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!)