16. August 2022 · 2 comments · Categories: Ramble

Sorry, folks, but I do believe my writing days may be over. They have, in fact, been over for probably five years or so. I keep thinking I’ll get “it” (whatever that is!) back, but it hasn’t happened and so all you get here are YouTube videos that I enjoy. Sunday Morning Music continues. But that’s about it.

Maybe next month the writing bug will hit …?

Naw. Doubtful!

But hey … enjoy some children singing. I’m sorry to say the majority of my students say they never sing. They, in fact, look horrified when I ask if they sing. I urge them to give it a go, but I’m not sure many have tried. So these kiddos just make my heart happy!

When I was growing up my family sang. The Happy Birthday song was sung in four part harmony. We sang in the car. We sang at church. One of my brothers and I sang while making mud pies.

We need more singing in this world.

11. July 2022 · Comments Off on Lessons in Humility, Maybe? · Categories: Ramble

I’ve had two experiences recently with recording my playing. I must say, hearing myself isn’t pleasant. I know it’s important — people say that over and over. But I just don’t like it. I hear every little mistake, everything I wish I’d done differently.

But it sure is eye opening! (Ear opening, really.) I have a list of things I need to now focus on. Air. Less vibrato. Carrying the phrase through better. And oh so much more.

I have always feared that I’m rather arrogant. (A close family member once told me I was a snob.) I suppose this is all good for me. Nothing to be arrogant about when I hear myself!

The first recording was for a wedding I had played: the microphone to record me hadn’t been switched on (all weddings have an “oops moment” and I think this was that moment for that wedding). For me it was a lesson in, “you thought it was all about you and no one watching the streaming ceremony could even hear you, you silly person! Fortunately the pianist, who is also a great sound guy (thanks Rick!), opted to have me come in and play to the recording so he could then make the recording “complete”. I didn’t care about it for myself, but I did think the wedding couple should have a nice recording! I was more nervous doing the recording than I was playing live. THAT is how recording works for me. Always.

The second, which was for an upcoming job, I had to do on my own and that was a challenge and more than a little unpleasant. I suspect that will be the first and last time I ever do that. My understanding was it was merely so singers could practice to the recording, although I’m not all together sure of that. I wasn’t flawless, but I did the best I could. And it’s done.

Now, though, I am just breathing a sigh of relief: both recordings are done. Over ‘n out. Whew!

25. June 2022 · Comments Off on Playing for Experience · Categories: Ramble

There are times when a student really needs to play a solo being worked on in front of an audience. The experience of doing that is so important. But where to play?

Wellllll … if you are a church goer I can highly recommend that. It can be a very safe place to play, and the congregation will be quite appreciative if you have prepared well and are ready to do that. (I did attend a service once where the playing by a beginning adult student was so poor that it was incredibly painful and someone in charge even came up to me after and apologized — I suppose because I was a professional — which was rather sad. So DO prepare, and ask your teacher if you are ready to do this please.)

You can also play at senior centers and rest homes. You have to be ready to have some interruptions by your “audience” but even that can be a good thing for you: you learn how to keep going and not let distractions cause an issue with your playing.

You can play for your school if you have talent shows or the like. (But of course some students can be brutal and mean so only do this if it’s a safe option.)

Perhaps, if you are young, you have a parent with a workplace that allows music in the lunchroom for entertainment. Ask!

The most important thing is to get experience performing in front of a live audience. It helps one deal with the inevitable (mostly) nerves. It is also informative: do you have the endurance to get through a work? (I played a solo in my senior year of high school and I’d never tried to get through the entire work without stopping. Turns out that between my nerves, the reed battle, playing band works right before the solo, and lack of experience I learned a painful lesson: I couldn’t play the entire piece without falling apart!)

Just some ideas for you … don’t just assume that “I play it perfectly at home!” is enough to guarantee you can play it well when you are in a performance.

02. April 2022 · Comments Off on Taking Joy · Categories: Ramble

Just a thought: when someone is doing a job (I’m talking music here), rather than being envious or sad that you didn’t get chosen how about taking joy in their work? I find that a very good way to handle things.

Try it. You might like it!

20. March 2022 · 4 comments · Categories: Ramble

What fun to finally get to play again with San Jose Chamber Orchestra. It’s been so very long. Also fun was walking to work, of course.

BUT most fun?! Getting to play with Daniel Gurevich next to me after all these years. What a fine, fine player he is. I’m angry with myself, though: I should have had a photo taken with him! I even had the pleasure of seeing and chatting with his parents. Why didn’t I think of a photo?! (Surely it can’t be about my age, right? (Hm. Don’t answer that!)

Of course playing with him makes me marvel at the passing of time. It doesn’t feel all that long ago that I met him, a young, very enthusiastic oboist, or conversed via email with his father, yet here is he, a grown man, ready to get that playing job somewhere.

I’m not ready to deal with time passing this quickly, but of course I have no choice! So it goes.

Bravo, Daniel … and bravi tutti to the other young wind players there. (I was guessing I might very well have been the second oldest person on that stage. Eek!)

17. March 2022 · Comments Off on A Concert This Weekend · Categories: A Musician's LIfe, Ramble

San Jose Chamber Orchestra has a concert this Sunday evening, and we had our first rehearsal today. Here is a first for me: I only have to walk eight minutes to get to work! It’s quite lovely. (Of course the weather has been warmer than it should be: I’m not sure how I’d feel if I was freezing or if it were too rainy!) You can read more about the concert here.

An interesting side note: many years ago I conversed occasionally with the father of a young oboist named Daniel. I so enjoyed “chatting” (via email) with the father, and one special day I got to meet him, along with his son. This young boy is now grown into quite a fabulous oboist. He attended Julliard and San Francisco Conservatory, doing miles more than I ever did as a young player! Today? Well, he sat next to me. He is playing this set, and it’s just lovely to have him there. (I wrote about him earlier in this post, where you can also hear him play.

Time. It flies by. And students, they pass us oldsters by. (I was never actually Daniel’s instructor, but still ….)

30. January 2022 · Comments Off on Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho …? · Categories: Ramble

This week I head back to work. I do so with a bit of unease, due to the virus, but we need the income and I am boosted so I suppose I will be okay should I manage to catch Covid.

We wind players are required to be tested twice a week since we can’t play masked: we have to arrive early but, as far as I know, are not compensated in any way for our extra time. (WILL all of us arrive early? I’ll bet not. And I’ll bet we have to start rehearsals a bit late because of that. But time will tell.)

What happens should one of us test positive is a mystery to me, as we’ve been give very little information about that. Strings, harp, percussion, and conductor will all be masked, but are not required to have N95s, KN95s, or KF94s. Certainly those are encouraged, but cloth masks and surgical masks are also permitted. Not requiring N95s or the like is a mystery to me. A cloth mask is, as we all now know, insufficient. (Thankfully no masks with valves, bandanas, or neck gaiters are allowed, so at least there’s that.)

I will be wearing my KF94 (which I researched to be sure it was good enough) whenever I am able, but I have a lot of notes and not all that many rests that allow me to put it back on, and it really probably doesn’t matter since I’ll be exposed to anything out there during the 3+ hours I’m with my masked and unmasked colleagues.

Will we be placed 6 feet apart? Doubtful. Does it matter that we won’t be? Doubtful again. We are in an enclosed space and we are sharing air no matter what.

I will be so very, very glad when Covid Times are less difficult to deal with. (Note that I don’t say “Covid Times are over”? I don’t believe we will ever be “over” this.)

So heigh ho, heigh ho for me and my colleagues. Stay tuned for updates.

14. January 2022 · Comments Off on Navigating … Backwards · Categories: Ramble

I was to be involved in the Symphony San Jose concert next week. Alas, Omicron has had its way with us. The concerts aren’t canceled, but are postponed until April 2 and 3 (the main page mentions this, but someone has yet to update the concerts page). We aren’t the only Bay Area group to change plans. A number of friends have also had their concerts canceled or postponed. Several, though, still have concerts scheduled and some have made the tremendously difficult decision to cancel out. It’s a wise move, but it’s painful: if we don’t work, we don’t get paid. Most of us have no vacation pay, little or no sick pay, and have, in the past, played even while ill. I have a feeling that after Covid (will there BE an “after Covid”?) we might be more likely to not play while sick. I’m hoping so!

Some of the Big Guys, like San Francisco Symphony, have continued with their schedules. They have the money to purchase testing and have tested everyone frequently. Up until yesterday San Francisco Symphony had not canceled anything, but that changed yesterday. From what they posted several musicians tested positive and their 2:00 matinee was canceled. The audience did get a treat, though: the soloist, pianist Jan Lisiecki, treated them to a recital of Chopin. (Still, I am not at all interested in attending a concert in person at this point!) They haven’t announced that today and tomorrow’s concerts are postponed or canceled, but I will continue to check their site as well as a musicians’ group I’m in where we fill each other in on all the news.

I’m hopeful that this variant we are dealing with will soon start to diminish in our area. From what I read it is already doing that. I still have Opera San Jose’s Carmen scheduled for February and our financial situation will great improve if I can finally get back to work again.

Trying to pull something positive out of the times we are living in, I suppose I could say I’m being forced to be more flexible! I’m a control freak in so many ways (like all of them, perhaps?) and Covid Times do not allow me to be that way.

So let me ramble about how I’ve dealt with the times we are living in, concerning my career.

When Covid first hit our area we were shut down completely. My last playing job back then was Il Trovatore with Opera San Jose. The final performance was March 1, 2020. I continued to teach in my home studio for a very short time, but then I stopped doing even that.

Remember those initial days? We didn’t really even go outside! Mail was left to sit in the box, or brought inside to wait to be opened for a week or so, in case the virus was transmitted via objects like mail. We washed all of our ordered and delivered groceries. I learned how to teach students via Google Hangout, Facetime or Zoom. (We eventually moved fully to Zoom, and thankfully it has improved over time and now it’s usually rather comfortable to teach that way, although in-person lessons are a vast improvement.) I thought I’d get the house really clean and even wash my windows (nope!). But we cooked a lot. We ate well (I’m married to an incredible cook). And I was thankful, and continue to be, that I am married to someone who is easy to hunker down with.

Slowly we learned that we were pretty safe doing some things. I went out for my daily walks (at first wearing a mask, later having one around my neck in case I encountered others). The walks were pretty amazing: I could walk down our busiest street and it was empty!

Slowly some arts groups learned how to stream things for those of us who were desperate to “attend” concerts. In particular I got hooked on the “Live from London” series, put on by the VOCES8 Foundation. (If you can support them I recommend that. VOCES8 is my absolute favorite vocal group, but they featured other groups as well in their series.) Opera San Jose also featured streaming videos and did quite a good job. Eventually I was hired to record for one of them, doing Mozart & Salieri in their newly created space. THAT, on August 17,18, and 19, 2021 was my first time back to work. Yes, it had been over a year since I’d had any work performing. Symphony Silicon Valley (soon to be renamed Symphony San Jose) started up on August 14 with two outdoor concerts, and we were back on stage September 29 through October 3. That was an interesting concert to begin with, as I had the rather important English horn solo in Dvorak’s “New World” symphony (The Symphony No. 9 in E minor, “From the New World”, Op. 95, B. 178).

Since that time I’ve done a symphony set, followed by the final Harry Potter movie with symphony, and yet another symphony set. That’s not a lot of work for a musician. My last day of symphony was December 5. Since then? Nothing. But work begins again on January 19, when we do the American Masters set with Symphony.

Why do I write all this? Partly because I’m trying to put together “My Life under Covid’s Reign” so I can remember how things went. Partly so my students and anyone else who is interested will see how this has hit the performing arts. I’m not even sure how much work I lost: when we first shut down I was deleting the concerts as they went by on my calendar. I know I lost a lot. A full year of opera and symphony, plus whatever was scheduled from March 2020 to the end of that season (we end our seasons around June). It was obviously a financial drain, and I’m forever grateful to my students for sticking with lessons … and even attending more than usual since they didn’t have school/sports conflicts for a time. While I lost a significant amount of income, I feel for my colleagues who don’t teach, and who performed SO much more than I did in the Before Times. Some retired. Some went out and searched for new jobs, but many were living on unemployment for a long while. Filing for unemployment is VERY difficult. I tried. I cried. I gave up! (I’m grateful that I never really needed it … again, thanks to my students!)

Now we are back to work, but it’s not normal. We are tested. We are masked when possible (the conductor, strings, percussion, and all backstage folks, along with the audience are always masked, and winds and brass are supposed to mask up when not playing). We are all required to be fully vaccinated. And we all still wonder if this is the day we catch the dreaded beast. Or perhaps it’s the day we are, again, shut down completely.

I could go on, but my brain is tired. (I used to blame reeds. I think today I’ll blame Covid! Certainly I will blame only myself for all the typos I’m sure exist here, though.)

Stay well. Stay safe. Get those boosters!

Shortly after I got into San Jose Symphony (RIP) I became music librarian, and I also worked in the box office for a time. At one point the organization’s offices moved to the basement of the building pictured here. It was a windowless and rather dreary place, but I did love some of my colleagues there.

Today the building is being demolished. Some group tried to stop it, saying that it was part of the “Brutalist Period” or some such thing. They lost. So down it goes. I can’t say I’m sorry. It’s not exactly a gorgeous thing. But seeing it and thinking about those days I did have a flood of memories come pouring back, and I wonder where some of the people are that worked there way back when. I lost touch with nearly everyone.

(These photos are a bit crooked but I’m lazy and so they will just remain crooked!)