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Engaging Ears: Midland & Odessa tour

The past year has been quite an adjustment for us as we have made the transition from a student ensemble in residency at Texas Tech University to being spread out across the state; James at his post at West Texas A&M University in Canyon and Ben Donnell studying and serving as Graduate Assistant at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. During the occasions that we are able to be in the same city, we find that we must make room for intense work and diverse activities. This past weekend was no exception!

Thursday, October 13

We all arrived in Lubbock and met at the School of Music for some long-anticipated rehearsal time. In typical West Texas fashion, the weather changed with no warning and flooded many of the University streets and roads in town, making for an interesting day to say the least! We rehearsed in a classroom piano studio which, while not being an ideal rehearsal space, nonetheless brought back memories of the many hours we have spent in the various halls and classrooms of the TTU Music Building. That evening, we performed on Ben Still’s DMA Chamber Music Recital which featured duet, trio, and quartet music of Prestamo, Lago, Albright, Zarvos, and Larsson. After a quick dinner, we headed south to Midland where we would spend the next day presenting clinics at junior highs in the Midland-Odessa area.

Friday, October 14

We have been wanting to visit the schools in Midland-Odessa for quite some time, and we were fortunate to finally make a trip to this area. We presented five clinics at four public schools: Wilson & Young Junior High, Abell Junior High, Alamo Junior High, and Nimitz Junior High. The theme for the clinics was “listening” and we demonstrated the many ways in which we must listen in small chamber ensemble performance as well as how the students could apply those skills to their own small and large ensembles. More specifically, we addressed the following:

  1. Intonation: What does it mean to be “in tune”

  2. Balance & Blend: Listening down and matching timbre

  3. Style & Articulation: Playing right notes and rhythms is only part of the musical equation

  4. Melody vs. Harmony: Making sure that the musical hierarchy is clearly heard

Not only was this mini tour a blast for us, but the students seemed to be really engaged and excited about the topic! This was a unique experience because, on top of being able to play for an audience, we were able to talk about what we do to make our performances sound the way they do. At the end of the day we traveled back to Lubbock so we could get a good night’s rest.

Saturday, October 15

We spent the first part of this day recovering from the day before - who knew that performing five clinic/concerts in a day could be so exhausting?! We spent the rest of the day in meetings and rehearsals as we planned for the many exciting things that we have quickly approaching on our agenda. Be sure to stay tuned and watch our calendar for updates!

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