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Monthly Archives: January 2010
This past Thursday evening, I performed at Carnegie Hall for the first time. What a life-changing experience! There was such incredible energy amongst the musicians, the crew and staff, and (walking through the front lobby before the concert) the audience. I was thrilled to step onto the stage and look out to a packed house, and I was thrilled to see this packed house jump to their feet at the conclusion of our performance. Their enthusiasm was overwhelming, and I was so proud to be a member of the wonderful Houston Symphony, whose hard work and effort was most deserving of this positive reaction.
There is a reason why it is such an honor to be presented by Carnegie Hall – it is one of the greatest concert venues in the world. The acoustics were absolutely incredible. A colleague of mine in the symphony told me the moment she stepped onto the stage and heard the clicking of her shoes reverberate throughout the hall, she knew right away how amazing it was. The acoustics were completely different from anything we experience in Houston. It was so easy to hear myself play, and it was so easy for me to hear all of my colleagues play, which made it so easy for all of us to play together. The easier it was to play together, the better connected we felt with one another, thus creating a more unified, musical experience.
It is such a powerful feeling to create beautiful music. It is even more profound to share this beautiful music with our audiences. I want people who come to our concerts to have an enriched, *meaning-filled* experience. I would like them to walk away from a concert feeling… just feeling… anything. Whether it is a feeling of satisfaction, intensity, or curiosity, or whether they learned something or were inspired, I just want them to be affected. Playing in an acoustically sound hall impacts everyone, it benefits everyone, and I feel we achieved this during our performance.
I hope that more people realize the importance of having a great classical music hall, especially in cities they truly care about. To be able to have access to emotional, powerful, beautiful music is artistically, culturally, and humanistically beneficial for communities. As cliché as it sounds, I firmly believe that music is a unifying force that brings people together, and for me that is the ultimate goal.
Getting off my soapbox, and into bed for a good night’s rest. One last concert tomorrow evening, our final evening in Florida. Stay tuned for exciting stories about the Florida leg of our tour in my next post!
Dan Rather, native Houstonian, was spotted at our concert!!!
Can you imagine that in 1960, Carnegie Hall was almost demolished to be replaced by an office tower??? Thank goodness for Isaac Stern.
Glenn Taylor, the Symphony’s Senior Director of Marketing, also took the trip up north and sent in photos and his personal take on the experience. Keep an eye out for more posts from Glenn in the future!
As I and 50 or so musicians began to board Continental flight 40 Wednesday morning, I wondered what would keep me occupied for the 3 hour trip to Newark airport. I was filled with excitement to be accompanying the orchestra to Carnegie Hall, but the plane ride itself … ehhh. The most I was hoping for was a smooth ride, to catch some zzz’s and get a bit of work done. Well, and that the provided in-flight snack would be yummy in my tummy of course. (Turns out it was a chicken wrap… not bad, Continental!)
Then the real excitement would begin once we got to New York and Carnegie, right? Well, not exactly.
Not that anything bad happened with the flight. It was a nice flight. But something occurred that I didn’t expect … a wonderful connection was made, and I ended up learning more about the behind-the-scenes life of a Symphony musician than I ever have done hanging around backstage at Jones Hall.
I had the pleasure of sitting next to Ellie Herrera. Ellie’s a cellist in the orchestra, but we had never met before. Even though I’ve been working with the Symphony for almost 6 years now, it’s not uncommon to still not know everyone in the orchestra. We both looked at each other and said “Are you here with the Houston Symphony tour?” … “Yes.”
Turns out that Ellie’s a substitute cellist, but has been playing with the orchestra for a full season or two now. Her connections to the Houston Symphony go deeper than that though. Her father was a violinist, and had moved their family from England to Houston back in the late 70s to take a job as Co-Concertmaster with the orchestra. (How cool!) You can still hear Ellie’s British accent, albeit a bit hidden now behind her Houston Texas dialect.
Ellie’s mom wasn’t a professional musician per say, but also had ties to music through her love of playing the piano. And she was supportive of her husband’s music career. Ellie told me that the last time her mom went to Carnegie was to hear him perform with the Houston Symphony. Now, her mom has come along again to New York, but this time to hear her daughter perform with the Symphony. (Again … how cool!) That history and legacy with the orchestra and Carnegie is a neat backdrop to the entire experience this week. And imagine all the other similar connections and stories that may exist with every musician in the orchestra.
Back to the plane. After 3 hours of sharing back and forth with Ellie about our respective families, the environment, favorite Houston spots, and other randomness … we realized the flight was almost over. I don’t think I’ve ever spent an entire flight in discussion with the person next to me. I feel privileged that I could get to know one of our amazing musicians on that level. And now we’ve agreed to meet with our respective spouses at a Houston farmer’s market sometime soon. Turns out this cellist goes green. Nice.
The orchestra has just landed in Florida and is now gearing up for their next two performances–Saturday at the Kravis Center and Sunday at the Broward Center. Stay tuned for more updates–including a recap of the concert at Carnegie Hall!
Violinist Kiju Joh shares a little bit about what she loves most in NYC–the food!
Hey everyone! I am writing from New York City, where we kick-off The Planets–An HD Odyssey tour. After an amazing and successful weekend showcasing The Planets program to our local Houston audiences, there is no rest for us yet. Must, keep, momentum, going! I am really looking forward to performing in Carnegie Hall on Thursday night (guess all of my practice, practice, practicing paid off?), especially since this will be my very first time doing so. Going on tour is always an exciting experience – the musical preparation; the scattered trunks, traveling cases, and organized chaos backstage; the anticipation of traveling out-of-town; the allure of the cities to which we travel.
We officially start the tour schedule Thursday afternoon with a sound-check at the hall. I decided to travel a few days early to NYC since I love coming here to visit family and friends, explore museums and shops, visit the not-so-secret best-kept-secret establishments, ride the subway…
Most of all, I love coming here to EAT.
Of course, pizza is a requisite part of one’s NYC gastronomical experience (I highly recommend the balsamic onion and goat cheese pizza at Otto Pizzeria on 5th Ave. Goat cheese, need I say more? Also, the Margherita pizza at Ray’s on Prince St. is quite tasty). Upon arrival to the city on Monday evening, though, I couldn’t help but notice all the ramen restaurants that have taken over lower Manhattan. Was this my calling? I felt strangely compelled to make ramen tasting my new epicurean mission (after bacon-y dessert making. I’ll explain later). Tuesday, lunch and dinner, was devoted to eating ramen. All different kinds of ramen at all different kinds of places. The good, the bad, and the “shi shi”. It sounds overwhelming, but I did have help splitting bowls and received lots of motivational encouragement (thanks EMP). Still, at the end of the day, I came to the realization, I had basically just eaten carbs all day.
In my defense, that is what we musicians do. We eat. We store up energy. To me, it is a necessary component of our extremely physical livelihood. Without sustenance, it would be impossible to move our arms up and down, wiggle our fingers, flail about, stomp our feet, do what is physically necessary to produce the sounds of music and enhance our art. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. (Watch another example of how one artistically utilizes carbs).
How did I get to Carnegie Hall? I ate my way here.
Next post, my very first Carnegie Hall experience! Next stop, Florida!
We’d like to introduce you all to Meredith Williams–the first of our Symphony staffer bloggers! Meredith is still considered a newbie (as many of us are by comparison–you wouldn’t believe how many people have been here 10, 20, even 25+ years!), and is the assistant to our general manager. She’s been the go-to gal for everything related to this week’s tour to New York City and Florida, and wanted to share a little bit with you all about the planning that went into it.
Surely everyone in Houston felt the excitement that radiated from Jones Hall this weekend! It was difficult to not get pumped about the Planets concert series. I’ve only worked here at the Houston Symphony for 10 months, and I cannot recall a single day when the Operations and Production staff has not discussed or worked on The Planets – An HD Odyssey. It amazes me that for some members of our staff, this weekend was the culmination of years of dedication and work. Despite our successful weekend, our department has not quite celebrated – we aren’t done yet. In case you had not heard, we’re taking it on the road.
As I mentioned, I’ve only been a staff member a short period of time. In this brief period, I have had two major projects. The first was to schedule ground transportation for the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela back in April. (Why is that a major project, you ask? Well, that is a story for another blog…) The second project, and what I have considered my baby for the past seven months, is this tour.
In June I found out that I was to be the “Unofficial Tour Travel Agent and Schedule Coordinator.” Since then, I have booked 150+ flight reservations, over 200 hotel rooms, and 30 buses to accommodate all of the musicians, staff and guests that will be traveling between Houston, New York and Florida. On the surface, booking travel arrangements is not a huge project, until you realize just how many people and details are involved. I’ve had many hurdles and obstacles since I landed in the post of unofficial tour travel agent. There were days (like the day we realized the Pro Bowl is in South Florida the same weekend we are in South Florida) that I wanted to pull out my hair and scream “REALLY?!?” at the top of my lungs. However, I’m not whining. In fact, as I sit here in my little cubicle under the stage of Jones Hall, I am quite happy to know that I played a part in helping the Houston Symphony (literally) get to New York and Florida.
The weekend was amazing, but the excitement is not over. The orchestra officially left this morning to fly to New York and perform on that great stage known as Carnegie Hall. Then, they’re flying to the sunny shores of Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach to play for NASA’s Cape Canaveral neighbors. I wish I could see it in person, but I know that this tour will be a huge success and will make Houston proud.
You didn’t think we were going to leave you hanging, did you? Violinist Kiju Joh, Assistant Conductor/American Conducting Fellow Brett Mitchell and others are going to be blogging from the tour—so keep an eye out to read the latest updates!
It’s a very exciting time for everyone here at Houston Symphony. Not only is today the World Premiere of The Planets—An HD Odyssey, but we’ve just announced the 2010-2011 season! In the spirit of sharing, we thought it was time to bring our fans a bit closer and give you an inside look into the day-to-day happenings here at Houston Symphony (for instance: did you know that Hans Graf’s baton has just returned from space in time to conduct The Planets?). In addition to our talented conductors, musicians and chorus, there is a dedicated and hardworking staff behind-the-scenes that make all of your favorite concerts come to life.
I’d like to officially kick off the newest Houston Symphony endeavor—the Inside the Houston Symphony blog—where you’ll be able to read first-hand accounts from all of us here at Jones Hall—musicians and conductors included! From concert fun facts to the stories behind the music, we hope you’ll learn a little something with us, too. As I have a music background and have worked in the Symphony industry for a long while, I am very excited to be a part of this organization at a time when there is so much to look forward to. Please take the time as well to check out our newly launched Web site, and to download the free Houston Symphony iPhone App. Those are two of your best sources for staying up-to-date with your Houston Symphony.
I’d like to end my first blog with a heartfelt thank you for all your support of the Houston Symphony. I hope to see you all at Jones Hall soon!
Interim Executive Director/CEO