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Showing posts from November, 2011

Slowing Time Down

When I am performing and things are going really well, time seems to slow down.  I am completely in control of my playing and of the music coming up, and I own the air around me.  This is not some mythical "runner's high" that only hits once in a blue moon, but a fairly normal occurrence.  Over the past few months, though, I have realized that it's not okay to just wait for that zone and hope it comes.  My out-of-the-zone performances are not bad - I can always play the oboe - but they are not good ENOUGH. 

Cases in point - recent auditions in Milwaukee, Utah, Indianapolis, Cleveland.  I go in, and in my first round I am unsinkable. I know what I'm doing, how to do it, and I perceive exactly what the situation requires.  If I make little mistakes they don't matter.  The silence between the excerpts is mine, just as the sound is when I begin to play.  In each case I am pleased but unsurprised when I advance. 

But each time, I return for the semi-final round as…

Nutcracker this Weekend

This weekend I am playing Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker in Fort Wayne, with the Philharmonic and the Fort Wayne Ballet.  Musicians sometimes get a little Nutcracker-ed out, or at least we used to - I can remember seasons where we performed 6 or 8 or 27 repeats over the course of the season, and the 2 1/2 hour ballet does get a little old by the end of the run.

The music is great, though, and it's never a gimme - it's tricky enough that I really have to pay attention, and every year when I get the book there are some details I need to look at.  This season I'm playing the second oboe part for the first time ever, so that should be an interesting wrinkle in this piece which I know so well from the principal chair.

With the recent economic downturn Nutcrackers are being cut back all over the country.  Many ballet companies are performing it with recordings, or with piano. That's certainly less expensive than paying a full orchestra.  Many groups do a reduced orchestral v…

Ewazen Concerto This Very Weekend!

Here's the notice I just sent out about this weekend's event.  If you would like to be on my email list, please do join it in the right sidebar - I will never send spam but I will keep you well informed about my upcoming performances, with occasional emails like this.  Of course I do always mention them in this blog too, but sometimes people prefer info to be RIGHT IN THEIR INBOXES...

What's going on?

This Friday night, November 18 at 8 I will perform with the Notre Dame Symphony Orchestra at DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.  The piece is a great favorite of mine, Eric Ewazen's Down a River of Time.   If you haven't seen this orchestra you are in for a treat, and if you haven't heard the Ewazen then LOOK OUT!

I am truly looking forward to this performance and hope to see you there!  Ticket information can be found HERE.  Please feel free to forward this notice widely!


What is this gorgeous concerto about?

The title of this piece comes from an essay by Richard Fea…

Practicing Tomasi

I love practicing, and I thought it might be interesting to walk you through my process as I worked through a really tricky technical passage this week.




I spent a good forty minutes working on this line.  This two measures, I should say.  The piece is Evocations, by Henri Tomasi, and I plan to perform it on my spring recitals (which begin, optimistically, in January this year).

Besides being chromatic and leaping uncomfortably back and forth over the break, the lick is really fast, and the notes under the slurs are notes that don't want to be slurred to on the oboe.  The pattern is clear, but the intervals are not especially comfortable.

I have approached this section before and turned away discouraged, but this time I was determined.  I put on my get-it-done cap and set to work.

I frequently use this triangle to structure my technical practice.  I adapted it from Kenny Werner's Effortless Mastery, and refer to it when I teach, as well. 

Presuming that the goal is to be able…

Learning By Doing

We have been traveling to eastern Tennessee regularly ever since Steve and I started dating - about 16 years ago, now.  It's a gorgeous part of the world, but I've never paid more than a passenger's superficial attention to it.  Steve drives, I read a magazine or play with my phone, and every now and then he draws my attention to a particularly stunning vista.  End of story.

This time around, though, we had to split up a few times.  Zoe needed a nap and a snack, Steve wanted to stay with his father, so I was in charge of driving little girl back to our home base at Nana's house.  And I couldn't get over how beautiful that 20-minute commute was!  Rolling hills, winding roads, mountains off in the distance, fall colors, cows and goats in pastures right beside me.  When I had to do it alone, and engage myself in driving and navigating, I couldn't believe how much more I saw.

Also, I suddenly sort of understand the route between Steve's dad's house and his mo…

Winter Reeds

It's nearly winter!  Oboists in northern climates are quaking in their boots right about now. 

This is an ugly time of year for reeds.  The little boogers are extremely sensitive to changes in the weather, as you might expect.  You know about the wooden doors in your house which swell in the summer and shrink in the winter, and our tiny pieces of cane react the same way.  Only the reeds are calibrated and hand-scraped to 100ths of millimeters, and a micron of additional thickness in the wrong place can destroy the response or intonation or tone quality.  I am accustomed to the usual daily shifts - the oboe feels different every time I pick it up, and it's a challenge I am happy to rise to.  It is normal for me to use my knife even on a finished reed, and tweak it for the day and the venue. The two big seasonal changes, however, are harder to deal with.

I don't know why it's now, instead of three weeks ago or next month - the weather doesn't seem to have changed that…

A Rough Week

Last week was a rough one.  Last Sunday, while on vacation in Tennessee, Zoe rolled out of the bed and broke both bones in her arm.  Steve took her to the emergency room down there, of course, and we spent an afternoon with the orthopedist here once they got home.  She's fine - in a hard cast, happy as a clam, and scheduled for a full recovery in a few weeks.  Still, stressful and expensive.

On Wednesday night, while driving home from our gig in Fort Wayne, we hit a deer in Steve's car.  We weren't hurt, and the car was drivable so we got home just fine - but now that vehicle is in the body shop until the end of the month.  Insurance is picking up the huge tab but of course we are paying the deductible and adding on a windshield repair that had been needed.  Stressful and expensive.

After the week of work in Fort Wayne, I pulled my car into the driveway and turned it off.  The next morning it wouldn't start, and after an unsuccessful jumpstart and a tow truck we determin…

Upcoming Concert

This Saturday I am performing with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic.  The big piece is Sibelius's Symphony no. 3.  Had you ever played Sibelius 3?  I hadn't, nor had I even heard of it.  Turns out it's a gem - a lovely little 30-minute work with Sibelius's characteristic dark colors and fluid melodies.  I'm enjoying myself immensely.  At tonight's rehearsal we'll add the guitar concerto - Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez - which is a long time favorite of mine.  All in all a fun weekend.

I'm playing principal on this concert, and I'm really noticing the rest of the orchestra more than I do when I play second.  That does make sense, as I am now responsible for matching and joining the other winds and the full group instead of just the first oboe.  My focus should widen.  But in another way it is slightly dismaying.  If moving over just one seat to the center can make a significant difference in how I perceive the orchestra, and raise my awareness of the…