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Showing posts from February, 2011

Zoe is Awesome

Zoe has so much language now, and so many words! What's fun, though, is that the words are very personal. She has excellent diction and is very careful to clearly pronounce the last letter of each word. Often, however, that last letter is wrong, which makes her hilarious.

For More, she says MoNe. Very clearly. For Car, CarDe. Egg is OcKe, and Coffee, CoffeeZe. Even words she used to say correctly have been reinvented. Since she learned to say her own name, ZoEE, which happened surprisingly recently, she has been adding a final EE to lots of words, including NoEE, HepWEE (Help), and HandEE. She is so CutEE.

She also has words that don't resemble ours very much at all. DOUCE for Stairs, KaDoo for Color, CoFoo for Cover, Saoot for Somersault. Pittee for Pictures, which really means my iPhone.

And although she generally only uses one word at a time, she is beginning to combine them a little. She will demand something, and then indicate where she wants it. Mote! HandEE! …

Upcoming Concert

Our SBSO program for next week is a totally normal orchestra program - a light opener, a pleasant concerto, and a solid symphony. Nothing too hard to listen to. It has the advantage of familiarity - everyone knows these pieces, or at least knows the style and what they can expect to hear. And all of us, the musicians, know this material as well. We've all played it before, and all of us own recordings that sound better than the South Bend Symphony will probably sound, so why should anyone attend this concert?

For me it's all about the personalities on the stage. I've played these pieces before, certainly, but I've never played them with this conductor, or these excellent colleagues. When we all come together, each with our own musical ideas and philosophies and past experiences, we have the ability to influence each other. We can make something happen on stage that has never happened before - THIS performance of Brahms 4. And it will certainly be a good perform…

Chroma!

I could not be more excited about this video. My amazing pianist, Paul Hamilton, and his partner in crime, Caleb Vinson, did an amazing job shooting it and putting it together. The program, Chroma, will be performed in Valparaiso on March 27 and in South Bend on April 2 in addition to the Chicago date referenced here. Not to be missed!
Chroma from Caleb Vinson on Vimeo.

Keeping Busy

I wound up some reed blanks this morning, even though I didn't really need them. I just sent out a large shipment and I have over a week until my next big one and enough reeds-in-progress to cover my current orders. Monday is more or less a lost day for me, as I have a sixty-minute commute and eleven students, and I only had an hour for myself at home before I left. I should probably have used the time for a slow, serious warmup and paid some attention to the excerpts I'm preparing for my audition a week away. But I chose to use 30 minutes of my precious alone time to work needlessly ahead and have blanks in my case that I could turn into reeds. And here is why.

I enjoy teaching. Not all of my students are reedmakers, but those that are will occasionally need a lesson solely devoted to this difficult craft. And there's only so long I can stand to sit idle while a student is painstakingly scratching away at the surface of a reed that is still miles from being playable…

Building Back

I had a lousy run this morning. I love being a runner, but I hate this time of year, when I have to transition from being a sporadic, short-spurts-on-the-treadmill, calls-herself-a-runner runner to being an actual runner who enjoys distance and does speed work and wins her age group in races. Little races, anyway. Okay, one little race. Okay, technically there was only one other lady in my age group, BUT I BEAT HER.

I know that I won't really enjoy running 4 and 5 milers until I've built my fitness back up, and 6 miles probably won't be the kind of fun I remember until it's a respite from 8 and 9 milers. And I know that the only way to get there is to keep soldiering through these middle distance runs for the first few weeks of my spring build-up.

But what I'm feeling now is the kind of feeling that could make a person not bother to go out on her next scheduled run. It kind of stank while I was doing it, and I don't really feel that much better now that it&#…

A Narrow Escape

I almost fell into the trap last night. I almost said it. Almost confessed in public to a reed problem. I had been playing along, and things were fine, and then suddenly there was a little gunk in the reed, or a little corner tore, or something, and the oboe mumbled for a couple of beats instead of singing out proudly. And the conductor stopped and asked for more sound. And I said "Yes, absolutely, it was just a… a thing." Stopped myself just in time.

This is the lesson that I drive home for my students constantly. It's the lousiest thing about the oboe, and it's the ugly truth. No one cares about the reed issues. Any problem that is audible to others is STILL YOUR FAULT.

Sure, sometimes that bratty piece of cane does change abruptly, or miss an attack, or sound a little raw. A reed is never perfect, and you should have controlled it better. If the reed just refuses to do what you want, you should have made a better reed. Not making your own reeds yet? You…

Upcoming Concert

This Friday's concert with the Northwest Indiana Symphony is a real treat - some intensely romantic music for Valentine's Day. We are playing the Prelude and Liebestod from Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, Richard Strauss's Rosenkavalier Suite, and the Rachmaninov 2nd Piano Concerto. It is hard music, requires tremendous flexibility and skill from the performers, and has huge payoffs, both for us and the audience. I am so pleased that for a change our Valentine's Day concert is not just show tunes, or duets from the most fame italian operas. No, this repertoire is orchestral in the extreme, difficult to perform, and very satisfying to do well.

I'm so enjoying playing for Kirk Muspratt again - I love how high his standards are and how prepared he is on this repertoire.

Practicing to Improve

Practicing - really practicing to improve - is a very active endeavor. Just playing a piece over and over again will eventually make it more familiar, but that's a far cry from digging in and solving problems and making choices with the goal of being able to play consistently and well as soon as possible. In lessons my students and I talk a lot about how to practice productively. We discuss breaking a problem down to its smallest elements and solving those separately instead of just butting continuously against the same wall. Today I'll give an example of this process at work in my own practice.

I have a problem - the Serenata from Stravinsky's Pulcinella. I've allowed it to be mediocre in my repertoire for long enough, and am determined to make it my friend. Here's my approach.


My first issue is just that the low Cs are plain hard for me. The lowest notes on the instrument require a special kind of air - lots of it but not too much - and a great deal of openne…

Practicing in Public

This weekend I am playing with the Milwaukee Symphony, and the concerts should be amazing. We are playing the whole first act of Wagner's Die Walk├╝re, and that's about all I can say from personal experience at this point. We rehearsed once yesterday- a wind sectional - but both of today's scheduled rehearsals were canceled because of the enormous blizzard. So I won't really have a sense of the whole piece until tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I am staying with friends in Milwaukee and I have a WHOLE DAY OFF to practice, catch up on reeding and writing and reading, and get ready for tomorrow's intense rehearsals.

I did practice for an hour this morning, and was surprised at how self-conscious I was playing the oboe in my friends' house. They are both musicians - terrific ones - and I was very aware of every little flaw in my reeds and in my warmup as I played.

Practicing is private time, and musicians know that what happens in the practice room stays there. It is a tim…