, but to have someone there telling me exactly what to improve on is both intimidating and extremely invigorating.

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