In which the snare drum and I share some serious personal space

Plum, pineapple plum, pineapple plum plum plum, pineapple plum, pineapple pineapple pineapple…

That, my friends, would be the “fruit salad” version of the rhythmic motif from Ravel’s Bolero, a piece that I’ve somehow managed to make occupy a significant portion of my brain. The repeated rhythm has become both a constant companion in my day-to-day hummings AND a convenient metaphor for the way I’m running my life at the moment. No matter how much preparation I wish I had for a given day, and how much I try to dig my heels in the ground to give myself more time, the sun comes up and goes down with an annoying consistency. And when my body insists that I need to take a second to slow down and catch up with things, I end up having to rearrange things I had already rearranged once in the first place.

We’re ending our opening season concert in Eugene with Bolero tonight, and the chair I’m sitting in for this concert happens to be right in front of the principal oboe and principal flute of the orchestra. This is no biggie – in fact, I really like it when I get to sit there. Kelly and Kristen are solid, superb players, and it’s lovely to be in a part of the orchestra with such remarkable consistency. However, the maestro made a decision that since the snare drum is the central point of the piece, it should be in the central point of the orchestra, which means right in between Kelly and Kristen.

Which means right behind me. Thank goodness for sound shields – the part requires a 15 minute steady crescendo, so he gets pretty loud by the end of it. It’s like being in the midst of a sound cloud created by an arriving train.

Eugene weeks require a lot of driving from my end, and by day three of five, I was surprisingly beat. My muscles were sore, my fatigue level was high, my head hurt, my nose was stuffy. Most surprisingly, my appetite is cruddy – my foodie side almost never lets this happen. I’ve done this grind before, and I felt like I was keeping caught up fairly well in my lessons at home. Plus, the concert tonight is filled with music that’s very enjoyable and not the least bit stressful. So why was my body complaining so much?

After explaining my symptoms to my genius husband (who can be helpfully objective at the best times), he asked if I picked up a bug from one of my students.

I thought about the amount of students I had this week who came in complaining of a cold, or sinus infection, or hospitalization (for one of them), and I couldn’t believe I didn’t recognize my body telling me I was sick. It’s usually so good about ordering me to bed to recover – I never have any qualms about canceling all my teaching when I feel like this – but I suppose my mind knew I needed to do an abhorrent amount of driving this week and tried to push what my body was telling me off to the side.

Thanks to the good will of some friends of mine, I was able to stay down in Eugene today and catch up on things, without the three and a half hours I would have had to spend on the road. My to-do list is whittling down, and I’ll be able to get some practicing done this afternoon, for which my inner critic will be most grateful.

The best thing for me to do in this situation would be to be at home in bed all day, watching a Grey’s Anatomy marathon and conking out in between binges of orange juice. As a freelancer, however, sometimes that’s just not an option. It’s a wonderful life that I’ve chosen for myself, and I wouldn’t trade it in for all the 9-5 job security in the world, but it does come with its downsides. One of the biggies? Sometimes your time is not yours.

My immune system, however, like that snare drum, will keep ticking along, and I’ll be able to give the bug the boot in no time. Until then, I’ll rely on my next few gigs to keep me happy.

What a summer!

Turns out when you book a flight from St. Louis to Portland on Southwest, you can’t get a direct flight. You have to stop somewhere and change planes, and today I’m changing planed in Phoenix. So that’s a three hour flight to Phoenix, and a three and a half hour flight to Portland. (Nope, I didn’t check this before I booked the flight. I never do. I simply close my eyes and click the “purchase” button. It’s much easier to deal with myself traveling when I take myself by surprise, sit back, and enjoy the ride. Makes me less grumpy for my husband, too.) I decided six and a half hours worth of flight time deserved the $8.00 splurge for wireless access, so I’m taking the opportunity to FINALLY get caught up here.

The end of June saw my yearly pilgrimage to Salem to teach at the Young Musician’s and Artist’s camp for two weeks. As always, it was an exhausting, inspired, joyful, and, in all honesty, magical time. The first week saw a visit by a wonderful homegrown band, Three Leg Torso. Béla Balogh leads this group on fiddle, and I insisted on a picture in a continuing effort to make myself feel like a superstar. It led to this very George Sr. and Kitty moment:

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(Note: for my students who don’t get the George Sr. and Kitty reference, I officially owe you a binge-watching session of Arrested Development when you reach an appropriate age.)

Next up was the Oregon Coast Music Festival, and I’m always so glad to be a part of this. The week started with an amazing chamber music experience of an under-rehearsed (and consequently surprisingly successful) performance of Schubert’s Death and the Maiden. It culminated with a fabulous performance of Symphonie Fantastique, which happened to be my first time playing this piece. It’s a piece that I’ve studied since my very first music lit class my freshman year of college. It’s on everybody’s must-do list. And it was incredibly fun.

This guy is our backstage mascot of the festival:

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Nope, I’m not talking about the conductor in the red shirt.

After being home for a whopping 20 hours, I turned around and headed to the Regional Orchestra Player’s Association (ROPA) conference in Spokane. I’ve always known that musician’s unions (like all labor unions) are important, but I hadn’t learned the history and facts behind that fact until I went to this conference. I came away fired up, confident, and proud that I call art my job.

When I returned home from Spokane, I had this brand new toy waiting for me:

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That, my friends, is a violin made out of carbon fiber, which I ordered from Mezzo Forte Instruments in Germany. I’ve needed a backup violin for outdoor gigs, summer gigs in hot and changing climates, and gigs for when my regular fiddle is in the shop. This really fits the bill – it sounds pretty great (I just played it for my grandfather’s birthday to rave reviews), and the carbon fiber won’t be affected by temperature and humidity like wood will. If I get a droplet or two of water on in, it’s no big deal – heck, I can clean this sucker with windex. And it’s sitting above me in the overhead compartment as I write this. My stress level of traveling by air with a violin is WAY lower with this instrument than my super good one. It’s a keeper!

So, what’s next? At this moment, I’m about to go and update my gigs that you see on the right side of this page, make sure my students are ready to go for the next month or so, and shop for some music for my Concordia string ensemble. Things are about to get crazy again in my career, and I think, after all the travel, vacation, and lots of rest, I’m finally ready for it.

Turning 30

A bit of a personal note today…

My lovely and always entertaining colleagues have responded in a couple of ways to the fact that I’m turning thirty today. Mostly it’s the lighthearted response along the lines of “HEEEEY, now you can sign up for the senior discount on stuff!”

Har.

But the other response I get (and it’s the one my dad also gave me, so I trust it more) is, “You’re just getting started and it just gets better from here.” While society has been acting like I should be headed into some sort of existential crisis where I sit in my room under the covers listening to Shostakovich and chanting something like, “no way out… no way out…”, I find it hard to be dissatisfied with where my life is right now. And when I think about life in my twenties, I feel as though I accomplished quite a lot:

I was offered positions with eight different orchestras from auditions. (I took many more, but we’ll breeze right past that.)

I performed six solo recitals (not counting the one I’m giving next weekend!), at least as many chamber recitals, and countless orchestra concerts.

I received two degrees in music performance.

What’s perhaps the best accomplishment I can think of, however, is that I went to school for the thing I’m most passionate about, and then figured out how to make a living out of it. I’m very lucky in that respect. I made a deal with myself that I would only try music as long as it worked, and I’m incredibly grateful that as of today, it’s still working.

Ooh la la, TARDIS concert!

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If you happen to be in Corvallis this Friday at noon, you should think of stopping on by and seeing the TARDIS ensemble! And not just because we’re all incredibly good looking, as per our photo in the press release here. Because it’s an all French program with one of the coolest string trios I have EVER PLAYED. It makes me feel as though my life is glamorous.

It only lasts an hour and you’d be guaranteed a good time.

Bend

Please take note…

The weird face I am making does not in any way reflect any kind of weirdness I was feeling, because there simply was none. I was just concentrating really hard.

What a fun afternoon! I have been looking forward to coming and playing with the Central Oregon Chamber Orchestra for months now. Playing Vivaldi’s Summer and Winter with this group was immensely fun. They’re a sensitive group, and a very kind bunch, and it made the whole weekend kind of a dream.

Although, the snow helped…

Bend had wonderful snowfall all weekend long. Not the Portland kind of snow, mind you – as soon as an inch falls in this city, the moisture in the air turns it all to ice, the city shuts down, and you have to hunker down and make yourself a tea and Grand Marnier or whatever weird beverage combination happens to be in the house because you ain’t going NOWHERE. No, this snow was snow like I grew up with in Colorado. This snow was like home. There were a good three or four inches on the ground, and Hubster and I got to buzz around town enjoying what we interpreted as a fairyland blizzard. There was no better inspiration for Winter to be found! Our wonderful hosts in Bend happened to have a fantastic view of the storm as well; we didn’t miss our TV set for one instant.

After a smooth rehearsal, I felt as though I was forcing my sound out a bit too much. Perhaps compensating for not knowing the hall just yet, or just wanting people to be kind of impressed with me. So I spent the rest of the evening after the rehearsal relaxing, as well as taking it easy the next morning. We met some friends for coffee, we watched a little football, and got Cafe Yumm to go so that the day felt normal and composed. The dressing room at Bend High was attached to the drama rehearsal room, which meant mirrors everywhere, and I had this kind of life-comes-together moment:

Let me back up a bit…

When I was a senior in high school, [deleted] amount of years ago, I made a firm decision that I was destined for a life in music. I had been playing the violin very seriously up to this point, but I had also been able to blend my love of music with my love of theater. I have had absolutely no regrets about the choice I made to pursue violin over acting – goodness knows, I’m very happy with my life at the moment! – but there’s always been a part of me that’s been curious about what I might have been missing. Am I giving myself enough soul food – or perhaps, enough variety of soul food – to make sure I’m getting all out of my life and my desires that I can?

Seeing myself in the mirror there, all dressed up in my gown, ready to perform, I realized that my eyes were on my violin. When they drifted back up to me again, I was picturing what I would look like on stage playing the violin. The violin was not only the star of the show here, it made me feel 100% like ME. Going on stage with this kind of performance was the best way to follow what I wanted to do, and the best way to be myself.

It was a really great time I had, and with only a few little notes I wish I could have replayed, it was a performance I was very proud of. The whole experience was something I could do again and again. I’m not sure how to make that happen yet – I’m still figuring out this whole self-promotion thing as I go.

For now, I’ve got some great things up on the horizon. Next weekend I’ve got the last two Nutcracker performances with the ballet. I’m going on a brief tour in Coos Bay with the Zephyr Trio at the beginning of January, and will also be putting all of my ducks in a row for a March recital. And as my teaching schedule lightens up for a few weeks, I’ll be spending some real quality time with my cats – time that’s always well spent.

And, of course, I’ll be dreaming of my next big adventure.

Until next time, Bend!