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Showing posts from 2014

The Magic of Holiday Pops

I will not complain about being busy during the Christmas season.  That would be absurd, because everyone is busy.  And because for a musician to complain about working too much would be like a retailer griping that people just keep BUYING things in December.  This season, for us, has enormous financial impact, and the fact that I haven’t had a day off since Thanksgiving is just one of those side effects.

But I will admit that after playing three quintet concerts today (and having worked every day since Thanksgiving, did I mention? Plus every day but two in November…) I was DREADING tonight’s Holiday Pops rehearsal here in South Bend.   Early in the season I was enjoying the effort, and challenging myself in every rehearsal and performance to improve even as I played through yet another schmaltzy or jazzy or cutely technical Christmas carol arrangement - but by this point I really don’t have a lot left.  I kind of hate the oboe - I hate my sound - I hate other people’s sounds - and I …

From the Absurd...

This past weekend I played a concert with a college orchestra.  I use the terms "college" and  orchestra" loosely.  This tiny ensemble was nearly half filled with local musicians, players I know from other jobs - and even this quantity of pros was not able to elevate the gig significantly. 

The tiny group of students really struggled with intonation, balance, counting, articulation, and just about every other metric I can name.  They had had a long rehearsal in the afternoon before the concert, and were mentally and physically worn out.  We dragged ourselves - the conductor, bless his heart, dragged us - through a new work by Robert Paterson, the Mozart Double Piano Concerto (what a charming piece!  And beautifully played by the two soloists despite the chaos behind them), and Brahms’s Second Symphony. 

This job was hard for me. When you are surrounded by ghastly intonation, it’s almost impossible to sound good. And the harder you try to at least do your own job well,…

Upcoming Concert - snowbound edition

I am snowed in.  I came up this week to Muskegon to play with the West Michigan Symphony for the first time, and after last night’s rehearsal the blowing blizzard was just too much for me. 

I am used to commuting in the Midwest.  I’ve been through my share of white-knuckled drives, and I do not fear them.  I can slow down and take my time, and I can creep patiently from mile marker to mile marker with my hazard lights on, and I have been in a few ditches and waited for help to arrive. I don’t fear this kind of drive, but nor do I welcome it.  On Monday, after my two hour commute to work turned into three and a half, and after the snow continued to fall and blow in throughout our rehearsal, and after I confirmed that Steve was safely at home with Zoe, I chose to spend the night in the local Holiday Inn.

I didn’t have a change of clothes with me, or pajamas. I didn’t have workout gear for the lovely indoor fitness center.  Had I planned to stay over I might have packed more food to kee…

Practice Plus Update

This isn't a real post - sorry it's been such a crazy month and I haven't written enough at all. 
Remember a couple of months ago when I raved about Practice Plus?  Well, I still like the app, and still use it regularly on my phone. 

I've just been informed that the app is now updated for all iOS devices, and that it is on sale - for FREE - for the next three days.  The sale runs from Sunday Nov 16- Tuesday Nov 18th, and after this the price will return to $3.99.

You can find it at this link:  Practice+ Tuner, Metronome, Recorder and More... - Dynamic App Design

Happy Oboe-ing, everyone - I'll get my act together blogwise real soon now...



Upcoming Concert: Peruvian Oboe Concerto!

Here’s a concert I’m looking forward to.  The Vesper Chorale, a South Bend institution, is presenting several works by a contemporary Peruvian composer, Jaime Diaz Orihuela.  Mr. Orihuela is here in town for the event. The large work on the concert is a concerto for quena (a kind of Andean folk flute) and orchestra, which is quite a neat piece, but I also get to be featured. 

Orihuela’s Adagio Para una Danzante is a lovely and evocative work for oboe and orchestra, and I’m honored to get to play it, and to present it in front of the composer. 

The event is Sunday at 4pm, at St Adalbert’s in South Bend.  Details HERE.

Upcoming Concerts: Variety Pack Edition

I’ve had an amazing time playing Don Giovanni this month - and the schedule has been busy enough that the opera is all I’ve had time for.  Two or three operas a week plus teaching feels fantastic in my schedule! I’ve even had time to give some attention to Musicians for Michiana and the fundraising we are trying to do for that

But the opera performances are becoming more sparse as we approach the end of the run, and I have some real orchestra work starting up again, and it feels great to be preparing new material!

This Sunday the SBSO has a chamber concert, and I’m excited to be back with my colleagues at the beautiful DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.  We’re doing a program of female composers, to honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and that’s the most relevant I’ve ever seen this orchestra get, and I’m delighted for that reason alone!  The highlight will be a world premiere: a work by a local composer which expresses the emotions of her own personal journey through cancer.  Should…

Upcoming Concert CYCLE: Don Giovanni

Tonight is opening night of Don Giovanni at Lyric Opera.  I’m playing in the onstage banda, and I must say, it’s been FASCINATING to participate in this production.
I love playing opera.  That’s old news to readers of this blog.  Great composers have thrown their maximum energies at this medium, and some of the writing is just astounding.  Playing in the orchestra pit, you have access to some amazing sounds and you collaborate with incredible artists and it’s a great experience.  But working on the stage - even in the few tiny scenes that involve me - has been eye-opening.  It’s no wonder that this art form has stolen the hearts of so many people.  It’s no wonder that the budgets of large opera companies are almost inconceivably large and not shocking that some are struggling to stay in business.

My colleagues and I are onstage for a total of maybe eight minutes.  We are at the very back of a very busy party, which devolves into an orgy.  On a giant table in front of us there are many…

Language of Reeds

Do you remember being sick?  Feeling off, and being not sure if it was the flu or strep throat, or whether it was a bug bite or a weird allergy, or hay fever or lung cancer?  You nurse it along for a few days, and then it starts to get you so anxious that you finally go to the doctor, and you get the answer.  And even though you don’t have the antibiotics yet, or the cortisone shot hasn’t kicked in, you feel better, and more confident, because now you KNOW what is wrong with you.  There's a word for it.  It’s an enormous relief, and you often start to mend right from that moment.

This summer I again held my Oboe Reed Boot Camp, and I had five eager students.  Four were adults, two of those had been reed makers to begin with, and all four got the hang of things very fast and began to turn out reeds right away, so we spent most of the three-day session talking about nuances.  Talking about the relationship of the tip of the reed to the heart of the reed.  How different cut-in angles…

Upcoming Concert: Motown

I have to admit that I know next to nothing about Motownmusic, other than what’s just culturally in the air.  I enjoy a Marvin Gaye number, but I’ve not made a real study of this rich discography.   This Friday, the Northwest Indiana Symphony is opening  our season with a Motown concert, and it looks like fun.

I don’t always love a Pops concert, compared to an orchestral evening, but I enjoy playing with a back beat - it makes me feel cooler than I am - and working in a style and a genre that isn't really familiar.  For me, a harmless and fun challenge.  For the audience, hopefully, a magical evening.

Details HERE.


Who You Are

I’ve been watching Project Runway again as I work at my reed desk.   It’s amazing to watch the designers sweat, and struggle, and create beauty under pressure.  I notice that the competitors are always talking about being "true to themselves" as designers.  Or showing “who they are” as designers.  And they are happiest with the clothes that fulfill the challenges set to them while still reflecting their own "design aesthetic".  And sometimes, the judges fault them for just making “clothes” instead of fashion, or letting their designs be too generic. 

I recently sat through a day of string auditions for the South Bend Symphony.  As usual, I LOVED doing so. It’s always inspiring to hear the quality of the players who come, and interesting to hear the reactions of my colleagues on the committee. I suspect that most of the candidates weren’t giving much thought to presenting “who they are” as cellists.  Or making sure that their “aesthetic” came through.

Honestly, when …