Bette Lou's thoughts

It was a total immersion experience! For five days we were totally immersed in music. We thought, talked, ate, played and slept mandolin music (some of us actually did get a few ZZZ’s at night).

Despite leaving one day after a major Saskatchewan snowstorm with resulting flight delays and a missed connection in Calgary, we arrived in Denver only a few hours behind schedule. We joined the teaching seminar taught by Antonni Nigrelli as soon as we arrived. She outlined the importance of knowing the basics of music theory and recommended several comprehensive books/workbooks in her teaching seminar. I was lucky enough to receive one of the theory workbooks as a Christmas gift and hope to brush up and learn some new concepts as a result.

Another tip I picked up from her was the importance of moving the whole hand for position changes. I knew this but tend to try and stretch my hand a lot of the time 

On our second day in Denver the Convention officially began. We gathered for our first en masse rehearsal and met our conductor Dr. Jim Bates. Each day in the afternoon we had at least a two hour en masse rehearsal with him to work out details of the music to be performed in Saturday evening’s concert. Much of the music was challenging for me! I found I did benefit from the morning sectionals held each day with our sectional leader Johanna (who also happened to be Canadian--from Montreal) I very much enjoyed the variety of music chosen by our conductor and the artistic flare he brought to the podium. Since we were such a diverse group of players, with many levels of ability, he let us know what he wanted to achieve and provided correction very nicely and in a humorous way, making the rehearsals a fun experience.

With the convention in full swing, educational workshops and which one to choose became the task. Over the course of the next few days I attended Don Steirnberg’s Chord Melody for Mandolin and Evan Marshall’s Duo Style. Both musicians are amazing mandolin performers and I confess that much of their material was over my head. I did however gain some tidbits from each of them. They presented their material in such a way so that we thought it was possible for us to achieve the same kind of sound on our instruments with practise!! I did bring back their handouts and am willing to share them with anyone interested.

Each evening brought a variety of performers and groups to the stage ----so many different kinds of music and so many diverse performances, all with something to appreciate and enjoy. We heard classical, swing, celtic, gypsy, bluegrass and jazz.  I developed an appreciation for Mandolin Jazz listening to Don Steirnberg and his guitarist John Carlini, both professional musicians from Chicago.

For five days we were totally immersed in mandolin music! I returned home feeling exhausted but exhilarated with concrete ideas about how to improve my technique and playing ability. 

Will I attend another CMSA convention? Absolutely! I now understand why people who do come back so inspired and enthused.  Hope to see you at CMSA 2006 in Kentucky!

Bette Lou

© Regina Mandolin Orchestra 2013