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Best. Baby. Ever.

Zoe is so proud and happy that she can talk now. At least enough that she can tell us what she wants - up, down, water, apple, cookie, etc. So we have traded the why-can't-you-understand-me tantrums for the why-aren't-you-obeying-me tantrums. She is so totally transparent that I find her hilarious.

* * *

Our family filled my mom's house over Christmas, and so there were cell phones resting on just about every surface. Every time she found one, she picked it up and held it to her ear and started "talking" on it. For that matter, she also "talked" on TV remotes, a wooden ostrich, and a powder compact. She likes to comb and brush her hair and mine, which she does with normal combs, a small paintbrush, wooden spoons, and that same powder compact. Little bits of wrapping paper were co-opted into use as wipes - she walked through the house wiping all the faces and knees she could reach. I love that she's trying to make sense of her world by using…

We Are More Alike Than We Think

He: I can't believe how much I ate today.

I: I couldn't practice all day yesterday while we were driving here.

He: I thought that bag of caramel corn in the car was bad, but I had, like, seven cookies and a beer between lunch and dinner alone!

I: I only got a half-hour of scales in this morning before the baby woke up, and I sounded terrible!

He: I already weigh a pound more than yesterday.

I: I just don't know if I'll be able to make any time for the oboe with all the family here.

He: And you can't really refuse pie if everyone else is eating it - you'd look like a jerk.

I: I cannot afford to take a week off, with that audition in the middle of January. I've got to play well every day so I don't lose ground.

I: Everyone else is just enjoying their vacation. Why can't I? Why must the oboe be so demanding?

He: I really wanted to be at [goal weight] by January, but there is just so much food at this holiday.

I: I can't believe you're this…

Upcoming Concert

We rehearsed this morning for our Home for the Holidays concert here in South Bend. As usual, it is a huge extravaganza, with a big chorus, a marvelous soloist, and a bell choir. I was surprised and pleased that we managed to play almost all of the show in our single three-hour session, and even to rehearse a few things. BUT our first performance is tonight, and that just doesn't feel appropriate at all.

The service cuts that this orchestra is already experiencing, even without an approved contract in place, are hurting us artistically. We only meet about one week a month as it is, and a single run-through is not enough for us to get reacquainted and feel like we know each other's playing. I know that this concert is "just" Christmas music, and we will be OKAY - everyone knows the songs and the audience is there to get into the spirit and not to criticize - but that is not a reason to play out of tune and sloppily. That is not an excuse to have poor ensemble an…

Philosophical Differences

A conductor I played for recently has a very different rehearsal philosophy from mine. I am really trying to make every minute that I spend on the oboe count. Even if I am playing Christmas schlock, I want to play it as though it counts and as though I care. It's part of my larger mission to make myself a better player who deserves a better job.

This conductor chooses music easy enough to play on one rehearsal with a professional but unspectacular orchestra. We rehearse once, on the day of the concert. He goes straight through every piece once, apparently uninterested in the missed notes and key changes, and barely shapes the phrases at all, and drops his hands the moment we reach the final note, as if a proper sense of finality is an utter waste of time. The idea is that we, as professionals, will take care of the problems ourselves, and meanwhile we won't be physically tired or emotionally spent at the concert that night because we've just basically "marked&quo…

Seasonal Changes

As the season changes, so does my routine. I am such a creature of habit that I fight these changes for as long as I can, but I need them too.

I went to the gym this morning and hopped on the treadmill for my first run in over a week. What happened? After my Halloween half marathon this year I managed to keep at it. I was delighted with my ability to recover quickly and get back into my training cycle. I felt optimistic and healthy.

But that was still autumn. Somewhere toward the end of November things changed. It got horribly cold, and the mornings got dark, and I got really busy and mostly, I got unmotivated. From my normal 20-25 miles a week I abruptly dropped off to 3-6. I kept waiting to acclimatize and to crave going out again, but that hasn't happened. I'm not proud of this, but it seems that I am no longer a winter runner. I remember being hard-core and bundling up and slithering around on ice and snow, but not in the last few years. Nothing about the frigid temper…

Upcoming Concert

This week I am playing for the Mannheim Steamroller tour in Fort Wayne, Wabash, and here in South Bend. It's an enjoyable show - I've done it several times before. I actually get to dust off and play my English horn, which is always a treat. Because the other two towns are a couple of hours away this will be yet another week when I don't see a lot of Steve and Zoe, but that's very much what this season is about for a musician. The music is not incredibly inspiring and the hours are long, but with any luck these weeks will pay for the January lull. Or at least maybe for the Christmas travels...

I'm an Enabler

I think I'm enabling my students. I make most of their reeds. It's easy enough for me to do, and I earn a little extra income, too. Because of my reed business, I make them all the time, and I pretty much always have 10 or 20 with me to sell if anyone is in trouble. Although I officially require three days notice for new reeds, I am a softy and will cave for anyone who asks nicely.

However, that means that many of them decline to learn the skill for themselves. After all, they are probably not going to grow up to be professional musicians, and reedmaking is a difficult, time-consuming skill that is basically untransferable. The tools are expensive, too, and that's often a big sticking point for parents. Many of my off-site students take half-hour lessons, which is not nearly enough time to work on reeds-in-progress and also learn music. As it is, if their reeds need adjusting the lesson can be half gone before we play a full scale, much less get anything real done. Ev…

Upcoming Concert

And so it begins.

From now until 2011 every note I play in public will be Christmas related. I don't mind - I like the music and I like feeling festive and I know the audiences love having someplace special to go this month and feel the spirit of the season. And some of the music is even challenging enough to be relatively fun for us to work out. Not much of it, mind you...

Saturday 12/4, 7:30 PM CST
Whiting Park Festival Orchestra
Whiting, IN
Click HERE for more information.

Audition Discouragement

Auditioning. The word strikes terror into the hearts of young orchestral players, but I actually kind of love it. It's fun to go to a new city, find the neighborhood hangs, and see the sights. It's fun to look around and try to imagine myself moving there. It's fun to prepare excerpts to the highest possible level and perform them on the beautiful stages that other symphonies get to use all the time. And it's fun to do well and make the finals, even if I don't win.

It's a lot less fun, though, to lose right from the prelims. And the expense of the endeavor is getting a little old. Actually, I'm getting a little old. I always used to see friends at these events, and enjoyed the chance to catch up with old school buddies. Now everyone seems to be younger than I am.

It's not that everyone else in my generation already has big jobs - many don't. Many are less established than I am, or have moved on to different careers. Some have decided to be …

My Brilliant Daughter

Back when Zoe was two and three months old we used to speculate about exactly when she'd become smarter than the dog. She certainly wasn't yet. She was working really hard on turning over and he was following commands and untangling his own leash when we walked and listening to us and communicating really clearly. He knew at least 30 or 40 words.

But lately it's very obvious who is on top of the evolutionary ladder. Zoe is 16 months old now and can follow complicated directions - pick up that magazine and put it in the recycling box, please - and I can't even count the words she knows and can respond to. She can say at least 12 actual English words and sign at least 8. She knows her favorite pages in her favorite books and can pick a specific one out of the bookcase just by the look of the spine, and bring it to be read

A month or so ago she was learning animal sounds. Obsessively. And she would learn a new one and it would be her new trick for a week or so, and …

It's More Complicated

I talk a lot with my students about making the oboe as easy as possible. Not overworking the embouchure or the fingers, and trusting your equipment to do most of the work for you. I stand by this - many students cripple themselves with tension and excess body movement and energy and cannot believe how much better it feels and sounds to eliminate the effort in their faces, arms, and hands. But it turns out that I can't totally practice what I preach. The truth is a little more complicated.

I bought my new kingwood Yamaha oboe back in August, and carefully broke it in at home for about two months. I brought it out three weeks ago and played our Chicago Jazz Band pops concert on it. As you might expect, there was no prominent oboe in that concert, but as a preliminary outing it was perfectly successful. I did establish that the pitch level and sound quality were appropriate to an orchestra, and that I could play it without people turning around and staring. I don't know w…

Upcoming Concert

This weekend's South Bend Symphony concert, "Music From the Heart" features music of Dvorak and Chopin. Musicians here have an inside joke that we are the All Dvorak All The Time orchestra, and we certainly do seem to play his music an awful lot, BUT I will admit that I'm looking forward to this week. I have never played the 7th Symphony, and it is a large scale, romantic, beautiful work. I am not old, and I refuse to be jaded, but there are not a whole lot of big romantic symphonies by major composers that I haven't played yet so this will be one to mark off my list. I've been enjoying preparing it. We start rehearsals tonight, and the concert is Saturday. Click HERE for tickets and further information.

Committing to the Gesture

What was I doing before? I resolved this week to commit to every gesture and every note I play in the orchestra, even though it was "just" a pops concert. And having made that resolution my playing felt completely different. Had I really been that uncommitted? I always have the goal of taking the high road in performance, and going for the full fingering, the quiet entrance, the special color, the effortless slur.

The impulse for my resolution was, embarrassingly, America's Next Top Model, which I watch on my computer only when nothing else that I follow has new episodes and I cannot stand the thought of making reeds without distraction for one more minute. It is a very silly show, but I love that they speak of the craft of modeling as if it were important, and that the most successful candidates are the ones who understand how to use their bodies in performance - to make their gestures and facial expressions mean something - which translates to their photo shoots a…

Upcoming Concert

I've just come home from rehearsal for tomorrow's concert with the Northwest Indiana Symphony. It's a Patriotic Veteran's Day pops concert, but I am enjoying the music much more than I had expected to. Let's just leave it at that.

Click HERE for tickets and more information.

I Do Practice

It occurs to me that I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about tapering, or recovering, or not wanting to practice, and that people could easily get the wrong idea about me. I write about not practicing because it is unusual and strikes me as interesting. The norm for me is far far different.

I practice between one and two hours every day. When I was in school it was three to four. Before Zoe was born my standard was two to three, but I find that if I am efficient and energetic I can manage now with one to two. Plus, I have no choice. There's some warmup time in there, and I work on the orchestra music that I'm performing that week and I always have some long-term pieces as well. In this case, I have been focused on my baroque recital, but also starting to gear up for an audition at the end of the month, and on my back burner is a solid stack of very hard music for my spring recital, "Art and Opera". It's not possible any more for me to put in two…

Baroque Music is Hard

Baroque music is hard to play. It's hard for an oboist, because the solo lines go on and on and on with very few rests. This is challenging partly because the tiny muscles of the embouchure get fatigued, but mostly because humans have to breathe.

The fatigue issue can be addressed by practicing for endurance - playing to the point of fatigue and a little beyond every time, which is of course impractical in my current life because I can rarely devote more than 20 minutes at a time to the oboe without someone needing something. The other arm of endurance, though, is efficiency. I want to keep my embouchure as simplified as possible, so that I'm not over controlling my reed. The oboe wants to play in tune, and the less I do with the tiny muscles of my face, the less I have to do.

The oboe reed has a very small opening, and although playing the instrument requires a lot of pressure, it doesn't actually involve a great deal of air. You can't actually expel all of your…

Upcoming Concert

I am performing next Sunday, 11/7, at 2:00pm in Chicago. This will be an hour-long recital of Baroque music for oboe and harpsichord; the lovely and talented Joseph Bognar will be joining me and we will feature some of my very favorite works by Telemann, Vivaldi, Purcell, Handel, and J. S. Bach. This event is free and open to the public - for information and directions please click HERE.

November 7, 2010, 2:00pm CST
Shrine of Christ the King Sovereign Priest
6415 S. Woodlawn Ave, Chicago

Reconsidering the Taper

I've been thinking a lot about the tapering process. It makes good sense to not run hard or long in the week before a race, and to eat well and rest up for the event, but the result of that for me is that I feel fat and lazy, and anxious and crabby. I have to force myself to stay off my feet. I enjoy the preparation for the race more than the race itself - the long-term build of mileage and intensity and the increased energy and fitness are exciting and rewarding in and of themselves. I wouldn't run as hard or as long without a race goal on my horizon, but the race itself is not the fun part. The complications of getting to a specific spot at a specific time in Chicago traffic or on transit, the crowds of runners, the rattly paper number pinned to my chest, the chip laced into my shoe - these things I don't need. But I do feel better having trained for this race, and I ran better and (a little) smarter than I did before, and I'm already looking forward to choosin…

Race Recap

I had a wonderful time at the Chicago Monster Half-Marathon yesterday, and I managed to execute my plan pretty well for a while. I was a few minutes behind my goal pace at mile 4, and resigned myself to a new plan, in which I would NOT break 2 hours, but would enjoy myself and the beautiful city I was running in. I was thinking of this race like a 10K, and was sure I wouldn't have enough time to make up my pace. Turns out that 13.1 miles is a long way. My friends Zosia and Jason overtook me before mile 5 and they were running faster than the people I had settled in with. Immediately I joined them, pushed a little, and found myself back on track by mile 9. I was feeling unstoppable at that point, so I left Zosia to chase after Jason, who had escaped earlier, and that was where I made my big mistake. I caught him shortly before mile 11, and ran hard with him for a few minutes - but I had overdone it, and dropped back with ITB pain and sort of hobbled in the rest of the way. …

Pacing

I was watching Project Runway last night as I wound English horn blanks, and in the Finale, Part One, our designers had each prepared an 11-piece collection and were asked to display a small portion of it to the judges to see who would advance to the big final show. Most of our heroes chose to present lesser items from their collections, in order to save the "wow" pieces for the true Finale, and they were chastised by the judges for not putting their best feet forward. Since this event was an elimination round they should have brought their A games and played to win.

The parallel with orchestral auditions struck me right away. We go in with a huge number of excerpts prepared and we are asked to present just a few of them - 10 minutes or so - in each round. Unlike our designers, we can't choose which pieces to play, but you can always choose HOW to play. Some people speak of playing "safe" in the early rounds, and not making risky interpretive choices or g…

Moo

If I were suddenly dropped into a foreign country I would be highly motivated to learn the language. I would focus first on the things I see around me every day, and on the services I want the most. How to get food. Where to go for my basic needs. How to interact with the inhabitants.

Zoe was 15 months old Monday, and suddenly began to talk. She had been signing a little before now - just the important words, like gorilla and elephant - but now she can tell us what the dog says, and the cat and the cow. And the duck. And the horse. And the giraffe.

Why on earth does she start with the animal sounds instead of actual words? Is a cow going to give her a bath and put her to bed? Is the dog going to fetch her some grapes from the fridge and let her pick them off the stem herself? Will the cat comfort her when she cries? Will the gorilla catch her at the bottom of the slide?

I think that this is pretty normal - other parents proudly brag about their babies imitating sheep and …

Piggies

Zoe and I were discussing her piggies in the bath last night when I suddenly remembered an incident from the dark times - last winter, when she wasn't sleeping and I wasn't sleeping and I had too many commitments and just kept getting dumber and dumber.

My mother was visiting, and started on Zoe's toes. "This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home…"

"Oh, she knows that one," I hastened to announce. In front of my mother I felt guiltily as though I wasn't teaching the baby enough. I wanted to sing to her and read to her and talk to her but there just wasn't enough time to do everything. We did the piggy rhyme, though, and no one was going to say we didn't.

"She likes the WEE WEE WEE part best," I bragged.

"They all do," agreed my mother, and instantly I was enraged. How dare she suggest that my six-month old was like other babies! Zoe was unusually brilliant and it was amazing that she responded to t…

Upcoming Concert

I am excited about this weekend's concert for several reasons.

One, I can't wait to see my colleagues in the South Bend Symphony again. I missed the first subscription concert because of my big Illinois tour and concerto, so this will be my first real work of the season with this orchestra.

Two, it turns out that Dvorak's Czech Suite is better than I remember from the last time I played it, which must have been in college. Just folk tunes, yes, but put together beautifully, and there's lots of good woodwind work in there. I've been listening to it for enjoyment as well as for preparation.

Three, I really enjoy working with Kirk Muspratt, our guest conductor. I like how demanding he is and how much quality he asks from the orchestra, and I like that I have to stay on my toes.

Finally, I cannot wait to listen to the Milhaud trombone concerto. I love to hear my colleagues featured, and I have always liked Reed's playing. I'm ecstatic that the orchestra i…

Level of Engagment

In the masterclasses I gave last week a common theme seemed to emerge. I spoke with many people about reducing their level of engagement, or relaxing relative to the oboe and simplifying their phrasing and approach in order to make the most of the expressive possibilities of the instrument.

The oboe has a very limited dynamic range, by which I mean that there are comparatively few actual decibels between the softest and loudest sounds I can safely and reliably produce. In order to make a dramatic gesture where I want it, I need to establish my baseline toward the lower part of the instrument's range, and toward the lower part of my personal energy level. That way I always have possibilities open to me. I can always give a little more.

Many of the masterclass participants were very good players, but spent a large proportion of their time playing right up against the resistance of the oboe, with no room to maneuver. I encouraged them to take a metaphorical step back from the obo…

Travels with Zoe

On the third day of our trip, Zoe woke up way before dawn. I tried to nurse her back to sleep, but she just jumped on my head for an hour or so and finally I gave in and got up. My mom got up, too - somehow, it seems, our struggles had not been quiet enough. I changed Zoe's diaper, which was an epic battle because she was not interested in lying down or cooperating. We went to the hotel lobby for breakfast, but she was too wound up to sit and eat so I spent 45 minutes chasing her up the little stairwell and replacing the conventioneers' signs that she kept rearranging. Once we gave up on breakfast we spent a significant amount of time opening and slamming the doors of the machines in the guest laundry. Since I had been hoping to get a run in that morning I finally proposed a trip to the playground. Zoe could wear herself out on the slides and I could run around the park. Win-win. It was only when we actually got out to the car, looking like we'd slept in our hair a…

Big Tour Recap

I had a marvelous time this week. I was born to be a guest soloist. I rehearsed with the orchestra, gave masterclasses in three separate towns, did a radio interview, and spoke to schoolchildren and retirees. I performed little solo pieces and spoke semi-intelligently about the oboe and the Ewazen. The big concert itself was a blast, and I loved mingling with the public afterwards and with the board and donors at the wine and dessert reception. I dressed up for my appearances and handed out cards and glossy brochures about myself. I got loads of positive feedback.

I am completely exhausted. Because I was traveling with Zoe, I was never able to let my energy down except when we were all asleep. I've gotten over feeling guilty at home for working while she's with Steve, but I did feel that I needed to let my mom off the hook when I was available to wrangle the baby. Since Tuesday I have not touched a knife to a reed. I have not practiced except to warm up for 10 minutes…

Upcoming TOUR

I leave in a few hours to start my week of soloism. This afternoon I'm going to Chicago to run my Ewazen concerto with Paul one more time, and tomorrow I will perform the whole piece with piano at Lakeview Lutheran Church during the 11am service. I am delighted that the church is willing to host this performance.

I'll come home and teach on Monday, and then on Tuesday I'll drive to Quincy for my first rehearsal with the orchestra there. On Wednesday I'll be in Bloomington, IL, giving a masterclass and a reed seminar to the oboe students at Illinois State University. Thursday I will be in Springfield, giving a masterclass for the oboists from the community and the youth orchestra. This event is open to any woodwind players in the area.

Friday I'll be back in Quincy, speaking and playing for two student groups and a retirement complex and rehearsing that evening. Saturday I will give another masterclass for the oboists in Quincy, and then perform Down a River of…

Upcoming Concert, and Confession

The Symphony season is finally starting up again! With the shrinking of all of my little orchestras' little contracts, this is an unprecedentedly late start - but at least we're off.

Friday night's concert with the Northwest Indiana Symphony features a collection of opera arias and choruses on the first half and concludes with Stravinsky's Firebird Suite. Click HERE for more information.

I always enjoy playing opera and and will be particularly interested this time around as I am in the early stage of gathering material for my spring recital, "Art and Opera". If I hear something that will suit the oboe I can snag it, and if not I can still look for inspiration from the soloists.

The Firebird is one of the few repertoire pieces that has actually gotten harder for me since high school. I played it in youth orchestra, and at the National High School Honors Orchestra in New Orleans. (I know, big whoop. But it felt like a huge deal at the time. Watch out or I&…

Preparing for the Big Day

I am preparing my Ewazen concerto for performance. By this I obviously mean that all of the notes must be solid under my fingers, and the memorization has to be secure. In addition, I need to be physically ready to play through the whole piece effortlessly, and I need to be able to tap into its emotional arc right away, from the very first notes. At this point, two weeks out, my process consists of at least two complete run-throughs every day, plus a fingering/phrase-analysis run-through with one of my three recordings every time I get in the car and a mental run-through every time I go out running. I am working on keeping my mind engaged for the whole duration of the piece, and keeping my body language in character throughout. I am thinking about three things at all times - playing the oboe, and what is required to make it work; playing the piece, and what is coming next; and giving a performance, and how I should look and act to cast the spell for the audience.

I am working on t…

Warming Up, Part 2 - Scales

I'm a sucker for a system. I rarely worked on scales when I was young, and it's obvious why - there are too many options. They can be fast or slow, tongued or slurred, one or two octaves or full range. There are majors and minors and chromatics, and if you want to get into arpeggios and broken chords there are all kinds of diminished and augmented and 7th chords you could play. All with different articulations, different speeds, different emphasis. I could spend days worth of practice time just trying to get a thorough scale workout, and therefore I never ever did. Too hard, too overwhelming. This is why I love a system.

With a system, you can trust that over time you will get everything done. With a system, you can put in a reasonable amount of time every day and notice improvement quickly. With a system, you don't have to waste time deciding what kind of technical work to do on a given day. Just take the next page of your system. Give it 20 minutes, and even if…

Oasis

Yesterday she stood and stared blankly when people greeted her on the street. Today she waves Hi, unprompted, even to strangers way across the street who haven't noticed her yet.

Last week she developed her very own Silly Walk, a la John Cleese, with her left foot way up high in the air at every step. Since then she's been practicing walking backwards, and today she added a Groucho Marx strut with her knees and hips out in front.

All of a sudden yesterday we turned the page in her My First Animal Book and she saw the gorilla, and she beat her fists against her chest, just like I had showed her days ago.

She can slide all by herself now on the big twisty slide. She can climb all the way up the steep steps, sit down at the top, scoot to the edge, get brave, and slide down to where I am waiting. And when she can't quite get brave enough, which happens about half the time, she can turn around and climb back down the stairs.

I cannot get enough of Zoe. At 13 months she is end…

Bad Orchestra News

The South Bend Symphony is in contract negotiations this year. We met yesterday with our committee for updates on their progress, and they did not have good news to report. Our already small season is contracting still more. Under the current proposal I personally would lose 10 of my guaranteed services - about a 15% cut in the number of rehearsals and performances that I can expect to do over the course of the season. I have said before that my family's finances are not tied to any one employer, and I stand by that. $1000 is not nothing, but it won't make or break me. Money always comes from somewhere.

What troubles me is that as the orchestra season continues to shrink (this is not the first service cut we've taken in recent years) we can only become less and less relevant to the community that we theoretically serve. This current economic downturn will pass. The dip in our endowment income will pass (or so it has been explained to me). But a loss of audience aw…

Inspiration

We listened to auditions today for the South Bend Symphony - violas and cellos - and it was utterly inspiring. I learn something from every audition I take, but I think I learn even more from the audition committees I sit on. Today's experience was a great reminder of what is important in music-making.

Obviously, good rhythm and good pitch. People always says that, and they are absolutely right. Those are the easiest things to listen for, and they are basic skills, and many, many people have problems with them. I noticed the problems, and noted them, and enough inconsistencies in an audition would cost the candidate my vote.

But there were a few auditions today that just made me sit back. Right away from the opening bars of the concerto I was in, and instead of listening for criticisms to write down I listened to the music being made. The very finest auditions we heard today cast a spell with each piece. I would glance down at my page at the end of 10 minutes and see
Conce…

Upcoming Concert

I'm starting the season off with a bang. This Saturday is Art Beat, South Bend's day-long celebration of the arts, and in addition to playing a symphony concert that evening (at 7:00 in the Chris Wilson Pavilion at Potowatomie Park) I am performing a half-hour solo set during the street festival (at noon at the Key Bank plaza at Jefferson and Michigan). I'm definitely looking forward to playing for a LARGE group of people who do not know me (yet!) at all, and I have good material.

I'll be performing several of the Telemann Fantasies, the Britten Six Metamorphoses After Ovid, some of the Dorati Cinq Pieces, and one of the Silvestrini Etudes - more if I get brave. The casualness of the outdoor venue will work well for me, as I can talk between pieces and introduce what I'm doing and put some of the weirder moments into context. It should be a good representation of what I do, and my goal is to raise awareness of ME, so that when I advertise my big recital tour in …

Memorizing on the Run

As I'm memorizing for performance there comes a point in my preparation where I just have to live with the music a lot. I use my running for this. I love this technique - I think it has a lot of benefits - and also it's just me using my time as best I can. I never ever have the time to sit down and study the piece off the oboe - and that's not my style anyway. I'm just about at that point with my Ewazen Concerto again. I'll be performing it in September with my pianist during a church service, and then in October with the Quincy Symphony Orchestra.

I find that there are three kinds of memorization and I need all three to feel secure in a performance. This is not remotely scientific, by the way, and I have done no official research on the subject. Firstly there is melodic memory. This happens quickly for me - I can almost always sing large chunks of my pieces even very early in the learning cycle. I can sing at least the main themes immediately, and as I ge…

Warming Up - Long Tones

I must not talk enough about warmups. I say this because recently, in my last lesson ever with a student leaving for college, I was mentioning something about my warmup regimen and his jaw dropped. Apparently long tones and intervals and scales with varied articulations are not part of his daily routine, nor had it ever occurred to him to use his band's warmup period to improve his playing. And I'm not telling this story on him, but on myself. Obviously I need to address the warm up period because it is fully half of the playing I do, and sometimes more.

Much of practicing is focused on learning a specific piece - either something you are performing at a specific time in the future, or an etude for your lesson, or the piece you're playing in band or orchestra. You are working on the specific problems or techniques that that piece requires. Of course you are working in as efficient a way as possible, and at the end of your practice period you can play the passage or pi…

Productivity

I didn't sleep well last night. And I don't feel like playing the oboe.

I tried going out for a run. I did indeed feel better afterwards, but still not like playing the oboe.

I tried making a yummy couscous salad for tonight's dinner. Creating things makes me feel productive, and I love cutting vegetables up, and we had all of these gorgeous fresh heirloom tomatoes and basil from my pianist's partner's garden. So that was good, but I still don't feel like playing the oboe.

I went up to my studio to force the issue. I did a half hour of long tones and scales and felt thoroughly warmed up. When I thought about actually looking at the music I'm preparing, though, I lost interest. Zoe was being awfully cute and distracting, but mostly I just didn't want to.

Now I'm trying a change of venue. I'm out at my favorite coffee shop eating lunch and catching up on some computer work - website tweaks and emails and work on my promotional materials - and …

Who Am I Now?

I have been away from Zoe for 3 days. She and Steve left Lancaster Thursday morning to drive to New York and then back home to South Bend, and I stayed on to finish my performances, which concluded last night. I am on my way home now.

I was sad to see them go, but Thursday was so much fun! I went shopping by myself in the afternoon and purchased clothes off the clearance racks of two different stores, and then I practiced and made reeds without interruption and took a nap. I stayed out late after my concert with my friends. Friday was even better - I practiced, went for a run without asking permission, and then - wait for it - practiced AGAIN! Just like old times.

But by Friday evening it was getting a little old. My life of ease and leisure felt pretty empty. I got into the pool and swam some ho-hum laps, but it didn't feel as exciting as watching a one-year-old learn to blow bubbles, or walk back and forth, back and forth, back and forth in waist-deep water. For most of S…

Resolutions

I love watching Zoe interact with new people. She seems to soak up information like a sponge, and people may tell her different words for things or play different games and suddenly she's learned something new. For instance, last Christmas it was her cousin Colin who finally taught her to crawl. She had been working on it and wasn't far off, but when he showed her how it just popped. Or, more often, after we've visited someone else we notice a ton of new behaviors right away. She's always learning.

I am not too old to learn. This has been an amazing six weeks. We've been away from home now for over a tenth of Zoe's whole life (!), playing with colleagues and friends old and new, and mostly staying in other people's homes. I'm paying attention and have made some resolutions for my return home.

1. I will clean up the kitchen right away after each meal. Having Steve's mom with us for 2 weeks reminded me of how clean a person can keep things withou…

I Love My Car

I love my car. It fits me.

We've been traveling for nearly a month already, and when we travel as a family we go in Steve's car - it's bigger, and since he prefers to do all the driving it just makes sense. But we needed to drive separately to Lancaster for this week's festival, for complex logistical reasons that need not be discussed here. Getting back into my little bug all by myself was just so freeing!

I love my car. It is zippy and responsive. It's a stick shift, which makes me feel powerful and makes good use of my busy energy. The seat and all of the controls fit me just right, and the steering wheel is skinny and nubby and spins easily under my hands. The car speeds up when I push the gas, and roars encouragingly when I shift from gear to gear. It operates in a satisfyingly mechanical way - although I know it's full of computers like every other car I am not aware of them while driving. I can feel the road and hear the engine, and when I have dr…