Friday, September 10, 2010

Moments with a Legend

On rare occasions I find myself with a basket of laundry to fold and the TV all to myself. This actually happened yesterday (remember, still getting caught up) and I turned the channel to BYU-TV. I caught the second half of a terrific program about the life of Reid Nibley, musician extraordinaire, and couldn’t wait to watch the entire show. It would air again that night at 9pm, which equates to 11pm for me here on the East Coast. So I stayed up, ready to press record and watch it today.

When I turned on the TV at 10:55pm the BYU girl’s soccer game was being covered, and they weren’t quite done because neither team had scored yet. It turned into a double over-time game with a tie still at zero. Ironically, by the time the show I’d stayed up to see came on, it was right about the point I’d caught it at the first time – half-way over!

So today while looking up the schedule for the next time it will air, I was delighted to see that it was available for instant streaming in its entirety! Between dishes and phone calls and errands, I’ve come back to it over and over today. And here is why.

Just over three years ago, I had the once-in-a-lifetime chance of performing with Reid Nibley as my accompanist. Prior to this experience his name was familiar to me, but I had never met him and didn’t really know that much about him. One summer his grand-daughter and I were stand-partners for “Opera a la Carte” at BYU – but that was my closest experience.

Back to the summer of 2007 - my grandmother had asked me to play Meditation from Thais at Grandad’s funeral services, one in Missouri and one in Utah. This was an overwhelming honor for me, since I’d loved playing this particular piece with Grandad together on our violins over the years. What made it even more tender for all of us was that she asked me to perform this piece on his beautiful violin.

Beyond the emotions of the experience, I had plenty of other stressful issues to face. I hadn’t practiced or performed on his violin ever before. I didn’t know who would be accompanying me in either location, and time was very limited. In addition to performance nerves, I knew that in Utah I would be performing in a chapel filled to the brim with phenomenal musicians, many of whom had been my Grandad’s professional colleagues, and many of whom had been my own professors 10 – 15 years earlier. I wanted more than anything to bring honor to my Grandad’s memory with the way that I played, but didn’t feel at all sure that I could do it.

I don’t know how it all happened, but once I got to Utah, before I knew it I had Reid Nibley’s name and phone number on a piece of paper in front of me, with a note that I should drop the music off at his home and set up a time to practice together. Really?!

The experience of meeting this dear man, rehearsing together, and performing together is hard to adequately describe. The spirit in his home and all around him and in everything he did was exquisite. It was heavenly. I felt such a humble reverence that he had for life, even though it was obvious that he was struggling with illness of his own. He made me feel like it was his privilege to play with me, and I knew he sincerely meant it. How do you explain how someone you’ve never met can make you feel like you can play anything with them, they’re that tuned into the moment and the music? It was absolutely magical. It was a gift of mercy and peace and power that put all of those stresses to rest for me. Playing with him turned it into a joyful, fulfilling memory beyond what I could have imagined. It was the kind of tribute my Grandad deserved.

After watching this program, “The Legato Line,” I learned just why it had been such a powerful, spiritual experience for me. Now I have a reference for who he was throughout his life and what a rare privilege I had, an opportunity that seemed to just fall into my lap. I could never forget it, and now I understand exactly why. Probably every person who ever got to interact and perform with Reid Nibley has felt the same way. He was that kind of a musician, that kind of a man.

Incidentally, it was after this experience that I realized I wished someone had recorded it, and the idea to make a recording of Meditation from Thais for my grandmother began to take shape. That's how my album, "A Time to Love" began. If you haven't read my first post on why I made this recording, it will all come together now!

This program is an hour long but is well worth the time. (I’ve already seen the last half of it twice and still want to go back for more!)

Sorry the whole screen isn't visible. It's all here:

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Summer Violin Camp Highlights!

With Summer behind us (except that it's still 94 degrees right now) and the first day of school come and gone (as of yesterday), I’m back. With lots to tell.

August was an epic month for my family, travelling 23 days that found us in nine different states. Granted, four of them we saw only briefly en route to the remaining, well, five. Spending time with family and friends we haven’t seen in far too long and lots of time in the great outdoors, plus a few hilarious incidents along the way – I’ve come back from all of that with some great memories, new things to think about, and enough inspiration to (hopefully) get me through the nitty-gritty of our upcoming move. More on all of this soon.

Today’s topic: Violin Camp. I had the distinct pleasure of hosting four young women for a week of "all things music" almost as soon as we returned home! (I think about 36 hours after the plane touched down?) Even though it was a tight turn-around, I can’t think of a more enjoyable way to spend the first week back at home. Better than getting caught up on laundry, hands down.

Still working on that.

And so, a photo essay of sorts from Summer Violin Camp…

By the end of the first day this group was so comfortable together, I found myself wondering, "Does this bode well for the rest of the week, or maybe a little too well?"

Who knew that this violin quartet could turn around in a spare moment and become an impromptu piano quartet? I love it!

This year I focused our music theory classes on understanding and learning the order of sharps, flats, all the major key signatures, and the Circle of Fifths. Music Mind Games makes it so much easier and a lot more fun than when I learned all of this!

The girls got really creative with their choice of snacks (some of which went along with the "Blue Jello" vocabulary, a fun way to learn a variety of rhythms in music. This particular snack represented a quarter note followed by two eighth notes.)

And these "purple cookies" represented a dotted eighth + a sixteenth note, followed by the reverse - a sixteenth + a dotted eighth.

Quartet coaching - in this piece we focused on the traditional ensemble set-up, balance, phrasing, listening and communicating with each player individually and collectively, etc.

And in this quartet, "The Gossip Round," I gave the girls (mostly) free reign to be as creative and think as far out of the box as they wanted. Soon there was no need for music, let alone music stands, and one couch and one bench with lots of open space replaced the standard four chair set-up. Each one of them reported this collaborative experience as the highlight of the whole week!

The song ended in this pose, with the piece of "gossip" having gone all the way around and back a few times. "Juicy!"

I paired the girls up for duet playing as well, and these two are shown working on a very cool Mozart "table top" duet. One sheet of music on a flat surface, two violinists who enjoy something a little unique, and soon upside-down treble clefs symbolize lovely harmony.

We ended on Friday with a program for their families, briefly highlighting the things the girls had done during the week, followed by their performances and refreshments. In this picture we were demonstrating our "Blue Jello" names. (Believe it or not, mine is "Goose-berry Cookie"!)

On the last day we also celebrated a birthday! Made it easy for me to plan refreshments...

This was my last hoorah here as a violin teacher...a bitter-sweet time for me, but mostly very sweet!