Notes 🎵 from Mr. Kemp

Dear LYS Family, 

Every member of the Longmont Youth Symphony is a musician. Have you ever stopped to think about what that means? Machines can be designed and programmed to produce sounds on any instrument, yet we probably wouldn't think of them as musicians. That's because being a musician requires more than sound production and technique.

Our musicianship is the collective set of skills and knowledge that we bring to every performance. Playing with good technique, which is required to produce good sounds, is the most basic part of that knowledge. Great musicians bring much more than that to performances. Think of musicianship as a never-ending continuum of awareness. Every musician is somewhere along that continuum.

Here's a very incomplete list of other things that go into musicianship:

Pitch Awareness

Are you in tune with your neighbor? Was the interval between the note you just played and the one you are playing now in tune? Are you playing your note in tune with the other notes in the chord that are above or below you? Are you pre-hearing the note you are about to play, or are you just trusting that your fingers will make it sound close enough? 

If you are a wind player, do you know what the pitch tendencies are for every note in your range? We tune one note to "set" our instruments. Really, we've just set one note.


Are you subdividing consistently? Does your interpretation of dotted eighth rhythms match your neighbors? Are you speeding up or slowing down according to how challenging your part is? Does it sound like one player when your section performs rhythmic passages, or are people out of phase with each other?


Is your sound quality a good match for the style of the music? Can you purposely alter your tone to match a different style.


The word dynamic means change. In music, we refer to changes in volume as dynamics. Are you playing a volume that makes sense in the context of the music and other players, or are you just playing LOUD because the marking is Forte? Every musician has a personal line that determines how soft or loud they can play with a good sound. Do you know where your line is?

Historical Knowledge

Do you know what style the music should be played in? Do you know what that meant for the time that it was written? Was this piece written for the same kind of ensemble you are playing it in, or was it transcribed? Orchestras increased in size dramatically during the 1800s. Was this piece written for a different size ensemble? How would that knowledge impact the volume you are aiming for?


People who can easily speak and read a language are considered fluent. For musicians, fluency refers to how much active thought is required to accomplish a task. Do you have to think hard about that fast passage, or do your fingers know it well enough to free your mind for other things?

This list could go on and on because musicianship is not an arrival point. It is something that can, and should be, continuously improved. The best musicians never stop learning. You are on that journey now. Keep going!

Warmest regards,

Mr. Kemp

Jeff Bonin