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

My students are back to school, and I go back to performance work this week. And when I write work, I really mean play … but really work. You know what I mean, right?

This week it hits and it hits hard! Last week students returned — nearly all came to lessons, so that was great and I love having them back in the studio. This coming week it’s about my performance life: I have (ready?) three rehearsals for Wicked, along with eight performances of the same and one rehearsal for Rigoletto. That’s a whopping twelve services! The norm is never that high, but so it goes: the two jobs overlap, so I’m doing all of Wicked and then doing what I can with Opera San José‘s Rigoletto. This is the life of a musician, really: we sometimes have to work between several jobs.

I know I’ll make it through, but it IS a killer week. (Did I mention I also have six of my fourteen students to teach? Sadly the rest can’t come due to my schedule.) I’ve decided to look at my calendar one day at a time!

I’m obviously going to have to put a hold on my walks after Monday. Monday is my day off. I’m so glad I rearranged students so that I at least can guarantee that one day of “nothingness”, as I know I’ll need it.

(Posting to both blogs … because I can.)

I haven’t really written much since our return from New York and the IDRS convention. Between our house remodel, recovering from the trip, and other fun but tiring things, I’ve just not had the energy. But now I’ll at least try to write a wee bit about our train adventure.

Yes. Train.

We began in Emeryville. The Amtrak train station there is small, and there is really no security at all. I guess trains aren’t like planes at all! We had decided to fly out to New York, knowing it would take more time, but would also mean we’d see parts of the country one can only see from a train. I loved it!

Here … have some train music …

Sinten Nunggang Sepur (Who Is Riding the Train) by Heni Primastono – The NUSChoir

We did it up fancy, getting the larger sleeper car. Food is included, so while it was pretty darn costly, at least we didn’t have to think about the food. Of course by the time you’ve been on a train for three days and two nights you just might repeat meals, especially if you don’t eat red meat. I was fine with the food, though. My only issue was that I ate far too much of it! (I’ve always had a difficult time turning down things that seemed “free”. Funny, that.) I took a lot of iPhone photos from the train, and a few with my Fujifilm X-E1 as well. I’ve only had time to briefly glance at them. Most are blurred … but that’s to be expected, I think.

Sleeping on the upper bunk is a challenge on the California Zephyr. There isn’t much head room, and crawling my way into bed was probably laughable had anyone been watching. Once I was there, though, it was fine. I slept okay, considering we were on a moving train.

Trains aren’t in a rush. I like that. I like that I can do nothing about time. It causes me to just go with the flow. For the most part I handled that well.

Ah, but the SMELL. Sigh. At one point in our trip the smell of what I can only think is sewage was so strong I thought I was going to go nuts. Truly. I looked online and read that others have had that issue as well. I guess so many people in a train and the use of bathrooms … well … you get the idea. They need to work on that. I don’t think I’d want to do a long trip again if I only thought about that awful, awful smell!

The California Zephyr landed in Chicago, and we enjoyed a two night stay there. Unfortunately the Lollapalooza festival was in the city, so we didn’t get a true feel for it. As far as I’m concerned it’s full of frat boys, sorority sisters, and lots of VERY short shorts, bizarre shirts worn by guys (disco, anyone?), retro 70s clothing (I should have kept my clothes and sold them there), and other bizarre outfits including one guy in overall short shorts and a sailor hat. The crowds were rather huge, but we avoided them when possible. We went to the Art Institute (Yes, I finally saw Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte!), saw amazing architecture (yes, we took the River Cruise!), and tried some Chicago deep dish pizza. I do hope we can return sometime.

Here … have some more train music with the King’s Singers:

From there we took the Lake Shore Limited to New York. I read that it is frequently called the Late Shore Limited. For good reason. It was quite late by the time we arrived in New York. We did finally grow weary of the train when we were stuck in a “dead train” in Albany: they split the train and half heads to Boston. There was no engine for our half or some such thing, and we waited and waited. Some riders were upset, and one was just ridiculously rude to our attendant, who deserved a medal for his patience. The food? Well, it’s the same menu as the California Zephyr. Variety might have been nice, but no biggie, as it’s only an overnight trip, and included just breakfast and lunch. (Due to a late train a dinner might have been nice, but I guess they don’t do that.) The bed was much easier to get into, since it’s a one level train and there’s so much more head room. The train, though, is old and things were breaking. Our bathroom door wouldn’t stay closed at all.

Odd, funny, or bizarre things:

I felt like a school girl doing the wrong thing in the dining car. I ordered sausage and then realized I hadn’t specified the chicken sausage and my server yelled out “WHITE OUT!” and had to redo my order. One must not dilly dally when ordering, either. It’s like “This is a no nonsense train and don’t you dare take up my time with your indecision!” I learned to come in with a good idea of what I wanted. It was also interesting to see that once they knew we were from the sleeper car we were treated a bit more politely than those from coach. (Long story about that with another person at our table, but I’m too lazy to write about it at the moment.) Someone else had filled out their order and got in a bit of trouble because we aren’t to do that. We are only to put our name and room number down, but they don’t tell you that plainly so how are we to know?! Ah well. I was, in fact, rather dismayed at being treated rather rudely. That being said, I can’t imagine the job is a fun one. Our California Zephyr attendant was only courteous after we tipped her the first time. Our Lake Shore Limited attendant was nice from the start (I wrote a letter to Amtrak about him, he was so good).

Below are just some shots from the first part of our trip up until Ottumwa. I’ve run out of steam so I think I’ll stop now!