Reflections on life without auditions
Five members of the New World Symphony share how cancellations are impacting the way they approach their musical practice
For musicians, upcoming auditions can take over many aspects of life, from practice habits and repertoire to the scheduling of gigs and other life plans. The musicians of the New World Symphony are a great example of this, as the 85 fellows took a combined total of 250 auditions during the 2018-2019 season, and a total of 300 the season before that.
I know I’m not alone in feeling a little lost now without any auditions or performances to prepare for, so I asked a few New World musicians about how they are using their time now and found a diverse range of reactions and approaches!
1. Eric Windmeier, double bass
Pre-COVID-19, Eric dedicated most of his practice time to audition preparation, as he took five in the past year.
How he’s using his time now:
Initially, I thought I would just really really break down my excerpts and be extra ready for what auditions come along. As time has passed, this has been less and less helpful and motivating. After thinking a bit on it I decided it would be much more useful to exercise my musicality muscle rather than bust through excerpts at a snail’s pace. This means exploring new repertoire, listening to other music, and trying new things for fun like playing along with Schubert songs or recording projects. The idea is that I will be able to take whatever musical discoveries I make and apply them to future music making in hopes that I’ll have a more defined, less stale, vision for what I want to project to an audience. This, I believe, will prove more useful than continuing to chug away at excerpts.
The extra time is helping him play in a healthier way:
I feel like I finally have an honest chance at correcting and reevaluating problems with my playing and my life that have lead to chronic injury. There is no deadline guilt, just moving at the pace of what my body can handle.
What he’s enjoying most?
Rediscovering what it is like to find a new piece that excites you. I think we all were like this when we were starting out in music and some may have never changed but it is easy to get lost in what you have to play instead of what you want to play.
A gentle reminder:
This is not a time to feel guilty. Enjoy your discoveries as best as you can and use it to fuel your creative thinking.
Outside of his musical practice, Eric is happy to be jogging more consistently, and is finding it helpful to get outside and use his pent-up energy!
For more on Eric and his playing, you can find him on Instagram @ericwindmeier.
2. Chad Goodman, conductor
New World’s schedule kept Chad busy as he was responsible for over a dozen different programs over the course of the season, but he also applied for several conducting posts, festivals, and competitions.
What he’s working on now:
Since I am unsure of when I will be able to take to the podium again, I don’t have many fixed deadlines for learning specific repertoire. Instead, the music I currently focus on is that which I am either curious about or have always wanted to study at a deeper level. I’m loving this approach to studying!
An exciting new project:
Launching the Chad Goodman Music YouTube Channel. During these times in which I am unable to conduct, I am turning my attention to educating audiences on the classical music world I care so deeply about! I launched a series exploring music through the eyes of a conductor and have just begun an interview series featuring innovative performers, administrators, and arts entrepreneurs that are shaping the future of this art form. My first interview was with two musicians that won extraordinary jobs at the age of 22: Ryan Roberts (English Horn, New York Philharmonic) and Hugo Valverde (Second French Horn, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.)
In addition to his conducting projects, Chad has been inspired by his family of writers and English teachers, and he has started writing poetry. He is enjoying “building new creative muscles,” submitted a few poems to some literary journals, and some of his work has been selected for publication later this year!
3. Leah Stevens, flute
This past year, Leah’s musical practice was occupied by her New World repertoire and by preparing for six auditions, although only two ended up happening.
How cancellations have changed her approach:
I have been a proponent of having multiple skill sets in this field for many years… I’ve now been given the time to pursue other avenues within music that are not necessarily based in performing, and [had] left my flute in its case for [a] month or so.
I’m now dipping my toe back into practicing; if the motivation strikes, I seize it. If not, I don’t try to force anything. We are living in unprecedented times, and it is 1000% okay to give yourself a break from “normal,” as that’s being redefined every single day. When I do practice, it’s solo repertoire I love, or sight reading etudes. I used to hate sight reading (and etudes, honestly) but I’m beginning to love it now!
Some food for thought:
I’m remaining mindful of what this crisis is doing to everyone, and the effect it’s having on my mental health. I’m allowing myself to feel my feelings, and process things as healthily as I can. However, it’s been refreshing to “set down” those tough feelings and enjoy what life has to offer that I haven’t been able to take advantage of. I’m home with my family, and my cats, which I don’t get to enjoy year round.
The future is incredibly uncertain right now, but everything eventually works out. I say that not to invalidate any tough feelings you have at this time, but to reassure you that what you’re feeling now, and what we’re experiencing, will pass. Normal is going to look different from before, but normal will return. Until then…breathe. Take it one day, one hour, one minute at a time.
Outside of her musical projects, Leah has started painting and has rediscovered her love of cooking and baking, all of which she is finding therapeutic. She also drives for DoorDash, which she is enjoying as it feels like “a very easy job that allows me to go out and drive and clear my head.”
You can follow Leah on Instagram @stevensflute for her take on the music world, teaching, and navigating her mental health along with her career.
4. Yada Lee, violin
This season before shutdowns, Yada had a packed schedule including seven auditions, a solo recital, and several other recorded auditions and pre-screenings. She had to carefully balance her practice and rehearsal time to be prepared but also avoid injury and stay healthy.
How cancellations have changed her practice, but aren’t keeping her from performing:
I am spending time learning music I always wanted to play; a lot of sonatas. As an orchestral musician you don’t always get to choose your repertoire…I’m so fortunate to be quarantined with a pianist. We’ve been working through our bucket list together and that’s what keeps me alive. We’ve been performing virtually for audience at home, hoping to uplift their spirits and provide some sort of entertainment.
She has a few other musical projects going:
I’m currently working on technique detox. It feels like having green juice; doesn’t taste so sweet but good for you!
At the beginning of the quarantine I gave myself a project of one movement of solo Bach a day. It was a truly humbling experience. Playing Bach is so good for your soul and your hands, in my opinion.
On staying positive:
At difficult time like this, it’s truly amazing to see people being selfless and kind to each other. My heart smiles every time I read stories of people from back home in Thailand giving out free food, masks and essentials while doing their part of social distancing. I believe that now is the time for everyone to focus on themselves for their personal growths but also to think of whatever they can do to help others get through the situation. We’re in this together and we shall get through it.
Yada is also enjoying the time to spend tending to her garden of herbs, which are “very happy that I’m not traveling;” learning to cook new dishes; and improving her sewing by making masks for her friends.
She invites you to tune in on Fridays at 7pm EDT for the New World Symphony fellows’ concert series “Live from our Living Room” streaming via Facebook Live and to follow her on Instagram and Twitter @yadaleeviolin.
5. Charlie Rosmarin, percussion
What he’s doing with his playing now:
I’ve been learning pieces which I’ve loved for years, but never had the opportunity to learn. I’ll video record a rough draft of the piece and send it to a friend for comments and ideas. It’s been great for keeping the creative juices flowing.
On the difficulty of being a musician in isolation:
Generally it feels like my quarantine has been following an approximately 10-day cycle: I’ll gather a list of all the productive things I’d like to do. I’ll resolve to wake up earlier and get to work more quickly. For about five days, things will go great. My life then succumbs to entropy and by day ten I’m watching YouTube at 2am again. Rinse, repeat.
A positive outlook:
It’s been touching to see all the cool, creative stuff being uploaded to social media. It’s great that people are being less precious with their work! Sorry for the cliche, but we’re all going through this together–and I’m glad our instinct was to share instead of sulk.
Like Eric, Charlie has embraced running. Inspired by a New World production team member, has started studying running technique and has shaved a minute off of his usual mile pace!
To connect with Charlie, he invites you to add him on Facebook.