Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A bit of a slump

Soon as I posted all my wonderful goals for my second year of oboe playing I ran into a week of finals and then a nasty slump (or was the slump a result of the week of finals). During the finals craziness I was unable to practice every day and when I did I could only go for about 30 minutes or so. I think I was too stressed out perhaps. Then once finals were over I felt too tired to "work" on practicing. Plus I had fallen out of habit and it felt a bit like starting over again.

So the last two weeks were hit or miss until tonight when I finally forced myself (with the help of the hubby) to resume my old practice habits. I got a good hour plus in and was feeling so much better by the end of it. My sound didn't suffer tremendously from the craziness of the last few weeks but my fingers did feel a bit stiff and my embouchure tired easily. Maybe in a way this is a good thing. Maybe I will finally forget my old, wrong, smiley embouchure.

I've tried to keep a positive outlook regarding reeds but I feel that I must mention them as being at least partly at fault for my slump. I don't have a single good reed right now! I had been using one that my teacher made me in October and it is now officially dead. I should take a picture of it, it's pretty funny. It kept playing even though it was almost completely frayed. The ones that I started are all mediocre even though my teacher helped me finish them off. I think I was supposed to make further adjustments. Or perhaps I am tying them wrong. Today I ended up resurrecting my previous "wonder" reed. It has problems with some of the low notes and with the high A, but most everything else sounds nice and in tune. If I had had a nice reed during the last few weeks practicing could have been a nice outlet for me. I could have gone downstairs and just played a few tunes and called it a day. However, I knew that I had to contend with 10 bad reeds. How much fun is that when you're worried about synthesizing alkyl halides or transcription errors? I think I avoided the instrument partly because of the reed problem. Because I knew I would get frustrated which is exactly what happened each time I played. Our instrument is sooooooo beautiful when the reed just does what it's supposed to do. Why can't they all be wonder reeds?? *sniff sniff*

But anyway, now that I am no longer stressed out I was able to be more positive again and I tackled my fear and faced it and it wasn't half bad. Yes, I still have no good reeds, but I am still able to get some practicing in until I meet with my teacher on Saturday.

So guess what I will be doing tonight while I watch House?? Ding, ding, ding, 10 points for you if you guessed that I'll be tying new reeds.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


I heard something I really liked on Monday night as I was driving home from one of my finals. It was Dvorak's "Serenade for Winds in d, opus 44". Simply amazing!

I am really startig to think that it might actually be better to play in a smallish ensemble than in a big orchestra. I mean I would still love to play a symphony but there is so much out there for smaller ensembles, pieces which really showcase all the instruments and which sound like a lot of fun to play.

Someday! I've been bad bad bad with my practicing because of finals. I need to get back on track!

But first I must catch up on sleep. I've gotten around 16 hours for the last 4 nights combined.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Oboe anniversary

December was usually a busy month at work as all the client teams were involved in year-end processing. In spite of all the work I had, I remembering running out of work early on this day last year. I *had* to get to Greenwich before 6 and the weather was a bit crazy that day. A few weeks before this I had decided I would try out an oboe and had finally found a place that had one. My oboe was waiting for me at Greenwich Music so long as I got there by 6.

I did get there on time and so I drove the rest of the way home with an old Selmer oboe (and two store bought reeds) as my passenger(s). I had downloaded a little "how to play the oboe" book from the Fox website and it was what helped me take those first steps.

I played three notes that day: B, A, and G, all of which were horrendously out of tune and all of which sounded like a cross between a bagpipe, a kazoo, and a goose. I was undeterred, however, and with those three notes I began a wonderful new journey.

When I told my friends I was thinking of playing oboe most of them warned me of all the hardships that lay ahead. Because of the dire warnings, I had very low expectations. I figured it would be years before I could even play scales. And maybe 10-20 years to play in an orchestral setting. It's a wonder I took up the instrument at all, me being as impatient as I am. But for whatever reason it passed the trial and since December 9, 2004 there has not been a day that I have not at least thought about the oboe.

So today I've been playing oboe for a year and I'm happy to report that things are going much better than I initially expected. Though I only played 3 notes that first day within a month I was playing almost two octaves. I was able to start on scales within months, not years. I still need to work on even-ing out the sound of my scales (oboes have some notes that can sound pretty funky if you're not careful) but as of right now they are pretty much in tune and decently clean. I've been practicing scales with up to 4 flats or sharps. With the help of my new teacher, I've learned a lot about reed making (though I'm not completely independent yet) and have been working hard on correcting my embouchure. My sound has definitely progressed to something more oboe-like. Every once in a while I'll be playing something and it actually sounds nice. That's the best feeling in the world!

I've already started playing with some friends who play other woodwinds and I no longer think it will take 10-20 years to play in a community orchestra. Maybe just 5. I should also mention that I eventually bought my very own Lorée oboe.

I am pumped because though the going has felt slow on a day to day basis I see now that I have advanced pretty nicely this year.

For the coming year these are my goals:
* To finally nail the correct embouchure consistently.
* To practice more consistently and for longer periods of time. I averaged an hour a day every day this year but I know that I can do way better. There were probably only 20 days or so during the entire year where I didn't practice at all. I want that total to be less than 10 for next year. Also I want to bring up my practice time to two hours a day minimum.
* To work on all scales: adding the ones with 5-7 accidentals, working more on minor scales, and doing arpeggios. I need to work on an even tone in all registers and on consistent intonation. I also need to work on speeding things up.
* To work on dynamics and articulation.
* To start working on some of the easy pieces from the standard oboe repertoire.
* To get close to being independent with reed making (hopefully my teacher will only need to make minor adjustments to the reed I bring in).
* To attend a Summer chamber music festival (I'm applying to applehill).
* To perform with my friends (as a duo, trio, or quartet) at small functions.
* I may even audition for the Wind Ensemble next September depending on how I am sounding by then. They only have 1 oboe right now!

So there you have it. A recap of my first year as an oboist. I am even more passionate about it than when I first started and an ever thankful for finally finding my life's love.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Early morning update

On Thursday I went to Carnegie Hall. Remember those tickets I bought back when I was still employed? The Chicago Symphony was in town to play Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante (the wind one) and Bruckner's 5th Symphony. I hadn't ever heard the Bruckner, but the Mozart (but was it really his?) is one of my favorite pieces ever. I've probably already written this a few times but here goes. I got my "I must play in an orchestra before I die" bug around this time last year. I needed to pick up a new instrument and figured I'd stay in the woodwind family. I immediately eliminated the flute because I had never been able to produce sound on it and I had heard that bassoons were really expensive (plus they looked so big) so I eliminated that too. I was familiar with the clarinet since I had one at home, but I was vaguely aware that there was one other instrument. Oh yeah, the oboe. By this time I had already fallen in love with the sound of the English Horn and was slowly starting to listen to more oboe music too. At first I couldn't really distinguish it well so I ended up listening to a lot of Baroque oboe concertos. However, I didn't immediately warm up to the Baroque sound and almost got completely turned off by it. Anyway, so around one year ago I looked through my Classical CD collection to see if I had anything featuring an oboe. I had interned at Sony many years ago and they gave out free CDs. No one ever picked up the Classical ones so by the end of the Summer I had over 100! The only thing featuring an oboe was a CD of Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante. I loved the piece from the get go. It was so lively yet delicate. Since it also features a clarinet, I couldn't always tell it apart from the oboe at first, but with time I was better able to distinguish the sound. I think I listened to that piece every single day last November in order to decide which instrument I'd play. I would always enjoy the clarinet lines, but once the oboe came in it would feel like I was being bathed in sunlight (by the way, it's John de Lancie on my recording). Though I didn't make my official decision until after some trial lessons, this piece was just as pivotal to me as the Swan of Tuonela. So when I saw that it was going to be played at Carnegie, I had to see it.

Boy was I in for a surprise. Of course I assumed that the Chicago Symphony would be good. But guess who was the oboe soloist?????? Alex Klein!!

I guess I should have known. The thought did cross my mind at some point but I wasn't sure if he was still affiliated with them at all. I got there early and was reading the program and when I saw his name my excitement rose to fever pitch. I wanted to tell everyone around me "OMG, Alex Klein is going to play this!". That's when I regretted buying the cheap ass tickets I got (and forgetting my binoculars). Oh well.

Sooooo the performance ended up being extra special because he is indeed a fantabulous player. Hehe, I even made up a word. I couldn't find absolutely any fault in his playing. His intonation was absolutely perfect. Even on that one really high note near the end of the piece. His sound was very beautiful though they were all playing in that sort of bright, Mozart style. What impressed me the most was his expression. Sometimes when you get so used to a specific recording you can't immediately appreciate a different interpretation. I was initially worried about that, but my worries were unfounded. I am still a complete novice at phrasing, etc. but know that I play a little better I guess I have more concrete ideas about how I feel the lines. His interpretation of them was very gratifying to me. I was expecting him to play it kind of strictly but he seemed to have a lot of fun with it and was way more expressive. For example on the kind of hairy part in the first movement (the part that's in minor and in sixteenth notes I believe) he started it off with just the slightest bit of rubato. Not sure how to explain this well, it was as though he very slightly elongated the very first note of that phrase. It was so great because it gave it tension and a lot of momentum. Ahh I had such a wonderful time (even though the conductor tended to rush a lot of the horn solos). What a wonderful and memorable rendition. I feel so lucky to have had a chance to hear him play.

I won't talk much about the Bruckner well because I went in not knowing anything about it and I feel the same way even after having listened to it. I had only gotten 2 hours of sleep the night before so maybe that hampered the experience for me. All I remember is that it was pretty long. Mahler is long, but I've really enjoyed his music. I think I need to listen to this Bruckner again. All I remember is that the brass was really loud. And that the principal oboist of the Chicago Symphony has a lovely, lovely dark sound.

Regarding my own travails: I am still struggling to get back into things after the Double Reed Day, a bout of illness, and three midterms. My practicing has gone out of kilter and my reed making has grinded to a halt. I have a lesson again on Wednesday so I am hoping my teacher can help me get back on track. I am very saddened by this turn of events but am confident that I can make it work because this is still what I want the most. Lately I have been feeling that absolutely everything is up in the air and that I barely know myself some days. But my desire to be the best oboist I can be is still there, burning brightly and very strong. I just need to get over this hurdle. I need to learn how to manage my time, pronto. It is totally doable to get my hour, maybe two, in every day. One thing that should help is that the quartet might start meeting again in two weeks.

Oh and the grades are in!!
Organic Chemistry: A-
Bio Lab Practical: A-
Biology: B-

Not too bad. I was most excited about the Orgo grade because I really needed it. Bio was a tiny bit disappointing especially since I had changed some answers which had I left would have resulted in a B/B+.

I hope that all my readers (hopefully you guys are still out there) are well.


Thursday, October 27, 2005



They're over!

Exams are over. At least for another 2.5 weeks. :-)

Happy times are here again tralalalalalalala!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

One more thought

I just have to say that this feeling of "brain exhaustion" is actually pleasant and addicting. It was exactly what was missing from my job before. It's no easy feat to study this much, but it feels so satisfying to actually be using that hunk of meat between my ears. I didn't realize it would take this much to actually tire it out though hahaha.

But, in all seriousness, I am very happy to have the opportunity to do this. To be in this country and not somewhere where women are treated like second class citizens. To be able to return to my alma mater, almost all expenses paid. To have the support of my loved ones though they don't quite understand what I have gotten myself involved in.

Not many people will have the chance to start over. It may never be fiscally feasible. Or may not be possible for a variety of other reasons. In my own case I had to work out a lot of issues before I was able to take the plunge. I am still so very happy I am trying this. Even after these past few weeks. I am thankful to God for the opportunity and for the strength He is granting me day to day in this path (I really need it).

Now I just need some extra lighting so that I know which way to go at the fork that lies ahead.

Running on empty

By this time tomorrow I will be done with tests. For about three weeks anyway.

Can someone please remind me . . . drill it into my thick skull, show me pictures of the circles under my eyes . . . that it would be a good idea to keep up with my courses as they go along instead of cramming a month's worth of work into about a third of the time.

For whatever reason I had been avoiding sitting down and working through the lecture notes/readings to understand things, especially for Biology. I was intimidated by the material because it had seemed so difficult in class. But I've come to realize over the past few days that the concepts aren't that hard at all. Everything fits together really nicely and the amount of hours it took to go from "huh" to "oh, I get it" were a lot less than I anticipated. Had I known this beforehand perhaps I wouldn't have procrastinated as much. 9:45 PM the night before the test should NOT be when I finally complete my thorough review of the lecture notes. That should have happened a week ago and I should have been simply reviewing for a week, not cramming in new material less then 24 hours before the test.

Amazingly, I am doing so much better than how I did as an undergrad. And to be fair to myself I did have three tests all in a week. I actually started studying two weeks ago, it's just that Bio was the last one so it was the one that kept getting put off.

Let's hope I have finally learned my lesson. The stuff is definitely challenging but it's not like I won't EVER get it. If I just put the time in, it will sink in. And it's much better if I put in 4 hours every day instead of two weeks worth of 12 hour days. Have you any idea how it feels to be thinking Biology for 8-10 hours at a time. Forcing my mind back to Bio from its fanciful departures is torture. I miss my fantasizing. UGH. If I have to see the word "pyruvate" again it will be too soon.

The main reason I need to stop procrastinating in school is so that my music doesn't pay the price for it. Poor little Luna has not gotten enough attention from me over the last two to three weeks. It all started after the Double Reed Day. The inside of my upper lip was sore for days. I have decent sized teeth and even if I am not biting on the reed my teeth are against my lips while I am playing. With the amount of playing I did that day I am pretty sure I was biting by the end of it, so I had tiny teeth marks in there. I gave myself a two day break from practicing but that and the upcoming tests lead for me to get off schedule. I've been playing more like every other day this month which sucks! But as of this week I've been back on track and playing every day, working back up to an hour. It's crazy how your chops start failing if you don't exercise them every day. *sigh* At least today I felt a bit more comfortable with the embouchure again. But I am having trouble with intonation. Hmm, let's blame the reed! Yeah, that's it. :-p

I hope to make an update on what I'm working on musically over the weekend. Now back to pyruvate.

Monday, October 24, 2005

2 down, 1 to go

*sigh of relief*

I just got out of my Orgo exam! *applause*

What an intense experience it was studying for that test. I studied Organic for about 12 hours a day for the last 3 days (in addition to the work I had done previously). My brain feels like mush. And the bad news is that I still have Bio to contend with. And unlike with Orgo I am both behind in Bio and don't enjoy studying it.

Then again this was the same predicament I was in last time and I ended up doing much better on the Bio exam.

I think I did ok on the Orgo. At least I was able to formulate answers for each of the questions. It's really frustrating that our professor likes to give super difficult tests in order to have a wide range of scores. Going through such tests can be very demoralizing. It wasn't like that this time, but it certainly was like that for the first test.

So in about 3 more days I will be able to leave the 7th circle of hell and take a break from the hard core studying. WOO HOO! I can't wait!!

By the way I think I found a group that I might be able to play with soon! Our school has a wind ensemble. They had a Halloween concert on Saturday and since I was on campus studying I got to see them rehearse. I wasn't sure what to expect. To be honest, I thought they'd be a bit smaller. They have something like 10 clarinets, 1 bass clarinet, 3 bassoons, 6 flutes, 3 tubas, 3 euphoniums, about 10 trumpets and trombones, and 1 oboe. Yes, 1 lonely little oboe! I went up to her and asked her if there were others and the first words out of her mouth were "Are you an oboist?". Tee hee! I told her I started playing recently and she said that perhaps I could audition next year, but one of the clarinetists next to her told me I should try out for next semester instead. Next semester will be even more grueling for me so I may have to wait until September 2006 anyway, but regardless I was excited about the group. It's not quite the wonderful sonority of a well balanced orchestra, but it might be a nice place to get my feet wet. I'm not sure if I'd be able to hear myself at all though. Let's see what happens. :-)

Glycolysis, here I come!!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Staying alive, staying alive

YAY! A breather. I miss being able to blog every day. These days I may not get on a computer at all. The days of spending 10 hours sitting in the same chair staring at my monitor seem so far away now. Like a dream. In fact it feels like those entire 8 years were a dream and that now I've woken up to my real life. Only bad thing is I'm 8 years older hahah! Seriously, though I may whine about feeling overwhelmed I still prefer this 10000 times to what I was doing before. I can't even believe that I did that for so long!

We're just about halfway done with the semester already. And you know what that means - MIDTERMS!! The reason I have a few seconds to type this up right now is that I took my first one tonight. It was for Biology Lab. I may have mentioned before that we dissected fetal pigs. We also spent some time doing some histology (looking at tissues under slides). Our midterm consisted of 30 "stations". At each station was either a microscope or a pig (or part of one). The 10 microscope stations had unidentified slides in them. We had to first identify the tissue (e.g. kidney vs. pancreas). Then we had to identify what the structure the microscope pointer was pointing to. There were also some function questions like "what is the function of the cells in part a?" The pig stations had 5 pins each. Each pin would be set within a structure that we needed to identify (If you want to see VERY graphic pictures of it go here, but be warned that they may be disturbing). We were quizzed on absolutely everything from major organs, exotic side views, and every single artery/vein. Oh, and we were given only 90 seconds at each station. Boy, did those minutes and a half fly! After that stressful hour we then had an hour of essays. We were asked things like "describe the path that a CO2 molecule would take from the fetus's skull to outside the mother's nose" and "what are the ramifications of a fetus forming without a foramen ovale". I am sooooo glad that test is over. Though it is technically the easiest of my three midterms it was also the most stressful one because of the format of the test. I think I fared out ok which is good because I'm hoping that motivates me for all the studying that lies ahead. I have to study a good 8-10 hours each day for the next week. *gulp*

My Organic chemistry exam is on Monday and Biology is on Thursday. I am loving the orgo material right now but our professor is notorious for making her tests impossible. The mean in our first one was a 52/100! So I need to overstudy. Biology will also be very difficult and long as we're doing the ugliest topics (glycolysis/Kreb's cycle in all their gory detail) . Oh and I am very behind in that class. So what else is new.

Speaking of being behind and feeling bad about myself. This morning I was in a particularly foul mood. When I got on campus I was overwhelmed by a desire to practice. I had my oboe with me because I was expecting to stay around late. So instead of going to the library to study for my upcoming test I checked into a walk-in practice room. I hadn't played in 3 days which is the longest non-playing stretch I've had since returning to school. As soon as I took out the instrument and played the first few notes I teared up. It was a mixture of sadness, hapiness, and rapture all at the same time. At that moment I was so grateful to be doing exactly what I wanted to be doing. I had missed my oboe so much and I was so happy that I was still able to play. I realized yet again how music is indeed my true love. It's going to be a continual and painful struggle for me to balance things so that I can make time for it. But for that moment time froze and it was just me and Luna. And the world seemed absolutely perfect. Even my reed cooperated with me during my session and did not sag in pitch in the upper register. I was able to get a nice, well-rounded 70 minute practice session in: long tones, scales, technical exercises, and an etude. I emerged from there feeling refreshed and at peace. This allowed me to devote 3 intense hours to going over the material before the exam. I went in with a much more positive attitude than I would have had I not practiced.

The dental vs. medical battle has been raging at full force ever since I've been back at school. Days like today I feel very strongly that though I may be more interested in medicine from an intelletual point of view, that I HAVE to follow the path which allows more favorable lifestyle (i.e. dentistry). Why is it so hard for me to let go of the physician thing and just settle into dentistry happily?

I just need more days like today where it is 100 percent clear what is most important to me. Because then the choice is obvious.

Anyway, today has been good. I had a nice practice session which invigorated me and I think I did ok on my first test. If I can get to next Thursday I will have yet another chance to get my butt in gear and stay on top of things so that I can play more.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Have oboe, will travel

I ended up driving 6 hours in heavy rain last Saturday in order to attend the Double Reed Day at Schenectady County Community College. Though I'm not sure if I would do that again, I am happy that I participated in the program.

Leading up to the event I was getting very nervous about whether I'd stand out in a bad way. I was pretty sure I'd be the worst one there and a part of me wondered what I had gotten myself into. Then I figured that there was no way it was going to be filled solely with prodigies or professionals.

The first session focused mostly on the English Horn. Though I have yet to ever hold one in my hands I definitely plan on playing EH some day. It is, after all, the reason why I even started the oboe in the first place. The session was pretty high level so it didn't go over my head. The presenter spoke about bocals, reeds, fingerings, and repertoire.

After that we attended a faculty recital. The following were played:

Vivaldi - Trio Sonata for Oboe and Bassoon
Mozart - Oboe Concerto (mvt. 1)
Beethoven - La Ci Darem Variations for 2 oboes and EH
as well as a couple of pieces for bassoon and piano

All the oboists had nice sound, though their embouchures were quite different. There are so many ways to peel this potato, I guess. The bassoon pieces were interesting but I felt like there was a lot of air hiss going on at times which detracted from the beauty of it. Is that normal for bassoons?

After lunch, I attended my very first master class. I didn't know what to expect; at first I was worried that I'd have to play. But my fears were unfounded. Two high school girls got to be in the hot seat. The first one worked on the first movement of the Mozart concerto. Picky little piece of music, isn't it? The student didn't have it all under her fingers yet but she did reasonably well. She had a nice sound and good intonation. The "master" (is that what you call them?) focused mostly on phrasing in her comments. It was very helpful to hear how real oboists think about phrasing and expression. I have definitely only scratched the surface with that. The second student worked on Saint Saens Oboe Sonata which is one of my favorites. She did stupendously on the second movement. The master thought so too; the only thing she thought she heard off was that one note sagged in pitch. I was amazed. That kid is 16 years old and has a superb sound and wonderful musicality.

Following the master class we attended a reed making session. By this point it had become apparent that I was most certainly the person with the least amount of time on the instrument. However, when it came to reeds I was actually way ahead of the pack. More than half of the players didn't even make their own reeds and another quarter of them were trying to get into reed making but were still pretty much clueless. I realized just how much I have learned from both of my teachers about reed making!

Next came the double reed ensemble rehearsal. In all we had the following numbers: about 20 oboes, 8 english horns, 12 bassoons, and a contrabassoon. This was my first time sitting in such a big section and I started getting very nervous. Like sweaty nervous. Not very good. With the humid conditions outside I was feeling like my reeds were mushy and a sense of panic came over me. Thankfully I was able to get myself together before we started playing. The conductor made a joke about who would give the starting pitch. Our first attempt at tuning was kind of scary. The sound was pretty strange and discordant. Eventually we managed to tune up. We practiced the Milhaud piece first. I had no idea how crazy the harmonies would be. No wonder some of it sounded off to me: parts of the piece were bitonal! Woah! Thankfully we didn't do it at the marked tempo of 138 so I was able to keep up with it. Either that or the adrenaline allowed me to play faster. The next piece was the Habanera. It turned out that the solos were assigned to a single player which was nice because I didn't have to worry about that high E-flat. Trying to play endless measures of staccato pp tired out my mouth. The last piece was the "Dog Day Tango" which was written by the composer. This one too had some strange harmonic ideas but it sounded better than I was expecting (my part seemed kind of boring when I'd practice it at home). There was one part in the beginning where he told us that only one oboe per stand should play it and I got to do it. Woohoo. That was sort of close to a solo. I realized that it's hard to hear yourself over a big group. I guess it's different in a real orchestra where the instrumentation is more balanced, but then you have to play over the brass. I was a bit frustrated that I couldn't hear myself but oh well.

Following that rehearsal we went into separate room for small ensembles. I'm not sure who's bright idea that was because I was too tired from the one hour non-stop big ensemble rehearsal. When I got to the small room I was greeted by water in my G key hole. That was a first for me. Now I understood why everyone kept blowing into the sides of their instruments. My small ensemble turned out to be an ob, ob, EH trio and we ended up working on the La Ci Darem variations. I didn't think I'd be able to catch up but somehow I was able to! The English Hornist commented that my sound is great for only playing for 10 months. And she was also impressed that I was able to keep up. Haha, so was I. Those variations were actually tons of fun. And after not being able to hear myself for an hour I welcomed the chamber music experience. Though I still want to play in an orchestra some day I think I will also want to be playing in a smaller ensemble as well. They're two totally different experiences I think. Anyway, those variations were so fun that I think I want to pick up the ob, clarinet, bassoon version. Only problem is that then I'd get stuck with the hard part. *gulp*

The last part of the program was the recital where we listened to the first and second movements of the Vaughan Williams Oboe Concerto and the Poulenc Trio for Oboe and Bassoon, among others. Both were great. We also got to perform our three little pieces for big double reed ensemble. I'd say it turned out well though I wonder what the audience made of the sonority. I guess I'll never know. I'm glad that's over though so that I don't have to work on those pieces anymore and can focus on my own stuff.

I found out that the 2007 IDRS conference might be in upstate New York so I will definitely try to attend that when the time comes.

All in all it was a great experience. It was fun to hang around so many other oboists. I realized that though I have a long way to go, I've already learned so much and have come a long way. Had I attended this event with the sound I had before I would have stuck out like a sore thumb. The fact that I was able to blend in was amazing and speaks a lot for how wonderful my teacher is. I am really so indebted to her for guiding me along the right path. The entire day I kept realizing just how much she's given me already. I am so thankful. I need to let her know that!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Back from the dark side of the moon . . .

. . . and boy was it an exhausting expedition.

September started out innocently enough. I was excited about *finally* being back in school full-time. I'd only been dreaming about it for the last 4 years or so. I bought all my books early and set up my study area at home. I bought breakfast foods so that I could grab something to eat before the commute in. Loads upon loads of laundry were done so that my student wardrobe would be all set. I was ready. Or so I thought.

The first thing that caught me off guard was physical exhaustion. I hadn't been that tired since the year I taught second grade. Like a big old nerd I was carrying two giant science textbooks along with some notebooks around. I had no clue how much walking I would be doing. According to the old NYC wisdom that 20 blocks equals a mile I was walking over a mile on some days. With the 30 pound backpack. The one hour commute each way probably had an impact too. All I know was that I was chronically tired those first two weeks.

Perhaps that's when I managed to start falling behind in my courses. I was studying at least a little bit every day so I felt that I was on top of things. But during the week of the 18th, things started to fall apart. I had both an Organic Chemistry and a Biology test coming up, on the 26th and 29th, respectively. When I sat down to figure out where I was at that week, I suddenly realized that I was not in good shape at all. A period of panic (but not much useful work) ensued.

I had an oboe lesson on Wednesday the 21st. I had been looking forward to it and was hoping it would help me recharge. Once we got the practice room door to finally open (there was an issue with my key) the lesson went off to a reasonably good start. But somewhere near the end I started struggling. At one point my teacher told me that I wasn't committed to doing the correct embouchure yet, that I could now form it but for some reason wasn't able to hold on to it. I was completely devastated. In hindsight I definitely read too much into it; she was just stating the obvious. But at that moment I felt like the world's biggest loser. I have been studying with her for a few months now and we've been talking about the embouchure since the second lesson. How could it be that I still hadn't managed to perfect it? I think I can say that the hour right after the lesson was the low point of my first month back at school. I walked out of the lesson with my little water container in hand (it was a baby food jar). Can you believe that it slipped out of my hand and onto the college steps, cracking in many pieces? I nearly lost it. I bent down and carefully picked up all the pieces and deposited them in a glass recycling bin and then I found a quiet corner on campus and wept. I felt just like that broken jar, shattered and useless. How could I still not be good at absolutely anything? It seemed that the only thing I was good at was being bad at many different things at the same time. How could I love music so much yet be undisciplined? How could I quit my lucrative job to go back to school and then fall behind within weeks? Why did I lose control of my health and appearance so that now I felt so frumpy, old, fat, and ugly next to all the young students at school? Have you ever had those moments? Where absolutely everything sucked? And then it was followed by guilt. How could I be there wallowing in self-pity when there are people all over the country and the world with real problems? That thought shook me up somewhat and I was able to continue plodding along.

I guess since I had reached a low point there was no where to go but up. But the climb up was not immediate. I studied hard for my Organic test that weekend. Yet when I went in on Monday I panicked and blanked out. I left the test knowing that I had not done very well. From there I went to study Biology with some others from the class. But again I was met with disappointment. They were clearly well caught up in class and were talking about things that I hadn't prepared yet. Feelings of dread were about to come over me again but I decided to take control of things instead. I excused myself and went off to a library to study what I needed to study. I realized I had two options for the Bio test. Stay unprepared and feel as badly as I did after the Orgo test or give it my all and try to actually do well. The latter seemed like an insurmountable task since I was quite behind in Biology but somehow I managed to study mostly non stop for about three days. I was nervous going into the test on Thursday but I tried to keep a positive attitude. Rather than sit and panic for 45 minutes like I did for Orgo, I dove right in. I opened the first page and just started writing (usually I look at the entire test first). After an excrutiating 100 minutes of thinking and writing the test was over and I was feeling GOOD! I think I may have actually aced it! Even if I don't though, I finally figured out how best to study for all of my classes. And now that I have things under control I am feeling much better.

I think I tend to get into these hopeless states when I lose control of the things I am supposed to do. Both my husband and I are sacrificing so much for me to have this opportunity. I can't afford to keep procrastinating and doing poorly. I have no excuses for it! I *must* learn proper time management as that will be the only way for me to do everything I want to do in the coming years.

So after feeling very horrible for about three weeks I am finally around the bend. Having learned how to study for my courses (which is the thing I am supposed to be doing) I am now feeling much better. Even the desire to practice my oboe daily has returned! Once I have those two things going I can add a few workouts a week and I will be golden.

Oh that was another thing. I did attempt to go to the gym nearly two weeks ago. And what happened? I somehow managed to strain or pull a neck/shoulder muscle and I am *still* in pain from it. Ugh!

And I did write to my teacher to tell her that I felt horrible about disappointing her at our last lesson. She wrote me a very nice email back and said that I was doing incredibly well and that I simply have too overly high expectations (I've heard that before *giggle*). She assured me that embouchure and the other things we've been discussing are things that take years to "perfect" and that I am certainly on the right track. *sigh of relief* As much as I do enjoy learning science my music is still the most important thing. It would absolutely break my heart if I never reached my musical goals. As long as I am on the right path for them I don't care how long it will take and I will be happy. And the rest of my life will be ok too.

The school did finally approve my commuter locker so I no longer have to break my back. Perhaps now my shoulder/neck will finally heal. I ended up getting a B on the Orgo test. Not great, but not overly bad either.

Ok not sure if this all came out very clearly but I am rushing to get it down before I head off to church. I will try to update more regularly now that things have mostly normalized.

Thanks for your support!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Transitions are difficult

I've been wanting to make a long post for a few days now but am short on time. Right now I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed and have not quite gotten the hang on my new life. I had been feeling increasingly bad but think I am turning a corner soon. I don't want to make an overly down post so I rather wait until the weekend. Once my two tests are done with I will feel better.

Change is good but no one said it was easy. Right now I feel like I am not good at anything. Hopefully I will get the hang of things soon enough.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

My Saturday

JC and Mabel have class on Saturdays so when I got up today no one else was home. I took it easy in the morning. I made myself a parfait of nonfat yogurt, granola, and strawberries. After breakfast, I washed my hair and did my rollers. While I sat in the dryer I did some Organic Chemistry problems. And then I did some more problems. My people got home at around 3 PM and I continued to work on Orgo problems. They're kind of fun actually. We're still doing easy stuff. Eventually I took a break to go out to get some food to make dinner. I cooked three nights in a row! I think that's a record for me. Tonight we had rice and fried steak and snow peas. After dinner JC left for his gig. He's playing with like 79 groups right now. Ok, maybe just 4 or so. At that point I put some clothes in the washer and went back upstairs to finish my chapter 3 Orgo problems. We're already on page 100 in the textbook after three lectures. The text is nicely written though and not overly dry for a Science textbook.

I realized eventually that I was procrastinating about practicing. Why do I always do that? It's becoming a daily struggle. When I first get up I want to play. But as the day wears on I start procrastinating. At around 9:45 I finally made my way down and ended up playing past 11. That always happens too. Once I star I'm fine with it. But something about actually starting it freaks me out. I think I get lonely in the basement or something. I am surprised I managed to do it especially since I was home alone (Mabel went out with a friend). When JC is home and playing his piano down there I have less trouble getting down. Anyway, my Jacob "Interludes" are moving along. I feel better about all the movements except for that naughty Scherzetto. It's almost all staccato and also very chromatic so when I'm not playing sharp I am playing the wrong note. And this is at 2/3 tempo. Woah.

My practice session went well today. I didn't do as much technical stuff as I usually do. I think that's what had me in a slump. I did some long tones and then dove right into my music. I think that my embouchure is definitely improving and looking more like this (see young girl at the bottom of the page). I don't have to look at the mirror ALL of the time anymore; I can kind of tell when it's right and when it isn't. I'm trying to employ all of the elements of a good embouchure now: the corners of the mouth, flat chin, non-biting. We'll see what my teacher says on Wednesday. I'm excited about having an upcoming lesson!

I recorded myself again tonight. The last time I had done that was July 21st. That time I recorded myself doing a C major scale and Cui's Orientale. Tonight I did the same thing again for comparison. I was pleased to hear modest improvements in both sound and technique. Though I had been feeling as though I had no endurance and all kinds of breathing issues I managed to keep the lines of the music better this time and paid more attention to phrasing. I also didn't get as tired as the last time that I played the piece.

I was so inspired after my practice that I went upstairs and started two new reeds!

Now I'm here blogging. What a productive day! Did my hair, lots of studying, washed a load, cooked dinner, practiced, made reeds, blogged. *phew* No wonder I'm sleepy hehe.

Let me ramble some more though.

My oboe anniversary is coming up (well, in December) and I keep wondering how I'm doing overall. Maybe I will ask my teacher to assess me at that time. Maybe it's my Type A coming out, but I would really like to know if I am doing below average, average, or above average for a one year amateur. I don't know why it's important to me, perhaps because I'm so school oriented and am always curious to know where I stand in terms of ranking. Well, regardless, I still love playing my oboe and will continue even if I'm in the bottom of the pack.

Last week they had auditions at school for the orchestra. *sigh* It would be so cool to be able to play there some day. They are going to play Brahms's 4th this season. I'm so jealous!! Oh and they have 5!!! oboists on the roster this year. Damn. Last year they had to get people from outside which was a good sign because maybe some year they'd be desperate and would need me. Hmmmm.

I found out about yet another school orchestra with open auditions. There's something called the BMCC Downtown Orchestra (at Borough of Manhattan Community College). There was a flyer about them up at Columbia. I wanted to get more info on them but when I called the director his mailbox was full. I guess it must be really popular which means I'd probably not ever get in.

I also got an email about chamber groups forming up at my old school. Temptations, temptations. But I rather our quartet pick up instead. So for now I will stay focused on that. We're on hiatus right now because "Fututo" (the bassoon) is at the shop.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Busy student

It's become a bit difficult to find a time and place for updatting the blog now that I am no longer sitting in front of a computer all day. The computer labs at school are always crowded and you can usually only snag a machine for a few minutes. Once I get home I am usually too tired or wired to sit down and type in peace. But I'll try to do as best I can.

Here are some of the highlights from the previous week:

  • So far I find Organic Chemistry more interesting than Biology. I like that Orgo is a depth rather than a breadth course. I feel like I have better control of the influx of information. In Biology we've already discussed myriad topics and they're all confused in my mind.
  • We'll be dissecting a fetal pig in Biology Lab. *gulp* I almost teared up thinking about the poor pig but I have to remember that it will be a good learning experience. I've never dissected anything before so I am curious as to how I'll fare with it.
  • As much as I've tried to banish the MD thoughts they keep returning. I will definitely have to spend at least some time doing some final dental vs. medical research. I have to know by the end of the semester which entrance exam I'll be taking otherwise I risk having to postpone entry a year in order to work things out.
  • I must decide whether or not to return to the hospital I was at last year for my volunteer work. It was sooooo boring. I rather spend my time doing something that will help me decide which path to go on. I must sound confused and though I am a bit unsure it doesn't feel desperate like before. I'm confident that I'll figure something out soon enough. At least now I'm moving in the right direction.
  • I'm mostly keeping up with the classes but now that the warm up is over I have to go into high gear.
  • So far I've been able to practice ok though it's a bit complicated to figure out where I'll be all day. Now that I'm commuting in with JC sometimes he has rehearsals in the evenings which leaves me stranded in the City. Well, not really stranded, I end up going to my Mom's. But I need to know ahead of time so I can take my oboe stuff with me. However the groups he's playing in don't always know ahead of time so I end up lugging my music stuff with me all day long somedays and not using it. That sucks because then I get home so tired that I don't feel like practicing.
  • Today I snagged a spot in a walk in practice room and managed to get some time in while on campus. This is ideal because I practiced while I was still awake and didn't have to worry about it when I got home. I have the option of being done for the day or doing a second session.
  • Second sessions should become more of a habit once my body gets used to the new schedule. Boy was I NOT prepared for how tired I'd be at the end of the day. I am walking around so much now with my heavy backpack and every day I am reminded that I am not 18 anymore. I look at all the underclassmen and think of how I was there 13 years ago. I definitely feel the years lately. At least now my feet have stopped swelling somewhat and my knees are feeling better. Last week I was in utter pain! I passed out on the floor about an hour ago and took a nap. I hope my body gets adjusted soon. The PMS is not helping matters. Maybe I'll be a-ok in another week.
  • I got an official practice room slot on Wednesdays from 3-5 PM. The Music department only allowed us to sign up for two hours at a time this week. If any other times are available next week then we can sign up for more. I was a dismayed at not being able to get more time but so far my teacher thinks that the time should work for her every other week starting next week. The week delay actually works out because it gives me more time to practice. And to make reeds of course.
  • Luna (the oboe) had an accident last Thursday! I have one of those cheap plastic oboe stands with four legs and somehow I knocked it over. You can imagine how mortified I was. At first I didn't think that anything had happened to it and so I took a break. When I went back to it I noticed that the side octave key was no longer moving. Upon further inspection I noticed that the key was no longer perfectly straight. Luckily my teacher offered me some moral support via email and also furnished me with the number of a trusty repairperson. The next day I got Luna fixed up for just $30. It was painful to watch him dissamble some of the keywork and even hammer her with a plastic hammer. But in the end she felt good. I feel that the range of motion of the key is ever so slightly less but the pitch and everything seem fine. Luna survived her first accident mostly unscathed. I'll have my teacher confirm that next week.
  • Hmm, what else? Nothing much other than being VERY tired. But also quite happy. I don't miss the job one bit!!!
  • Tuesday, September 06, 2005

    First Day of School

    Hey fellow bloggers do you ever get a desperate sensation when you have a lot of things you want to blog about but no time? I feel so relieved right now as I write this entry because for days I've needed to get these three entries off my back. I felt like I couldn't do anything else anymore until I finally wrote these.

    Anyway, so today is my first day of classes. This is what my schedule looks like:

    Monday: Organic Chemistry 1:10 - 2:25
    Tuesday: Biology 5:40 - 6:55
    Wednesday: Organic Chemistry 1:10 - 2:25
    Thursday: Biology Lab 1:00 - 5:00, Biology 5:40 - 6:55

    There is a morning section of the Biology lecture. As a postbacc student I am not allowed to register for it (they want us all to test together) but I can attend those lectures instead of the evening ones. I might start doing that especially on Thursdays. Because today is my first day I will attend the evening section.

    So as you see I am not in class for a terribly long amount of time every week (about 10 hours). However I estimate needing to study somewhere between 30 and 40 hours on top of that. This is based on my prior experience with the other courses as well as that of students who have completed the "orgo/bio" year. I have to become a lean, mean studying machine so that I still have time for my oboe! The nice thing is that I am forced to come into the City early in the morning with JC in order to avoid duplicate commuting costs. The only thing I will be able to do the entire day is head to the library and study. Of course I'm sure other things will pop up every now and then, but if I can manage to put in a good 6 hours or so every day that I am on campus I will not have to do much at home. Maybe I should keep track of where I am spending my time. That might be kind of interesting.

    I was excited last night but was able to get a good night's sleep. Unlike how I was when I had to get up for work, this morning I woke up before the alarm (even though it was set an hour earlier than usual). I woke up and felt happy about the day ahead. What an interesting feeling! As we drove towards 95 South I looked back and saw the backed up traffic heading North towards Connecticut (my old commute). I can't express just how happy I was to not have to go in that direction! I am sooooooo happy to be out of Cubicle Land!

    We got into Manhattan in 45 minutes which wasn't horrible. It's only a little longer than my CT commute. After that I took the subway down to pick up some cupcakes at Billy's Bakery. I heard about that place on some tabloid magazine. Apparently every time that Katie Holmes in town she has to pick up several dozen of those cupcakes. Because only a few of JC's co-workers were able to make his party I wanted to bring some of the celebration to his job. I hadn't walked around Chelsea much (other than hanging out on 23rd street). It's really a nice place (I guess it's sort of like Gramercy Park). It was so nice to see every one walking around. People of all ages, races, sizes, etc. I felt like I had finally come home. I was no longer out of place in suburban CT. I am back where I belong! I hadn't realized until recently that where you are has a big impact on how you feel. Even if my job had actually been interesting I don't think I could have ever been truly happy there because I simply didn't like where it was located. Perhaps I will be satiated of NYC by the time I'm completely done with school. If I am then, fine, I'll set up shop somewhere near our house. If not, then I will find a way to work here in the City despite the saturated market.

    So where was I? I picked up two dozen cupcakes and then took the train back up to Harlem. I've hung out here at my husband's job all day which means I've already started procrastinating. I was supposed to go to school early to read some. There's still time!

    It was so nice to eat rice and beans and pollo guisado (chicken stew) for lunch.

    I had enough vacation pay to cover 6 days so it is fitting that today is my first true unemployed day. As I head to campus I can definitely say that the first day of the rest of my life has been very good.


    One of the reasons I had been unable to post was that I was busy planning a surprise party for my husband's 30th birthday! The party was scheduled for September 4th though his birthday wasn't until the 5th. So I had my last day of work on August 26th and the trip to Six Flags on the 29th. Then there was the oboe lesson on the 31st. From that point on all I was thinking about and working on was the party. I had done NOTHING yet except invite the guests. Between Thursday and Saturday JC's sister, Mabel, and I had to do a lot of sneaking around. There were many phone calls to make and much shopping to do. Then we also had to worry about where to hide the stuff. And about not spilling the beans. Every time I was about to let slip I broke into song instead. His sister had a fun time watching that all.

    I am happy to say that we WERE able to surprise him! The party turned out even better than I had imagined. Everyone said it was a hit. We had a lot of people but the house didn't feel as stuffy as I had feared. My friend's friend brought a Karaoke machine and the guests had a great time with it. We didn't run out of food nor drink. In fact we had enough booze left over to throw another party! I'm so thankful that things went well because JC had never had a real birthday party; I wanted it to be extra special. He especially loved the Spiderman theme!

    Here are some pictures of the festivities:

    The birthday boy:

    Guests (we had over 30 at one point!):

    Our lovely duet (it looks like I'm trying too hard!):

    From left to right: My accomplice Mabel (who did a great job with the decorations), Dad, Mom, JC, My brother Jesse (whose birthday is the day after JC's), me.

    Sexy Spiderman cake (made by my Mom):

    Happy Birthday to my beloved husband and my wonderful brother!

    My lesson last week

    I've been so busy that I haven't had a chance to sit down and type something up about my latest lesson. I like to write about them because it's cool to have a record of my progress. Also I try to include some of the insights from the lesson in case I forget them later on.

    So we met last Wednesday after nearly a month's break. The first item on the agenda was reeds. My teacher fine tuned two "finished" reeds that I had brought in. I am getting closer at actually finishing them myself but I feel like it will take months, if not years, to hone that skill. Good thing that she helps me out with that. She then made a new reed out of a blank that I had taken in. Sweet.

    While the reed making was going on I worked on scales for her. It became apparent that I had acquired a new bad habit: biting! UGH! The nemesis! That came to the surface before I even had a chance to ask her why I'd been playing sharp. I really should have known. I was sort of feeling it but I wasn't sure how to fix it. This all lead into an embouchure discussion. While I have definitely made progress in terms of the corners of my mouth, I still have a ways to go with my "chops". We also discussed the last piece of the embouchure puzzle: the flat chin. I was finally able to feel the muscle that I needed to feel in order to facilitate this. And less we feel tempted to blame my intonation issue on the reed, as soon as I did what she said I was right in tune. Hilda 0, Reed 1.

    After that I was a bit frazzled because it was embarrassing to be out of tune in front of my teacher. As I continued with some scales and other technical exercises I was stopping every time I heard myself out of tune. This led to some tough love. My teacher told me I am beyond the point where acknowledging a mistake is an accomplishment, that I must move to the next level which is correcting mistakes in real time. *gulp* I liked when she told me this because it was both an admonishment and a compliment. I realized that I was practicing like that at home too. All stop and go and never playing anything through. No wonder my endurance has taken a nose dive. She said that I need to both: working on trouble areas a few notes at a time AND playing things through. This was good advice because I was starting to feel a bit lost in my practicing. The rest of the lesson I was told things like "stay on the horse", "stay on the pony", "stay behind the wheel", etc. It was pretty funny, but effective too. Instead of rushing to play without being ready I waited a little longer to go in but made sure I kept playing. It felt uncomfortable for me because I still have a lot of intrusive talking going on in my head. This is something I will have to work a lot on.

    I asked how my sound was and she kind of laughed at me and said that I knew I sounded better now. I didn't really KNOW know. I kind of felt like it's better because the sounds I am producing are giving me the good feelings that I normally get when I hear oboe playing. But I did want some affirmation from an authority on sound hehe. I was most excited about my sound improving.

    Lastly, I was given some real music to play! Several of the pieces are by Gordon Jacob. I hadn't heard of this composer before but I like all of my pieces so far. The writing does remind me of his compatriot Vaughan Williams whom I also like. The best part is that the music isn't too hard for me yet still sounds like nice, real music! In fact I would say that it is just right in terms of the technical and it will allow me to work on expression for the first time. Now that I am playing a bit more dependably I can finally begin to think about that which makes the oboe so special. This should be fun!

    Friday, September 02, 2005


    Because I'm still emotionally exhausted I'll just participate in this little meme instead. I need to write up about my recent lesson one of these days.

    Got this idea from Terminal Degree's blog. I'm doing it for 1988 which was the year I graduated from Incarnation (where I did 1st-8th grades). High School was quite uneventful and somewhere in the middle of it I stopped listening to pop music anyway. Sorry 1992.

    Go to musicoutfitters, enter year of high school graduation for song list, bold songs you like(d), underline favorite, strike out the ones you hate, & use italics for songs you don't remember.

    Well the problem is that I can't figure out how to strike out or underline. So I will bold the ones I liked a lot, italicize the ones I couldn't stand, and put asterisks on my very favorites. There are not that many that I don't remember at all anyway. Edit: Thanks Patty for the tips! I've kept the asterisks for my favorites though. I'm having a ton of fun listening to these again!

    1. Faith, George Michael
    2. Need You Tonight, INXS
    3. Got My Mind Set On You, George Harrison
    4. Never Gonna Give You Up, Rick Astley

    5. Sweet Child O' Mine, Guns N' Roses
    6. So Emotional, Whitney Houston
    7. Heaven Is A Place On Earth, Belinda Carlisle
    8. Could've Been, Tiffany
    9. Hands To Heaven, Breathe
    10. Roll With It, Steve Winwood
    11. One More Try, George Michael *
    12. Wishing Well, Terence Trent d'Arby
    13. Anything For You, Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine
    14. The Flame, Cheap Trick
    15. Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car, Billy Ocean
    16. Seasons Change, Expose

    17. Is This Love, Whitesnake
    18. Wild, Wild West, Escape Club
    19. Pour Some Sugar On Me, Def Leppard
    20. I'll Always Love You, Taylor Dayne
    21. Man In The Mirror, Michael Jackson
    22. Shake Your Love, Debbie Gibson *
    23. Simply Irresistible, Robert Palmer
    24. Hold On To The Nights, Richard Marx "I wish that I could give you moooore . . ." What ever happened to Richard Marx? Nice voice on that one.
    25. Hungry Eyes, Eric Carnen
    26. Shattered Dreams, Johnny Hates Jazz
    27. Father Figure, George Michael
    28. Naughty Girls (Need Love Too), Samantha Fox
    29. A Groovy Kind Of Love, Phil Collins (I found this song boring)
    30. Love Bites, Def Leppard
    31. Endless Summer Nights, Richard Marx
    32. Foolish Beat, Debbie Gibson *
    33. Where Do Broken Hearts Go, Whitney Houston
    34. Angel, Aerosmith
    35. Hazy Shade Of Winter, Bangles * (I just found out that the Simon and Garfunkel original has an oboe in it!)
    36. The Way You Make Me Feel, Michael Jackson
    37. Don't Worry, Be Happy, Bobby McFerrin (hated it then, but like it now)
    38. Make Me Lose Control, Eric Carnen
    39. Red Red Wine, UB40
    40. She's Like The Wind, Patric Swayze
    41. Bad Medicine, Bon Jovi
    42. Kokomo, Beach Boys
    43. I Don't Wanna Go On With You Like That, Elton John
    44. Together Forever, Rick Astley
    45. Monkey, George Michael

    46. Devil Inside, INXS
    47. Should've Known Better, Richard Marx
    48. I Don't Wanna Live Without Your Love, Chicago
    49. The Loco-Motion, Kylie Minogue
    50. What Have I Done To Deserve This?, Pet Shop Boys and Dusty Springfield
    51. Make It Real, Jets (Ok I really liked the Jets but back in 1986)
    52. What's On Your Mind, Information Society
    53. Tell It To My Heart, Taylor Dayne
    54. Out Of The Blue, Debbie Gibson
    55. Don't You Want Me, Jody Watley
    56. Desire, U2
    57. I Get Weak, Belinda Carlisle
    58. Sign Your Name, Terence Trent d'Arby *
    59. I Want To Be Your Man, Roger
    60. Girlfriend, Pebbles
    61. Dirty Diana, Michael Jackson
    62. 1-2-3, Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine
    63. Mercedes Boy, Pebbles
    64. Perfect World, Huey Lewis and the News
    65. New Sensation, INXS
    66. Catch Me (I'm Falling), Pretty Poison
    67. If It Isn't Love, New Edition
    68. Rocket 2 U, Jets
    69. One Good Woman, Peter Cetera
    70. Don't Be Cruel, Cheap Trick
    71. Candle In The Wind, Elton John
    72. Everything Your Heart Desires, Daryl Hall and John Oates (But M-E-T-H-O-D-O-F-L-O-V-E is still my favorite.)
    73. Say You Will , Foreigner
    74. I Want Her, Keith Sweat
    75. Pink Cadillac, Natalie Cole
    76. Fast Car, Tracy Chapman (also hated then, but ok now)
    77. Electric Blue, Icehouse
    78. The Valley Road, Bruce Hornsby and The Range
    79. Don't Be Cruel, Bobby Brown
    80. Always On My Mind, Pet Shop Boys
    81. Piano In The Dark, Brenda Russell Featuring Joe Esposito (Did not appreciate this one back then)
    82. When It's Love, Van Halen
    83. Don't Shed A Tear, Paul Carrack

    84. We'll Be Together, Sting
    85. I Hate Myself For Loving You, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts
    86. I Don't Want To Live Without You, Foreigner
    87. Nite And Day, Al B. Sure
    88. Don't You Know What The Night Can Do, Steve Winwood
    89. One Moment In Time, Whitney Houston
    90. Can't Stay Away From You, Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine
    91. Kissing A Fool, George Michael
    92. Cherry Bomb, John Cougar Mellancamp
    93. I Still Believe, Brenda K. Starr
    94. I Found Someone, Cher
    95. Never Tear Us Apart, INXS
    96. Valerie, Steve Windwood
    97. Just Like Paradise, David Lee Roth
    98. Nothin' But A Good Time, Poison
    99. Wait, White Lion
    100. Prove Your Love, Taylor Dayne (ok I hated Taylor Dayne!)

    Thursday, August 25, 2005


    We finally had rehearsal again! I think we went a month without meeting. Or at least it felt that long. We were a trio tonight because the flutist couldn't make it.

    Rather than doing a survey of our entire repertoire we focused on a few key pieces. We did the two preludes from the Well-Tempered Wind Quartet arrangements. I was finally able to keep up with that prelude in F minor. The first prelude sounded the best that it had ever sounded. Well, except for the missing flute part. I know I for one was finally paying attention to those little marks under the notes. The ones that go like this: mf, pp, crescendo, molto ritardando, etc. What a novel concept. Now that I had the notes down better I could finally start thinking about phrasing. "A whole new wooooorld ..."

    My favorite piece of the night was the "Funeral March of a Marionette" (the Alfred Hitchcock theme). That piece is so much fun!! This one too feels easier to my fingers so I was able to get into the piece more and feel it better. Without the flute there I was forced to be in the forefront and this whipped me up into shape. I played it better than I ever had.

    All in all the rehearsal was good. I was feeling a bit down going in (lots of emotions due to my last day at work coming up) but by the time rehearsal was over I was energized and excited about life again! Music is just so amazing. I am so thankful every single day to have found my little oboe. It has enriched my life so much!

    I'm still wired but I will try to go to bed now. *wink*

    Tuesday, August 23, 2005

    Debussy does it again

    During this morning's commute I tuned into what sounded like a modern concerto. I was going to pop in a CD but the concerto grabbed my attention almost immediately and I let that play instead. The woodwind lines were really beautiful and I was impressed by how well the orchestra and pianist blended in together. Sometimes I feel that in pieces with piano and orchestra that the transitions between soloist and ensemble are a bit abrupt or dissatisfying in some other way. But the piece this morning was seamless. The harmonies were interesting and the music kept moving along well. I was wondering if it was one of my beloved French dudes but it actually sounded a little more modern than that. I decided to just wait until the end for them to announce what it was and enjoyed the rest of the piece.

    So what did it turn out to be?? Debussy's "Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra". I should have known!

    I guess if I were pressed to pick just one favorite composer I would indeed pick Debussy. Even though I'm becoming familiar with a greater variety of works now every time I go back to him I find him refreshing.

    I think this is an example of why it's important for young kids to be exposed to good music. While in grammar school I used to watch a show on TV about science that had a theme song that I absolutely loved. The version on the show was an electronic one (see the Isao Tomita site) but I knew it was a piano piece because I had heard it at school. Sometimes the teachers would make us "relax" by forcing us to sit in our seats quietly while listening to the Classical station. Some years later as a young teenager my best friend acquired an LP of Classical pieces and since she knew I liked the stuff she played it for me. What was the first song that came on? That theme song I loved as a child (the proper piano version)! And so it was that after liking the piece for MANY years I finally knew what it was: Arabesque No. 1 by Claude Debussy. That was the beginning of a beautiful love affair. :-)

    Countdown to Freedom

    Surreal - that's the only word that comes to mind when I try to describe how it feels to be so close to the end of my term in corporate America. I'm sure reality will sink in once I am studying several hours a day.

    I'm sorry I keep writing about this but I need to remember how good it feels right now so that when the tough times come I can put them in perspective. I have been happy every single day since the day I told my manager I was leaving. That was July 18th! Amazing! This might sound macabre but if I were to die now, I think I'd die happy!

    Moving on to music. I've now heard two Copland pieces I liked in as many weeks. I guess he's my new composer to explore. This morning I listened to "El Salon Mexico". The other piece I think was part of "Appalachian Spring". Appa-lay-shean or Appa-latch-ean? I dimly recall of debate about this while I was in school. during my history of modern music class.

    Happy Birthday Debussy (though I'm technically a few hours late)!! He was one of the few composers I was remotely familiar with growing up (I was a big fan of the Arabesque No. 1 for piano) and he will always remain one of my favorites for his gorgeous harmonies (you gotta love parallel 6th chords!). Claude, your music always resonates deeply for me.

    Lastly, I did get to practice today. I procrastinated for three hours (Yankee game) but finally did get my butt down to the basement. I ended up doing my full hour plus a little more. It was mostly scales and I even ventured into 4 flats and 4 sharps (slowly because of that left handed D#/E-flat)! I also went over some of the quartet repertoire. Let's pray that there is rehearsal this week darn it. I want to play!!

    Friday, August 19, 2005

    Water goblins and more

    I heard a new piece that I really like on WQXR the other day: The Water Goblin by Dvorak. Lots of great woodwind lines.

    Hmm, I'm considering auditing the intro Music History course this semester since I've forgotten all of my formal language. I wish I could speak about the music I'm listening to more intelligently (like back when I was in college). Right now all I can say is "it was nice, I liked it". Before I could talk about themes, expositions, recapitulations, forms, etc. Plus it would be really interesting to study the music now that I'm a studying an orchestral instrument. Though I guess I should just use that time for studying or practicing.

    I'm worried about the practice room situation at school. I would be at the very bottom of the priority list during the sign up period. I wonder if I will be able to secure any time at all. Otherwise, I am looking at having to do all my practicing in the evenings like now. I hate giving leaving music for last during the day. I'm already so worn out. I would really like to spread out my practices during the day. But I can't afford to stay home and go into the City later as that would force me to spend extra money. Perhaps I can take the free shuttle bus up to my Mom's some days. Gosh I just hope I still have time to practice. I've been looking at the website for my biology class and it's kind of scary. I'll make the time somehow!

    So I registered for the Double Reed Day at Schenectady County Community College. It will be on Saturday, October 8th. I'm quite excited about going up there and hanging out with other reed players. It should be a lot of fun. The best part is that they will have all of us play some pieces together at the recital at the end. I love the idea of playing in a huge ensemble. I can't wait for that. They sent me the music for that. All the arrangements are by Brett Wery.
    (1) first oboe - Habanera from Carmen (Bizet). I see a little (but quite high) solo at the beginning but I'm assuming there will be a few of us playing each part. The piece is not too challenging technically, though there is a part in E Mayor (Left handed D# arg!)
    (2) second oboe - Normandie from Suite Francaise (Milhaud). It looks innocent enough. It's in 6/8 time which I normally like and in C major. However the tempo marking is dotted quarter note = 138. Umm that is so fast the it feels like 2/4 time instead. A group of three eight notes now feels like fast triplets. Last night I was playing it at about half speed. Today I was able to play the intro at maybe 112 or something. I am not sure this one is going to work. I might inquire about the third oboe part.
    (3) third oboe - Dog Day Tango (Wery). This piece is ok technically too. I am not quite sure exactly what the feel should be like, especially in the faster section in the middle. But I'll work to get all the notes in correctly for now.

    They will also be playing the Ralph Vaughan Williams Oboe Concerto at the recital. That's one of my favorites! I'm so excited!

    I managed to practice an hour each weekday this week. Not great but ok I guess. I've been feeling like I'm in a bit of a slump. My embouchure controls me instead of vice versa. My endurance is still crap. My A's are flat on my good reed. I'm doing my scales at the same metronome marking and haven't yet progressed to beyond three flats or sharps. But!!! I think my sound is better so it's all worth it. I mean I did fall in love with the instrument's lovely, expressive sound so any step towards that has to be good. I am really anxious to play with my quartet friends to see if they notice any difference. I hope I'm not imagining it! I always wondered if my own oboe playing would ever have the effect on me that other people's playing does. Almost 9 months since I started I still periodically tear up when listening to really beautiful playing. Either that or I smile broadly. It's just so pleasing to me. So I always wondered if my own playing would be pleasing to me or if it would always be a bit stressful. Well tonight I decided to play just music for fun and I think I got a glimpse of something good. I had a fun time and I liked the sounds I was producing. Maybe it's once you reach that point that you are able to practice for longer periods of time? Another thing I tried tonight once I was relaxed and having fun was vibrato. I am a little worried about the fact that I haven't studied it yet because maybe they will want me to produce it at that Double Reed Day. I tried to imagine singing it as Patty suggested. I tried it on Faure's Pavane melody which I adore. I was unable to produce it in the lower register (the flute part on the orchestrated version) but when I got to the actual oboe part which was in the middle register I managed to produce something which sort of resembled a vibrato. It felt like it was in my stomach at first but then migrated higher up, sort of how Jay Light explains it in his Essays for Oboists. I won't torment myself with studying it for now since I have other things to focus on, but at least I am hopeful that I *will* get it someday.

    Another fun thing I did this week was play along with my husband as he was studying from the Hanon book on the piano. We played I think the second scale exercise which starts off with an arpeggio. However, it's not in root position, it's in first inversion. Novel concept! The few times I had ventured into arpeggio territory I played everything in root position. So last night I was struggling because instead of playing E-G-C I'd play E-G-B. I was happy to expose this weakness because now I can work on remedying it. After a few tries all the arpeggios came out easier. The nice thing too is that doing these inversions allows you to focus on different intervals. Getting those fourths in tune is a challenge!

    So what else? I tied a reed blank last night and hope to scrape that baby up during the week. I am going to take my time with this one to see if I get better results. I also ordered another batch of reed supplies from RDG.

    I wrote to the timpanist of the Bronx Symphony. I wanted to make a friend there but didn't want to bug the oboists just yet. I know, I'm a long way off from being in a real orchestra but I can be a groupie for now. It would be fun to just hang out with people and maybe go to a few rehearsals to watch. I want to see what it will be like someday and to see at what level I'd have to be in order to get into a group like that. That would give me something to strive towards. Anyway she wrote back and I'm hoping to meet her by catching one of her non-Classical gigs next month.

    I'm anxious to meet with my teacher again. I feel a bit directionless right now. Hopefully when the Summer is over we'll fall into a more regular routine.

    Hmmm, for some reason I just started worrying about whether working as a dentist will tire out my hands too much to play oboe. It better not!!

    Time to go sleepy.

    Monday, August 15, 2005

    Sunday night musings

    Oops, I guess it's technically Monday morning. But you get my drift.

    It feels sort of surreal that I can now begin my "last two weeks at work" countdown. I have exactly 10 days left as an employee at Hewitt. When I leave on the 26th I will have worked there for 8 years and 2 months. That's more than a quarter of my life. A part of me is still in denial. Tomorrow will be my last direct deposited paycheck. I will get a check in the mail at the end of the month for my last two weeks plus my vacation. I guess that after scheming about leaving for so long I am having a very difficult time accepting the fact that it's really happening. For years and years my main objective in life was to quit my job. Isn't that strange? I look back now and I can't understand why I put up with it for so long. I also can't understand why I was quite so miserable. Nowadays, thank God, I've been at a really nice place in my life, in touch with the things I love so I can't relate to being utterly miserably anymore. Yet miserable I was. On many Sunday evenings like this one the familiar feeling of dread would be taking over. Tears would involuntarily come out of my eyes. The caged bird feeling would set in. I didn't know what it was that I wanted to be doing. All I knew was that I didn't want to be doing my job. In reality I was unhappy about many things about myself yet I decided to focus all of my critical energy on the job. The job became a scapegoat. It stood for everything that was wrong with me, for all the wrong decisions I had made along the way. Over the past year things finally started falling into place with me. I was finally able to appreciate my job in a strange sort of way. I was thankful for it. Thankful that it had been my haven for this time. It had provided me with the material goods that I needed in order to make some other goals come to fruition. I could no longer say I "hated" it and really mean it. I had simply outgrown it. For months I knew that I was done with it. That I would likely not do well if I underwent another review cycle. That I could not keep up the facade much longer. And slowly some of the ties started unraveling. And the little part of me that always believed that I would get out some day became stronger and more confident. "You'll be fine" said a voice inside. I wanted to believe it but still had many doubts. It wasn't until last month that something finally snapped and I decided to just go for it. Apparently my decision was perfectly timed. Just last week an announcement was made at work that all of the benefits would be curtailed. I had spent a nice amount of time fretting over the 1000+ sick hours I was leaving behind. I wasted my time worrying about it because the sick hour pool will be done away with in 4 months along with many other things. The one advantage that the company had in terms of work environment is being done away with. I was there to see the look of dejection on the faces of all those staying. I spent a lot of time reading posts on the Vault in disbelief. All the changes are terrible for those staying and I really do feel for them. Yet a tiny part of me is relieved because this was almost like a sign. The last push I needed to be sure that I am making the right decision. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever for me to return.

    So now I'm standing here near the end of the road. What I wished for so long is finally coming true. At first I felt victorious, elated. Now there are some feelings of melancholy mixed in there. I'm at peace with that place now. While I'm still there technically it's all starting to feel like a memory to me. I have so much work I'd like to finish before I'm gone. Yet I'm already gone. How will I survive the next two weeks?

    Guilt and Fear. I'm still battling these paralyzing feelings that have haunted me for so long. They're not very strong anymore but they're still there. How can I just throw away a good job? Whatever am I doing? Will I really succeed? How about if I ruined my life? But I know this is normal silly talk. I don't think that anyone doing what I'm doing would not feel any fear at all.

    For so many years I was the friend that always needed advice. I'd tell my tale to whoever would listen and beg for advice at the end. Now that I've taken this drastic step of quitting my very comfortable job to be a broke student and start a brand new career (and picking up a new instrument in the middle of it all),I'm suddenly a hero of sorts. I'm touched by how many people have come to tell me that they admire what I'm doing. Some even tell me that they wish they could be like me. Wish they could be like me??!!? Since when does that happen? It had always been the other way around. I feel flattered yet dumbfounded. How quickly things changed. I'm gone from being the utterly confused one to being an inspiration. I'm happy that I'm no longer the one that needs help because maybe now I will be able to offer aid to others. That is one of the best rewards. I want to succeed not only for myself but because perhaps I can somehow be an inspiration in some way some day.

    But I have to admit that I am indeed scared. I've gotten used to breezing by by doing the least amount of work possible. Now I will have to whip myself into shape. No more excuses. My success will be directly proportional to how much work I put in from now on. No more leaning on my more motivated coworker. No more relying on cram sessions at work. I will have to be very disciplined with my time and my assessments will be based on my work and my word alone. The things I am working towards now mean the world to me, they are things I truly want to do. That ups the ante. Sure, I am more motivated now. But failure will actually hurt now. It would break my heart. I must not allow it to be an option in any of my pursuits. The cure for all my fears is effort. Study hard. Practice often. Love deeply.

    Friday, August 12, 2005

    Courage in the face of adversity

    I finally got to listen to Alex Klein! I just purchased a CD yesterday of Wind Concertos by Cimarosa, Molique, and Moschelles (Cedille Records) and it features Alex Klein on oboe and Mathieu Dofour on flute. I haven't listened to it closely yet but so far I was very touched by his playing. I found his playing to be very clean and beautiful.

    The jacket insert mentioned his problem with focal dystonia and so I searched on it some on the web. I found the message below on the oboe BBoards.

    Sometimes I feel guilty that I spend a lot of time feeling sorry for myself for not being able to start young, blah, blah, blah. And here is this heartwrenching story of someone at the very top of the game having to deal with a very cruel twist of fate. I don't know him but I feel like if I met him I'd maybe just cry. I can't fathom what went through his mind as he first struggled with all this. It takes a very strong and special person to deal with this the way he has.

    Dear friends and colleagues,

    The departure of any principal player from any major symphony orchestra for whatever reason is always newsworthy. When someone departs earlier than expected for reasons that cannot be immediately understood, a natural rise in hearsays and half-truths usually occurs.

    In order to satisfy this natural curiosity over "what is going on", as well as to pass on the knowledge I have obtained through my ordeal, please allow me to offer a few words on the subject.

    Firstly, I am not quitting the oboe, and plan on playing for many decades still. I am also not "disabled" in any way that would compromise my ability to play anything I have enjoyed playing before in the oboe repertory, be it a Bach sonata, a Pasculli concerto or a Brahms Symphony.

    Secondly, the name of the beast is "Musician's Focal Dystonia". It is not at all related to tendonities, carpal tunnel syndrome, over use syndrome, repetitive movement syndrome, or any other muscular ailment used to describe problems encountered by musicians. Focal Dystonia is a neurological issue, not muscular, not tendon-related, not bone, not posture. The issue is supposedly located in the brain. Practicing more or less won't matter. Playing faster or slower won't matter. It is completely painless (at least in my case), offering no tingling in the fingers, no dormant feel, no spike pain of any kind.

    So, what is going on?

    My situation is (if I can say "thankfully") small in comparison with other musicians who have acquired this illness, and it is limited only to the 3rd and 4th fingers of my left hand, and, by its close association with the 4th finger, the pinky is also thrown in as a co-conspirator. These two (or three) fingers don`t work in synch anymore. Playing, say, from a B to a G, will invariably create a fumble, as the third ("A") finger is too slow to come down and the forth ("G") finger is too fast.

    This occurs because the message being sent from the brain, asking this or that finger to come down at a precise time, gets garbled somehow, perhaps because of the death of a neuron or two somewhere in the middle of the pathway, and the fingers then get "confused", unable to respond properly and on time.

    Inevitably, and as it occurs with every part of our body that receives less nerve or movement input, there is a little bit of atrophy involved. Some patients see their hands gradually curl or attain a disformed look. That is not as clear in my case, but I did find that I can play better if my hands are not centered on the oboe, as if my fingers are gradually curling down and away to the side, away from the oboe.

    That led to the idea of adding "bridges" to the oboe, and I attached a number of them on the upper joint, to the point that the fingering on my oboe now resembles that of a saxophone, with the affected fingers now playing away from the main body of the oboe. That seemed to help take some pressure off the muscles I was using to force my fingers into place.

    The addition of the bridges, plus numerous muscle treatments designed to undo the secondary damage and tension being added to my muscles as I tried to continue to play, have helped me regain most of my playing abilities.

    With time, I am now able to play up to an hour a day or so without incurring too much muscle tension. If I play beyond that, my muscles are not able to relax by the time I play again the next day. If I do this continuously, in a few weeks I will develop tendonities from the muscle and tendon stress I am putting the hands through. This has happened a few times.

    The answer now seems to be for me to reduce the amount of playing I do, so that it can fit into the hour or so a day which I can do. Hopefully, with time, I can enlarge this time span, and that is certainly my goal. But handling the intensity of orchestra playing right now (many days we play upwards of five hours, not counting practice time) is inconsistent with the kind of work I need to do to help me heal. So, I had to kiss farewell to my 9 wonderful years at the Chicago Symphony. This also means that, for the time being, I will not be playing orchestra, opera or full recital concerts on a regular basis. Playing them for a week here or there is less of a problem, so long as I have the time to relax in the weeks following the stress. It is the recurring tension that adds to the problem, not orchestral playing in itself. Similarly, the problem is task-specific, and so it occurs when my brain detects I am about to play the oboe. I can play scales, long tones, or Paganini caprices, the difference is meaningless.

    I will now dedicate more time to the kind of oboe playing that I can do without adding this extra stress to my arm. Chamber music works, solo works and recordings are all great possibilities, as they can be easily managed within my limitations. However, I will still perform larger concerts a few times a year, as it is my desire to keep pushing the envelope on occasion and see if I am making any progress towards normal playing, and to keep learning about this illness and see what I can do to improve. Will I play regularly in an orchestra again in the future if my condition improves? I doubt it, but at this point I am not ruling anything out. The only thing I am sure of right now is that maintaining the time commitment required of me in a major orchestra is slowing down my chances for a full recovery.

    I am extremely sad to leave the CSO and Chicago. I love everyone there and admire them more then they will ever know. Life sometimes throws us some curve balls. And this time my number was up.

    Much love to all of you, and happy reed making!

    Alex Klein

    Monday, August 08, 2005

    Court side seating

    Last Friday I attended the Mostly Mozart concert at Lincoln Center. Here are the program notes.

    I always love going to Lincoln Center and this time was no exception. I had the coolest seat in the house:

    I was seated where that arrow is pointing to. Smack in the middle of the first row of seats behind the orchestra. I know it's not the best seat from an acoustic standpoint. But it IS the best seat from a frustrated amateur musician standpoint. This was the closest I will probably ever get to actually PLAYING at Lincoln Center. I mean I was actually ON the original stage facing the audience, under all the lights and those acoustic or whatever rings on the ceiling. And don't forget that it was due to my first "behind the orchestra" experience that I resolved to play in one some day. So you can only imagine how excited I was the entire time I was there! I had been thinking all along that I had gotten seats on the side. When they ushered me into that front row I was in shock! I wanted to cry and smile and laugh and talk all at the same time.

    The back row musicians (bassoons, clarinets, and French horns) were all very friendly. The second bassoonist would always turn around and bow to us as well as to the audience up front. The first clarinetist had conversations with several audience members before the show started and during intermission. And during the stage changes the double bassists would stand in front of us to get out of the way of the moving piano and harp. I spoke to the female bassist (Judith Sugarman) during every break. Everyone was so nice and interesting to talk to!

    The program:
    Ravel - Ma mère l’oye Suite (“Mother Goose Suite”)
    Mozart - Flute and Harp Concerto in C major, K.299
    Ravel - Piano Concerto in G major
    Mozart - Symphony No. 31 in D major, K.297 (“Paris”)

    I went primarily for Mother Goose (lots of interesting oboe and EH lines) and the Mozart symphony but was pleasantly surprised by the Ravel Piano Concerto. It ended up being my favorite. I didn't realize that I had actually heard it before. It's such a fun, energetic piece. And it did remind me quite a lot of another favorite piece of mine, Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue".

    I was so close to the musicians that I could almost read the first bassonist's sheet music. He had a VERY crazy passage at the end of the Ravel concerto. I was in awe! And apparently his colleagues were happy for him too because he got a lot of pats on the back after that (as did both clarinetists who were quite busy throughout). Jane Cochran played some very beautiful English Horn for both Ravel pieces.

    I left the concert feeling very elated and energized. I just wish I had someone to share all my feelings with in person sometimes. I wanted to stay in my seat and go over the concert with other music lovers. I wanted to tell all the soloists that they did very well. I guess that will all have to wait until the day I finally get into some (local) orchestra somewhere. I can't imagine how satisfying it will be to actually be making that music instead of being just a spectator. Then I'll finally be able to talk to people who understand why Oboe and EH solos make my eyes tear up.


    I've been meaning to write about the lesson I had on July 31st. But it's been so crazy with work and all the other stuff going on. I now have 3 weeks left here. Also, my husband's younger sister arrived last Friday. She's going to be living with us now that she's ready to start college. I was busy with her travel plans and her school applications and financial aid stuff. Her school stuff is almost completely settled now. I just need to take a day off soon to go down with her to the school to finish everything off. Lastly we've been squeezing a bunch of social stuff into the calendar because once I start school in September I might have to disappear from the social scene for a bit.

    Anyway, my last lesson was really wonderful! I had such a good time and learned so much again. We started with reeds which I actually didn't do all that well with. My teacher kind of chuckled at my attempts. I thought I had taken off enough cane but I was actually quite far from a finished reed. I need to stop being scared of scraping. We might be meeting on Wednesday and I need to finish scraping one of the reeds from last week and to make another new one. I'm starting to run out of materials again. I will have to make one last big purchase from RDG while I still have an income. She wants me to make at least 2 reeds a week. Gosh, that's a lot!

    After that we started to work on embouchure. My embouchure has gotten much better and reliable and so my teacher said that the last thing I need to work on is my chin. I had always read about the whole "flat chin" thing but never quite understood it. My teacher explained it some but I still don't think I have it. I will have to go over it again when I next see her.

    After that we did some scales. I was very happy because my intonation was quite good throughout the lesson. I asked her about why G is sometimes unresponsive. She liked all the questions I had this time. And I was happy to know that it wasn't just me who had a problem with the response on G's and F's. We talked about being very open with those lower notes and to think of approaching them from the bottom pitchwise instead of from the top. It was weird because I thought I'd end up being flat but instead what happened was that the response was easier and I was still pretty much in tune. Thinking flatter I guess makes you open up more instead.

    We played some scales together. She would either play certain notes before I would or she would hold a tonic drone. In addition to my intonation I was also happy that my sound seemed at least distantly related to hers. Before mine was in another universe. Now I think I'm in her galaxy. My very first lesson my sound was completely horrendous. But this last time when I came in after her it didn't sound completely off. I still have a LONG way to go but I am so happy that now I'm definitely going in the right direction!

    So my scales definitely sounded better since I had been paying close attention to my reed position, especially on troublesome notes like A. However, my finger technique needs some work. I knew I hadn't quite worked on that yet so now I need to start to. I like how we stripped things down to the bare minimum and are now adding things back on while still playing just basic stuff. Now when I play real music again I will feel better about what I'm doing.

    The last thing we went over was breathing and tension in general. This is another area of improvement for me.

    Great lesson. I came out feeling redeemed from the previous one. It seems that I am having one good lesson and then one bad lesson. If my next lesson is in two days I am pretty sure I won't do as well as I wanted to because I actually had to skip practice a couple of days last week. Oh, the horror!!!