Gabrielle Castriotta, at UCSB, has some excellent advice. Please read it.

If you are an instructor and would like to add to her thoughts please feel free to comment.

Next week I have a Symphony Silicon Valley concert. I will be stepping up to play principal so I am preparing for the change of hats. (Don’t worry, our regular principal oboist, Pamela Hakl, will be back!)

Yes, playing first oboe is quite different to playing second. In some ways there is a bit of a freedom: I won’t be thinking about playing under the principal which can sometimes cause issues with attacks as I try not to be too loud. But of course there’s the stress of being in the hot seat.

I prepare in many ways. I of course practice my part. I listen to a variety of recordings. I make sure I know what’s going on in other sections and especially make sure I practice the solos and tricky bits. (I mark anything technically difficult with an X, either over the passage or to the side of that line of music.) I also play through the entire concert — even the easy whole notes and loud bits — so I make sure my mouth is strong enough to get through the works.

This is a taxing concert. I don’t have huge solos, but I play a lot in the Dvorak eighth symphony. I play enough that I worry about getting through it. When I watched a video on MediciTV (a great source! And no, I don’t get any perks by recommending them here.) I noticed that that particular orchestra used an assistant principal oboe. I have played that part as well in the past. I sure could use that myself, but wasn’t offered that option and didn’t think to ask.

We are also doing the second piano concerto by Brahms. What a gorgeous work.

Here is Jon Kimura Parker (our soloist) talking about the work (2011 YouTube video):

That slow movement he talks about, and the incredible cello solo, is something I’m very much looking forward to hearing, played by our wonderful principal cellist, Evan Kahn. And yes, the horn (“The horn, the horn, awakes me at morn!” Anyone remember that?) has a very important role at the very beginning and more later, so it will be a delight to hear Meredith Brown play as well!

But then it’s a pleasure and honor to hear all of the musicians of Symphony Silicon Valley play. I hope you can be there!

… I love what he does with the oboes!

Ronnal Ford Orchestra
Arabian Dance by Tchaikovsky

I’ve read that on Wednesday, late afternoon, the San Francisco Symphony will announce who will fill MTT’s shoes. I haven’t a clue who is on the shortlist. I do know some names of conductors who have recently been there and I suppose it might well be one of them.

Here are some of the guest conductors I saw or found on the SFS site from recent concerts: Semyon Bychkov, Stéphane Denève, Daniel Harding, Pablo Heras-Casado, Jakub Hrusa, Manfred Honeck, Christian M?celaru, Susanna Mälkki, David Robertson, François-Xavier Roth, Krzysztof Urbanski, Osmo Vänskä, Simone Young, and Jaap van Zweden.

Obviously some of those couldn’t be in the running due to their current positions, some, I would think, have never been in the running, and I am certain some other names could be added. But maybe someone on the above list …? I was impressed with Heras-Casado, Mälkki, and Urbanski when we attended concerts.

But what do I know?

Nothing until tomorrow around 5:45 PM!

Composer and arranger George Roumanis passed away at age 89. Roumanis began his career as a jazz bassist and arranger, working with luminaries such as Louie Armstrong, Johnny Smith, Dizzy Gillespie, Doc Severinsen and Bud Shank. Over the course of five decades, he composed and arranged dozens of popular jingles as well as four albums for Decca Records. His prolific TV scoring includes “Mission Impossible,” “Medical Center,” “The Streets of San Francisco,” and “Star Trek: Next Generation.” Roumanis was also a composer of concert music and opera. His first guitar concerto was performed by Tommy Tedesco and the Los Angeles Studio Orchestra and his opera, “Phaedra,” was performed by Opera San Jose and broadcast on PBS. George was thrilled when his opera became part of the Oxford University Archives.

Yes, I played when Opera San Jose did the video of Phaedra. That was long ago and I must confess I don’t remember the music well.

23. October 2018 · Comments Off on AirPods · Categories: Ramble

I did it. I caved and bought Apple AirPods because Costco had them at a slightly (very slightly) lower price. Dan had purchased some yesterday when we were at the store and i thought, “Meh, who needs ’em?” Last evening he suggested I at least give them a try. I knew then I’d be driving back to Costco today. (The miracle in all this is that I ONLY bought the AirPods at Costco … and I didn’t even eat anything from their sample tables!)

And just like that I’m sold. I’m currently listening to a YouTube video on them and for a moment I thought, “These must not be working as I’m hearing the music through my speakers.” But no, I was hearing the music through the AirPods. (Duh: I hadn’t even turned the speakers on!)

I have Sennheiser noise cancelling headphones that I sometimes use on the plane, but the darn things hurt the top of my head. No amount of adjusting has fixed that. I guess I’m just overly sensitive.

So yes, I’m sold, in case anyone is interested. At least after using them for about an hour. We’ll see what I think in a few days, right?

Only issue: I feel just a wee bit nerdy wearing them. Or maybe more than a wee bit.

22. October 2018 · Comments Off on I’ve Been Rather Negligent · Categories: Ramble

I’ve not been blogging much, as I know the few who read this have noticed. I’m going to have to see if I can be a bit more diligent. If not, perhaps the site needs to be retired. Still, I think I have more I could write about if I just set my mind to it.

I’d love to hear from anyone who might want to ask me a question about the music life and a career that began so very long ago. After all, I joined the Musicians’ Union (local 153 back then) on May 14, 1974 and landed my job with the San Jose Symphony in the summer of 1975, so I have had a few years (hah!) of experience doing what I do.

Yesterday’s job brought me a bit of agony. We were doing an outdoor concert and I was playing a wee bit of oboe and a lot of English horn. I had no issues the night before, so didn’t think to bring my W.R.I.S.T accessory.

My right thumb decided it no longer would like to hold the English horn. It simply couldn’t. At. All.

I don’t know if I tweaked it, or if the previous night’s rehearsal did the thumb in (we were playing Ride of the Valkyries which does require holding the instrument for quite some time). Or maybe it’s just age. But no matter the cause, I was concerned. For most of the first part of the concert (three Gershwin works) I could “cheat” and hold the bell between my crossed ankles. For solos, though, I don’t like to do that: I think it dampens the sound a bit too much, and it just feels so darn confining. Fortunately I made it through those three works, and the solos were okay.

Then I had an hour to wait until we went back to the stage to do the “Symphony Spooktacular” bit. For that I had less to play, so I wasn’t terrifically concerned. Just annoyed that my thumb decided to rebel. Funny though: by the time we began again my thumb was just fine!

The issue, though, was a good reminder: I MUST carry the W.R.I.S.T. accessory with me at all times. Period.

Today I ordered a microphone stand that will allow me to to have the accessory a bit closer to me: connecting it to the music stand sometimes works, but because of how we are set up, and because sometimes we use different stands that don’t even allow for attaching the device, I have decided to be better prepared. Had my thumb continued to rebel I’d have been in tears by the end, I think.

I can highly recommend the W.R.I.S.T. and I can also tell you you’d be paying much less than I did. As the inventor Robert Morgan writes: “Please note: The price of the WRIST has gone down considerably as we launch a new manufacturer relationship.” Nice!

This coming week I have some important bits on our Symphony Silicon Valley concert. If my thumb is disobedient I will simply ignore the darn thing!

24. September 2018 · Comments Off on Some Never Agains and Some Sadly Nevers · Categories: Listen, Ramble

I was chatting (well, texting really) with a friend about a work I’ve never gotten to play. He was working on it for an upcoming concert, and I admitted to being a wee bit envious. It’s not a work that is frequently performed — or at least not in any groups I’m connected to — so it is highly unlikely I’ll ever get to do it. The work touches my heart in ways not all music does. I’m sorry I don’t get to do it, but I am very glad Ryan is getting to play it, as he’s a good musician and a good guy as well.

Barber: Knoxville, Summer of 1915 • Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra; Maria Valdes, soprano

Then there are works I absolutely adore, and have played, but would prefer not to do again: this particular work is one of the most exquisite of compositions, but is a killer (as far as I’m concerned) for English horn. It’s one I’d love to see programmed … on a concert I’d attend! I’d happily sit in the audience and wrap myself up in the beauty of this piece.

LUCERNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA | Claudio Abbado | Magdalena Kožena (mezzo-soprano)

I believe I’ve shared both of these YouTube videos in the past, but they are well worth another listen.

It’s strange to be at an age where I know that some works won’t pop back up while I’m still around. Sure, some are bound to get done again and again — and I’m not quitting yet! — but some? Some are done maybe every ten years if that. It is highly unlikely I will playing my instruments when I’m 71. That is not in the plans. I will never stop listening to music (I hope!) but I will not always be on the stage or in the pit.

Besides, there are plenty of young’uns chomping at the bit for my chairs!

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.