Monday, February 27, 2006

I can't think of good titles anymore

Ok now that we've gotten that out of the way . . .

I had a great chat with Patty last night (sorry that I just disappeared, we had some trouble with our internet connection). It appears that I am not some kind of oboe idiot. She has to remind her students to keep their corners in and their chins flat too. YAY! I am normal!

Practices have been going ok. I feel like I am slowly digging out of my slump. The going is still very slow but I think I have finally understood the concepts that had been eluding me mentally. Now I can work on making them happen naturally. I guess that's one of the bad things about being an adult student. I need to rationalize things first before I commit to them. It's too hard for me to just "let go" and let them happen. I guess I've learned not to trust my body or something. Hopefully as I get better I'll build more confidence in my muscle memory.

When I first started playing oboe I couldn't quite understand why it had the reputation of being so darn hard to play. Having transfered from another (marginal) woodwind I was able to produce sound and learn where the notes were remarkably fast. But now that I've been spending almost all of my practice time playing just one note and trying to do crescendos on it without going sharp, it's all becoming crystal clear to me. I just hope I don't start having recurring nightmares about my tuner's needle . . .

I bought some more supplies today. That's always fun. There are some predatory people out there who know how obsessed we can be about our instruments. I have to stay away from all those websites because they sell so many damn cool gadgets. I did ok because I ended up getting only one gadget in addition to the two items I needed. You gotta love this reed soaker. Teehee.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Hormones back under control

So after having slept on yesterday's feelings I feel quite a bit better today. This early morning email (excerpts below) from my teacher definitely helped:

Excellent lesson today :-)

See how it goes focusing on the main topics we discussed. You're doing great!

All the energy you put into your playing/practicing will come back to you many times over...keep the faith!

I liked that last part: keep the faith. I think that's what I lost temporarily yesterday and whenever that happens a desperate feeling creeps up inside me. I knew going into this that the road would be very long and given my other commitments the road will end up being even longer. I have to remember to not panic nor give up hope. As long as I keep plodding along that road, I *will* get to where I want to be musically.

After my Biology lecture I went over to the hospital for one of my volunteer shifts. Because I am no longer pre-dental I signed up for two medical shifts. One on Mondays at the Metabolic Endocrinology clinic and one on Thursdays at the OB/Gyn clinic. I haven't made the Monday one yet because of the snow storm and the holiday, but today was my second time at the OB clinic. The great thing is that when I shadowed my friend last month he introduced me to one of the other residents and it just so happens that the same resident is at this clinic for the next two months. So as soon as she saw me she took me under her wing and has me follow her around and even help a little bit the entire afternoon. I must admit that whine as I do about it all, I do enjoy medicine. I still don't think it's quite the raw passion of music, but there is nothing I would rather do during my time away from music. If only medicine didn't completely consume you. Then life would be perfect.

My problem is compounded by the fact that I am not already good at my instrument. If it were only a matter of maintenance I wouldn't be so wary about going through the medical training process. If I could only practice an hour a day for a long stretch of time then I may not advance much but I should be able to retain a certain level of expertise. But in my case I am trying to get to the highest level I can attain. A part of me feels that the only way I will ever achieve my goal is if I had some time to devote myself fully to music and then later go back to my studies. But that's not practical. It's theoretically possible but I fear that eventually I'd come to resent my decision if I completely gave up on the sciences.

I'm going in tomorrow to speak to my advisor to let her know that I will likely be delaying my med school application a year. This means that I will be applying next year for admission September 2008. The main reason I am doing this is because I was completely overwhelmed trying to prepare for the April MCAT and do well in my classes. I'd rather take the test later and focus on my courses. The second reason I am doing this is because I am hoping that I can spend these next two and a half years focusing as much time as possible on the oboe. It will be to my advantage to improve as much as possible before medical school. I won't have as much free time again for another 7 years!

I hope this all works out. I dream of a time where I am working as a (part-time)doctor, have a happy family, and am playing in one or two groups of serious amateurs. Is it wrong of me to try to have it all? Am I kidding myself?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


So my long awaited lesson was today. I can't even remember when my last lesson was. I think it was a Sunday in January.

It was great to see my teacher again. First we chatted a bit about her latest concert. It's always exciting to hear what it's like to play a professional gig. The performance went well and the group got favorable reviews.

Next we went over my reeds. I brought in three this time which was a record for me and I think I'll try to bring at least that many each time. It worked well to work in a group of three. Once I got my knife properly sharpened (on the big block sharpener as opposed to the ceramic sticks) I was able to scrape the best I have scraped yet. In fact, one of my reeds had a tip that was too thin! She finished them all off and I think two of the three should work out decently. I also adjusted two other reeds that I had started on previously lessons but had been too hard. So now I should have at least 4 working reeds. We'll see what happens tomorrow. The good thing is that I am starting to feel somewhat comfortable with the reed making process. I am getting a lot closer to producing something viable independently.

I had sent her an email earlier this week asking a lot of questions about musicality, phrasing, things of that nature. I am trying to be more expressive in my playing but it's frustrating because my (lack of) technique prevents me from doing anything fancy. In the end it turns out that my old friend the embouchure still needs some more attention. She did see improvement as I am now targeting the correct muscles. But I am not using them actively enough, merely using them as "support". She suggested that I work harder on the reed alone exercise. I need to work on pitch control and sound quality. My teacher is convinced that once I master my embouchure that I will be able to play the way I want to. Right now I play mostly in tune, but some notes cause me trouble. My sound isn't always consistent and I don't have much dynamics control. This is why I have been feeling that my playing wasn't as expressive as it can be. She told me not to worry about all those elements yet and just focus on being able to control intonation with my chops. I am determined to get over this last hump and start playing some music sooner rather than later!

The other major suggestion my teacher made today was that I take up yoga. She noticed a LOT of tension on me in general and especially when I am playing. I think I try so hard that I sabotage my own efforts. From what I've read in books and articles about practicing I definitely do have some nerve issues that I need to work on. She thinks that the tension is playing a bit role in holding me back from where I can be. (I told her that I was feeling a bit stunted in my growth.) Also I need to work a LOT on my breathing. I think I am definitely going to take up the yoga especially since it was something I had been thinking about anyway. I do feel disconnected with my body and it is causing me issues in many areas of my life. And if it's happening to interfere with my oboe playing then that is the perfect excuse to finally address the problem.

All in all I'd say that the lesson was good. I didn't get as nervous as I usually do and I didn't regress and start acting silly and childish like I have at times. My reeds were good and my embouchure and playing did show some improvement. If I could devote more hours to my instrument I would probably see even more progress.

On that note, it seems that I've been devoting a lot of energy lately to feeling sad about the way things worked out with me. Well not really sad. I am very happy really. But I do still feel that twinge of regret at not having started younger and having had a least a shot of dreaming of living as a professional musician. Even now, knowing that it is a hopeless case, the pull to drop everything and just do music is exceedingly strong. It doesn't help that my husband says he'd support me if I did this (we'd have to sell everything and go back to renting a cheap, small apartment). I just keep thinking about what it would be like to be able to do just what I love all day. Would I get sick of it? Could I keep up? Would I be too lazy to practice enough? Could I actually get really good?? A part of me wishes I had the option of being able to become the best I could be despite me starting as an adult. If I could do only music for the next 5 years or so, how good could I get?? Then again, what does it matter. It's not as if I were able to make it my life even if I did get somewhat good. Then my thoughts get more morbid, like how about if I live only 5 more years? If I have to spend the next 5 years studying so hard, I won't have become the best oboist I could have become. How would I feel then during those last moments? I certainly won't regret not having studied more. I would regret not having played more. Never getting good enough to play in even a crappy orchestra.

I don't like these thoughts and don't understand where they are coming from. The logical part of me is happy enough to have finally found my passion after about 12 years of searching. The logical part of me also feels that my potential to be a good scientist or clinician is probably greater than my musical potential. And I want so desperately to be good at something. I may have a good ear but performance doesn't really come naturally to me. Understanding scientific concepts is usually easier for me than taking a proper breath before a phrase.

I *am* extremely happy just to have the oboe in my life. To be able to hear it sing above the rest of the orchestra, to learn it, to love it. It's just painful sometimes to work so hard at something (school) other than where my heart is (music).

Maybe this is where the yoga will help.

Friday, February 17, 2006

I guess I'm going in the right direction

Even though I'd love to live for music! Must . . . play . . . lottery . . .

You Should Get a PhD in Science (like chemistry, math, or engineering)

You're both smart and innovative when it comes to ideas.
Maybe you'll find a cure for cancer - or develop the latest underground drug.

Oh, I got a cello on the "what orchestra istrument are you" survey. I can't get the results to format correctly.

Though I do like the cello, I wanted to be an oboe since my oboe obsession knows no boundries. *cries and hugs her oboe case*

Edit: I just took that test over again and I got cello again!! 100%!! Oboe was 2nd at 83%. Weird. The hubby is a French Horn.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Who's at the door?

So I just got back from the practice room. This is the practice room that I've rented out from the school on Wednesdays from 3-5 PM. The main purpose is to have a place for my teacher and me to meet at. But I figured I may as well use it on non-lesson Wednesdays as a practice room (what a novel idea!).

There is only one problen. I tend to get embarassed. When my teacher is there I feel like I have moral support. Besides every once in a while she plays on her oboe and it's always something nice. I am afraid of what others think when they hear me as they walk by. It's not a heavily transited hallway, but it IS located in Dodge Hall where the MUSIC department is at. That means that real musicians might be walking around. And these folks may not realize that there is an adult beginner in that practice room. Thay may think "Geez that person sucks". Or "What the hell is that anyway?" Silly me, right?

Then I figured: who cares what they think. It's not as though they can see me anyway. And even the best musician was a beginner at some point (though probably while they were still in grammar school not college). Oh well, I have to get over all that. Nothing I can do about it now and the only thing that will get me where I want to be is practicing. Besides, I do have a lot of fun practicing (even if I still can't play the Saint-Saens sonata).

I've been struggling with a lot of emotional issues lately, with the whole music thing being part of the mix. This tends to happen when I have to spend inordinate amounts of time on non-musical things (like textbooks). Back when I was in college and a newly minted Music major I did seriously consider picking up an orchestral instrument. But, then I realized that I had no discipline for anything. I didn't think it possible for me to spend hours upon hours doing any one thing. Fast forward 10 years. Now I am studying Organic Chemistry for 8 hours at a time. Suddenly practicing for 4 hours doesn't seem like such an impossible feat. If my mouth could hold out that long, I think I could totally do it. Today I ended up practicing for about 75 minutes. If my lifestyle permitted it, I could have several of those sessions every day. If only I had believed in myself back then!

I am willing to work very hard at the things that mean a lot to me now. Only problem is that it is music that means the most to me. Yet it is the one thing that I can no longer aspire to careerwise. So sometimes when I have been studying my science textbooks for hours and hours I feel a bit sad. It's kind of unfair that I have this passion that I can't live for (unless I win the lotto). It's painful to spend a lot of energy on something else instead, even though I do like the other thing too. I keep telling myself that as long as I have some time to develop my talent I will be fine. But sometimes I find myself really wishing that I could do something crazy like enroll in this program and never work again!

Anyway, I am actually feeling pretty good right now. I had a nice practice session and have rehearsal for that rock band tonight. My interest in the latter has waned because I've been spending a lot of mental energy daydreaming about me playing chamber music and symphonies. But hey it should be a fun outlet for me during these stressful times so for now I will stay in the band. However, come summertime I may have to leave it for greener pastures. Our quartet should start rehearsing again by then. I can't wait!! I am pretty sure they will see some kind of improvement in my playing since the last time we met.

I can only hope that my teacher will hear improvement at our lesson next week! *gulp*

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Short and sweet

After a week of haphazard short practices I was finally able to get in over an hour last night and tonight. That was great. It's crazy how quickly your endurance suffers. My embouchure felt a bit weak for the longer practices so I will continue to focus on that. Tonight my fingers felt more comfortable than last night which is good since last night I felt somewhat clumsy on my scales. I've been working on my other Sellner exercise (an F major one) and have most of it ironed out now. Sometimes B-flats still trip me up. I sometimes stumble with fingering between A, B-flat, and C. I still blame it on the saxophone!

I hope to work on more reeds after my exams next week so I should have at least 2-3 to bring with me to the lesson on the 22nd.

So there you have it. I've been running around taking care of a lot of school related stuff and my practicing suffered. I also haven't worked on reeds in almost two weeks! But now that things are mostly settled I should be able to get back to my old routine. I won't be able to step it up to the next level (2 hours/day, practices with others) until after the semester is over. I just hope to be able to get 30-60 minutes in daily during all the MCAT craziness. My Kaplan course starts tomorrow! *gulp*

My bassoonist friend called me yesterday to let me know that he's still interested in the quartet but is very busy right now too. I guess the timing works ok. Now I have something to look forward to for the Summer. It will be amazing to play with the quartet again. I think I will be able to contribute more now that my intonation and sound are better. And it will be fun to read and play a greater variety of music.

Because of the cost of my Kaplan course I was unable to apply to the Apple Hill summer program. But I *will* look around and see if there is anything local for adults. More on that later. For now, sleep. :-)