Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Mannes revisited

Whenver I contemplate winning the lottery my thoughts inevitably gravitate towards this program. I just realized that it's probably possible to do the entire thing part-time at night. Sure, it may take 6 years, but at least I know there is a way, albeit impractical, to get a little bit of the conservatory experience. Hanging out with a bunch of music geeks is so appealing to me. But I'm sure it's not lovey dovey at all. I bet you that even these adult students are competitive. Oh well. I can always dream.

Time to go practice now.

Friday, October 27, 2006

An attempt to catch up

Now that the doctors at work have switched to digital recording, I borrowed one of the old mini tape recorders from them. The idea was to dictate my posts as I drove around, since that's when I tend to get most of my inspirations for writing. The plan hasn't quite yet come to fruition. But since I've become at least partially optimistic in the last few years, I do still have hopes of updating my blog more regularly.

One of the things I thought about this week was that I've been trying to keep the blog fairly impersonal, focusing mostly on music. I figured no one would want to read about my daily struggles outside of the practice room. But then I realized that this is part of why it's been hard to update it lately. Back when I was at the corporate job I had ample free time and a LOT of mental energy to devote to my music. I could easily come up with blog entries dealing with music and just music. That's not the case right now. I feel pretty inundated with everything going on and am unable to write about music on a daily basis. In order for that river to flow again I need to relieve myself of some of the things burdening me.

So what's been going on?

* Hmm, let's start with lite fare. One of the kittens has a new home. Our friend from church took her in. The kitten now has a big family which includes a 5 year old girl, an almost 2 year old boy, and a male puppy! They've named her Suzy.
* We've named the kitten we're keeping Cleo.
* My brother and my husband took their CPE tests last Wednesday. If my brother passes he will qualify to graduate and will be granted his Associates Degree (even though he has over 90 credits . . . long story). If my husband passes then he only has to take three more courses and he too will get his AA. I am more worried about how my brother fared as it was a retake for him and they only get 3 tries before the schools give them a hard time. He really needs to have something good happen to him so that he can use that as impetus to get things going in his life again. I feel like he's committing the same mistakes I made in my early 20's. I wish there was a way to protect him from it all but all along we've hurt him by not letting him fall and learn to pick himself back up.
* My sister-in-law (who lives with us and just turned 19) enlisted to join the Army and is leaving on January 3rd. I think the magnitude of this hasn't quite hit me yet as I am in denial. I have a hard time understanding her decision and seeing how it will be for the best. But I can't impose on her my vision of what her life should be. I guess all we can do is pray for her health and safety.
* Since August 5th, all of our parents are living in the Dominican Republic. This is the longest I've ever been away from my mother. It's been good and bad. There is so much tension (more on my end at this point) between my dad and me that though I miss her it's healthier for me to have him farther away. At this point, however, I am starting to miss him too. I wasn't quite ready for how much their retirement would upset my own life. Our Sundays were set in stone, now I feel that we are wandering around a bit lost ...
* ... now that we're on the subject of Sundays, we haven't gone to our church all month. I can't remember the last time I missed that many Masses in a row. I may have been 12 years old. There is all kinds of drama going on with our church band. Be careful what you wish for, indeed. I have never felt comfortable with the Mass I started attending 14 years ago. It's a Spanish Charismatic mass which means that it's a lot livelier than what I was used to. Over the years as I've gotten more and more involved with the music I seemed to forget about my initial unease and just rejoiced in the camaraderie. But for the past few months I've been feeling a noticeable void in my life. I've started to feel as though I have become spiritually barren. This makes sense since I have not actively worked on my spiritual side in many years. Add to this a recent meeting about music reform at our church, my husband's continual involvement with an artist who has frequent Sunday gigs, and my general sense of exhaustion/saturation and you get an ugly mixture. Tomorrow we met with our pastor regarding our absence and the future of our group and of that mass. I don't know what I want at this point, but I do know that I at least need some time off to examine my options without any pressure.
* Work is very intense. So intense, in fact, that I have no time to think about how intense it is until I get home feeling like an overripe fruit which splatted onto the ground. I thought this was what I wanted. Because I have indeed conquered procrastination in one fell swoop (at least at work). It is impossible to procrastinate when patients are waiting, phones are ringing, and doctors are paging you. I do admit that there is a certain rush to all this. But this constant sensation of rush and stress is unhealthy I fear. Were it to be better if I was higher up in the food chain? Or would the added responsibility make it unbearable?
* Despite my chronic fatigue (I think it's finally beginning to subside somewhat) I still find myself compelled to stay on this pre-med route. Without it my life seems to have no direction.
* Well, there is one exception to what I just wrote. Let's just say that it is pretty clear to me that my biological clock is ticking. So I find myself frequently daydreaming about a life full of diapers, play dates, and music.
* This is followed by daydreams of me actually doing something about my health. I've been feeling quite unhealthy lately and the desire to change that is slowly growing inside me. Perhaps it will gain enough momentum to actually lead me to make some healthy changes in my life. But who has time to fit working out into an already hectic schedule? And eating healthy requires SO much planning. And a lot of money.
* The next thought is that even if I were to get into perfect Mommy shape there is still a logistical problem to deal with. My husband's schedule right now is so hectic that sometimes three days go by where the only time we spend together is while we are sleeping.
* In spite of all this, I do still have my musical goals. And part of my problem is trying to figure out how to work out the rest of my life so that I can still attain said goal. Thank GOD for the oboe because though my motivation has been less than desired lately (maybe because I'm so tired!) I am convinced that it is the sole reason why I am managing to keep my sanity. I don't know if I've become a wimp or something, but for some reason I feel nearly completely overwhelmed these days. At one point I was starting to feel quite blue all of the time, but my music pulled me through. I am still more blue than is normal for me, but I am trying to stay optimistic.
* Some questions: How do most people do it? Do they think less and live more? How can you convince yourself that you are leading your life the right way, that you are not in a perpetual cycle of missed opportunities and wasted potential? Will my musical progress ever stop being bittersweet? Will my Type-A tendencies get the best of me and carry me through the long road to becoming a physician? And if so, would that lead to my fulfillment or to me burning out while trying to "have it all" (yet not achieving much)? Or can I break all the chains and lead an unscripted life? Will my creative and academic sides ever reach a truce? To be continued . . .

And so perhaps now that I've gotten all of that off my chest I can go back to the regularly scheduled program:

I thought that E major was evil. Naive little oboe student was I. Left handed D#/E-flat becomes quite easy after a while. I don't remember when it happened but I no longer worry about that note at all. What's kicking my butt all over town right now is the E-flat minor scale, in all its tasty varieties. The Marcello Adagio is also kicking my chop's butt. I play though it once and I am done for the day. What a pain in the embouchure!

Sunday, October 15, 2006


Guess what I did today?????

For the first time ever, I played on an English Horn!!

Sometimes I forget why I am doing all this but today I got a sweet reminder. My first few notes were clumsy but then I relaxed and let the air work better and suddenly I was getting a decent sound out of it. My new friend also remembered that the reason I am playing oboe is because of "Swan of Tuonela" so she promptly placed the music for it in front of me and I played through about half of it. Then I played several other of my favorite excerpts. I didn't want to stop playing because it felt so wonderful.

I'd always worry that whenever I got to play EH that it would be a struggle. Instead if felt quite natural. And it was so,so satisfying to hear its unique sound coming out through me.

It was pure bliss. :-D

And now I know I am not doing all this in vain.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Hi!! I'm still here wading my way through Oboeland. In just a few short months I will have been playing for 2 years. I can hardly believe it. It's become such a big part of my life that I have a hard time remembering myself before it. If even today I sometimes feel aimless, how in the world was I managing before? When I had no real passion in life? Poor little me.

That all being said, for a few weeks it was looking as though things were going downhill. Thankfully I've managed to work myself out of the funk. At least for now. If there's one thing I've learned in playing this instrument (and I'm sure this applies to all others) is that the path will have many ups and downs, regardless of how far along the path you are. The trick, especially as an adult student, is to make sure you progress as much as you can during upswings so that you don't lose too much on the downswings.

After I started this job I was no longer able to keep weekly lessons with T. I am now working in the suburb where I live at which makes it harder to get into the City for things. J is even further away and I haven't seen in over a month now. Having two teachers has been mostly good but sometimes it can get complicated. Especially since I haven't found the right way to tell J about T. I think she wouldn't mind, but I don't want her to think that I've been seeing her less solely because of T. It's really been logistics more than anything. We had no place to meet at over the summer other than her place which is far from me. Then there's the whole reed issue. Their styles are somewhat different so I have to make them differently for each teacher. I am trying to see which ones work out the best for me, but have no definitive answer yet. Oh then there's also the question of what to play. J has me studying Corelli and T assigned me Marcello. I haven't touched the Corelli in weeks because it was the Marcello that I prepared for that audition. Now I am meeting J this weekend and I need to brush up on it. The good thing is that since the Marcello is more challenging, I am finding that the Corelli feels a lot easier.

Am I doing something wrong here in terms of the teacher thing? I am feeling some guilt about it because I am technically lying by omission. I guess I'm afraid of hurting fer feelings. What would you advise? I think I am going to have to mention something at this upcoming lesson. The main reason being that T and I have worked on vibrato quite a lot already and I was supposed to be learning it with J at my next lesson.

I mentioned last time (I think) that my high A has finally started to work for me. For whatever reason that was the note I was having the most trouble with on all accounts. I've always felt clumsy fingering it. The sound tended to be almost hollow sounding and kind of dead. And the intonation was consistently flat. One day while working on Marcello and paying a lot of attention to my breathing and support, I noticed that the A was coming out a lot better. The most striking thing was that it had acquired an unmistakably "singing" quality. In one swoop it went from being my worst note to (sometimes) being my best. The first time it happened it really caught me by surprise. I couldn't believe the sound had come from me. Even the feel of it was different from what it had been. It felt rich like creamy milk chocolate. It was such a gratifying feeling! Of course it tends to only happen when I am doing everything right: when I am paying attention to not bite, to keep my throat open, to support well, and to focus my airstream. I think this may have been what remotivated me. All along I've feared that I would never get to a point where I would sound like a "real" oboe. Having a note sound really beautiful like that made me hope that it could indeed happen. I kept working on it and was able to get a nice tone from other notes too every once in a while. I am not sure if all this is somehow related to the vibrato studies. I think they too have helped me focus on my breathing and phrasing.

At the end of my last lesson T gave me a little summary of how the lesson went (she realized that I really appreciate and need specific feedback). The thing that most struck me was when she said that the "pretty sound" has been coming out more and more often. BINGO! I really loved the term because I had been experiencing the phenomenon for a few days or weeks at home and didn't know quite how to explain. All I knew was that things were changing and that my sound seemed more consistent. I guess it's starting to mature. Weee! I don't want to get my hopes up too far or too quickly, but I am definitely excited about this. I don't know why I want this so badly, I just know that it would make me immensely happy to be able to make my instrument sound consistently beautiful. How did this happen? I would have never guessed that this would become my most heartfelt goal in life. *giggle*

And the other question is what would I then do once I get to that point? I underestimated how difficult it would be to find a suitable ensemble in this area. Sure there are lots of groups, but there are also tons of profesionally trained musicians. Groups are either superbly good or completely crappy. And the whole play-at-church thing is not working. In what, if any, denominations is chamber style music played as part of the service? Apparently my Church is trying to get back into Gregorian Chant. And the other ones around town are playing stuff that's more pop or jazz.

Anyway, I just wanted to write about PrettySound. I am sure that my oboe is thinking "Thank GOD that this girl is finally sounding better!" When I first got Luna I still sounded like absolute crap. A year later I was starting to sound better but a few seconds of PrettySound would only occur every few weeks or days. I think that now PrettySound usually pays a visit at least once per practice session. Hurrah! Oh, dear PrettySound, I love you! Please come back soon. And I hope that some day you come to stay forever. :-)