Skip to main content

My IDRS Conference Day One

The International Double Reed Society is holding its annual conference this week in Appleton, WI.

I arrived on campus Tuesday afternoon, having missed the first day of recitals, just in time to settle in and attend the first evening's Gala Concert.  Six soloists, six concertos - and a lot of inspiration.  I want to have the sweetness, dynamic range, and effortless projection of Peter Cooper, and I want to be as superhuman as Jose Antonio Masmano.  And I want to play his concerto, over and over again every night - Legacy, by Oscar Navarro, was a knock-out piece.  Just stunning.

I woke up early on Wednesday morning, went for a walk, drank my coffee, and headed straight back to campus to hear more performances.  Celeste Johnson was just about perfect - I loved her sound, her intonation, her repertoire choices.  Courtney Miller performed a recital as a duo with a dancer/choreographer, and the project was beautiful, breathtaking, exciting.  Joseph Salvalaggio presented two educational works he'd developed himself, and I wondered what I had been doing with my life.  As I left his performance, I was overcome with a wave of imposter syndrome, and a level of panic set in.

I'm performing Saturday morning at this conference.  It's a brand new program for me - only about 25 minutes of music, but difficult stuff that I haven't had the chance to workshop in front of people before.  (I'll be developing it into a full recital to tour in the Fall).  I am excited about it but good GOLLY there are a lot of great players here, and I was not at all sure that I could measure up.

But action counters negative emotions, or so I've always found, so instead of playing with my phone for 15 minutes before lunch time I found a practice room and soothed my nerves with some calm, steady long tones.  Start the note perfectly cleanly, as softly as you can.  Could it be softer?  Could it be clearer?  Could it be more perfect?  Crescendo for 8 slow beats, diminuendo for 8, and let the note disappear like smoke rising from a candle.  Could it have been better?  Do it again. Is that all the forte I have on that note?  Is that as nice a taper as I can make?  How about the pacing - is it as even from 8 to 1 as it was from 1 to 8?

I didn't touch my actual repertoire until much later in the day, after dinner, but I did feel immediately better.  More stable, more level-headed.  And while I'm still not so sure how my performance will go, I do know that I can play the oboe, that I am prepared, and that here at the Double Reed Conference I am among friends and allies.  No one is actually perfect, and everyone is just trying to do the best they can and be the best they can be. I'll fit right in.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Discouraging Words

I can remember at least two old cranky violinists coming to talk to young me about NOT going into music.  There was a session, for example, during a Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra retreat in which a real RPO professional (who was probably 47 but whom I remember as ancient) told us that, statistically, no one who graduates from music school wins auditions for jobs because there are only like 4 jobs out there in the world and 7000 hotshots coming into the job market every week. 

Quit NOW. 

I may have misremembered the details of this speech, but I remember the emotional jolt.  It was designed to discourage.

Last weekend I was presenting at a Double Reed Festival, and heard some oboists grumbling about another presenter who had evidently given something of the same talk to a roomful of masterclass attendees and participants.  High school students and cheerful adult amateurs.

And look, there's an element of truth to this.  Classical music is not a growing field, and it is leg…

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…

Self-Talk

When we started the opera cycle (An American Dream, showing at the Harris Theater tonight and Sunday afternoon), the four woodwinds were sitting stacked in a rehearsal room.  In other words, the flute to my right, the bassoon behind me, the clarinet behind the flute, just like in the orchestra.  And it was OK.  We were fairly close together, the room was resonant, and we were working on orchestral details.  But when we moved into the pit, this seating felt VERY isolating.  The four of us were far apart, on two different levels, the wall was right next to me, and intonation and ensemble were very much more difficult.  Our entrances and releases were not clean together, and because we had to balance to the singers on stage, I found my playing getting more and more tentative.  Don't be too loud, don't come in early before the clarinet, keep everything in the box, try to lead the entrances but stay in the texture... And it felt like everything that was not quite great was my fault…