Cat Fancy

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As you may have seen in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, kittens kaboodled around Powell Hall on a recent afternoon. Here is the link to Sarah Bryan Miller’s story: click.

Suffice to say a photo op for the P-D is a photo op for the St. Louis Symphony blog. The to-be-adopted kittens are named for Russian composers, hence the Symphony angle, plus flutist Jennifer Nitchman is on the board of Tenth Life Cat Rescue, which works mightily to make a better world for kitties, plus you can’t keep St. Louis Symphony musicians away from a cat photo shoot.

Jennifer Nitchman
Jennifer Nitchman
Violinist Asako Kuboki
Violinist Asako Kuboki
Principal Trumpet Karin Bliznik
Principal Trumpet Karin Bliznik
Igor, after Stravinsky, to whom I took a special liking
Igor, after Stravinsky, to whom I took a special liking

Pride

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Karin Bliznik sent an email following the master class she gave with section mates Mike Walk and Carrie Schafer at the International Trumpet Guild Conference in Columbus, Ohio. One word: “Success!”

Here she is with her undergrad teacher at Boston University, Professor Terry Everson, in his Facebook post.

karinThe St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra played a terrific concert Saturday evening, the finale to an extraordinary season. You can see the pride in St. Louis Symphony Principal Clarinet Scott Andrews’ face. He is YO Concerto Competition Winner Aleksis Martin’s coach, and they are backstage after Aleskis’ spellbinding performance of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto. Aleksis looks proud, exhausted and relieved.

Scott Andrews and  Aleksis Martin backstage at Powell Hall
Scott Andrews and Aleksis Martin backstage at Powell Hall

The Symphony’s Tina Ward went clarinet against light saber in the Powell foyer. With the orchestra performing the music of John Williams and Richard Strauss and other otherworldy pieces for the Lost in Space show, everybody won.

tina saber

Break Breath Decay Coffee

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Members of the St. Louis Symphony trumpet section, Karin Bliznik, Mike Walk and Carrie Schafer, are giving a master class at the International Trumpet Guild Conference in Columbus, Ohio on Friday morning. That means they hit the road Thursday and get right back on it after the master class for Opera Theatre pit duties Friday night. All part of the glamorous life of the orchestral musician.

Left to right: Mike Walk, Carrie Schafer and Karin Bliznik
Left to right: Mike Walk, Carrie Schafer and Karin Bliznik

Karin invited me to sit with the trio on stage and take a few photos as they prepared. They told me that they are the only current orchestra section featured at the conference, “Which is a big deal for us,” Karin said. They are playing excerpts from music they’ve performed this season, as well as some pieces for next season. The Symphony trumpets received the invitation last summer, with the St. Louis Symphony, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, and the musicians themselves supporting the activity–they’re giving the master class for free. All three have attended a conference master class earlier in their careers. “It’s exciting,” Carrie said. “Lots of ideas fly around.”

Karin makes her point about the sound of a note.
Karin makes her point about the sound of a note.

On the Powell stage they played some John Williams, some Strauss. Karin emphasized the “slight decay” that needed to be heard in one note. They talked about the need to define the differences between “break” and “breath.” (A break is to allow for more sounds to come out; a breath is to allow for the body to make more sounds.) They talked about lots of coffee over the next couple days.

Playing in unison.
Playing in unison.

Warm Down

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I asked four Symphony musicians about their warm-up routines for an upcoming Playbill article. They provided me with so much interesting information that a lot was left on the cutting-room floor. For example, Principal Trumpet Karin Bliznik told me about her warm-down habits.

Karin Bliznik warms up in the Powell Hall boiler room.
Karin Bliznik warms up in the Powell Hall boiler room.

“Warming down is about making sure your muscles are loose again the next day. Massaging muscles, relaxing, calming, so when you start again you’ve already released that tension. On those nights when you’ve played to the edge of exhaustion, you absolutely make sure you warm down. The all-Tchaikovsky concerts called for a big warm down.”

 

Sunday Fireworks

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In the afternoon it was the St. Louis Symphony’s 1812 Overture booms. In the evening it was Kolten Wong’s blast.

Although the Cards lost the Saturday night opener, you can’t blame the St. Louis Symphony trumpets, who played the National Anthem. They’ve never been shutout.

Playoff trumpets. Left to right: Mike Walk, Tom Drake, Carrie Schafer, Karin Bliznik
Playoff trumpets. Left to right: Mike Walk, Tom Drake, Carrie Schafer, Karin Bliznik

Mind on Prokofiev

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In the course of a morning Principal Trumpet Karin Bliznik was in the Powell Hall basement warming up, then on the stage, then the Green Room with her mind on Prokofiev. Here is what she shared for the Symphony blog.

The Lower Depths

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Where to warm up? Powell Hall does not provide a bounty of options for St. Louis Symphony musicians. Some people arrive extra early to get some stage time before the full orchestra arrives. The foyer is an option. Some warm up in their cramped dressing rooms. A lot of players warm up at home before they get here. The basement boiler room has been a brass warm-up location for years, maybe even back when it was the coal-furnace room.

karinHere is Principal Trumpet Karin Bliznik striking a pose in the lower depths of Powell Hall.

karin basementAnd here she is at work among the pipes, machinery and boxes practicing some madcap phrases for Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II this weekend.

Birth of the Russian Cool

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I’m not sure if this will be the set up for the concerts this weekend, but during rehearsals for the Shostakovich Concerto No. 1 for Piano, Trumpet and Strings, Karin Bliznik was on a stool near pianist Stewart Goodyear. And there was something about that stool in the approximate vicinity of the piano, and Bliznik’s posture, which inspired a vision of the young Chet Baker, hip and beautiful and on the beat. Only in a Russian way.

And before you all catch me on this, I will admit now a big mistake in the program notes,which are my responsibility. Rimsky-Korsakov did not compose Scheherazade in 1933. He wrote it in 1888. He was not contemporary to Shostakovich, but predecessor. Like Pete Kozma, may I be redeemed.