Skip to main content

Work/Life Balance, AGAIN. Again.

I love to work. 

I’m happy playing in orchestras, and would gladly do so every single week, but some weeks are slow, and some months. 

I enjoy teaching.  The challenge of finding the right words to inspire incremental improvements in many different people is a fascinating one which uses many facets of my brain and gives me pleasure. 

I am proud of my reed business.  It’s grown enormously since I started it 16 years ago, and I get to pour my entrepreneurial spirit into it.  Plus, I pretty much always have good reeds to play on since I’m making so many every day. 

I love my annual recital tour, which keeps me learning (and inventing) new repertoire and gives me my spotlight fix.  And I’m ecstatic about Musicians for Michiana, my new chamber music series, which is forging new connections in the community and just being a lot of fun along the way. 

I also adore my daughter, and here’s the challenge.  When the orchestra work is slow, I worry about our family’s income, so I run a reed special, or accept additional students beyond my self-imposed limit.  These things give me a feeling of control and provide stability for our finances.  When things get busy again, though, and I string together multiple weeks of heavy playing, it’s a real struggle to keep up with my teaching and reed commitments, and I sometimes worriy that Zoe won’t even remember me in her memories of childhood.  She will remember watching movies or going out for treats with her daddy, and that there was some lady, somewhere in a back room, grumbling and scraping at little pieces of damp wood instead of playing with her.

I do exaggerate somewhat.  Most afternoons I’m able to play with Zoe, and practice cello with her, and sometimes we cook together.  Now that it’s spring, we’ve resumed our habits of after-dinner walks, and I get her up for breakfast and school every morning. It’s just that I work ALL the rest of the time, and next week is scaring me.

I’m traveling this weekend.   Because I’m out of town through Monday, I had to move all of my Monday students to Friday.  But my week was empty so that didn’t seem like a big deal.  Then, a colleague asked me to play a quintet gig on Thursday.  I wasn’t busy, so of course I agreed.  I accepted a church gig for Sunday morning, and then suddenly I was asked to play a concert in Chicago on Wednesday and Saturday.  Couldn’t turn THAT down, so suddenly all my Wednesday students needed to be rescheduled.  At this point, there is a student in every single nook and cranny this week, and multiple long commutes, and OH, first I’m flying across the country for an audition.

I love every single thing I do - but I won’t see Zoe from Saturday morning til Tuesday night, and not on Wednesday after she leaves for school, and barely on Thursday, and I MIGHT make it home on Friday in time for her bath, maybe.  And none of this planning includes reed-making, which will inevitably take place during the “grown-up” time after she goes to bed and before I collapse exhausted into mine.  When do I, for example, visit with my husband, whom I love?

Here’s what I know.  In the summer we will have all the time in the world.  We are planning on camping, and swimming, and hiking all summer long, interrupted only by a few isolated outdoor concerts and perhaps some lessons and a week of Reed Boot Camp.  But is that adequate, compared to this kind of craziness?  I’ve always thought that since I work largely from home and have a flexible schedule, I was a more present parent than one who works long hours away from home, but I do feel like I’ll be an absent mom this week. 

I don’t know how to do it better.


Popular posts from this blog


When my students get too MOUTHY with the oboe, I put them in a corner.


They tend to play the oboe only from the TOP of their body, north of the collarbone, and it winds up unsupported.  Fussy.  Weak.  And out of tune.

So I back them into a corner, and have them stand a foot or so out from it, facing out into the room.  And I challenge them to find a sound that resonates BEHIND them, out from the corner of the room that they are not facing, to fill the space without blowing directly into the space.

It's a weird metaphor.  I wouldn't have any idea how to describe the physical technique to do it. When I find it in myself, it feels like my back is puffy and my body is round, and large, and barrel like, and also collected and zipped up, and supremely powerful.  If you know me, you know that these statements about my body aren't remotely true.  But that's what I feel when I'm blowing well, and filling the room, and owning my resonance.

I teach resonance.  I talk …

Five Minute Reedmaker: Length of the Windows

My Five Minute Reedmaker Season Two seems to be largely about experiments.  People ask me how LONG, how THICK, how SLOPED, etc - and I'm running the experiments for them and for you.

I've been posting these videos on YouTube, and sharing them from my Facebook Page, but haven't totally kept up with sharing here on my blog.

Here are the ones you may have missed:
Length of the Heart
Fallacy of the Long Tip
Moldy Cane

And here's the new one:

Here's the YouTube playlist with all of my other Five Minute Reedmaker videos.  You could subscribe right there if you wanted to - I'm dropping a video each week until I run out of ideas this season.
Here's my website, where you can order reeds or cane or ask me questions.  Questions will keep these videos flowing! 

Here's how you can send me your own reeds to analyze and improve on video for your learning pleasure!

Generosity in Programming

I had the most interesting conversations with a few of my students after my first recital performance last weekend.  One thanked me for exposing her to so many interesting new pieces that she had never heard before.  One admitted unabashedly that his favorites were the familiar ones, the ones he already knew from his previous listening.  And both of these observations rang true to me.

See, I LOVE learning new music.  I really enjoy digging into a piece and breaking through an unfamiliar harmonic language to get to the depths of it.  To discover the composer's intention, and to find the universal emotion or experience at the heart of the work, and then to communicate that meaning back out to an audience.  This challenge is fun for me, and I think I do it well.

I have to be fair, though.  By the time I have put that kind of work into a new piece, it's not new to me anymore.  By the time I get it to the recital stage, it's an old friend.  I find great pleasure in performing i…