Saturday, May 27, 2006

Reed blahs

My lesson yesterday went mostly well. I was so proud of having three reeds to present this time. Their tips weren't quite refined enough but my tying and the scraping I had done thus far were good. After adjustment by my teacher all three of my reeds are still in the "possibly good reeds" category. Time will tell whether or not they will get played on regularly but I am hopeful thus far.

I didn't play a ton of music at the lesson but it was ok because we actually got to talk a lot which is not always the case. It was mostly about reeds but also about other general playing stuff. I tried very hard to NOT fall into my nervous chatter routine because I realize that it wastes both of our time. As per J's suggestion, I started practicing standing up and now I feel immensely more comfortable playing standing than I do sitting. My breathing feels more controlled that way and I am better able to get rid of excessive tension. J mentioned that I was noticeably less tense than usual but that I still have more work to do in that area. I think that going to another teacher helped in this regard because I let out a lot of nervous energy worrying about how she'd react to my playing the first time she heard me. Once I got over that with no trauma, I felt like I have less to fear.

I've now been ordered by both teachers to do more scales and to do them quicker. I admit I've been quite lazy about scales for some reason. Maybe because they're BORING! They're also frustrating on the oboe because it's difficult to get them in tune and even.

Today's practice session didn't go very well. My new reeds are still too hard and my old reed is close to being unplayable. I didn't feel like breaking in reeds today though so I ended up just playing crap on my old one. I felt like crap myself after doing that for an hour. I need to focus on what's going to help me improve. Tomorrow I will play on my new hard reeds even if all I end up doing is long tones!

One of the three bakeries nearby is apparently making cinnamon buns. The smell is intoxicating!!

Despite the fact that after watching X-Men 3 last night I was convinced that I am indeed Phoenix I may not be evil enough after all:

You Are 34% Evil

A bit of evil lurks in your heart, but you hide it well.
In some ways, you are the most dangerous kind of evil.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Wow, an update

Isn't difficult to write in a neglected blog? I feel like I should write absolutely everything that has happened since my last update, but just the thought of that makes me tired. Yet I know I have to do some kind of recap in order to be able to keep going. So here goes.

My last final was on May 9th, over two weeks ago. However, the traumatic effects of last semester linger on. I realized that being back at Columbia made me regress emotionally. I picked some of my inferiority complexes back up. It was very difficult feeling inadequate all of the time. It went beyond my not being able to focus and my procrastination. What hurt the most was feeling like I was living a lie. Try as I may I couldn't muster up enough genuine motivation. My feelings regarding whether or not I should continue down the pre-med path are still ambivalent. On the one hand a part of me is convinced that it's the only job I'd ever like yet on the other hand I am convinced that pursuing it will lead to me becoming depressive. Let's hope I can work this all out by the end of the summer. For now I am on schedule to begin the research internship on June 19th. I'm pretty excited about it and am hoping that maybe my niche will be somewhere in there.

Music stuff . . .

Where to begin? Well, it turns out that I now have two teachers! How did this happen? I mentioned that the first time that I went to an Imani Winds concert (back in March) I introduced myself to the oboist and got her contact information. I went to another concert of theirs on May 11th and at that point we set up a time to meet up at her house for a free lesson (so kind of her). My first lesson with her was last week and afterwards she asked if I wanted to take more lessons with her and I was more than happy to. My teacher is very busy (and a bit more expensive) so I can't go to her weekly anyway. In fact some times I end up seeing her only once in a month because of our schedules. I liked it back when I met with my very first teacher every week because it kept me on my toes in terms of practicing. I figured that seeing two teachers now would have a similar effect. It's really interesting to have someone else listen to you because all teachers are really different. Both are amazing players and I feel so blessed right now to be working with both of them. My second teacher, "T", focuses on different things than my first teacher, "J". I feel that this will only help because it will lead to me becoming a more balanced player. For example, J focuses a lot of embouchure and sound and intonation. During my first lesson with T she remarked that my sound and intonation were quite good for the amount of time I've been playing. That makes since it's it's what I've been focusing on. Like J, she suggested that my next thing to attack is dynamics control. Both teachers gave me basically the same exercise for this: a very long tone that starts pp goes ff then goes back to pp. One interesting suggestion she made was to NOT use my tuner during these exercises for now. I've been so worried about "perfect" intonation that I do think it had limited my dynamic range. I was very afraid to play loudly because I tended to always go sharp in those cases. Yet if I never practiced it how was I ever supposed to get better at keeping my intonation against increased air pressure? T has also had good advice for me in terms of breathing and support. Another thing she noticed was that my attack on the notes was a bit harsh. I had been tonguing similarly to how I tongued for my saxophone and this is way more than what the tiny oboe reed calls for. I'm now practicing a much softer attack and it's amazing how much more "musical" my playing is when I do it correctly. I had my second lesson with T today and I think that it went well. She said that I'm a quick learner. YAY! We've gone over a lot of new things in the two meetings and she said that for now we'll just focus on improving on those things before introducing any other new concepts. Once I get over these fundamentals she is going to help me with the "v" word: vibrato. Ooo! She was happy that I haven't tried to apply a sax vibrato (or any vibrato at all for that matter) to the oboe because apparently the results are pretty disastrous. I had read that on several sites and it's one of the reasons I've been patient about it and not pursued it yet.

Tomorrow I have a lesson with my J. I'm hoping to finish the three reeds I've started. And I may practice again later tonight to work some more on my Corelli piece. I hope she'll notice some improvement. Another added benefit of having someone else listen to me is that I think I've become slightly more comfortable and relaxed when playing in front of really good musicians. I should be a lot less nervous at tomorrow's lesson. *crosses fingers*

I didn't mean for both lessons to fall on the same week. I have to figure out a better way to coordinate them.

This past Saturday I played for the longest ever since I began playing. I was on my instrument for a good 4 hours total! I had a nice, productive practice session at home early that afternoon. I ended up doing just long tones, scales, and technical stuff for 90 minutes. I didn't play around with music at all. My husband was playing at a church concert (not our parish) that night and they were rehearsing for two hours before it started. I took the oboe with me figuring that I could find a corner somewhere and play a few tunes while they practiced. I did that for about 30 minutes and then walked on stage with them half jokingly. They welcomed me to play along with then and then said that I should go ahead and play at the concert with them too. Pretty funny! I didn't end up playing on the very fast tunes but I did do the intros on all of the slow ones (along with the trumpet player). I even did some little solos in between verses and stuff like that on some of them. The last time I "performed" like this was March of last year at which point I was still sounding pretty bad. At that point some of the other musicians did like it but others weren't as enthused. This time everyone liked my oboe! That's because it actually sounds like an oboe now. It was such a nice feeling to expose folks to my instrument.

The only downside was that I think I made my mouth sore from all the playing. It felt a little sore that night but I didn't really think about it until I tried practicing the next day. My upper gums were a bit swollen, especially in the middle (that little tissue that connects your upper gums to your upper lip). Forming my embouchure aggravated it and I ended up only playing like 20 minutes on Sunday. It's all ok now thankfully.

I now have another performance opportunity coming up. The person who organized last year's concert (at my parish) is now preparing another one. Our first rehearsal is this coming Saturday and this time I will not be doubling on the sax since I never touched it again after that past concert. The arranger told me he's going to write some nice little solos for me. It should be fun!!

As I was driving home today I was thinking yet again about how grateful I am for having found this. The oboe brings out the best in me. For example, I can't believe just how bold I am when it comes to my oboe stuff. Even though I am still very much a student I don't have much shame when it comes to playing. Things would be different if the audience were other classical musicians but before I was afraid to play in front of anyone. But I really enjoy this so much that I don't focus on the fear anymore. I rather play and get a bit nervous than not play at all. Being bold has helped me in this path because I've befriended several great teachers/musicians (you too Patty!). Another great thing is that I have demonstrated at least some degree of discipline in this endeavor. Though I wish I had even more, I am remarkably more disciplined with this than I am with anything else. This gives me hope that I can organize other areas of my life too. If not, then at least I can continue to see improvement in my playing.

For my next post I will be putting up a picture of me at my rock band gig last night. It was at a pretty famous venue! I'll keep you guessing for now.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


I just want to note how grateful I am to God for having found my true passion. After my 7 hour stint at the library today, I sat outside for about 30 minutes enjoying the weather. As the wonderful warm breeze blew on my face I suddenly felt very grateful for my life. I tend to spend so much time inside my head trying to "figure things out" that it's hard to really be in the moment. I then remembered how empty my life was before when I had nothing I really loved doing. I was so afraid that my entire existence would be like that. Nowadays it's as though the world is painted in brighter colors. I am able to truly appreciate everything. And even if a cloud temporarily darkens the way, all I have to do is listen to oboe music in my head and I know that the sun will come out again soon.