Symphony Silicon Valley starts up today, and we’ll be playing a whole lot of Shostakovich:

  • Dmitri Shostakovich: Suite for Jazz Orchestra No. 1
  • Dmitri Shostakovich: Piano Concerto No. 2 in F major
  • Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5 in D minor

I look forward to working with Tatsuya Shimono again. I’ve really enjoyed him.

It’s been a long time, it seems, since I’ve been on stage. Time to get my stage legs back again!

Speaking of a long time … this video above is from 1979. The year I graduated from college. I remember seeing and hearing New York Philharmonic at the Concord Pavilion with Dan and a few other friends that same year (June 16, 1979). We heard Mahler 1 then, not Shostakovich. I’m guessing, though, that many of these same musicians were on stage. I was so clueless about names back then — I was too busy enjoying being with my boyfriend. Now I look and see Joe Robinson, Julius Baker, Stanley Drucker … I hadn’t a clue who was up there. Man, I was clueless!

It’s quite cool to see that NYPhil has digital archives and I can find all the info from that, along with programs that enable us to peruse. The program for the concert we attended had an section about Inglenook Wines and the Concord Pavilion and included this shot. I certainly recognize Roy Malan … who are the others. Anyone?

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 8.59.30 AM

The first orchestra only opera rehearsal (one of two) for Opera San Jose?’s Where Angels Fear to Tread is over. It’s always good to get through that and see what I have in my fingers and what I don’t. It’s also good to get the actual tempi we will be playing. Trouble is, I simply don’t have a fast tongue and a “sparkling” section is going to be a challenge for me! Here is my poem for you today:

I recommend
to all the young:
please teach yourself
to double tongue!


Of course in that instance is more about the E flat to F fingering … just darn awkward when it has to be repeated like that.

I was pleased that some spots on which I spent a good amount of time worked pretty well. There is still one section that needs more work to make me comfortable, and I spent more time on that this afternoon. I will continue to work on it, of course. Over. And over. And over. I simply HAVE to have it in my fingers so very well that when the nerves kick in — and they probably will — my fingers take over and make it work! In this section the start is fun, but it’s that last measure —— those leaps at tempo can be a bit of a challenge. Silly half hole!


I was happy to note that the one section with the high F#s was just fine. In addition, no one would hear me if they weren’t: the entire orchestra is blasting away at that point. Still, I have my pride so I worked on that section a ton and have it in the “fingerbrains” now.

I think it’ll be a good opera. I really should see if I can get to a piano tech … unless that’s already happened: I’d like to see it if possible, as I love knowing what’s going on on stage. (I’m unable to see one thing due to where I sit in the pit.) Do you have your tickets yet?

While I am passionate about music, it is also my job. A job is work. A job is, sometimes, very hard work.

I have another passion, as many know, and you can see my efforts from that passion by going to my photography website. That passion is not my job. I wouldn’t be upset if it became a bit of a job, though: I have sold one photo (that was fun) and made enough to cover … oh wait … no, I didn’t make enough to cover anything. Never mind about that.

Here’s the funny thing, though. My other passion is also work.

This is not to say I don’t love the work. I love the work of music, and I love the work of photography. But anything one does become work when one strives to learn more, grow more, and improve, I think.

I’m sure you all knew that. I suppose I did as well, deep down. I’ve just not thought about it until now.

When we first start something like a “hobby” it’s pretty much new, exciting, fun, and doesn’t feel like work because … well … perhaps because it’s new and exciting. But if we are trying to do our best, work kicks in at some point. And here’s the thing, at least for me: if it never became work I’d probably be bored with it. If it just came easily and there was no striving, I think I’d walk away saying, “Well, that was fun. What’s next?!”

This is just a little ramble I’m spitting out without thinking much, before I head out on my real ramble (I like to walk, in case there are readers here who don’t already know that). While I walk I frequently use my camera. Here are just a few things I’ve made recently on those walks. I’ve posted all of these on that other website, but I’m guessing readers of all things oboe might not have visited that site yet. (If you do go over there you can choose to follow that blog and you’ll see more as I post more.)










Above you see a page of the opera I have coming up. Our first rehearsal is this Thursday, and this has to be in my fingers by then. It doesn’t look difficult to most, I’m sure, but I found the one spot (by the yellow tab) a bit of a challenge. So what do I do when that happens? I practice. A lot. With a metronome.

I practice s l o w l y.

I call the metronome one of two things. It’s either my best enemy, or my worst friend. Why? Because I depend upon it, but it’s always telling me what I’m doing wrong when it comes to keeping a steady tempo. It makes me angry. I want to toss the darn thing out sometimes. But I need it. (Okay, so maybe it’s more of a worst friend … who needs an enemy?) Obviously I don’t use it for everything, but for the fast, technical work I sure do.

(Side note: I’m embarrassed to post this because I know so many players would say, “This part you are showing … this is NOTHING compared to what we have!” But hey, I’m an oboe player. I’m supposed to worry about reeds. Trust me!) ;-)

I put the metronome on something that allows me to play it perfectly. Not close to perfectly. But absolutely perfectly. That might be painfully slow to begin with, but that’s where I begin. Then I work up to a speedier tempo but forcing myself to play it at least five times perfectly at each tempo. Yep, it takes a long time. When I get speedier I start to keep track of where I am. At this point I’m at 96 to the quarter, and I was at 92 earlier. When I go back to the studio (after writing this, in fact) I’m guessing my “finger brains” won’t like 96 much, so I will begin at 92 again and see how much faster I can get it. I’m hoping for 100. Tomorrow I’ll start slower again, but I hope (as always) to pass whatever highest number I have on that tab. It’s like playing leap frog all on one’s own.

Two big words:


That’s all it takes.

No biggie … right?

But one day of this won’t do it. It takes days and, at least for me, those days must nearly all be in a row. My students know my “5X/4Days” rule: play it perfectly five times in a row, four days in a row. The thing is, I want those notes — those fingerings — to be so deeply embedded in my “finger brains” that I won’t lose it (I hope) when I have to make it all work and the nerves kick in. My 5X/4Days rule helps with that.

Oh … and about those post-it tabs. They are SO handy! I use them as I first listen to something, to mark the pages I know I’ll have to focus on. I use arrow post-it tabs in rehearsal to point out where I need work when there is simply no time to pull out a pencil and mark things. I keep some in for the entire run, so I can quickly go to pages I know I want to run prior to each rehearsal or performance. They are handy dandy things, and I highly recommend them!

Now it’s time to go have a visit with some music, an oboe and some reeds.

Oh … and the metronome!

I’m just home from a fantastic concert. It’s the one I wrote about earlier at the Kohl Mansion, and I’m just so glad we went! All of the musicians were just wonderful … Kay Stern, Dawn Harms, Emil Miland, Janet Popesco Archibald, Steven Baily and Mark Veregge … bravi tutti to you all! The program was wonderful: Mozart’s Oboe Quartet, The Despot’s Rage, the Slave’s Revenge by Shinji Eshima and Korngold’s Suite for two violins, cello and piano left hand were scheduled, and we were treated to Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise played by Emil Miland and Steven Baily as well at the end of the first half.

Now I’m tired … all that listening just tires a girl out, I guess! I always post a goodnight flower on my photography site, Facebook, Google+ and Ello, so I guess I’ll leave it here as well tonight for all to see. I’ve been going over last year’s photos, seeing what I have that I’ve yet to work on and post. This is one of those.

Unopened Purple Iris, 2.9.14



I recently posted something on Facebook about a quandary I had. Because I’m in two groups I sometimes have to choose between the two. I have that situation coming up, as Opera San José and Symphony Silicon Valley have a conflict. I posted a little note on Facebook, asking what others were doing. Someone posted a response that implied I was rather fortunate to be in such a predicament. She was certainly right, but what was written caused me to worry a bit.

I’m curious how others deal with this. Is it inappropriate to post that we have work? Does it make others angry? Envious? Sad? Should one never write about work? That seems a bit over the top to me, but I wonder.

Quite some time ago I had seen someone rage against people who wrote at all about their work, saying it was inconsiderate. The writer also said that people who wrote about work were bragging.

I never have viewed it in that way. I’m happy with other musicians have work. I take joy in hearing about what they are up to. I might have a twinge of envy sometimes, but for the most part I let that go. It’s a deliberate choice on my part: I hate envy and jealousy. I rejoice with those who have work. I feel for those who don’t. (“Mourn with those who mourn.”)

But I took my post down. I felt badly that I may have caused hurt to someone else.


Does a good oboe sound come from a good oboe or reed?
I have a wooden oboe but I still don’t sound like a real oboist. I use machine made reeds, if I switch to handmade reeds, will I sound like a real oboist?

The answers were all lacking. Sigh.

I think there’s an aspect of him inspired by Dudamel. Dudamel came up through a youth system (Venezuela’s El Sistema), and we liked the idea that [TV show character name] didn’t come up from privilege.

Hm. I’m wondering if people think most musicians “come up from privilege”. I know I didn’t. Of course I’m no Dudamel! I will readily admit that I’m not as talented, not at all famous, and not, at this point, as wealthy as he must currently be.

But really, how many wealthy people do you know who opted for a career in music? I know there are some, but …? Granted, coming into music from an extremely poor position is rare as well, since acquiring and instrument and taking lessons can be rather costly.

But no, I didn’t come from wealth: my father was a middle school teacher, my mother a stay-at-home mom, and they raised four children in a home that is smaller than the one in which I currently live with only one other person (although we did raise our three kids in this place). Of course I readily admit that growing up in the US is, in so many ways, a life of privilege for so many compared to so much of the rest of the world.

But here’s the thing: I love my job.

It’s a privilege.

12. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Photos, Ramble

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.


01. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Ramble


(I have never named my instruments. Ever.)