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Showing posts from March, 2011

Learning Manners

Me: Hi, Zoe, what are you doing? Are you eating lunch?

She: *pause* *nod*

Me: What are you eating? A tortilla?

She: *silence*

He: Zoe, when someone asks you a question, you should answer. You could say, Yes, I am eating a tortilla, or No, I am not eating a tortilla. But you ARE eating a tortilla, so you should say Yes.

She: Poop.

*hilarity ensues*

Running and Recitalling

I was out for a ten-miler over the weekend and it struck me how similar a half-marathon is to a recital. In both, the hardest part is at the very end, and in both, it's hard to prepare for that part. The first half hour of running is pretty easy, and then I cruise for a while, but after nine miles it gets difficult. My legs are heavy and while I'm not in pain, exactly, I do want to stop running and walk. Everything is uncomfortable.

In the same way, the opening few pieces on a recital feel effortless. I am riding on my preparation, and showing off for the audience, and even if the performance is not flawless it is energetic and feels great. But then things start to change. My mouth gets tired, which makes my reed feel different. Harder, more brittle. Maybe the reed actually is different by that time - it's tricky to know. My playing doesn't feel so effortless anymore, and when I make mistakes I can't brush them off as easily. I perceive that everyone can see…

CHROMA stress brain

My stress brain is not my friend. This week is the first performance of my BIG SHOW, Chroma. I've been working on this project for a year, and while I've done plenty of performances this season this one is the big ME event. I self-produce it in three different venues, and here are some things I actually need to do:

Add my event to more community calendars. Do another social network blitz in case anyone anywhere still hasn't heard of this. Put up flyers. Do some final research and write the script for the show. Confirm the projectors and assistants at the venues. Prep my computer for the technical requirements of the video stuff. Work out the transportation plan for myself and my pianist. Play through all of the music every day. Make a good reed.

Here is what I actually spent my spare time on last night and this morning. I got a huge reed shipment out. OK, that was important. I deleted and recreated all of my student schedules in my calendar hoping to fix my iPhone syn…

What Happened?

So what can I learn from this one?

I don't really know why this audition was so much weaker than the one I took two weeks ago. In Nashville I made it to the finals and felt great about my performance. At the National Symphony audition this week I struggled. I knew the music and I was prepared. I was a little sleep deprived, but no more so than on many other weekends in which I've performed well. I didn't feel nervous, at least not until after things started going wrong.

And some things were good. I did enjoy my Mozart Concerto, and it came out every bit as light and effortless as I wanted. I laid down the Serenata from Pulcinella, which I have worked hard to make my friend. It's now my friend.

But I did not feel strong. I did not feel confident. Even in my warm up room I found myself waffling on reed choice, obsessing about low attacks, fussing with the (perfectly adequate) adjustments on my instrument, and sweating details instead of playing the oboe, enjoying it, a…

She SHOULD be afraid?

We went to a party recently. A baby shower. And although there were other children there, Zoe was clearly the life of the party. She is friendly and delightful, even with strangers, so after a few minutes of assessing the room and the number of grownups in it, she began to work it.

She interacted with people. Looked in their purses, named the things she found. Tossed a ball to them and tried to catch it when they tossed back. Asked for foods and drinks by name and said please (when reminded). Gleefully chased and played with the cats and dog. Followed the older kids around and watched them with total fascination. Cleaned up the paper from the present-opening, and helped to break in some of the more exciting gifts.

And although of course I was always aware of her location, and I checked on her if things got quiet (because a 19-month old in a non-childproofed home could potentially destroy the place in minutes) I was proud that for the most part I could leave her to her own devices…

Slow Practice

I looked at my music before the first rehearsal. Of course I did. I skimmed a little bit through the pieces I'd played before and the parts that looked easy, and came to a cool-looking Brazilian arrangement. It was full of busy 16th notes and accidentals, so of course I prepared it thoroughly. The tempo was marked at quarter equals 112, and I knew that this conductor has a tendency to really push, so I made sure that I worked my metronome all the way up to 120, just in case.

On the third page there was a solo - a long one. Took up nearly half the page. It was marked Solo, espr. cantabile, phrase freely. I figured I knew what that all meant (expressive, singing, freely phrased) and prepared a very lovely oboe solo. It was still all fast notes, but hey, espr. cantabile! That's the oboe's specialty!

Welllll, it turns out that this moment in the program was conceived as a technical showpiece for the orchestra. Our tempo was easily 132, and there was not a hint of slowd…

Upcoming Concerts and a Treat From My Archive

This Friday night the Northwest Indiana Symphony has a great concert. Our featured piece is the Dvorak Cello Concerto, which is one of my all-time favorites. In fact, after the first time I played it in the orchestra I went out and bought the solo cello part to transcribe for the oboe - I was that much in love. As it turned out, the outer movements were a little too unidiomatic for me to tackle that year, but I did wind up performing the slow movement several times. This is a live performance, warts and all. Don't judge me.

I'm really looking forward to playing it from within the orchestra again, and listening to our excellent soloist, Joshua Roman. I don't know where I went wrong in life that I don't play the cello.

As if that weren't enough excitement for one week, we also have a South Bend Symphony concert on Sunday afternoon. The theme is J.S.Bach and Sons, and we are featuring the very demanding Orchestral Suite number 3 and Brandenburg 5. My favorit…

Mired in Mozart

A student said the other day, "Working on Mozart makes me feel…" and he pulled his elbows in close to his sides and vividly mimed being constricted in a very tight space. And I could understand where that was coming from. We had been working for several lessons on finding the appropriate classical style for the Mozart concerto, and over and over again we stopped because a note had been crudely ended, or a slur turned upside down with the second note heavier and longer than the first. Or because the vibrato was too heavy for the musical moment, or the release from an appogiatura was too active. And in this sea of details, he didn't feel that he had the freedom to make any music at all. It was just about making the articulation correct, and not actually fun.

I am not basically a stickler about performance practice. I am one of the least scholarly musicians I know, and I have not memorized the correct terms for the various Baroque ornaments and whether they are most ap…