Honors orchestra experience

This past weekend my daughter and I flew down to Santa Monica for the California Orchestra Director’s Honors Orchestra. She had to audition and was accepted along with 220 other top musicians from the state. It was quite an experience!

We flew down Thursday afternoon. Megan’s friend Ariel was on the same flight, and her mother April was my roommate. It was great fun getting to know them. April’s aunt picked us up and took us to the most amazing Korean BBQ place! I can’t remember the name but it was definitely the most delicious Korean BBQ I have ever had. The entrance was pretty interesting.

Not really what you would think a Korean BBQ place would look like. But once we went inside, we sat down and they lit the grill. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera so these are not the best pictures, but they give an idea of our experience.

The walked in with a huge platter of rolls of beef, stacked up. These were tossed onto the grill.

We pushed them around with chopsticks until they were cooked.

April’s aunt taught us how to eat it. You put a clump of salad on your plate and cover it with a piece of meat dipped in sauce.

Then you cover it with rice paper (like thin flat noodle in sheets).

Then you pick up the whole thing with your chopsticks and eat it. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!

It was really quite amazing how many little dishes there were. I really can’t imagine washing so many dishes all the time. Oh wait. Our kids wash the dishes. In that case, we should eat like this every night!

There was also a veggie pancake. It didn’t look all that appetizing, but it was totally delicious!

We were totally stuffed. Then we went to check in at the hotel had our first chaperone meeting at 10 pm! We stayed at the Sheraton Delfina. It was a very nice hotel but, to be honest, a bit odd. For example, here is literally how the lobby looked.

This picture was taken by my phone, but this is really how the place looked! It was so dark on the outside I didn’t even know it was the entrance. And when we walked in, it was so dark that the staff was carrying around flashlights so they could read stuff.

In the daytime, it was a little brighter but not much. I brightened up the photo though so you could see the inside.

Notice all the little holes on top where there are lights in the ceiling. Most of them were turned off. My roomie and I wondered if perhaps they were trying to be green and save energy. This area was pretty dark too…

The rooms were very nice though.

The beds were really comfortable but the pillows were a bit too puffy for my taste.

Even the bathroom was nice.

But there was only one bar of soap so we kept having to carry it back and forth between the sink and the bathtub. So odd.

The hallways were also at very weird angles and the rooms were numbered in different directions depending on which floor you were on. There was also no direct staircase up. We always had to take the elevator. I’m sure fire code requires stairs but they were hidden behind a “Do not open or alarm will sound” door. We were on the 2nd floor. It would have been a lot easier to take the stairs.

The nice thing was the hotel was right across from the Santa Monica High School, where the kids practiced. There was a very nice hall. There were two orchestras, a String Orchestra (all stringed instruments), and the Symphony (included brass, percussion, winds, etc. and was more advanced). Megan was in the symphony and they started out by practicing on the stage.

I liked how they put names on the stands so everyone knew where to sit and also the conductor could call them by name.

The kids worked really hard. They practiced all day Friday and half a day Saturday. Megan’s fingers were all red and raw-looking. These kids were so dedicated. There were kids practicing quietly in the lobby at 11 pm and had to be kicked upstairs to go to bed! Megan’s room had a violinist (her), viola player, cellist and … something else… can’t remember. Anyway, it was enough they could put mutes on their instruments and practice together. So that was kind of cool.

Later in the day they swapped rooms so that the string orchestra could practice on the stage. The symphony went downstairs to the practice room.

Between all this, we chaperones were pulling kids out one by one and bringing them to get auditioned. In time everyone got auditioned and then they all had to switch seats depending on ability level.

Being a chaperone was interesting. We didn’t get much direction so half the time we were wandering around asking what we were supposed to do and then we just made group decisions on what to do. There was a lot of walking, escorting kids, setting up snacks, folding programs, helping with setup and auditions, etc. We were busy! Once in a while we would have an hour break and April and I would go to the hotel and fall asleep. I was so tired one night I sat up on the bed with the lights on and while April was talking on the phone next to me, I conked out — sitting up the whole time!

Anyway, the kids practiced a ton and then during dinner time we walked down to the Promenade for dinner. It was a cool street of shops. Once again, no camera so I whipped out my phone. Man, why do I pack and lug the heavy thing down there and then not bring it with me?

It had a great feel to it. It also had odd bushy dinosaurs… some with water spouting out of their mouths.

We found a Wolfgang Puck’s Express and I got the curry chicken salad. It was delicious.

Megan got the 4 cheese mac and cheese. I don’t know why I like to take pictures of food. Probably to torture myself later when I am writing a blog late at night and haven’t eaten anything and feel hungry.

After that, we had to head back but there were a few minutes to look around so Megan did what she loves best… shopping for clothes. She and Ariel found some hats.

Then back to the school, for another rehearsal. We finally fell into bed exhausted. It was a long day. We had chaperone duties from 7 am until 10:30 at night.

Next day… more rehearsal. While the kids rehearsed, April and I did a scouting run… er, walk… to get lunch for the kids.

During meals, we went outside to eat. For lunch, we sat in the sun and since my head gets itchy in the heat, I had to throw my wrap over my head. Megan got a picture of me and said I looked like a monk with a cowl over my head.

After lunch it was time for the concert. Megan had forgotten her black shoes so I went out and got her some… good thing the Payless Shoe Store was one block down! But it wouldn’t have mattered anyway, she she was somewhat far back in the crowd.

There she is, playing in the middle.

Here’s the whole symphony. The concert was awesome. It was like totally professional. I didn’t hear any mistakes.

A picture of some of my favorite instruments… drums, tympani, and harp. If I had time, I would learn how to play the sax and the harp. Not that I have time. Not that I will learn to play any time soon. Well, at least I can bang on drums.

I can’t express how amazing the playing was. It was very interesting hearing the first rehearsal when people were together and it sounded messy. But by the concert, it was so awesome how beautiful and expressive and locked together everyone was. It was like they were all playing together as one unit. Only by sitting through the rehearsals and listening to what they were doing do you realize all the hard work that goes behind something that appears to be effortless!

Time for pictures afterwards! Here we are with our roomies. We had a good time together!

And me and my beloved daughter…

April’s aunt came and picked us up and this time took us to an amazing Japanese food court. It was all Japanese restaurants and market items on the other side!

Just looking at the window displays made me look hungry.

I am fascinated how Japanese restaurants seem to have fake plastic food in the window. It was fun to look at them. Also the prices were incredibly reasonable.

Megan got her favorite, a big bowl of ramen. Real Japanese ramen. Even though she likes the fake stuff that’s only 10 cents a pack.

I had forgotten to pack cash, and all the restaurants required cash. Fortunately we calculated perfectly so I actually had $2 left over and we were able to eat dinner. Later my husband asked, “Why didn’t you pack cash?” I said, “It wasn’t on my list!” No on list, no get packed. (Poor daughter takes after me. She forgot to pack her concert clothes and walked out the door. When I asked her, she went back in to get them. But it wasn’t until we got down there that she realized she had brought pants instead of a skirt… and she had grown so much that now the pants were really legging capris. She also had to borrow my pair of black socks. This is why my husband worries when Megan and I travel together.)

Afterwards, we browsed around a Japanese shop. Cute stuffed anime characters, Hello Kitty stuff, kitchen appliances, paper and stickers… and toilets. One of these things is not like the others…

Then it was time to hop on the plane and got home. We got home late Saturday night. It was a totally exhausting trip but I was so amazed and impressed by the talent these kids have. They were so polite and respectful and hard working. The conductors did an amazing job leading them so that the final product was such an amazing concert!

A Yee

Angela Yee is a professional designer (graphic design, stage design, interior design — angelayeedesign.com) and teaches leadership skills at strategysketchnotes.com.

3 comments to “Honors orchestra experience”

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  1. Albert - December 7, 2010

    The dinosaur — it’s a giant Chia Pet! Chia-ceratops 🙂

    The Japanese food court reminds me of the restaurants in the train stations in Japan.

  2. Carmen Lin - December 12, 2010

    If you see any dishes of food on display in restaurant window, they are all fake. The first time I saw them, @45 years ago, I was fascinated and tried to figure out how they could keep it fresh without refrigeration.

  3. Carmen Lin - December 12, 2010

    This is one trip I definitely would like to have been on if I had known it ahead of time and if I could have it arranged. Just to listen to the orchestra would have been worth the trip, let alone the food and the shopping fun.

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