by PROFESSOR LUCY CHAPMAN
Chamber Music Chair
I have lived long enough to have many stories of how I have dealt with stage fright. One friend asked if I had ever considered bungee-jumping. ‘Why would I want to do that?” I countered, “I already know the feeling of jumping off a cliff.” Here is one story from my past that you may find helpful.
Sometime during my college years, I read about the Malaysian Senoi, best known for their work with dreams. They teach their children such ideas as “Never run away from danger in a dream. If you see a monster, either overcome it or make friends with it.” I know my monster, I thought: stage fright. Can I overcome it? Can I make friends with it?
I went back to my little bedroom in the rustic cabin I shared with other young musicians, and curled up in a fetal position underneath the covers, pillow over my head. “All right, Mr. Dragon of My Fears, I challenge you! I will fight with you, and not run away!” My mental challenge struck me as childish, but I stuck with it, imagining the absolute worst thing that could happen. The fear began to grow, and I still kept it as an image right between my eyebrows. After a few minutes I was shivering under the blankets. What if I totally blew it? What if I played out of tune? What if I messed up? What if my peers thought less of me? What if my teachers were disappointed? What if I embarrassed myself? Maybe I would get out there and not be able to do it at all. Suddenly instead of fear I began to feel anger. “Stop it!” I screamed inside myself. “SO WHAT? My mother just died a year ago – that matters. Is all this important? I’ve worked, haven’t I? Fierce Dragon Fear, I defy you!! Do your worst!” On and on I ranted, trembling. Then, just as I began to tire of the anger, I began to feel strength surge through me. “OK, Mr. Dragon, I am strong enough to overcome you. I don’t have to worry about you any more.” Then it all fell apart and I cried. I can’t be perfect, I thought. And a voice came to me, “No, you can’t be perfect. You don’t need to be. Life isn’t perfect. It is beautiful, but it isn’t perfect. Just sing of your sorrow, sing of your grief, sing of your loneliness, and you will reach people.”
Oh. Sing of my sorrow? My grief? My loneliness? I can do that. I can share that with the listeners.
Then a calmness came to me, and I rested. I remembered the love of my mother, the caring person I missed so much. I can sing of my love for her, I thought. I can sing of the joy I shared with her, and when the music calls for it, I can sing of the difficulties we had. As I sing of my love for her I will sing of Love. As I sing of my loneliness and grief, I will be singing of Loneliness and Grief. The personal will be transmuted into the universal.
I will sing through my violin, and I will not be perfect. I will be human, and some listeners will hear human sorrow and joy, loneliness and love. That is enough.
An Australian Recalls His First Encounter with Candy Stealers
by ANDREW NISSEN
First-Year MM Trombone
As a precocious child during the mid-90s in Australia, I despised Halloween, but I wasn’t scared of it. There were other more important reasons for my animosity. Now, as what some may consider an adult but in actuality more like an overgrown version of the kid from Problem Child, I have learned to appreciate the numerous gifts that “All Hallow’s Eve” has to offer. The gift of drinking, mostly. But also the gift of friendship, the ushering in of the beautiful season of Fall, and also the drinking. One thing still bothers me about the holiday of Jack ‘o Lanterns and cinnamon, though – call it a fear, even. There is nothing that scares me more about Halloween than the titular parties themselves.
Getting actually scared at Halloween seems to be a rarity. The costumes are usually too fake to be legitimately scary or too humorous to be taken seriously. But the fear of social judgement? That is a real fear. Specifically, the act of choosing a costume terrifies me. This terror, I believe, took root in my childhood.
My birthday falls on October 28th (and yes, I did just subtly invite you all to wish me a happy birthday on that day. I’ll be twenty-six this year and the gift I want more than anything is a Bandai Tamashii Nations Super Robot Chogokin Megazord). The year I turned seven, my birthday happened to fall on a Friday so my loving parents organized a birthday party on their next free day of the weekend – Sunday the 30th. Naturally I attempted to invite every person I knew to this party, which was surprisingly easy for a seven-year-old whose social circle was confined to school and places his parents dragged him along to. I knew it would be a party of epic proportions and, most importantly, people would bring me gifts!
At the time I remained unaware of the predominately North American tradition of trick-or-treating, but as I was extremely sympathetic to the idea of dressing up like someone else, my guests were instructed to come in their best “fancy dress.” I dressed as a clown, a costume I found hilarious (unlike every other observer).
As the party rolled along, I remember inviting all the guests in through our large front door. As the doorbell rang once more to signify what I assumed were more party guests bearing presents for yours truly, I galloped down the hallway and tore open the door. Imagine my shock when I was greeted by a flock of kids older than me, bigger than me, and wearing skeleton costumes! On top of that, did I hear them asking me for candy? Or had I fainted and started hallucinating? No. They WERE asking for candy, and my parents gave some to them!
Of course, this is a perfectly reasonable action to any adult. But explaining to a seven-year-old why some older kids were getting MY candy on MY birthday was never going to be easy. To make matters worse, one of the uglier of the bunch sneered, “Clowns aren’t even scary!” through his bloody skeleton mask at me. “Clowns aren’t supposed to be scary,” I thought to myself. Surely, this was before I’d seen Tim Curry as Pennywise in Stephen King’s IT.
Remember when I told you my party was on the 30th? It wasn’t even technically All Hallow’s Eve until the next day, yet the holiday had been indelibly tainted for me from then on. It came to signify a time when everyone was supposed to be paying attention to me and my birthday, but instead had other things on their mind. Well, until I grew up and learned the wonders of giving (and drinking). But growing up is never particularly amusing, is it?
As for me, I’ll conquer my fear of choosing a costume. It’s a constant struggle, but I think I found the answer this year: the Sexy Bacon Costume from yandy.com. If I go on an all-carb diet, I may be able to squeeze into it by the 31st!
Happy Halloween, everyone!
by LUCI DISANO
First-Year GD Clarinet
People that might have never touched a piano in their life, they have the option to touch one, play one, see how it sounds and feels… – Shane Simpson
What do a baby, a singer-songwriter, and a classical pianist have in common? No, this isn’t the beginning of a bad joke. Many of you may have noticed or even played on the painted piano that was installed outside NEC for the first two weeks of October. This piano was just one of 75 pianos installed throughout the city as part of The Street Pianos Boston Festival presented by Celebrity Series of Boston. The installation is an artwork created by British artist Luke Jerram, called “Play Me I’m Yours!” First seen in the United Kingdom in 2008, Jerram’s work has toured internationally, appearing in Paris, London, Barcelona, and other cities worldwide.
Though the installation “tours,” the pianos do not. Each of the 75 pianos seen throughout Boston was transformed by a different local artist. So, what would the world be like if there were a piano on every street corner? As it turns out, the answer is: Really fantastic. The beauty of this festival is that the pianos are free and available for absolutely anyone to use. There were some scheduled professional performances, but most of the time anyone on the street could simply walk up and play. Kids all over the city could be seen plunking out a few notes, discovering the piano for the first time. Amateur pianists had a chance to try their hands at Chopsticks or Für Elise for a captive audience. And often, someone would sit down and stun crowds with their unexpected piano talent.
Jerram’s piece aims to foster collaboration and community. It has done that and so much more. The pianos provided venues for emerging artists to be seen. Singer-songwriter Caitlin Timmins even recorded a live music video of her song, “Stop, Rewind, & Pause” on the piano at City Hall Plaza. Strangers on Newbury Street crowded around for a singalong of “Sweet Caroline.” And during one particularly rainy afternoon, a crowd braved the weather to gather around for an impromptu performance of the Super Mario Theme by EMI Artist Niu Niu, who stopped by before a live taping of “From the Top” with Chrisopher O’Riley.
NEC students Shane Simpson and Linda Numagami performed together on a piano that was installed at the MFA. Since Shane is a jazz major and Linda is a classical major, they performed an arrangement of “It’s Only a Paper Moon” for viola and piano. When asked what it was like to perform on the MFA piano, which was decorated with a larger-than-life painter’s easel, Shane said he found it a bit “bizarre” at first, but thought it was fun to perform for people who might not otherwise get to experience live music. Both agreed that the community aspect of the festival is in large part what makes it so rewarding. By bringing pianos out into the open air, people who might not otherwise have access to live music can witness it up close, and artists have the opportunity to interact with their audience on a more personal level that isn’t necessarily possible in a concert hall.
In an explanation of the installation, Luke Jerram offers the following:
The idea for “Play Me, I’m Yours” came from visiting my local launderette. I saw the same people there each weekend and yet no one talked to one another. I suddenly realized that within a city, there must be hundreds of these invisible communities, regularly spending time with one another in silence. Placing a piano into the space was my solution to this problem, acting as a catalyst for conversation and changing the dynamics of a space.
Thank you, Celebrity Series, for helping us break the silence and bring our art to the community around us.
Photos provided by the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.
BM Flute, 2010
The world lost a wonderful musician last week, and for many a great friend. We celebrate the life of Andrew “Drew” Thompson (NEC Class of 2011), contrabassoonist and bassoonist for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. He fulfilled every musician’s dream when he landed a job in his hometown. Drew’s Boston family will forever remember his intense loyalty, intellectual curiosity, ready smile, and big shoulders. Members of the NEC community share their remembrances of Drew…
I feel like Drew had the “right” balance: he worked hard but knew have a good time and appreciate the simple and most obvious things. I can’t count how many times we would hang out after a concert, or wait together for our respective lessons at the backstage of the BSO. Drew had the real NEC spirit and I will surely miss him terribly.
– Maya Jacobs (Class of 2011 · MM in Viola Performance)
Drew will always be family to me. During our growth at NEC, we celebrated our accomplishments together and supported each other through tough times. His fearlessness gave us a model of how to perform and live life to its fullest potential. Drew, it has been an honor performing with you – thank you so much for the impact you made in all our lives!
– Randolph Palada (Class of 2012 – MM in Clarinet)
Drew had that perfect combination of being a laser-focused, professional, dedicated musician while investing in his other passions (like swing-dancing & flame-throwing) and being a wonderful, happy person on top, always kind and welcoming whether a new acquaintance or old friend. He truly lived his life to the fullest and the world lost a HUGE talent. Drew, thank you for those years in Chicago and Boston together, whether it was performing beautiful music with you, teaching me how to swing-dance, playing Mario-Kart at your apartment, having Starbucks together, hanging out with our dear friends, trying new things, meeting new people, or just teasing the heck out of me (especially when you called me “Slagathore”). You will always be my favorite bassoonist, inspire me, and make me smile.
– Cecilia Huerta (Class of 2011 · MM in Cello Performance)
Andrew was exactly the kind of friend anyone would want in music school: an inspiring player, a hard worker, and tons of fun. Our ability to blend well started even before I knew his name, and once we figured out we were both swing dancers, we knew this was a friendship that was destined to last. He was always warm, forgiving, and ready to find the humor in any situation. So much more can be said to honor this incredible person, but what matters most now is for us to remember that Drew loved his friends more than anything in the world, and his memory will be kept by the love we have for him.
– Jennifer Berg (Class of 2011 · MM in Oboe Performance)
I first heard Drew’s voice when I was desperately searching for a place to live in Boston and anxious about the upcoming major life transition of moving up North. He called me and offered me an open room in his apartment, which instantly relieved all my stress. His calm, inviting voice was a welcome comfort for someone who had never lived in a big city or attended a music conservatory. Living with Drew was a pleasure beyond words. I will remember his gentle demeanor, virtuosic bassoon playing, and his desire to seek out and share camaraderie and friendship wherever he went. For those looking to pay tribute to Drew, I’d recommend taking a quick trip down Huntington and having a Gulden Draak at The Penguin, his favorite neighborhood bar.
– Mark Williams (Class of 2013 · MM in Vocal Performance)
If there is one thing that Drew taught us, it is to live your life to the fullest: he danced his way into our lives, and his music will always be in our hearts.