A Guest Post by Hector Barreto, adapted from his Facebook posts during his stay at camp.
May 18, 2018
I arrived at Sonata Piano Camp in Vermont. I’m exhausted but happy, having pianos everywhere, yes, even in my room! So nice to run into people I have met previously and meeting new people with the same shared passion!
The First day at Sonata Piano Camp! It is such a good feeling to see the wonderful people I’ve met here in the past, and to meet new people from so many places, including Canada, Brasil, Mexico, Costa Rica, Japan, and from states like Tennessee, Alaska, California, North Carolina, too many for me to keep track. There are people here from so many different backgrounds with one shared passion for the piano. At this place, not only music happens, but magic happens. I’m so glad to be back!
May 19, 2018
It’s morning in Vermont. Daybreak comes earlier here in these northern latitudes, it’s 5:23 AM and back home it would still be dark. Lovely view out of the window, too bad the sky got overexposed so I couldn’t capture the beautiful reddish colors. I slept surprisingly well, and am looking forward for a delicious breakfast and a day of playing, lessons and learning.
I am already hearing music, lots of music, live instead of recordings. So far I’ve heard a Bach partita, a Schubert Sonata, a Chopin Etude, a Scriabin Etude, something beautiful I couldn’t identify but can’t wait to find out, and that’s just what was drifting through the walls. One of the coolest things about this experience is that I’ll always hear something completely new and beautiful, which expands my horizons and makes my “wish list” ever so longer. Worked on a 2 piano duet last evening, which is very hard for me because I’m terrible in counting tempo, but I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. The learning here is almost by osmosis, because it is not passive learning, but an active experience.
Time to head downstairs for a very full day. I’m ready!
I look forward to enjoying my morning coffee at my favorite kitchen in the whole world. I would love to learn to cook in a kitchen like this! Breakfast will be served shortly. They feed you very well around here, good fuel for a whole day of piano playing!
Something interesting that I’m noticing is that this year, I feel a little more relaxed, instead of frantically trying to play as much as possible, I’m in no hurry this time, I’m playing a bit more slowly, savoring every note, just allowing the experience to sink in. Curiously, I can find relaxation in such an unlikely place like the piano at the laundry room. Yes for real there’s literally pianos everywhere, as these pics can verify. Any room, corner, nook and cranny is good enough for a piano, even the linen closet.
This is what a totally immersive experience sounds like. It’s fun trying to identify the piece behind each door, later in the week I’ll probably be able to know who is behind the door based on what is being played.
Had a wonderful, productive lesson with Polly, the program director and the most amazing teacher and a great person. Tonight, I’ll play at the Master class, which can be seen live streamed at www.sonatina.com and go to the sonatina live section. The class starts at 8 PM and there will be I believe 4 or 5 people playing, I believe I’m around #3, unless my elbow bothers me too much in which case I may not be able to play. In any case, the classes will be available in the video archive section where you can search for Hector and see all of my master classes. It won’t be perfect as it is still work in progress, but watching a lesson in progress can be very educational.
Being that, after all, I’m at camp, we also get chores assigned, which I do happily, glad to contribute and help run this place.
At my practice room today, I was trying to process what I learned in my lesson, while cramming in preparation for my master class tonight, while attempting to keep performance anxiety (and sheer panic) at bay. So I guess my brain is multitasking.
Dinner is served. They seriously feed you very well around here, gourmet meals that are also healthy and delicious. (People are making a line at the kitchen so the table is empty for now, but it will soon be filled with campers, laughter and conversation).
Master class is over, and I’m glad I somehow got through it. I’ve been stressing myself about it, so my performance was not what I wanted, but I do keep in mind that while I’m very experienced playing privately (OK, and for my You Tube channel and my FB page), I’m still very inexperienced as a public performer. I simply don’t have yet the skills to learn to control my nerves, but the only way I can learn is to keep doing it until it becomes less of a big deal. I will say some segments of my piece came out fairly good, and after a little page turning mishap where we all laughed, I was able to relax and actually enjoyed my playing, up to the end where I struggled again. No matter what, I still learn so much with these classes that the anxiety and discomfort is so totally worth it. It is not easy to keep my ego and expectations under control, but if I get a bruised ego, so what. The point is that I’m a student, a learner, and I won’t get things right at first, and it may take me time to grow to where I want to be. So, for me this is not a problem that I want to avoid, but a challenge that I want to conquer. In the meantime, I’ll keep practicing and learning. I don’t plan to become a Horowitz but I DO plan on sharing my music with others because it is so enjoyable and it enriches our lives.
Well, the day has ended, the kitchen is mostly dark and it feels peaceful. Seems like I’ve been here a year and it’s only been one very full day. I’m treating myself to dessert which I skipped at dinner but saved for a much deserved reward later on. Looking forward for another full day of playing and learning.
May 20, 2018
It is morning. A new day begins. Music is already starting to softly permeate the air as early risers go to the basement where we are allowed to play at this early hour (not before 7 AM, in which case we must use digital keyboards with earphones). As for me, I already grabbed a cup of coffee and chatted with the other campers as they started to trickle into the kitchen, awaiting breakfast. Music, coffee, conversation and breakfast seems like a great way to start the day. Then upstairs to my room to get my things, get showered and make my bed, since it will be somebody else’s turn to use this room for piano practice so I won’t be able to access my room when it is being used. Every day we get assigned a different piano, it’s like getting to test drive a different car each day, I think there’s around 30 pianos in this house, and it’s so much fun to try the different models, from Steinways to Kawais, Yamahas and other brands. It really helps refine my technique, because each instrument feels different and it forces me to adjust my technique and make me a better pianist.
Yesterday, I played on my Master class piece on a Yamaha upright. Today, I’m practicing my duet piece at a Kawai grand piano, in a different room. Through the walls I can hear two campers practicing their duet, while from the other side I can hear somebody working on a Bach Partita, I believe the one in C minor, so it takes a lot of concentration to focus on my own music, but that’s what makes it a great exercise for the brain. I also need to rehearse my duet with my duet partner, get coached on the duet, go to a lecture on phrasing, and start crash learning the pieces for the monster concert at the end of the week. So, it is impossible to get bored around here, with so much to do, I wish I had more time!
Another productive morning at piano camp. After my practice session, I had a lesson which focused on specific difficult passages and how to work with hand mechanics, practice strategies, posture, articulation, dynamics, and so much more. Part of the Sonata package includes 4 lessons with four different teachers so we can get 4 different perspectives. One of the lessons is optionally a jazz lesson, which I always take even if it’s not my thing, because it helps me broaden my horizons. Then, on to a lecture by Polly (the program director) on phrasing. It never ceases to amaze me how much I learn here. Then, on to lunch which included Spanish Chicken with Orzo soup, just perfect for a cold, rainy Vermont day. But I gotta go now, my duet partner needs me so we can practice…
A rather personal and bittersweet note about why Sonata has been so special in my life. Although I have been aware of Sonata for many years, what finally brought me to this beautiful house was experiencing some very painful losses in my life. The loss of a loved one is something that all of us experience sooner or later, and nobody is really prepared for it, but I’m fortunate that Sonata was there when I needed it the most. Grieving is an ongoing process, but it’s good to see that I’m on a different place, still work in progress, but progress nonetheless. It happens that on my first Sonata, one camper was going to play a song that brought me to tears, so I needed to discreetly leave the room and bawl out of sight. Yet it was a very healing moment for me. Today, through the walls I happened to hear the same song, although in a different arrangement, which I feel it was significant because today I’m also different, as I am trying to re-arrange my life. I heard the song and got teary-eyed and sad but I also felt reassured that I’ve come a long way. So, I will always associate this place with not only music, but with healing. Thanks, Sonata, thanks, Polly, thanks, Campers, for being there when I needed it the most.
One of the many oh so cool things about this place is that they have a lot of reference materials, including books (this display is only a small sample, I think I remember a lot more down stairs) and lots of sheet music, which is good if we are interested in learning a new piece, they just might have it. I don’t think it’s for sale, I have to check, but it’s nice to be able to look at a new score and test drive it before deciding if I want to work on it.
Of course, what did I find at Sonata that can help me? A book on Stage Fright!
Sometimes we just need a nap…luckily there’s a place for that!
Sometimes the magic at Sonata Piano Camp happens spontaneously, without any planning. I struck a conversation with another camper, and we wound up sitting at the two pianos in the living room, playing the same piece (ok, just part of it). It was a great moment because we didn’t plan this. I also sat at the same piano where I played the master class last night, trying to learn to feel comfortable there at the stage, under the glaring lights. Eventually, the miracle happened. I gave a great rendition of the 1st movement of the Moonlight Sonata, by memory, no less, and felt very comfortable and barely missed a note, I knew this is exactly the place I want to be when I perform. Afterwards, during social hour, several campers were showing each other pictures of our pianos like they were our children. Then there are the spontaneous chats when going to get a cup of coffee, and the atmosphere is one of belonging and togetherness. Despite our wildly different backgrounds, music brings us together like nothing else can.
More Sonata magic. After a couple of gloomy, cold days, the sun started to break through the clouds, illuminating the mountains a few miles away, we all went to the porch to take a look, then went back in for a wonderful evening. We had a Rachmaninoff recital given by one of the teachers, this music is beautiful and powerful and it was a treat to listen to it live, in a salon environment, the way I believe it should be. So ends the second day at camp, and the week is just beginning!
Ok, one more practice on one of the basement pianos before lights out. It’s dark, quiet and peaceful, a good way to end the day.
May 21, 2018
It’s a beautiful morning at Sonata! Nothing like abundant sunshine after a good night’s sleep. All I need is coffee, breakfast, my music scores and I’m good to go!
One of the toughest things of the Sonata Piano Camp experience (at least for me, but I’m sure I’m not alone on this) is dealing with the self criticism and trying not to cringe when watching myself on the video of the master class (now available at the video archive section of the sonatina website). I’ll ‘fess up and admit I fast forwarded to the teacher feedback portion because it’s too painful to even think about watching the whole thing, but as I listen to it, it seems that my recollection is so much worse than it actually was. So I’m hoping that later on, I’m brave enough to watch the whole thing…
I want to make sure to acknowledge the excellent job that the Sonata Piano Camp staff does every single day. It must be a very difficult job to run a house with 20 or more pianists with different wants and needs. For instance, we have two chefs (one for breakfast, one for lunch and dinner) and their meals are amazing, and I am a horribly picky eater and have digestive issues, but they have been so gracious and helpful.
Then there is our friendly audiovisual/tech person (not sure of the exact title) that is also a gardener and grows many of the greens that are served at meals, and also video records the master classes and puts out excellent videos that I can search later for educational purposes.
The teachers are excellent and I can’t help but having my mind blown away by their depth of knowledge and how well they communicate with us students in a supportive way without ever making us feel uncomfortable with our musical shortcomings. And of course, there is our director, who wears so many hats at the same time, running an excellent program, teaching us in such a relaxed, masterful way and ever so gracious host. They all have always have kind words for us despite things being busy and hectic at times. I can’t think of enough praises for the Sonata staff, that make me feel at home and help me learn and thrive.
I shared some down time with the extremely talented faculty member Joel Martin. His talent is matched by his friendliness and love for us Sonata campers.
My mind is blown away by listening to the lectures. This morning it was about Mozart and the 20th century composer Poulenc, representing the classical and neoclassical styles, and I’m amazed at the subtle multiple layers of things that aren’t obvious to me until they are pointed out. I can’t count the times I’ve said to myself “I’ve never thought of that!”
It’s practice time. How I use that time is up to me. I have a 1.5 hour slot, then lunch, then another 1.5 slot in the afternoon, then a break, then another 1.0 hr slot before dinner. At other times I can also use unoccupied pianos if I want to practice more (and I do). For now, and for demonstration purposes, I’ll show in this video clip one practice possibility, isolating the right hand, focusing on improving the voicing and how well I can make the melody flow, only on the first few measures. It is labor intensive but it does gives results. Later on, I could work on my duets, review a Mozart sonata, or whatever else I feel I need to work on. It is very free around here, with nobody ordering me to practice 24 scales for 2 hours. It’s up to me to figure out the structure that works for me, but with so many people around here, I’m sure I’ll pick up some good ideas.
Something I should do more is to sit away from the piano and go through the score, highlighting important things like voicing, melodic lines, chord progressions, etc. I’m officially on break so I sat at the Sonata Piano Camp’s kitchen table so I can get better acquainted with the score. In the distance somebody is working on Debussy, further away someone else is playing a nocturne by Fauré. The variety of the music played by the campers is astounding, I’ve heard this morning ragtime, a crazy Macedonian dance, jazz improvisation, Chopin, Beethoven, and I contribute my Granados to the musical mix.
After a full day of practicing, it is important that I continue to do my stretches so I don’t keep injuring my elbow.
It’s been a gorgeous day here at Sonata Piano Camp in Bennington, VT, with lots of sunshine and mild temperatures. After a full day of practicing, a little walk after dinner seems like the right thing to do. Later on I believe we have another teacher recital, and if I can, I might get in a little more practicing later on. For now, I’ll just let these wonderful feelings sink in…
I remember sitting at this spot at my very first Sonata, with tears of sadness because of my loss, but also with tears of happiness because of being finally able to come to this magical place. Today, I can sit at this same spot, teary eyed with the same feelings, but also feeling a wonderful sense of peace.
Another wonderful evening, with a teacher recital where I heard Ravel, Schumann and Beethoven. There is simply no recording that takes the place of hearing these works live, in an intimate salon setting. It is inspiring and energizing, motivating me to do better.
May 22, 2018
The magic continues at Sonata Piano Camp. I got up a bit too early, so I headed downstairs, glanced out of the window and I see this beautiful deer in the backyard, what a cool way to start the day!
Busy morning of practicing, with a lecture afterwards, then duet coaching this afternoon with some more practice, then Master Class tonight (I’m not playing tonite, thank goodness!). This morning practice didn’t go as well maybe because I got up too early so I’m extra clumsy, also, we have to prepare for the duet concert on Friday and our recital on Saturday, then the monster concert afterwards, so the pressure is starting to increase. Not only that, but my very tough piece is in shambles, as I’m taking it apart, unassembling it, then will reconstruct it again with what I have learned here. But it’s all ok, because when I go back home I’ll have plenty of time to integrate what I’m learning here. In the meantime, it’s always good to grab a cup of coffee before the lecture starts.
Being a pianist seems to have some risks to it, particularly to the ego (at least to mine, but I imagine to many others as well). There is the risk of failure, of falling short of my expectations, of making a fool out of myself. I try to take the attitude that sometimes, I just need to be willing to take the risk, no matter how unpleasant the experience or the outcome, because it can still be a learning experience. Lately, when practicing, I’m reminded of athletes like gymnasts, ice skaters, etc, who must learn to fall and somehow keep going. I’m sure that may involve some bruises, so I figure I’m at the point where I must risk having my ego bruised. Not that I want it, but if I can learn from my mistakes, it may be worth it. This is why I like to call my days at piano camp “The Days of Playing Dangerously”. Like I’ve heard elsewhere, “nothing ventured, nothing gained”. So, while I strive to do my best when performing, I need to be willing to accept the uncomfortable risk when putting myself out there. So, while in my worst moments of panic I want to hide in my piano room, if I do that, I will not learn to overcome my fears. So, reluctantly and with a lot of trepidation I say, “bring it on” This may not be the best course of action for everybody, and I wouldn’t recommend it across the board, but for myself at this point of my life, that’s where I think I need to go.
It is often suggested to pianists to sing the melody in order to better understand phrasing, and to remember when to take a breath. It occurs to me that dancing to the music can also help internalize the music’s pulse and rhythm, so I decided to give it a try at the Sonata Piano Camp’s kitchen during a slow time where nothing was going on. So here I am trying to dance to some of the Spanish music I working on. Keep in mind I’m a terrible dancer, but if that helps me understand the music better, then it’s worth a try.
Music has a liberating quality. From a sublime Bach duet I was practicing earlier, to a fiery Rachmaninoff etude, a Spanish dance, a Beethoven Sonata, a jazz piece or so many other possible forms of music, they all appeal to us in different ways. So, when I hear two of my fellow campers practicing their duet next door, what better than to celebrate and move along with it?
Nothing like a magnificent master class to feel inspired (and yes, a little jealous). I feel privileged to offer support to those that need it, and learn from those that have so much talent. I do hope I can also offer something useful to others. Thanks to Sonata, I’ve met some amazing people and I hope to stay in touch, continue to learn, and keep returning to this wonderful place.
May 23, 2018
I tend to be an early riser, so I like heading downstairs to the living room and watch the daylight seep in through the windows over those beloved pianos. The house is very quiet for now, but little by little the little noises from the kitchen and from the campers starting to head downstairs, will continue their crescendo to a melodious cacophony of music, conversation and laughter. We have a full day ahead of us so I’m glad I slept very well. Here I am enjoying the quietness of this early hour, awaiting coffee so my brain can “uncrumple” (because it feels like crumpled cellophane) and breakfast because I’ll need lots of energy for today.
Before coffee, after coffee at the Sonata Piano Camp kitchen.
Been too busy to post, it’s been a very full and amazing morning, and I’m trying to scramble marking up my score for our first monster concert (where several pianos play at once) rehearsal. So much to do but I don’t mind one bit.
The variety of pianos here helps so much in learning how to pay attention to our touch, because their actions are so different, but also the room itself can be inspiring or present challenges, as evidenced here by my favorite room and favorite piano, with so many windows and a piano that I wish I could take home, and the room that I affectionally call “the dungeon”, next to another practice room on one side, and a noisy laundry room on the other. Surprisingly, I also love playing the dungeon piano even though it’s very different, it gives me an opportunity to interpret my piece in different ways.
Playing in an ensemble is very hard for me, particularly when it involves the Rachmaninoff Second Concerto. I’m exhausted but I got to work on something I always wanted.
What a treat! Listening to faculty members Joel and George give two-piano recital where they take well known classical works and do wonderful improvisations. It was a musical banquet!
May 24, 2018
As much flexibility as there is at Sonata Piano Camp, it wouldn’t be possible without having a good structure. It can be very complicated to have 20 pianists, teachers, lessons, practice sessions, coaching, lectures, master classes, meals, and concerts. So every day I check the practice wheel to see which piano I’ll be assigned today (my name is on the right wheel around the 11 AM position, and I’ll be at room 33 today), which chore I’ll be assigned (today I have to get the trash from the upper floor bathrooms and put it in the dumpster), when, where and with whom I’ll have a lesson today, then I check the general schedule to see what kinds of activities like lectures, concerts, master classes, and/or coaching are scheduled for today, and yes, what’s for dinner tonight (tonight we’re having grilled New York steak, yum!) The program runs like a well-oiled machine, no easy task and I’m amazed how well it works.
Sometimes we need a break from all this piano practice, so it’s good to know that I can take a nap on the room next to the living room, or do some exercise (only when there’s nothing going on at the living room), or maybe soak in the hot tub and enjoy the view.
Another day, another piano…
Piano playing is not just about moving the fingers, but moving them correctly so to express a melodic phrase smoothly, with the right inflections and not wasting any unnecessary motions. I do move my fingers excessively, with lots of wasted motion, an issue that has been pointed out to me several times here by every teacher that has worked with me. So I need to re-educate my fingers and hands so I can play with less tension and more fluidity. It helps that today is a beautiful day, the cool breeze is entering through the halfway opened windows, almost caressing and reassuring me that I’m on the right place and on the right path.
For some reason, I’m feeling more emotional and sentimental today, so happy to be here but also sad that the week is winding down, and feeling the pain of facing my own musical limits and shortcomings. I’m perfectly OK with all those feelings, willing to let them be my teachers. I’m hungry for learning, and that hunger motivates me to carry on. It is also important to pace myself, so it’s good that I found a little quiet corner where I could soak in the sunshine, enjoy the breeze and hear the music from that beloved house.
Another full day at Sonata Piano Camp, filled with interesting conversations (not necessarily piano-related), laughter, practice, lessons, and another master class. It is very hard for many of us to put ourselves out there, so I’m glad to be able to support others like they have supported me. The connections I have found in this place have been amazing, and already some Sonata participants from other months have reached out and contacted me. Had a heartfelt conversation with a couple of the teachers, as I struggle with figuring out where I go from here. What is it about piano playing that is so powerful for me? Besides the obvious answer that I love it, it helps me communicate in ways that the spoken word can’t. It has also sustained me through so many rough spots in my life, and maybe this is why I stress so much about it, because it is so important to me.
So, I feel inspired watching the other campers, I love it when they are successful and want to support them when they struggle. Of course, I can’t speak for the other campers, for which piano may have a different significance, but it seems to be our common language. The question for me is what do I do with this passion? I have so much to learn but a lot less time to learn it. That’s OK, I don’t need an answer today, so I just go with the flow, learn what I can, enjoy the music that I can play, and listen to what others have to teach me. Sonata has enriched my life beyond belief and I’m grateful.
May 25, 2018
Getting older presents its challenges, including medical issues. While I’ve been fortunate so far that I haven’t had anything horribly serious, I’ve had problems that can get in the way of enjoying life and my Sonata experience. I missed last year due to gallbladder surgery, and I have some annoying ailments that I feared would interfere with my camp attendance this year, but so far I’ve done relatively well and been able to stick to my medication schedule, missing only a couple of doses. So when I get up in the morning and head downstairs for the Sonata kitchen, I take my little pill box with me and have a little ritual of taking my meds in the quietness of the early morning. I enjoy those solitary moments when I can reflect on life and enjoy watching how every daybreak is different.
Another busy day, because we have no less than 3 concerts to prepare for, the duet concert, the monster concert and the recital. The first two are optional, and while I don’t think anybody is mandated to do the recital, it seems that nobody wants to miss the opportunity to share with others what we have learned. This morning we had a mock rehearsal, where I played my difficult piece, and I felt so much better despite the imperfection. My goal is to stay calm no matter what, and that seems to be working. So I’m looking forward for enjoying playing for my fellow campers, which are like my family.
You never know what kinds of snacks you’ll find at the Sonata Piano Camp kitchen, but when I need a boost, I know many times I’ll find something that will help my sagging energy levels. I haven’t worried about my weight, because going up and down 3 levels of stairs every day will help me burn those calories.
It is hard to capture the entirety of the rich history of the van der Linde family, who started Summer Sonatina and the Sonata Piano camps (Sonatina is the summer camp for children and Sonata is the piano camps for adults that take place several times throughout the year). The camps were started by Rosamund and the late Rein Van der Linde, and currently they are being expertly run by their eldest daughter Polly, who grew up in a household of pianists and surrounded by pianists from all walks of life, and who doesn’t cease to amaze me with not only her knowledge but with her ability to teach difficult subjects. These pictures of one of my favorite areas of the house don’t do justice to the rich legacy that is being transmitted to those that walk through these doors and live the Sonata experience. Many times I like to pause at this gallery and try to imagine what has happened throughout the years in these premises.
We have our first concert this evening, the duet concert. We’ve gotten some excellent coaching from our duet instructor Ellen, but now we are on our own. So I tried to get a little extra practice time although I could use some down time. So I went outside to soak in the wonderful sunshine, then found an available piano, which happened to be the famous “Harry Potter Room” which is under the living room stairs. It is a very nice piano, but to my alarm I’m noticing new, unexpected mistakes. I think that, besides the normal nervousness, I’m also trying to focus while ignoring the noise of people going up and down the stairs just above my head. It sure makes for an extra challenge because if I can focus through THAT, I probably could focus through anything.
I was planning to skip master class but I’m glad I went, learned a lot from familiar pieces and new ones. My brain is fried but I have to go to monster practice, so any little corner is good for a micro-nap.
The piano lids are up in preparation for tonight’s duet concert. Now the REAL fun begins! It’s showtime!
It’s happy hour/social time, great time for decompressing after a long day of practicing and rehearsals. Guacamole, chips, good conversation to be followed by another fabulous dinner. Love the piano keys coasters. To finish off the evening, our duet concert!
Another wonderful meal at Sonata Piano Camp. Although fish was on the menu, I’m allergic so they have been very accommodating with other alternatives, so I’ve never been hungry at Camp, and have enjoyed new and interesting dishes.
Wonderful duet concert this evening. We heard beautiful music, fun music, even a vocal number with piano accompaniment, and a vocal duet with piano accompaniment. I was inspired, with lots of laughter and sentimental tears. As for my duets, I’m very happy how they turned out, despite their flaws. I was moderately nervous but was able to keep going, which is very important in duet playing, something I’m not good at. Many thanks to our excellent duet coach Ellen Dilthey for her patience and helpful feedback. So, here I’m uploading a sample of our Bach piece, the 2nd Movement of the Harpsichord Concerto in A major, I’m playing the piano version of the orchestral accompaniment while Lya is playing the lead harpsichord part. Being able to play this sublime music is why I keep working at getting better. Today has been a good day and I’m happy.Edit to add: a fellow camper texted me his recording of our rendition of Cuban Dance Los Muñecos, by Ignacio Cervantes, will try to upload the video as part of the main post instead of in the comments section.
May 26, 2018
It’s our last full day at Sonata. Tomorrow we head back to our homes, but we can keep the magic here a little longer until we have to say our goodbyes. Today’s schedule is a lot thinner since there’s little to do other than our big concert afternoon, then our Victory Party, ending a glorious week with a bang. The amazing thing about it is that it will happen again several times this year, with different campers, many of them returning year after year, because it’s hard to stay away from this magic for too long.
Today, in addition to our recital where we play our individual pieces, we have the monster concert, in which we sit at multiple pianos to play in ensemble, an orchestra of pianos if you will. I’m not used to playing in group because I tend to march to my own drummer, and it’s even harder than duet playing, but it’s a fun way of expanding my skills. It happens that I got assigned to practice in the monster room today. I went downstairs a bit early to practice, and through the door I heard another camper improvising some beautiful music, so I sat just outside the room enjoying the music. Now that I’m in the room, I’m glad to see the sun coming through the windows, it is a beautiful day for a concert.
I like to say that I have chlorophyll running through my veins, I tend to get droopy when it’s cloudy and perk up with sunshine. So, getting to practice in a great sounding grand piano while being blessed by sunshine is…priceless!
So, why do I tackle pieces that are so difficult, way over my level? Of course there’s ego involved with it, but also the allure of a challenge. Why climb a mountain? Because it’s there. I get to explore, discover, learn, and have a different perspective. However, climbing Mt Everest is very difficult, especially if I can barely climb Mt Dora (those familiar with Central Florida will get the joke). So it would be wise of me to find a Sherpa that can guide me through treacherous terrain. But I’ll never get to the summit if I don’t take those necessary steps, and even if I can’t get all the way to the top, I can always enjoy the scenery from a better perspective.
As piano camp is winding down, it’s time to start packing, no easy task when I crammed everything I could in my carry-on and personal item, been using it all week, and now I’m trying to make it fit again in my small luggage. It’s a good thing that the gifts I’ve gotten here doesn’t need luggage space, because I carry them in my heart. This has been a very enriching experience, and I feel blessed.
No more practicing for me at Sonata Piano Camp. After lunch, it is time to wind down, reflect, and savor the company of people I have got to know and love. It is fascinating to meet so many people from different backgrounds like physicians, college professors, computer scientists, and on and on. Piano playing can be very isolating (who wants to hear me play the same passage 17 times in a row?) but here I can relate to others in ways I can’t elsewhere. Even though I may not get to see them again until next time we coincide at camp, it is such a joy to see them again in this lovely place. Sonata Piano Camp is not just about music, but about loving and sharing. There is a Spanish saying that says: “de músico, poeta, y loco, todos tenemos un poco” which roughly translates to: “each of us have a little bit of a musician, a poet, and a madman”. I have the musician part, I may not be a poet but love to write, and if my little impromptu tango dance is any indication, I’m probably a little crazy. All 3 parts feel very much at home here at Sonata Piano Camp. So, nothing else to do today but play my heart out and enjoy the company of so many wonderful people.
Getting ready for playtime!
I did it. I played. I mean, I really PLAYED. Yes, I was nervous, yes, I messed up some spots, very badly, but I was able to get a grip and actually enjoy the experience. So, I accomplished something very important to me. While I can’t say I have mastered this piece or even conquered stage fright, the fact that I was able to feel a level of comfort helps my confidence a lot. We are on intermission, so now I can relax and enjoy the rest of the afternoon.
Now that the concert is over, we are having our Victory Party. It has been an incredible journey and I’ve enjoyed tremendously the company of so many wonderful people.
3 years ago, I first came to Sonata Piano Camp because I love piano (can you tell?) but also because I was trying to cope with losing my other half and my dad 3 months apart. So I decided to be good to myself and treat myself to something I always wanted to do, not knowing that it would rekindle my love for piano with an intensity that sometimes scares me.
I treasure the memory of that first Sonata, it was a very healing experience. I took the exact picture of the house 3 years ago, and while the house is the same, today it is a different day, much warmer, humid and slightly overcast than on that first Sonata, with temperatures that were in the 60s and a clear blue sky.
In the same way, I’m still the same person, still grieving, soulful and sentimental, but I’m also different. As I alluded in a post earlier this week, I heard a very special song that really touched my loss, it was overwhelming when I heard it here 3 years ago.Today I heard it again, beautifully played, and I cried again, but it was not as raw or overwhelming as before, so I can sense some changes within me.
Every person has their story, and I’ve attempted to share just mine, not so much out of self centeredness, but because of not wanting to be disruptive to the people around me, respectful of their privacy. I’ve been trying to simply share the Sonata experience through one person’s eyes. I can only imagine the different ways people experience this place, but whatever the reason, I think something touches them, too, because they keep coming back. This experience has nourished my soul and I’ll keep the memories close to my heart. I leave this magical place early tomorrow morning, so I’ll finish packing and getting ready. If I can’t get any other postings until I get home, then I’ll bid farewell to Sonata Piano Camp, until the next time I can walk through the doors of my musical home.
This, our last evening together, we watched a movie about the stresses of musicians and composers in the film scoring industry. Afterwards, the goodbyes started, since we all are leaving at various times, some very early, some much later. Took a shower and I’m ready to hit the sack because I’m a tired camper. But still, a happy camper. A Sonata Piano Camper.
May 27, 2018
I had some trouble sleeping last night, in part because my GERD (reflux) was acting up, so I went downstairs to take my medicine. I was struck by how dark the house was, reflecting on the last several animated days, knowing that almost every month, new campers will walk through the doors and create their own Sonata experience. It is now morning, the luggage is ready, waiting for my ride. It is very breezy and cool, as if nature was sad about our departure. Hopefully, our absence won’t be for too long, and I look forward to the day I can return to Sonata Piano Camp.