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NEC Week 1

Today culminated my first week of study as an NEC student! I have to say, I’ve found it unbelievably easy to fit right in and begin my new life as a full-time musician. I’ve felt at ease on my own, whether I’m heading to the practice room, running an errand to CVS (for ridiculously over-priced binders), or scheduling an appointment at a violin shop. When I said I felt prepared for college, I guess I really meant it!

My first week and a half was spent in orientation, a long series of sometimes exciting events (our harbor cruise was pretty spectacular) and sometimes tedious information sessions (often back-to-back). Our schedule was, however, light enough to get in lots of great practicing, because everyone’s eyes were trained on one thing, and one thing only: orchestra auditions! As a central evaluation of the incoming class, orchestra auditions are meant to give the conductors an idea of our abilities —as if we needed one more stressful event to get college started! But I treated the audition merely as one of many auditions I will take as part of my musical education.

But before I knew it, orientation was over, and school officially began! I got my first taste of college study with two classes, Music Theory (we call it Tonal Practice) and Solfege (a method of singing). I was delighted to meet the professors, who are very friendly, and not so delighted to be given the task of buying books! The next day, I attended two non-musical classes, a liberal arts seminar about this year’s presidential election, and a college writing seminar. NEC did a nice job of providing balanced curriculum!

While my classes were interesting, the one thing I truly looked forward to was my first lesson with Professor Ninomiya, my new violin teacher. I picked out a piece of music I’d just gotten under my hand —one with an immense amount of contrasting expression and musical tension—to play for her. On Friday evening, I unpacked my violin in a small studio to play for my very first college lesson. Surprisingly, and fortunately, I didn’t feel nervous at all! It had been an entire year since I’d played for anyone without the stress of being evaluated, so I knew that I could be completely open to the learning process, with performance anxiety out of the way. I played the second movement of Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto, and as soon as I finished, Prof. Ninomiya wanted to know what I thought of the piece. After I explained that I saw the movement as a transition between the concerto’s melodic opening and tense conclusion, she agreed, and began helping me achieve the beautiful tonal colors in my sound that would allow me to communicate the mood of every moment in of the piece. Every time she demonstrated an idea, I was taken aback by the beauty and richness of her playing. I feel so fortunate to have a chance to hear her every week!

To close out this first week of school, I had the opportunity to work for NEC’s Preparatory School as over 1000 elementary-to-high-school students arrived at the school for their own auditions. I was responsible for one particular audition room, showing the kids to their warm-up room, helping them tune their instruments, and keeping an eye on the schedule. Even though the kids weren’t auditioning to get into the school (they just needed to be placed in appropriate teacher studios and ensembles), I still saw myself in each and every one of them. They each reminded of the years that led up to this point for me.

I look forward to a new week of learning! Since so much has happened since I’ve arrived, check back for more details of orientation in next week’s post!

By the way, the shirt in the picture says "Imagine NEC".

My teacher's website has great videos of her amazing playing, and proof of her second talent: watercolor painting!

The Barber Violin Concerto is so beautiful: give it a listen and you won't regret it.

The first movement is lyrical and picturesque, the second is conflicted and fervent, and the third movement is wild, frenetic, and dare I say, psychotic!

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