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Showing posts from October, 2010

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…