27. October 2006 · Comments Off on When I’m Busy · Categories: imported, Ramble

If I have a hectic schedule I tend to not look ahead. It’s so difficult for my brain to wrap around one week, much less look forward to the next. This doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s coming up; I’m well aware that the next two weeks will be The King and I, with a bit of Barber of Seville thrown in. From opera, which extends past K&I, I return to symphony again, and Le Tombeau de Couperin (Ravel) is lurking there so I’ve been thinking about English horn reeds and working a bit on the little bit of technical work I’ll have on second oboe.

But only today did it hit me: After Sunday’s Symphony Silicon Valley concert I have a five hour musical rehearsal (which I was remembering) and THEN … sigh … Monday I have two three hour rehearsals of the musical. Oops! I hadn’t looked at Monday yet. So now I’ve quickly written my Monday students to see if we can reschedule (now maybe readers will understand why I charge weekly rather than monthly!) and if not I’ll miss seeing them. I hate missing my students, but sometimes that’s the only choice.

In any case, I had better really relish today! I have only two students (one cancelled) and I have no concert at all. How odd to play Thursday and then have Friday off. My next night off is November 6, and then the free night after that will be November 14.

This is always good news and bad news. Mostly good, of course. It means I’m employed. Nearly steadily. Like a real job. In fact, between teaching and playing, the only days, until Christmas, on which I have absolutely nothing on total a whopping … drum roll please … ZERO.

That’s right. Every day between now and December 25 I either teach or play (or both).

Hmmm. Maybe I’ll need to take something off. For my sanity.

(Whispering voices in my head are saying, “Too late … too late. Sanity is long gone.” 😉

I just realized I had Thursday students scheduled on Thanksiving! Ain’t gonna happen. (Duh.) So there’s a day off. Sort of. (We always have the dinner here, so there’s work to be done.)

27. October 2006 · Comments Off on A Quick Post · Categories: imported, Ramble

I thought last night’s Symphony Silicon Valley concert went well. Pam played beautifully in the Bizet and got a well deserved bow. Much to my surprise the conductor had me stand after Pam. It’s true that the slow movement solo gets passed to the second oboe, but it never entered my mind that it would be noted. I’m afraid I didn’t stand immediately, as I couldn’t fathom that he was acknowledging me! One thing conductors might not realize is that we can’t always tell who they are looking at. (I always like it when they mouth the name of our instrument—then it’s quite clear.) I usually know when I’m to stand, as a solo is fairly obvious. But oh well … a moment of unprofessionalism on my part. Sigh.

The conductor, Martin West, is excellent. He said some things during the rehearsal that made me want to stand up and cheer. I do hope we have him return!

In Other News
I’d love to be able to hear this “new” old music (music that was taken from Germany by Russia after WWII). It’s to be published, so I guess eventually some pieces might make their way to some of our stages here in the US. I’m a fan of Telemann. I feel as if he’s one of the often neglected composers, and I’ve always enjoyed playing works by him. They seem to sit well on oboe.

Say What?
Read at a “food media blog”:

The interplay of taste, aroma, texture, and visual appeal is irreducible. Umami is just one instrument in the orchestra; it sounds lousy in solos but improves the rest of the orchestra. Understanding how an oboe enriches a symphony is important knowledge for any composer, but it would be absurd to choose your music based on minutes of oboe time.

Now wait a minute! Is this person implying that some orchestral instrument sounds lousy in solos? To which instrumnet is he or she referring? Seeing the oboe mentioned in the next sentence has me worried. Goodness me! We are the best when it comes to solos, are we not? (You may answer this if you know the correct answer! Otherwise just keep those opinions to yourself! 😉


26. October 2006 · Comments Off on New · Categories: imported, Links

There’s a new classical music blog I’ll be checking out. Now you can too.

In response to my last post

So we went over the oboe’s range. I talked about what is difficult with oboe. Darn low notes. Please don’t have us trill a low B flat to low B! Give really high notes to the flutes, doggone it. (But, “Yes, we can play some high notes and see how piercing they can sound?”) Oh, and we can appear to be a bit crazy. I talked about pitch bending (they seemed to like what we can do). I talked about those long phrases we play and how it’s not all that big of a deal for us. I talked about how we spend more time on reeds than practice, or so it seems.

And I talked about how we are neurotic. We fret a lot about reeds. And we don’t dress as nicely as the flutists who play shiny instruments. And did I mention we are neurotic?

Then I warned them about our sharp knives and razor blades.

And yes, I said, “Please be nice to us.” 🙂

I’m on the UCSC campus right now. My first student (who comes at a very early 8:30) is ill, so I had a bit of time to ready myself for a orchestration class where I’ll be demonstrating the oboe.

It’s always an interesting thing .. deciding what to tell them. What I’d love to say is, “Be kind to oboists!” I’d like to say, “Don’t do to the second oboist what Dvorak did!” (He loved low notes for some reason.) Or maybe I’d say, “Don’t make us play in the stratosphere … give it to those flutes, please!”

But should I?

We have to play what’s on a page. Sure, we have all of our excuses. But composers don’t really care, conductors won’t accept them (very often) and audiences haven’t a clue, for the most part, as to what is tremendously difficult and what is not.

Say, for instance, the long lines we get. It’s not all that often we encounter a solo that causes a tremendous breathing difficulty. We can go on and on, and the more difficult thing, at least sometimes, is deciding we really need to put in a breath even though we honestly don’t need it. (Watch an audience when an oboist goes on and on … they often look like they are all dying for air!) Our problem is often that we need to “dump air” (really carbon dioxide), not take oxygen in.

And then there are the low notes. Sigh. Low notes starting on pianissimo. Double sigh. Low notes starting on pianissimo with nothing prior to those low notes that allows us to ready ourselves.

There aren’t a whole lot of note combinations that drive me crazy. but when I am given a solo that goes back and forth between low B-flat (or A#) and B I cringe. That’s not a fun one. I also despise using the “banana key” but if I have to I will. I’ll just be sure to complain first.

And reeds. Do I tell them about reeds? Today is miserably dry. On the radio they were calling it “Desert Dry” and it sure feels like that. My skin is cracking, my lips are chapped, and I can’t keep a reed moist to save my life.

But why should a budding composer care about that sort of thing? That’s our problem, not theirs.

Certainly I’ll give them the range of the oboe. It seems as if our upper range keeps getting expanded, but I’m not going to suggest anything higher than F for now; many of these composers will have their pieces played by students who simply aren’t able to get higher. Even an F is a stretch for some students! (I occasionally go to this fingering chart to try new high note fingerings. I have to admit I can’t really get anything higher than an G# to work for me most of the time.

Mostly I think I like to say, as I wrote earlier, “Be kind.” So I probably will.

Whew! Another long day. My mouth is pretty darn fried. Five rehearsals in two days is just a bit much for me, I think.

But … well … wasn’t it just so fun to realize you were reading words I typed while on the stage?!

Please don’t tell me you really didn’t even care. I don’t want to hear it. 😉

In other news, and in response to his posting of one person’s view of the orchestra, daily observations has put together his own view of the orchestra. It’s fairly kind and gentle. I’m not sure I’d be quite that nice. (And yes, I’ve thought about writing up my own, but sometimes it’s just better to leave one’s mouth closed … or fingers still … or whatever!)

Regarding Reeds
Sigh. I’m not sure the ones I was using so far this week are going to hold out for the entire week. This weather—windy and extremely dry—is no fun for reeds. At least no fun for me and my reeds.

And now it’s time for bed. Tomorrow I have four students, an oboe demonstration to give (for a composition class) and a concert. Yet another busy day.

Friday is going to be crash time. I do have three students, but not one rehearsal or performance. Bizaree, don’t you think, for a musician to get to stay home on a Friday night?

25. October 2006 · Comments Off on This is a first! :-) · Categories: imported, Ramble

At this very moment I am sitting on the stage of the California Theatre. This is the first of two rehearsals today and we are on our fifteen minute break.

Isn’t wireless TOO COOL?!

25. October 2006 · Comments Off on Okay … I Lied · Categories: imported, Links

One more, before I leave …

Oboe players are seriously nuts. … Oboists suffer from a serious Santa Claus complex, spending all their waking hours carving little wooden toys for imaginary children, although they will tell you they are putting the finishing touches on the world’s greatest reed ….

Read the rest over at daily observations. (Not written by this person, or so it implies, but that’s where I read it.) Seems to me that the writer might play tuba? Thoughts?

Oh … and to daily observations … what musician isn’t in “dire need of a vacation and/or therapy”?! (And it’s definitely “and” NOT or!)

Now if you’ve never seen the Dylan video, Ginsberg and all, this might not mean as much to you. But still …!

Seen first here at Alex Ross’s site, The Rest Is Noise.

Faboo. (If I’m allowed to say that.)

I’m still laughing.

And now I’ll go veg. Really.

25. October 2006 · Comments Off on A Day In The Life · Categories: imported, Ramble

For those of you who wonder what a busy musical day might be like, here goes …

Not included in the musical part of the day is waking at 6:30 to take Jameson to school. (Thankfully Dan gets up earlier to get lunches made and all. Whew!) When I got home I went over all that I had to bring to rehearsal with me. (As I have told many students, I do my “idiot check”—thanks, Pam, for that term!—before leaving for work. Forgetting something is not an option.) Then it was shower time; there’s nothing worse than sitting in close proximity to a stinky musician. Trust me, I know. 😉

I began work yesterday at 10:00 in the morning. This doesn’t mean that’s when I start to play of course; I usually get to a hall 45 minutes to an hour ahead of time to set up and warm up. When I’m doing a show that includes a double (meaning I play both oboe and English horn) it takes a bit of time to get everything set and get comfortable. I don’t travel light. Coming along with me are instruments (of course!), reeds, music, reed making tools, tuner, chair pad, music tray, water, music glasses, and of course personal items like my toothbrush. (Gotta brush those teeth after eating.) (Stupid me, I forgot my toothpaste, but I can always find someone who has some.) This was a “double service” which meant that I had two three hour rehearsals with an hour break for lunch.

I brought “Oboe A” rather than “Oboe 1” and it decided to punish me a bit. I’m not sure why, as I have been giving it attention recently … it even was the chosen oboe for the last symphony set. Silly instrument! But something was out of adjustment through the first rehearsal and I had to keep fiddling with it. Then my English horn reeds, which really liked the room at home, thank you very much, decided that the barn of a room we were playing in was not a room in which they preferred to cooperate. Silly reeds. I finally wound up going back to my old reed, which I really had hoped to avoid, as I need to be breaking in new reeds for the next symphony concert; we’ll be playing Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin and there are some nice little EH parts, but they require a reed that I know and trust. Ah well. It’s always best to have these things happen at a first rehearsal. It gives me a chance to fix instruments, select different reeds and (I hope!) redeem myself in the eyes (and ears) of my colleagues.

By the time we broke for lunch my body was ready for that break; the chairs we were using were those old metal folding chairs. You know the kind, right? Cold. Hard. Uncomfortable. They are far too low to the ground, hard on the rear end (even with my chair pad!) and offer no back support at all. Sigh. In addition, our first rehearsals take place in a big rehearsal hall which only has fluorescent lights. Double sigh. My eyes don’t react well to that sort of light. I go into zombie mode.

But so it goes.

In this musical theatre company the first three hours are spent running through the music without singers, making sure cuts are correct and, this time anyway, we also were checking the transposed parts we were just given, to make sure they would work. Second rehearsal adds singers and is much more fun. I’m not the biggest fan of The King & I, but some of the music is pretty, and there’s more playing than I had remembered from the last time (was it really 1986? The old poster on the company’s wall had that date, I think.) Some of the tunes from K&I kind of get to me, actually (am I a sucker or what?!). I think it’s because I remember them from when I was young. Funny how that can tug at one’s heart.

After the musical rehearsal I sped (hah!) home (through awful commuter traffic there really was no speeding involved), dropped off instruments, picked up Jameson, raced back home, made dinner, crammed food down my throat, and took off for Symphony Silicon Valley, with a cup ‘o coffee in my hand (a necessity for a day like this).

The program for symphony—Bizet’s Symphony in C, Fauré’s Suite from Peleas and Melisande and Cello Concerto No. 1 by Shostakovich (which we’ve yet to get to) is deceptively difficult. There aren’t hard notes. For me thee aren’t even very many notes. But putting it all together is just not as easy as it might seem. The program is a great one, though, and I’m looking forward to it! (Students, if you don’t have tickets yet, get some! There’s a great solo in the Bizet and Pam Hakl sounds lovely!)

In any case, I was finished with work at 10:00 PM. That was one long day. Today it’s a double service day, but I only wear the symphony hat of second oboist. I’m hoping that makes for a less crazy time.

Now I’m going to “veg out” for a time. I do that so well I don’t really need practice, but I’m going to practice “vegging” just the same!

And no, vegging out doesn’t require a single vegetable. Other than yours truly. 😉