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!