Freshman violinist Allison Zhang and cellist Chardonnay Needler, junior violinist Anny Schmidt and senior viola player Vanessa Previsic earned a gold rating for their chamber ensemble performance of “Haydn Quartet in D major Op. 20” by Joseph Haydn at the CMEA State Solo and Ensemble Festival on May 6 at Sacramento State University.
Schmidt also received a gold rating for her solo performance of “Seitz Concerto No. 3.”
Schmidt said she was doubtful of receiving gold for her solo because before she performed, her hands were sweaty, so they stuck to her violin. Schmidt said she did not feel like she had prepared enough in comparison to past orchestra members she had seen.
“(Violinist) Emma Williams (‘15) always got gold and she was really good, so it made me think that you have to be absolutely perfect to get gold,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt said she picked “Seitz Concerto No. 3” because there was a lot of shifting in the mood of the song.
In their comments, the judges said that Schmidt had a lot of energy and did well shifting positions, but needed more dynamics in volume and fewer rhythm problems.
(Video used by permission of Schmidt)
And as for the quartet, the judges said they wanted more viola, but the group received all 1’s from one judge and two 2’s from the other.
In October, the chamber group listened to pieces, and in November they selected which songs they would take to competition. Zhang chose “Haydn Quartet in D major Op. 20” for its drama, and the other girls agreed unanimously to play it.
Needler said that the piece is very colorful and goes through a range of emotions. Zhang said that the girls could cut some parts of the song and adapt the piece to the group’s abilities.
Sections where the cello and viola would echo the violins posed the greatest challenge, according to Zhang.
“We had to get the speed just right so that it sounded like one voice travelling back and forth,” Zhang said.
Needler said that she didn’t understand what she was doing wrong until a week before the competition, when she discovered that she had been using too much finger and not enough bow.
“When you’re playing fast, you want to use less bow because your fingers are moving so fast,” Needler said.
Zhang said that the girls’ visit with Anna Presler, assistant professor at Sacramento State School of Music, on the Monday before the competition helped them smooth out some of these rough patches.
At the Golden Empire Music Festival in March, a judge suggested that the group switch Needler and Previsic because how players position themselves can affect the balance of the music.
“Where we stand can change where the sound goes and which instruments blend together,” Needler said.
However, at the CMEA competition, the judges suggested that the girls switch back to their original setup.
At the beginning of each school year, orchestra director Felecia Keys choses students who show promise and want to play challenging pieces to participate in chamber. Needler said that because there is no conductor in chamber groups, players must be in sync and pay attention to one another.
“In chamber, everyone really relies on each other,” Schmidt said. “And one person makes up an entire section, so if they’re missing, it’s harder to practice.”
(Video used by permission of Schmidt)
Zhang said that it’s crucial that every player knows her part and that the group teamwork is strong.
“If you don’t like your partners, you’re inevitably going to fail,” Zhang said.
While this was the last chamber performance of the year, the girls are already making plans for next year. Needler and Zhang might form a duet. Schmidt said she also plans on playing in chamber again next year and would consider soloing. All three girls said they might also form a quartet with pianist Atsuo Chiu.
—By Sonja Hansen