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Showing posts from November, 2012

Vibra-a-a-a-a-to

One of my blog readers asked me to talk about vibrato in orchestral instruments.   Basically, in the woodwind section, flutes and oboes always use vibrato, clarinets never do, and bassoons go both ways.  But within that broad generalization are an awful lot of shadings and subtleties.

There are a million variables affecting the use of vibrato.  Things I take into account include: the era of the piece, the composer’s country of origin, the tempo and emotional affect of the line, its tessitura and shape, the instrumentation, the dynamic, my own role in the ensemble, the acoustic of the hall, the capability of the reed du jour, and my own mood. 

Vibrato is primarily an expressive tool for solo instruments.  (String sections use it heavily, but that’s a different animal.)  We winds use it as an additional color to the sound, and as an intensifier.  We use it to draw attention to our (often invisible) selves when our line needs to come to the fore.  And we use it very consciously and suppor…

'Tis the Season

Here we go.  I have managed so far to maintain my sense of personal denial about the upcoming holidays.  I have not listened to a holiday song, decorated a tree, house, or room, or purchased a gift.  I hunkered down on Black Friday and managed to keep from leaving my house for almost the entire day.  But now it starts.  From here on I play only Christmas music until after the big day.

This week I am performing with Mannheim Steamroller, which is a super-fun show and inescapably  part of the Christmas season.  You can hear me in Wabash, IN on Monday, South Bend on Thursday, Fort Wayne on Friday, and Chicago on Saturday.  I’ve played their gigs many times, and always enjoy myself.  The show is tightly paced, totally professional, and tricky enough to hold my attention without being the least bit difficult.  Audiences love it and it is a treat to play for a full house.  I dig a fog machine.  

My life is busy from here on, but this is the time of year that pays for January’s restfulness, a…

Thanks for the Runners

I got out for a Thanksgiving run this morning.  It was a late run, because I had to make a cake and a veggie side dish first, so by the time I was out on the path it was fairly deserted.   My workouts have been feeling pretty logey lately, and today was no exception.  My ankle’s been twingey, and I was just trotting along, taking some idle walk breaks, when I spotted a runner way ahead of me on the path. 

Immediately my game improved.  I raised my head, lifted my feet, and picked up my pace just a little bit.  I wasn’t racing, no, but I wondered if I might be able to gain on her before I turned around for home.  I pushed myself and got closer.  Finally I passed, and smiled happily at her.  Raised my hand in the traditional runner’s salute.

Oh, she said, smiling, I was feeling pretty good out here until you just passed me…
I had a great time chasing you down!  I responded.

I meant it - having a presence in front of me totally made my run.  Just that tiny bit of irrelevant competition sped…

This Difficult Path

I have always said that if I had it to do again I would play the oboe again, but if I had it to do AGAIN again, it would be the cello.  Or the trumpet.  But when reconsidering my options in this way, I never really think of a life outside music.

I was talking with my sister the other night, and the topic came to college students.  Both of us were concerned about the recent and future graduates in soft fields - like her Masters in History and my own oboe performance degree.  There’s a recession - maybe you’ve heard? And it’s proving to be incredibly difficult for young people to find jobs in all fields, especially those with no particular USEFUL experience or skills.

I have students right now who will graduate as oboe majors.  They are not strong enough players to move straight into orchestral jobs or even freelancing - at least not enough to make a living - and their degree doesn’t really qualify them for anything else.  I fear that I am doing them a disservice, and struggle every seme…

Blue Jeans Concert

Tonight’s concert, with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra, is a Blue Jeans Concert.  It’s added into the normal work week, in the space a dress rehearsal might otherwise have occupied, and it’s a shorter, more casual, less pricy version of the performance we’re giving twice this weekend.

Tomorrow and Sunday we are doing a Haydn symphony (the fabulous number 90!) and Carmina Burana, in normal tuxes and dressy black clothes, but tonight we play only Carmina, and we dress down, and the conductor will speak to the audience from the stage.  The tickets are less expensive, and the marketing is younger, edgier, etc.  This concert is clearly designed to attract a new generation of symphony-goers, not to convert existing subscribers to a dress-down model.  I can’t wait to feel it out.

In South Bend our Performance Opportunities Committee proposed a similar concept to management last year.  The ideas were batted around for a while in the meeting, and to me they made a lot of sense - an additional Fr…

New Week, New Town

This week I am traveling to Wichita, Kansas.  I’ll be playing in the orchestra and teaching a masterclass and some lessons at Wichita State University. 

It’s slightly hilarious to me that a week of playing in an orchestra, teaching lessons, and making reeds sounds like a VACATION compared to my normal life of playing in an orchestra, teaching lessons, and making reeds - but something about getting on a plane makes it seem like a real getaway.   Really, just not being in my own house where there is always something to do or someone who needs a snack or a bath is going to be a treat. 

I always have mixed feelings about leaving Zoe - on the one hand I look forward to hours of uninterrupted practice time, reflection time, writing time.  I can work on some website updates I’ve been planning and get a substantial head start on the recital music that’s been kind of on hold.  On the other hand, of course, she is SO GREAT.  I’d love to spend every minute of the day with her, and I miss her eve…

Practicing in the Water

Before Zoe was born I was a triathlete.  Love me some multi-sport summer fun.  I was never especially competitive or fast, but I loved having an excuse to get outside and crash around in the summer.  “But I’m TRAINING!”  I would holler over my shoulder, as I stepped away from the oboe, the dirty dishes, or the argument with Steve and biked across Chicago to do an open water swim or a long run. 

 I haven’t swum regularly since little girl was born. It just takes so long to drive to the gym and change and between the time I’m away from home working and the time I have to spend at home working I can’t justify any more time away from her.  But now that she’s in SCHOOL I have some morning hours to reclaim.

So for the past month I’ve been getting over to the Y once a week to swim.  The first time I slid into the water I almost cried at the beauty of it.  A couple of strokes in I felt sleek as an otter, slicing through the water with an effortlessness that running can never match.  I snapped …