Jennie Khan

Freelance Cellist and Teacher

Jennie Khan is an Auckland based cellist and cello teacher. She has a variety of experience performing both here and in Europe and has been teaching students of all ages for many years.

2018 - A Year to Remember?

Another year has come to an end, 2019 has dawned. I always find this a good time to reflect, the warmer weather is here, we are stuffed full of treats from Christmas and probably indulging in a few wines in the back yard.

As I recall this past year, there have been many ups and downs, my teaching practice took off, there were many interesting performances, and, having set substantial goals for myself, I was very motivated to practice.

A highlight early on in the year, was playing in the theatrical piece "Think of a Garden", met some fabulous people, played some interesting music and was honoured to be involved in such a dramatic production.

To get some of the lowlights out of the way. I was a little what one might call 'a victim of my own success'. I was called upon at the last minute to take over cello lessons at 2 new schools, that alongside an increase in private students and a period of intense rehearsals, I was totally exhausted, resulting in a (very minor) car accident, it was the shock more than anything. At the time I was averaging around 220km per week in my Honda Logo, such a great little workhorse. It got a much needed wake up call, that we cannot do everything and we need to make sure we are looking after ourselves, especially when our schedule is full to bursting.

Another thing of equal parts plus and minus, was that surges of new private students meant that I actually had to make a waiting list and even turn some people away. I did consider extending my hours, but decided it would be counterproductive - I didn't want to risk any more accidents!

I guess THE highlight of the year, was playing the Saint-Saens Cello Concerto with the Philharmonic Society Orchestra in August. I'm the type of person that needs concrete goals to work towards, and for a performance musician, that means... performance. I can learn a particular piece, or work on technique, but if I don't have the culpability of actually performing soething in front of an audience, I find it difficult to stay motivated.

Believe it or not, this is the first time that I have learnt a work of this magnitude in its entirety and to performance level. There is an awful lot of work involved. Which I put in over a long period of time. My timetable as it is, this seemed the most reliable plan of attack, not to mention a work like this needs an element of maturity, much like a good Bordeaux, to be truly at its best.

Saintasaens concert_ps.jpg

In preparation, I found it best to look at it from many angles, the concerto, while not in movements as such, has several distinct sections, which can be worked on as bite size chunks. Rhythm, tone, style and speed were all elements that needed attention. There was a lot of work done with the metronome, which paid off in the end as far as the orchestra were concerned, however some may have considered it a bit too square.

In the process I sought out to have some lessons. Sometimes you just need someone else to point things out. Andrew Joyce, principal cellist in the NZSO, was so inspiring, his enthusiasm and passion emanates in all directions. He was very helpful in giving some ideas for the quick passages, preparing the left hand better and deciding on some phrasing right from the outset, often this is something I add in later on, especially for technically tricky bits. I also had the pleasure of working with Edith Salzmann, cello professor at the University of Auckland. She too was very encouraging, pointing out how there comes a point where we should shift the focus from the left hand to the bow, the fingers can do their thing essentially  on autopilot, and sound production will be optimal. She also advised me on the importance of 'leading' the orchestra.

As the concert date drew nearer there were many times of doubt and nerves, but finding the will to keep chipping away, I knew somehow it would all come together.

The performance itself was the most emotionally and physically draining thing I think I've ever done. By no means perfect (at the previous rehearsal, I'd peaked too soon), but good enough. The audience loved it, I was literally trembling at the end, played a short encore of Bach Sarabande from Suite II, then as recent tradition dictates (round the cellists I know) I joined the back of the orchestra for the second half - a symbolic effort only, as my brain had crashed entirely.
In the days following a serious come-down ensued.

So now looking ahead...

As far as performance goals, I do have something in mind and will certainly be sharing that with you as it unfolds.
My main goal for 2019 is to keep on top of my timetable, being rigourous with planning and organisation, so that I minimise risk of things falling through the cracks, also benefitting my students, and being careful not to take on too much. And, just as importantly, keeping fit and healthy, more regular exercise (also for my poor somewhat neglected dog), and eating healthy which also requires forethought and preparation especially on those rehearsal heavy weeks.

As always if you enjoyed this post please click the like button at the bottom and subscribe to my feed. If you'd like to share your goals for the coming year or you have any questions, just add them in the comments section below, I love to know what your big plans are for 2019. Let's make this another great year to remember.

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