Saturday, June 17, 2006


So after that awful performance experience I was blessed with one of my most wonderfully musical days ever this past Wednesday. Even before the Fiasco of 2006 I had been looking around for other people to play with. All three of the other quartet players are out of commission right now. The bassoonist is no longer practicing his instrument and is too busy with his recording studio. The flutist moved across the Tappan Zee bridge. The clarinetist basically tore down his house and is rebuilding it from scratch. This is why I took on that gig in the first place. I had gotten somewhat desperate to play with others. But now I realize that it's best to wait for the right opportunity instead. Luna and I might be alone for quite some time yet still.

Or maybe not . . . Some time last year I joined the Amateur Chamber Music Players, Inc. One of the perks of joining is that you are included in their directory of amateur players and you gain access to said directory. One of the things you must do before you're listed is rate yourself according to this scale:

A. "Excellent."
You know much of the standard repertoire, from many time periods and for a variety of ensembles including your instrument, "inside out." If your partners make a mistake, you can often bring them back in without stopping. You are a prima sight-reader and you consistently sound excellent on your instrument. You already aim for cohesive musical expressiveness with attention to fine nuance on a first reading.

B. "Good."
You are quite familiar with portions of the standard repertoire (perhaps pieces from certain periods or for certain instrumental combinations). You generally sound good on your instrument and sight-reading is not a problem. You usually pay attention to blend, balance, dynamics, and basic phrasing on a first reading.

C. "Fair."
You are in the process of exploring the standard repertoire, perhaps avoiding those works that are currently too technically challenging. You concentrate on not making major mistakes while reading an unfamiliar part, though you are aware of what the others are doing. You often slow down a fast movement for technical reasons.

D. "Etc."
You play a repertoire carefully chosen to be within your technical limitations. On a first reading, you usually aim to get through the music and end together without too many stops and starts in between.

At the time I joined I rated myself a "D". Even still I'd call myself a D+ or perhaps a C-. I am not sure that I am quite yet exploring the standard oboe repertoire. Anyway, there are not all that many other D players. While I do want to challenge myself I don't want to ruin anyone else's experience by stumbling all over the place. So about a month ago I looked through the directory and found one other D oboist in my area. We corresponded via email and then by phone and agreed to meet on Wednesday.

Wednesday, June 14th:

10:30 - 1:20
I am pleased to say that my meeting with the oboist went very well! We were both quite nervous at first and weren't really sure where to start. We talked for a bit about how we got involved with the oboe and what we've done so far. He's been playing for 2 years and it turns out we're more or less on the same level. Though they were a bit on the easy side, we had loads of fun going through duets from my method books. We played for so long that both of us were almost too tired to talk! We will definitely be meeting up again as his schedule permits (he's often on religious missions). I even got to eat lunch at the parish house which was fun!

1:20 - 2:20
I ran out of there and took a bus then the subway to T's house for a lesson. I ended up getting there 20 minutes late - yikes!

2:20 - 4:00
Luckily she did not have a rehearsal or other lesson to run to and we ended up together for quite a while. I was concerned about whether I'd be able to play after my 2 hours with my new oboe buddy, but my fears were needless. The lesson went quite well. I've improved at my dynamics control while doing long tones, though she still wants my forte to be a lot louder. And I'm breathing slightly better too. Other oboists out there: do you breathe through your mouth or your nose or both? I sort of mangled the B-flat scales I had prepared but eventually I got them out. I'm still struggling with the fingerings that T wants me to use. No forked F's at all means that I end up doing some fancy stuff with my right pinky on the B-flat minor scales. Next time we meet I have to prepare B scales. The minors are easy there, only the major scale is a bit tricky. I have no excuse to be sloppy next time.

I played the second movement of my Correlli and she was mostly satisfied with it. She thinks I can play it at tempo (100) even though I've been practicing it closer to 80. So for my next lesson I have to play it at tempo and also prepare the third and fourth movements. She said that she gave me a lot to do because she thinks I can handle it. Cool!

Oh I forgot to mention that at the lesson before this one I asked her what my "level" is and she said I was playing at around a sophomore in high school level. That's pretty cool for 1.5 years I think.

4:00 - 4:30
Pizza break

4:30 - 5:45
My musical day wasn't over yet. I take the subway down to 59th street and walk over to Patelson's Music House. After looking through all they had for oboe solo/duo I ended up purchasing two books of oboe duets for my new friend and me. They were $20 a piece but now we have 41 new duets to play and these are more substantive than the ones in my method books. I also saw several "real" duets that we can aspire to play in the future. There was one with strings accompaniment which looked really interesting. He met some string players through ACMP so whenever we're ready they can help us with it.

5:45 - 6:00
As I sit on a crosstown bus on my way to meet the hubby I reflect upon the day so far. I feel completely happy and satisfied and realize that this must be what it feels like to live like a musician (well without the pressure and financial woes). Everything I had done thus far that day had been music-related. Boy did that feel good! I even ended up playing for 3.5 hours!

I know that not all days can be like this. But wouldn't life be great if I could have days like this at least every once in a while? Ahhhh ...


Pattyoboe said...

Hilda, I breathe through my mouth. I believe I get more air that way. The only time I breathe through my nose (with oboe, that is!) is when i really don't want to change my embouchure at ALL, or in that rare moment when I can sneak a quick breath through my nose but the mouth breathing would interfere with what I'm doing.

Sounds like you are doing great! Woo hoo to you! :-)

Hilda said...

Thanks for the info! Ok I feel better now because T has been insisting that I need to breathe through my mouth. She too feels that's the only way to get the most amount of air. In fact, she had me get a nose plug and try to play the Correlli piece with it! It was really difficult for me at first because I had been taking shallow nose breaths and I felt like I was going to hyperventilate. But after a few minutes I calmed down and was able to play it decently well while breathing through my mouth. I think my problem was that I was too afraid to disrupt the embouchure. I'm getting over it slowly. :-) Oh and I noticed that both teachers keep the reed on their top lip when they breathe so I'm trying to switch to that too.

oceanskies79 said...

Hi, it sounds like a good day. As if you were "in the flow". :)

Pattyoboe said...

Hmmm. I'm fairly certain I keep my lower lip on the reed, but now I'm going to have to verify that at some point. Since the lower lip is what really "plays" the reed (and we really play the lower blade, I believe) I think I prefer to keep my lower lip in place.

I know some people who take a nice breath and then actually exhale a bit of air before playing, so they don't have too much in their lungs. I don't like to do that, but it IS something some teachers will urge a student to do.

The trick for us oboe players is to learn how to exhale a tad of air in one spot and then continue to play and later inhale a fairly full breath; we can go for a fairly good amount of time after that exhale, since we aren't releasing all of our air.

dulciana said...

I used to have an organ prof. (in Georgia) who always talked about Patelson's in hallowed tones. If you can't find the score, call Patelson's, he'd say. They can get anything. I've never been there, but apparently, it's a wondrous place!