13. February 2017 · Comments Off on How It Works · Categories: Listen

I really love Igor Tkachenko’s video. Hope you enjoy it as well! (Found on Facebook thanks to Nancy Moser.)

Yesterday a friend dropped a reed and it proceeded to fall through a crack in the floor. This happened during a concert.

Let me tell you, this is worthy of many, many tears! I know the friend didn’t literally cry, but surely must have felt a bit like doing so.

Double reed players spend hours on reeds — it can feel like a lifetime! We are dealing with plant life. Every piece of cane is different. Every piece of cane is in a state of change. We take our knives to this material, and each tiny scrape can change a reed drastically. One bad scrape and it’s done for.

If I hear a student say “I LOVE LOVE LOVE my reed” or some such thing (always using that dangerous singular “reed” rather than “reeds”!) I sometimes respond with “I’m sorry.” I don’t say this completely in jest: if you love it that much it’s just sad because 1) it will change and 2) you are probably relying on that one reed. (I could continue to list other reasons, but for now I’ll leave it at that.)

A non-reed player can’t quite understand why we all go crazy over reeds. When we get that rare batch of really great cane it’s rather like getting a huge sum of unexpected money in the mail: it’s wonderful, you can definitely use it, but it will go away. One difference between the two, though, is that the money doesn’t change value: a $100 bill doesn’t suddenly morph into a $5, but the cane just might opt to change at some point. Maybe it’s more like a bottle of good wine. Hm.

Most of my students aren’t interested in making reeds. They are young, they are FAR too busy (oh how I wish they weren’t pushed to do so darn much: how can they do anything well and with passion when they are running from one “this’ll get me into college” thing to the next?), and, honestly, they really don’t want to bother. I have colleagues who require their students to make reeds. I don’t. I’ve taught two reed making classes in the past few years and not ONE of those students continued with the process. They merely developed great respect and admiration for the reed makers from whom they order! (That is actually one of the main reasons I wanted to teach the skill … that, and getting parents to understand how difficult the craft is.) I think I’m now done with teaching the craft: someone else can take over on that. I have hated reed making for years, and it’s better to learn from someone who doesn’t despise it quite as much as I do.

But I ramble. Mostly I wanted to share this quote from the wonderful oboist Aaron Hill:

Reed making is what it must feel like to try to keep an endangered species from going extinct. We cling to a few precious living specimens for hope and guard them with every bit of strength we have. Many attempts to reproduce good reeds either fail entirely or don’t reach maturity.

Here is a nice interview with Aaron and this link takes you to some great YouTube videos by him. He teaches at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. He’s a great player and I have no doubt that he’s also a great teacher.

13. February 2017 · Comments Off on What We Lose · Categories: Ramble

I’m recovering from The Cough. I get to go back to teaching and, I’m trusting, playing opera this week. (I want to be sure that my colleagues and the conductor are comfortable with my reappearance … I’m careful that way.)

Being sick when you are self-employed and working for smaller companies is quite costly. We have “sick leave”, but not really. Opera will cover two “services” (a rehearsal or concert is called a service) but we don’t get those funds until the end of the season, and I actually already used those services when I skipped all of Barber. Not teaching simply means no income for that, obviously. It’s not like those full time jobs where you get a bigger number of days off and can feel good about staying home when you are ill: many of us play while sick simply because it’s so difficult to give up the income.

Alas, I had NO choice but to stay home. I couldn’t play if I tried. Playing oboe would have only caused more coughing. Talking (teaching) would do the same.

Think of those who miss months of work. I sure do. I have had friends who have been out for longer periods of time, and for more serious illnesses. At some point I guess disability comes into play, but still.

(Side note: in addition, we have no health benefits through our opera and symphony companies here. I guess some have been using ACA … soon to disappear. WHAT will they do then, I wonder. Thankfully I’m on my husband’s rather excellent plan.)

So what DID I lose? Do I want to know? Hm. Yes and no. But for those of you who wonder, and are considering this career, I will share. Mind you, this is before taxes (and yes, I pay taxes on my self-employment teaching income).


I’m not sure I am!

But the grand total for this rotten cough comes to …


Yes. Really.

I think I want to go crawl in a hole now. But I can’t: gotta get OUT of that hole … and the financial hole as well. How grateful I am that I am married to someone with a steady income AND health benefits.

I love my jobs. I wouldn’t want anything else. But I sure wish we had something better for these rare times when we get so ill we have to cancel life for a time.

13. February 2017 · Comments Off on For All You Hamilton Fans Out There · Categories: Bassoon


From the YouTube Page:
As soon as I heard this song, all I could hear was bassoon in my head. Honestly, if you had to pick one instrument to be the misunderstood king atop his mighty throne in a shifting world, why wouldn’t you pick the bassoon? Share it with your Hamilton friends, share it with your bassoon/band friends!

Special thanks to part.time.adventures for setting up the lighting and shots! Check her out here!

Wow, it’s been a little over a year since I actually started attempting videos to my music. I think I’ve made some progress from me just playing with a banana I found.

The Musical “Hamilton” was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda

13. February 2017 · Comments Off on Let’s Visit Those Seven, Shall We? · Categories: Listen

Music Beyond Borders: Voices From the Seven

(I think donations to Seattle Symphony are in order … don’t you?!)

The musicians of the Seattle Symphony performed a free concert for our community, including orchestral and chamber works by noted classical composers including Rahim AlHaj (Iraq), Kinan Azmeh (Syria), Alireza Motevaseli (Iran), Ali Osman (Sudan), Gity Razaz (Iran) as well as a popular dance song from Somalia and “America the Beautiful.”

The arts community across the country has been coming together in meaningful ways following the recent executive order restricting travel and immigration from certain countries. At the Seattle Symphony, we are inspired to add our voice, with the hope that we can bring together our community to celebrate the freedom of expression and open exchange of ideas which the arts have always stood for, especially in times of division and conflict.


Fantasia for Santoor and Accordion

Alireza Motevaseli (b. 1992 in Tehran, Iran) is a composer, conductor and bassoonist who performs with the Tehran Symphony Orchestra.

Fantasia for Santoor and Accordion features the santoor, a type of hammered dulcimer with a long history in Persian and Indian music. A secondary solo part, written for accordion, provides a sound akin to the garmon, a related instrument commonly used in Russian music. Other melodies voiced for the four woodwinds in octaves echo the region’s ancient tradition of reed instruments.

Metamorphosis of Narcissus

Gity Razaz (b. 1986 in Tehran, Iran) lives in New York and graduated from The Juilliard School. Her teacher, composer John Corigliano, said “… her Middle-Eastern roots have merged with her Western sensibilities to produce music that is both original and startling. She is on her way to becoming a major force in contemporary music.”

Gity Razaz shares: “[Metamorphosis of Narcissus] is a musical drama reflecting on the internal and psychological transformation of Narcissus, beginning with his obsessive self-infatuation, moving through his drowning in the pond that reflected his image, and ending with his rebirth as the narcissus flower.”


Ali Osman (b. 1958 in Omdurman, Sudan) is a Sudanese composer who currently resides in Egypt and teaches composition at the Cairo Conservatory. His master’s and Ph.D. specialized in traditional Sudanese and Arabic music.

Afromood is based on African rhythms and will be performed on violin, tambourine and piano.

Letters from Iraq
Last Time We Will Fly Birds
Fly Away

Rahim AlHaj (b. 1968 in Baghdad, Iraq) is a Grammy-nominated musician and composer who has lived in Jordan, Syria and Iraq, and currently resides in the U.S. In 1991, after the first Gulf War, AlHaj was forced to leave Iraq due to his political activism against the Saddam Hussein regime. In 2015 AlHaj was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honor for traditional arts in the U.S.

His piece Letters from Iraq features the Oud, which is an Arabic instrument related to the mandolin or lute, and which will be played today by the composer.

Rahim AlHaj shares: “Letters from Iraq express the love and pain of lives lived by the people of war-torn Iraq and are based on the actual mailed letters transposed into gripping programmatic compositions. These pieces are of deep emotion and great beauty, melding mastery of Iraqi and Western classical genres alike to form something entirely new.”

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.


“Ladaneey” is a song that comes from the repertoire of a very popular Somalian disco/funk band called Dur-Dur Band. The soloist, Samatar Yare, is a native of Somalia who immigrated to Seattle in 2001. He is in demand throughout the Pacific Northwest at important Somali community events, including weddings and national celebrations and has a substantial online presence with almost a million YouTube followers worldwide.

“Ladaneey” courtesy of the Augsburg College Alumni Band directed by Robert Stacke. Transcription/Arrangement by Steve Herzog.

Suite for Improvisor and Orchestra
November 22nd

Kinan Azmeh (b. 1976 in Syria) is a 2017 Grammy-nominated clarinetist and composer who has lived in New York since 2000 and is a member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project. Last week he was uncertain as to whether he would be able to return to his Brooklyn home of 16 years after a concert tour in Europe and the Middle East, but luckily on Thursday he was admitted to the U.S. and we’re thrilled that he will be playing the clarinet solo at this performance.

Kinan Ahmez shares: “I try to blur the barrier between the composed and the improvised. The first movement November 22nd depicts a sort of a sonic homesickness while abroad, where one finds oneself missing the familiar surrounding sounds of childhood. The second movement Wedding tries to capture the mood found in a wedding party in a Syrian village. I would like to dedicate this movement to all the Syrians who managed to fall in love in the last six years in spite of all the suffering. Falling in love is probably one of the very few human rights that no authority can take away from you.”

“America the Beautiful”