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Showing posts from October, 2012

Upcoming Concert

Completely unlike the musical ambassador I think I am, I didn’t post even a hint of what I was up to last week.  This is because I spent practically all my time in the car, and almost no time sitting down happily at my computer.  And because we seem to have entered a cycle of low-budget Pops and Education concerts, and because I agree with Thumper - if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all. 

A highlight, though, was the Legend of Zelda concert I played last Thursday in Chicago.   A lot of loud, a lot of high, a lot of fast - and really really fun.  We played to a click track the entire time, which is kind of like having an entire orchestra accompany me while I sightread with a metronome - except that there was also a huge and enthusiastic audience, who knew all the notes better than I did.  What a blast!

This week (tomorrow!  Details HERE) we’re playing Pops in Northwest Indiana with our chorus and the Purdue University Glee Club.  I know the audience will enjoy it.  O…

The Work is the Magic

I’ve learned a lot since I began teaching.

I used to assign etudes from the Barret Book - exclusively - to my college level students.  I was fairly insecure as a teacher at that point, and I knew that I could always find something to say about a Barret etude.  I was comforted by the accompaniment line that came along with every etude - if I was at a loss we could just play together, and I told myself that hearing good oboe playing was a helpful part of lessons, and playing duets taught them about momentum and direction and flow, and intonation, and pulse.  In the Barret book, the etudes are not always easy, but they are simple enough that a good college student can read them down, and I desperately wanted my students to have success. I figured that being able to play their assignment after minimal practice was success.  I wanted to be able to speak fluently and make observations in lessons and hear the tiny improvements minute to minute - and Barret was working for me.

More recently, th…

Business of Reeds

I’m feeling unusually relaxed this evening - because I just got my big reed shipment mailed off and I know that I can devote myself to music-making for the next couple of days.

I don’t do a lot of writing about my reed business.  It’s not that interesting, because it’s just so constant.  Every day I find one to two hours to sit down and scrape, and every couple of days I send out some reeds, and twice a month I mail a ton of them to my subscribers.

Actually, that’s pretty much it.  Scroll to your next blog.


But on the other hand this reed business has really defined my life for quite a long time.  It’s taught me a lot about professionalism, marketing, and accountability.  Musicians always have to be entrepreneurial, but without this business pushing me toward growth I might never have gotten my own online presence organized.  I am not very tech-savvy, but I have had to maintain my current site for a long time now, keeping it updated, learning how to sell online, changing servers and fix…

Being Prepared

I have almost a week before we start rehearsing for our first Chamber concert of the season - and I am delighted to have that time.  We are playing a piece I don’t know - Poulenc’s Sinfonietta - and it is interesting, unfamiliar, exposed, and tricky.

It is very important to be prepared for orchestral services, so as not to waste any of our valuable time.  I will admit, however, that SOMETIMES my preparation for a concert cycle involves little more than glancing through the folder.  If it is full of music I know I do a mental scan for solos or difficult passages - and then move on to something I actually want to work on.  If there are less familiar works, I might pop them up on the stand and play a little bit, but once it becomes clear that the music is in a style I know I’ll just do a quick skim through for solos and trouble spots - and then move on to something I actually want to work on.  I seldom get caught off guard any more, because most of the standard orchestral rep is already f…

Building Endurance

This month - OK, this week - my focus is endurance. My quintet meets next Thursday to rehearse and perform a full concert, which is something we haven’t done in months.  Wind quintet is a special kind of playing - it requires a lot of control of sound and dynamic, and there aren’t a lot of rests, since there are only five people to keep a whole piece going.  The playing is not as intensive as a solo recital, of course - but it can be very tiring.

We will have a two and a half hour rehearsal, a short break, and a full performance, in public, for grown-ups.  I want to make sure that I am as in shape as I possibly can be, not just so that I can sound good for the audience - but so I can enjoy myself instead of grimly forcing sound out through clenched exhausted muscles.

And so far this month that’s been rough.   I don’t have the kind of lazy time that I had back in early September, and I’ve been working hard but at a variety of things besides actual oboe playing - but I need now to focus…

Wind Sectionals

This appears to be the season of sectional coaching.  I visited the South Bend Youth Symphony oboists a couple of weeks ago, and did wind sectionals for Western Michigan University yesterday.  Next week I’ll be working with the Northwest Indiana Youth Symphony, and their wind quintet.  As always, when I teach I have to put into words concepts that I understand intuitively, and doing so helps me to realize just how much I do know and how much I take for granted in professional ensembles.  I sometimes forget how much skill, attention, and complexity goes into what we do. 

It’s fascinating, the number of things we can find to work on, even late in a rehearsal cycle with strong players who already know all the notes in their parts.  I can use all my normal practice/teaching techniques to help their ensemble: Play slower.  Do this passage all tongued.  Let’s just separate out the melody notes and then the countermelody and the accompaniment.  Let’s PLAY the dynamics printed.

But there’s muc…