I roused myself from my sick bed on a Sunday morning to head to campus to enjoy the rare opportunity of a master class led by world-renown percussionist, Dame Evelyn Glennie (soon to appear on Ready Steady Cook!). If you haven't heard her play or seen her fabulous film Touch the Music, you really need to check her out. Absolutely stunning work in all modes of percussion and drumming!
It was a treat to see her interact with the students and audience. Each student played a piece and the Glennie gave some encouragement and pointers for improvement. It was instructive to see how much focus she put on the physicality of playing, being grounded and balanced. "Try to be simple," she repeated a few times. While technique has to be there (and timing and accuracy), she also said it's important to "feel it here," smacking her belly. Because it was a master class, Glennie was working with students who were already excellent players, so she focused on improving the performance aspects of their technique. Clearly they had been spending long hours practicing, but Glennie exhorted them to see every opportunity as a performance and think about what they wanted to say with the piece they were inhabiting -- adjust to the room, respond to the audience.
Glennie looked so fit and chic in her silver top. She moved with energy but also a natural grace. It's amazing the power that she sends into the sticks when she plays, evident when she broke one of the students' mallets at the marimba when demonstrating a passage. "Oh, I'll replace that!" Glennie said at once while the audience laughed. "Tell me how much it was." She joked later about it being part of her Scots heritage to want to use every part of the bar while playing the instrument, demonstrating the different tones all along one bar.
Three students ended the class with John Beck's rousing "Episodes for Percussion" which really rang out in the fancy new performance hall of the Massry Center. Glennie finished by answering a few questions, including one about whether she would encourage young musicians to become performers. Not only did she talk about how she enjoyed the physicality of her work, but also spoke to the need to be a professional, not to wait for opportunity to come to you, but to go find it. The business is changing rapidly and you have to keep up.
Right now, I have to go make some more tea and take more cold medicine in the hopes that I will be ready for my twelve hour Monday. Wish me luck.