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!



The run of Wicked ended yesterday. It was a three week run of twenty-four performances — certainly not the longest run I’ve done, nor was it the shortest. I think they could have stayed longer, as it appeared the hall was full for nearly every performance, and the crowds loved it.

Musically it isn’t the most challenging thing, and it’s not the most rewarding either, but it was fun. The “boys in the band” (no women) were great fun, easy to be with, and very kind. I don’t think I saw them get disgusted with my mistakes even once. Of course if I made any stupid mistake I tended to not look up! I don’t believe I made any huge mistakes that caused major problems for the singers and I doubt the audience would know. I just want to be perfect, is all. As I tell my students, “I don’t ask for much, only perfection!”

Okay. About that.

No, I really don’t expect them to be perfect. They know I’m teasing. But of course our goal is to reach that unreachable (at least for me) goal of absolute perfection. That includes making it “music” rather that “just math” (sorry to all the mathematicians out there!). When things click into place and it all feels right it can be glorious. I love those rare but wonderful moments!

I will miss my little pit place™. I will miss my pitpals™ as well. But now it’s on to the final two performances of Rigoletto with Opera San José, and next week it’s Symphony Silicon Valley.

It’s great to back to work. It’s fun to see all of my colleagues again. It’s super to be making music with friends. Getting a paycheck is rather nice, too.

but we don’t want their reeds to grow anything.

A friend shared a shot of her student’s bassoon reed. Can you imagine putting that into your mouth? Students do this. I’m always rather shocked!

Never store your reeds in a case that doesn’t allow them to dry out! Those plastic things they are shipped in should be tossed immediately. Brush your teeth before you play. If you are in school and don’t have time to do that, at least rinse your mouth out!

And if a reed looks like this? DUMP IT!


I had a student whose reeds grew pink junk on them. They grew it even if he only put the reed in his mouth once. We never did figure out what was up, but it had to have something to do with his particular mouth. It was so odd, and I always wanted him to send a reed to a lab to figure out what it was, but he never did. I doubt he plays any more, but I should write him sometime to ask. If he does, I wonder if that junk is still growing on his reeds!

I no longer play students’ reeds. Reed sharing is something we double reed players have done a lot of. I didn’t even think about what I was doing, to be honest! But now? No more sharing. I analyze by crow. If I can’t figure out what the issue is, so be it. I simply refuse to share any more. Some oboe instructors will think I’m ridiculous, but I really don’t care. I won’t share a toothbrush either.

According to the UCSC faculty page I am the oboe instructor. I have not been the instructor since spring of last year. I have asked them to take my name down, but they haven’t done so yet, quite possibly because they haven’t hired or even advertised my position. If you are planning on attending UCSC and want oboe lessons please contact the music office. Thank you!

Email: [email protected]
Phone: (831) 459-2292
Fax: (831) 459-5584