Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Yay! I just got called to play Amahl and the Night Visitors at the college, and they are paying me!! This is the college that I had been playing EH for the concerts (one rehearsal) for free for several years, and this fall I finally got the guts to tell the conductor I really needed to be paid (he pays other ringers). I was afraid that would be the end of our beautiful relationship. And this is actually the chorus, hiring a bunch of musicians, but still a good sign. The mysterious G (who teaches oboe there) recommended me - thanks G!

I am really excited because I have heard there is a wonderful oboe part for this piece, which I have never heard. Must go find a recording.

In bell news, the church is going to the new 2 service format this week (groan). The more traditional service will be earlier (double groan) and I have been informed that the bells will not be needed at the 2nd service. Ever. Ok then. I'm kind of saddened and annoyed by that, but I will look on the bright side of less time spent there (actually the same time as before, I feel sorry for the people who are doing twice the work for no extra pay!) And I am so relieved, I found a sub who is a professional percussionist (and thus can come in and read the part) - she has played with us before but had a baby and got too busy. I feel like a giant weight is off me. Now if I would only make a bunch of reeds!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Long time no post

Wow, it has been a busy time! Last week orchestra was pretty emotional for some, due to the "relieving" of position. It was for the best. But still sad - and no one was filling the seat, although I understand someone is coming in a few weeks. There is speculation that we may be paying the new person, which is currently not usually done for the second chairs (sadly, they are working on it). Of course this adds to the resentment, but it is just a rumor.

The other great thing was DD talked to a key low brass player who was really not cutting it, and he offered to step down. Classy. It was really time, we had to rewrite the part for the last concert because he just couldn't play it (Enigma Variations). The new guy is great - and I hope the "old" guy will still play elsewhere, he is a really nice person. This is such hard stuff.

We have got contracts, but the volunteer ones are pretty loose (section players). And of course if someone is consistently not playing the part that is grounds for dismissal (after various alerts and warnings). So I think it is good - I guess if I was just not cutting it I would want someone to be straight with me before everyone in the orchestra was groaning inside every time I played.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Last night we did something new - a couple of the pit musicians from Traviata obtained a recording of our performance and we all got together and watched it (with food and merriment of course). It actually sounded pretty great! My one big solo was not embarrassing! Yay. Other than that one place you really couldn't hear me at all. We as a group could have even been louder in places - but overall I thought it was really good.

We did make fun of the staging which was really horrid (the chorus just stood around). Also the director had this weird idea about having Violetta be dreaming in the first act - so she wore a voluminous nightgown (with makeup and jewelry) and was barefoot for the party scene. I mentioned this before but I just couldn't believe it when I saw it! And instead of having her be in a dream for the whole thing, she suddenly ISN'T dreaming in act II. So if you follow the story, she dreams about meeting Alfredo, and then she lives with him. Weird. Also, it was pointed out that if you are dreaming of a party, you would probably be dressed for the party...I just thought it was distracting and not useful for forwarding the plot. The singer was great, though, jammies or not!

About 1/2 of the players came, which I thought was excellent with so many HS band directors in the mix (HS football being on Friday nights and all). I was the only wind player, M was going to come (clarinet) but she forgot! Silly girl. We talked afterward about various things, the main complaint being timely release after rehearsal. Lots of people are annoyed when he keeps us past the official time. But it was very fun and I got to know some of the string players better.

Friday, October 17, 2008

blah blah blah

So nice to not have rehearsal last night! The orchestra is trying a new thing - strings only on the first rehearsal. I think it will be great (and of course this saves them $$) I worked on a cd cover instead. For actual pay and everything.

Wed I had my bells, and the one lady who mysteriously came in and played last week didn't show. Oh well. I still had 8, which is enough (oddly). So we read through a couple pieces and everyone seemed to like them, still have to decide what to play when. And Xmas eve has to be magical! Hmmm. I was hoping to have 4 non-choir members to play WITH the vocal choir on a piece Nov 2, but 3 works if I play too. It actually went really well and kind of bonded those ladies. Fortunately it isn't a hard piece. I really hope I can play that day, but if not I'll drag in a sub. Maybe H will come play! Hahahaha - that would be great.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


I coached the youth orchestra winds last night! I haven't done that for a long time (since 1990) and it was fun. This was a really different experience - there was a younger orchestra and the more experienced group - I teach (or will be teaching) all the oboes. I must say they were kinda the weak link! Not their faults - the oboe is 8th grader playing principal had just pulled out a new reed and it was her ONLY reed and it was AWFUL. I mean gross. So I gave her one of my reeds because I was just going to kill me, I didn't have time to adjust it or anything but it was way better.

The clarinets sounded much improved after I got them to put air through the horn (in both groups) and there was a saxophone-switcher playing bassoon, she'd had it a couple of weeks but she was pretty good. They also put the piano with me - I'm sure they just wanted to have him with some group - but he is this 9-year-old genius playing the Grieg concerto - amazing. I heard the winds warming up and told his mom they could just go find a practice room because this would be stupid for him to be with us. She agreed.

In the more experienced group I had all girls so there was a big giggle factor. Also we were in the teacher's lounge which was HOT. And I had no music for this group - although it was stuff I had played before. The oboe (only one) had been trying to schedule a lesson but we can't meet for a couple more weeks, and her reed was dead dead dead. It was so old she wouldn't tell me and again, it was her only one. (I of the 43 reeds that I carry around do NOT understand) They were playing Sparticus which has the huge oboe solo. I think she'll be fine once she gets a vibrating reed, but you couldn't even here her with just the wws. Although her rhythms were pretty good. Glarinets were giggly and principal had forgotten her music, so there were 3 of them reading the second part. Whatever. One good flute and one crazy loud girl who is extremely enthusiastic. I wondered if she was on something. Probably not, just big personality.

Fighting for position

We got our programs the other night (dress rehearsal) - for our symphony we get one program for the year and use inserts for any changes. The problem (aside from the whole awful design which annoys my ex-graphic-designer brain) was the personnel page. For many of the players this is all the recognition they get, no pay, no bios, just their name on a list. I don't have a problem with alphabetical listing, but they didn't do that except for the strings (also no problem with that). But in the winds, they had one section (not the oboes) with 5 players listed. First was the sitting principal. Second was some person who joined the group this year and was playing violin (although she plays the ww inst). Third was our sitting second, who had just gotten married and will be moving to New Zealand. Fourth was a student who sits in for rehearsals but doesn't play the concerts (this is normal for our group to have a couple of these students), and fifth was our sitting third/aux player, who also plays piano for us (but ww instrument is her major instrument).

So! This is a horrible problem, because violin-girl just graduated from mid-west-college-I'd-never-heard-of in WW Instrument. She is quite good. Could give principal a run for her money although that is not in question. Since 2nd is leaving, DD apparently asked violin-girl to sub for the rest of the year. This seemed a bit weird to me since we have an excellent 3rd player, but of course he wants her to play piano (usually crap parts on jazzy arrangements - which she HATES, and she can't do improv). So 3rd player feels terrible because she is listed dead last, after several people not even officially in the group, AND they didn't ask her to sub (which would be normal in this group unless she was awful). I understand there will be an audition in June but that is a long time from now. Violin-girl probably would take the audition if it is just her and 3rd player, but there are several other better players in the area, who could take the chair if they auditioned.

Anyway, it just makes me sad to see these people pour their hearts into playing, for no pay-back, and then get treated shabbily. I hate that.


Well the rude guy has been relieved of his chair in the orchestra. It is the appropriate thing to do (I think) but kind of sad. His wife (the principal) called me and talked for a long time about how he *used* to be - he has Parkinson's and she says it is so hard to just watch him deteriorate. I guess he hung up on DD when he got the news, but his wife said he cried after that. I really hope I know before my "time" comes in the orchestra - so many people play past their sell-by date. Just so depressing all around.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

One down

Well, after that crazy rehearsal the concert was completely least as far as dramatic interplay goes. The Elgar went really well, although the strings misfired on Dorabella, the one where I have the solo-y 16ths on beat 2 every measure -- I just went with DD and it worked itself out, but slightly terrifying. One of the fast mvts I had solo 16s for a bar that didn't all speak, but I think it was not too noticeable.

Artunian was a bit slower than I think the soloist would have liked, at least the first time we play the theme. The WORST part was the very first note there is a big low chord in the orchestra and the annoying 2nd player from yesterday hit a big old minor 2nd off - ouch! And hugely loud too, although everyone else was playing loud as well. He resolved it after a beat or so, but it made the beginning unsettling. Oh well, my husband said he didn't even notice.

The Beethoven was pretty good although I wish it had been just a little more polished. The strings really did an excellent job on the whole concert. It is exciting to think that a couple years ago the couldn't have played this stuff. At least not sounding good. My big solo in the 3rd mvt was great although the whole first time through (it repeats) the tempo was slow, DDs fault there. He took it faster the second time around which was kinda fun. Overall it was pretty good, although J said he thought I wasn't loud enough. You just can't win playing the oboe - either sticking out like a piercing nasal thumb, or too soft. I'll have to listen to the CD.

Now for some bell action! Yay - early service means I'm there at 8am. Hopefully it will go ok - I have two brand new ringers (thank Gd) who've never played in the sanctuary before. I am not pleased that the youth group has basically taken away our "dress" rehearsals, but I'm not going to win that battle with H (x-music minister) gone. I'm so sad. This will be our first service playing bells without her. I've heard there is simply no money to hire a new person, so I guess they just absorbed her salary. I'm guessing they would like mine too, but it is so tiny it won't make much of a difference. But it would make some - after Christmas I will rethink my position there.

Friday, October 10, 2008


This was the most bizarre rehearsal - I guess the music was all ok - things are coming together as they should. But drama! OMG one of the second players (who feels he should be playing first) had a complete cow (including swearing and yelling, with our guest artist on stage - nice touch). The principle usually never says anything to him because he is volatile, but tonight she asked him to put more space after some notes, in a place where the conductor has repeatedly asked them to put space, but the second player is hard of hearing and inattentive, so he never got that direction. Anyway, he yelled at the principle, and she tried to defuse the situation, but after he escalated she said "THIS is why I never make any comments to you, or offer feedback! Because of this!" She actually left the stage (which I don't blame her for at all) and he just kept loudly proclaiming his innocence, and how he should just quit because he obviously was ALWAYS wrong, blah blah blah. This went on for a good 3-4 minutes. While DD is still trying to talk to the strings. This is so terrible - and I'm afraid no one is going to talk to him still.

One of the issues is that he is married to one of the principles, and she obviously takes his side. I think people are worried to make waves, because they don't want her to quit - but actually for the health of the orchestra it might be better if they both left! I hope he can come to terms with this and accept that he is playing second in this group, and if the principle has some comments he should do his best to work with her. He is an older guy and I think the younger woman over him is hard, and I think he used to be a much better player than he is now, not that he is bad now, but you can tell he thinks he is better than he is. I really hope DD points out that this is unacceptable behavior, the longer this goes on - people see this and think it is ok. Kind of like dealing with children. SOMEbody has to have the guts to do something!

Should be an interesting concert!


Tonight is dress rehearsal for the Beethoven. I feel like it is not getting the time it deserves in rehearsal - of course we had the soloist come in for the Artunian last night so that needed a bit of extra time. He sounds great, would be nice if we don't screw up the accompaniment!

And the Elgar (Enigma Variations) is ok, some of the transitions are rough since we usually stop and start each mvt but last night he tried to go straight through. I couldn't believe how many people didn't know what meter things were in (like the 6/8 was in 6, not in 2 which a bunch of people did) so frustrating. Hopefully they wrote it down since the concert is TOMORROW! grrr. Also lots of missed entrances - I think people will settle down tonight but it is worrying. I missed some stuff too, but not much...there is one big solo in the Elga (Dorabella) and it has this 4 16th note passage over and over again, always on beat 2. (rest, da,da,da,da, rest,/,rest, da,da,da,da, rest/ etc) Somehow in the MIDDLE of a million of these, I played on the and of 1. So bizarre. But I got right back on. I hate when I loose concentration like that, I feel like I should be an example since I'm one of the principles and all. What a dork.

But the Beethoven (6, Pastorale) we have only played once! And there is a lot of stuff for the strings - the winds have a few place where we just need to get the ensemble down, no technical things. But you can't *really* practice ensemble unless you play the piece! I do wish more people would get familiar with the music - they give us practice cds and of course there are a million recordings out there. At least most of the principles do, and it is hard to ask as much from the section players (especially since they don't get paid). Hopefully that will change, but unless they actually market this orchestra I doubt it will happen soon. I can't believe we aren't even on the NPR list of events (which is FREE, and goes directly to an audience that likes classical music - doh!)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Monday again??!!

How did it get to be Monday again? I am shocked I tell you. This means I have to teach my recorder students again. I decided (being such an expert) that the books they were using last year sucked (which they did) and I could do much better just teaching them the notes and giving them music I wrote out. So far is has worked out pretty well, but not having a book does make it harder for me! I ordered 4 books from Amazon this week, hopefully they will be here by *next* Monday. They are just songbooks, no real instruction. Which I think will be fine.

I also got this great theory teaching book, which you buy the rights to copy as much as you want. My friend uses it for his band program, and I thought I could use it for my private students as well as the recorder class. It is kind of amazing that my little 3rd graders know as much as some of my HS students.

Didn't touch the oboe this weekend. Didn't make reeds. Did listen to Vivaldi Gloria - not the normal one in D - there is another one I'm doing in November. Sounds straightforward- two oboes and trumpet plus strings (and choir of course). I have several duet-y mvts and one obbligato, short and sweet. Other than that we finished some things in the laundry room - starting to look like pretty nice in there.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Beethoven and stuff

We had a great rehearsal last night - not that it is ready to go or anything - but hey, we have a week! So the Artunian will be fine but I need to look at a few spots (this is a recurring theme) - Elgar is actually better than I thought, the only part I really need to deal with are the trilly things. It actually sounded ok but I'd like it to be smoother. And the Beethoven (6). Wow. We really haven't spent any time with that - I'm kinda terrified. There are many in this group (including myself) who haven't played it before, although I did a cut down version earlier this year for 14 children's concerts. So those parts I know really well!

In other news, my glasses were great! Only a couple of weird warpiness, but I think I'm adjusting really quickly. Also I need to catch up on my music bookkeeping - I write all my mileage for gigs and expenses and pay down, but I haven't done this for a couple months. Nightmare compounding daily...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

new glasses

I debated about where to post this, but since it does affect my musical sensibilities (whatever that means) I'll put it here! Yesterday my bifocals FINALLY came, my poor scratched up lenses from before were happily tossed in the bottom of my oboe bag. I think I will get new lenses for those frames but I wanted to adjust to these first. They are "progressive" lenses - so there are no lines where the bifocal part begins. And so far they are great! Only a few weird things, the bell tables looked like someone had their arm underneath moving when I turned my head the right way, gave me a start! And tonight will be my first orchestra experience with them, I don't expect any problems but who knows. It is so frustrating to have my body actually failing, and it is just "part of getting older". I suppose the alternative is worse, but getting older sucks.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Oboeinsight has tagged me - which means I have to blog about six things about me, personally, that my readers might not know. Then, ‘tag’ six other twitter/blogger friends and make them ‘it’. Hmmm.

1. I am secretly thrilled to be tagged. I love to be one of the chosen - must have been from all those horrifying PE experiences where the captains are choosing team and the numbers get smaller and smaller as the smug chosen watch the uncomfortable few, who are trying valiantly to look cool and like we don't care that no one wants us on their team, and the coach is impatient because by that time all the actual "players who count" have been picked, and they just want to get the game going.

2. After being thrilled, I am overcome with dread, thinking "what the heck can I write about, and who wants to know anything about me?? And why do I have a blog anyway?" Must be all that insecurity nurtured from years of playing the oboe - one of the most self-esteem-boosting instruments around (NOT)

3. I actually wanted to play the french horn. Possibly even more treacherous than the oboe, but what a sound. I am in awe of great horn players.

4. I was married before, for a year when I was 26. Mr Mistake was kind of a jerk, one thing he said to me was "You can't be a real musician, real musicians are always self-confident. I know because I watched a tv biography on Pavarotti." What a dork.

5. I paid my way through college (mostly) driving a combine. A green pea combine, althought they were red colored, here is one but that is not me (or anyone I know). This was not a difficult job, although there were several times I got really close to God because I was afraid the huge machine was going to topple down a steep hill (with me on it). The best thing (besides the money) was that we got great tans - I suppose I will be regretting that someday...

6. There is actually a fake name on my HS diploma. When we moved to a new town my sophomore year, I decided my name was the reason I was not cool - Jill is so short and boring; surely I could do better (sorry mom!) Anyway, I just wrote the fabulous new name on all the "class cards" (these were the days before computers) and everyone thought I was Gillian. Not a huge departure, but it made all the difference to me - I had an instant cool nickname (was I ever this silly?) Gilligan, who for the younger crowd was actually a slow shipwrecked skipper on a sitcom played by Bob Denver - I was delighted. *sigh*

Now for the tagging bit, this is terrible. I don't think I even know 6 bloggers (besides the people Patty tagged, and it hardly seems fair to tag them again) So -
1. Claire? A lovely oboe college student from back East who has just survived a horrible car crash
2. Jenn, a superstar violist from Idaho

3. Ren and Moy from Obohemia (oboe comics - awesome)

4. Bret Pimentel - the wonderful guy who has compiled a list of all the ww doubles in every show imaginable

5. Jessica a cellist

6. and Suzanne, a flutist