A Day in the Life of a Violinist

Wednesday, May 09, 2018
Sumire Hirotsuru
Juilliard Journal
Share on:
Sumire Hirotsuru and David Robertson
During intermission at the Carnegie Hall concert, Sumire poses with Maestro Robertson

Gearing Up for a Carnegie Concert

One of many big changes announced at Juilliard this year was that David Robertson will become the director of conducting studies, the fifth person to hold this post since President Polisi took office. Robertson gave this year’s students a preview of what’s to come when he led the Juilliard Orchestra in its only Carnegie Hall concert of the season in early April. A week earlier, second-year master’s student Sumire Hirotsuru interviewed him for the Citizen Penguin, the Juilliard student newspaper. A few days later, on March 30, she juggled writing up the article, rehearsing for the Carnegie concert, and all the other demands on a busy Honors Chamber Music student.

7:30am My iPhone alarm is ringing—I’ll snooze just once...

7:40am After my morning routine—open the window, drink a glass of water, check my emails, send a text to my best friend in Japan, and shower using my favorite Sabon scrub—I grab a red bean bun from Paris Baguette and head to the subway.

8:25am Since I spend the rest of my day listening to classical music, I tend to use my commute time to listen to many different genres for inspiration—I’m in the mood for my J-pop playlist today.

8:45am Time for a coaching for my honors string quartet, the Ansonia, with Ronald Copes from the Juilliard String Quartet. Having been coached by him for two years, we can’t hide anything from him in our playing (not that we try to, but you know what I mean). Today we’ve brought a great pianist, second-year master’s student Mackenzie Melemed, with whom we’re playing the Schumann Piano Quintet for his recital tomorrow.

10:05am I have just 50 minutes to cram before my lesson! I pull out Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5, which I’m planning to play for my graduation jury, and run through the first two movements. I compare two editions for bowings, but I’m going to leave some questionable spots to ask my teacher about.

11:02am My teacher, Masao Kawasaki, is always calm and gives me very accurate advice on bow and shifting techniques as well as phrasing. He’s my favorite mentor at school, and we sometimes talk through the 60-minute lesson time without playing. At the end of this lesson, he tells me that he’s going to perform in my hometown in Japan next month; I’ll text my parents about that.

12:06pm I grab a quick lunch from the cafeteria and edit my interview with David Robertson. I had such a great time interviewing him that I’m pushing myself to publish it and share his thoughts with the community as soon as possible. The hardest part of editing is cutting down the words. Each of his words seems really important—they’re so sincere and convey so much meaning.

1:30pm Sound-check in Paul Hall for Mackenzie’s recital tomorrow. We play through the Schumann and touch up some spots that our wonderful coach Sylvia Rosenberg told us to fix in our long coaching (two-and-a-half hours!) last night.

2:30pm Up on the fifth floor I grab my usual seat in music history class. Today’s topic is Bartók and folk songs; I take notes on Evernote on my pink laptop as it neatly organizes slides and notes for me.

4pm My quartet has a rehearsal with a Grammy-winning bandoneon player, Hector del Curto. This is my second time playing with him since my graduation concert, and it gives me a fresh insight into Piazzolla every time—I absolutely love it. While resting for four measures, I secretly dream about recording a tango album with him.

4:30pm Time for a studio class with JSQ member Joseph Lin. We perform Piazzolla’s Five Tango Sensations and the Schumann Quintet to get some helpful feedback from him and studio-mates. At this point, it feels like my quartet is together all the time—this is what you do in the Honors Chamber Music Program. #quartetlife.

6pm Now for a break! Grabbing a cup of clam chowder from Gourmet Garage, I go to the student lounge, edit my article, and chat with a composer friend about life, music, and his pieces that I’m performing.

7:15pm I go upstairs for a Juilliard Orchestra rehearsal with Maestro Robertson to prepare for our Carnegie Hall concert next week. Interviewing him has changed my mindset toward rehearsal—I pay closer attention to how he interprets the score, prepare more for the spots that he left us to practice on our own, and try to play out more. I’m so excited for Monday’s concert as it will be my first time playing in the Stern Auditorium.

the Juilliard Orchestra
The Juilliard Orchestra performing on April 2, at Carnegie Hall

10:05pm Mission completed. I say good night to Maestro, who replies “Otsukaresama (Good work!)” in Japanese!

10:30pm I post the last story of the busy day on my Instagram (that’s where I kept track of all of my activities today), get on the subway, and head to my sweet home.

11pm My Juilliard-alum roommate, realizing I had a tough day, welcomes me home with a glass of whisky and some ice cream. What a great way to end the day!

Sumire Hirotsuru, a second-year master’s violinist, got her bachelor’s degree at Harvard and holds Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders and Irene Diamond Graduate fellowships