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Showing posts from May, 2015

Everything is Awesome

I was going to call this post Ben Folds is Awesome, then it evolved into Mahler is Awesome, and now I'm thinking it's just all awesome...

Last weekend we performed for the 150th anniversary of the founding of South Bend.  Our Sesquicentennial.  Or something like that.  The South Bend Symphony played on a big outdoor stage, backing up Ben Folds, who was phenomenal.

It didn't surprise me that his songs were great.  I was pleased that the orchestral arrangements were expertly put together and easy to follow, which is not always the case.  I wasn't surprised that he was a superb live performer who really brought the audience along with him through every song.  I was, however, surprised and delighted at just how gracious he was to the audience about our orchestra.

Normally, when we have a guest performer, they own the stage for a couple of hours, and give the orchestra a bow at the end of the first act and perhaps say a nice word or two before the last number.  "Let&#…

Seeing Support

When I played Eric Ewazen's Down a River of Time a few weeks ago at a small house concert, the number one comment I got for the audience members - over and over - was "How does a little tiny person like you produce so much sound?" It struck me as a really strange thing to comment on. But this past week, as I played Porgy and Bess with the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra, I  began to understand it.

Because our large choir necessitated a complex arrangement on stage, I was seated very close to the front. We had two wonderful vocal soloists, and as I watched them from not very far away, I was reminded of how impressive good support is. Kim Jones, the soprano, is not a large person.  She would take a deep breath, collect her body, and produce an enormous, rich, vibrant, shimmering sound out of seemingly nowhere. It looked effortless.

I know what it feels like to produce that kind of air with that kind of support. It feels like your whole lower body is engaged and invol…

Being Nervous for Solos

Hello, my name is [XXXX]. I'm kinda new at the oboe and solos are my biggest problems. I'm also a freshman in high school so I'm not used to the large band group. I've had several solos but it's all still new to me. So is there any advice you can give me about playing solos or not being so scared to play them?

Hi, [XXXX].  I’m so glad that you got in touch - I love meeting oboists, whether virtually or in person!

Without knowing you, it's hard to know exactly what advice to give - but here are two (related) ways I might approach being nervous about solos.

The first suggestion is about the solos themselves.  Make sure that you REALLY know how to play them.  If you are struggling with rhythms or notes, that will make you even more nervous.  Bring them to your teacher, if possible. Practice at home, in private, so you can work out the kinks. Use a metronome and make sure that you understand exactly where the beats should fall.  If your solo starts off the click, …

Learn to Make Reeds this Summer!

Calling all oboe students, teachers, and parents!

Is anyone else frustrated with reed-making?  It seems as though there is never enough time during oboe lessons to really get a handle on this difficult skill, and during the busy season it's hard to make time to practice it, too. You can read and analyze as much as you want, but there’s really no substitute for practical experience making dozens of reeds under the watchful eye of a teacher.

This summer I will once again run my Oboe Reed Boot Camp.  I will assemble a group of oboists - beginners as well as advancing reedmakers - and really take the time to start off right.  We will do a full twelve hours of reed drills, games, and competitions, and have everyone turning out playable, finished reeds by the end.

Sometimes you may hesitate to scrape because you dread ruining an expensive piece of cane -  I supply all of the cane, thread, and staples, to maximize your courage.

This year I’m excited to add another layer of value to the …

Upcoming Concert: Gershwin

The Northwest Indiana Symphony has an all-Gershwin concert this Thursday night.  An American in Paris, Rhapsody in Blue, and the Porgy and Bess Concert Suite.  Our piano soloist is outstanding, and I have no doubt that the vocalists will be marvelous too (we meet them tonight).

I rave about Gershwin every time his music comes up for me, and this enjoyable week is no exception.  The music is great, the orchestra is sounding good, and I'd love to see the GIGANTIC Star Plaza Theater filled for this concert.

Details HERE.


Musing: Playing vs Talking

I had a wonderful time rehearsing the Prokofiev Quintet for our last Musicians for Michiana concert, at the end of April.  My colleagues were AMAZING, came with their A games, and were prepared and ready to work every time we got together.

I found that there was a big difference in rehearsal style between the wind players that I'm accustomed to working with and the string players in the group.  Strings just plain play more in rehearsal.  We'd run a movement, without stopping, and then talk about what we needed to do differently.  Then, where wind players would have either played a few tiny spots to try out ideas or just marked their parts and moved on, this group played the whole movement again.  And again, if necessary.  It surprised me a bit each time, though I was perfectly happy to do it and it ABSOLUTELY helped us to learn this difficult and unfamiliar work as an ensemble.

I think I attribute this difference to a couple of factors.

One is physical - wind instruments ar…

Upcoming Concert - Stravinsky and Copland

We are playing Stravinsky's Rite of Spring this weekend with the South Bend Symphony, and it's so much fun to work on!  Besides the fact that it is an AMAZING piece of music and that I love the primitive driving beats and creepy sounds, it's got some techniques that make me stretch my playing and I love that.

First of all, there's the flutter tonguing.  It's not that crazy a thing to do, but it doesn't come up that much in orchestral playing.  Effectively, I roll my tongue into the back of my throat and spin my soft palate, as if I was purring at my cat or growling at a dog, all the while playing the oboe.  It makes the notes gurgle and flutter.  What I'm finding challenging is starting and stopping that flutter - I can easily do the technique in isolation, setting my mouth up and preparing and then surging into the chromatic passages Stravinsky requests.

We're playing a reduced version of the score, with three wind players instead of five in each sect…

Summer options for High School Students

Are there any high school oboists reading this blog?  I wanted to let you know that IN ADDITION to Oboe Reed Boot Camp which will be in South Bend and at Valparaiso University in June and July and open to oboists of all ages, I will be teaching at two fantastic camps this summer.  
The Dake Summer Music Academy will take place here in South Bend at the end of June. It's five busy days of chamber music, seminars, masterclasses, conducting classes, and orchestra, all working closely with the great principal musicians of the South Bend Symphony Orchestra.  I always enjoy this camp enormously, partly because my colleagues are SO good, and partly because I love coaching chamber music and meeting new oboists. The other great benefit of this experience is that it is SUPER affordable, although you do have to be able to commute there daily all week.  
I will also be teaching this July at the terrific Pine Mountain Music Festival in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula. The Honors Orchestra…