Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Summer Strings 2019

Last night our Summer Strings orchestra played its annual concert. We begin rehearsing Tuesday evenings as soon as school gets out (the last week of May), and we perform our program the third Tuesday of July, right before the county fair begins (where many of our participants show animals). That gives us seven ninety-minute-long rehearsals to learn an hour-long program of brand-new string orchestra arrangements (that I spend most of the year making). We are very efficient with time.

We always learn the program, and every year the group gets better and better. My goal for the group is to get from "can't" to "can" (and this year, with a difficult program, we made it way past a mere "can"). Adults who don't do much playing during the rest of the year are happy to have challenging music to practice. Kids and teenagers who don't have enough time to practice during the school year have time to practice in the summer. And they really do practice.

There are no auditions, and people can choose what part they want to play. I love it when violinists who spent previous years in the second violin section decide to play the first violin part. I also love it when people who normally prefer to sit in the back move towards the front (we do not have seating assignments). Rehearsals always begin promptly at 6:30 and end promptly at 8:00. We use our time efficiently.

One of the other coordinators of the group makes detailed instructional recordings of the first violin part, the second violin part, and the violin 2b part for every piece. We keep the audio files in a Dropbox folder, and people can use them when they practice. It's like having a personal trainer. My students get the added benefit of working with my colleague, both in the group and on tape.

The experience is kind of like participating in a summer camp program without having to do all the things involved with leaving home. No money trades hands between participants and organizers in our yearly adventure (though support comes in the way of donated rehearsal space and money that we turn into T shirts). We require no commitment: some people who have to be out of town for the concert come and play for the rehearsals. Sometimes people who played in Summer Strings in previous years and have moved away come to town and play with us for the concert.

If you want to listen to the concert (it takes about an hour), you can listen through this link.

You can find a link to the program here.

So many wonderful things happened this summer. A beginning student of mine (in her first year) who could not find her place in the music during the first rehearsal became one of the strongest players in the violin 2b section by concert time. One of my high school students became more confident, more aware of his ability to count, and perfectly comfortable going into third position, and another became confident in fifth and sixth positions. One cellist who used to come with her sometimes-reluctant teenage bass-player son eventually decided to try playing his bass herself. In two weeks she went from zero to sixty on the bass, and you will hear how great she sounds (and maybe be inspired to try playing bass yourself).

It is such a thrill for me to see people take musical risks.

If you are interested in joining the wider community of Summer Strings, I keep all my arrangements in a Dropbox folder and share them with anyone who wants to play them. Just send me an email, and tell me about your group.

Other Summer Strings posts

No comments: