It’s been said that if you can successfully conduct a youth orchestra, you can conduct anything! While there’s no question it’s a challenge, it’s a very rewarding endeavor. My job is to develop, nurture and train young talented musicians in a high quality orchestral program.
Through the Chicago Orchestral music Academy, I have the potential to take a student musician from as young as junior high straight through graduate school. Nothing is more gratifying to me than to watch one of my students steadily progress through the years and then go on to a successful career. It takes years of hard work and drive (on both of our parts) to make that goal a reality. To be a part of that process is an honor.
Conducting a youth orchestra takes clear communication and patience with your young musicians. It requires taking a major piece of literature and breaking it down note for note. There’s so much more to music than playing the notes. That’s the easy part. The difficult part is making the piece come alive and take on a life of its own. You have to work out the dynamics, the rhythms and try to tap into the heart of the composer to understand what the music is trying to say. All this, and at the same time, make it fun! From the first note to the last, it is my job to keep everyone going in the same direction and focused on the job at hand.
The vast majority of students who come through Chicago Orchestral Academy's Protégé and Classical are serious musicians, and it’s my job to make sure they stay on the right path. The components that make up a successful musician are many, but first and foremost they have to want it--more than anything else in the world. Without that desire, they are faced with a long road to hoe. Being a musician is not for the faint of the heart. And, as in all walks of life, the right attitude will highlight the successful musician every time. You see it all the time in sports--music is no different. No one wants to work with a musician who has a bad attitude, no matter how good they are. It will drag the “team” down like a plague, and it is never worth it.
I am very proud of all my musicians, they are more to me than just an instrument, and I make every effort to get to know them throughout the season. Judging from the enthusiastic audience response at our concerts, I guess I must also be doing a pretty good job of bringing our concerts in at a level both the orchestra members and the audience enjoy.
As a private violin, viola and cello teacher and youth orchestra director (Chicago Orchestral Academy), I just love this little article from "The Etude" written in 1909, over 100 years ago! Certain things just stand the test of time so well! Maud Powell was a local, home grown talent from Peru, Illinois who achieved worldwide fame for both her talent and hard work. At the age of nine, Maud began study with William Lewis, a noted violin teacher in Chicago. Every Saturday she would travel the forty-five miles each way alone by train to her lesson (her parents could not afford to go with her). (That's what I call dedication!) At the age of 13, her talent and hard work took her all the way to Germany to study with the celebrated violinist, Joseph Joachim, for whom Brahms wrote his violin concerto. All of Maud's hard work resulted in a wonderful international career for her that lasted throughout her entire adult life.
As a teacher, I try very hard to inspire my private students to achieve everything their talent will give back to them through their individual hard work and effort. I also want to give the same lessons in my conducting/teaching with Chicago Orchestral Academy's Classical Symphony Orchestra and Protégé Philharmonic! Learning the discipline of playing a musical instrument well has a wonderfully beneficial effect on a young musician's entire life, even if they do not go into music as a profession. Over the years, it has taken many of my students into professional orchestral playing careers, college teaching, and public school teaching jobs all around the United States.
I hope you find some "pearls of wisdom" here to help you practice more effectively and efficiently whether you are a violinist or not!
Maud Powell's Ten Practice Rules from The American Girl and Her Violin
by Maud Powell
The Etude, July 1909
I. Concentrate. Concentrate your thoughts on your work, completely and absolutely. One hour of absorbed practice is worth forty of the casual sort.
II. Play in tune. The worst of all violinistic crimes is to be untrue to pitch.
III. Practice scales religiously. Play them slowly and with perfect evenness, both as to fingering and bowing.
IV. Practice slowly all difficult or intricate passages; also, jumps, trills, spiccato, staccato, arpeggios, etc.
V. Practice long bows slowly, slowly, slowly. Draw out the tone. Pull it out, spin it, weave it, but never press it out or squeeze the string. By pressing the string with the bow you can check the natural vibration, and without changing the position of the left hand the smallest fraction, you can actually lower the pitch of the note you are producing.
VI. Memorize everything, including scales, etudes, pieces and difficult passages in chamber music.
VII. Keep in mind the structure of the composition while practicing separate phrases, difficult passages, etc. Do not let your playing or your memory become "patchy"--keep each measure mentally in its place; that is, in its correct relation, structurally, to the whole.
VIII. "Vorspielen." This German word means "to play before." Play your studies or pieces over in their entirety before any long-suffering friend who will listen. You will be amazed at the sore spots that will reveal themselves, and will make it your business to heal them as quickly as possible.
IX. Hear other violinists. You will listen in spite of yourself. Then apply that kind of listening to your own work. There will be more surprises in store for you.
X. Love your instrument as yourself. But love your art more than either. Keep the fires of enthusiasm burning. Nothing was ever accomplished without faith and enthusiasm.
Hi Mr. Glymph:
It's been a few years, but I thought you would want to know what your former Principal Cello has been up to. He often mentions the importance of his 4 years with Chicago Orchestral Academy's Protégé Philharmonic and playing under your guidance!
Trevor completed his Bachelor’s degree at DePaul University School of Music. He studied under Stephen Balderston and occasionally had lessons with Brant Taylor and Richard Hirschl, of the Chicago Symphony. During his undergraduate studies, Trevor was Runner-up for the school’s annual concerto competition, resulting in the opportunity to record the Elgar cello concerto with the DePaul Symphony Orchestra, under Maestro Cliff Colnot. He was also chosen among his studio to perform for Lynn Harell in the Guest Artist Master Class.
Trevor’s Graduate studies were completed at the Cleveland Institute of Music where he was a student of the former Principal Cellist of the Cleveland Orchestra, Stephen Geber. He also studied with Mark Kosower, the Principal Cellist of the Cleveland after he graduated from CIM. While a student at CIM, Trevor performed in the “Commodore Quartet” and they were selected to be a part of the INtensive String Quartet Seminar Program. The seminar was directed by the Cavani String Quartet and Cleveland Quartet member Peter Salaff. In 2012, Trevor was selected to be the Assistant Principal Cellist of the National Repertory Orchestra in Breckinridge, Colorado, At NRO, he was a featured soloist for a performance of Dvorak’s Rondo in G minor, Op. 94.
Growing up in a diverse city introduced Trevor to various styles and genres of music and this influenced him to start composing. Today, Trevor is the Co-Founder/Cellist of the group IN2ATIVE, with flutist, Kimberly Zaleski. IN2ATIVE was chosen to be on the Artist Roster for Center for Art-Inspired Learning Agency, (CAL). As artists for CAL, they perform weekly and give workshops to students across Ohio.
Outside of CAL, IN2ATIVE was invited to be a Guest Artist for Penn State University’s Annual Flute Day in the fall of 2016, giving a performance and Master Class. Shortly Thereafter, IN2ATIVE had their first interdisciplinary arts collaboration with Cleveland’s renowned dance company, Dancing Wheels (Jan. 2017). The program was entitled, “Bloom” and consisted of dance choreographies set to original and live music of IN2ATIVE. That same year, IN2ATIVE performed on air for Cleveland’s Classical Radio station, WCLV 104.9RM for their First Friday’s Radio feature. A fun fact - when IN2ATIVE first formed, they were audition finalists for the television show, “America’s Got Talent”.
Thank you and keep inspiring our future youth orchestra musicians!
Sally Sloane-Kazarian - Trevor's Mom
AUDITIONS! The “A” word that strikes fear in the hearts of musicians of all ages! I wish I could tell you there is an easier way, but I cannot. What I can do is offer some helpful advice on how to play the best audition possible. As someone who has been auditioning youth orchestra players at all levels for over 45 years, I am a fairly good judge on what constitutes a successful audition.
Each year, I audition all instruments in Chicago Orchestral Music Academy's Protégé Philharmonic, our youth orchestra for high school and advanced junior high school students. This gives me the opportunity to interact with these students and give them instant feedback. Especially with the younger players, it also gives me the opportunity to try to settle their nerves, so they are not so frightened and can play their best.
The first thing I look for when I am conducting auditions is how well a musician has prepared the audition. This tells me a lot of things: (a) how serious a musician they are; (b) how much they want the position; and (c) their sense of pride in their ability to make music. Always prepare well!
The second thing I look for is attention to detail, which includes rhythm, dynamics and intonation. I audition players as young as 6th grade, doing their first audition, all the way up to very experienced musicians. No matter the level, attention to detail shows me their potential as an orchestra player. Technique varies widely from player to player, but a musician attempting to play the music, and not just the notes, will usually score higher points. More technique will come with age and experience. It’s the attention to detail that separates those musicians who “play the notes,” but a musician attempting to play the music, and not just the notes, will always score higher. It’s the attention to detail that separates those musicians who “play the notes,” and those musicians who “play the music.”
A good attitude is critical to a successful audition. If it’s a close call, the decision will ultimately go in favor of the musician with the better attitude. Personally, I’ll take a less talented player with a good attitude over a more talented player with a bad attitude. A good orchestra is comprised of a number of players working together for the good of the ensemble. A player with a bad attitude can drag down the whole ensemble if an attitude problem gets in the way of that process. No conductor wants to deal with it!
Auditions determine all musicians’ future successes at every level. It should definitely be in a good youth orchestra program, like Chicago Orchestral Academy's Protégé Philharmonic. Get lots of experience playing as much orchestral literature as possible (we play 4 full concerts of top orchestral literature a year), prepare well, and go confidently in the direction of your dreams!
What is the make up of a successful orchestral musician? As a teacher and youth orchestra director, that’s a question I get asked over and over again. With the success rate of becoming a professional musician a scary 3%, it’s a daunting prospect. First and foremost, you have to want it bad enough to do what it takes to land that ever elusive professional job. It takes hours and hours of practice -- talent without the drive leaves many a musician behind in the dust.
At all age levels, I can tell almost immediately who my serious musicians are. They are always the first ones to arrive to warm up before rehearsal begins, they come prepared, remain focused, and miss few rehearsals. Above all, their great attitudes leave them open to learn and progress. Nothing shuts down the progress of a musician faster than a bad attitude letting him or her believe they are better than everyone else and too good to learn from others.
Serious musicians practice wisely! Students seem to be busier than ever these days, as schools make more and more demands on their time. The quality of the practice time is as important if not more important as the quantity. If you don’t have enough time to practice everything on your plate, make sure you work on your technique. All musicians hate scales, but they do wonders for your intonation, sound and articulation.
Nothing takes the place of experience! Musicians need to get as much repertoire under their belts as possible before taking professional auditions. It is the root of why I founded Chicago Orchestral Academy's Classical Symphony Orchestra 39 years ago and then Protégé Philharmonic, 2 very fine youth orchestras, and I still believe in it as strongly today as I did back then.
Music is a very rewarding profession! It brings pleasure to the audiences attending the performances, and it builds self-esteem in the performers as they bring the most beautiful music in the world to life. Above all else, it should be fun! When you are sitting in an orchestra, you should feel as if there is no place else you’d rather be.
As a violist at the age of 15, I was completely unaware of what happened in the world of classical music beyond my high school string orchestra. At that point in my life, I enjoyed playing the viola but it was not something I had planned on taking seriously. Before one of our school concerts, I happened to over-hear another student talking about his time in Chicago Orchestral Academy's Protégé Philharmonic, a wonderful youth orchestra in downtown Chicago. Having some interest in something beyond my high school orchestra, I decided to take an audition. Upon being accepted into the orchestra, I received my music before rehearsals began and started to listen to professional recordings of the pieces. I remember thinking to myself: “Wow! I am going to be able to play this amazing music?” Looking back on that, I realize that that is one of the many factors that make Protégé so special. Being able to play Principal Viola in 4 different concerts a school year consisting of virtuosic repertoire was an incredible experience. This is all achieved in very professional, but wonderfully encouraging, fun, and nurturing environment.
Through Protégé and the personal guidance of Mr. Glymph as my private viola teacher, I came very far. Mr. Glymph straightened out every bad habit I had, taught me how to practice intelligently and effectively, and encouraged me to make a strong commitment to becoming a professional musician. Small things like IMEA, where at 15 years old I was 20th chair, and at 17, I won the Principal chair! I was invited to a live audition at the Juilliard School of Music and took other auditions at New England Conservatory of Music, Rice University, Northwestern University, as well as the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University - where I was awarded a large scholarship and attended. After 2 years of hard work in Protégé and with Mr. Glymph, my abilities as a violist had significantly increased to a high level acknowledged by professors around the nation. Even though Protégé is now behind me, I will always remember it to be the beginning and foundation of my musical career!
Ben Wagner, Viola
Ben has now graduated and is a full-time active free-lance professional with a growing career in professional chamber music groups throughout the Midwest.