Saturday, March 31, 2012

Marking the Parts

When I see a piece of music on my stand, the pencil markings of the previous performer can really tell me a lot.  About that performer, usually. 

Frequently I see notes about which fingering to use for F or Eb.  In a tricky passage, this is often very helpful.  Sometimes EVERY F and Eb in the entire part is marked - this is just silly. 

Often the dynamic markings have been changed or circled.  Neither is particularly meaningful, as the previous performer was most likely not playing on this exact stage for this exact conductor, with the same colleagues, and was probably not me.  Therefore, what his conductor told them about the precise level of their solo is not relevant right now.

I have seen parts where the previous performer did such a careful and tidy job of changing the dynamics and articulations that her marks were indistinguishable from the composer’s, which led to a lot of frustrated apologizing in rehearsal when I thought my part was correct and, subsequently, a lot of erasing.

I have also seen parts where the performer was SOO not careful and tidy, and SOO concerned about writing down every single thing discussed in rehearsal, that I had to go in with an industrial eraser before I could even begin to prepare.

Many people circle things.  Just at random, apparently.  Notes, dynamics, accents, and even lengthy passages.  This clearly meant something to them at one point, but does not help me now. 

To be fair, I guess I don’t really think long term when it comes to marking my music.  I put x’s in the margin to remind me to check a passage before the concert.  I note any unexpected fingerings.  I make dynamic corrections as the conductor requests them, usually by writing “more” or “less” to distinguish those corrections from the printed ink.   When I see the same part again a few years later - popular pieces of music recycle quite frequently - I work on the passages with x’s,  and relearn the piece from recordings or memory.   But as I work in the orchestra I don’t think specifically about making my job easier in the future.  I usually assume that I’ll have grown up and moved on before I see, say, Tchaikovsky 4 again in this particular orchestra. 

In addition to performing A Moveable Feast in two different cities last week, I was working with the Milwaukee Symphony, in a terrific weekend Pops cycle and in two sets of morning youth concerts.  I was impressed with what I saw in the music.

For the youth concerts, I was playing principal oboe, and therefore reading off the same music that Stephen Colburn has been playing from for the past 40-some years, and what really stood out to me was the tidy, helpful, thoughtful markings he had in his parts. 

Almost nothing in the works I played was conductor-specific, or interpretive against the composer’s wishes.  Everything was useful.  Notations of cues in the orchestra (flute comes in here) or of accompanying figures (with clarinet here).  Every time I made an entrance, and noticed something interesting going on the texture, I found it notated on my page.  Sometimes I hadn't’t interpreted that marking until then, but it was always spot on.  Told me what to listen for and match, or how to come through.  It felt like all of my homework had been done for me, and I loved it.

So I am inspired, now, to treat my orchestra parts like investments in my future.  I’d like to take the time to put one or two helpful things in my music for each concert.  Cues, doublings, and harmonic hints never go out of style.

Upcoming Concert

This particular version of insane in my life - over 3000 miles on my car in the last TEN DAYS, 19 services (rehearsals, recording sessions, and performances) including 2 self-produced recitals, and as many students (not that many) as I could squeeze in around the edges - is finally ending.  If I've posted nothing other than shameless self-promotion I am sorry.  It is about to be over.  I will become smart and interesting again, instead of merely competent and punctual, which is absolutely all I've been able to manage since the 20th. I love what I do but this has been a rough set.

Tomorrow afternoon I am playing a St Matthew Passion at the University of Chicago.  It's one of the greatest pieces EVER written, and I am playing the least stressful oboe part in it for a change, so for me it is three hours of enjoying everyone else's awesomeness and loving being on that gorgeous old campus.   Great orchestra, astounding music.  Details are HERE.

And on Monday my normal life resumes, with nothing but my normal teaching, practicing, reedmaking, running, and ZOE TIME!

I can't wait.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Honest Physicality

The most interesting comment I received after my Moveable Feast performance last night was not at all one that I expected.  My sister said that her favorite thing to watch was the physicality of my breathing.  I would calmly play long phrases, either taking small inhales and exhales or circular breathing, and then when I had a longer rest I would really breath hard. At those times, she said, it became obvious how difficult and aerobic the act of playing actually was, and it was all the more impressive when I would then grab a quick inhale and jump right back into playing long, controlled phrases.

I was a little embarrassed.  I always strive to hide this side of things.  The oboe playing should appear effortless, so as not to distract from the music-making.   I don’t want the audience to know how hard I’m working, or to see me get all hot and bothered.   I consciously try not to gasp or show visible strain.  But it’s also the case that I respect the physicality of other instrumentalists and athletes tremendously.

I’m fascinated by how much a string player has to lean and use the full weight of his body to produce an intense sound.  I love watching a pianist sink her arm into the keys, all the way to the shoulder.  I can’t get enough of watching ballet dancers and figure skaters for the shifts in weight and balance that tell me that secretly they are working incredibly hard to be so buoyant, effortless, and beautiful.  When from the orchestra pit I can see the Sugar Plum Fairy panting as she sinks into her deep final curtsey and graciously acknowledges the audience’s applause, I have even more respect for what she has just done, and by extension I love the human body all the more.  It is amazing what we can do, and amazing to see what serious training can produce in someone.

So I’m not squirming any more about my sister’s remark. There’s no real shame in having a human body that requires oxygen.  I will always continue to strive for an appearance of ease, but if you can see through the cracks, I won’t feel bad. 

One more performance of A Moveable Feast!  Tomorrow afternoon in South Bend.  Details HERE.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Why am I Nervous?

It’s finally the week of my Moveable Feast performances!  I’ve been working for months to prepare this version of this show, and am excited about finally bringing it to fruition.  I perform a lot, and I do recitals with some regularity, but this spring performance every year is the one that makes me the most anxious.   

This is the set that I self-produce.  It’s not part of some other series, it’s not a South Bend Symphony event, it’s just me.  

I am highly trained as an oboist, but I have no real idea how to produce or promote a concert.  I am making this up as I go along.  Every year I magically find just enough audience members to make it a performance (and usually a few more than the year before), but every year I am terrified that I won’t.  That the combination of Facebook posting and poster hanging and email blitzing and event calendar filling out that I labor over  in the month leading to my event will fail me. 

I’m really not nervous about playing the music.  I know my material, and I love it, and I am a  performer. 

The logistics don’t scare me, though my to-do list is still pretty long - print programs, create  signage, get change for my drawer, buy ingredients for the cookies, bake the cookies, find serving plates for the cookies, make a reed, go over my script…

I’m not worried about my collaborators, who are outstanding musicians and reliable human beings and will help me to create an enjoyable evening for the audience.

But I’m always nervous about the audience.  That they won’t come.

It’s difficult to be a musician in 2012.  I really have to be entrepreneurial with my career - speaking to everyone I know about what I do and staying visible (neither of which comes naturally to this introvert) and thinking always about the bigger picture, when my actual schooling has all been in the tiny details. The note endings, the accents, the purity of the interval.   This spring recital, which I put on by myself, for MY friends, colleagues, and neighbors in my home town(s) is a different experience altogether from practicing in my room, and certainly from performing in orchestras which have  subscribers and official marketing materials and staff whose job it is to get people to come.  Even the orchestras have trouble filling their seats - why should I have any success at all?

And yet I keep at it. Maybe this is the year that I slink home in shame after performing for three audience members, two of whom are related to me.   Maybe this is the year that I go platinum.   I can’t wait to find out.

Thursday, March 22, 7:30pm
LakeView Lutheran Church
835 W. Addison, Chicago

Saturday, March 24, 3 pm EDT
South Bend Christian Reformed Church
1855 N.Hickory, South Bend

Tickets and further information HERE.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Upcoming Concert

We're playing a chamber orchestra concert this Sunday in South Bend - "More Than Mostly Mozart."  It should be lovely -Ballet Music from Idomineo, Marriage of Figaro Overture, the Jupiter Symphony, and a bunch of arias with Katherine Larson. 

What could be more pleasant than a little short Mozart concert in a beautiful hall on a Spring afternoon?  I'm looking forward to it.

AND I have a pair of comp tickets to give away to the first interested responder.  You can comment here or email me privately.

Monday, March 12, 2012

I'm Back

I haven’t been writing about practicing lately, because I haven’t been practicing.  Somehow, even though I have recitals coming up, and more performances right around the corner, and recordings to make, I’ve been in a complete rut.  I know I am not perfect, but the music on my stand has been there for so long I am bored with it and have been struggling to find things to work on.  It doesn’t help that the weather is so terrific and I only want to get out in the sun and run my winter flab away.  My playing is not going to improve itself.

I was whining about this to a good friend the other day - the kind of friend who will actually listen to this sort of self-indulgence - and right in the middle of my diatribe I solved it.  Idly reading through my repertoire as though I have to perform it in a few weeks is not motivating - I have to work on what I need to improve, and focus my attention on one or two things at a time.

I made a list of elements that I can pay attention to:
Variety of color
Body Language
Clear Phrases

Today I thought about intonation.  I played my warmups with a tuner drone, slowing everything down so that I could really hear what was going on.  This was particularly valuable since I’ve just gotten my Loree back from another crack repair and needed to get back in touch with it.  I went through the Mozart Concerto and about half of my recital repertoire, AS SLOWLY AS NECESSARY to make all the intervals accurate.  Sometimes that meant zooming through scale-wise passages to get to the big leaps that are difficult, and sometimes stopping to sing the pitch I needed to expect.  Sometimes I turned my drone back on, sometimes glanced at the tuning meter on held notes.   A few times I found myself reconsidering my planned articulations in the interest of making my intonation perfectly stellar.
My practice sessions today were far, far better than any in recent memory.  With something more to think about than simply a performance deadline and my vague desire to be better,   I was inspired to work well.   With a specific goal I was able to harness my practicing brain to use a variety of techniques, just as I do when I am learning new repertoire and licks.  Just as I do when I coach students to improve.

Tomorrow I will tackle another item on my list.   I didn’t get through every piece of music on my stand today, but that doesn’t matter at all.  The point is that I am putting good work in, and that tomorrow I will look at other pieces, through the lens of Rhythm, or Articulation. 

I love having a system to work within, but my system doesn’t have to be inflexible.  If concerns about Tempo don’t factor into a given piece, I won’t do it that day.  If I’m thinking about Variety of Colors, I might just start each of my pieces to see how they are different, or work on getting from the end of one to the beginning of the next.  

I’m grumpy that I wasted time being in a slump recently - this kind of practice is not new to me but I forget from year to year how to renew myself in these situations.  The point is to keep putting the work in.  The point is to keep finding things to work on.  The point is, I’m back.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Moveable Feast

Jennet Ingle

What's Going on?

Ernest Hemingway famously said,” If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
That statement is so fantastically romantic,  and his entire era of expatriates boozing around in the City of Lights so exciting and compelling, that I simply had to capitalize on it.

Here, finally, is the program I've been looking forward to all year.  In this travelogue performance, we’re presenting delicious music representing Tunisia, Naples, Peru, Cambodia, Nigeria, Scotland, and other exotic locales.  Paul Hamilton and I will play some great works by Pasculli, Ibert, Tomasi, and Ewazen.

I have always loved the popular music of the 30s and 40s, and am delighted to collaborate with cabaret artist Justin Hayford.  We’ll do a set of location-based songs from the American Popular Songbook.   Although we have worked together before (I’m on the title track of THIS album!), this will be our first LIVE performance together.

There will be cookies at the conclusion of this recital!

Where and When?

A Moveable Feast
Jennet Ingle, oboe
Paul Hamilton, piano
Justin Hayford, cabaret artist

Thursday, March 22, 2012, at 7:30pm
LakeView Lutheran Church
835 W. Addison, Chicago
Tickets $12/8 students and seniors

Saturday, March 24, 2012, at 3:00pm EST
South Bend Christian Reformed Church
1855 N. Hickory, South Bend
Tickets $10/5

Tickets for both are available at the door, or at a discounted rate in advance from my website,

Where Else Can I Read About You?

I am on the web at, and I blog about my adventures at ProneOboe.  If you are not on my email list, please do join it HERE - I will not send spam but I will keep you well informed about my upcoming performances.

What Else is Going On?

I will be performing my CHROMA program, with Paul Hamilton as pianist and videographer, on:
Sunday, April 29th at 3:00, at Delaware County Community College outside Philadelphia.

I will be playing Doug Lofstrom’s Concertino for Oboe at the International Double Reed Society Conference in Oxford, OH on July 9 at 4:45pm.  This lovely piece was commissioned for me in 2006 and I premiered it in 2007 with the New Philharmonic Orchestra. 

I am giving a noontime recital at the Chicago Cultural Center on July 23rd, 2012.  I have no idea what will be on it, yet.  But we'll have fun.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Upcoming Concert

We are playing Beethoven 6 this week in the Northwest Indiana Symphony.  It’s been years since I performed this piece, and I had forgotten.  Forgotten how lovely the tunes are, and how intimate the instrumental dialogues are.  Forgotten how long it is, but also how perfectly structured.  Forgotten what a pleasure it is to play music this great.

NISO weeks always feel long because of the driving - the venue is just over an hour from home, but the time change on the way home means I get in after midnight every evening and by Friday I am really ready for a full night of sleep. 

But this week, especially, I don’t regret a thing.  It’s a treat to play, and it will be a great concert, and you should come.

Details and tickets HERE.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Upcoming Concert

I love our programming this week in South Bend - we are “Inspired by the Bard”.  We are playing Mendelssohn’s Overture to Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Shostakovich’s film music to Hamlet, and Walton’s Henry V.   This concert combines two of my favorite things - interesting, unfamiliar music and spectacular, timeless words.

For details and tickets click HERE.