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.

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