I am playing for Music in the Mountains this weekend, in their annual Christmas concert set. We had a rehearsal this evening, and have a short (really kind of a half) rehearsal and short children’s concert tomorrow morning, a full concert tomorrow night and a final concert Sunday afternoon. I can tell already this weekend is going to fly by. I am guessing someone had to cancel out at the last minute (whoever you are, I thank you!), as I was contacted rather late: I am happy to get the work, although two of my four students couldn’t reschedule and I found out after accepting the job that another had to cancel out of her rescheduled lesson so I’m probably not even breaking even on this job. Such is life. I’ve always wanted to be a part of the music festival and while the summer festival, which is much larger, is more of the “real thing” this was a fun opportunity. The group is great to work with, and I’m feeling fairly comfortable, even while I’m such an outsider.

A chorus member is sharing her home with me. She is so very gracious and easy to be with. So far, I’m two for two in that — my host at Mendocino was wonderful as well. I’m always nervous about invading someone’s house, and I try to keep a very low profile. I hope that doesn’t come across as just rude. I do wonder about that a bit!

Anyway, back to the music … there are a LOT of notes! Some people might think, “Oh, Christmas music? John Williams Home Alone tunes? Fun and easy!” But no, John Williams isn’t necessarily easy, and there are other works on the program that are quite “notey” as well. In addition we are a reduced orchestra, so I have both the first and second oboe parts and I’m reading from both sometimes, choosing which seems more important to play. It’s a challenge, but it’s a fun challenge in its special little way!

The conductor is quite easy to work for … and so young he is actually younger than our older son. Ack! Does that mean I’m old? Hm.

This year there is no Nutcracker since Ballet San José is using taped music due to budget woes (I hope it helps with their money problems, and I hope they survive, AND I hope we are back in their pit sometime soon!), so these are the only Christmas related concerts I will play. I didn’t think I’d miss Nutcracker — although I most definitely knew I’d miss the Christmas time income — but I kind of do. Enough so that I just might, for the first time in my life, attend a real live Nutcracker performance (nope, I’ve NEVER been!).

If I go, I promise you they will have a live orchestra.

And now I will say goodnight. This is the longest PattyRamble™ I’ve had in eons. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing!

Just as I leave readers on my photography blog a flower photo, I think I’ll leave you one tonight as well— something other than what I’ll post there, though — just because.



(I have never named my instruments. Ever.)

A friend and fine trombonist, Tony, is dealing with a major health issue. When a musician can’t teach or work (work as in “play” … but it’s work, believe me!) a musician usually doesn’t have an income. This can be disastrous, as you might imagine. Tony will not be able to do anything with his trombone as he goes through this difficult time.

Can you help Tony? If so, please go here. Any little bit can help. Really. And all of us who care for Tony would appreciate it greatly.

I’ll probably repost this later to keep it present on the first page of the blog.

Tony, please know I am thinking of you and keeping you in my prayers

Here is Tony, if you would like to have a fun listen!

de Falla

Martin Schuring posted a shot of Manuel de Falla’s manuscript of the “Three Cornered Hat”, which he saw and photographed at the de Falla archives in Granada. I had heard many years ago that there was a missing note due to a typo. Now we can all SEE that note back in the score. Nice! (And thank you, Martin, for permission to post this.)

I love my latté, and have one in the morning and sometimes one before teaching in the afternoon. It looks like our lovely Silvia has finally died. Poor old girl.

The Rancilio HSD-SILVIA Silvia Espresso Machine lived a good long life, especially considering how poorly we maintained it. The next one will receive proper attention and I’m hopeful it’ll last much longer. Yes, the girl can be replaced. Must be, in fact.

I am a pretty demanding teacher. I do like it when the students and I can have a few laughs during a lesson, but I also require a good amount of work and attention to detail.

Sometimes, though, I am reminded of the stress of their lives.

When students come in to the studio I nearly always ask a few questions: “How are you?” “How’s the oboe?” “How’s school?”

Recently not all answers have been terrifically positive. School has been stressful for a number of “my” kids. (It’s that time of year: college applications, SAT and PSAT tests midterms for some ….) I try to keep an eye on them and, if I think it’s necessary, we do something a little different during the lesson.

Sometimes it’s “backwards day”, and after a short warm up we begin with the duet and work backwards. Normally our duet is “dessert” because nearly all of them love them so much. Sometimes it’s a “choose what you want to do today” lesson. Sometimes it’s a pure sight-reading day of fun music. And sometimes it’s a whole lot of talking and not much playing.

I think that the high resistance that we get when playing oboe can also be a “stress additive”. If we need to spend more time talking about music, school and life, rather than adding to the stress a student is feeling, I think that’s an okay thing to do. I hope the students’ parents agree.

I am so concerned with students these days. I’ve had some who slack off, but very few. The majority take music lessons, a sport, a foreign language, too many AP courses, do volunteer work, and many add even more to their schedules.

I didn’t have this sort of life when I was in high school and still it wasn’t a great time of life for me. Did I stress about school? Naw. Did I do sports? Nope. But did I lose sleep? You bet. Tons of it. Worrying over … can you guess? … REEDS. So far I’ve not had one student who stresses over those beasts. I’m so glad about that!

I’ve had several parents ask me if their children are practicing enough.

That’s an interesting question!

Some students tell me they are practicing 45 minutes to an hour every day. Others confess to not practicing that much. I even had one student (off to college now) who, whether she told me so or not, clearly wasn’t practicing her lesson music much at all most of the time. She was a good sight reader, and she squeaked by.

But “practicing enough” is not the correct question.

Instead, parents — and students too! — should be asking, “Am I practicing well?” I can spend hours with the oboe and get nowhere. I can spend fifteen minutes with it and master something. It’s not how long. It’s how well.

I had a rehearsal today for our opening weekend of Symphony Silicon Valley, that began at 3:30. By 4:00 I was done with the Harold in Italy portion of the rehearsal, where I play a brief time in the third movement. I went to a local coffee shop for a latté while the orchestra rehearsed some Verdi. I came back for the Respighi, but “my” movement — again the third — didn’t get rehearsed, so I was able to sit and enjoy the wonderful first two movements of the work (Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite No. 2, which has four movements all together). I just love the Ancient Airs & Dances suites. We listened to them a lot when our oldest was young, because he really loved them as well. This music is bringing back wonderful memories of that.

I’m on English horn this set, and it’s a rare concert because I’m barely necessary and the tiny solo I do have could quite possibly go unnoticed by most listeners. I’m okay with that — low stress works well for me these days. In addition, I have the best seat in the house, I don’t have to pay to sit there and, in fact, I get paid to do so.

Funny aside: There are three works on the program. I play the first and third works. I play in the third movement of the two works that have English horn. In both of those movements I don’t play for the opening and closing sections, just playing in the middle. (If you don’t look at the exact right time you just might miss me picking up the instrument!)

I love patterns. Can you tell?

Here … have a flower for reading oboeinsight today. This Rudbeckia flower was made over a year ago. I’m busy these days attempting to delete all my bad work so I only have things worth working on left on my computer.


( Double post, since this relates to both music and my every day life. )

I’ve managed to get some good walks in these past few days. It’s so good to be getting back to a schedule that allows for them! I’ve taken my camera out, but I’m no doing quite as much with it as I normally do: turns out that if you take a ton of photos you then have to LOOK at them and, possibly, WORK on them. Or delete them. There’s always that!

Symphony Silicon Valley started up tonight. It’s fun to get back on that stage and work with my wonderful colleagues, but I barely play a note, so it feels a wee bit odd. Why, oh why, did Berlioz write only a brief little thing for the English horn, put it in the principal oboe part, and expect that the oboist could switch to solo English horn in two measures’ time and be comfortable, I wonder? We “split the book” and I sit for movements one and two, sit through a portion of movement three, play a little solo, and sit through the end of movement three and all of four. If the audience doesn’t catch me the little bit of time that I do play they will be wondering what I’m even doing on stage for the work!

I also play one of the four movements of the Respighi. Again, it’s the third movement, and again I don’t play at the start or finish of that movement. How bizarre that both works are like that! The middle work doesn’t involve English horn at all, so I’ll be sitting through all of that … but not on stage!

Here … have some flowers with which I will end this little post.




Magenta Rose,_9.22.14



I did a run of Wicked, a part of the Broadway San Jose series, for three weeks. I played the final two performances of Rigoletto. I now move on to Symphony Silicon Valley, where I play English horn on the Respighi and Berlioz. All the while I continue to teach.

I really do love my job. I don’t get bored, to be sure, and I love the variety of music I get to play, and the students I get to work with. Sometimes I marvel at the fact that I’ve been at this, as a professional, since I joined the union in 1974 (and I was teaching even before that). Yep. 1974. Amazing, don’t you think? I was a high school senior when I joined, and I did so because I was going to playing in San Jose Municipal Band for the summer. (Does that even exist now?) I also played my first San Jose Symphony concert that summer, if I’m remembering correctly. I was just seventeen and I hadn’t a clue that this would be my life.

I’m grateful.

Of course it’s also hard work. I whine. I get nervous. I worry about my playing and my reeds. I wonder when I should retire. Perhaps I’m not really any good and no one is telling me. Hm.

Yep, I worry about stuff like that!

Here … have a flower for putting up with me! Shoot, have a bee, too!