Sunday, December 13, 2009

Be amazed...

When I stumbled upon Aleksandr Hrustevich, a young Ukrainian accordionist, I was absolutely mesmerized by his talents. His grace and skill is indescribable. Listen as Mr. Hrustevich plays Summer from Vivaldi's The Four Seasons. Be amazed.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I wish I may...

This week Jamie asks, "What is your spirit wishing for?"

My spirit wishes for movement.
Image from

In the past few months I have spent so many of my waking hours glued to my laptop working on my final portfolio. Yesterday I submitted lesson plans, projects, assessments, essays, and score studies that stacked up at 1 1/2 inches thick, and it was printed front to back. My body has become all too familiar with my desk chair, as comfortable as it is. I wish to run, to stretch, to play, to move freely.

The portfolio process has also stirred my spirit. She is anxious, albeit a touch nervous, to move on to the next chapter. I seek that first career, the thrill of opportunity, the next adventure. My spirit needs to move forward and onward.

What does your spirit wish for?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Zůstat plovoucí.

Zůstat plovoucí.
Stay afloat.

It's that time of year again. The semester is coming to a close, projects are mounting, caffeine is pumping through my veins, and a good night sleep is becoming a luxury. There are days I feel like my brain has the consistency of strained squash and it may be in danger of leaking out my ear. I feel skittish and totally unmotivated at the same time.

Several of my student teaching peers have expressed similar feelings. Molly and I were talking about these weird sensations- simultaneous anxiousness and sloth. We have always survived the end of the semester push. It just feels particularly steep this year. I wonder what it affecting so many of us in such an unusual way. Thoughts?

Anyway, I have been trying my best to focus my energy and be a busy, busy bee. This is what I have been up to:

It is t-minus ten days until my student teaching portfolio is due. I have completed 6 out of the 10 artifacts and accompanying essays. Two are currently in some stage of progress, while the other two are on tap for early this week. I have been typing, editing, scanning, video taping, and re-editing like a mad woman.

Check out these examples of student work I am using in my portfolio. It is from the third grade theme and variations unit. The students picked a simple shape as their theme and made three variations on that shape. Like music composition, the students had total freedom of how they chose to vary the shape. The only guideline was the theme needed to recognizable within the variation. The students were so creative- I had a hard time picking which examples to use!

Love the fish!

Circles were a popular theme. I thought this one was particularly well done.

That jack-o-lantern is the best!

Score study, rehearsal plans, more score study, lesson plans, and more score study. I can sing Holst in my sleep. It's not a bad thing.

Attended the American Orff Schulwerk Association conference. It was a phenomenal learning experience. I meet a lot of interesting people, attended some very creative sessions, and picked up some great books. I heart books.

The high school marching band gave a great performance at the holiday parade downtown last week. The late evening rehearsals really paid off. The band sounded fantastic!

Student teaching observation by my university supervisor this week. Need I say more?

The holiday craft fair and breakfast is this coming weekend. The students plan, organize, and run the whole production. It is going to be a very busy, albeit fun, week!

What projects have you been investing your energy in?
Here's to keeping afloat!
Merry Writing!

Friday, November 6, 2009


Oh my, oh my! I cannot believe that it has been nearly three months since my last post. Honestly, I cannot believe that the first quarter of school is over and that Thanksgiving is just around the corner. The past few months have been a whirlwind of activities, projects, lesson plans, private students, performances, and conventions. I have been wearing many, many hats- I love dressing up!

Here I go!

The biggest bonnet I have donned has been that of an elementary teacher. So far student teaching has been a truly positive experience. The first quarter was spent teaching general music at the elementary level. It was a load of work to prepare for seven or eight K-5 classes a day, as well as after school activities, but I found the work to be satisfying. There were days that felt longer than others and less than glamorous moments, however far fewer than I initially expected. I had the opportunity to help young minds develop as creative artists- the process of guiding students through their first composition projects was amazingly fun. So far I learned that K-5 general music is both very demanding and rewarding work, and I can see myself happily teaching at this developmental level.

This week I transitioned to the high school. So far so good. Many new names and faces to learn. I now wear the hat of a conductor and tuba and horn teacher.

My most favorite hat!
Check out Julie Lynn Ivens on Flickr.

Last month Molly and Kelly designed and organized the most amazing event- the Massacreade. It was full of art, music, mischief, and mayhem. The Famous Graves had the pleasure of performing two sold out shows with the Echelon String Quartet, Evan Flynn, and Mr. Zak Larson. Best of all, I got to wear the most amazing feathered hat and fangs.

It was wonderful to catch-up with my blogosphere friends this past week. More adventures to be posted soon. Before January. I promise!

I will be taking a cue from Carmen on Monday (No School!)

What hats have you been wearing as of late?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Extraordinary Inspiration

Sometimes great strokes of inspiration comes from the most fleeting and unexpected moments. It is the little encounter that causes a sparkling of wonderment, reverence, and insight to swirl through our heads. The moment becomes nested in your mind and heart.

I experienced this sensation while working at the summer band camps a few weeks ago.

A fellow instructor and I were walking back from the dining hall to the arts center after a particularly brick-like lunch. We were strolling along on a rather unremarkable stretch of sidewalk we have traveled countless times in the previous weeks. While I was looking up at the graying clouds wondering if it would indeed rain, he was looking along the ground. He scooped up a pine cone and put it to his ear. "Listen," he said. He put the pine cone up to my ear and plucked the spears like an African Kalimba. Different high pitched and woody tones vibrated from each spear. "This is a good pine cone," he said as he gently placed the conifer into his shoulder bag.

My heart stirred.

As I walked back to the dormitories that evening, again looking toward the skies, my mind finally managed to translate the flutterings of my heart:

Look at ordinary things in an extraordinary way

Truly inspirational.

What moments have inspired you?
Merry writings.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


I cannot believe that 6 weeks have passed in such a whirlwind. I feel like I have barely clung on to the surface of the earth! Where has the summer gone? I feel as though it has just flown by, and I have little to show for it- not even a tan!

Our quaint view.

The move was less than smooth. The new apartment had been abused by the previous tenant and needed much attention before it felt like home. Spreading Spackle, sanding, priming, painting, and installing shelving consumed more time than I anticipated. However, our wee space now looks and feels clean, cozy, and well cared for. I will share some before and after pictures in the near future.

This weekend I bought some lovely little succulents to share the window sill with the kitties. So far the little plants have not fallen victim to kitty carnage- perhaps they do not care for the texture? The window is the reason the Muffin and I picked this teeny-tiny apartment (a studio with a 12 x 15 living space). Our sunlight filled window faces south and peers into the side alley shared with an old 3-story home. We have the good fortune of viewing the nearly 3-story tall maple tree that consumes the small back yard. I am curious what color the leaves will turn in the fall. Perhaps my favorite part is when the wind carries in the bright tinkling of our neighbors wind chimes into our home.

Succulents. Yes, those are ceramic donkey planters.
They are from my G-ma. I adore the weirdness of them.

Speaking of sound, the weeks of band camps moved at rocket pace. They were over in the blink of an eye. Middle school week was wonderful- the kids were truly phenomenal. I had a fantastic pair of oboists to coach for the week. They were both sponges- eager to learn, energetic, and open to trying new techniques. Despite the age difference of the two (he was 14 and she was 11), they encouraged and supported each other every day. I wish I could have kept the pair for another week...or always.

The Famous Graves played for the Tuesday recitals both weeks. The students were great to play for, and I had a wonderful time performing. Middle school week served as a great warm up for Gallery Night. As Molly mentioned, I thought we gave a top-notch performance. I am already excited about our next rehearsal and the upcoming recording process.

Postings will be more regular. It feels great to write again and visit all of my blog friends again. Cheers!
Merry makings and writings!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Boxes, boxes...more boxes

Unlike Miss Serena, who is engaging in some divine de-cluttering, I am in the process of making my apartment a swirling-vortex of boxed chaos. Only twelve days until The Muffin and I can begin moving into our new studio, and I am in total amazement of how much Stuff-with-a-capital-S we have managed to accumulate in the nooks and crannies of current abode. Yesterday I began to wade through our storage closet and have already created a healthy pile of items to donate. I am making a point to only keep the things that are needed or loved. No doubt the donation pile will continue to grow!

This is only the begining of the donation pile! Minus the bike- I need my wheels!

While cleaning the closet I stumbled upon an empty wooden wine giftbox that seemed too useful to discard. It has good bones, but the faux-Tuscan decor is not my bag. With the help of a little tacky glue and fun paper, I now have a cute little box for storing my writing and drawing sticks! And- it was a super simple project to boot!


***Tah-dah! *** After!

Merry writings!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Calm After the Storm

In preparation for our move into the studio apartment, the Muffin and I have been attempting to sell some of the furniture we will no longer need on craigslist. I have quickly learned how weird, annoying, or flat out rude people will be via email. Or that people think it is okay to not show up to pick up an item without any attempt to contact me. Obviously my time is not valuable. I digress...

Last evening someone came to view our sofa. She was very polite and, my favorite, very punctual. She was at my door at 6:30 on the dot. However, her 4 year-old son was like a tornado through my apartment. He made himself right at home- the first thing he did was open my refrigerator to "see if we eat different." The cats were another source of amusement, but they are attention gluttons and enjoyed being chased around and having their chins scratched. And then there were the "giant violins" that he had to touch. Actually, I thought it was rather amusing and was trying hard not to giggle because his mother was obviously horrified about everything. She kept simultaneously scolding him and apologizing to me for his behavior, even though I said not to worry. I asked him, "How would you pet a baby chick?" "Very, very careful," he replied. "Although the bass is big, it needs to be handled very carefully. Do you promise to touch it like you would the softest baby chick?" "Oh, yes, yes, yes!" And he did.

Our little visitor tuckered Simandl out.

Shortly after the little tornado left, Muffin returned home from a rehearsal and we sat down for a casual dinner. I like to call these "peasant dinners" because they are simple meal of bread, cheese, fruit, and wine. My favorite part is that it a satisfying meal with really no cooking involved- just a little slicing. We spent the rest of the evening at the table enjoying our meal and the company of each other.

Peasant dinner.

Merry Writing!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Establishing Balance

Last week I managed to do very little...and it was delightful. Most of the week was cloudy, rain spattered, and unseasonably cool- a perfect week to rest and recuperate from a particularly draining school year. Without a trace of guilt, I spent many hours perusing my favorite design blogs, curled up on my sofa reading books, shamelessly cat napping, and hitting up the new thrift store with Molly.

I imagine this is what I would look like if I were cute, furry & living in Costa Rica.

Sunday was a gorgeous day- perfect for spending the day tinkering in my parents' gardens. It was a rather productive day, with much digging in the dirt, moving rocks, potting, and transplanting. The fragrance of the freshly overturned soil and new blooms was intoxicating, and it was ridiculously fun getting really dirty! Also, I now sport the most fantastic garden glove tan.

Sunday ushered in the end of my sloth-session. It is time to get the proverbial gears moving and make good use of the weeks ahead. I have organized my students and have set the summer oboe lesson schedule. I have also established some personal practice goals, both oboe and bass-wise. My temple deserves much more attention than I have given it these past months. Regular yoga practice (I am as flexible as a light pole right now) will be paired with weekly running goals. I plan to log 16 miles this week, and I already have 4 down! Also, I have a little list of projects to do, books to read, and small trips to make.

I have always felt like this time of the year is a much better time of the year to take stock of oneself and set some personal resolutions than the middle of winter. Nature is unfolding with new growth all around us- why not join in? Ultimately, my goal for the summer is to nurture my physical, intellectual, and creative self. I am lucky to have the summer to rejuvenate, and plan to make the most of it. However, I also want to avoid over scheduling myself or stressing out over meeting my mini-goals. What is the point of that? It is summer! If it is a gorgeous day that deserves to be spent at the lake, I certainly will sacrifice a little reading or practicing to splash in the water.

Do you set goals for the summer?
Merry Writing!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wrapping & Wishing

The end of the semester finally arrived, and now I may take a moment to breathe. It felt so wonderful to get caught up with my blogger friends yesterday. It was a near perfect morning: the rain was gently falling, the windows were cracked open enough to let the sweet smell of spring drift in, and I had a delicious mug of coffee in hand as I poured over all of the happenings and musings. Ahhh......

This summer will feel far less chaotic than the previous (No summer courses! Woot!), but it is already bubbling with activity. My days are already filling up with the usual part-time job, teaching oboe lessons, practicing my beloved oboe and bass, and being a reed making machine.

In July I will devote two whole weeks to instructing and supervising budding band geeks like me. The university hosts two weeks of band camp- one for middle school students and the other for high school students. Oddly enough, I look forward to the "middle school" week the most. I say "middle school" because that week is open to anyone who is enrolled in band, and many schools are begining instrumental music in the 4th and 5th grade, so there are usually a fair number of 10 year-olds running around. Despite the fact that I had to listen to the Jonas Brothers for a solid week, the girls on my floor are always great. Its like a mini-slumber party every night, well, until 11:30 when it is lights-out. My toenails were a different color every night last year.

The jazz quartet I have recently joined is busy rehearsing and preparing to record a demo- which I am super excited about. In most of my recording experiences I was the one adjusting levels and routing signals, so it will be interesting to be on the other side of soundboard.

And the Muffin and I are moving in July! We put a deposit on the studio. And now I will begin the sorting, organizing, and purging process. Yesterday I posted stuff up on Craigslist, and I am making plans for my first trip to Ikea for "decorganizing." I had to laugh a little-The Muffin was oddly into designing the closet system on the Ikea website. I guess its like Legos for big boys.

This week Jamie asks us, "What frivolous treat do you wish for?" When I saw the shoes she posted I thought, "I might wish for those gorgeous shoes!" How sparkly! A real treat would be a road trip. I have not traveled for travel sake in a long time. Last summer I barely strayed beyond my city, nonetheless anywhere adventurous. My wish is to travel. To treat myself to a holiday. To drive out west to visit a friend and worry neither about time nor expense. To see something new.

Merry Writings!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wishcasting Wednesday

This week wishtress Jamie asks us "What do you wish to read?"

Oh, what don't I wish to read? Like many, many students, my current reading materials have primarily been assigned texts or research materials. Over the past semester I have managed to read only one book that has absolutely no connection to my academic studies. Only one! I know that I often feel guilty sitting down and paging through an unassigned novel during the school year. My mind plagues me. Are you sure you should be sitting around like this? You should be practicing. What are you doing? Your portfolio is not finished. However, the end of the semester draws near, and I am not taking any classes this summer term. That little voice will go mute.

This summer I wish to read the small pile of forsaken books that have accumulated on my nightstand. There are four books, including The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross, that have been patiently waiting all semester for me. This summer, I plan to read them all without a trace of guilt.

Merry Writings!

Monday, April 27, 2009

She has been living a life...

... of little note. And I am perfectly fine with that.

I would love to say that I have not posted in over a month because I have been overwhelmingly busy with amazing projects and adventures. The truth is that I have been underwhelmed with an endless series of small projects and extra hours at work. A paper here...a jazz chart there...another paper here...a lesson plan there...a lot of piano practice everywhere. I have begun assembling my Phase 3 Portfolio (pre-student teaching requirement), which can be a bit challenging at times. I sometimes struggle to put completely musical, aural, and affective learning experiences into formal, academic terms.

But the end of the term is near- May 19th will be here soon!

It has rained 6 out of the last 9 days. This is something I would do!
Image courtesy:

But it has not been all monotonous. Last weekend I had the good fortune of performing on a friend's senior recital. She played very well, and it was a pleasure to be a part of her project. I have been busy transcribing jazz charts for the Famous Graves, which is totally new territory for me. Until recently I have done very little transcription work.

Also, my Muffin and I have found an apartment in the city! The Muffin surprised me by wanting to scope out studio apartments instead of 2 bedroom units. We found a tiny & charming unit that will have us a lot of money- money that can go toward paying-off student loans and growing a savings account. I actually like the idea of downsizing a lot. Keeping only what we really need or love. And, I think the best part of the apartment is that it is only a few blocks away from my sister. Endless slumber party!

In more somber news, my Muffin's grandmother left us this past Friday afternoon. The 93 year-old matriarch had been ailing for years. Her passing brought a deep sense of relief to my mother-in-law and my husband. Friday was beautiful here- unseasonably warm, full of sunshine, and the gentle breeze carried the scent of spring. From the stories that I have heard about her, I found it rather fitting that she made her quiet and peaceful exit on the most lovely day of the year.

Peace too you all.
Merry writings.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Contributors

It seems that I was ready for this semester to be over just days after it started. I have struggled with maintaining focus and motivation. In my pause this past week I have done a little self-analysis and reflecting. Although I am not sure what the exact cause of my restless is, I have some ideas of what my be contributing to it.

Contributor #1: Outside of my instrumental lessons, I feel that I have had only one class this academic year that was insightful, truly interesting, and made me feel better prepared to be an educator. While there have been some interesting moments in other classes, the majority of the time has felt like space-filling busy work. Too many hoops to jump through...I am beginning to feel like a circus poodle.

Contributor #2: I have spent so much time focusing on the hoops that I have developed a micro-perspective. I have spent too much time spent focusing on my "doings" that I have neglected just "being." While I was productive during the lull of the past week, I also spent a whole lot of time doing whatever I felt like- even if it was nothing at all. I had coffee with Molly and Rick. I spent some time with my brother on Saturday. I visited my parents yesterday, mostly hanging out in my Mom's studio marveling at her craftiness and chatting. I lost myself in design blogs and the Ikea website- daydreaming about a new apartment and what I would do if I actually had money for decorating. Sigh... I almost forgot how wonderful daydreaming can be. I did crossword puzzles, went running, and took time to sit and be still with my thoughts. Lovely.

Contributor #3: I have not been minding my temple. I did some serious damage to my body with drive-thru during the two weeks of opera insanity. Although I have fairly healthy eating habits, they have not been stellar lately. You know you have mistreated your body when you develop an indescribable craving for brussel sprouts and polenta for dinner. I must be more mindful of what I am putting into my body. My new food mantra is honor your temple. This not to say I will not indulge in a slice of cake from time to time- just to be more respectful of myself on a daily basis.

Contributor #4:
Related to minding my temple- I do not move enough. I began running again a little over a week ago, and my body has definitely admonished me that for not using it the way it was once accustom to. I must make time to run and practice yoga like I once had. I sleep better, my mood is improved, and I am *gasp* more focused when I have sufficiently moved about.

Contributor #5
: My Muffin and I need to move. Our upstairs neighbors are obnoxious to the point where they have affected how I feel about my home. Home should be ones sanctuary, where one can rest, feel at peace, and commune with loved ones. Sadly, my heart sinks a little when I see their vehicles in the parking lot. In their defense, the ceilings are a bit thin in this building. However, it is no excuse for being incredibly loud (music, people over, or other adult activities) until 3 or 4 a.m. on a Tuesday. Sigh... Our current apartment is cute and functional. I cannot complain- everything works in the apartment. However, I think we need an apartment where my Muffin can have a workspace that is not in the bedroom. I think it can greatly affect how one rests when you know you have a pile of work sitting at the foot of the bed. I would like a little corner all to myself for reed making, practicing, and crafting. I don't need a whole room, just a nook. I think a two-bedroom would be perfect. I don't care it the second room is super tiny- as long as my Muffin can fit his desk and bass within I am happy. We've starting looking for new places in the city- Yay! However, we are where we are until the end of July. Only 4 1/2 more months- not too bad.

Contributor #6: My impatient nature. I am not a stagnant person. The progress of classes, my career, my finances, and my living situation has made me feel like I have been treading water for the past 7 months. I am staying afloat, but I am certainly not going anywhere. I know that change will come in time. We will move this summer. My Muffin will start new work. I student teach in September. By this time next year I will be polishing my resume and searching for jobs. Change will come, and I must learn to be patient. It will be worth the wait.

Merry writings.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Taking Pause

I was going to write a post about posting, but Molly not only addressed the subject already, but in a much more eloquent manner than I would. In short, I second Molly.

Before leaving the posting subject, however, I must mention that I visit and read the blogs because I have found the writings to be interesting and thought provoking. It is a pleasure to share thoughts and experiences with the kindred spirits I have been fortunate to met through blogging. I cringe to think that the authors of the blogs I frequent feel guilted into posting- for me. It is not about me- or any other reader. It is about you. Post at your pleasure. I will always be glad to hear from you, whether it is daily, weekly, or once a month.


The Marriage of Figaro closed on Saturday, after a weeks worth of well done performances. The singers were phenomenal, the orchestra well prepared, and the audiences were very responsive. All in all it was so worth the exhaustion. I would do it all over in a heart beat. Yesterday evening, I completed the final essay exam for the literacy course. Opera over. Literacy Strategies over. I have reached a lull in academic activity. For now. I intend to savor the pause.

Picture courtesy

As I left the exam, my eye was drawn to the sky. Well, my ear drew my eyes upward with the honking of at least 100 geese flying overhead. Their black silhouettes floated against an aquamarine sky stippled with streaks of pink and apricot clouds. Behind the birds the moon glowed like a juicy slice of cantaloupe. Though it was a rather frigid, I just stood still on the sidewalk and watched every last goose float across the evening sky.

I cannot remember the last time I took the time to watch the sunrise, or the rain fall, or the leaves blow in the wind. I feel that I have become so consumed with school and my "doings" that I am letting simple, beautiful moments pass by unnoticed. Take pause. That is what I need to do. Take a single moment each day. Pause.

I think I shall go for a moonlit walk. Breath some cold air. Look at stars. Smell the scent of late winter- the scent of spring creeping in. Pause.

Merry Writings.

Monday, February 23, 2009

This Story May Explain Why...

...oboists get a reputation for being a tad bit neurotic. My desire to make it through The Marriage of Figaro only physically fatigued, but mentally unscathed...totally shot to hell the past few days. I do not wish to come off as a whiner, but I was prepared for this opera through and through. I knew my music inside and out, and I had crafted several very nice, reliable reeds to boot. Everything was going pretty well, even though I had a mountain of projects in progress and I fell a bit ill mid-week. All was manageable. Then the weekend came.

I think it all began to deteriorate at Friday night dress rehearsal. A kiln with a profuse gas leak caused the entire cast and orchestra to be evacuated from the arts building mid-rehearsal. Being the type of people we are, those of us in the pit orchestra quickly packed up our instruments and headed out into the 14 degree weather. We were outside for only 20 minutes or so before being allowed back in. I was a wee bit concerned, although not too concerned, since I have a well insulated case and outer case for my oboe. And, it was only 20 minutes, right?

As the rest of the rehearsal progressed, I felt that my intonation was a bit off from its usual tendencies. I thought to myself, the reeds did not like the quick shock of cold...they will be fine. So I thought, until I opened my reed case the following morning to teach my Saturday lessons. Gasp! The six nice, playable reeds I had were either cracked or the blades had pulled apart from each other. Four were not salvageable, as they were cracked. The other two I was able to coax into working...somewhat. I had three other reeds in my case that were fine, but they were old practice reeds. Totally unsuitable for performing in public, nonetheless a three hour long public performance.

I have never been in such a dire reed situation before. I usually have a handful of good practice reeds, several solid performing reeds, and a couple of reeds in progress. With the mountain of projects due last week, I did not have any reeds in progress. After the Saturday dress rehearsal concluded I hunkered down to work on new reeds. Nothing. Four hours later I had produced nothing. Every reed I made had horribly unbalanced intonation. I was on the verge of tears. It was time to walk a way. Embarrassed and full of shame, I called my oboe professor for help. Can I buy a pair of reeds? I have not bought reeds in eight years.
This is how my brain felt Saturday night... a splatter of frustration and anxiety.
Have I totally lost it?

However, my professor did not sell me finished reeds. Instead, she graciously and wisely provided me with a pair of initially scraped reeds, and assured me that I had not lost my ability to make a good reed. She reminded me that I have been making reliable reeds for years, and that everyone falls prey to a bad reed patch from time to time. Also, making reeds under pressure while frustrated usually results in poor quality work. Sigh....I know.

It is Sunday morning, and the opening show starts in a few hours. I am playing on my brand new, very cautiously prepared reeds and the intonation is horrendous. The C was flat, the B was uber sharp, the Bb was slightly less sharp, and the A was so flat it was half way to Ab. Seriously! I could not bring myself to tinker with my reeds any more. I decided I would have to compensate with my embouchure. Needless to say, my lips and jaw were very tired at the end of the performance. However, with all drama and nonsense aside, the opening matinee went very well.

It is now Monday morning. I am in my weekly oboe lesson, and I am recalling the horrors of yesterday to my professor. She hands me her oboe with one of my reeds, and I began to play. It is beautiful....AND IN TUNE! The problem is my oboe...

The excursion into the cold did my poor oboe in. The best news: my oboe is not cracked, which was the first thought that surfaced in my mind as I played on my professor's horn. After a thorough search, the possibility of a crack was ruled out. However, I can not get a proper seal on my upper joint. Multiple pads are unseated, which means most of my keys are leaking. This accounts for the lousy intonation and response I have been struggling with for the past 3 days. Good grief!

Early this afternoon I took my oboe into the repair shop to visit Fred, an incredible Milwaukee area instrumental repairman who is particularly talented at servicing double reeds. Chances are I will not have my instrument back for the Tuesday performance, but I do have a very nice Fox plastic resin oboe as a back up.

The lesson learned: Be more thourough with my diagnostics. It is not always the reed...or me.

Merry Writings!

Monday, February 16, 2009

And So It Begins...

Dress rehearsal week has finally arrived. Over the next week the cast and pit orchestra will spend over 30 hours practicing and rehearsing for The Marriage of Figaro. I am a mixture of excitement and apprehension- excited to perform, nervous about staying on top of my class work. I am trying my best to channel the calmness and wellness I will need. I even bought a package of refreshing & totally delicious mint and tarragon tea to help soothe my senses. However, the experience and the final production are completely worth the stress and exhaustion. There are few things as grand as opera.

What are you pouring your energy into this week?

Merry Writings!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

February Full Moon Dreamboard

Merry Full Moon!

Although heavy cloud cover caused me to miss the largest full moon of the season, the forecast is for clear skies throughout the night. Also, the moon has brought unseasonably warm weather with her. I am rather tempted to wear my peep-toe shoes ....

During this lunar phase my Dreamboard includes just a few elements. I have a very busy few weeks ahead of me, with all of my usual activities in addition to Marriage of Figaro dress rehearsals, performances, and the final exam and projects for the accelerated course is in less than three weeks. The situation lends itself to stress, so I incorporated a tranquill pool of water. The water represents the calm and focus I will need to be channeling over the passing days. Stress causes unease and often opens oneself up to illness. The teapot represents the wellness and balance I will need to cultivate. The chickadee image returns, as I always dream to be an optimistic seeker of knowledge and truth.

Merry Writings!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Monday Meditation

Oh, how I wish every week started like this one has!

When I arrived on campus this morning I was greeted with the most adorable, gooey, chocolaty, frosted-pink cupcake...complete with hot pink sprinkles. A classmate presented me with the decadent confection before our class, explaining that she was in the mood to bake yesterday and thought I would appreciate a cute Monday morning treat. How sweet! Pun totally intended, by the way.

I finished enjoying my cupcake breakfast as I walked into my first class for the week. It was phenomenal. Most of the class period was a guided meditation to help us connect to our ability to perceive, imagine, visualize, and hear things in our mind. We were being guided to our "minds eye and ear" through visual and aural exercises. The session began with recalling a passage of text. We were asked to manipulate the format and shape of the text, to imagine someone close to us reading aloud the passage, and to imagine ourselves orating the text. As the exercises progressed, we were asked to conjure pitches and timbres in our minds to accompany the text. It was marvelous. My senses were tingling at the end of the session.

Although I use my inner eye and ear on a daily basis, it is usually in conjunction with some other activity, such as rehearsal, practicing, or score study. I cannot recall the last time I was physically still and allowed myself to be amazed by my perceptual abilities. My mind and spirit feel nurtured and refreshed after the meditation session. I am thinking I must make this a regular practice.

What do you do to conjure and nurture your inner eye or ear?

Merry Writings!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Land of Creative Opportunity...

Perhaps one of the most interesting comments I have heard this semester:

"Only in America would the gay son of Russian-Jewish immigrants become to be known as one of the most iconic of iconic American composers- the one who personified the cowboy and the Shaker in compositions he wrote in New York! That is why I love this country."

To give some context, the statement came from a professor, a native of Israel, who was reminding us students how America is an amazing land of creative opportunity. This tangent came from discussing the evolution of the earliest forms of ragtime and jazz, which essentially fused elements of West African music with popular marching band styles. Since we are a nation of many voices, the potential for collaboration, exploration, innovation, and creation are seemingly boundless. He reminded us that our creative capacity should not be taken for granted.

That last part resonated with me the most-our creative capacity should not be taken for granted. As a society, do we take creative potential for granted? Do I take it as a given? If so, where do we go? What do we do?

An interesting thought to mull over the weekend. What are your thoughts on this conjecture?

While you mull, listen to the meditative Quiet City by Copland. Merry Writings!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Wishcasting... What to Become

This week Jamie asked us, "What do you wish to become?" What a loaded question.

I had to laugh when I read Molly's post, because her initial reaction was word-for-word the same as mine: what don't I wish to become? When I was younger I could always imagine myself doing different things and going different places- a firefighter, a cake decorator, a concertizing musician, a dentist, an acrobat, an arctic explorer, a surgeon, a professor, an ethereal singer in a goth-metal band, a chemist, a yogi, and on ward. It should be no surprise that I was that student who had changed (officially) their major four times during their undergraduate studies. Although my heart led me to music, here I am- back in school to take myself and my craft in a new direction. It has never been in my nature to remain static.

Image courtesy Vert Images

My wish is to become a dynamic river of ingenuity, my mind evermore streaming with inquiry, exploration, and imagination. My wish is that I may always desire to forge my craft in new directions, and never be satisfied with being a stagnant creative bog.

What do you wish?

Merry Writings.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Felix Looks Good at 200

The light dusting of lake-effect snow that fell overnight did nothing to ward off another cold spell. I guess the groundhog meant business. The blustering winds helped to keep me either hunkered down in the practice studio or huddled up in a warm corner with a pile of books. After having difficulties focusing last week, I feel my attentions the past two days have become much less blurry, almost bordering on disciplined. Although I have not been feeling terribly creative or crafty, my bookworm senses have been tingling something fierce. It seems my creative juices have channeled into curiosity, inquiry, and exploration. Which may provide some reasoning for my inexplicable need to write the following brief "essay". I am well aware that my music nerd flag is flying high, but I just absolutely adore Mendelssohn.

Today marks the 200th birthday of Felix Mendelssohn, a truly remarkable composer, pianist, and conductor. Felix was a child prodigy performer and composer, and continued to be thoroughly prolific throughout his lifetime. His compositions include five symphonies, brilliant incidental music, oratorios, chamber music, violin concertos, choral works, and stunning works for piano. Compared to many of his 19th century musical contemporaries, Mendelssohn lived a fairly quiet and conventional life. Deeply distraught by the death of his beloved sister, Fanny, a prodigious musician as well, Felix's health declined. He died six months later at the age of 38.

With the rise of German antisemitism in the later half of the 19th century, Mendelssohn was posthumously assassinated by colleagues- most prominently by Richard Wagner in his pamphlet Das Judenthum in der Musik. The once popular and frequently performed works of Mendelssohn either all but disappeared from the concert repertoire or remained unpublished. It was not until recently that the works of Mendelssohn made a much deserved resurgence. For more on the unearthing of Mendelssohn, listen to this NPR story.

Kevin Kline is a saucy Bottom in Midsummer Nights Dream

Since Mendelssohn was such a diverse composer, I had a very difficult time picking a single excerpt that felt representative of his craft. So...I picked four. All of these beautiful, wonderfully crafted pieces have the power to make me feel like I can transcend time, and that I have been transported to another realm.

The Hebrides- Fingals Cave- a phenomenal trip through Scottish caves on the ocean coast
Violin Concerto, Movement I- performed by a 15 year-old Sarah Chang with the NY Philharmonic. Her green dress is worth the view.
A Midsummer Nights Dream, Overture- incidental music written by Mendelssohn in his teens.
Lieder ohne Worte- songs without words for the piano...simply lovely.

Thanks for reading my über music geek post!
Merry Writings!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Early Morning in Chicago Area

It was just before dawn when I set out this morning. Glittering snow flakes were slowly floating down from the cobalt colored sky and a sliver of peach hued sky was beginning to emerge along the horizon as I eagerly started my car down the highway. Armed with my book bag and a steaming mug of black coffee, I was off to Chicago.

Yesterday evening Ms. Fiore called with sensational news: "Your bass is ready." You can imagine that I was incredibly surprised by the news, especially since I was expecting to be without my bass until sometime in February. Ms. Fiore explained that as she was examining my bass she discovered the best of best possible scenarios- the split did not go all the way through the face. The weird weather ealier this winter caused the sound post to slip out of place, which created unbalanced stress on the face and started to force open the seam. In other good news, the crafty luthier who made my bass had already placed a few well placed, but discrete cleats for reinforcement. It was not necessary to remove the top of the bass to fix the split. Ms. Fiore was able to fix the bass with a superb adhesive, strategically placed clamps, and a refitted sound post. Magnificent! Not only did the repair take considerably less time than initially predicted, it cost several hundered dollars less. Doublely magnificent!

The bass is healthy again!

I was back on campus by 10:30, and was only 30 minutes late to class- not bad for morning rush hour in the Windy City. Yesterday I informed the professor why I may be running late for his class. Sensing my excitement he empathetically told me to "go get your baby. Do not rush to get back for class, and, for heavens sake, drive defensively- it's the morning rush hour. Who knows who has not had enough coffee before getting on the road." Seriously- I love this professor. I am tickled to be reunited with my bass, and had to resist the urge to miss the rest of class to get reaquainted.

Merry Writings!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Feeling Philosophical & alles Gute zum Geburtstag, Mozart!

Over the years I have dabbled in reading some philosophical documents, such as Nietzsche, the Tao Te Ching, or the writings of Siddhartha Guatama, either on my own or for course work. This past summer was brimming with the educational philosophy of Plato, Artistotle, Rosseau, Dewey, and Freire- to name a few. Although I am not much of philosopher (my philosophy club Muffin can out-rhetoric me in a matter of seconds), I could process the broad educational philosophical perspectives presented.

I have not written in the past few days because my nose has been buried in textbooks, particularly the text A Philosophy of Music Education by Bennett Reimer. The specifics presented in this text has my mind reeling with so many questions and thoughts that, quite honestly, my brain feels like pudding after a few pages. The purpose of the reading is to get the mind inquiring, processing, and exploring in preparation for writing my own philosophy of music education. Mission accomplished? I am not sure pudding is on the syllabus.

I must admit I am a bit leery of this philosophy statement. I have written many, many, many papers during my academic career, including one I hope to turn into a dissertation at some point. However, this one is not is personal. I must write a statement that indicates who I am, what I value, what I think about teaching, and how I will teach in a clear, organized and unified composition of approximately 1000 words. 1000 words!? That is only about 2 pages at single spacing! It feels like both an insufficient and an overwhelmingly large space to objectively state my feelings and thoughts about myself and my future profession. Also, this statement will reside in my professional development portfolio- a document for all future employers to see. No pressure. I have 2 weeks to mull over the subject, write, re-write, and re-write again. I know that once my brain regains a slightly more solid state I will be ready philosophize.

So, I must ask, what is your artistic philosophy? Who are you as an artist? What do you value? What does your art mean to you?

Also.... Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, Wolfie! Today is Mozart's 253rd Birthday, so crank up the tunes! I suggest listening to Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen from Die Zauberflote. Nothing says happy birthday like the mad rantings of the Queen of the Night. The performance is great, and the Queen's costume is fantastical!

Merry Writings!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Colony of Ants in My Pants


The past 24 hours has been filled with lectures and meetings, and I am just squirming with excess energy. Wednesday evening was the mandatory pre-student teaching meeting, which lasted 3 full hours. The meeting primarily consisted of reiterating requirements and deadlines to remember. Thrilling. Today consisted of another meeting and several lectures, and the last of the day was 2.5 hours long. As the lecture neared its end, my well of concentration was in danger of running dry and I was becoming super fidgety. Major case of ants in the pants! I have always struggled with sitting still for long stretches of time.
I think it will be in my best interest to go for a long run in the morning. A good energy-burning run will grant me a glimmering chance of staying focused during the 3 hour Marriage of Figaro rehearsal scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. Rehearsal time is precious, and I owe it to my wonderful colleagues to be in top form. I feel like I have enough energy to run to Chicago!

What do you do to help you focus- especially when you have oodles of excess energy?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Birthday Wishes

This past November the classical music and double reed community was shocked by the sudden death of Mark Weiger. He was a virtuoso oboist, talented pedagogue, professor, and all around a wonderful person. I had the pleasure of taking a few lessons with Mark, and the lessons were worth every minute of the 4 1/2 hour drive to Iowa City. From time to time Mark would drop an email into my box to see how I was doing oboewise and just in general. Mark was an inspiration, and I truly admired him as an artist.

Today would have been Mark's 50th birthday. Today I wish for peace and repose. I wish peace for Mark, for his family, for his colleagues, for his students, and for all who are well aware of his absence.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Weiger.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Stars and Strings

Today, America graduated. The inauguration of President Barack Obama is cause for excitement- not only for Americans, but for people across the globe. I was rather upset that I had to miss the live broadcast for class, and as the hand approached 11:00 a.m I stared at the clock with a heavy heart. Sigh... However, I was able to catch to whole event a few hours afterward on the web. Ah, the beauty of living in the technological age that we do. Allow me to step on my soap-box for just a few moments...

Needless to say, today was a milestone in American history. In 1961, the year Obama was born, interracial marriage was still illegal in 16 states. 48 years later, America is embracing its first African-American and multi-racial President. Speaking as a future educator, I believe President Obama will be a powerful source of inspiration for children across the country. President Obama is living proof that achievement is not just reserved for those born into privilege, but is accessible to those who dare to dream. He is a shining example of how determination, hard work, strong values, and an education are the tools for success.

The inaugural address gave me goosebumps, and my heart swelled with joy. I know President Obama and his team have immense and difficult tasks at hand. The problems facing our nation will not dissolve over night. However, I cannot help but be optimistic.

The light colored line is the creeping culprit.

Yesterday I made the trip to Obama's stomping grounds- the good old city of Chicago. I took my beloved bass to be mended by the incredibly skilled and talented Michelle Fiore of Classic Contrabass. Ms. Fiore is a well-regarded luthier and double bass specialist. The diagnosis for my bass was not great, but was better than I had anticipated. The good news: It is very likely the opening seam will not require total dismantling of my bass, only partial. Fingers crossed for partial. Full removal of the face is quite costly. Ugh... The bad news: The repair process is delicate and will require a bit of time to complete. I will be without my bass until mid February. Sigh... On the bright side, since my Muffin is also a bassist I can use his smaller bass while mine stays in Chicago.

In fun news...

Patty over at oboeinsight, has awarded me a Premios Dardo Award. Thank you, Patty!

The award comes with these instructions:
To accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person that has granted the award and his or her blog link.
Pass the award to at least 5 blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgment.

How exciting! Check out my nominees:
Her Speak
Chez Sacred Suzie
Starshyne Productions
Dreams With the Fishes
Words From a Bohemian Mom

Merry Writings!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Freezing for Figaro

The past few days have been bitterly cold in the Midwest. The high temperature reached -3 with winds gusting at a frigid -40 in my little spot of Wisconsin. Such severe cold can cause frostbite in mere minutes. It is too dangerous for children to wait for the bus or walk to school, so class has been canceled for the neighborhood children the past two days. The apartment across the hall is occupied by three adorable little girls, and it was rather refreshing to hear their laughter and singing as they played in the normally quiet hallways this afternoon.

A beautiful snapshot of the Thursday sunrise on Lake Michigan.
Photo by Tom Lynn.

The subzero temperatures, however, did not delay rehearsals for The Marriage of Figaro. It is not that I minded having to leave the house in such unpleasant weather- I have experienced enough winters to know how to bundle up. What worries me is transporting my oboe. Such awful weather can do, well, awful things to my beloved instrument. Taking any wooden instrument from a warm building into the cold air and back into a warm building stresses the body of the instrument. If proper precautions are not taken before playing the instrument, it will crack. Once a wood instrument cracks it will never sound or respond the same. Hence, the fretting.

I am rather pleased that temperatures are projected to reach the upper teens tomorrow. Heat wave!

How does the Mother Nature effect your craft?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wishcasting for Creativity

The lovely Jamie posted the following thoughtful Wishcasting prompt today: What do you wish for your creativity?

Lately I feel that I have put my creativity in the garden shed. I have been so concerned with standards, scoring rubrics, and parameters that I missed planting season, so my creative bulb remains dormant. My wish is rather simple:

Image from:

I wish to reacquaint myself the creative being I know I am, and to let her blossom.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Rare Day

Today was one of those rare and sacred days where I had absolutely no agenda. No where I must be, and nothing I had to do. Since today was my last official day of winter break, I savored every moment.

I have been nursing a serious case of the sniffles the past two days, so I did not set my alarm for this morning. I slept until nearly 10:00- *Gasp*! My body needed the rest, and I know I will not have the treat of sleeping in so late into the day for quite some time. Also, I decided I would stay in my jim-jams until it reached afternoon. I brewed a huge cup of echinacea tea, and settled in on the couch with my kitties and trusty laptop to watch cartoons and surf. The I took a very long, hot shower, making sure to take the time to soak in the steam.

My favorite feel good tea: I am not sure if it is the combination
of peppermint and star anise or the adorable koala bear.
Image courtesy: Celestial Seasonings

I spent the afternoon reveling in my craft. A large portion of the afternoon was spent practicing for the opera The Marriage of Figaro. While it sounds like something I had to do, honestly it was not. I was tickled to keep working on Mozart's deliciously silly comedic opera. Also, I spent time working on a beautiful selection from the Mass in B minor by J.S. Bach. A supremely talented mezzo-soprano at school asked me to accompany her on the piece, which features a mezzo voice and oboe. I was flattered that she asked, and of course I am thrilled to get the opportunity to work with her.

As any good oboist would do, I tinkered with my growing crop of reeds. I tied two more and spent a little time scraping on others. Nothing near playable yet, but I can feel a good batch at hand. Finally, I gave my oboe some love. The keys were polished, corks cleaned, the wood wiped down with soft linen, and the joints were lightly oiled. A very productive afternoon at a very leisurely pace.

A lavender candle and lotus blossom incense accompany a mellow evening.

When my Muffin returned home we made a very complicated gourmet dinner of grilled cheese with avocado sandwiches and creamy tomato soup. He has been battling the sniffles as well, so we brewed up some hot liquids and cozied up for the evening. After a bit of reading, I think I shall turn in for the night. What a splendid nothing kind of day!

What do (or don't) you do on your nothing days?
Merry writings.

Monday, January 12, 2009

January Dream Board

It was cloudy and lightly snowing in my little spot of the world when the moon was at its biggest and brightest for the year. I could not see her. However, last night the sky was clear and lit up with the almost full moon. It was breathtaking. The moon hung in a sapphire colored sky like a golden pearl. She shone so bright she was nearly casting shadows. Suddenly, I felt inspired to make my own Dream Board.

I spent time on Saturday looking at all of the wonderful Dream Boards shared at Starshyne Productions. I was fascinated with the honest intentions and captivating stories the behind each Dream Board. I know the full moon was a few days ago, but I would like to think it is not to late to share mine with you. This is my first Dream Board ever, and I know I must keep doing this.

My Dream Board focuses on renewal, balance, and knowledge. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I felt toxic as the end of the year approached. In this new year I wish to to be renewed and revitalized. This is the mint. Mint is fresh, eye-opening, and can be overwhelming. I dream to be overwhelmed with rejuvenation. The woman in Exhalted Warrior pose represents balance. Part of my toxicity was in partially due to allowing someone to effect me so deeply that I lost my center, my focus, and my balance. I dream to reclaim those. In several cultures the chickadee represents the search for truth and knowledge, and optimism. I am aware that I have much to learn in this life, and recently I have been deeply searching for some answers. I dream that my eyes, ears, and heart are open to truth and knowledge.

Merry Writings.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Fruits of My Frustration OR Rude Neighbors Are Good for Reed Making

I managed to muster up some post-PRAXIS motivation yesterday to do some much needed oboe reed maintenance. Initially I had planned on only shaping about a half dozen pieces of cane and tying 3 blanks while I did some laundry. My concentration was low, and I was looking forward to slipping into a cane-shaping trance. As I let some cane soak, I wandered down to the laundry room in my building. There is only one washer and dryer for the 8 units, so I am not surprised that someone else has laundry in the machines. It is a Saturday, afterall.

About a half an hour later, and well before I got myself too involved in reed making, I found my way down to the laundry room. The washer was open. Sweet! I throw in a load and head up stairs to get to work. Once I am done shaping my 6 pieces of cane I decided to pop into the laundry room and see if the dryer is vacant. Nope. Well, not big deal- the clothes in the dryer are still warm. I tell myself, I will just keep working on reeds until my laundry gets dried. Nearly 3 hours later, 9 pieces of cane, and 8 tied-initial scrape-tip started reeds later, my neighbor has yet to claim their clothes. Now I am feeling less than congenial. Usually I will not take someone's laundry out of the machines and put mine in, but I felt I had waited long enough and did just that.

While my laundry was finally drying, I went back to my reed maintenance. As I was sharpening my reed knives and re-organizing my tool box, I could not help but worry about the laundry. I begin to wonder... Will my neighbor be really upset, or will she realize she left her things in a shared space a bit too long? Would she do something to my laundry? Oh, don't do anything to my green sweater- I love it! No, she won't be upset. I reassure myself, I doubt she'll even come down to get her laundry before mine is done. Sure enough, she did not retrieve her clean laundry. I quickly stuffed in back in the dryer and scooted back to my unit. How ridiculous of me.

My *Helper*: Carmen waits for me to turn my back
so she can steal a spool of thread

On the bright side, my determination to keep working on reeds until my laundry was dry was a rather fruitful decision. At the end of this little adventure I have 8 reeds in progress. Look how much happier my reed case looks! Actually, I am feeling motivated to do even more reeds today. Perhaps I will have an almost full case before the semester start. Woo!

What is your next project?