It’s the end of day two, and I can report that I’m completely exhausted but very happy. Although orchestra rehearsals will officially start tomorrow (Wednesday), the past couple days have nevertheless been long and extremely informative. We’ve heard talks on administration and programming, music engraving, and publishing, all of which have been fascinating.
For me, the highlight has been our meetings with the orchestra musicians. We’ve had sessions with representatives from each section in the orchestra: woodwinds, brass, percussion, strings, and lastly a very helpful session with the orchestra’s harpist.
What struck me most about these sessions was the level of dedication the performers had given to our music before even meeting us. They had all spent considerable time practicing and understanding our pieces, and they had very specific questions and reactions for each of us. It’s very gratifying to know that the musicians want to give the best possible performance of our pieces, even though we’re strangers to them. It gives a collaborative spirit to this event that I think is so valuable and positive.
The musicians also had general tips about composing for their instruments, regardless of what we had written in our pieces. Just to give an example, our meeting with the principal trumpet player, Manny Laureano, made me rethink my approach to using mutes for brass instruments. For readers who are unfamiliar with brass mutes, they are devices (usually made of metal or plastic) inserted into the instrument to change the color of the sound produced. I’ve always been encouraged to experiment with using brass mutes in my compositions, a viewpoint that I still think has value. But Manny played a beautiful solo for us on the un-muted trumpet, and it gave me a renewed appreciation for the instrument’s natural sound. I realized that I neglect to take full advantage of the trumpet’s more lyrical qualities, so that’s something I’ll remember going forward.
And finally, it’s been particularly great to spend time with our composer mentor, Kevin Puts, who brings so much knowledge and insight to our sessions here in Minnesota. He’s a voice of reason and experience in every situation.
Rehearsals start tomorrow, so check back for another update from me in a couple of days!