Friday, November 2, 2012

Yes, I am still alive.

It's been quite a while (okay, nearly a year)since I've posted anything on here, so I'll take this opportunity to catch up on the last several months of my life. A few main points...
- I've started grad school, the process leading up to which being the main cause of my vanishing. I auditioned at 3 schools in February, was accepted at 2 of them. I got some financial aid from one, but basically a full ride in the form of an assistantship from the other, so I find myself here at Western Illinois University. More on that later.

- All the way back in May, I got to quit the job(s) that I hated in Lancaster, moved home for a few months, and worked at my old summer job. It wasn't too bad, I'd missed the people there and it did afford me a reasonable amount of time to prepare for my history and theory grad school entrance exams.

- In July, my fiancé and I moved to Macomb, Illinois, home of Western Illinois University and not a whole lot else. I'm not a fan of the town, but the school is quite good.

-In early August, I attended ClarinetFest in Lincoln, NE, which was absolutely incredible. Music students/musicians/performers/everyone, join your field's professional organization and go to their conferences. You will not be disappointed. Little is more inspiring than a massive group of people who love what you love, and also aspire to do it well. Also, the opportunities for networking are limitless.

-Mid/late August, I started my grad assistantship, which consists mostly of working for/with the marching band. It's been quite an experience so far, great in some ways, less than desirable in others, but ultimately, it's the reason I can study what I want to study, and I'm okay with that.
-Classes started. This semester, I have a graduate research class (which is my favorite, but more on that later), clarinet lessons, and an ed psych class, and I'm playing in wind ensemble and concert band. Steve and I are also singing Messiah with a local choral group and helping the local church choir.  It's busy, but enjoyable.

- I had originally intended to finally (finally!) complete a music ed. certification while I was here, since the school is paying for it, after all, but after enrolling in (and ultimately withdrawing from) another intro to music ed class and realizing that a) I refuse to stay here an extra year, b) I refuse to take out loans to student teach and c) An Illinois certification is useless anywhere else, I've finally accepted that I don't think elementary or secondary ed are my calling. I do finally have a clarinet student, which is fun, so I'm hoping to eventually teach a bit more.

-Since I apparently cannot be content with having free time, I've decided to pursue both performance and musicology. As I mentioned, my research class has been my favorite so far; I've gotten the opportunity to write quite a bit and it's gone well. I also have an advisor who thus far as been very supportive, and generally encouraging of the idea of doing both. (Having similar interests in early twentieth century/inter-war music doesn't hurt, either.) I really like performance, my clarinet teacher here is awesome, but I think I'm better at musicology, so I hope to let them supplement each other as I foray into academia.

I could certainly write much more, but I'll spare you for now. I've had quite a few ideas for posts in the time I was absent, hopefully some of them will come to fruition soon!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Happy birthday, PH!

Showing my face here after an extended absence to wish one of my favorite composers, Paul Hindemith, a happy birthday! His quotation inspired the title of this blog. So, as a tribute, Happy Birthday, arranged by Igor Stravinsky, a contemporary of Mr. Hindemith.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Power of Words and Music to Reduce Perfectly Rational People to Emotional Messes (A.k.a., How Choir Made Me Cry)

Music can affect us at times and in ways we never expect. Warning: the following is purely emotional and neither scholarly nor academic :)

The music we sang in Cantilena, my alma mater's women's choir, absolutely killed me tonight. So emotional. First, we started learning "Life Has Loveliness to Sell", a setting by Paul Carey of the text of "Barter", by Sara Teasdale. It's about loving little moments of life, and littlest things making the rest worthwhile.  Especially the last two stanzas of it: "Spend all you have for loveliness"'s so relatable, because it's what I'm doing right now; sure, I'm dirt-broke, but I'm taking in every good moment I have here. I stayed where I wanted to be, and though it's rough a lot of the time, it's absolutely beautiful at others. Also, the setting of the text is extremely modal, which just adds to its power.

Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children's faces looking up
Holding wonder like a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit's still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.

I felt a little silly getting teary-eyed; it was a completely personal thing that connected me emotionally to the text. We moved on "Wanting Memories", by Ysaye M. Barnwell, and our choir director said "It's okay to cry", to be emotionally invested in the piece. It was all over from there; getting the words out through the tears just wasn't happening. It's about loss, wishing someone you lost was still there to comfort and lead you, but realizing that what they told you while they were there is enough. I do relate to it, since in the last year I've lost my maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother, the two grandparents who were the most influential in my upbringing. So, lines like "You said you'd rock me in the cradle of your arms. You said you'd hold me ‘til the storms of life were gone." and the rest, are something that gets to me. Even worse, "Since you've gone and left me, there's been so little beauty" and the rest of that section, kills me because it's how my grandfather has felt about my grandmother's passing. It's been almost 9 months now, and he's still completely lost without her. Songs like this, I just want to play for him, to let him know that everything will be alright.

I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
to see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
To see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.

You said you'd rock me in the cradle of your arms.
You said you'd hold me ‘til the storms of life were gone.
You said you'd comfort me in times like these and now I need you.
Now I need you...
And you are -

So, I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
to see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
Since you've gone and left me, there's been so little beauty,
but I know I saw it clearly through your eyes.
Now the world outside is such a cold and bitter place.
Here inside I have few things that will console.
And when I try to hear your voice above the storms of life,
then I remember all the things that I was told.

Well, I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
to see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
Yes, I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
To see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
I think on the things that made me feel so wonderful when I was young.
I think on the things that made me laugh , made me dance, made me sing.
I think on the things that made me grow into a being full of pride.
I think on these things, for they are true.

I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
to see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
I thought that you were gone, but now I know you're with me.
You are the voice that whispers all I need to hear.
I know a "Please", a "Thank you", and a smile will take me far.
I know that I am you and you are me, and we are one.
I know that who I am is numbered in each grain of sand.
I know that I am blessed,
again, and again, and again, and again,
and, again.

I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
to see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
To see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.

Going back to the first text, opportunities to experience music like this are the reason I "spent all I have for loveliness"; bought it and never counted the cost. For most of the summer I was questioning my decision to stay in my college town, but I'm starting to be convinced it was the right choice. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A quick update and a question.

The quick update part:
- I am still alive. I am still writing; unfortunately, I seem to be amassing a small graveyard of blog drafts.
-I've acquired a different job, one that isn't physically abusive.
-I've been doing exercises for my arms/shoulders for a month now, and have experienced significant improvement. Neither I nor my doctor remembered that I had a history of shoulder weakness related to scoliosis, but when my chiropractor suggested the exercises, it reminded me, and my problems began to make sense. I had been extremely inactive prior to starting my old job, and the weakness just put even more strain on my hands/wrists. Overall, I'm feeling significantly better now and not nearly as worried about long term damage.

The question part:
I'm currently planning a recital for this fall. I'm extremely excited, I love the repertoire, and I can't wait to get some solid recordings for grad school applications and online self-promotion. However, it's going to be rather expensive. Hiring a collaborative pianist, renting the space, and getting someone to record the whole thing are my main expenses. The question: have any of you had an experience getting sponsorships for personal recitals? I'm considering asking my current employer, as they seem to care at least a bit about the arts, if they would help me out in exchange for advertising space in the program/at the event. Basically, I'm curious about anyone's experiencing soliciting funding for their musical event from local businesses, successful or not.

Any replies, advice, thoughts, and general feedback is greatly appreciated, either via comment or email- Thanks!

Does anyone have any experience using Kickstarter for a project like this? I was just thinking about it, and offering program advertising(not unlike musicals, orchestra concerts, etc.) as part of Kickstarter rewards seems really convenient, in addition to the usual performance CDs/DVDs and whatnot. Even something like your name/a shoutout in the program for the smallest possible donation seems like it could work. Looking at it this way: I have 500+ twitter followers. If half of them pitched in $1, I'd be well on my way to defraying my performance costs.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Best Pieces I'll (Probably) Never Play

I'm sure most musicians have at least one...a piece they could listen to on repeat for hours, that excites them about music, that they walk around singing and conducting...but it's for an instrument or ensemble completely outside their idiom. I have three such works- I'd love to play them, but can't figure out how to or don't want to make them work for clarinet for one reason or another.
1. String Quartet in F major, Maurice Ravel
The version on my ipod: Performed by the Dante Quartet
I love this piece. Especially the second movement, arguably the most famous part of it. Ravel's only string quartet is one of the only works that I'm fairly certain I will never play. Mostly, because I simply don't play strings. But also because I feel like arranging a string quartet for winds would destroy its character. The pizzicato of the second movement is what really brings it to life and I simply think it would be hard to do justice to the pizz./arco contrast. The closest I came to playing this piece was reading through a piano transcription of it, but even that didn't feel right.

2. Concierto de Aranjuez, Joaquin Rodrigo
The version on my ipod: Performed by Carlos Bonell and L'Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal conducted by Charles Dutoit (though I really want versions by John Williams and Angel Romero)
There is a glimmer of hope for the next two pieces, as I hope to someday play them as an orchestra member. I don't think I could even try to arrange this for clarinet; guitar is about as foreign as instruments get for me. To me, this piece feels like it should accompany a screen play. The story that plays in my mind as I listen to it is of two young lovers, meeting in some exotic place in Europe, but torn apart when one of them travels to America to be a musician or something equally lofty and romantic. It made me smile when I found out it was about Rodrigo and his wife's honeymoon, and the gardens of Aranjuez in Spain. With a little more research, I found that an arrangement of what seems to be the second movement for clarinet, described somewhat pretentiously here.

3. Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Sergei Rachmaninoff
The version on my ipod: Performed by Vladimir Ashkenazy and the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andre Previn
Ideas for arranging this for clarinet/piano have been rattling around in my head for a while. The other night I finally found the two-piano version and I think it made my brain explode. I knew there were a lot of notes in it, but at this point in time, I don't think I could arrange it without losing too many of them, or relegating them to the poor piano 2 part, who is already playing a Rachmaninoff orchestra reduction. Last night I was discussing other sets of Paganini variations with folks on twitter, trying to figure out of any would be more accessible. This piece for 2 pianos by Witold Lutoslawski and this piece for solo piano by Robert Muczynski were mentioned. I do love the Paganini theme, but I've always been drawn to Rachmaninoff's setting of it.

So, these are my big three...the pieces that I'd kill to play. Do you have one?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Playing Hurt

I've done it before...more than I should admit, really. After three years of drum corps, you tend to develop a tolerance to pain/discomfort that's unhealthy. I can't tell you how many times I heard people being asked, "Are you hurt, or hurting?" if they tried to sit out. No one ever asked me that. I never missed a rep in 3 summers. If you're not familiar with drum corps, think marching band but with all the athleticism of any sport. I ran more when I marched with Jersey Surf than I did when I played field hockey in high school. Check it out on

Naturally, my experience there has carried over to practicing in general- you think, "I just have to push through a few more minutes..." Then a few more minutes pass, and soon you've pushed yourself too far. I nearly did this tonight; I was playing a right hand study from the Opperman daily studies and my right wrist kept popping weirdly, and I thought, "Just a little more..." I had to make myself stop and go home. No point in practicing technique when it's just going to hurt me.

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm currently working the kind of manual labor job that I've always dreaded. Being a pianist/clarinetist my entire life, it's not like my wrists had never hurt, but starting a few weeks ago, my left hand started feeling asleep and both wrists have had a dull pain that doesn't really go away. I've always been terrified of carpal tunnel, but now it seems to be a legitimate threat. I'm going to the doctor to get it checked out tomorrow, but even if she says it's likely carpal tunnel, I have no choice but to carry on at my job. In the mean time, I've purchased this book, at the suggestion of a fellow blogger/musician on Twitter.

As far as treatment, I had been using heat to try to relax my wrists, but with limited success. Tonight, I finally iced them and it actually seems to be helping. Also, I'm planning on restructuring my days- my daily ritual has been work 9:30-6, make dinner, go practice. I'm going to start waking up at 7 to practice in the morning, then my body can have all evening to recover. We'll see how all this works, and what my doctor has to say tomorrow.

Monday, May 2, 2011

I'm still here...

It's been 2 months since I've posted life has gone in many directions since then. I'll attempt to sum it up:
- I started visiting grad schools. University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University, University of Illinois, and Western Illinois University. Definitely applying at both Illinois schools, probably looking further into the Pitt schools. I also plan to check out Rutgers and SUNY Purchase.
- I attended literally at least a dozen amazing concerts in at least 3 different states. Lancaster Symphony Orchestra, some recitals (both student and faculty), some chamber music, Eric Whitacre's Paradise Lost in Chicago, Akademie für Alte Musik in Champaign, concert version of The Magic Flute at the Meyerhoff with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Felix Hell in York, PA, and I'm sure there are a few I'm forgetting.
-I played a musical. Godspell. First show for which I've played piano; that was a new and interesting experience. It was horrific at first since the pit only rehearsed once before tech week, but by the end of the run, it was an absolutely awesome experience.
-I accompanied a recital. Well, half of one. Repertoire included Reynaldo Hahn's L'Heure Exquise, Robert Schumann's Dichterliebe (I-VII), Schumann's Widmung, and a few musical theatre things. It generally went really well, I was really excited and incredibly relieved when it was over.
- I got a job. Mind you, a job and absolutely not a career. It's basically appalling...hotel housekeeping. Coworkers are uneducated and uncultured, but I do attempt to share classical music with them. I listen when I can and always study scores at lunch. We'll see how long I survive. The thing is, I got this job on a whim and it suddenly enabled me to stay in Lancaster until grad school. Essentially, I will probably struggle with life and finances a little, but will hopefully be a happier and more productive musician in Lancaster. I know at home I would be miserable and unable to practice, so I'm praying that I can remedy that here.
-I signed a lease for a new apartment which is going to be less than amazing, quite frankly. My room will be tiny and amenities will be scarce, but it'll be cheaper. It's basically what I'd call a college dive. Oh well.

So in conclusion...
I'm preparing to enter the year of the starving artist/hipster. Prepare yourselves.