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Showing posts from October, 2009

It's Just Hair

Last week a colleague complimented my hairstyle. Genuinely. She wanted to take a picture and show her hairstylist as a suggestion for herself. And I certainly didn't want to be offensive when I
laughed and laughed at her.

See, I used to have very short, cute, urban hair.



Then I got kind of tired of HAVING to get it trimmed every four to six weeks and began to envy ponytails on others. So a year and a half ago or so I conspired with my stylist to grow it out. It was agonizing. All of the layers were different lengths, of course, and as it started to grow hair would stick out in all sorts of odd directions. For a while it just looked like an overgrown short cut, and then it began to look even more awful. Every 8 weeks I would creep whimpering back to her and she would reassure me that it actually was growing, and it wouldn't take much longer, and she'd even it out a little and send me on my way.



Understand, I am very hands-off with my hair anyway. I do not own a blow-…

Let the Oboe Sound Like an Oboe

I had myself all worked up about the Siegfried Idyl last weekend. I wanted a very specific sound that I hadn't actually heard before, which would be as round and smooth as a clarinet and as warm and vibrant as a flute. There's some amazing dovetailing of woodwind parts in the piece and I wanted to really do it justice and not stick out. I was killing myself in my practice room trying to be a good colleague. And in the very first moments of the first rehearsal I realized how misguided I was being. Why shouldn't it be okay for the oboe to sound like an oboe? Obviously Wagner wouldn't have written those lines for the instrument if he really preferred a clarinet or flute sound. And once I had that revelation everything fell into place. I played out with confidence and used my own vibrato and the characteristic timbre of the oboe to contrast and enhance the other woodwinds and I think the performance was successful.

Once I recognized my own error I began to see that …

sleep?

Everyone always asks me how I am sleeping. And the answer, usually, is Great! Very well, thanks! Zoe's a great sleeper. Not through the night, per se, but deeply and for long stretches, and after she feeds in the middle of the night she goes right back down and sleeps till morning. And I think I am well adjusted to that slight interruption. Functioning well.

But this week I've been playing out in the Northwest Indiana Symphony. It's only just over an hour away, but since I live on the cusp of the time zones I end up getting home at 12:30 am, and I'm not in bed till 1 or later. Although I can sleep in a little in the morning, it's amazing how much those two missing hours of sleep affect me. All week I've been dragging myself from student to student, having time between them but no will to use that time. I've barely practiced, I certainly haven't finished anything worth putting up on this blog, and my running is suffering too. I've hardly be…

Upcoming Concert

I'm excited about next Saturday's concert with the Northwest Indiana Symphony. It's a very oboistic program, featuring two Rossini overtures - La Scala di Seta and L'Italiana in Algeri - and two Rodrigo guitar concertos AND a Mozart Symphony. Loads of light and playful music with an agile orchestra and a fast conductor - we're going to have fun.

For tickets and info, look HERE.

Practicing What I Preach

I've been exploring vibrato with a lot of my students recently, and through teaching it I finally feel as though I have an intellectual grasp of what I'm doing. It actually took years of teaching before I really dared to approach vibrato (and even more before I started talking about embouchure). I've headed down too many blind alleys and found myself in too many tenuous corridors when I started talking about those invisible, semi-mystical aspects of wind playing. But now I have my schtick down and I've talked about it with enough people using enough different words that I feel pretty confident that I know how to teach vibrato.

The paradox of vibrato is that although the pulsation adds intensity to the sound and the line, you have to create it by relaxing more than usual. To play a supported line without using vibrato means to be right up against the resistance of the oboe all the time. It's almost impossible to add extra energy to that sound without overblowin…

Upcoming Concert

I have just learned that I have comments! Sorry to anyone who thought I was ignoring them - I just don't know how to blog, apparently. Will do better in future.

This weekend's exciting concert is on the South Bend Symphony's Chamber Series, at DeBartolo Performing Arts Center at Notre Dame. I actually am very excited to play it - we'll be featuring our Principal Horn, Aaron Brant, in the first Horn Concerto of Richard Strauss. He's a wonderful musician, and it is always so inspiring for me to hear my colleagues play, so I can hardly wait for our first rehearsal. Look HERE for info - student tickets are always only $5!

Meanwhile, though, I'm sitting in Panera waiting for a rehearsal for tomorrow morning's educational concerts in Northwest Indiana. I taught for two and a half hours this afternoon and didn't have time to go home, so with my unprecedented three unstructured baby-less hours I - well - I ran all of the annoying errands that I'd bee…

Timelessness

You know how, when you're really engaged in a performance, time slows way down? Every second feels eternal, and your focus is both intensely tight and also broad, and you can react in the moment to the nuances your colleagues throw you, and you have no sense of the passage of time. You emerge at the end of the concert and it could be five minutes since you sat down or four hours.

This is why I do what I do. It doesn't happen every time - sometimes a concert is just work - but when I get there, the intensity of focus that I feel is so invigorating that I can hardly wait do it again. This is why I always perform solos from memory, too - I love how hard I have to concentrate to make it work, and how I can slide into that zone where my intellect is telling me what happens next but also my fingers know, and my whole body, and at the same time I'm aware of the world around me and the piano and my own sound and every note that I'm playing but not of the time that's pass…

Concerts this Weekend

I am so looking forward to this concert. It's been years since I played the Firebird Suite, and months since I've played with my lovely colleagues in the New Philharmonic. And I love Stravinsky and Shostakovich so much. The bleakness and angularity of the harmonies really resonate for me. Come check us out!

New Philharmonic
Friday and Saturday, Oct. 9 and 10, 2009, 8 p.m.
MacIninch Arts Center, College of DuPage
Glen Ellyn, IL

Kirk Muspratt, Music Director and Conductor
"Slavic Strings"

Joshua Roman, celloBorodin, Overture to Prince Igor
Borodin, Prince Igor: “Polovetsian Dances”
Shostakovich, Cello Concerto No. 1
Stravinsky, L’Oiseau de feu (Firebird Suite)Named “… a cellist of bold character and poetic grace … a masterful player who brings curiosity and electrical energy to every note” by The Plain Dealer, 25-year-old Joshua Roman blends his youthful energy and polished talent in a performance of Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto. N…

I Couldn't Do This Alone

I don't know how anyone could be a single parent. This is hard enough with the two of us. Zoe is the easiest baby ever - calm and quiet and happy - and she's sweet enough to be present when I teach without being too great a distraction most of the time. But. This week Steve's been gone every night, playing a concert cycle in Elgin. I hadn't realized how much I depend on him to take on an hour of the fussy time in the evening so that I can get an extra bit of practicing or reed work in. How much it helps that every now and then I can run around the house and accomplish a bunch of things really fast without a baby on me.

If all I had to do was look after Zoe and the house - if I could be a full-time mom - I think that would be easy. My organizational skills are honed from years of multitasking. But that kind of schedule is not feasible. Not in this day and age and economy - neither one of us alone can make enough as a classical musician to maintain a family - an…

Parallels

I ran this morning. After Zoe woke me and had her morning feeding, I got up instead of crawling back under the covers and put my running clothes on. It's harder to talk myself out of exercising if I'm already dressed for it - there's something kind of shameful in taking off unsweaty running clothes. When I poked my head out the door it was cold and rainy and I was tempted to stay home and make coffee. But I had a bank deposit I needed to make, so I figured I'd just run to the bank and if I was hating it I'd come right back home.

Of course by the time I got there I was warmed up and feeling great, so I headed over to the river. I had only gone another mile or so when I realized that I was pretty tired. My fitness is not actually back to its pre-pregnancy levels yet, and I had taken off most of last week what with traveling and being sick and all. So I took a few walk breaks. Sure, I had planned to run the whole way, but you do what you can do. Taking those…