Friday, July 21, 2017

A Needed Reminder

I talk a lot about warmups.  How important they are. How you can do all of your practicing on warmups and get better at the oboe.  How sometimes scales and long tones are all you need.

That's not totally true, though, or at least not for me.  Abstract oboe practicing is important but it's not the only thing.

We went to a party and it solved all of my oboe problems.

I have been struggling lately to know who I am in my playing.  We came home from IDRS three weeks ago - while there I drew inspiration from everywhere and had loads of very good ideas about how to improve myself and ways I could choose to sound.  I did not have any real practice time in which to realize these good ideas.  I also bought a new oboe which feels and sounds very different from my current one.

Then we immediately went on vacation for two weeks, and I came back to a huge reed backlog which I've just now mostly cleared up.

And then for a week I played oboe d'amore - the small, spunky, adorable cousin of the English horn - with the Grant Park Symphony.  The great thing about that gig is that I could be in denial about my actual oboe playing.  The d'amore doesn't have to sound like anyone else, because it's its own adorable thing and there's only one.  This week I'm playing all English horn, and having a blast.

But at home, when I practice, now, I have no idea what I sound like.  Or how I play, or how I WANT to play, or even what I need to work on.  I'm out of the habit of just picking up the oboe and sounding like myself, and while I'm ready and eager to make changes, there has to be a ME there to change.

My intention had been to work on fundamentals this summer.  To take my time learning my new oboe in scales and long tones, make lots of lovely reeds, and enjoy the slow pace of things.  But it's been making me nuts.  Abstract oboe playing isn't my bag, or not for long.  I need it, it has to happen.  Patient long tones do make me better, and scales are helpful and etudes are tremendous.  I like a nice ten minute warmup that hits these fundamental skills, but playing actual music is what I need in my life.

Monday afternoon we went to a chamber music party.  I did not want to go.  It was in Chicago, far from home, and we had to get ourselves in the car in the early afternoon and wouldn't get back until late.  Of course I wanted to stay home, do laundry, make reeds, catch up on my life - which is somehow still just out ahead of me in spite of the relaxed summer schedule - but we went.

As soon as we arrived I was SO glad we were there.  I played Haydn, Mozart, Poulenc, and Britten, with great colleagues, while eating and drinking and enjoying ourselves - and suddenly I had the thing I had not had, which was CONTEXT.

Playing my new oboe with other people, and using it actively to make phrases, effects, colors, and dynamics told me in a very few minutes what hours of patient abstract practicing had not.  Playing actual music, like riding a bicycle, is something I don't forget how to do.  Making real music uses all of those fundamental skills, of course, and in the middle of the season I crave the time for calm sessions of long tones to keep myself accountable - but I can't keep myself interested with warmups alone.  

Playing in tune has nothing to do with matching a tuner, as much as I like my tuner app.  It has everything to do with fitting into a chord, into a group, blending, leading, matching sounds.  Making precise attacks and pristine releases is meaningless in a vacuum, but having the oboe speak right with the strings and disappear like smoke at the end of a sustained taper - to make JUST the right effect at JUST the right time - is magic.  It's WHY we practice.  This party was exactly the thing I had needed to remind me.

In other news, I LOVE my new oboe. Looking forward to many more REAL MUSIC experiences with it going forward!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Jennet Ingle on Crushing Classical

Are you listening to the Crushing Classical podcast?  Tracy Friedlander has been doing really great things ever since she started it - maybe less than a year ago?  It's become a conversation about the intersection of music and entrepreneurship, and about how you can make your career be what YOU want it to be. Which, as a concept, is right where I live.  I'm delighted to see it come up in my feed every week - and THIS WEEK'S EPISODE FEATURES ME!

I did this interview back in the spring, right at the tail end of my busy season, and when the episode launched yesterday I was very nervous about listening to it.  I mean, of course there's the sound of my own voice, which always causes me to cringe, but even more to the point, I had no memory of what I talked about.  Vaguely I remembered blabbering on about my reed business, and telling the embarrassing story of our first foray into real estate, and laughing a lot with Tracy, who is delightful and easy to talk to. But really, those last couple of months of the spring were a blur and I could have said anything.

But I steeled myself, and listened to the episode, and was pleasantly surprised at how well Tracy framed and steered the conversation to make it seem as though I was on point. It came out sounding pretty cohesive.  It was fun, and funny.  And maybe interesting.

I certainly recommend the podcast which you can find at iTunes or in your favorite podcast app, but if you want to start out by listening to ME, you can do that HERE.  


Sunday, June 25, 2017

The End of My IDRS Conference

I have no words.  It's been too much, too great, too inspiring, too stimulating, and finally too exhausting.

Over four days in Appleton I heard two of my students outdo themselves performing in masterclasses.  I helped one find a bocal, and joyously encouraged another to purchase an English horn.  I bought an oboe.  The Ingle Oboe Studio is SUBSIDIZING this convention, I've  just realized!

I've been blown away by player after player, piece after piece.  I'm returning home with a new eagerness to play better,  do better, be better.

I saw my teacher.  I saw my mentors.  I saw friends and colleagues.  I saw former students and current ones.  I've made contacts for the future, and had beautiful conversations in the now.  I sold some CDs, and met some reed business customers and blog readers.  

I performed, and some of it went really well, and I know now how I'm going to improve that program going forward.

The thing that made the greatest impression on me this time around was how FRIENDLY everyone was.  It's not JUST that many of us see each other only once a year at this conference.  It's not JUST that we all are sympathetic to anyone trying to make it work on this instrument that we love - people forgive water in the keys, resistant reeds, unexpected noises, and celebrate the performances that transcend the instrument.

It's that the great and famous players, the teachers, the amateurs, the students, are all just folks. You can fall into a conversation with anyone as you wait for the next concert to happen or sit in the cafe taking a break from the exhibition floor.  And we all had common ground, and everyone was open to learning, and everyone wants to know what equipment you are playing on and what you like about it.  How your orchestra is doing.  What you're working on professionally.

I'm friendly, and I trust and love humans as a generality - but I don't have this kind of easy, open camaraderie with random people in the post office line, and I wouldn't approach just any celebrity to speak about my appreciation of their work.  But at the convention we are just people, all working on it together, and I loved that sense of community.

When the great Alex Klein came out onto the stage on Friday night, he was in the midst of an extended and public setback, which I will not go into here. The musical world has been abuzz.  There are many thoughts and many rumors.  But his arrival on the stage was greeted with the longest ovation of the entire conference.  His performance - from memory - of the Silvestrini Etudes was thrilling, imaginative, amazing, magical.  And the reception from that audience was tremendous.  It was an outpouring of love, respect, affection, and validation.  I was a part of that ovation, that audience, and the experience brought tears to my eyes.  In the double reed world, you can have setbacks, but we don't forget what you have done and been for us.  The oboe players - they have your back.

Friday, June 23, 2017

My IDRS Conference Day Two

Today was another amazing day at Lawrence University in Appleton.  I sat riveted as Aaron Hill put four students through Ferling Etudes in an enjoyable and inspiring masterclass.  One of my students played for him and I was SO proud of her, and delighted to hear his suggestions to her.

I love attending masterclasses because I always hear so much that I can use! Sometimes it's suggestions that I can incorporate into my own playing, sometimes a turn of phrase that I love for my own teaching, sometimes a concept I had not considered.  I loved, for example, the way he released a student's tense throat by having her intentionally repeat the bad thing before finding the good thing.  I loved the way he worked on rubato - he had a student conduct by "bouncing a basketball that you always expect to come back up" and then fit all of the notes into the bounce.  Lovely, right?  And actionable.

I heard the great Nermis Mieses present a spectacular Silvestrini solo piece that was full of the most interesting sounds I've ever heard an oboe make.  So expressive, lovely, and HARD!  I'll be buying the piece, for sure- because I want to make those sounds - but I don't know if I can grow up and sound like Nermis.  I can aspire to, though.

Most of the time I spent at the exhibits.  I'm working hard on my project of buying a new oboe.  I've never shopped at the convention for an instrument before - it's overwhelming because of the sheer number of options available.  On the first day I played almost every oboe in the room - it took hours - and made a list of my top six or so.  Then I had to leave so I wouldn't go crazy.  Day two, I focused on those top six, narrowed them down to two, but then accidentally found two more.  The step I found the most helpful was hooking up with a colleague who played each of my choices for me - hearing them with my actual ears instead of filtered through my own body and my own  perceptions of playing was very enlightening and enabled me to eliminate a few choices.

Friday is the day, though.  I plan to take my top few choices out of the room and play some real music on each of them in a quieter space, and then pull the trigger and buy one.

Getting this task accomplished will free me up to pursue my other agendas - thread, profilers, consigning my Loree for sale, sheet music, EH tubes, helping a student find an English horn...

And, obviously, I'm focusing on my recital which is Saturday morning at 10:30. I have to admit that I'm not feeling good about it right now - I have heard so much GREAT playing and so many AMAZING pieces, and my program feels small and underprepared in comparison.  Hopefully it will come together between my Friday rehearsal and my Saturday performance...

More later.  I LOVE this conference!