These musicians of the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra look so joyous as they play. I love it!

Edvard Grieg: Holberg Suite, Op. 40, Praeludium

I have avoided writing about the horrendous news we’ve heard in the arts — and in particular music, since that’s my area — industry recently, and I won’t name names here now either. If you’ve seen the news, you know it’s going on. Some of the news has been rather explicit. Some not. No matter what it’s all very very ugly.

But I’m not here to write about the people who are now under investigation or already fired from jobs. I don’t want to go there. I hope the truth can be found. I hope that the guilty are punished. But now I want to write about being safe. So many young people are heading off to college (if they aren’t there already). Some will face the dangers of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault. I’m hoping there will be less of this now. I’m hoping that with the #metoo movement people in power will think twice. I’m hoping. BUT …

Be careful students. Please please please be careful. And please know you do not have to “sleep” your way to the top, or to a position in an orchestra, or even to become someone’s private student. If someone suggests that, report it. If you are harassed, report it. If you are assaulted, report it. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to report these things, but if it’s to be stopped it must be reported as quickly as possible.

I was thinking about how one can stop this behavior, especially in the music field when students have private lessons with instructors. I wonder if schools would ever consider having windows on every room. What if every instructor and professor could be seen in his or her office at all times? I know many would argue that they have lost their privacy, but after all I’ve heard and read I honestly don’t care. The safety of students is of utmost importance. In addition, with windows, a teacher couldn’t be falsely accused either. Everything seen. Everyone out in the open.

It’s just a thought.

But meanwhile … to all the students, to all the performers … and, really, to ALL … be careful. Be cautious. Stay safe. Make sure it doesn’t end up being #youtoo. Please.

Harold Smoliar, 61, retired this year as the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s English horn player. He’s been with the PSO since 1979. He’ll continue to play jazz piano on his own and with other local jazz musicians.

“In the last few years I’ve had to practice more and more,” he said. “The effort to be fresh was a constant drain. Sure there are some physical issues now, but it’s actually mostly mental for me. It was time.”

Hm. I’m 61 as well. Interesting.


Something we musicians wonder about much of the time when we are older is, “Is it time for me to leave?” We don’t want to leave too early, but we most definitely also don’t want to leave too late.

Our fingers can slow down. Our tongues might not move as quickly. It can be difficult to play the longer phrases. We might be slower to recover from errors, too.

And yet there are things now that I do better than I did when I was younger. I think I’m more natural in my playing. My expression just feels right … at least most of the time.

But I still get nervous. I thought that would end. It didn’t. It’s a different kind of nervousness, and it isn’t so bad I’m unhappy. It just “is” and it’s a part of the job.

But …

I want to leave before everyone is whispering, “When WILL she finally quit?” No one wants that.

Francisco Guerrero; Pan Divino y Gracioso (Divine bread of grace)
Vox Gaudiosa; Ko Matsushita, Conductor

Edward Bairstow: Jesu, the Very Thought of Thee
Collegium Cantorum YOKOHAMA; Haruka Kanie, Conductor

My husband Dan and I went on a very long trip and returned yesterday. We are light travelers, doing carryon luggage only. Even if we didn’t do that, it would be doubtful that I’d take my oboe: having read far too many horror stories about stolen goods, and also knowing that I would be so busy practice would be difficult, it just seems wiser to leave the instrument home.

That being said, it meant that as we neared the end of the trip I began to get nervous. Arriving home on Monday with a rehearsal Tuesday night meant I worried a fair amount. But so it goes. I’m used to that feeling, so I know to just go with it.

There are several things I know to do when preparing for getting back into the swing of things. The first thing I did was play an oboe reed a wee bit before heading home. (Yes, I brought reeds, despite having no instrument.) While on the flight I went through the opera with my part in front of me. It really helps to visualize playing the opera, and I even finger along sometimes. Thankfully I am moving down to second oboe this set, many thanks to our second oboist graciously moving up! I’m sorry to miss playing the wonderful lines Mozart wrote for the principal oboe, but it seemed the more prudent thing to do.

Getting home I have to begin by forgiving myself for a weak embouchure and a bit of an unfocussed sound. I attempt to practice as much as possible with absolutely no vibrato. (Some of my friends think I use to much anyway!) Vibrato covers up a lot of issues that need to be dealt with and it’s good to be honest with myself.

The biggest disappointment and surprise was that my tongue has slowed down even more than it already had: age has a way with the tongue, but I didn’t realize not playing would cause such a drastic slowing. That will have to be improved as quickly as possible.

Now that I’m back I hope to go through a lot of images and share a bit about the trip. Very few concerts were available to us in most cities (orchestras frequently take off August), but we did hear a concert in London at the Proms and attended Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in Paris. The highlight were the three operas at the Bayreuth Festival, Die Walküre, Parsifal, and Tristan und Isolde.

But what does one do when concerts aren’t as plentiful? Take photos of instruments at museums, of course! Music and visual art … they seem to go together a lot. I will share those images (the only reason I’d take a photo of a work of visual art would be to share for instructional purposes or to remind myself of what I saw: I think taking photos of art otherwise seems a bit nuts, since nothing is like the actual piece of work), and share a bit about what I experienced. Stay tuned for those blog entries! (But not this week: I have a lot on my plate at the moment, what with getting over jet lag, rehearsals and performances and starting up students again.)

Giorgio Susana; Jesu dulcedo cordium
The Metropolitan Chorus of Tokyo; Ko Matsushita, Conductor

Matthew Lyon Hazzard: Requiem Aeternam
The Metropolitan Chorus of Tokyo; Ko Matsushita, Conductor

Daniel Schreiner: Fear Not
Central Washington University Chamber Choir

Ola Gjeilo: Sanctus
Central Washington University Chamber Choir; Gary Weidenaar, Director