Thursday, June 30, 2005

Last night's rehearsal

Since it was raining last night traffic in the NYC metro area was a complete nightmare and we all showed up late for the 6:30 rehearsal. It does not matter how much precipitation there is, as long as there is some a significant percentage of drivers will forget how to drive and get into all sorts of (minor) accidents. We finally got underway at around 7:45 and decided afterwards that we'll make rehearsals from 8-10 from now on to give everyone time to eat dinner and battle traffic.

We had the least amount of breaks yet which meant that I was playing for nearly two and a half hours. By the end of it my cheeks and mouth area felt as though I had been holding a smile all day long. My intonation was pretty good for the first hour and a half or so and then I got a bit sharp as I tired. My reed made it all the way through the end of the rehearsal. What a champion! It's very old and it was hard to play lower notes soft on it. But it still sounded quite nice in the middle register. I was happy last night because I feel like I'm getting better at blending my sound with the others. My sound was strident at the first rehearsal. At one point I was afraid that playing in the quartet would distract me from the things I should be working on with the instrument, but in reality the group is helping me more than I imagined. I'm learning to be a part of an ensemble in a supportive environment. We're picking pieces that are within my reach so I can focus on things I hadn't focused on much before like sound blending, dynamics, articulation, and expression. Last night I realized I am most expressive when I not nervous and overthinking. At one point I got really inspired on a little solo and at the end of the piece the others all remarked that I had played it quite well. Teehee! It was so uplifting and wonderful. I know it's going to be so awesome once I can get consistent tone. I look forward to being able to really get into the music once I have the technical things down better. But see, even this early on I can have a few seconds of pure glory. This is good because it serves as a motivation to go back and do more long tones.

I was a bit wired when I got home. This tends to happen when I've been involved in music stuff during the day. My hyper state didn't last long and I was able to get to bed at a decent time. What a peaceful feeling to go to sleep after you've done something you're really passionate about during the day. I think I fell asleep with a satisfied smile on my face.

Oh! And I tried out the latest reed I'm working on and it actually sounded halfway decent last night. It's a little brassy sounding but it responds decently well in all registers and is close to being in tune. Unfortunately, I don't have much hope for the other three reeds I made. Perhaps tonight at my reed lesson this latest one will be adjusted to become the first self-made reed that I can actually play on. I'm crossing my fingers.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


A few days after the end of our semester my little crew from Chemistry class, as well as the professor and TA, went out for dinner. There were maybe twelve of us total and we had a wonderful time and talked about all kinds of things. Throughout the semester we sat next to each other in class and had a lot of fun talking about science and making fun of each other.

At one point the conversation turned to what we were planning to do for the summer and one of the guys who knew about my musical pursuits (because I emailed him a lot during my clarinet vs. oboe debate) spoke up for me and said "I'm sure Hilda will be busy with her oboe all Summer". I flashed a kool-aid smile and said that I indeed hoped to spend as much time on music as I could. At that point one of the girls in the class turned to me and asked me about my musical activities so we talked about it for a little while. Prior to that I hadn't spoken to her as much as to the other people in the group. She told me that she had been playing piano pretty much all her life and was really intrigued by my story. She even offered to help out if I ever needed accompaniment or wanted to play with someone.

I didn't think much about it at the time but remembered her when I got my copy of the Oboe Solos book. As I mentioned before I was having trouble understanding the pieces and wanted to hear the accompaniment. I thought that maybe I should contact the pianist from Chemistry and offer to pay her a fee for recording some of the piano parts for me on a tape. I was a little shy about asking her because maybe she was busy or didn't really want to deal with a beginning oboist. Then I ended up getting busy with stuff myself so I never got around to writing that email.

This morning one of the guys from the group sent an email to everyone with a medical link. When I saw her name again I remembered about the piano stuff and decided to google her. That's when I almost snorted my orange juice as I laughed at myself. This is the girl from Chemistry class.

She kept her amazing musical career so well hidden! I would have never imagined. She always stood out but I figured it was because of her stunning looks. Little did I know. *giggle*

Monday, June 27, 2005

More on absolute pitch

After writing my previous entry I still didn't feel like working so I decided to look into perfect pitch some more.

The first thing I found led me to a study at UCSF. I hit on the link for the system sound test and was dismayed by how quickly the pitches are played. I felt like I could catch some but the speed was making me nervous. I also didn't like the sound of those pure tones.

I know that a part of me really wants to feel like I have this because in a weird way it would sort of justify my extreme devotion to music. It's sad that I still feel that I need to justify it. I guess a part of me hasn't completely given up on the whole "destiny" thing, feeling that I was born to do something. This is a silly line of thought because I'm going to do this even though I can't get into the NY Phil.

My next hit was on wikipedia. This sentence stuck out: A person with absolute pitch will be able to, at minimum, know when a piece isn't played in its original key.

DING! I scored a point. It annoys my husband to no end that I am constantly correcting him in regards to what key he's playing something in. He always says "but it's the same thing". And I say "no, it's not!".

Wikipedia has redeemed me:

Persons who have absolute pitch, but who do not have strong musical training, will seem annoyed or unnerved when a piece is transposed to a different key . . .

They may feel that such a piece does not have the intrinsic beauty of music, and in some cases will be physically uncomfortable . . .

I knew I wasn't just being annoying, anal, or crazy. It just bothers me to hear it in the wrong key; you should see me scrunch my face disapprovingly. It definitely loses some of its beauty.

This part was also interesting because it reminds me of what I just wrote about with my struggles with melodic dictation. I need to further develop my relative pitch.

They may have a harder time developing relative pitch than others, and for many musical tasks like transposition, lack of training in relative skills can trip up a musician with absolute pitch, who will attempt to use their absolute knowledge for what is clearly a relative task.

I guess I may possibly have what they describe as "passive absolute pitch". I can identify certain notes, the ones whose sound I've cared to learn. Right now the one I know the most is "a" since oboists are expected to provide that tuning note. In addition to the c and f# which I knew before I can usually get f, g, and d. I didn't really try to cultivate this after I saw how it set me off course with ear training. I can sing c, f# or a on command as well, albeit slightly out of tune some days. As I mentioned I can definitely tell when things are in the original key and I can sometimes identify what key things are in. Again, this is mostly uncultivated. I can recognize the keys we use a lot at church: C, G, and D major and f#, b, a, d, and c minor. E major or minor I sometimes get though they both have a "weird" feeling to me. Nearby keys that I am less familiar with like e-flat or b-flat trip me up. Also it's easier for me to recognize keys with popular music than with orchestral. With orchestral I cheat and use a reference piece. For example, since I love the 3rd movement of Brahms' third symphony it is my reference for c minor. If I hear another piece in c minor I will remember that it's the key of the Brahms piece.

I can always play a piece or song in my mind in the correct key. Right now I can listen to the opening of Mozart's 40th, Ravel's Bolero, or Beethoven's 5th in my mind in their original glory. And I can usually sing it back to you in that key. I'm not a great singer though so sometimes I'll sing it flat.

I remember one time in composition class there was a violinist who had perfect pitch and was a virtuoso and the whole nine yards. The professor wanted to test her ability and bounced a ball on top of the table and asked her what pitch she heard. I silently mouthed F because it was the one pitch I was really familiar with at that time and the ball's sound brought it to mind. The girl didn't see me but the professor did so when she said "That was an F" he gave me a weird look. Haha. That was fun!

Another interesting story happened when I was 7. I remember learning "Silent Night" from my second grade teacher. I found the melody very beautiful and one night I was in the living room by myself staring at the tree. I decided to serenate it by singing "Silent Night" to it. I started singing and realized that something wasn't right. I started again and again felt weird about it. I remember like yesterday the conversation going on in my mind. I realized that I could start singing it on a different note each time and I wondered how people knew what the correct note was. I figured that maybe I needed to play the guitar like my teacher did. At that point I knew nothing about music notation but it's really interesting that I was having this sort of sophisticated dialogue in my mind. Eventually I settled on something and the tree did get its serenade.

Do you think it's worth me trying to develop this? Or should I just spend my time on more fruitful activities? Maybe I can train my ear while making reeds. Now there's a thought. To be honest all I really want at this point is to get better at playing melodies by ear and to play in tune. But I admit, having a good ear is very satisfying. It can't hurt to work on it some more. :-D

An unsuspecting music major

I knew going in that Columbia offered a core curriculum. During the Spring 1994 semester two things happened that greatly affected the rest of my undergraduate career: first, I dropped premed and second, I enrolled in "Masterpieces of Western Music". At some point during that semester, and I can't remember exactly when or how, I decided I'd become a music major. College had become a disappointment (I was no longer a straight A student) so I figured the only way I'd survive was by studying something I actually cared about. Now you have to understand that I had almost no musical background at this point. The only thing I had done besides choir in junior high and high school was about a year of private piano lessons. These were very informal and consisted of me learning to play some well-known tunes like "Fur Elise". So really the only thing I did know was some basic reading.

I spent the rest of the semester going over the course bulletin, trying to figure out how I'd fit the music major and the computer science minor into my two remaining years. Aside from 20 credit semesters there was only one glitch. The music major included an introductory theory class plus two one year theory sequences (diatonic and chromatic harmony and counterpoint). In order to graduate on time I needed to start the first one year sequence that Fall. But I knew that I needed the intro course in order to not be completely lost. I went in to speak to one of the theory professors. I laugh now because I am so easily intimidated but when it comes to music I am way bolder than normal. The professor informed me that it was possible to place out of the intro course through an examination offered in the fall. He supplied me with a syllabus for the class and sent me off to work on my own that summer. My family and I went to the Dominican Republic for about a month in 1994 and I had my thick music book in hand. In DR the heavy meal of the day is eaten at noon and after that people go for naps or some other quiet activity. Every afternoon I would sit at my aunt's porch underneath the "roble" tree (that's what my family calls it but I am not sure it's the correct name). This tree would let loose a ton of tiny flowers as the breeze would shake it. For about two hours a day I'd lay down and enjoy the perfect weather while working on my music exercises. I learned the basics: key signatures, how to form triads, major and minor scales, etc. By the end of my vacation I had completed all the material from the syllabus and come September I aced the placement test and was able to start my theory sequence. Little did I know that it was only the beginning.

Truth be told I had no idea what music "theory" would be about. I was expecting a course on acoustics for a while until I started working on those introductory exercises. Boy was I in for a treat! I'd long been hearing harmony but did not speak its language. After the first few theory classes I realized that I was finally going to really understand music. For years I realized that I was always attracted to a certain "type" of song but I couldn't figure out what the common element was (minor keys). I could also sort of tell where the music was headed and was always delighted when they'd throw in some surprise (deceptive cadences). When I'd go see merengue concerts I'd notice that the pianist would never have sheet music yet he'd play a ton of chords and notes. Did he memorize it all? No, I eventually realized. He plays the chord progressions by ear. An entire new world opened up to me and I couldn't be more excited! I worked on my chord analysis exercises with gusto. Soon enough I became familiar with secondary dominants, suspensions, passing tones, etc. It turned out that I had a great ear for it and once I heard something once I was able to understand its function and identify it later on. I realized I had favorite chord progressions that I could trace back to the time I was 7! I also had favorite keys (f# minor is divine). Some suspected I may even have latent perfect pitch! This was not a good thing though because it was completely undeveloped and I tried to rely on it when I shouldn't have in Ear Training.

Ahh, ear training. When I saw that there was a course called "ear training" I laughed out loud for about a minute. WTF is ear training, I wondered? I imagined people sitting around a circular table pulling their ears in all directions. The course bulletin was very vague. If I had little clue what theory would be about I had NO clue what this ear training business was. The first few classes were innocent enough. They had us sing scales, recognize if something was major or minor, and do some very easy sight singing. Sight singing was (and still is) scary to me but I did know that it existed. When I was in my high school choir I noticed that the girl next to me (who was an amazing singer) would hum the tunes before the teacher played them by just looking at the music. For some reason before that I had assumed that the music was only for instrumentalists. I didn't realize that people could sing what was on the page. Hehe, poor little naive me. So anyway when I started the ear training I realized that this was part of what you needed to do to develop that skill. Cool! A few weeks into the class our teacher introduced the concept of dictation and said there were three kinds: harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic. Harmonic dictation that entire semester consisted solely of intervals. I found it incredibly fun and had nearly perfect accuracy with that. As soon as he'd play the interval I knew exactly what it was: minor third, major 7th, minor sixth, tritone. Soon I was getting impatient to do harder things like full chords and chord progressions (we did eventually do those in later semesters).

Melodic dictation was an entirely different beast. When he talked about it I was in shock. Is it humanly possible to hear a melody and copy the entire thing down? Woah! Maybe that sense of amazement lead to me starting off on the wrong foot and being scared of melodic dictation the entire time through. I managed to do ok when things were stepwise but once we introduced jumpy melodies and modulations I was pretty much lost. I was relying either on my interval ability (which doesn't work as well when the melody goes by you really quickly) or my newly discovered ability to be able to identify certain pitches (the only ones I could do at that point were A, F#, and C - so I could rock G major). This, I now realize, was a very wrong approach to melodic dictation. I should have been focusing more on the entire line rather than going pitch by pitch. For the rest of my ear training courses the thing I was always worst with was melodic dictation. To this day my melodic ear is still way weaker than my harmonic one. And here I am playing the oboe. So I will have to face my nemesis head on. After doing the music major I always figured I'd end up playing keyboards or bass because I think about music harmonically. I do love harmony and always will, but for some reason, now that I'm more mature, a part of me feels like I do have something melodic to say. I really long for the day when I can sing through my oboe. I now find myself following melodies while still being able to appreciate the harmony underneath. Back when I was studying the Handel Sonata I was having trouble feeling it until I did a chord analysis of the accompaniment and had my husband play the chords out for me (the piece's key signature is g minor but it acts like it's in c minor which helped me understand why the end sounded like a half cadence).

At one point after I started oboe I wrongly thought that I'd have to give up thinking about harmony. But after my Handel experience I see that it is still essential to my understanding of the music. I was pleased to come across this article where Carter Brey talks about how he analyzes pieces. How sexy! I really loved the article and his way of thinking about music (particularly example 2). I thought that once you were done with theory classes that you'd never have an opportunity to examine music that deeply again. Now I see that there is room for this in ensemble playing. Happy, happy, joy, joy!

This weekend JC and I tried a new exercise. For almost 10 years I had been playing electric bass (very, very badly I assure you) in our choir and singing backup vocals. I had never had to play the melodies of our songs on any instrument. For a few weeks I had been feeling uncomfortable about not being able to play any melodies on my oboe unless I had the music in front of me. I don't want any crutches. I want to know my instrument inside out. So I decided to start off small, with melodies that I am *very* familiar with. So JC got to pick the tune and would name it. I would then give him the key it's in (don't ask me how I've memorized them all for our hundreds of songs) and he'd start playing the accompaniment on his guitar. I had to go in and start playing the melody on the correct note and at the right time. Getting the correct starting pitch was easy. Unlike before, I can now hear what scale degree a certain pitch is (this is MUCH more helpful than trying to figure out exactly what pitch it is). So JC would start playing his chords and I'd sing the pitch in my head and I knew if it was the tonic, the third, or the dominant (it was usually one of these three). Playing the rest of the melody was much trickier. Again, the stepwise melodies were not all that hard. But I found myself struggling with any bigger intervals. I struggled a lot at first but by the 4th or 5th tune I was getting more precise. And I was actually starting to have some fun. So this is what it feels like to play melodies? Interesting ...

This weekend I went to Patelson's Music store to get some Woodwind quartet music. I was very tempted to buy an expensive ear training book and CDs. But I figure I have enough background to work on it on my own for a while. I think I may have finally gotten JC interested in it so we might start working on it together. I have one of my old sight reading books that we can use. Once we're ready to do melodic and rhythmic dictations then maybe I will consider getting that book and CDs.

Ooooo I would *LOVE* to re-do my music major entirely. All of it. The history, the theory, ear training, and even that composition course. I would do so much better this time around. My ear is amazing comparatively and everything is so much more relevant now that I am actually playing something. I'm surprised I even survived with half decent grades.

Maybe someday I could do this. That would be dreamy!!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Oh what a beautiful morning

Something strange happened last night. As I was setting my alarm clock I must have changed the time on it because I ended up waking up an hour earlier than I wanted to. This meant that I wasn't rushing to get to work less late than I usually am. I was able to appreciate a truly glorious morning. The temperature is in the high 60's/low 70's and the relative humidity is a comfortable 40%. The sky was a wonderful, clear blue and the sun shone at a perfect brightness. Enough to bring out beautiful colors but not so much that it felt burning. I drive up to work via the Merritt Parkway, a scenic highway, instead of Interstate 95. The road has many trees on either side and down the center median, as well as many curves and hills. Today the trees seemed so lush and green. I felt like I was in the midst of an ancient forest. The finishing touch for my perfect morning drive was my CD of Beethoven's 6th Symphony. I had to pump it up really loud in order to hear it over the wind noise. The drive was so nice that even though I'm back in Corporate Jail, I still feel uplifted and at peace.

I'm probably in such good spirits due to rehearsal hangover. It ended up going pretty well last night. This was our first rehearsal as a quartet and the rapport between all members was good. I was really nervous that the flutist, Marti, would not enjoy herself but she did have a good time. I've known her as a sax player for over 10 years and had no idea she played the flute so well. She's such an incredible musician. I handed her a sheet of music and a second later she was sight singing it in the correct key and everything even though the others were still playing some other piece in a different key. Wow! William had been working on his reed earlier that day and by the middle of the rehearsal he was really happy with the way it sounded. We all love the bassoon sound! I was trying to choose pieces were he wasn't stuck with a boring bass line so I think he too had more fun this time. Rufi had more solos last night too.

So that leaves me. I was indeed quite nervous when we started. I was worried about my embouchure, intonation, and sound. Oh I forgot to say that it was VERY humid last night. So my reed was acting up big time. It felt like it was closing up or something because I wouldn't be able to make sound at all sometimes. As it got darker (or I warmed up) it responded better but the upper register was very very soft. Am I supposed to have a backup high humidity reed or something? Speaking of which I need a backup. I can tell that my current reed is now past its prime and heading towards its inevitable demise. How sad. This was a good little reed. Anyway so at first I was making a lot of mistakes due to nerves but eventually I settled in. I was having a difficult time playing piano when I needed to. At one point I was despairing because I felt that my sound was really out there and not meshing well with the others. But I decided to keep on trying and brought out the mirror to ensure I was doing things right with my mouth. Eventually I was able to get a sound that blended better. William remarked that he could definitely hear a difference in the sound since the last time I went. I think he meant it because he's not one to just say things like that for no reason. If you sound bad, he will tell you. My teacher called me and we've scheduled our last lesson of the Spring semester (it's a make-up) for tomorrow. Let's see what he says about my sound.

I learned something last night: You get what you paid for. Since I'm on the computer all day I've been the one buying music for the group. Also since I'm the weakest link musically I need to see what we're getting to ensure that it's something within my reach. I bought music from four different places: a bunch of trios from a private vendor, a big bunch of quartets from, another bunch of trios from Last Resort music, and some quartets from I've listed these in increasing price order. After playing music from all sources last night I realized that the cheap private arrangements pretty much suck. They offer the bare bones of some famous melody in part 1 (at least they're in the correct key) with pretty unimaginative accompaniment on parts 2 and 3. The next two bunches were fair on average. Some were actually pretty good, but most were just ok. The quartets I bought from sheetmusicplus were more "official" scores (adaptations arranged by professionals). These cost $5-$10 for just one piece whereas the others were $10-$20 for anywhere between 14 and 25 pieces. One of the arrangements I bought was for the Andante from Haydn's Surprise Symphony. It wasn't technically challenging not even for me, but regardless when we played it we sounded like a real ensemble. The arrangement was very interesting and super fun. It was everyone's favorite piece of the night. So from now on I am going to stay away from books with mediocre arrangements and try to find good arrangements even if the cost is way more. The others were all willing to pitch in when I explained my purchase habits. So today I get to surf the web in search of some interesting but not too hard woodwind quartets. Maybe by next year we can take on some of the real meaty stuff!

We ended up practicing from 7-10! I got two breaks during which the others played trios or duos. I felt like my face hurt by the end but I had a very nice time. When you're practicing on your own most of the time you can sometimes forget that the reason you're doing this is to play with others some day. Imagine that! I think it was good for me to push myself to last long last night. I had been terribly scared to upset my new embouchure to the point where I was being wimpy. At the first sign of soreness I'd stop playing. I need to push these new muscles so this will be the perfect way. And now I don't have an excuse to cut my practices short. Then again the adrenaline rush from playing with others was what helped me last so long. I will have to try to emulate that somehow at home.

So for now our little quartet will continue meeting on Wednesday nights. I'll keep you all posted on our adventures. :-D

Practice log so far this week:
Monday: 95 minutes. 50 minutes long tones and scales. 45 minutes etudes and repertoire.
Tuesday: 30 minutes repertoire.
Wednesday: Played nearly 2 hours at the rehearsal last night when you take away the breaks and talking time.

Someone needs to work on reeds! *blush*

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Insert witty title here

I'm not quite sure how I got so busy all of a sudden. Somehow I was better able to update this blog back when I was stressed out with work, school, music, and a bunch of personal issues. Maybe it's because these days I'm spending more time doing instead of thinking about doing. Though I must admit I've been thinking a lot too. So much so that sometimes I feel like I lost my writing voice temporarily. Hopefully it will return from its vacation.

In addition to the good advice I got from William a week ago, I also got some advice from the owner of this blog. Look ma, it's another blogging oboist. I sent him a short email greeting and he kindly responded with a pretty long and useful email. He too said that it is very important to start being a musician instead of always planning for when you'll be one. That being said when you also have a full-time regular job you do have to plan in order to get that practice time in. He mentioned that having routines really helped him so I decided to give that a whirl. On Monday I told myself "by 7 PM I will be downstairs in the basement practicing". I also told myself that I would have two 45 minute sessions that night. Lo and behold by 7:15 (only 15 minutes late) I was down there beginning my first session. That lasted until 8:05. Then I went upstairs to put some rice on the stove and take a break. My second session went on from 9:15 to 10:00. It worked really well that day and I will definitely keep working with that.

The line that struck me the most because it was exactly what I needed to hear was "don't be afraid to make some mistakes!" I've been alluding to working on a new embouchure. I had suspected that mine wasn't correct and when I heard my recording nearly a month ago it was confirmed. I had been improving technically but my sound was not any better. After playing one note for Jackie a few weeks ago she found several things wrong with my embouchure. I had started biting, probably due to the faulty reed I had used for nearly two months. Also the corners of my mouth were pulled back as in a smiling position. She demonstrated the correct embouchure and gave me tips about how to think about it. For the last two weeks I've been doing a lot of exercises just with the reed and with long tones, trying desperately to perfect my embouchure. I felt like I had to start all over again because the new muscles I was using were tiring out in about 10 minutes just like back in Dec/Jan. I rerecorded myself about a week ago and was excited to hear improvement in my sound. The notes were more centered and the sound was a bit closer to the ballpark of a true oboe sound. However within days I started having nagging doubts. Am I really doing it right now? Why can't I get my upper lip completely in? Is the embouchure really circular now? etc, etc, etc. It was getting to the point where I almost wanted to stop practicing until I could verify with a teacher that I was now doing it correctly. But I knew that not practicing at all would be even worse. Already the weeks of doing only long tones were pretty much erasing the tiny bit of chops I had built up. My husband encouraged me on Sunday night. He asked me why I was pressuring myself to go from a wrong embouchure directly to a perfect one. He didn't think that anybody could do that and said that even the pros probably went through several wrong embouchures before getting it right and that the process took them months, maybe even years. So when I read "don't be afraid to make some mistakes" the next morning I realized that I actually don't have anything to lose by continuing my mission. If when I meet with Jackie again my embouchure is still wrong then she will help me fine tune some other part of it so that I can get closer. I am pretty sure that what I am doing now, although not perfect, is definitely way better than what I was doing before.

As an adult learner it's very hard to not expect too much of yourself. You always feel like you're racing against time. You have decades of time to make up for so you want to be ultra efficient. Sometimes you want to cut corners, but this is not really a possibility if you really want to get good. You feel that perhaps you can intellectualize things to give yourself an advantage but at the end of the day your fingers will pay no heed to that. On top of all this you have the day to day struggle to get practice time in. And let us not forget the "frustration gap" (from Jay Light's Essays for Oboists). As you improve you set your goals higher and higher.

I guess all these things I think about are actually normal things that musicians deal with. But as an isolated adult learner it's hard for me to find people who can relate to all this. My friends are all busy working, having kids, etc. And the ones that are musicians are already good and have figured out how to balance work and music. I don't know any other thirty year old who just started an instrument and is completely obsessed with it and with the idea of playing in an orchestra someday. It's hard to find others who believe in me and in what I'm doing. That's what's nice about the internet. I've been able to meet other people for whom music is very special and who do understand these struggles and cheer me on. It's too bad we can't all hang out and go for a coffee or something.

Right now I feel a little lost because I technically don't have a teacher. My semester is over with my original teacher and I did not sign up for the summer mainly due to scheduling conflicts. I've had some reed lessons with another teacher who I really like but I am not sure if she is willing or able to take me on. If she CAN take me on I will be so excited because I know that I will improve tremendously. But then I'd still have to deal with severing ties with the person who taught me how to assemble my instrument and get those first notes out. I'm sad about that. But for now I guess I shouldn't think about it. I need to keep working on that embouchure and once my supplies from in from RDG I need to make a few more reeds.

Tonight will be our first quartet rehearsal. We've now added a flute to the mix. I am very excited about that because it's a very cool and dear friend who's an amazing musician. Also it takes pressure off me being the first voice all the time! HURRAH! One of the books we have is for flute, clarinet, bassoon trio. I had been playing the flute part before but most of it is uncomfortably high for me. I'm thinking that tonight I will use that book to take breaks. They can play a tune or two from there to give my mouth a break. I'm very concerned about endurance tonight. When we met for the trio a few weeks ago I was playing a lot of repertoire and lasted for over two hours. Now that I've been doing just long tones with my new embouchure I tire VERY quickly. I am nervous about spoiling things tonight so I'm hoping they are ok with doing the trios in between quartet pieces so that I can take breaks.

I am scared to play a lot of music because I tend to forget about my embouchure when the notes are flying by. But I do feel more secure with it this week than last week. Besides the pieces we have are all intermediate level so they're not super hard. They're easier than that Handel Sonata I had been working on. I do still play the first mvt sometimes because now it sounds better (that was the piece I did the sound comparison with).

Though I'm a little scared about tonight I am more excited than anything else. It's really magical to make music with others. Especially this style of music. So let's hope that my mouth can take it!

Monday, June 20, 2005

Congratulations to my biggest fan!

Happy Birthday, Happy Father's Day, and Happy Retirement to my Dad (he's retiring about a decade early)!


Poor Dad has the weird luck of having his birthday fall on or near Father's Day so he only gets one gift.

I wanted to congratulate him and thank him for being genuinely enthused, intrigued by, and supportive of my musical activities. He even said that the day I get to play in an orchestra he'll be willing to sit through a whole performance without talking, walking around, or clapping in the wrong places. That's big! I'll be more than happy to have him there. :D

Friday, June 17, 2005

Live from Lincoln Center, part two

Last night I attended the concert that was aired on PBS on Wednesday. I felt it necessary to hear "The Swan of Tuonela" in person since it was the piece that opened my ears and heart to my instrument.

Sibelius's inscription at the top of his score: Tuonela, the land of death, the hell of Finnish mythology, is surrounded by a large river with black waters and a rapid current, on which the Swan of Tuonela floats majestically, singing.

I decided to splurge a bit and try to get as close as possible to the musicians. My seat ended up being just three rows from the front but as far left as you could go. I didn't really like it because I wanted to be looking up at the soloists. The audience dynamics are so different way up in the front than where I usually sit. People were more visibly excited about being there. I started wondering if I could possibly switch into another seat. Perhaps some subscriber would not show up to the performance. I thought I was the only one thinking this way and was shy about it at first. But then I started looking around and there were several people looking around for other seats. At one point as the concert was about to really begin a bunch of us played musical chairs and moved around at the same time to other seats. At this point I am in the center aisle, three rows back. A minute later Natalie Portman sits across the aisle from me! She's a bit more petite than I had imagined her, just shy over 5 feet tall. She has a very beautiful face just like you see on the screen, even though she had almost no make up on and that ultra short hair do for the movie she's currently working on. She sat very quietly reading the program and probably trying to avoid all of us trying not to stare at her. She was there with her parents (They were sitting somewhere else though. She looks a lot like her Mom.) I always liked her and now that I know that she appreciates good music I like her even more. Anyway, as I was getting comfortable in my seat and the orchestra was about to start tuning the rightful owner showed up and I had to run to a seat in the very front and a bit off to the left. That's where I ended up staying the whole night. It was fun playing musical chairs at the NY Philharmonic! I didn't think that happened there. I got a good view of the violinists and I could actually glimpse at the lower joint and bell of the first oboist too. That was useful because I could anticipate the solos. Then again I didn't need the visual cue. Anytime the oboes sounded I'd break into an uncontrollable smile.

The first piece was Dukas's "Sorcerer's Apprentice". I haven't ever seen Fantasia so I did NOT have images of a wizardly Mickey Mouse in mind. The music was interesting and you have to love the bassoon lines. The Sibelius Violin Concerto was next. Gil Shaham executed it flawlessly. I don't know a lot about the violin but as a musician I was very pleased with the concerto. He was very expressive and his playing was beautiful. As Dulciana noted playing music is a lot more physically intensive than people realize. It was indeed great to see that these musicians are indeed mere mortals.

Two funny things happened during the violin concerto. There was a disheveled looking man sitting about two seats from me who apparently was a violinist or at least a violin enthusiast. At several points when Gil was playing all along this man was humming the tunes along with him! Sometimes out of tune! I don't think that Gil noticed but the violinists closest to us did and started giving him the evil eye. At one point I thought one of the men was going to come down and beat up on the guy. It was kind of funny. One of the female violinists caught me smiling at the whole thing and she smiled and winked at me. The other weird thing was that again people clapped in between movements. This time they clapped between all of them. I felt weird at first but felt obliged to join in. I guess folks were just very excited. I think that's ok in the case of a great soloist.

Speaking of physical strain while playing I had been thinking about this since I saw the broadcast on Wednesday. I was struck by how much Tom Stacy was shaking the entire time he was playing. The sound was great but whenever I looked at him I'd get anxious and worried. Last night I felt the same way again, that if I looked at how much he appeared to be straining I'd get all nervous about it. He seemed to be doing less of that shaking last night but I could tell that the piece is very taxing in terms of breath control. His English Horn sound is so dark and lovely, especially in the bottom register. I tried to recapture the feelings I felt the very first time I heard it. The crescendo at the beginning, the lovely cello (Carter Brey was awesome!), and then that mysterious wind instrument with the melancholic melodies. Back then I remember having images of a dark sky and of floating. Last night, I closed my eyes and felt the music come alive around me and go through me. I am very happy that I had the chance to listen to it live.

The last piece was a Suite from Firebird by Stravinsky, the 1919 version. Stravinsky has really grown on me. I can definitely say that I like his music. He was a bit difficult for me when I was in school and heard the Rite of Spring for the first time. But when I saw it earlier this Spring I thoroughly enjoyed it. And I enjoyed the piece last night as well.

Again people clapped after the first movement. This time it only came from a small block of people somewhere in the back orchestra seats. It went on for longer than expected though and kind of threw off David Robertson (the guest conductor, Maazel was ill). So he turned around and shouted "That's one of my favorite movements, too!" Everyone got a laugh at that and afterwards there was no more clapping until the very end.

I wish I could write more, but I best start working (it's already 10:30). I just wanted to make sure I said something about my concert.

Afterwards I went to my Mom's to wait for JC to get out of his rehearsal and I managed to squeeze in 30 minutes or so of practice. :-D

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Live from Lincoln Center

Try to catch this show tonight on PBS at 8PM.

Some info here.

I've included the latest info about the show below. I have tickets for it tomorrow but will be taping it tonight. I'm sure Gil Shaham will be great but the reason I'm so excited is that Tom Stacy will be playing "The Swan of Tuonela"! He was supposed to do this in April and I had tickets for one of the dress rehearsals but they changed the program at the last minute. I was so mad! That's why I've splurged and bought tickets for an evening performance this time. If you all remember this piece is the reason I am playing oboe today. I was entranced by it when I first heard it last summer and from that day forward I slowly began to research the oboe and English Horn until eventually I decided to try playing it. I'm sure Tom Stacy will make good work of it. Actually the entire program is quite interesting. I can't wait!

Important Program Update
June 15-18, 2005

Maestro Lorin Maazel has cancelled his performances this week with the New York Philharmonic due to illness. In his place, David Robertson has graciously agreed to conduct this week's program.

The revised program features Stravinsky's The Firebird and Dukas's The Sorcerer's Apprentice, as well as the previously-announced Sibelius's Violin Concerto with soloist Gil Shaham, and Sibelius's The Swan of Tuonela, featuring Philharmonic Principal English Horn Thomas Stacy.

David Robertson has been hailed as one of the most important conductors of his generation. Of his New York Philharmonic performances, New York Magazine wrote "he draws brilliance and passion from the Philharmonic." "He makes everything seem fresh," added The New York Times.

33-year old American Gil Shaham is likewise one of classical music's brightest stars. The LA Times calls his playing "gorgeous, spontaneously passionate and deeply felt." Shaham also happens to be David Robertson's brother-in-law.

The new program details are:

Wednesday, June 15, 7:30 PM
Thursday, June 16, 7:30 PM
Friday, June 17, 11:00 AM
Saturday, June 18, 8:00 PM

Dukas: The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Sibelius: Violin Concerto
Sibelius: The Swan of Tuonela
Stravinsky: The Firebird: Suite for Orchestra (1919)

David Robertson, conductor
Gil Shaham, violin
Thomas Stacy, English horn

Monday, June 13, 2005

A response to my latest updates

My bassoonist friend sent me an email in regards to my latest updates and it provided a lot of food for thought. He wrote about how there are two types of people, those who "will be" and those who "are". Similarly there are two types of artists, the "apocalyptic" and the "integrated". The former are analysts who theorize and write about art and the latter are the actual artists who spend their time making art.

He feels that I am spending way too much time thinking about and planning to become an oboist and not enough time actually being one. I am getting caught up in making schedules that will leave me time for music instead of simply practicing as much as I can right now.

I certainly have a tendency to turn everything I do into a school project. Yet I know that what I love the very most about all things musical is playing with other people. My focus should be on improving at my instrument. The other things (e.g. familiarizing myself with the historical context of the music, analyzing pieces, reading about composers, etc.) should all be secondary.

His words struck a chord with me because before I got his email I was going to make a post asking why it is that I still procrastinate about practicing (even though I want this so badly). Once I start I am fine and I can go until my mouth gives out. Most of the times I want to continue beyond that. But actually starting my practice sessions is still very difficult. Suddenly there are several household chores that I remember need to get done.

I think that he's very perceptive and completely right about me spending more time than necessary planning. I am definitely one of those people who lived in the future. Someday I will have a successful career. Someday I will be in an orchestra. Someday I will be a mother. Recently I had made some strides towards appreciating the now more. I've entered a period of happiness in my life and that helped me enjoy today and worry less about tomorrow. However my progress has been slow and I do still spend inordinate amounts of time worrying about who I am to become. It's nice when someone from the outside can point things out to you in this way; I was only semi-aware of it.

I am wasting time preparing for tomorrow when I can be practicing today. It's just that practicing feels so tedious right now because I've had to basically start from scratch in order to fix my sound. And now I'm scared that I'm doing everything else wrong. I need to just focus on one thing at a time and eventually everything will fall into place.

This weekend I did have a mini victory. I spent two hours in a private reed making lesson. It was intense but I got a lot out of it. When I got home I still had some cane that was soaking so I decided to tie it up. After an hour's work I had a reed that was not leaking and that actually crowed!! This was my first time making something that close to finished. It's a bit honky and not quite in tune but the response it quite easy on it. Woohoo!

I AM an oboist. Right here. Right now.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Continuation of yesterday's thoughts

(I'm sorry if my posts are boring and self-centered for the next few weeks. I am working really hard on resolving some of the questions I have by the end of the summer. Please bear with me. It helps me a lot to write all this stuff down.)

It's hard to give up the hope that I can be reach the top of something like medicine. Especially when part of the reason is that I rather be pursuing an endeavor which I already know I can never get to the top of. But letting go of this intellectual vanity and embracing a more humble stance will be a good thing. In this way I will achieve true happiness. The kind of happiness where your heart and soul sing rather than a "happiness" that is measured by worldly standards. I am pretty sure that I would enjoy being an amateur musician much more than being a Nobel prize winning doctor. If my life were to end in ten years what would I remember more fondly: graduating from graduate school or finally playing Brahms' Third Symphony (oooo, or how about Le Tombeau de Couperin)? There really is no contest.

That being said I do still need to make a living and if it's possible to make some sort of scientific career work for me then I will gladly do it. I just need to get all these thoughts out so that I am conscious of who I am during my decision making. It's easy to revert back to my old ways of thinking. If I do end up deciding on something stressful and all-consuming it MUST be because it is something that I truly want for myself. No other reason will be acceptable (e.g. prestige, social pressure, etc.).

I think my latest rash of irrational thoughts are all a result of one feeling: FEAR. Subconsciously I am freaking out about the possibility of leaving my job in the next few months. I've been here for 8 years and it's really all I know. Even though I don't enjoy it at all I can't seem to let go. A part of me feels as though I can't make a living anywhere else. I know this makes no sense but I still feel it. This fear is what's driving me to try to figure everything out before I make the jump. However I may have to jump while still facing much uncertainty. Will I have the strength to go through with it? I must!

Let's say I remove future motherhood, career aspirations, and even music from the picture and focus just on this job. I can NOT stay here for the rest of my life. Even if I did like what I actually do (which I don't) there is one fundamental problem with this job. My office is located in Connecticut. Now I used to blame the whole state for my unhappiness but I know now that the location itself is not to blame. It is I who doesn't belong here. Whatever I end up doing I know that where I want to be working is back in my hometown, Manhattan. I think I'd be happier cleaning windows there than being in this comfortable office here. Ok, maybe that's an exaggeration but you get my point. I miss being in New York so much. It and the people really energize me. So no matter which way I look at this job I can't think of it as a life-long possibility. That means that it's inevitable that I have to let it go. The timing of this doesn't really matter. I just need to convince myself that it's ok to let it go. I have to believe that there is something for me where I want to be. If I think of it this way instead of getting overwhelmed by all the other factors affecting the decision it becomes much easier. So even if I'm undecided come July going into the City for nine months of school has to be a good thing if only because it will put me where I want to be. Now it's just a matter of strengthening up so that I can have the dreaded conversation with my manager.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

A semi-anniversary

Today marks a different special day. Six months ago I played the oboe for the first time in my life. I remember how I excitedly drove down to Greenwich Music to pick up my rental instrument. I then rushed home to try it out. I had been reading stuff online about how to make sound and was determined to get something out of it that very night. After a few tries I managed a G and by the end of the my little session I had G, A, and B. Boy were they all out of tune! And boy was my mouth tired! Total playtime: 10 minutes maximum.

It took another month before I committed to it seriously. Once the decision was made I knew in my heart it was going to be for life. This took me by surprise. What started as a semi innocent experiment turned into something life altering.

I've alluded to my years of searching before. Looking back on my last 10 years that feeling of always being on the look out for meaning in my life is one of the things that most stands out. I prayed for help finding it. I even asked for some kind of sign! The advice I was offered from others was usually some variant of "you need to look inside" or "only you know".

The best things in my life have come when I least expected them and they have turned out to be things I never expected. Being academically inclined I always thought that my thing would end up being research. Even when I allowed myself to fancy it being in music performance I always saw myself playing an instrument with more of a harmonic function since my most favorite part of my music major was harmonic analysis. My least favorite was melodic dictation. Go figure.

Most of my life my achievements were academic: getting a perfect score on a test, acing a class, getting a certain score on a standardized test. I guess I started to think that my worth was linked to that. Maybe that's why I felt so empty once I went off into the "real world". I never cared to achieve anything major at work and so my ambitious side fell into desuetude. This had the negative effect of converting me into a sloth overall. I stopped taking care of myself until I turned into an unhappy and unhealthy person. For years I felt only half alive.

Thankfully, the last few years were positive as I slowly worked myself out of that funk. However, I was still searching. My spirit longed to plunge into something with wild abandon, to be passionate about getting being good at something again. I really needed that.

Now I find myself seriously questioning my motivations to pursue something like medicine. It would probably take over my life. Perhaps I just have white coat envy. Right now I feel like all my gears are shifting. What I want more than anything is to be the best amateur oboist I can be. Everything else will have to fall into place around that.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

On this day four years ago

This day marks the birth of my new life. Happy Anniversary to Juan Carlos and me! Every day I thank God for blessing me with such a wonderful life partner.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Three steps forward, two steps back

Last night I found myself studying from one of the methods I recently won on eBay. I had placed a bid on someone's old lot of easy oboe study stuff. When I received it I was disappointed because it seemed almost too easy. Funny how things can change in a matter of days... It's only easy if I'm blatantly disregarding sound and expression.

After working on long tones and scales for about 45 minutes I opened up one of the books. It felt tedious for about 5 seconds and then I decided that I would try to make it sound as pretty as I can. That's when it got interesting.

I was surprised at how I relished going back almost all the way to the beginning. I thought I'd be upset, but I wasn't at all. I was kind of happy! Even though I was playing things I could have played a few months ago, I am much more aware of what I am doing now. Yes I could have played this back in February but I know it wouldn't have sounded the same then. I have no business trying to play something technically challenging if I can't make "Auld Lang Syne" sing. That being said I did play through the Handel once and worked on cleaning up some troublespots.

I am happy that I am back to working on becoming an oboist, rather than someone who happens to know how to play xyz piece on the oboe. I'm playing for keeps this time and I have to keep reminding myself that I need to look out for what's best for Luna and me.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

The Moon over Six Flags

As I was driving home from our trio rehearsal last night, with the window down and the summerlike air infiltrating the car, I felt like I was having an amusement park hangover. As a child, I absolutely adored going to the amusement park. On our way home Dad would always like to put the windows down instead of using the AC. Though I was sad to leave the park I enjoyed the smell of the woods on our way back. The parkway I drove on last night is very dark and woodsy and so it took me back to those halcyon days.

Yes I did finally get to play with the bassoonist! Now I feel properly initiated into the world of Chamber music.

I ended up playing for over three hours total yesterday if you count the hour I practiced before I left and by the end I had air escaping out of my dying embouchure. It was definitely a challenge for me as we started out with these pieces that were for flute, clarinet, and bassoon which meant I was playing way up high at first. Actually I guess it was best we did these first before I got too tired. After three pieces from that book (I'll get you the names later on) we moved on to a Fugue from the "Last Resort" arrangements I bought. Lastly we played from the 14 trios (from Windsor Brass) which had interchangeable parts. By that time I was tired so I took the third part and let them deal with the principal one.

The bassoonist , William, is the most experienced one of us. He completed studies at the conservatory in the Dominican Republic and played with a symphony orchestra there for 9 years. He lent us a lot of insight into the world of Chamber music. He told us to always be aware of what style of music we're playing and of sound. But not only are we supposed to be aware of what we're doing, we're supposed to be so well meshed with the others that we know their parts too! We're not supposed to sound like three musicians practicing in three different rooms of the house, but as a single harmonic entity.

Afterwards I stayed behind longer to ask for his assessment of my playing. Obviously my sound still has a ways to go. He called it a "virgin" sound, which I guess is better than other words he could have used. He said that it definitely doesn't sound ducky and is musical, but that it's not yet my own voice. But he concluded by saying that I've gone quite far in the short time I've been playing.

One of the conversations we had was about our instruments' names. William was pleasantly surprised that I chose "Luna" for my oboe. He has been doing a lot of work with older Dominican music forms such as work songs that were used by country folk while they worked on the land. Unlike the European (or urban?) notion of the moon as something associated with vampires and werewolves, the campesino concept of the moon was very positive. They saw it as an ally which helped them know when to plant certain crops and when to harvest others. In a land were electrical power was nonexistant, the moon provided light and a beautiful backdrop for many tales of romance. He thought it very odd and amusing that I, having grown up here and being educated in English, picked the moon as the thing to associate my precious oboe with. I explained how I came up with it and it ended up having a lot of parallels with my ancestors' concept. The moon can be a guiding light in our lives.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Dawning of a new day

A new day is dawning for little Luna and me. We had an auspicious meeting with Jackie yesterday. We had a nice talk about reeds and she fixed mine up. And you know how I've been complaining about my sound and feeling weird about my embouchure? Well, she heard me play one note and knew immediately what the cause of my problems is. Indeed my embouchure is not "circular" enough and she explained how I can better achieve that.

Well it turns out that the reed I was using before, the one I played on for nearly two months, is the likely root of the problem. She looked at it and found several imperfections with it that caused it to be a very flat reed. She said she wouldn't have allowed a student to play on it at all. So most likely that's why I started taking on some bad habits (biting, not bringing in the corners of my mouth) to bring the thing up to pitch. No wonder my technique has improved and my sound hasn't.

I'm a little sad that I hurt myself unknowingly for months but am glad that I found out now and not later. I am so happy that I had the balls to contact her. I *knew* I needed someone else to look at what I was doing.

We hope to meet a few times over the summer to work on reeds and embouchure. I have full confidence that she will set me on the right path. I think we think in a similar fashion and this will help me advance quicker in regards to reed making and correcting my sound.

Coincidentally I got home last night to correspondence from Mannes. It turns out that their Extension Division has what I've been looking for!

First we'll start with this:
Chamber Music
Schedule: 2 hours weekly
Length: 15 weeks - 1 semester
Credits: 2.0 credits

The Alaria Chamber Ensemble.
[The Alaria Chamber Ensemble is The Mannes Extension Division Ensemble in Residence.]Instrumentalists and singers work on techniques of playing in small groups. The first session is an open audition to determine placement. Groups of all levels -- beginners to advanced -- are formed. Repertoire includes music from the Renaissance to Contemporary.

And then work up to this:
The Mannes Community Orchestra
Schedule: 2 hours weekly
Length: 15 weeks - 1 semester
Credits: 1.0 credit

Sight-reading and study of the symphonic and operatic literature; audition and commitment to rehearsals is required; the Conductor of the Mannes Community Orchestra evaluates performance abilities of all new students during Orchestra auditions and determines if he/she is qualified to participate in performances.

I knew that somewhere in this big, beautiful City I grew up in there HAD to be a way that I could PAY to PLAY! And did you see? The Chamber people take beginners!!! Once I fix my sound I am soooooooooo there. And the orchestra will have me studying symphonic literature. Oooo. Aaah. Do you Mannes people want a kidney too with my tuition payment? I just want to dance thinking of the day that I will be part of all that!

I am so silly about this that for two nights in a row I'm dreamt that I'm at orchestral rehearsals. Little old me. The night before last I was the only oboist who showed up and by default the principal. Just like in that other dream a month ago my reed completely broke right before I was supposed to go in. This time it disintegrated in my hand! I think this is a sign that I need to get serious about reed making pronto. Then last night I was at a rehearsal again. But this time I didn't quite make it to my seat. People were just walking around getting prepared for it, putting music on the stands. I may have been chatting to other musicians or maybe just staring and taking everything in. I woke up before anything cool (like music making) happened though. It would be nice if I could actually get to play in one of these dreams. At this rate I might actually get to play in real life sooner!

For all those of you who know me, and those who don't, I've NEVER wanted anything more than I want this (playing in an orchestra). If I had ever wanted medicine this way I would have been half way through residency by now. THIS (how I feel about music) is how I want to feel about my career stuff. I know plenty of premeds who feel this kind of passion. Hey, I'd even settle for 25% of this feeling. But unless I can get to that level I will NOT commit myself to (medicine) and will look for other career alternatives. I'm just so happy and feel so fortunate to have found a passion (music). Even if it's not something I can live off, at least it's something I can live for.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

That was fast!

Dear Hilda,

I am pleased to inform you that you have been accepted as a Summer
Intern at the School of Dental & Oral Surgery (July 12-15, 2005). We
will be providing you with additional information at the end of the

(Asst. to Dr ZZZ)
Admissions Office


Notes from my lesson on Tuesday

I had a productive lesson on Tuesday. Perhaps it was because I went in determined to talk less and play more. I think that because my teacher is the only other oboist I know in person I go in there wanting to chat away about oboe stuff. It's embarassing because I think at times I've irritated him by talking too much. Part of it is also nerves. I get nervous about playing for him so I start talking nervously too. Anyway, I had been working hard on the Handel and I wanted him to hear it so that he could give me pointers.

As suspected what I need to work most now right now is sound. I had figured that after my adventures with the recording last week. He had me think of my embouchure as circular. When I get caught up in the notes I think I fall back to my sax days and tend to bite and lean too heavily on the lower lip. This is not helping my sound plus I also need to cushion more with the lower lip. As I get tired my lower lip starts coming out a bit. I'm also not always attacking the notes clearly.

He felt that I had made good progress with the actual technique of the piece since I couldn't play it at all the last time and now I can play the whole thing through albeit at about half speed (the Allegro). He wants me to not speed it up more until I can clean up sound stuff and of course half hole stuff. I could have sworn they were clean at home but at the lesson they were very sloppy. My teacher noticed I'm moving my wrist and even shoulders to do it. I need to focus on just rocking the finger.

He said that my pitch is good so I should stop obsessing over pitch only and focus on other sound qualities. For example if I have a big interval (from a fourth or fifth up) I know that all I am thinking about is the higher note being in tune. So sometimes what happens is that it will sound very different in character from the lower pitch. It's supposed to sound more like it's materializing from the lower one. So I will work on that too.

I feel kind of silly now for wasting his time in earlier lessons. He lent me good insights on Tuesday by me letting him listen to me play. I will try to do that from now on. I feel that now I am at the point where I am ready for more serious, intense lessons like this. They will help me advance more. Before things were so new that I had a ton of questions.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

So many concerts . . .

. . . so little money.

I haven't yet ordered those tickets to the NY Phil and in the meantime I got the catalogue for Carnegie Hall's 2005-2006 season. They're playing the "Sinfonia Concerante" (I think in November) which I absolutely love. Now I *have* to see that one. Oh and I do still want to catch Mother Goose at Lincoln Center. I'll even admit it to wanting to catch Shakira and Juanes at MSG.

Going to bed. Practice made me kind of tired today. What a wimp!

Writer's block

Last night I realized why I hadn't updated the blog in days. I had writer's block. Not in regards to the blog itself though. Instead, I had an essay to write for a short internship program (4 days in July) and I was procrastinating big time. It was due today and of course I fretted over it all of last week but didn't actually start writing anything. By the weekend it was all I could think about which is why I suddenly found myself unable to post on the blog. I think I was subconsciously punishing myself. If I couldn't get what I HAD to write done then I wouldn't allow myself my fun writing.

Also I really wanted to write about something other than music in case I've been boring my non-musical readers (Hey there!).

The sad thing is that all it needed to be was a 1 page essay detailing my interest in Dentistry and what I hoped to get out of the internship. I had these grandiose ideas of likening my voyage of self-discovery to the Odyssey but when I sat down to write I couldn't even get started. Last night I forced myself onto the computer and allowed myself to write my thoughts in an informal fashion. Now that most of my writing has been in the form of this blog or internet chatting, it was too difficult to start writing in my "serious" voice from the get-go. My initial draft sounded like it was written by a high school girl. Over the course of two hours I kept reorganizing and rewording my thoughts and eventually it sounded like something somewhat worthy of a premed (or in this case predent) student.

Because I waited until the last minute now JC will have to go deliver the application in person. It's due today. The other minor problem is that my adviser never got back to me regarding that letter of "good academic standing" that she was supposed to forward to them. Luckily they know each other on a personal basis as she used to be on the admissions staff at the Dental school so I'm hoping that if I can get in touch with her today she can call him up or something and vouch for my standing. UGH!

Ok, well now that that's done I don't have to worry about the next one for a few weeks. I'll be applying for a 2 week Dental internship in January. That application is not due until August 15th.

Why oh why do I procrastinate? I thought I only did it at work, but I also do it with stuff that I actually care about. Or think I care about. Even with music stuff.

Here's a list of just some of stuff I'm procrastinating on:
My 40 issues at work.
Getting in contact with dentists and doctors that I wish to shadow.
Updating my resume.
Writing to several places about volunteer positions for the Fall.
Reviewing Physics.
Some small house projects (like painting trims).
Consolidating our bank accounts.
Closing out credit cards we don't need.
Our siblings' school paperwork.

Anyway, I keep meaning to write a long post about my career woes. But since I don't think that will ever materialize I'll try to summarize it instead: I thought I wanted to be a doctor since I was 4 because I was always fascinated by anatomy and pathology. I entered college as premed but got discouraged when I wasn't making A's in my Science courses. I wasn't even sure I wanted medicine badly enough to go through the long, hard road ahead. I decided to take some time to study something I knew I liked and that's when I switched to become a Music major. Because I figured I'd need a job once I graduated I tacked on the Computer Science minor. I took the first job offer I got and have been here ever since except for the year that I taught second grade at my grammar school. I enjoyed teaching but felt inadequate due to my complete lack of formal training. I would certainly consider teaching again. But I definitely enjoy the Sciences the most in terms of coursework (after music) so I've decided to give this whole premed thing another try. Since January 2004 I've been taking the prerequisite courses at Columbia (a year each of Physics and Chemistry and now I'm registered to do the year of Organic Chemistry and Biology together). Unlike my undergrad days I now do have an A average. This has made me realize that I am certainly capable of doing this stuff. But the question of whether I actually want to do it still remains. Sure, I am most definitely still interested in anatomy and pathology. I will forever be interested in the actual body of knowledge. But the medical lifestyle remains a bitter pill to swallow. And now that I'm older it's even harder to justify. There are so many things in my life that I love and would be unwilling to sacrifice. This is why Dentistry entered the picture. I had never really thought about it before. Probably because I perceived it to be less prestigious than its cousin, Medicine. I know that for a while I was out to do whatever was the "hardest". I felt a need to prove myself or something. I no longer feel this way. So this has allowed me to consider other things which perhaps will be a better fit overall. I am willing to sacrifice some of the intellectual stimulation or what not in order to have a more balanced life. So now I am looking at a bunch of health care careers besides medicine (which I guess is still officially in the running despite my misgivings). The pressure is on for me to have this all figured out by next May at which point I'd be done with the prerequisites and will be faced with having to return to work. Oh I'm not sure if I made this whole thing clear. I'm either quitting or taking leave from my job because I'm registered for 11 credits of science at Columbia which is like a full-time job. I will not be able to work if I want to do well. I've decided to do this despite everything being up in the air because I really, really, really need a break from this place (my job). I feel that as long as I'm here I am unable to make up my mind about where to go. Though I dread it here, it is very comfortable and lulls me into a false sense of security. If all I have to worry about are school and music, both which I love, then I should be in the right frame of mind to make up my mind once and for all. I will spend time next year exploring all the things I'm considering: medicine, dentistry, physical therapy, physician's assistant, teaching (at all levels), public health, and ethnomusicology. I guess the decision had to wait until after the oboe discovered me. Because now I have the tools I need to make my decision and I understand my priorities better. The two decisions I made with my heart have turned out to be the best ones in my life. I'm hoping I can pull this again with the career thing. This is just so hard for me, you can't imagine. I need something that will interest me so that I don't end up wasting my days like now. It most likely won't be behind a computer because I tend to be more energized and actually work when I'm dealing with people. I have to feel that it's a cause I actually believe in (e.g. I believe in teaching because I know I am doing good by educating young people unlike this job where I couldn't care less about 401(k) plans). And of course I have to have time for my family and music. Ok I guess I've rambled long enough. I'm sure I'll be writing more about it as the year progresses. Pray that by this time next year I'll have my path all planned out.

Now back to the regularly scheduled program . . .