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A New Phase

I'm in a coffee shop gearing up for the first rehearsal of NEXT weekened's concert in DuPage.(Tchaikovsky 5, Haydn 88, and a World Premiere Harp Concertino. Click HERE for tickets and info.) It's nice to have a little time to myself, and I had intended to use it to edit a couple of posts I had roughed out earlier, but you know what? It's been a chaotic couple of weeks, and nothing I wrote before feels like me anymore. Too angst-y, too conflicted. I'm on the upswing again, and everything feels easy and possible again. It's a new phase beginning, and I can't fight it...

Steve is a wonderful stay-at-home Dad. When he left his job as Education Director for the South Bend Symphony at the end of January I was skeptical that this change would wind up being for the better for us - but it definitely has. I think I had had hopes (though not expectations) that having him home would mean an end to the drudgery of running a house - no more cooking, no more laundry. That is not the way it's working out and probably shouldn't be - but we're sharing the load now in a way that has not previously been the case and while I still find that I'm spending time trying to practice and make reeds with an active baby underfoot I also find that I have an out. I can be with Zoe now without having to multitask obsessively, because I can also hand her off for an hour or two here and there and really buckle down when I need to. It's more a difference of how relaxed I feel than how many hours I've really reclaimed, but it's all I needed.

Zoe is sleeping through the night! At least, more nights than not. And I am too, and my energy levels are through the roof in comparison to a month ago.

Our big good dog, Jasper, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bone cancer, and we opted to amputate his right hind leg. Prognosis is still undetermined, but he's healing well from the surgery and getting around better every day. And even this I read as optimistic - it's nice to see his pain gone and the old doggieness return to our pet. He seems happier, even just a week after the operation.

It's March! And the days are getting longer and I can see mud emerging from the snow, and it's almost Spring and everything feels more possible. I don't remember being overtly bothered by the weather this winter - it felt more like an irrelevant nuisance to me on top of my basic level of stress and internal panic than like a stressor, if that makes any sense - but I'm aware of my mood shifting when the sun comes out (occasionally) here in Indiana and that's definitely an improvement, too.

And I'm more inspired by my career than I have been in years. Motivated to make changes, ready to get out there. It's partly that having Zoe has made me want to stay closer to home, and has lessened my tolerance for driving long distances for minimal economic gains, but also that having less time in my days has sharpened my focus on what I really want to be doing which is performing in solo recitals and chamber groups. My next project involves working on my materials and self-promotional skills so that I can replace some of my daily grind with work that excites me.

I'm frequently aware of the various cycles at work in my life - monthly and seasonally, of course, but also in terms of my career arcs and project arcs, and work vs. rest days in fitness - and it's very exciting that ALL of my personal cycles feel like new beginnings right now.


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When my students get too MOUTHY with the oboe, I put them in a corner.


They tend to play the oboe only from the TOP of their body, north of the collarbone, and it winds up unsupported.  Fussy.  Weak.  And out of tune.

So I back them into a corner, and have them stand a foot or so out from it, facing out into the room.  And I challenge them to find a sound that resonates BEHIND them, out from the corner of the room that they are not facing, to fill the space without blowing directly into the space.

It's a weird metaphor.  I wouldn't have any idea how to describe the physical technique to do it. When I find it in myself, it feels like my back is puffy and my body is round, and large, and barrel like, and also collected and zipped up, and supremely powerful.  If you know me, you know that these statements about my body aren't remotely true.  But that's what I feel when I'm blowing well, and filling the room, and owning my resonance.

I teach resonance.  I talk …

Five Minute Reedmaker: Length of the Windows

My Five Minute Reedmaker Season Two seems to be largely about experiments.  People ask me how LONG, how THICK, how SLOPED, etc - and I'm running the experiments for them and for you.

I've been posting these videos on YouTube, and sharing them from my Facebook Page, but haven't totally kept up with sharing here on my blog.

Here are the ones you may have missed:
Length of the Heart
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Moldy Cane

And here's the new one:

Here's the YouTube playlist with all of my other Five Minute Reedmaker videos.  You could subscribe right there if you wanted to - I'm dropping a video each week until I run out of ideas this season.
Here's my website, where you can order reeds or cane or ask me questions.  Questions will keep these videos flowing! 

Here's how you can send me your own reeds to analyze and improve on video for your learning pleasure!

Never Trust an Oboe, Part 2

(Part One HERE)
(Similar story HERE)

Mercifully, THIS one didn't happen to me.  But my poor student was playing an audition for his orchestra, and reached up with his right hand to turn the page of his music.  And heard a "plink".  And when, a split second later, he returned his hand to his oboe to continue playing, he found that his entire thumb rest had fallen off onto the floor, leaving only the post it had been mounted to.

With his hand now contorted uncomfortably, he finished the audition - ably, I am sure - and tracked down the crucial little piece of metal.  Evidently the screw that secures the adjustable thumb rest into its most optimal position had come out - never to be found again - so the thumb rest itself now can escape at will.

He devised a workaround - teflon tape to keep the thing in - but let this be a lesson to all of us.

Seriously, the oboe is not your friend.  It's like a cat trying to slip out the door - it's just WAITING for an opportunity …