Sunday, September 24, 2006


As promised here are some cute kittens. They love to play around the pile of music I have in the basement. If you look closely there's my original copy of the Corelli:

There are three kittens total:

Here's the Mommy. She was our friendly neighborhood stray. We used to feed her so she was comfortable with us and allowed me to move the kittens indoors. I couldn't bear the thought of them being cold and wet outside. Also one of our neighbors threatened to call the pound on them.

She's actually a very good cat. Very friendly and docile. She likes to meow a lot which is cute. She also took to her litter and scratching post immediately. And she even likes to play music sometimes:

Watch out, Schoenberg!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Hi! I'm Chucky. Wanna play??

For me the hardest part about being an adult learner is not having any one else to play with. I don't quite understand why playing with others is so important to me. It's not that I don't enjoy playing by myself. I guess it's that I know it would be so much more fun to make music with others.

I meant to make this post last weekend because I had a particularly bad music week. Recall that last Monday (not this one that just passed) I was sad because I realized I would have been going to my first Wind Ensemble rehearsal had I gotten in. Then comes my clarinetist friend to the rescue! Our trumpet player friend (of annoying concert fame) was getting married this Saturday and all his musician friends wanted to play at the wedding. Clarinetist told me he'd tell the "director" to write a part in for me. There was to be a rehearsal the day before but that was the day of the farewell dinner for the girl I replaced at work. Clarinetist said I could just sight read the part at the wedding. Fine.

So we drive 1.5 hours into Connecticut with Luna the Oboe in tow. I was speeding to make sure I got there early enough to read through my parts a few times. I can't even explain my dismay when I get there to find out that "director" decided not to include me after all since I didn't make it to rehearsal. Pfffft! I sat there and pouted throughout the entire ceremony. How irreverent of me. I then proceeded to get quite tipsy (on wine) at the reception. That was kind of fun while it lasted. When I got home I slept like a log.

The following day (last Sunday) was supposed to be the first meeting of the "New York Amateur Chamber Music Players Group". I had signed up at and expressed my interest in chamber music. A few weeks ago someone finally organized and official group and set up a meeting for the 17th. Thankfully I hadn't gotten my hopes up too high because the founder of the group is MIA and the meeting did not occur.

And so another Monday came and went as I wallowed deeper and deeper in self-pity. I started feeling like an ugly doll that nobody wanted. Oh yeah, and I was PMSing too.

Luckily, Fr. D saved the day. We met up on Thursday to play our duets and had a ton of fun! I'm also set to meet T again next week and hopefully she can get me back on track. I think I'm almost out of the post-audition blues. Hopefully she will give me new stuff to work on or at least help me organize my practice time better. Hmm, I may even work on a reed or two this weekend!

Well I don't want this post to be entirely sad so here's a pic of the cute kittens living in my basement:

Tuesday, September 12, 2006



Thank you for auditioning for the Wind Ensemble this weekend.
This was the most competitive year ever for auditions, and we
unfortunately are not able to offer you a spot in the ensemble at
this time.

We greatly hope you'll continue your interest in the CU Wind
Ensemble. Because our membership changes from year to year, don't hesitate to audition for us in the future.

Saturday, September 09, 2006


So the trip to school for the audition turned into something of an odyssey. I had set up at my Mom's in upper Manhattan and planned to take the subway down so that I wouldn't have to worry about looking for parking by school. I checked to make sure I had everything before I left. A few steps away from the building I felt that my bookbag was too heavy so I decided to leave some of the books in my car. Twenty minutes later and halfway into my subway ride downtown I realized I left the music behind with my MCAT books. I calmly got out at the next stop and took it back uptown. By the time I got back to my car it was 2 o'clock and I ended up having to drive after all. Luckily I found parking but I ended up losing almost all of my warm-up time. I had just 5 minutes before they called me in. Maybe it was for the best though because I could feel my heart beating faster and faster as I waited in the warm-up room. What a relief to be done! I thought my heart would jump out of my chest the entire time. Those were the longest 10 minutes ever.

The good news: My Marcello came out pretty well. I was actually a bit disappointed (and a bit worried) when they stopped me halfway. I didn't get a chance to do the ending which was coming out really well. Then again I also didn't have to battle through the longest phrase in the work, the one I tended to run out of breath on. I think that most of the elements were there. It was a big room so my sound seemed very different than usual but I had no time to really think about it. My intonation was good and I think I kept the rhythm well. I even managed to work some dynamics in there. Too bad I didn't get to do the really soft part near the end. Oh well. No matter, I don't think that the Marcello made a difference. I think that at the end of it I had moderately impressed them and was still in the game.

The bad news: I crapped out on the technical sight reading. The damn thing was in E-flat major and for some reason I allowed this to freak me out. I just hadn't played in that key in a while. Also the articulation of the excerpt was all over the place and I messed it up. I somehow got to the end but it was very sloppy.

The expressive sight reading went better because at least I hit all the right notes. It was a mostly legato excerpt in G minor. I tried my hardest to get the dynamics right and to put some vibrato in there. In retrospect I should have done the expressive one first because then I wouldn't have gotten freaked out by the other one. I think they liked the expressive one but I am not sure.

Walking out I thought I maybe had a chance but as I got near the door I heard one of the three judges say "Ehh" in a negative sort of way. So I am expecting to not get in. I'll find out tomorrow night.

It's ok if I don't get in. I learned a lot from the experience. There are other groups I can join, but I may have to pay because they are more like classes offered at different music schools.

When I walked back to the warm-up room there was another oboist there. I'm not sure how many they're looking to take since right now they only have 1. I figured I'd stand a good chance if I were the only one auditioning. However, if anyone else showed up chances are they have more experience than me since they're likely to be undergrads who've been playing at least since high school, if not earlier. The other girl was doing the first movement of the Saint-Saens Sonata (I LOVE that one!). As soon as I heard the first few notes I thought: I'm definitely not getting in. That piece is so lovely it will impress no matter what. Her sound was good as was her breath control, and her technique was fairly good. But as she went on I noticed that she was quite severely sharp (I even turned on my tuner which was in my bag to confirm - is that evil?? haha). She was also playing the piece a bit too quickly.

I was under the impression that intonation, sound, and rhythm would be the most important qualities to show. I'm really curious to see what they regard as most important. I'm assuming that the other oboist sight read better than me. So they'd have to choose between a good albeit out-of-tune sight-reader or between someone who can play in tune but may get lost in the music. I have a feeling they'll choose the former. Especially since intonation tends to be a problem regardless in large wind ensembles.

Well, it's done. It's 21 months to the day since I started playing and I survived my first audition. I think I'll have a toast to that tonight! :-)

High C

Wow, so much has gone on since I last updated. I went through another dark period with my instrument. All of a sudden it seemed that I was losing some of the things I already had some control of like sound, intonation, and breathing. I made the mistake of recording myself during one of those bad days and I got very discouraged. I almost made a post asking whether the world truly needs another bad oboist. For a few days I almost seriously considered quitting. It was such a horrible feeling. I was tempted to write about my negative thoughts just in case that had a cathartic effect, but I didn't like the idea of those ugly words being here forever. Deep down I knew it would pass and I didn't want to make them more "real" by recording them here.

This bad stretch, like all the others before it, came after a prolonged period of not having a lesson. When I finally went into see J she summed up my troubles in one word: biting. I should have known that's why I was playing consistently sharp and with a weird, pinched sound. This is why it's so important to have someone who coaches you regularly. I knew I was doing something wrong, but even though the symptoms were clear I didn't know how to go about fixing things. And to top it off my reeds weren't helping. It was a difficult lesson because we had to go back to doing a lot of long tones and octaves and they sounded horrible. But by the third day or so my intonation and sound were back and I couldn't be happier.

While all this was going on my audition date (TODAY!) was drawing nearer and I was not spending as much time as I wanted to on my Marcello piece. Things got back on track only about 10 days ago and I had a LONG way to go. I ended up seeing T twice in the last week and since by then I was sounding normal again (which isn't great yet, but is ok) she helped me with my interpretation of the piece. We worked on articulation, dynamics, breathing, and vibrato. For warm-up she had me do some slow C scales since I've been slacking on my regular scale studies. At first I wasn't blowing enough air and my pitch and sound in the upper register were sagging. With her watching and giving suggestions I eventually managed to play my very best C scale ever. When I got to the top C I could actually feel that the note was vibrating and singing. It was my prettiest high C ever! I never realized that when you're doing everything right you can feel that the sound is beautiful, not just hear it. Now that I know what that cantabile sound feels like I am working on trying to get it to come out more often. I haven't gotten it to work up there again, but it does happen occasionally with middle D, E, and F. Every once in a while my high A can do it, but most of the things that note is still my worst sounding of them all.

My audition is at 2:30 today. I can get through the entire piece now without passing out. Part of the problem is that I am not playing it at the marked tempo yet and there are two longish phrases that I tend to run out of breath in. But if I try to play it quickly enough to negate the breathing problem, I tend to play messy. So for the last few days I've worked on finding a balance. I've also had to wean off my metronome and the tuner. That was a lot harder than I expected. Especially the metronome. I find myself doubting my timing while I'm playing. When I played it for T and she acted like a judge she said it was actually good as was my intonation. What she wanted me to pay more attention to was blowing through my phrases more and dynamics. I am going to practice maybe just 30 minutes today before I go in to make sure that my reed is ok.

I have to sight read at this audition too but did not practice for that at all. Let's just hope they don't give me anything beyond my ability.

*gulp* So that's it for now. Next time I post I will be done with my first "official" audition.
Now the piece sounds halfway decent.