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Showing posts from November, 2010

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. …