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Showing posts from March, 2015

Your Body is the Instrument

For whatever reason, on Thursday I only had one and a half cups of coffee.  I had had a sleepless night earlier in the week, and didn’t want to risk another, so when I realized that it was late afternoon and that I had completely forgotten to make the second (and third) morning pot, I decided to go without.  Figured I’d risk a groggy rehearsal in favor of a healthy sleep that night.
That turned out to be an enormous mistake.  I was playing with the Illinois Philharmonic, and the menu for that evening was The Chairman Dances, by John Adams, and while there’s not a technically difficult measure in the whole piece, it’s relentlessly hard to play correctly.  The minimalist harmonies give you no help, and all of the entrances are off the beat unpredictably, and the subtly shifting rhythms require intense focus.  And I didn’t have it.  I had practiced the part, but not enough to pull it off with my brain drooping.  I SOUNDED like a bad player.  The second oboe nailed it but I was not there…

Making Change

I’ve been working on changing my reeds to make my sound bigger and deeper.  Specifically, I’m lessening the steepness of the rooftop, shortening the tip, and scraping more out of the bottom of the heart.  And that’s the last of the technical reed details I’ll enumerate in this post, so do read on even if you’re not immediately hooked by my opening paragraph!
The positive result of this change is that my playing seems to be more free and open, and my attacks are more reliable in all registers.  The negative result is that I don’t quite love the core of the sound as much as I used to. In the ensemble it works great, but when I play alone I find it a little jarring.  A little unlike me. I don’t like the way I sound on the tuning A, for example, and that’s sometimes the most important solo of the concert.
The other thing that I’ve noticed is that it takes diligence to keep up with the change.  I hear the difference and like it, but an equipment change needs to happen in combination with …

Upcoming Concert: in Michigan

This week I’ve been working with the West Michigan Symphony, playing Beethoven’s 4th Symphony and the Shostakovich Cello Concerto. The commute is long - that’s the downside - so I’ve had to reschedule most of my students and accept the short short nights that come along with Zoe’s early morning getting-ready-for-kindergarten needs. But on the upside, I get to play with my husband - Steve is on this gig with me, for a change - and I’m having such a great time working with the orchestra!
It’s a treat to play under Scott Speck.  He’s got a calm and low-key approach, and he knows what he wants the orchestra to sound like.  He works efficiently - even before tonight’s dress rehearsal I feel that the group is very well prepared and I know exactly what’s being asked of me in every section.  We know what to listen for in each passage and how he wants it played.  He’s scholarly about the material, but not to a tiresome degree.  I get the sense that he knows more than he shares with us, and th…

The Good Lessons

Solo and Ensemble competition is over now for my middle and high school students.  We’re starting my favorite part of the cycle - the actual IMPROVEMENT part.
Every fall, the students draggle in to lessons as marching band ends, and by the time we really start working people are already in mid semester and busy and stressed.  We begin learning a solo, and I strive to keep things balanced, with some etude work and scale work in each lesson, but by wintertime people tend to bring in the same solo week after week after week, broken up sometimes by band music or urgent all-state audition material.
I understand this.  Solo and Ensemble happens in early February, and is the big event of the lesson calendar for most of my students.  Even though we have oboe classes and do mock performances, and even though we do a spring recital together, the fact that this competition is JUDGED and that you could potentially advance to STATE and that all of their band friends and colleagues are worked up f…