Announcements

Why sight-read once a month?

Posted by in Announcements |

Why sight-read once a month?

Someone once told me that you couldn’t get grant money just to have fun. I’ve had to move beyond describing TACO as “fun” and actually describe what we do that is musically, intellectually and emotionally important. I know deeply there is enormous value in what we do by gathering to play music for the joy of making it together. I call that “fun!” I have struggled to define what is so important to me about that process. It’s easier to say what we don’t do and why. We don’t practice to perform. We don’t meet weekly. We don’t work our music over with a fine toothcomb. There is value in that process too, working on music with in-depth understanding and detail to play the best you can, and to eventually share it with an audience. On the other hand, TACO meets monthly, we play a lot of music, and we have a new set-list each time. Why do we do it? There’s the obvious social support and networking, learning to play with an ensemble, playing with family members, keeping up your instrument at least once a month, playing a second or third instrument, and more. But what’s the value in sight-reading versus performing? Sight-reading is a musical and technical skill that takes time and effort to master with lots of benefits. You learn to decode a piece of music on the spot, going through the challenging mental process and translating that to a physical one. You start with the composer and placement in history, which gives you hints about sound and style. You make note of the time signature and key signature, looking at the overall structure of the piece. You check for repeated patterns, in melody and harmony, looking for scales or arpeggios, paying attention to note values and patterns in the music. You find rhythmic problem areas and have to work them out mathematically, subdividing, in your head and body before you can play them. You are always on the look out for changes in speed, volume, and accidentals where individual notes change from the key signature. You have to breathe and stay relaxed, brush off mistakes, stay focused and stay on tempo. With the orchestra especially, deep in concentration, you have to keep going when you make a mistake, sometimes drop out, follow along, count, find a place to join again, get back on board. Sight-reading orchestral music is something you can only do with a lot of people playing a lot of instruments in a big space. It’s a hard, challenging mind and body game, satisfying when it all comes together, and very gratifying when you’ve stayed in the game! It is a practice in mindfulness followed by exhilaration. And, it is pure fun!...

read more

Orchestra Musician Body Warm-ups, Why not?

Posted by in Announcements |

Orchestra Musician Body Warm-ups, Why not?

Whether you call yourself an athlete or you just occasionally go to the gym, most likely you do warm ups before you exercise. If you go on a run or a hike, you stretch and warm-up your legs before and after you go. If you don’t take the time to warm up your body before you physical exert yourself, you are more likely to get injured and suffer pain and cramps. Just as expected, if you sing in a chorus, physical warm-ups are a part of the preparation for singing. You stretch your head, neck, shoulders and arms. You warm up the muscles in your face, your jaw and your neck. And then you vocalize, which warms up your vocal chords and get your instrument in shape for singing. I’ve often wondered why we don’t do these physical preparations as instrumentalists. You go to orchestra rehearsal or gather to play chamber music for two or three hours at a time, and frequently afterwards people have lower back pain, wrist, shoulder and neck pain. Instrumentalists are always hurting themselves, complaining about sore necks, shoulders and wrists and hands, probably due to overuse and most likely exacerbated by not warming up the physical muscles involved in holding an instrument in position for hours. It’s an interesting thing to consider. I’ve often wondered why in our orchestra it feels so strange to even think about implementing a warm up. Everyone is sitting, warming up their instrument, their embochure, their strings, but not thinking about their physical beings without instruments and warming up those muscles first. Once seated, then musicians are holding instruments and it’d be awkward to say, put them down and let’s stretch. But maybe we need to do just that: have a period of warm ups before people ever take their seats with their instruments. Stretch necks and heads, shoulders and arms, hands, wrists and fingers, breathe deeply, do some back stretches and only then sit down with instrument in hand and actually start warming up the metals, woods, strings, reeds, embouchures and strings. Perhaps then we’d all be less sore and more able to play through a rehearsal without body pain. Maybe musicians would suffer fewer injuries and discomforts. Let’s test it out and try it at our next TACO...

read more

TACO Hosts Holiday Sing-Along

Posted by in Announcements |

TACO Hosts Holiday Sing-Along

Another year ’round and it’s time again to welcome the holiday season! TACO will host a free community holiday sing-along the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Bring your friends and family for some fun singing. We’ll provide lyrics to sing along with the orchestra. Together we’ll play Christmas music, a new Hannukah medley, tunes from John Lennon and George Handel, and end with a rousing rendition of Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. All for fun and no singing experience needed! Here’s the flyer about the event. Please share it with your friends and family, your community and with anyone you know who likes to sing. We hope you’ll join us!In the meanwhile, have a very Happy Thanksgiving! Holiday Sing-Along...

read more

TACO Pop-Up Orchestra on the “Green” a Huge Success! Summer 2016

Posted by in Announcements |

TACO Pop-Up Orchestra on the “Green” a Huge Success!    Summer 2016

A warm, sunny evening, children playing and people wandering the streets, bright umbrellas and colorful Adirondack chairs were the backdrop for the orchestra setting up on the green. August’s First Friday coincided with the closure of one block in downtown Los Altos, which was covered in astroturf. TACO was the first musical group to play on the green and what a fabulous event it was. Embracing low expectations, TACO defied the odds! We had 68 musicians show up to play and miraculously we had a well balanced orchestra. A saxophone solo and a trombone choral interlude were highlights. Show tunes, a couple of familiar classics, jazz and pop filled out our fun set-list. Laughter floating from the orchestra and the audience, chatting alternating with intent listening while we played, friends and family smiling and watching our focus were all part of the experience. A couple of earnest and accomplished youngsters joined their older relatives to play with us. Two very accomplished strangers, enticed by the “Pop-Up Orchestra” publicity posters, surprised us by showing up to play. And sight-reading together, after one rehearsal, was fun for all. Thanks to the Los Altos Community Foundation and their organizing committees for First Friday and 3SG (Third Street Green), for hosting our TACO Pop-Up Orchestra! We had a wonderful time. Our next TACO gathering will kick-off our Fall season. We meet September 25th, October 30th, and November 27th. Sign up through our Contact form on this website. Join us for TACO music making...

read more

TACO POPS UP ON THE 3rd STREET GREEN 2016

Posted by in Announcements |

TACO POPS UP ON THE 3rd STREET GREEN 2016

The Terrible Adult Chamber Orchestra (TACO) will join other musicians filling the streets of Los Altos with live music on First Friday, August 5th. TACO brings their fun and light-hearted approach to the 3rd Street Green (between State Street and the North Parking Plaza). TACO will POP-UP on the Green from 6 to 8 pm. Restaurants and shops will be open late. Bring a folding chair or come early to enjoy an Adirondack chair on the Green. The orchestra includes musicians of all ages with a range of skills from beginner adults to experienced performers. TACO will play a concert of fun and familiar music, including pop, show tunes and classics. Directed by Cathy Humphers Smith, this multi-generational orchestra plays with the goal of having fun! TACO will perform in their non-performing way, always with fun, maybe stopping and starting a few times in unexpected places, anything to lower expectations and invite cheerful relaxed music-making. The set-list includes a variety of types of music all arranged for orchestra. TACO will play music from two movie soundtracks: the Sound of Music and Pink Panther, and the pop tune Viva La Vida by the British band Coldplay. They’ll play a jazzy rendition of an early Cakewalk and Lullaby in Birdland with a saxophone solo. What would an orchestral concert be without two familiar classical tunes: the beautiful 4th movement from Brahms Symphony No. 1 and Farandole (dance from L’Arlesienne Suite) by Bizet. Another dance tune will be a Latin cha-cha. They’ll play Appalachian Lullaby, an orchestral version of the children’s song All the Little Horses, which will be combined with the famous Ashokan Farewell, famous as the soundtrack to Ken Burns Civil War documentary. However, Ashokan Farewell was actually written in modern times as a farewell tune for a camp in upper state New York. And what would a summer concert be without the famous Stars and Stripes Forever! TACO is a non-profit under the fiscal sponsorship of the Los Altos Community Foundation. For more information go to www.tacosv.com. Photo credit: Ellie Van...

read more

Music Education

Posted by in Announcements |

Music Education

If you are reading this, there’s a chance you are a musician. And whether you are an accomplished professional or an amateur, you are able to read and play music. Think about how you learned to do it and who taught you. You probably learned as a child. Was it a parent or friend, a private teacher or a school teacher? Did you take lessons for a long time? Do you play many instruments? Are you self-taught? Do you play by ear? So many things go into our development as musicians. Most likely you took lessons somewhere in school or privately, and there are people you remember who taught you. Now as an adult, you’ve continued your development as a musician. Whether it’s to learn to play a second or third instrument, or just improve your skills on one, there’s always more to learn and you can always get better. How can we do that and how do we continue to enjoy it? Many young people stop taking music lessons when they are made to feel inadequate or incompetant. Teachers along the way have an enormous impact on inspiring students to grow as musicians. And they have enormous power to turn children off to music. Adults are equally sensitive to feeling criticized as they unveil their vulnerabilities and play an instrument in public. Adult beginners have the extra challenge that they’ve lived long enough to have heard wonderful music and in their heads, they expect and hope to sound the same. Their challenge is to let go of expectations and allow themselves to explore and learn, without being so self-critical that they can’t enjoy the practice they need to improve their skills. There are more people than teachers involved in creating a nurturing environment for anyone who is learning. The parent who won’t allow their teenage drummer to host band practices in their garage because they’re too loud. The siblings who cut off the strings of their brother’s violin because they can’t stand the screeching. The alcoholic piano teacher from the conservatory who told a college student she lacked the fundamentals and shouldn’t waste her time in lessons. The wife who won’t allow the husband to have a chamber group practice in their home because she can’t stand the noise they make. The husband who banned the Scottish wife a chanter because he just couldn’t stand the thought of her learning bagpipes, even though she’d wanted to since she was a kid. The wife who refused to allow her husband to practice his beloved banjo, and insisted her husband play guitar, because she couldn’t stand it. The teacher who told the child to stand and hand out programs and Not to sing! At the other end, there were all the people in your life who supported and allowed you to develop your musical skills to become the musician you are. Your parents let you host your rock band in the garage, even though it involved apologizing to the neighbors occasionally. Your partner welcomes your hosting chamber groups at home, because there is a joyful sound in adults laughing and joyfully making music together. Your friends and teachers encouraged you to keep on trying to sing on pitch, to play on pitch, to lift your head high and enjoy making music, because we can all do it. As adults who enjoy playing an instrument, you can also have an impact on inspiring...

read more

TACO acknowledged for significant contributions to the community April 2016

Posted by in Announcements |

TACO acknowledged for significant contributions to the community April 2016

The Los Altos Community Foundation celebrated their Honorary Founder John W. Gardner’s legacy at the 2016 Gardner Awards Dinner on April 7th.  TACO was recognized  as an inclusive organization where musicians have a place to make music and merriment, build community and create opportunities for members. The event highlighted 26 volunteers who exhibit civic entrepreneurship and service in the community. Among the honorees receiving Gardner Awards was TACO founder and director Cathy Humphers Smith. Cathy accepted the award in the company of several musicians and friends of the orchestra, on behalf of ALL of the musicians and volunteers who make up the TACO...

read more

TACO receives recognition

Posted by in Announcements |

TACO receives recognition

TACO Founder Cathy Humphers Smith will be honored at the Los Altos Community Foundation’s Gardner Volunteer Award Dinner on April 7th. The Gardner Award is given to outstanding volunteers in our community who have exhibited civic entrepreneurship and service. Cathy will be honored for her 5+ years of leadership and dedication to TACO, and for all of the work she has done to make TACO such a huge success. Join TACO members on April 7that 5:30 at the Crowne Plaza Cabana Hotel (4290 El Camino Real, Palo Alto). Tickets to the event can be purchased  online by clicking this link: https://lacf.smalldognet.com/erp/donate/create?event_date_id=1198 At the bottom of the Checkout page, in the Comments space, add that you would like to sit at a TACO table. This is a fun event and we can all sit together and cheer Cathy on when she receives her award. Hope to see you there!  Alison Kibrick (Piano)...

read more

TACO, a sight-reading orchestra, enters 6th year of fun sessions! 2016

Posted by in Announcements |

TACO, a sight-reading orchestra, enters 6th year of fun sessions! 2016

Prima Vista is Italian for ‘first view’ and in music it is also called ‘sight-reading’. In TACO, we sight-read as an orchestra every time we get together, playing through a piece of music for the first time as a group. How do we do it and why is it important Sight-reading is important because it helps you become familiar with a lot of repertoire. In contrast to learning one piece in greater depth, sight-reading many pieces improves your musical literacy. You learn to look ahead and predict what’s coming in the music, and with time, you get better at reading notes and rhythms faster. You develop the ability to play under pressure and the more you practice sight-reading, the better you get at it. We take for granted as musicians what the process is for sight-reading or sight-singing, however, there is a methodical strategy we go through. The first step is to relax, take deep breaths, and start to look at the music. At all skill levels, nerves can get in the way of your ability. However the basic requirement of sight-reading is the same no matter what your technical skills:  you need to know how to read the notated rhythms and pitches to play on your instrument. If you can read music, you can sight-read. Simple. Breathe again! Knowing the composer’s name tells you the period and style, from which you can make guesses about what the music should sound like. Then look at the title which may summarize the vision of the composer and give you some clues as to the intent and meaning of the piece. Then we look at the tempo, check out the time signature, note the key signature, look through the music for changes, check out the dynamics, look at the beginning again, skim over the easy parts and review the challenging parts, look at the last line of music. Then we go back to the beginning and now play it. It’s always helpful to play first at a slow tempo to get a feel for the notes, before we play a piece at the intended  tempo. Sometimes in TACO, we play through errors and the group as a whole stays together. Other times, we stop and start when we really get off or different sections are too apart to pull back together. There is value in both fixing mistakes and in being able to continue playing despite mistakes. In TACO we become familiar with huge amounts of repertoire by sight-reading through many tunes each time we meet. And with practice sight-reading, musicians of all skill levels develop the ability to play each new piece of music more easily. We’ve got lots of fun new music to play over the next six months and we always have a lot of fun doing it! Join us. And...

read more

Be a Part of our Pop-Up Chorus! 2015

Posted by in Announcements |

Be a Part of our Pop-Up Chorus! 2015

  Join TACO members on Sunday, November 29th from 4 to 5 pm. to sing-along with our orchestra! We meet at the Los Altos Youth Center (LAYC), 1 North San Antonio Road, in downtown Los Altos. The LAYC is between the city hall and the library, and next to the police station. Look for the yellow TACO banner out front. This event is FREE and open to all ages. We’ll provide lyrics for a medley of tunes from the movie Frozen. We’ll have a song sheet in both German and English to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, the triumphant Finale from his 9th Symphony. Also included will be some Christmas carols, a medley of Hannukah songs, and a few other popular holiday favorites. Rudolf, the Red Nosed Reindeer and Have Yourself a Very Merry Christmas will end our hour. You do not need a trained voice and you don’t need to read music. Just come to sing-along and feel the holiday spirit. Cookies and cider to follow. Bring your families, friends and neighbors. See you there! If you’d like a flyer for this event, click on this blue title below to get a pdf which can be printed. Share and post with others! TACO HOLIDAY sing-along 2015  ...

read more