Sunday, May 15, 2011


6 Sonatas and Partitas-Sheva Apelbaum

This year has been my 3rd time auditioning for NYSSMA, but this time I played a level 5 piece.  Things have not gone smoothly for me while preparing. 

I started preparing my piece 4 months ago, but two months into practicing, my school orchestra teacher discovered that I was working on the wrong piece (it was Johan Sebastian Bach’s Sonata No. 1 Presto which is level 6).  “Wrong piece?” I said, “What do you mean ‘wrong piece’!  It sounds right to me!”

“Sorry honey,” she said, “your piece sounded great, but you will have to prepare for level 5, you can’t skip a level.

So I got over the shock and then quickly got down to preparing. With only a number of weeks to go, I practiced daily.  At the beginning it was slow going, as you can see from the video below. My tempo was off, I was missing notes, and just couldn’t get my brain around the piece.  Bach is very unforgiving when it comes to mistakes of any sort, so I knew I had to improve fast. 

I didn’t think that I would be able to learn the piece well enough to audition.  But my mom kept telling me that it’s all about practicing enough and breaking down the piece to manageable units.  So that’s what I did. 

My action plan was:

1.  Learn the notes from beginning to end
2. Work out the difficult transitions and shifts
3. Add dynamics
4. Add vibrato and ornamentation
5. Play it with a metronome
6. Memorize the piece completely
7. Video tape myself and watch to find my mistakes

The days passed by and sure enough the piece got better and better.  Two weeks before the auditions, I was playing for several hours every day.  A week before the audition, I started dreaming about the piece and before falling a sleep, I could play the whole piece in my head air-fingering it.

Just days before the audition, I found a recording of Hillary Hahn performing the piece. She’s excellent! I listed to her play it several times and I picked up several tricks from her.

Then it was finally performance day. We drove to the audition location, which was packed with hundreds of musicians.  Everyone was waiting in the hallway for their turn to get in front of a judge. 

NYSSMA 2011-Sheva Apelbaum

In the violin hallway, there was a long lines of violin cases sprawled out along the wall which made the whole scene looked like the violins came to life and left their crypts and walked away.

Violin Cases-Sheva Apelbaum

Ten minutes before my audition, I had a banana to help relax my muscles. Before I knew it, it was time to go in.

I entered a large room with a single stand in the middle.  The judge was seated at the table nearby.  He asked me to play 3 scales, to play my piece, and then for everyone’s favorite…to do the sight-reading.  I took a deep breath and did my best.  As soon as I hit the first note, I was magically transferred to a different world. The notes and shifts came naturally and I didn’t even have to think about what I was doing.  It all just happened.

And then the magic was over. I was done! I slowly put the violin down.  When I looked at the judge, he had a smile on his face. He thanked me and I left the room.

Several days later we got a letter in the mail with the scores and the written evaluation.  I read it impatiently and was delighted!

NYSSMA 2011 Score

It really paid off to work so hard and reap the sweet rewards of my practice.  I can’t wait for next year’s NYSSMA auditions. After all I already have a leg up on my new piece!


  1. "You are on your way to great things!"

    Yes, you are! Kol ha kavod Sheva! Your hard work paid off - and remember: it always will!
    Big hug!

  2. Sheva, we are so very proud of you. Words can't possibly describe...

    With admiration and great respect,
    Your parents

  3. Ah Sheva, now you have to thank you Mom for all the times she MADE you practice! Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! You are AWESOME!!

  4. Wow! Great job Batsheva! Also loved the amazing dancing Mango :)

  5. Even though music is not my "thing" (I'm tone deaf) your piece sounded terrific and Mango's dancing----what can I say! Keep up the great work! You know that there is any old "question
    How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, Practice, Practice" You are FABULOUS!

  6. WOW! What an inspiration you are! While I was caught up in your story--and I was really caught up, I had flash-backs of my own auditions...but you really did it--those scores are incredible! I love your video, too...the dance at the end had me smiling!

  7. Shevah,

    I'm so proud of my student! It was great fun preparing you with this piece! I know that you will go on to play more and more fabulous repertoire in the future!

    I'm so glad that you had a positive experience at NYSSMA!! Patience, perseverance and practice always pay off!

    As I say to all of my students,
    Happy practicing!!! :)