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Showing posts from July, 2012

Olympic Inspirations: Frustration

Last night I was watching the mens gymnastics team final, and things were not going well for our heroes.  And I recognized all of the emotions flitting across the faces of these amazing, talented, and well-prepared athletes.  They were ready every time they stepped up, and they knew exactly what they were planning to do and how well it was supposed to go, and they were shocked and surprised and disappointed each time when a serious error happened. As the evening wore on, I saw the confidence fade, and the men began to step up defensively, just trying not to screw up, and of course that just made things all the more likely to fall apart. 

That feeling rings so true this month.

In my head I am solid.

I have come a long way since college, and since my early years as a young, green  professional.  I do know how to play in an orchestra, and how to blend and match what my colleagues are doing, and also how to formulate a musical idea and get it across.  I know how to  make a reed that work…

Zoe is THREE

Zoe turned three on Wednesday.



Since then she has had some success on the potty.  More than once.

She has helped me make dinner, in an actually slightly helpful way, and has EATEN some of the food that subsequently appeared in front of her.  At a mealtime.  Without being forced.

She has gone on a four mile hike at high elevation, and has remained cheerful for almost the entire time.



This afternoon she requested birthday cake.  I told her that she would have to wait until after dinner, and she said, “But I AM three!”  As if that were the magic factor that made cake acceptable in the daytime.

Tonight she came running and yelling to get my attention, and when I indicated that I was on the phone, SHE WENT AWAY AND WAITED PATIENTLY FOR ME TO FINISH!

She fell in love with some of the decorations at a party we were at, but when I explained that they were not hers to take home she acquiesced graciously.



She still has melt-downs, and tantrums, but is surprisingly self-aware about them.  As soon as…

High Altitude Reeds

So yes, reeds are hard to work with up here.  I don’t know exactly what causes it - the dry climate and the thinness of the air, perhaps, or maybe the same mystical property that makes baked goods fall flat (I won’t be posting pictures of Zoe’s birthday cake - far too humiliating). 

The symptom is that my “normal” reeds - the ones I’ve been happily making my living on for weeks - won’t vibrate.  Just won’t make the oboe play.  Maybe I can squeak out a few wimpy left-hand notes, but nothing more than that, and nothing that sounds good.  And the low register of my instrument feels terrible - unresponsive and mushy - which I understand is also a factor of altitude.  I don’t know why it is, just that it is.  I’ve checked and rechecked the adjustments on both of my oboes and there’s nothing wrong - they just don’t want to vibrate properly.

But honestly, it’s not been all that terrible to work with.  My midwest reeds won’t play, but I made a new batch on a wider shape and scraped them down a…

Summer Update

We are in the land of gorgeous.  Steve and Zoe and I are in Breckenridge, CO, for the next five weeks, and I start rehearsals tomorrow with the Breckenridge Music Festival Orchestra.  I’ve been here, acclimating, since Saturday, and finding it a neat challenge.  I’ve never spent any time at this kind of altitude, and it is fascinating and hard and amazing.  I know there will be plenty of posts coming up on reeds, and oboe-y-ness - once I figure out what on earth I’m doing.  Meanwhile, I pant going up and down stairs, and the plan I had had about biking to work might be on hold for another week or so - but the playing I think will be fine.

Next Monday, however, I will be on a flight at 6am heading back to Chicago, so I can perform my “Travelogue”  recital at the Cultural Center at 12:15 (free and open to the public!).  It should be a rollicking good show and I certainly assume that I’ll be able to resurrect some sort of sea-level reed from my case with an hour or two of lead time.   Bec…

A Clean Success

On the whole, I would call my first Oboe Reed Boot Camp a smashing success.  On Friday, the last day, we did time trials, and the first playable reed emerged in fourteen minutes.  That’s from soaked, shaped cane to a functioning reed, by a person who had never made one before that Monday.  The slowest took about 28 minutes, which still seemed pretty great.

On Tuesday, Day Two,  we had worked with bars of Ivory soap, to simulate the feeling of carving out the tip.  It’s not exactly like a scrape, more like a cut, and the soap is soft enough to make it easy, so we worked for a while to get the feel of that slicing gesture before we went back to our cane. 

Today, after the long week of ORBC and four intense days of IDRS I was unpacking my bags of equipment.  I came up with six bars of extremely beat-up Ivory, and decided to move them into the bathtub for use, because I am frugal like that.  Steve saw me transporting my load, and inquired.

Me:  Well, it’s soap that we used for the Oboe Ree…

IDRS Day Four

IDRS Day Four: Impressions

This was the best day of performances by far.  I heard nothing but excellent oboe playing, and the standout was the Berlin Philharmonic’s Christoph Hartmann (ohmygodohmygodohmygod).  He played a program called “Virtuosity” which included about a thousand notes by Lalliet, Skalkottas, and Pasculli, and ended with the most beautifully communicated Poulenc Trio I’ve ever heard.  He was spectacular in his smoothness,  and in the clarity of his phrasing and intentions, and the control he had over the oboe, and the effortlessness of his fingers.  And the thing that stood out to me so much - was that the concert wasn’t perfect.

I heard low notes that didn’t quite speak, and not-quite-pure notes here and there - but I DO NOT IN ANY WAY say this to run him down.  No, the magic was that we believed every musical thing he said, and the tiny misses didn’t detract from that at all.  In the Poulenc, he was just too busy being completely and totally awesome to bother to not…

IDRS Day Three

The early part of the day today was all masterclasses for me.  My intention at this conference was to attend masterclasses and hear other people speak to students.    And so I attended Robert Atherholt’s excerpt class, and Peter Cooper’s Mozart Concerto class.  I almost had to stand up and play Shostakovich in the first class, due to my inability to keep my hand DOWN when someone asks for volunteers, but happily the session ran plenty long enough with the four oboists who were actually prepared to play!

And both gentlemen were interesting, amusing, extremely well versed in their subjects, and a pleasure to watch and hear.  I took some great ideas away, both for my own playing and for my teaching. 

More highlights: Jacqueline LeClair and some of her students performed a neat piece for English horn and three oboe reeds, and she also did two movements of an amazing brand new work.  I love contemporary music, but I don’t have the chops she does on quarter tones and eighth tones, nor her go…

IDRS Day Two

IDRS Day Two: Impressions

Oboe overload. Almost too many oboes even for me. 

I attended some superb performances today, and some odd ones.   It is interesting to hear the various compromises people make with their reeds and setups.  Many people use noticeably flat reeds to make their low register speak more easily.  Some use very heavy reeds to make their sound rich.  The best players make me completely forget that they have reeds at all.  I notice their music-making and their ownership of the stage.

One of the most difficult things here is to keep my mind on what is going on.  There are so many events happening simultaneously that I find myself flipping through my program book as soon as I sit down and trying to plan what I will attend next - even as someone is coming on stage right in front of me.   There’s a constant sense that I’m missing something - and I am - but it doesn’t help anyone for me to sit there doubting my choice.  When I catch myself, I stop and force myself to enj…

IDRS Day One

IDRS Conference Day One:  Impressions

It took me forever to get here.  No, mostly it took me forever to leave home in the morning.  Zoe is so snuggly and so much wants me to just stay and play with her all day. 

My directions to Miami University were great (thanks, iPhone!) but the directions on campus were at first very confusing and resulted in a lot of needless hiking around in 102 degree weather.  This conference is not spectacularly well organized - my Monday afternoon program is actually wrongly listed as starting at different times in different venues in various places in the program.

Officially, now: I will perform at 4:45 on Monday in the Art Museum here at Miami University in Oxford Ohio. 

I got in later than I wanted to, but still attended three recitals and one amazing gala concert, made two brand new friends, met up with several old ones,  practiced for an hour, and generally wore myself totally out in the process.  Tomorrow my schedule looks packed from dawn til dusk, betw…

A Real Story

While we toured the Upper Peninsula at the beginning of this month, Zoe stayed in upstate New York with my mother.  While I taught at Dake last week, Steve joined them and went to Vermont on vacation.

Yeah, it looked good on paper.

Zoe loves her gramma, and her daddy, but the whole time she was gone she asked for me.  Toward the end she cried because she missed her room, and her stuffed animals, and her very own house.  It was a long time away for a not-quite-three-year-old.  And for her mommy.

She got home last night, and it has been incredible having her back - but the change in routine has been rough on her.  She has barely slept, and has been melting down about the most absurd things.  She won’t eat anything but Nutella and scraps off my plate.  She won’t let me out of her sight, except when she angrily tells me to go away.  This is fine, and normal, and more or less what I expected from her triumphant return, but of course it’s a little hard to see her struggle.

I was getting her int…