Thursday, August 22, 2019

Not a Single Sport Girl Anymore

After many attempts to involve Dova in any sport besides gymnastics, she has finally found another home in Track and Field. Any sport with a ball didn’t agree with her; we had tried soccer, basketball and tennis, and didn’t even bother with softball and volleyball. I had long given up on getting great action shots of her gymnastics, opting to buy fantastic stills from the professionals.

But track has offered a whole of new photography opportunities. Here she is at the beginning of her track career in middle school.

She chose to do long jump and 100m hurdles for her events. I had suggested high jump since she's able to do all those fancy vaults in gymnastics, but it turns out that height matters more than vaulting abilities for the high jump. In her first meet, she placed 1st in long jump and 2nd in hurdles. Wow, I had no idea that she would do that well. She replied that she didn't join track to lose! Hey, what about being part of a team, hanging with your friends and being physically active? I asked her how far her long jump was and she replied 13' 3". 13 feet?? I was expecting something like 10!

I asked her how she learned the proper form for the long jump. She said the coaches didn't really teach them anything and everyone just had to do it. Somehow she knew how to throw her feet in front of her body for the landing thanks to great gymnastics core strength. 

It was even more surprising that she did well at hurdles. Her middle school doesn't have an actual track, so during practices, they only set up a few hurdles in the grass to try out. She never actually ran a whole 100 meters with hurdles until her first meet. In fact, in her first race, she didn't realize that she had to run to the finish line after the last hurdle!

She did so well in her first year in track that she easily qualified for the middle school state meet. Now in her school's rinky-dink approach to athletics, there were no additional practices for the state meet and the coaches were not even present. First no hurdles, then no coaches! When we got to the meet, it was complete chaos trying to figure out how to get the team's bibs and all the kids to the right events. I was barely cutting it as the de facto coach mom! We were all quite overwhelmed by the great athletes that were bussed in from all over the state (undoubtedly with coaches too). Not surprisingly, Dova didn't do that well at states due to the lack of practices and the fact that she ran in the hurdles heat that had the girl that who broke the previous state record by 2 seconds! But it was still a great experience that pushed Dova to pursue track in high school.

Now I thought that going to high school level track would provide better coaches and equipment for practice but hasn't been the case yet. Her high school was recently rebuilt and the track was completely torn apart, so again, there was no home track to practice on! Her first race through hurdles was tripped up by falls and it turned out that she was running high hurdles and not low hurdles from middle school. Nonetheless, she persevered and managed to place 3rd in long jump, earning her a Varsity letter as a Freshman. With track cleats now, she flew for 15' 5".

Here's to many more great track seasons! (And gymnastics too!)

Monday, October 29, 2018

Jumping into Mechanics Hall

People swear by visualization as a technique to achieve your dreams. As a parent, I always wanted my kids to succeed in music. Six years ago in 2012, we went to a concert at Mechanics Hall in Worcester. It was the first time the kids experienced this magnificent space. Adam was 11 and Dova was 8 years old.

I wanted them to feel comfortable in this space so we explored the stage a bit during intermission.

Of course, I made sure they "didn't go too far".

I mentioned, "Wouldn't it be nice if you could perform here one day?"

I took the first photo of the bustling hall, framed it and put it on the landing of the stairs to the second floor of our house so they would see it each time they went upstairs. Imagine yourself performing here...

Only three years later, Adam performed at Mechanics Hall with his school band as part of the MICCA Gold Medal Showcase. Woohoo! Visualization paid off! He's actually performed there six times since with various groups. In the last performance, I decided to capture the same shot but with Adam in the photo this time. He always stands out playing the bass.

And then I replaced the photo in the stairwell. Way to jump into the photo!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Living the Chamber Music Life

In its beginnings, music was merely chamber music, meant to be listened to in a small space by a small audience. - Gustav Mahler

Chamber music has always been part of my life, starting with piano duets with fellow students as a child and moving to larger groups as an adult. Because what’s better than playing music by yourself? Playing in a group or course. There’s nothing so magical as playing completely in sync with other musicians, playing in harmony, breathing as one, passing themes back and forth. During rehearsals, we always laugh at funny mistakes and cheer at perfect endings.

Every once in a while, in rehearsal with really good players, the music is so overwhelmingly beautiful that you feel you’ve just touched the divine. You can close your eyes for a split second and everything is completely right with the world. You breathe in and hold your breath hoping to hang onto the sense of euphoria. It must be like an opioid high, but ever so brief. Then the music will carry you back to reality, as it is inherently rooted in the present time. Listen to this spot in the Schubert Trio Op. 99 for a minute as an example.

When Adam played the violin as his main instrument, we played several sonatas for violin and piano by Mozart and Beethoven. These are not violin sonatas with piano accompaniment but really chamber works as both instruments are equally important. It's a pet peeve when someone compliments my "piano accompaniment". If the music is specifically written as chamber music for piano and not a symphonic reduction for a concerto, it is not accompaniment! (Now stepping down from the soapbox...) I had always hoped to play chamber music with Adam in larger groups but he had moved on to playing the bass where there is a lot less chamber music and he had also become a busy high schooler.

One of my lifelong dreams is to play the Schubert Trout quintet. After playing in piano trios for years, I joined a string quartet at my music school and suggested the Trout. I had the Music Minus One version and was never able to play it up to tempo with the CD, but thought I could handle it with real people. Little did I know that this quintet was scored for violin, viola, cello, and bass. The coach (a cellist) expressed her concern about trying to combine the cello and bass parts or shifting everyone to play a lower part (2nd violin to viola, viola to cello) which would be a lot of work. When I heard this, I suggested that Adam play the bass part especially since he was already at the music school for his lesson. Just a few minutes later, he was playing with our group. It was a double dream come true for me, playing the Trout quintet and playing it with my son! I was in chamber music heaven. It was such a thrill!

A couple months later, we were at a party of another chamber coach, a professional musician, who specifically asked everyone to bring instruments and music to play. On the drive over, I was so excited to have Adam possibly play with us. I kept exclaiming, "This is it! This is living the life before technology, where people could only entertain themselves by playing music together. This is my dream to be able to play like this for fun with professional musicians!" Adam was not so keen on this "ultimate party". When we arrived, he was extremely reluctant to take his bass out and I had to have a student cellist in the Boston Conservatory who he knew give him a pep talk. When one of the hosts asked who was available to play with which instruments, I mentioned that Adam played the bass, and his eyes immediately lit up and he said, "Trout!"

Moments later, here we are living the dream (doubled up violins). And we got to perform the Trout again in a lovely bucolic setting in Harvard MA (with even more varied instruments). The A and A-flat keys were sticky on this not-so-lovely electric Roland piano, but at least the pedal didn't wander away.

We also played the Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 (had to hunt for the harpsichord voice, number 66 on the Roland).

Over the summer I convinced Adam to enroll in a chamber music camp, where he was really in his element. They played movements from the Dvorak Bass Quintet and Hummel Piano Quintet.

I love this photo because you can actually feel the collaboration going on.

Camp photos courtesy of coach extraordinaire Amy Lee

The performances were magnificent! I was so glad that Adam got his own taste of the chamber music life.
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