Friday, January 23, 2015

Catching Up

I feel that before I can start writing on here regularly again, I need to catch up on what's been going on since my last few postings.

I'm coming up on nearly 2 years of working with my new teacher.  In that time we've attempted to meet biweekly with some regularity.  Some months we only met once.  I wish we could meet every week but I typically don't have enough practice time in between to justify that, plus it would quickly become too expensive.  We rarely ever do anything reed related, as I've wanted to take advantage of my time with her to do only music.  Also, she found me a good reed maker during last year's cold, dry winter and I've been using those reeds since.  They have been stable in tone and intonation and I can typically just play them out of the box.  Last year I did meet two other teachers who love teaching reed making and adjustment, so am thinking of seeing one of them a few times this Spring so that I can learn how to make minor adjustments to the reeds I'm buying.  I still don't have the time or money to devote to making them from scratch on my own, though I do hope that somewhere down the line when my girls are older I can do that.  I do find that not knowing anything about reed adjustment is becoming a liability, which is why I want to address that in the coming year.

Anyway, so the past 2 years we have indeed spent a LOT of time on reworking my embouchure and I am proud to say that I think it was FINALLY matured.  One of these days I will try to get a picture of what it looks like now.  I have some comparison shots of when I was doing it wrong.

Because my embouchure improved, as did my breathing concept (where the air is coming from and being more aware of the column of air and the pressure it needs), my tone improved a lot over the past two years.  The flutist from my quintet remarked that it is close to the pro quality I always wanted.  And when I sat in at a rehearsal orchestra in NYC I had a different flutist also remark on my sound.  She was amazed at the sound I was producing as a late & relateively recent starting adult.  She later went on to comment that my speaking voice is very resonant as well and that is likely why my tone is beautiful.  I was on cloud nine!!  All I ever wanted when I started this oboe journey in 2004 was to some day produce a beautiful sound.  I don't think I am doing it consistently yet, but when I get all the pieces together there are some magical moments.  And thankfully these are becoming more frequent rather than ultra rare.  Though I technically reached my goal, I know I am just scratching the surface.  Now I get to think about a whole new world of EXPRESSION, which has just opened up to me.

The other compliment I got recently was from my teacher.  She tends to be tough and her philosophy is NOT to shower with a lot of praise.  But a couple of lessons ago she remarked that I was sounding the best she had heard me sound and asked whether I felt I was playing at my best yet, to which I answered a resounding YES!  She then told me I should think about going to Summertrios.  In prior years she had basically said to not waste my money going to summer chamber things because I wouldn't really be able to get the most out of it yet.  But now she thinks I am ready.  That was yet another compliment!

She thinks that part of my improvement has been joining that second orchestra.  Ahh, yes, yours truly is now not only in one, but two, orchestras.  My second orchestra is a community orchestra associated with a local college.  So it's made of up their music majors, some high performing students from a local boarding school, and serious community amateurs.  It was definitely a step up from where I had been.  I heard about them through a clarinetist I met while attempting to fill in at an opera orchestra in NYC.  I bailed from there because I felt it too much of a challenge for me, but did make that one connection.  He let me know that this second orchestra had lost their oboists, an older married couple that had moved away from the area.  So in the Fall of 2013 I contacted the conductor and he told me they were playing Beethoven 7.  I went to a couple of rehearsals but then chickened out.  But come Spring 2014, I contacted him again.  I told him I was ok with playing second and that he could get a ringer for first.  He replied by saying that I wasn't giving myself credit and that I had a lot of musicality.  They were playing Schubert 8, a Mendelssohn overture, and one movement of a Mozart piano concerto.  My first orchestra had attempted Schubert 8 for a few weeks so I was familiar with the first movement and quite loved it.  When time came for me to go to rehearsal I found myself to be the only oboist there.  I started on second, but quickly realized that didn't make much sense as many essential lines were missing, so then I moved over to the first chair and the rest is history.  On May 2014 we had a very successful performance.  I will never forget what it felt like to truly MAKE that music.  In this group I couldn't hide and had to play everything as expected.  It was really nervewracking but ultimately very satisfying.  For the Fall concert we played Mendelssohn 5.  This was the piece that my teacher believes led to my marked improvements the second half of the year.  I guess it may have to do with the way the first oboe lines in it has a lot of big intervals and long, held high notes.  I really had to learn to use all my tools in order to get my sound and pitch in the right pocket.

Did I mention at any point that I acquired an English Horn?  I may have.  I bought an old (my age probably) Chauvet from an oboist I met through our quintet's bassoonist.  It was a good deal, even with me having to shell out another $1500 to have Mr. Teitelbaum (from Laubin) overhaul it.  So for both orchestras' Spring concert I will get to play EH as well.

Second Orchestra (MV) is tackling Dvorak 8.  Sure, it's only a 2.5 measure solo, but it's as exposed as can get.
First Orchestra (NWSO) is doing Prelude & Liebstod from Tristan and I get to play EH on it.  What a thrill to be a part of the Tristan chord!!  I've got a really funky line that keeps (not) "resolving" down but then resolves up chromatically at the very end.  It's amazing!  I am also playing EH on Debussy La Mer, third mvt.  Am playing second on Mozart 40 (long story).  Will be playing first on Beethoven Leonore 3 and also on the Faure Pavane.  The latter is one of those few pieces I became familiar with when I first started playing oboe and was always a "dream" piece of something I wanted to play.  Since then, I have many more dream pieces but it will definitely be a treat to finally play that along with one of my new clarinet friends.

Ok so we're almost caught up.  Tomorrow I have an oboe lesson in preparation for a studio recital on Sunday.  This will be my first studio recital ever.  Unfortunately, most of her more serious students will be unable to make it due to school and sport obligations.  So it will be more like an "oboe day" than a recital.  In a way that's better because I'll be less nervous.  Her other adult amateur and I will be playing a Barrett duet together (I forget which one, it's in G minor).  I've been practicing both the top and bottom line as I'm not sure who is playing what yet.  We will also be reading through music, including trios where I'll get to play EH.  YAY!

At some point this week I should write about the IDRS conference I attended last Summer.

Back to work.

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