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Reed Mindset

In our dress rehearsal Saturday morning I became aware of just how GREAT my reed was. It felt so EASY to play the oboe.I could come in perfectly softly, with or without a strong attack.I could enter loudly and in tune, with or without accent.My pitch was centered, my tone was attractive.I could taper right off the ends of notes EXACTLY as I needed to.And all of these things just felt RIGHT.It’s so unusual to have a reed that I didn’t have to MANAGE, that I didn’t have to keep an awareness of in the back of my head, that I didn’t have to massage in certain registers or dynamics.I could just THINK a musical gesture and then DO it, without compromise.It was a fantastic feeling.
RIGHT IMMEDIATELY behind that awareness of my great reed came anxiety.How terrible would it feel when I inevitably had to return to a lesser reed?When this one died?How could I ever make something THIS GOOD again?WHAT IF my concert reed tonight was LESS GOOD, could I perform as well as I was doing right now? Shou…

Open Arms

In rehearsal last night, the concertmaster suggested to the strings that they play with a more open bow arm. I don’t know precisely what that phrase means to a string player - if it’s a technical term or more of a kinetic metaphor - but it immediately set my mind spinning.
When I am playing my best, I do feel open. I feel that there’s a lovely big halo of air around me, like the space surrounding me is part of the physical act. I feel spaciousness in my chest and softness in my elbows and I’m grounded through my chair or my feet but everything else is lifted and filled with air and space and ROOM. I have open arms.
This sensation - or the lack of it - stood out to me in my first Dreams and Visions performance last week. I have since listened back to the recording, and honestly things didn’t go all that badly - but I FELT bad in the moment. I started getting a lot of water in the instrument, I got flustered, and I got into my own head about it - and my usual expansive body awarene…

Shaq and the Oboe

Here’s my FAVORITE thing about that Shaquille O'Neal video everyone's sharing this week - it’s how HAPPY he is playing this silly game and how little he CARES what the oboe actually SOUNDS LIKE or how to play it. 
Almost as if the oboe is not a giant obstacle to overcome.

Instead of focusing on the CRAFT of the instrument, the precise fingerings, the quality of the sound, the finesse of the vibrato - his focus is on DELIVERING the SONG.   It’s on COMMUNICATION, not perfection.


What a LIBERATING concept!


When I am playing my best, I find that I can surpass the STRUGGLE and come to a place where my focus is on communication.   I can sing through the instrument, and I can use that voice to reach out and find someone else.  This is really what being In the Zone means for me - it's when I don’t have to engage with the OBOE and instead can be generous with my VOICE for the audience.


I seek and strive for this Zone all the time - it’s the whole point of practicing! I practice long…