Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Joy---is it in you?

While on a 22 mile bike ride this morning, I got to thinking. Everything we do is better when we bring some aspect of joy to it. Take for instance the ride: while we were physically exerting ourselves and tackling some sizable hills, it was a great chance to notice and enjoy the beauty of the countryside. Bringing the joy of the moment to those hills made them an exhilarating experience instead of an exhausting experience. It's all in the perspective we bring to things.

So when practicing through my scale exercises today, the same idea struck. (And YES, I still practice my scales and daily strive for a bigger range, work on fluency, pitch, upper register ease, and tempo. Some days are definitely easier than others!). For some reason the A# and F# harmonic minor scales were particularly difficult today. Instead of focusing on them thinking "ugh, I gotta get through my scales, " I turned them on their head and brought a playfulness and joy to the practice, singing them, imagining how they should and *could* sound, then created the best scales I could and repeated them until satisfied.

Take the hard stuff and play with it. Find your sense of joy and bring it to your music. You'll be glad you did!

Monday, April 5, 2010

New Beginnings

Just got back from Spring Break. As a long-time student and now professor, I'm lucky that Spring Break didn't end by the time I was 22 at the end of undergraduate studies. It's a yearly gift of TIME, rest and renewal. While much of the break was spent removing wallpaper and painting our house, it was also a time of reflection about music and the oboe. I didn't practice for a few days. I'm not proud of the fact, but I'm also not apologetic. I don't NEED the oboe and the routine of practice to define who I am and I do seek out time to NOT practice and enjoy other things (cycling, kayaking, reading, etc... after the wallpaper was gone!).

Each time that I begin again after a break is a new beginning. My embouchure muscles have atrophied a bit and my practice sessions are drastically reduced when I start again. But this shortened practice time also impels me to think about the real essence of what is needed to play the oboe:

1. A good embouchure
2. AIR---used WELL
3. A limitless creative mind.

#3 was in constant use over break :) but the first two were not. So, when I returned to practicing, I went back to the basics and used my time to focus on air and embouchure awareness: how much reed was in my mouth? How little reed is actually needed to be inside the lips to produce a warm, stable sound? How was my air being used? Was I supporting well, with good use and not "holding" the air with unnecessary tension? All of the guidance from former teachers came back, bringing a renewed awareness to what I'm doing.

Each practice session got a little longer, and these basic ideas helped to sort of hit a "restart" button on my playing. In a day or two my usual endurance will be back, but my playing will be far beyond where I was before the break.

Breaks are GOOD. :)

Oboe and out,


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Here Ye, Here Ye!

This is a public announcement of the newly formed chamber ensemble, Two by Four. Or maybe that's 2 x 4. We'll have to see which one looks best on a CD jacket and fan T-shirts. :) Anyhoo, I've teamed up with awesome bassoonist of the world, Dr. Karen Atria, currently of Columbus, OH, formerly of Pittsburgh, PA, formerly formerly the "Lady of Pearl Cottage" in Scotland, and formerly formerly formerly formerly, a graduate school colleague and apartment mate at 1818 19th St. in Boulder, CO. We've performed A LOT together, but not in the recent past, so this will be a BLAST for us to create some music together and share it with you, our listeners. Upcoming events include the 2010 Eau Claire Summer Series, and then we'll take the world by storm. So, watch out and stay tuned for more information.

Any you, gentle reader? What have you created in your musical world since our last meeting? Any interesting New Year's resolutions to share? PLease feel free to post comments below!

For now,

Oboe and Out