Hola. I’m a Conservatory-trained musician (piano major, voice and pipe organ double minors) and write mostly about music, classical music performances I’ve enjoyed, with symphonic choral music being my focus, along with piano performance. As a pianist, I was trained more as a Performance Major even though I was in the Music Education degree programme and vocal music concentration. To the surprise of my piano professor at the time — I studied with two different piano professors during my years in the Conservatory — I learned the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 2 in c minor on my own over Summer breaks, learning the first movement one Summer and then the second and third movement the following Summer. When I returned to the Conservatory in the Fall after learning the first movement, I couldn’t wait to tell him what I had done and was excited to play it for him. Well, he had very little to say about it really, other than he was very pleased, which pleased me. So we got the semester off to a good start. It was obvious to him that I hadn’t been a layabout during the Summer months. He made no corrections or interpretation suggestions to my work which surprised me a bit. I had thought he might say something “instructional” about my playing, but he didn’t. Not even any fingering corrections. And I don’t remember having any questions for him. Although I had combed over it very carefully while learning it because I was technically my own teacher during the Summer months and I didn’t want any mistakes and I wanted to use the best fingering choices. He asked me to play the solo part by itself — I remember that sort of annoying me because I wanted to play it with him, with him playing the secondo part (the orchestra’s part) because I’d been playing it alone all Summer. But he wanted to hear me play the piano solo part alone to listen for accuracy without the piano reduction of the orchestral accompaniment covering up any mistakes. After I played it for him, he went to his piano — being a Conservatory all the piano professor’s studios had two grand pianos for four-hand repertoire — and we played it together which was thrilling. I had looked forward to that moment all Summer while working meticulously on it. Then years later, I “learned” the Rachmaninov Third. I put “learned” in quotes because some piano concert artists say that one does not ever “learn” the Rachmaninov Third; that it’s a lifelong project. I agree, it took me 9 months to just get through that intense concerto. I also received extensive piano accompanying experience at the Conservatory — sometimes it was too much at the expense of my own piano repertoire being neglected since we were required to accompany three musicians and I had — what felt like — about 33, although it was probably realistically closer to about 10-13 musicians at any given time. The Chairwoman of the Accompanying Department kept sending students to me, which initially I really appreciated, until it became too much. I accompanied mostly wind and brass musicians and a couple of voice majors. Still, it was too many at the expense of my own work load, accompanying many of the orchestral musicians for their Student Recital and end-of-semester juries. I also served as piano accompanist for the Conservatory Concert Choir so I had that repertoire work load as well. And for awhile (my senior year) I was Keyboardist for the Conservatory’s Symphony Orchestra. It was a lot to do. But I look back on all of it as very good experience that most people didn’t have. So I feel very fortunate in that regard. I’m a symphonic choral person and after graduation from the Conservatory I had the privilege of being a chorister in three major Orchestra Choruses (not all at the same time) in the US, mostly with performances in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall: Norman Scribner’s Choral Arts Society of Washington and Dr Paul Traver’s renowned University of Maryland Chorus — they were not your average University Chorus by any definition — with frequent performances with the National Symphony Orchestra and guest (inter)national orchestras in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall (mostly) although a couple of performances at Wolf Trap. After moving to San Francisco, I auditioned and was accepted as a chorister in Vance George’s San Francisco Symphony Chorus (with interim Chorus Director Margaret Hillis, Founder and Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chorus) with performances in Davies Symphony Hall. That was a uniquely special occasion for me because for years I had wanted to have the opportunity to work with Margaret Hillis, so I was finally able to do so without having to move to Chicago. All three Orchestra Choruses were invaluable experiences for me. Since my High School days — which served as a major catalyst for my strong interest in symphonic choral music — I had wanted to perform in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall with the superb Choral Arts Society of Washington and the superb 150-voice University of Maryland Chorus and with major symphony orchestras, performing many of the symphonic choral works I had come to enjoy since my days of serving as piano accompanist for the High School Chorus. So I accomplished that goal and it was very rewarding and thrilling. And I’ve also served as Organist-Choirmaster in parish churches of the Anglican Communion (preferring the High Church) and served as a chorister in one Cathedral Choir of the Anglican Communion. That should give you an idea of my musical training and experience. You can read articles from my “In the Conservatory” series over on the right. Chau.—el barrio rosa
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