Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 is almost over!

Seriously, how is it that each year passes by quicker than the last?

This time of the year always finds me reflecting on where I am and where I want to be. I can't complain about 2007. Things are marching in the right direction finally. It's weird because usually at New Year's I have a long list of things I want to do differently in the coming year. But for the first time I feel quite at peace this New Year's Eve. I'm at a pretty good place.

Yet since old habits die hard I have to include my areas of improvement for next year:
1.) The only area of my life that I feel needs a lot of improvement is my health. I am trying hard not to gain too much weight with the pregnancy since I was already a good 30-40 lbs over my ideal weight. I really need to devote some time & energy into being in shape, ideally before the baby but it might not really happen until afterwards. I'll keep taking it one day at a time and just try to make better choices every day.
2.) Music!! It's been an up and down year on my oboe, but the last few days I have felt more motivated again. I was fearing that I had permanently lost my will to play but realized that this down phase is definitely temporary when I found myself daydreaming about playing in an orchestra. It might take longer, but it will happen someday.
3.) The only other thing I want to change is to get more organized. I am confident this will be taken care of as part of the nesting thing. I have plans to reorganize things in our house because I know that if I don't do that before the baby comes, it will never be done. I can't afford to still be disorganize once school starts because it will add a lot of unnecessary stress to my life.

So basically my goals are to keep working on the things I am working on, just in a more consistent fashion.

I wish everyone the very best for 2008. May it a wonderful year for you too!

And I will leave you with a little survey:

IN 2008

1. Will you be looking for a new job?
Sort of. If going back to school full-time for something completely new counts.

2. Will you be looking for a new relationship?
Definitely not.

3. New house?
Nah, we're comfy here for now.

4. What will you do different in 2008?
I will try to be more organized. Otherwise things might get ugly. Also, less procrastination would be nice.

5. New Years resolution?
To get back into shape.

6. What will you not be doing in 2008?
Working!!! After March or so anyway . . .

7. Any trips planned?
Not for 2008.

8. Wedding plans?
Been there, done that.

9. What's on your calendar?
An April 22nd due date . . .

10. What can't you wait for?
See number 9 . . .

11. What would you like to see happen different?
Less family drama would be nice.

12. What about yourself will you be changing?
God willing, I'll become a mommy. I'll also become a medical student.

13. What happened in '07 that you didn't think would ever happen?
I took the MCAT, applied to medical schools, and got accepted into two so far.

14. Will you be nicer to the people you care about?
I will need to be LOL!

15. Will you dress differently this year than you did in 07?
Yes, I am hoping to look a bit more polished.

16. Will you start or quit drinking?
I hope restart drinking. Now that I can't have any I randomly crave wine, beer, piƱa coladas, mai tais, or drambuie.

17. Will you have better relationship with your family?
I am praying for it.

18. Will you do charity work?
Probably some free clinic volunteering.

19. Will you go to bars?
Perhaps, though unlikely. Maybe as part of those socializing events at school. Never been into bars.

20. Will you be nice to people you don't know?
I always try to be.

21. Do you expect 2008 to be a good year for you?
2008 is going to be HUGE year for me. Many old dreams will be coming true.

22. How much did you change from this time last year till now?
I *finally* got my shit together.

23. Do you plan on having a child?
Why now that you ask, yes.

24. Will you still be friends with the same people you are friends with now?
Yes and will probably make a handful of new friends at school.

25. Major lifestyle changes?
Hmm, let me see . . . a newborn and medical school. Oh yeah. Major lifestyle changes . . .

26. Will you be moving?
Didn't we go over this already. No. But I will be going into the City every weekday again, so it might feel like we're moving back to my parents'.

27. What will you make sure doesn't happen in 2008 that happened in '07?
Getting stepped on by pushy people.

28. What are your New Years Eve plans?
Hang out with the family and then perhaps with some friends.

29. Will you have someone to kiss at midnight?
My JC!

30. Wish for 2008:
Health and happiness for everyone!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The best week in a while

This week has been quite good.

It started off with a nice lesson where I played the Schumann Romance until my mouth hurt. It was one of our most productive lessons yet in terms of the playing. I even made a half decent reed after a reed hiatus.

A day later I *finally* started feeling the baby move in a consistent manner. I was starting to worry since I'm already 22 weeks. I started calling her "the lazy baby". My husband didn't like that and insisted that it's just that she is a good baby. Anyway, I felt her for the first time while driving my Mom to the mall. We were stuck in traffic and I really had to go and there she was . . . doing shiatsu on my bladder apparently. It was the first time I felt something definite in there and it's been a relief and a source of entertainment too. Apparently she has little parties in there after my meals. She's going to enjoy food just like her Mama. Oh dear . . .

Then today I get this email:

Greetings and Welcome to Weill Cornell Medical College!

On behalf of our Committee on Admissions, it is my pleasure to let you know that you have been selected for an early offer of admission to our 2008 entering class.

There was more but that was the part that I kept reading over and over and over again. I received the email at work and at first I thought it was a prank. But no, it really did come from the Admissions people. They normally don't notify until March but they do let a select few in in December. I had a pretty good feeling that I was getting in, but I was not expecting to be in the early pack. This is really a high! I struggled with the decision for so long and it feels sooooooooo good to be at this end and to finally feel like I did the right thing. I am really honored that they chose me as part of this group. Perhaps they're seeing something in me that I haven't quite seen yet. This is definitely a nice ego boost. :-)

Too bad I can't drink because I would really love a toast right now!

Oboe Anniversary!

Oh my gosh, I've been so busy these days that I neglected to note my oboe anniversary.
December 9th of this year marked my having played for 3 years. Time sure does fly when you're having fun.

Last year I had many lofty goals and it didn't end up quite working out that way, though I do know that I did progress. This time I just hope for continual improvement and motivation to practice.

My poor sweet oboe. It's been neglected lately. But rest assured, that it is still one of the top 5 things in my life.

Here's to a lifetime of playing!!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Romance No. 1 (I love you, Schumann)

Because I am out of shape on my oboe the Mozart has been relegated a "reach" piece again and we're taking a little break from it. As my teacher said, it will always be there to work on since it's such a famous piece. In the interim we started working on the first Schumann Romance and I am loving it so far! First and foremost, it has remotivated me to practice. I had NOT been feeling the desire to practice for months now and I am not sure it was entirely due to my pregnancy-induced exhaustion. I think I still was subconsiously frustrated about not really having others to play with because even though I am unofficially part of an orchestra it doesn't really feel as good as it should because I miss most of the rehearsals. But anyway, whatever the reason was I do feel the need to practice every day again (though afore-mentioned exhaustion does get in the way a lot of times). Even if it's not quite happening as much as I'd like I am just happy to have that feeling again.

I think that the Schumann was the perfect piece to help me ease back into playing "real music". After being out of practice so long my embouchure had shifted again, affecting my sound and intonation. Before I could really start working on that piece I *HAD* to work on getting a better sound again. It's such a beautiful, deceptively simple piece that the sound is a huge part of what makes it. So there was no way I could really start practicing it with what was coming out of my oboe at first. Thankfully it didn't take as long as I thought to regain some of the sound improvements I had made earlier this year. I am still not back to where I was, but the sound is much better than a month ago. Also, intonation improvement came along with the sound improvement (since it was my biting the reed that was mucking up my sound AND tuning). At my previous lesson we talked about opening things up in the jaw and throat and getting the corners of my mouth back to where they should be. All that advice helped a lot.

Another way that the piece helps with sound and intonation is through the wide intervals in it. Though it doesn't sound technically challenging, it's quite difficult to in terms of dynamics, breath control, and phrasing. These are all things that I am enjoying working on because at least the pace of this piece is not as fast and furious as in the Mozart.

We went through the entire piece at my lesson this past Monday and it went better than expected. I hope it continues to improve for next week. :-)

Yay, I am playing again!!!!!!!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

It's a girl!!

Yay! My nascent maternal instinct was right: my baby is indeed a girl. We both feel very happy and blessed that everything is in its place and she is as healthy as she can be. Mommy, on the other hand, may need to be put back on the beta blockers because my pressure and heart rate have crept up semi-alarmingly. I will see my regular OB and my cardiologist next week to see if they agree with the perinatologist.

Here are some 3D pics of her:

She looks like she's singing here instead of yawning:

Monday, December 03, 2007

Big day tomorrow

Tomorrow is our "big ultrasound". That's the one where they check the anatomy, including the private parts. I have to admit I was very impatient about finding out the gender at first. My slight preference differed from my husband's. But as the weeks have dragged on by (it's been 8 weeks since we've peeked at the little one) I am becoming more anxious about the health of the baby and no longer care about the gender. I mean, sure, I want to find out but whatever slight preference I had is mostly gone. Partly, I am worried because I am 20 weeks and haven't felt any consistent baby motion. So I am just praying that when we look tomorrow that everything is in place and that my baby is just peaceful (not "lazy" as Mom put it hahaha).

Of course, it wouldn't be my life if there were not at least some drama. My husband took tomorrow off early on but found out just a couple of weeks ago that his departments HUGE annual meeting is, of course, tomorrow. Since he's their network and audio/visual person he ideally should be there, but won't because he will be with me at Greenwich Hospital. What they offered to do was house him in a hotel room in the City tonight so that he can set up the stuff tonight and early tomorrow morning, go up with me, and then go back in in the afternoon. Being a native New Yorker who never could afford to live in the posh areas I could not pass up the opportunity to sleep over with him so I am taking the train down and meeting him in a few hours. We'll have a nice dinner, play some final baby name games, watch heroes, and then sleep.

See you all tomorrow when I'll hopefully have some good news!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A lesson!

This past Monday I had my first lesson in two months. Neither of us could believe that that much time had passed since our last meeting. She had been traveling a bit, but mostly I just hadn't been up to it. I went through a period of severe drowsiness for a few months and lost all motivation to practice (or do anything else other than sleep). Now that my appetite is back and I don't need to sleep 20 hours a day, I am slowly trying to get back to my playing.

Taking a two month break from seeing your teacher early on in your musical education is not the best idea in the world. Apparently I developed quite a few bad habits in my time alone.

The embouchure (surprise, surprise) had creeped back a little (my corners). But that wasn't the worst of it. The worst is that I was biting quite strongly. *sigh* I had gotten so used to it that I hadn't noticed what it was doing to my intonation until she played something. Ouch! So now I have to get my jaw and throat looser and more open, while bringing my corners back forward. How frustrating to have to work on that all again when I had it almost done earlier this year. Oh well. She did think that I would get back into shape rather quickly as she noted improvement even by the end of the lesson.

The other weird thing I am doing is excessive motion with my fingers. I do think this was always going on, as it was also a problem for me back in my saxophone days. But feeling clumsy due to non-practice exacerbated the problem because in my mind I am panicking to reach the right notes.

So I am going to try to keep these two things in mind (along with everything else this week) as I work on bringing my Mozart back up to speed. I am also going to start working on the 1st Schumann Romance as a "break" piece, just to not have to spend all my time and energy on the Mozart.

I think that for now the most important thing is getting back into my daily practice routine. For me what has worked the best is to tell myself that I will practice just 15 minutes a day, as long as I get it in every day, as opposed to trying for 1 hour sessions each time. By doing this it gets me on the instrument and almost always I end up playing at least 30-45 minutes, not only 15. It's going to be a slow climb back up but I finally feel the desire again. It's just weird because I am usually a lot harder on myself but I've had to let things go and just take things one day at a time.

Happy playing!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Changed the look a bit

I was contemplating closing the blog down because I felt that I had lost my voice. Perhaps it's not so much that I lost it, but that it has changed. For a while I had the luxury of spending a LOT of time thinking about my newfound oboe obsession. But with medical school and motherhood around the corner, I just can't seem to write the same kind of musical posts as before. Yet I do still feel that I want to write things down so that I can look back at this someday. So I've switched the title to something kind of silly but which also encompasses my triumvirate. I will still write about my oboe happenings though things will likely remain slow like now.

Oh and didn't purposely leave the hubby out of my "three". He's already part of all and everything I do and am.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Yesterday was a pretty big day for me. It was my orchestral debut. The Downtown Symphony had its first concert of the season last night and I played in the Franck symphony as well as the Chaminade Concertino for Flute and Orchestra. But before I did that I had to go through another medical school interview. My alma mater emailed me on Friday to let me know that I had an interview coming up in 5 days. Oh, and I had to be there at 8AM for a special breakfast. FUN! My husband was supposed to drive me in but then that fell through so I had to wake up before dawn in order to make sure that I'd make it to upper Manhattan while there were still available parking spaces. Luckily for me there is no alternate side parking up there on Wednesdays so I was able to find something on a remote avenue. After having two successful interviews I was nervous that my luck would run out at one of my top choices. Thankfully I was blessed with a wonderful interviewer who is very committed to recruitment and was very receptive to my path to medicine. So now I have 3 good interviews down.

Oh, let me back up at this point. So as I mentioned earlier it was a stressful morning for me. Before I could leave the house I had to pack everything I would need for both my interview and the concert. I wanted to be prepared but I couldn't afford to travel too heavily either. And I'm doing all this while wearing my suit. I am not used to dressing up and it tends to make me uncomfortable. Anyway, so at 6 something I was running a mental note of everything I needed to take with me.

Interview portfolio with my primary application, the particular school's secondary application, and my list of questions . . . CHECK
Necessary toiletries for the day . . . CHECK
A non-bulky change of shoes in case the feet get really painful . . . CHECK
An umbrella because it had to rain, of course . . . CHECK
My IPOD for the subway ride to BMCC . . . CHECK
The music I was playing for the concert . . . CHECK
My oboe . . . CHECK
Black top for the concert . . . CHECK
My reeds . . . . . . . . . oops . . . (Hilda 0, PregnancyBrain 164)

Oh yes my friends. The girl who has waited oh so long to finally play a concert with an orchestra left her reed case on top of the dresser. Luckily I didn't realize this during all the interview mania. In fact, I didn't realize it until I sat down on the subway. I had that giddy "thank GOD I just god a seat 'cause 168th to Chambers is a long @ss ride" feeling when I put my hands on top of my oboe case and it felt odd. Immediately I realized that that good reed case was not there. My older reed case was there with three duds. I fought back tears and decided to just keep on going. At that point it was too late to go home and get back in time for the concert.

Once I got there I tested my duds and they were all awful. One sounded like a kazoo. And the other two leaked so badly that they could only play with waterlogged cigarette paper around them and only for a couple of minutes. Thankfully the first oboist lent me a reed and while it wasn't my usual sound (it felt stuffy) but at least I was able to produce sound predictably on it. My little solo turned out pretty well I think. It may even be on film and if it is I will try to see if I can share it with you.

Overall, the experience was great, though my elation was dampened by the reed fiasco. It was exciting to be up on stage and to watch people come in to see us. Though once they turned the lights on I couldn't see the audience at all. Our conductor got all dressed up! And we had "ringers" who filled in missing parts and supplanted the string section so we sounded much better than during rehearsals. I thought I would have time to think about how miraculous it is to be there actually making the music, but instead I was too worried counting bars and looking at the conductor to make sure I didn't miss anything. I did make mistakes but it didn't really matter as the stakes were low and we were just there to have fun. That was the beauty of it. It was great to be with all these people making music and enjoying it.

I hope this is the first of many, many more concerts.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I'm in an orchestra . . . sort of

So I'm sort of in an orchestra. I say "sort of" because thus far I've only made 2 of the rehearsals and the first concert is 3 weeks away. I had been invited to this orchestra last year but the problem has been that their rehearsals are on Tuesday from 5:30-7:30 at BMCC which is on the southernmost tip of Manhattan. I work at the NY/CT state line and usually don't get out of work on Tuesdays until 6. Last year I didn't even attempt it, but when the lone oboist reached out to me again this year I couldn't resist. If I can sneak out of work and catch the 4:59 train I can make it there at 6:30. Not great but at least it's something. Due to a lot of staffing uneasiness going on at work I am hesitant to ask for a schedule change at this time. As it is, I am the one with the most flexible schedule already since I am technically "part time". I am sure others won't take well to me leaving early on our busiest day of the week. But anyway, for now it looks like I will be allowed to play at the concert. The oboist and I might start getting together on Mondays to go over stuff since that is my day off.

This upcoming concert will feature Cesar Frank's Symphony in D minor. I had never heard the piece previously and knew nothing about the composer. I was saddened to read in my Essential Canon of Classical Music that he did not enjoy much success during his lifetime. In fact, one of the things I love about this symphony (the EH part, of course) was the source of ridicule. Anyway, since I tend to like Romantic music I was ok with the piece from the beginning. Some parts have tense harmonies that sound weird at first but are interesting to play and to feel/hear resolve.

The oboe parts are not too horribly difficult. The ultra slow beginning is difficult to deal with when you're trying to practice at home without a conductor. There are not too many technically difficult or fast sections, but there are some excursions into E-flat minor that get a bit hairy. When the conductor asked what we should be doing right before that key change one of the bassists said "panic". Hahah, my sentiments exactly.

Because there are only two of us oboists and because I don't yet own or play the EH, the other oboist will play that part. The EH has some major play time in the 2nd movement and I had assumed she would try to switch back and forth but instead she wants me to play the 1st oboe part all by myself. That means that I will have some solos, including my own shot at playing the lovely EH theme (the oboe echoes the EH near the end of the movement). It's such a simple yet beautiful melody. And it has my favorite interval! An ascending minor sixth. Ahhh.

Ok, is it just that composers write wonderfully beautiful lines for the EH or is it that everything sounds beautiful when played on an English Horn? Hmmmmmm.

Monday, October 15, 2007

*drum roll*

Hi everyone!!! Without further ado I would like to introduce you to someone:

Yes, it is a baby . . . a baby that's living inside of me for now.

Now for a little interview:

When did you find out you were pregnant?
On August 12th. I had no clue when we left for CA but by the end of the trip I was starting to feel "weird". I was frequently feeling queasy while in cars and I never suffer from motion sickness. Then on the plane ride home I became aware of a hyper sensitive sense of smell. It was as though I was in a cabin of dirty people LOL! The first thing I did when we got back home was take a test. Blood tests the next day confirmed that I was less than 4 weeks which meant that I'd have to wait 8 weeks to share the news!

When are you due?
My due date is April 22, 2008. I will be 13 weeks tomorrow.

Was it planned?
Since the beginning of the year I had been more open to the idea than usual. However, MCAT preparation proved to be very stressful so I deferred any thoughts on the matter until after the test. Then my mother-in-law came to town for 2 months which further delayed things. She left on July 15th, the day after my 33rd birthday. I spent much of that day feeling that yes, I was finally ready. I knew that the timing was tight because of everything else going on. The funny thing is that while I was at the San Diego zoo I was so touched by the way the animals took care of their young and I was overwhelmed by a feeling that having children is one of the main reasons we're here on this Earth. So after that I really felt like OK I'm ready. Little did I know that by then my little bean was already there.

How does your husband feel?
He's ecstatic beyond words! It's quite endearing. In fact if I had known he wanted a baby this badly maybe I wouldn't have waited 6 years!

Will you still go to medical school?
Yes, the plan has not changed. In fact, I am happy to report that I have 3 interview offers so far, including one at my top choice school! My first interview will be this Wednesday. The timing worked out as well as it could have considering that I waited until July to start trying. With the baby being born in April I will have 4 months of staying home with him/her before school starts. I am very excited about everything that is going on right now. I finally feel like my life is no longer on pause and that it is going in the right direction.

Who will take care of your baby while you're in school?
Though for a while I was afraid she wouldn't agree and would go back to DR, my mom is on board with taking care of her first grandchild. We just told Dad this weekend (we had to wait because we were afraid he'd tell everyone too soon) and he's even more excited. My mom lives in Manhattan which works because I will likely be going to school in the City. In fact, I may even be walking distance from her depending where I end up getting in.

Will you find out the sex?
Oh yeah, baby. We love technology!! Some folks say that there are few good surprises in life, but trust me, that second faint line on that pregnancy test was enough of a surprise to last us a few years.

How about the oboe?
I've been on a little hiatus due to a scare about 10 days ago (ended up in the ER but we're all ok). However, I just got the ok from the doctor today to resume playing as long as I feel ok while doing it. I'll take it slowly and probably not go for more than an hour at a time (which isn't really an issue lately since I'm so busy). I'm still trying to work out my schedule at work so that I can get out early on Tuesdays for those orchestra rehearsals. I should be able to play 3 of the 4 concerts this school year.

How have you been feeling?
Mostly ok. I have been VERY VERY drowsy most of the time but that is starting to get better now. I have also been mildly nauseous but do not actually throw up. I've gone from being someone who enjoys most foods to the world's pickiest eater. One day I like something, the next day it makes me want to hurl. The one thing that I can no longer stand to even smell is coffee! Can you believe it? I have tried it 3 times since I found out (including my favorite Starbucks recipe) and each time it has tasted vile. I'm looking forward to entering the second trimester in a week. Apparently I will get my energy back for three months. YAY!

Well, I guess that's it for now. Now that I am not sleepy all day I will once again try to be better about updating.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Guess what??

I might be attending my very first orchestra rehearsal tonight!!!!!!!!!! The first oboist from the Downtown Symphony (the one at BMCC) emailed me to tell me that they're in need of an oboist again. I was hesitant to join them last year because the rehearsal I attended was a bit disorganized. But by now I am very desperate to play with others and I think I can deal with funky strings for a while. Besides, I heard that they get fill-in strings for the concerts anyway.

The only downside is that I am supposed to stay at work late on Tuesdays. Now I have to find a way to sneak out at 4:45 even though we are never done with patients until around 5:30. I then have to take the Metro North train to Grand Central, the 7 cross town, then the 2 or 3 to Chambers. It will be quite a journey. But well worth it if I get to play with others finally!!

I am excited but nervous and still don't believe it's true yet.

Oh, would anyone mind if I start posting about other stuff in my life here? Sometimes I want to post, but not necessarily about music but I feel obligated to make the posts here music related. It would be cool if I could go on about med school stuff, family, and music all in the same place. Maybe that's what the labels are for? I need to figure out how to work with blogger more.

One more thing: I received my first medical school interview invite today. SUNY Downstate on the 17th!! Woohoo!!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Hey everyone! Just wanted to wish you all a nice long weekend and give you a quick update.

My medical school application process is moving along pretty well. Eight applications have been submitted so far. I have 6 more secondary applications to finish, but I only care about 3 of them. My recommendation package should be going out from my school in the next week. Hopefully I will start getting interview invites some time in September.

I had my first lesson since returning from CA this past Monday. I was deathly scared because once again I felt ill-prepared. Finding time and energy to practice every day has become exponentially harder than when I started playing. It makes no sense really because at least I don't sound like a duck anymore. Thankfully the lesson went better than expected. My reed wasn't completely finished but it was getting there. The Mozart had some issues but the sound of it was a lot better. My issues are mostly with articulation. Because the lesson went well this week also went much better in terms of practicing. I've practiced 3 days in a row now after months of every other day. YAY! Part of it was motivation from the good lesson but also she gave me a lot of assignment for my next lesson which is this coming Sunday already. I have to work on scales (E and F major), an articulation exercise, the first two Sellner studies, and the Mozart (including several more bars). It feels nice to be playing again. I feel like I had forgotten how magical it is . . .

Friday, August 10, 2007


Hey everyone. Having to write scores of essays for my medical school applications has left me unable to update the blog but I just had to write something about this week. After a crazy first half of the year my husband and I rewarded ourselves by taking an impromptu trip to California. Neither of us had been to the West coast but we were both curious to see if we'd like it enough to consider relocating there in the next 5-10 years.

We arrived last Saturday in San Diego, spent two days there, drove up for a day in LA, spent another day in San Luis Obispo, and are now spending the rest of our time with a friend in San Jose. Oh, and yesterday we spent the day in San Francisco. So we've gotten a nice little survey of all the major cities we were curious about. We didn't quite know where to go in LA so for now we are leaving it off our list, but we were very positively impressed by every place we have visited. I could certainly imagine a life here on this side of the country. That all being said, it will probably take the next 5 years for me to convince myself to leave the New York City area. It's incredibly emotional for me to even consider being far away from it, but there's a feeling growing inside me of wanting to start fresh somewhere new. We'll see what happens as time goes by. But at least now we have options.

On Wednesday I met Patty! Hi Patty!! It was wonderful to meet in person after 2 years of blogging and chatting. She correctly guessed that I was nervous leading up to our meeting. It's always scary to play for someone new and I was especially worried because I am at my worst shape ever; my practicing has been sporadic at best the past few months. However, Patty put me at ease and I was able to play for her and even with her (we played some duets). She sounds beautiful, of course, so the duets were a special treat. Thanks so much for the amazing time, Patty! If we move to San Jose I will be begging to become one of your official students.

We will be leaving on the red-eye tomorrow night. At this point we're pretty exhausted but also curiously refreshed. It's been nice to step out of our life for a bit and imagine a new life where the focus is us. Back home, we are being pulled in so many directions. I now feel recharged and ready to return and hit the ground running.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Early Birthday Gift

I had a lesson on Saturday morning. This lesson was dubbed the "Hilda" lesson because my teacher offered it for free in celebration of my MCAT score (I scored in the top 10% of test takers). She also presented me with a gift of Venezuelan chocolate and a brand new reed. These were early birthday presents!

MCAT costs (including Kaplan class I never attended): $1900
Gas: $35
Triborough bridge tolls: $7
New reed: Priceless

I got to call all the shots at the "Hilda" lesson which meant that we did NOT work on reeds. Hahah. I ended up talking for the first few minutes, playing a few scales, and then playing some of the Mozart I had worked on.

The Mozart is going ok. While there she secretely moved up my metronome and I ended up playing at 108, even though at home I couldn't play over 92. However, she wants me to slow it back down because I am not getting the articulation right in all spots. For my next lesson (this Friday) I have to play the entire first page (I'll get the bar numbers later) with the correct articulations.

I'm still struggling with my motivation to practice daily (and to post here too). I am hoping everything will go back to normal once I'm done with the med school application process. MY AMCAS application (the primary, central application) was submitted this Monday. Once that gets verified it will get sent out to the 14 schools I am applying to. Then each school will require submission of a secondary application. Some of these are short, others require more essays. All require more money, approximately $100 each. Once I am done with those then it's just a waiting game to see if I will get called in for interviews.

In the meantime I hope to have a lot more time for my oboe. I miss it. *sniff*

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

False alarm

So I ended up not having a lesson after all yesterday. Maybe it was for the best because my nerves are shot in anticipation of my MCAT score tomorrow (they will be posted online at 5PM EST).

Yesterday's plan was to meet my teacher at the Rose Rehearsal Studio in Lincoln Center. She had a rehearsal there and we were supposed to use that space for my lesson once the rehearsal was over. I asked if I could show up early to watch the rehearsal and she said it would be fine. However, when I get there it turned out that they were moved to a very small room with no extra chairs so I was asked to sit outside. That was mostly ok (I'm used to being kicked out I guess) because I sat out there chatting with a nice man, who later turned out to be a Grammy award winning sound engineer. That was my first hint that maybe I was in the wrong place. My I-don't-belong-here senses were tingling. Then a bunch of jazz stars walked out of the room during a short break: Wayne Shorter, John Patitucci, and Danilo Perez. Add to that my teacher's entire group was there too. I was pretty starstruck and starting to get uncomfortable. Add to this that a very wonderful professional string quartet began to rehearse next door. By then I was pretty sure that I wasn't going to feel comfortable enough to play anywhere NEAR there. The last straw was when a well-dressed woman warned us that a board meeting was starting in 20 minutes in the big room (the one the rehearsal was supposed to be in). I was then sure that I could not let the benefactors of Lincoln Center hear my humble oboe playing. Also, the rehearsal showed no signs of being anywhere near over and they all sounded like they were having a great time so I didn't want to ruin if for my teacher. I texted her that I was leaving and started my long trek home - walk to the subway, 2 subway trains to Grand Central Station, MetroNorth train to my town, and station pick-up by nice hubby to drive me home (less than a mile, but I was worn out).

I was quite sad the whole way home because I had been excited about my lesson. But it was fun to be that close to musical geniuses. My, what blessed and glamorous lives! If you can't join them, then at least you can learn from them :-)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Lesson tomorrow

I have my first lesson in what seems like a long time tomorrow. It may end up being near Lincoln Center as my teacher has a rehearsal there in the afternoon. I don't know how I feel about rehearsing around there. I think I may be embarassed that people will hear me.

I have to bring two reeds in tomorrow. I did work on them this weekend but neither of them is very good. One of them sounds very "honky". I think my tip is too thin all around instead of being slightly thicker in the middle. The other one still has too much cane and isn't doing much. *sigh* The worst thing is that my good reed is starting to die. How sad. I have another one that suddenly started working ok, but the sound on it isn't as good as the sound of my dying reed. How I will miss you, little reed. Too bad that none of the ones I make are good enough yet.

I have been practicing scales, though admitedly not as much as I should have. I will be presenting C and F major tomorrow at the fastest tempo I can play them. The C isn't too bad except that it sounds uneven. The F is hard because I am supposed to go up to high F and I get all bent out of shape with anything higher than the high D.

For repetoire I am to play the first mvt of the Marcello and the little bit of the Mozart that I've been working on. Guess what? For some reason my slow piece of Mozart sounds better than the Marcello that I've been working on for a year now! What is that all about??? Well, I have a theory that it has to do with articulation. My rough tounging is not as much of an issue in the Mozart which calls for some staccato, whereas the Marcello requires a more liquid legato with delicate tonguing. Also I feel that the Marcello needs more dynamic variation and vibrato to make it work, whereas the Mozart tends to get by on innate charm. Let's see what the verdict will be tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Back to the Shed

I didn't get out of work until after 6 today. The schedule was busy yet we were running quite smoothly despite the "lead" doctor having an in-office upper lid bleph scheduled during the afternoon. But for some reason everything stalled near the end of the day. Maybe we all got tired. Or maybe it was all the darn phone calls coming in. Anyways, at least the weather got better and when I got home I opened the windows and played with the cats for a bit while thinking about wanting to practice. I quickly lost steam as I realized that I was hungry and started preparing dinner.

At 9 o'clock I forced myself to practice. Why does it always have to feel like you're overcoming tremendous inertia in order to start practicing? And the funny thing is that after a few minutes I am always fine and I get into playing. *shrug*

I focused on a few things today:

My recent "breakthrough": I may not have spent as much time playing during those last few MCAT weeks, but I did still think about my oboe a lot. I spent some more time on trying to figure out why I am struggling so much with my embouchure and with taking good breaths (or any at all). After observing several professional oboist (I went to two amazing concerts this weekend!) I saw that they all keep their reeds on the bottom lip when breathing. I've gone over this before with all three of my teachers and they've all said it doesn't particularly matter, but I really am convinced that it is part of my problem. I've been keeping my reed on the top lip and what ends up happening is that I have to reinvent my embouchure each time I breathe. The whole "smiley" thing is coming more from the upper lips. I think that since the reed was up there I was naturally breathing upwards towards it, making my mouth turn back into a smile each time. I reasoned that by putting the reed on the lower lip, the less my mouth will have to readjust each time I take a breath. The theory sounded really good to me because it explained another major issues I am having: reluctance to take breaths. I must have developed this hesitancy as a response to my ever-changing embouchure. "If I don't open my mouth to breathe, my embouchure stays set for longer". I am not sure if I am explaining myself well, but hopefully you all get the picture. Putting my theory into practice turned out to be harder than I expected because my old habit was pretty deeply engrained. But my early efforts are promising. Keeping the reed on the lower lip definitely helps me focus everything downward, preventing the smiley somewhat. With time, I hope this leads to significant improvement in my playing.

I started working on my scales again. Oh the pain! I couldn't find my practice sheet for my C scales so I had to figure out my tempi all over again. She wants me to do sixteeth notes on each beat and wants me to get the C major to about 108 (the tempo of the Mozart). I managed to get to 100 before it broke down (my ring fingers start to lose control). F major didn't go as well. I forgot how hard that high E fingering is for my twisted pinkies. I resisted the urge to get really upset about this because I already went through that whole phase of feeling depressed/handicapped about high fingerings. It will get easier eventually!

The last thing I did was practice those first few bars of the Mozart at 80. I can't get all 16 counts of that high C in there yet though. Holy moly. Will I ever have enough endurance to play that?? I think this is exactly why she assigned it to me. I have no idea if we're really going to get through the entire thing, but just the beginning of the 1st mvt is forcing me to deal with a lot of my improvement areas.

All in all, a decent practice session in the end. Let's hope for several more before my lesson on Saturday!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

MCAT hangover

Hiiiii!! I am done with beast! I wrote all about the gory details and my near breakdown (in hindsight, it was actually kind of funny) the first few minutes on my other blog. I get my scores on June 27th and at this point I am cautiously optimistic. I may not get the scores I want on each individual section but I am hopeful that my cumulative score is still ok.

But enough about the MCAT! Let's talk about oboe.

The final week before the test I was unable to practice at all because I was just not in the right frame of mind. The only way I could stay calm was by thinking about or studying for the test ALL the time. The first few days after I was done, I was just too tired. So I just started practicing again this week.

Thankfully, I don't sound as bad as I had feared. I am having trouble keeping my corners in again and my mouth is getting tired sooner, but my sound didn't regress like I thought it would. My fingers were what took the biggest hit. I feel so darn clumsy right now.

My next lesson will be next Monday so I still have a few days to practice and to make a reed. I will be practicing the first movement of my Marcello and will also start on the Mozart. I think I'll take the first 15 bars or so. I also have to do some long tones and scales.

I don't have much to write yet, but I do hope to spend a lot of time on my oboe this summer. I'll keep you all posted!

Friday, May 18, 2007

On beta blockers

Thanks for all the comments on that other post, by the way.

I should be reviewing more biology or sleeping but instead I am up thinking about beta blockers, which I guess are at least marginally related to my studies.

The reason I am taking beta-blockers is for a heart condition I developed 4 years ago. I wasn't playing oboe yet and had already quit the sax. I began to notice that everything I did felt like I over-exertion. I frequently felt the "fight or flight" feeling. It began to interfere with my ability to handle everyday tasks. They ruled out things like adrenal gland or pituitary tumors and eventually we realized that for some reason my heart had started beating too quickly all of the time. It was downright scary. As I lay in bed every night with my heart pounding in my chest, I would wonder if I would wake up to see morning. The cardiologists couldn't figure out the WHY, but since the symptoms were severe (and confirmed on various tests, i.e. it was not in my head) they decided to treat the symptoms with the beta blockers. Eventually we got the dosage right and my heart rate is now in the normal range.

I brought up breathing in my post because I have always been a shallow breather. My Dad would yell to me about it as a kid. Sometimes I wonder if the shallow breathing was part of what caused my heart to go haywire in the first place. Maybe all the shallow breathing forced my heart to work harder (or to think it needed to work harder) to get oxygen to all my cells? Hmm. Just my own little theory. Because even with the beta blockers I still tend to hyperventilate when I exert myself. So there may be some respiratory aspect to my condition that is still untreated. And maybe that same thing is causing me all my headaches at my lessons. Or maybe I am just looking for excuses.

When initially prescribed them, I knew nothing about musicians taking beta blockers for anxiety or stress since I was very much in the fringes of the musical world back then (and I guess I still am). So it came as a pleasant surprise to me when a few months into the regimen I realized that I was getting bolder about my harmonies at church. I had been singing in our "choir" for a decade and had NEVER sang solo and was always loathe to get picked up by the microphones. The few times they tried to get me to sing on my own, I got so nervous that my teeth chattered and I broke into cold sweat. I realize now that it was nearly a panic attack. My voice would either come out tiny and quivery or would completely disappear. All of a sudden the person with the good ear became tone deaf and arrythmic. I simply broke down artistically due to the nerves and so always preferred to be in an ensemble where I didn't stand out. I was delighted to finally be able to do the things I wanted to do without the panic. Within a year I was able to finally sing solo at my church. Now I do it all the time. I wish I could say that I grew up and that I overcame my irrational fears. But no, I know NOW that it's just the beta blockers.

So it sounds like on top of the heart thing, and the possible (but improbable) lung thing, I definitely have some anxiety issues. Otherwise the beta blockers wouldn't have "cured" me of my stage fright, right?

All of my oboe playing has been "under the influence" so I know no other way. It's been great to be pretty fearless about my playing. Fearless for me, that is . . . which might not be saying much. Less than a year into playing I got together with respected friends of mine to try to form a woodwind quartet. I can only imagine what I sounded like back then, yet I wasn't really nervous about them hearing me play. If anything, I was excited about it. Then again I think that at that point my passion for the oboe was still so novel that I was just happy to share my love of it with others. I really need to get back to that point. At this point I've overcomplicated things with emotional issues. Playing is not about my love of the instrument so much anymore. I've gotten all worked up about not being "good enough" yet or am too busy whining about not having people to play with. All these feelings play out at my lessons these days I think. But I digress . . .

I wonder, with some degree of fear, what would hapen to my playing if i stopped the medication. If I am a nervous wreck at lessons now, what would happen then? This past Sunday I played the intro to a Mother's Day song at my church. While I warmed up when the church was empty I produced a very nice sound, but when the time came to actually perform I did get nervous and my sound and pitch were both iffy. If I had to go off the beta blockers will I be able to even get through a lesson? As it is I am fighting back tears at most of them. Would I be able to play at all? Or would I completely break down like before, unable to play anything closely resembling music? Scary thought.

Or perhaps, as was suggested, maybe the beta blockers are holding me back in a way. Maybe letting some of the nervous energy back in would help my musicality. Well, we won't know for now because my use of the medication is not really elective so I can't just stop cold turkey. But my doctor did recommend to stop if I conceive (no, I am not trying just yet).

So maybe in the not so far future we'll be able to use me as an experiment. I don't think there are that many other musicians in my situation where they were on beta blockers BEFORE they began to play an instrument. It was a coincidence that I was placed on beta blockers and then years later had to deal with anxiety issues in music. Now I am curious to see what will happen without them. Given my penchant for anxiety, however, I have a feeling that things will just get harder. *sigh*

Now in the meantime if I could just recapture the joy of playing just for the sake of it, then maybe everything will be ok in the end.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!

Best wishes to the Moms out there who read this. I hope you and your families have a wonderful day.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Latest lessons

After that one good lesson about a month ago where my teacher told me she wanted me to start learning the Mozart, I've had two not so great lessons.

In fact, I am starting to worry that my lesson habits are starting to get ingrained. I know that part of it is nerves. I think I get a bit starstruck around great oboists and add that to my already high level of anxiety, it makes for a bad situation. Then there is the negative inner dialogue. We ended up spending quite a bit of time addressing this during the last two lessons. I really don't want these lessons to become therapy sessions again, so I have to put an end to this behavior ASAP. Once my MCAT is over (13 more days!! *gulp*) I hope to read some of the books I have on this.

The other issue that is coming up and driving me nuts is my breathing. Remember how I am on beta blockers because my heart beats too fast? I have often wondered if there is a respiratory element to my mystery ailment. My husband and I have both noticed that I seem to hold my breath a lot and that when I do breathe I breathe extremely shallowly. So I am coming into this picture with yet another disadvantage. My teacher feels that this, more than anything, is what is keeping my playing from being where it could be right now. She doesn't think it's my not-always-consistent embouchure, my messy fingers, or anything else. She feels that my improper use of air is the number one weak area at this point. I need to take in a lot more air, a lot more often, and then once I do I need to use it better, to make it warmer and faster and to play through my phrases. I think she's probably right about this because when I hear recordings of myself I realize that certain elements are ok, but that that my playing sounds disjointed. My phrasing is cut off because I interrupt the air stream when I shouldn't.

I guess I should be happy that even though my embouchure is STILL not perfect and that my fingers are messy, that I can still play. But then again, this whole breathing thing is so basic that I am having an extremely difficult time retraining myself.

With my test coming up, I think my aim is just to practice every day, perhaps for only 30 minutes. Rather than focus on the music I am playing I am going to try to focus on my two problem areas. For one week I will play whatever (scales, long tones, random music) and focus only on eliminating negative inner dialogue. I will only allow myself to critique my playing at designated times during the practice. I will also try to allow myself to think of what is going well more often. Perhaps that will help my brain reinforce the good things. Because what's happening at lessons is that I will be playing mostly ok, my teacher notices something that is off, then when I play the phrase again I focus so much on the wrong area that the other good things disappear. This is happening pretty consistently and we're both worried about that. I have to find a way to stop the mind games. Once I get rid of (or at least tone down) the "I suck" voices, I will then focus on breathing. Hopefully taking good breaths will become natural at some point and then once I learn to have all that air inside I can figure out how to best use it.

The good news is that it wasn't all bad. My teacher was really excited about my sound during my scales. By the way, she has me playing them as sixteenth notes now and I have to try to play them as fast as possible. Some of them I am playing at quarter note = 100, which is twice as fast as I was playing them a few months ago when I was doing eighths at that same speed. I guess that's progress. Especially since I am intimidated by fast playing.

Among the crappy parts, some parts of the Marcello (we're back to the 1st mvt) actually sounded really good. She was happy about how much it has improved since I started it. That made me happy :-)

I may not be able to post again until after my test. Please pray that I do well because I REALLY don't want to have to retake this and am desperately looking forward to the summer and to being able to devote myself to my oboe as much as I want to.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Play-In on Saturday

The MCAT is exactly a month away. It feels surreal in a way. I have dreaded taking this test for nearly 15 years and can't believe that it is coming up so soon. Let's hope that I can provide the final push I need to get me there and get me a decent score.

I am supposed to be taking full-length practice exams each weekend but am taking a break this Saturday in order to participate in a local "play-in". Here's part of an email I got earlier this week:
Hi fellow ACMP enthusiasts.

I have been an active local ACMP participant for over 20 years.
I've played
with some of you and been in touch with quite a few
of you over time. A few months
ago I began working at the
Music Conservatory of
Westchester, and I think it is a wonderful
resource for us. Recognizing the possibilities, we have set up
a Free
Play-In for Saturday April 28 from 1PM-4PM.

Features for the day are:
MEET AND GREET for ACMP members and their friends (coffee and
cake will be

FREE PLAY-IN in our acoustically excellent 120-seat recital hall
and other
fully equipped rehearsal rooms.

WE PLAY TOO. Meet, talk and play with MCW Staff.

DISCOVER what the Conservatory can offer you.

As stressed as I am about the MCAT I'm wanting it to come and go already so that I can go back to enjoying my music. I plan for this to be the "SummerO'Music". I want to play as much and with as many people as I can. So it was interesting timing to get this email this week. I am trying hard not to expect too much (I've been let down so many times before). But maybe, just maybe, I will come out of this with some good contacts and the possibility of an ensemble. That would make my life just perfect! I am willing to exhaust all my resources to find myself a group by the end of the summer, but it would be great if it happens this quickly. Well, at least they'll have free cake if all else fails.

If this play-in thing doesn't work out then I will try the following, in that order:
(1) Look into local summer music programs at music schools and community colleges.
(2) Look into such programs in other areas of the country.
(3) Call up my musician friends and try to get them motivated again.
(4) Call random people from the ACMP directory.
(5) Cry.

Hopefully I will find a group before getting to option 5.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Oh. My. God.

Today was a really nutty day. In total I rode on 6 subway trains and 1 bus and walked maybe 2 miles. I studied MCAT physics for about 5 hours and printed out 100 pages of new review questions. I had lunch with a good friend and chatted with my mom on the phone briefly. Oh, and I bumped into my ex-boyfriend whom I hadn't seen in 10 years.

Talk about being tired for a lesson. I got to my teacher's new house (she moved while I was on vacation) nearly panting. This was my first lesson in over a month! A few weeks ago I was dreading going back because I felt so out of shape and had no good reeds, but as the days got closer I was just excited to see her again and get some help getting back in gear.

Earlier this week she sent me a new exercise via email. I was to set the metronome at 110 and play two octaves of the C major scale up and down twice. Slurred. In sixteeth notes. At first I thought I read it wrong because when I got home and turned on the metronome I was shocked by how quickly I was supposed to be playing the notes. I even called her to verify it and she confirmed that I was to play 4 notes per beat. Woah. After laughing about it for a few minutes I gave it a try. I couldn't quite get to 110, but I managed to sort of get it at 100. Oh, and I forgot the best part! After I did this slurred I was then to try it doing two notes slurred two tongued. Boy did that up the ante. While I was able to kind of get it slurred, doing it with the more complex articulation was a nearly impossible challenge. A few days later it was still pretty messy but every once in a while I was able to do it for a few beats at a time.

I also forgot to mention that in my rush to get out of the house this morning I left my Marcello music at home. DOH! But maybe it turned out for the best because we ended up just working on the C scale exercise. This time she did it with me a bit and then left me alone and I think this had a HUGE effect in calming my nerves. Normally I do a LOT of nervous talking in my lessons but today I did almost none. I basically played the entire hour! Another thing which prevented the chatter was that she had the metronome set at 110 and would give me a count of 4 for me to pull myself together and take a good breath and then I had to just start playing. It was weird at first and I fought the urge to talk or otherwise waste time, but then I realized how much more productive I was. In short, this was probably my best lesson ever! I ended up playing something I thought impossible just a few days ago. By the end of the session even the "articulated" version of the exercise sounded decently good. I couldn't believe I was playing that. And it sounded a lot more musical than I expected. Maybe the reed she gave me helped. Gosh, it's so nice to have a good reed for a change!!

Soooo, get this. After we're done she asks me why I think she gave me that exercise. I rattle off a few things including breathing, dexterity, tonguing, etc. They were all good things but that was not why she assigned me that. She wants me to start a new piece . . . the Mozart oboe concerto!!!!!!!!! Oh. My. God. I was so flattered that she thought I was ready for this. Woah. I still can't believe it.

Does that mean I am at least a little bit uber now???

YAY!!! I am so happy and remotivated now. I just had to share this with you all.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Thanks John Picarello

I took a few minutes to read Patty's blog and saw her link to the Joshua Bell experiment. This is very disheartening but I am not surprised at all. I could write a lot about this topic because I feel it has affected my life personally. It's as though every day I am faced by this "decay". But, alas, I don't have time to write about it all and it might be a bit insensitive or cynical. So instead I will focus on my favorite quote from the article.

I absolutely loved Mr. John Picarello's quote:

If you love something but choose not to do it professionally, it's not a waste. Because, you know, you still have it. You have it forever.

That, my friends, captures the essence of how I feel about my (lack of) musical career right at this moment. It's VERY difficult for me to devote so much time to my real career while ignoring the music. I find myself pining for a life where I don't have to worry about money and can go get that adult diploma at Mannes School of Music and maybe never get a real gig but get pretty good at my instrument and play all the music I want to play. I guess I'm still holding on to that dream (in case I win the lottery or something), but for now Mr. Picarello's words made me feel at peace.

Monday, March 19, 2007

to reed or not to reed

So far all three teachers that I've interacted with have insisted that making reeds is an essential part of becoming an oboist. I never thought to question this until recently when I found myself giving up precious practice time for scraping. As I sat there struggling with my never-quite-sharp-enough knives, I started to wonder whether this was really so pertinent to my musical development. I should also mention that one of my readers planted the seed in me when she revealed that she buys her reeds yet is still a successful oboist.

All this has become more pertinent as I have been contemplating medical school more seriously lately. I am determined to make this work and to continue my oboe studies, but I am well aware that there are only so many hours in a day. While I do think it's possible to find time to play, time to make reeds is only going to become scarser and scarser. This threw me into a panic because I feared it would mean the end of my oboist dreams. But now I have hope that even if I never become a master reed maker I could nevertheless become a good oboist.

So two weeks ago I tried talking to my teacher about this. It's not that I want to give up on reeds entirely, I just feel that I need to go on hiatus until I'm done with the MCAT (so that I don't have to sacrifice playing time to scrape again). Unfortunately, she didn't entirely agree with my plan. She feels that I need to learn how to make reeds first and then at that point I can decide whether or not I will pursue it ongoing or move on to ready-made reeds. I see her point but I am just feeling quite stressed right now and I don't think that this is conducive to reed making anyway.

Patty suggested that next time I tell her instead of ask her about the hiatus. I think I will try that once I get back from my vacation. Since I decided against taking my oboe on the cruise it's going to take me a while to get back into shape and in a way it will be like a new beginning.

By the way, I'm going on the Norweigan Spirit cruise leaving from NYC this Saturday. I'll be back in April and will hopefully chronicle my adventures in getting back into shape :-p I'm trying to convince my husband to buy me that thing where you can dictate and the computer types things out for you. This may help solve my blog blues.

Have a wonderful rest of the month! *hugs*

Thursday, February 22, 2007

2 good lessons

Still here in oboe student land . . . and I think I've finally turned another corner. I realize now, in hindsight, that I've been frustrated over that lesson I had late December. You know, the one that turned into a psychotherapy session about why I've been holding on to the wrong embouchure and why I feel a need to do it that way. I'm just an old ex-saxophonist with bad habits is all I think it is. As a result I've been beating myself up and punishing myself by not focusing on my Marcello.

I've gone back and forth about whether it's best to put off all music until I perfect the embouchure or whether one is better served by learning through the music. I think the latter is best as long as you have someone who is guiding you well. You don't want to be at one end of the spectrum where you're doing only music, and reach pieces at that. But the other end of the spectrum where you do only long tones most of the time isn't that much better because most students will end up getting frustrated and discouraged way before they reap the rewards of that. As with most things there exists a happy medium. I've already tried cutting back to mostly long tones several times but the moment I start playing many notes, the corners tend to creep back up. This tells me that in order to really master this I am going to have to figure out a way to do this while playing. I believe the answer is probably through playing the music at a slow enough tempo where I still have control.

While at church yesterday it dawned on me that one of the difficult things about being an adult student is concentration. I remembered a time where I would sit at church and concentrate completely on the service and on prayer. It was that peaceful feeling that drew me to church in the first place. Yesterday instead of being fully alert I had an inner dialogue going on about pure BS. It's as though you can't stop for a single second. If I were to somehow channel the past and concentrate like before, I would probably get a LOT more out of my practice sessions.

In spite of all this, my past two lessons with T have been quite productive. I am doing a lot less of the nervous talking and more playing. The main thing that I need to work on is breathing and how I am using my air. I am sounding very mechanical and boring on the 3rd mvt of the Marcello because I am stopping the air flow between each of the staccato notes. I am having a difficult time combining all the aspects of playing in a seamless way. If I focus on articulation, I forget to breathe well. If I focus on air, I tend to start biting. If I focus on dynamics, my fingering gets messy.

I am coming to peace with all these challenges. The oboe is not supposed to be easy anyway. I think (HOPE) that all of these things are normal hurdles. And that as long as I keep at it, I will slowly make progress.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Need to find my path again

Hi everyone! I hope that the new year is treating you well.

Though I haven't been writing as much as I'd like I do think about my blog on nearly a daily basis. I spend time thinking of posts that I would like to post, but never seem to get around to actually typing them. *sigh*

I'm afraid that things have been going slowly for me and Luna the past month. That's part of why I've been reluctant to post. I wish I could be saying that I can play the Schumann Romances now, but alas, I am still working on my Marcello. None of it is really ready yet, but I have recently started working on the third movement at half speed. By the way, what is the average amount of time that people spend on any given piece?

This past month has been my absolute worse in terms of practicing. I have been struggling majorly to practice every day. I never had this problem before. Yeah, I did procrastinate but I'd eventually get it done. Now I am taking off way more days than I'd like to. I fear that other things are distracting me from my oboe studies. Hopefully I can get back on track soon. I've had two decent practices in a row last night and tonight. If I can manage to do a few more consecutively then perhaps I can fall back into my previous rhythm.

I think that part of my problem is that I am still unhappy about my embouchure and sound production. Try as I may I can be consistent about it. My corners tend to creep up when I'm tired or too concentrated on difficult music. A part of me doesn't want to allow me to play anything fun until I GET the embouchure. Another part of me feels this is unreasonable and feels that I should continue to play music and have faith that eventually all the pieces will start to fall together. Isn't that how kids learn anyway? No child would play an instrument if they were only allowed to do long tones and slow scales for YEARS until the embouchure was perfected. Am I right or wrong about this?

I guess it's just frustrating because I am pretty sure that my sound has taking a few steps back while other aspects of my playing improved somewhat. It's tough to take a hit in the sound department since that is the whole reason I am playing this instrument. I am trying to re-commit myself to my practice because only through that will my sound get back on track. And once that happens I can give all of myself to practicing my music. Right now my Marcello feels like a guilty pleasure and I think I am holding back and purposely not studying as well as I could/should.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Still here

I got my yearly cold very early this year. It started on January 2nd and lasted 8 days. Today is the first day that I feel totally well again. Needless to say I didn't practice every day last week and am now trying to get back into shape. *sigh* My teacher was very nice about my having to cancel last week's lesson. She said I shouldn't feel down because of not being able to practice while sick. She said that even professionals have periods like that and all you do is just work yourself back up to it. No one is always "on". Everyone goes through rough spots. Well, she didn't say it in those words, but however she said it it calmed me down. It's so hard to stay patient. Losing all those days and falling behind hurts when you want to be playing so much better than you do. But she's right, all I can do is start moving forward again. Even if I did take a few steps back.

By the way, those high fingerings are making me feel like a complete newb! Could they have made them any harder???? Maybe we should play with our toes too. Sheesh.

It's a psychological struggle every day with these notes. I've never felt clumsier in my entire life! Part of me feels like I will NEVER be able to play these notes. It's especially hard to press two keys at once (see high E) with my twisted pinkies. I should take a picture of them for you. I was born with VERY twisted pinkies. This is not a huge problem on my right hand but it's very taxing on the left, given all the keys that that pinky is supposed to control. Maybe I should get them operated. Oh well, more on that later. I'm going to go play WoW now.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

2007 Meme

Happy New Year to everyone! May your lives be full of blessings this year and always.

New Year's Meme

1. What did you do in 2006 that you'd never done before?
Assisted on a surgery.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I kept most of them, sort of. Let's just say that most of my resolutions are "in progress". I am hopeful that things will move along further this year.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes, my friend Alcira had a baby girl

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No, thank God.

5. What countries did you visit?
None. I haven't been away anywhere since 2004.

6. What would you like to have in 2007 that you lacked in 2006?
More discipline to do what needs to get done, primarily practice, study, work out, and keep the house clean.

7. What dates from 2006 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Yikes, the only one standing out right now is August 25th. That's when my mother-in-law went back to DR and when my kittens were born. Oh we also went to Shea Stadium for the first time that night and had a ton of fun.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Completing the post-bacc premed program at Columbia with a pretty decent average.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not making it into the Wind Ensemble.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I was sick for the entire month of March with some VERY nasty conjunctivitis, the flu, sore throat, and stomach problems.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My husband. He's really stepped up to the plate to help me with things around the house and with bills/paperwork.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
My Dad for being reckless like always. Mom for not sticking up for herself. My brother for making himself a victim and not working on improving his life. Though I must mention that he did also have a major achievement in 2006, one that will allow him to get his Associates this June.

14. Where did most of your money go?
The mortgage.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
My new oboe teacher, participating in the pit orchestra for that musical, booking our upcoming vacation, TiVo, and my new iPod.

16. What song will always remind you of 2006?
"Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?
a) a tiny bit sadder because I miss some people who are gone or are soon to be gone
b) 2 lbs lighter. I reached 10% of my goal. LOL!
c) technically richer because I'm working again but my salary sucks

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Exercise. Practice. Read. Pray.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Cook and clean. Gotten angry. Procrastinated.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
In 2007? Who knows? Maybe I'll be more into it this year.

21. Did you fall in love in 2006?
Yes, with my new kittens. I'm already in love with my husband JC and my oboe.

22. How many one-night stands?
None. Ever. I feel so deprived.

23. What was your favorite TV program?
Grey's Anatomy

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
I try not to have hate in my heart. That being said, several people annoyed the heck out of me last year and will likely continue to do so into 2007.

25. What was the best book you read?
Yikes. I am embarrassed to admit what I read this year.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Quartetto Gelato (thanks Patty!)

27. What did you want and get?
An iPod (sorry, Terminal)

28. What did you want and not get?
An English Horn. *sniff sniff*

29. What was your favorite film of this year?
X-Men, the Last Stand

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
My birthday was the most low-key ever. I turned 32.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Getting into a musical group.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2006?
Tried to look a bit more well put together. Less t-shirts and more tailored blouses.

33. What kept you sane?
My oboe.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Eric Bana is still my man. Though Hugh Jackman and Patrick Dempsey did it for me too this year.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
Don't really want to go there.

36. Who did you miss?
My mommy who's now living in another country.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
Dr. Singh and Yobany at work.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2006.
It's not about waiting to figure out what the "best" decision could be. It's about taking control of your live and just living it.

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
"And I think to myself . . . what a wonderful world . . ."

In 2007:
1. Will you be looking for a new job?
Only if I decide not to pursue medical school.

2. Will you be looking for a new relationship?

3. New house?
No, we just refinanced.

4. What will you do different in 07?
Exercise, practice, and study more. I will need to keep better tabs on my time.

5. New Years resolution?
See #4.

6. What will you not be doing in 07?
The baby thing is still up in the air and looks unlikely right now. But things can change.

7. Any trips planned?
Hell yeah!! Another Caribbean cruise. This one will be Eastern Caribbean and we'll be leaving from NYC. I also hope to make the IDRS conference. There is a possible trip to PA to meet some online gaming friends, another possible trip to NC to meet a church friend who relocated, and perhaps a trip to GA for my sister-in-law's Airborne training graduation. Oh, and I might have to pick up my Mom in DR. And there's always that San Fran trip I keep meaning to take.

8. Wedding plans?
My good friend Luisa is getting married in October.

9. Major thing on your calendar?
The MCAT on May 25th!

10. What can't you wait for?
Getting closer to my ideal weight
Playing oboe in a group on a regular basis
Finally deciding either to apply to med school or to definitely give it up

11. What would you like to see happen differently?
For me to get less involved in other peoples' problems

12. What about yourself will you be changing?
See #11. I hope to become more disciplined. It's the only way I will come close to having it all.

13. What happened in 06 that you didn't think would ever happen?
My brother passed the CPE! (I really hope he doesn't read this blog anymore.)

14. Will you be nicer to the people you care about?
If possible, yes.

15. Will you dress differently this year than you did in 06?
If I lose this weight I will. My husband has been warned already!

16. Will you start or quit drinking?
Drinking is not an important part of my life. I drink a glass of wine a month on average.

17. Will you better your relationship with your family?
Actually, I mean to distance myself a bit from the parents. We need to stop trying to solve all of their problems. It would be nice if we could but it's too much pressure and a bit unfair to us. We'll love them just the same though. In terms of the other relatives I just hope I have more time to spend with them.

18. Will you do charity work?

19. Will you go to bars?
Perhaps for our rock music gigs. Or for a friend's birthday.

20. Will you be nice to people you don't know?
I always am (even though I'm a New Yorker)

21. Do you expect 07 to be a good year for you?
I'm very hopeful; I feel that things are moving in the right direction now.

22. How much did you change from this time last year till now?
I'm a bit more stressed out now but I feel more satisfied because I am doing less and less things I don't want to be doing.

23. Do you plan on having a child?
It's a possibility which depends on several other things. . .

24. Will you still be friends with the same people you are friends with now?
I sure hope so!

25. Major lifestyle changes?
Nothing major.

26. Will you be moving?
Not yet.

27. What will you make sure doesn't happen in 07 that happened in 06?
That I don't lose any weight. That my career plans go stale.

28. What are your New Years Eve plans?
I'm going to party like it's 1999. Maybe next year we will go to one of those pre-organized parties I keep meaning to go to.

29. Will you have someone to kiss at midnight?
Yes, *smoooch*

30. One wish for 07?
For the powers that be to take global warming more seriously. For me to make a definitive career decision. And for me to get into a musical group. Oh wait, that was three wishes.