Dear God, NO!

Really, if you haven’t seen this, you’re in for a terrible treat. Get a drink. I don’t give a damn if it’s 10 am, you really don’t want to see this sober. I cried. Seriously, politics aside, she’s terrible. As a flutist and flute teacher, sweet Jesus, she’s terrible. Breath support non-existant. No technique. Easiest piece ever. Wanna impress me? Get the fingers moving. Oh.My.God. Get a drink. Trust me.

Bach later…Offenbach sooner…

I love playing Mahlerfest. However, rehearsals take up a significant amount of time. Every night this week (save tomorrow), plus two performances this weekend. So fun time during the day is spent doing stuff that I can’t do at night.

In the meantime, here’s what I wrote last year when I was in the orchestra:

Concert

15 01 2007

The musicians file into the concert hall, one and two at a time. There’s a sense of anticipation, of excitement in the air. There’s going to be magic here this afternoon. As the audience takes their seats, music fills the hall, sounds of musicians warming up. No point in warming up downstairs in the Green Room: “Please warm up quietly. You can be heard by the audience.” So the orchestra warms up in the hall, getting accustomed to the acoustics, to the warmth (or lack thereof, due to sub-zero temperatures outside).There’s a sense of camaraderie on stage. The musicians tell jokes with other musicians (didja hear the one about…). Warm air is blown through instruments, cigarette paper is made quickly available for sticky pads, cough drops are unwrapped and slipped into pockets for the unthinkable coughing attack.

The foyer lights dim and brighten, dim and brighten, alerting the audience that the concert is about to begin. The orchestra quiets. Applause for the concertmistress. A tuning “A”. Another. And another. The hall lights dim, the stage lights brighten.The conductor enters the stage. Rise to acknowledge the applause. Sit.

Silence.

The music begins. A story is told. The lighthearted camaraderie is gone now, replaced by a single-minded focus. A multi-minded focus, as the single musicians become one, an orchestra. Every musician is now an island, unable, unwilling to converse with anyone else save by sound. A musical conversation, passed amongst the musicians, overheard by the audience.

Perfection. Anything less is failure.

Vocal soloists sing in German, understood in the international language of music. Beauty. Timeless.

The music ends. No one moves, frozen in the perfection of the moment. Movement will mar the perfection. Do not breathe. Do not think. Sit. Feel. Know the power of music.

The conductor lowers his arms. Breathe. Applause. Waves of applause. The audience rises to its feet in appreciation. Acknowledge the soloists. Acknowledge the principal musicians. Rise to acknowledge the audience. Again. Again. Cheers for the beauty and power of Mahler’s music.

The applause wanes. The house lights come up, the stage lights lower. The easygoing camaradie of the musicians returns (wasn’t that beautiful? are you going to the reception? bottle of wine and two straws…). The musicians clean out their instruments, loosen their bows, pack up their equipment and head out into the frigid evening.

Mmmm…I feel wefweshed!

Hellooo dahlinks, did you miss me? It’s good to be back. First and foremost, a very Happy New Year to the general bloggy world. I whizzed through many blogs today and it looks like we all survived the holidays relatively unscathed. This was the most relaxing vacation in recent memory.

Until today, when Tom wrangled with our new doors and right now, it’s doors 1, Tom 0.

Let me back up.

Our Christmas present to ourselves was new doors for our main floor, to replace the “what kind of crap can we give them before their heads frickin’ explode” doors the builders installed. New, beyoootiful, 6 panel doors, lovingly painted with a lovely glossy white paint. We repainted the trim that same lovely glossy white paint. Love my doors.

beeyoutiful-doors.jpg

Nice, huh? Much better than what we had before. But apparently when you buy doors, they’re too wide and you have to have the store shave them down to the correct width. Tom discovered this…again…after he tried to hang them. Notice that two of the three doors do not close. He will be taking them back to Home Depot tomorrow after work to have them adjusted. It’s so cute that it only takes him going through the effort of chipping away at the doors with a chisel, stripping out the screw holes in the door jamb, and losing an entire afternoon, to realize that I was right when I said to just take them back and have them adjusted. In the meantime, if you come by my house needing to pee, you’ll either need to lose all modesty, do a flight of stairs, or just cross your legs and not think about it.

In other news…

I thought…briefly…about posting a list of resolutions. And then the urge passed. I don’t like resolutions at the beginning of the year. Mainly because I resolve to alter my course several times a year: January (New Year), June (hey, it’s summer!), and September (ahhh…Back To School…my three favorite words). The courses I’m altering at this time of the year are: to read a book a month, to use the 3 month membership we just got at our New!And!Improved! rec center, to take more pictures (poor J…suffers from Second Child Syndrome…hardly any pictures of him), and not take up any new hobbies/interests that will suck time and energy from the previous three. Oh, yeah, and that whole world peace thing. Gotta get going on that.

A goes back to school on Thursday, just shortly before I consider selling him to the Gypsies for shiny beads and pocket lint. He’s been great, but I hit my limit today when he tried to fork his brother at dinner. Ah, good times, good times. J has another week off. He will kill me with non-stop requests to 1) play computer, 2) watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, 3) feed him yet again.

Notice the yummy new header? Yup, it’s MahlerFest time again! I have music, I have rehearsals coming up this weekend, I have to get my butt in gear and practice. People tend to hear the piccolo and I really have no desire to screw this up. Just need to get my supply of sugar-free cough drops, and I’m good to go (last year I damn near choked to death coughing silently during the quietest section in the entire concert).

And now, in a fruitless attempt to get back on a schedule, I shall retire for the evening. Eh, who am I kidding? I’m freezing my happy lil’ butt off and I just want to get under the electric blanket. With a book.

Concert

The musicians file into the concert hall, one and two at a time. There’s a sense of anticipation, of excitement in the air. There’s going to be magic here this afternoon. As the audience takes their seats, music fills the hall, sounds of musicians warming up. No point in warming up downstairs in the Green Room: “Please warm up quietly. You can be heard by the audience.” So the orchestra warms up in the hall, getting accustomed to the acoustics, to the warmth (or lack thereof, due to sub-zero temperatures outside).

There’s a sense of camaraderie on stage. The musicians tell jokes with other musicians (didja hear the one about…). Warm air is blown through instruments, cigarette paper is made quickly available for sticky pads, cough drops are unwrapped and slipped into pockets for the unthinkable coughing attack.

The foyer lights dim and brighten, dim and brighten, alerting the audience that the concert is about to begin. The orchestra quiets. Applause for the concertmistress. A tuning “A”. Another. And another. The hall lights dim, the stage lights brighten.The conductor enters the stage. Rise to acknowledge the applause. Sit.

Silence.

The music begins. A story is told. The lighthearted camaraderie is gone now, replaced by a single-minded focus. A multi-minded focus, as the single musicians become one, an orchestra. Every musician is now an island, unable, unwilling to converse with anyone else save by sound. A musical conversation, passed amongst the musicians, overheard by the audience.

Perfection. Anything less is failure.

Vocal soloists sing in German, understood in the international language of music. Beauty. Timeless.

The music ends. No one moves, frozen in the perfection of the moment. Movement will mar the perfection. Do not breathe. Do not think. Sit. Feel. Know the power of music.

The conductor lowers his arms. Breathe. Applause. Waves of applause. The audience rises to its feet in appreciation. Acknowledge the soloists. Acknowledge the principal musicians. Rise to acknowledge the audience. Again. Again. Cheers for the beauty and power of Mahler’s music.

The applause wanes. The house lights come up, the stage lights lower. The easygoing camaradie of the musicians returns (wasn’t that beautiful? are you going to the reception? bottle of wine and two straws…). The musicians clean out their instruments, loosen their bows, pack up their equipment and head out into the frigid evening.

I’ve been Mahlered!

I’m playing in the Colorado Mahlerfest again this year. It’s the only gig I play a year, so I appreciate being able to play. I’ve been playing in the orchestra for nine years, minus a couple of years when I was politicked out. Oh, and I missed last year due to strep throat.

I’m really enjoying it this year. A lot. That surprised me. For the last several years, since 1999 at least, I haven’t enjoyed playing. Yeah, that’s a long dry spell. Lots of things happened that year. My mentor, Max, died. I got my master’s degree and finally finished school (almost completely burned out). I went back to teaching middle school band, which was probably a huge mistake. I pretty much closed my flute case and went on with my life. I still played and taught lessons, but the fire wasn’t there. Then A was born in 2001 and with an active kid, it went downhill from there. Add another kiddo in 2004 and my fate was sealed. I was a “former professional musician”, now a stay at home mom. Gave up the music to raise kids. Happens all the time, I just never thought it would happen to me. The burnout/losing Max really started me down that road, having kids finished it. I would go to rehearsals, or go teach, and not really want to be there. I didn’t particularly want to be back at home, I think I would have prefered to be somewhere where nothing was required of me, where I could go brain-numb, maybe sleep or read a book or just do nothing. I think (crossing my fingers, hoping I’m not jinxing myself) I may be past that. I’ve been looking forward to rehearsals. I’ve actually been enjoying rehearsals (granted, I don’t play a whole lot, being 3rd flute, so I get to read during the extreme rests and tacets {meaning to rest so long the publisher isn’t bothering to put in measures to count}). I’m having fun again. It’s been a long, long time.

I’ve been looking ahead in my life. And I think the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t an oncoming train. A is calmer with his ADHD meds (though it’s still a work in progress). J will start speech therapy soon and I’ll be able to understand him. Next fall I’ll have 3 mornings a week all.to.myself. That will be so nice. And I will pick up my flute more. I want to go to a flute masterclass next summer. A week of playing and listening and getting my groove back. I miss the me I was when I played a lot. I can see life getting a bit easier and allowing me to play more. Being a musician is so inherently selfish that I’ve decided it is damned near impossible to combine that with being a full-time mom. I have yet to find a woman who could do it and if/when I find her, I will throw myself at her feet and congratulate her heartily. It’ll probably be as she’s being dragged off to the nuthouse, but you never know.

And as an aside…OH MY GOD IT’S GOING TO SNOW AGAIN. Fourth storm in as many weeks. Subzero temperatures, snow amounts ranging from 1-12 inches, freezing rain…can this be over now, please? Or at the very least, can someone please book me on the next plane to Maine? I hear it’s warm there.

I still miss him

This is Max. He was my flute teacher in college, but he was so much more than just my teacher. He was my friend, my mentor, the person who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. He was a good man, a mensch. Under his care, I went from an ok flutist who was going to be a band director to an excellent flutist taking military band auditions (military bands are the band equivalent to professional orchestras, as there are no professional bands). He taught me not how to play the flute, but how to make music. He learned that from his own teacher, the renowned Marcel Moyse, a truly great musician.

I would go to flute masterclasses in Victoria, British Columbia in the summers to continue to learn from Max and from the outstanding flutists he would bring in: Janet See, Keith Underwood, and his dear friend Wissam Boustany. It was truly a joy to see those two men together; one an aging Jew, the other a young Lebanese man, and see the love between them. Hatred isn’t inborn, it’s learned, but that’s a post for another day. I learned so much from those weeks in Canada and they remain some of my favorite memories and one of my favorite places on earth.

Max taught with such love. He knew that playing the flute and learning to be a professional musician wasn’t the be-all end-all of life, but a certain aspect of it. He knew we had so many other things going on and would, from time to time, allow us to squeak out of an unprepared lesson so we could get caught up. And because of that we worked even harder.

I wish I could attach a sound file to this post; I’d post a recording of the two of us playing a duet. He’d be the really good one and I’d be the other.

Max was nothing if not supportive. After moving to Colorado for grad school, I’d send him recordings of recitals in progress and recordings of the recitals themselves. He’d send back wonderful messages of what sounded good, what sounded great, and what needed work. All gently, all honestly. I still have all those comments. One I have still tucked away is one he gave me at one of those masterclasses. It’s just a piece of pink notebook paper, folded haphazardly, with some wonderful loving comments about my playing. He’d been writing it while I played for the masterclass teacher, and handed it to me silently at the end of the session. It’s one of my most treasured possessions.

You can probably see where this is going.

I found out seven years ago today that Max died suddenly of a heart attack. I remember finding out via email and just screaming. Poor Tom couldn’t figure out what had happened at first. I remember going to teach middle school band the next day (so much for the military bands, right?) and only being able to muddle through by telling my kids what had happened and to cut me a break. Bless their little caffenated and hormonal hearts, they did. He had retired by then but we still kept in touch, always ending our phone calls with “I love you.” I’m so glad we did.

A memorial service was held for him a few months later at the college. I flew out for it, I had to. I had been asked to speak and did so gladly. I was waiting in the recital hall before the service and was actually alone in there. And I swear on a stack of bibles that I felt him there with me. He was there, in the seat he preferred for recitals, and I was brought to tears. He was there.

Nearly every year since I’ve been reminded of him by some flutish coincidence. A dream a year after his death, when I told him I was pregnant with A and woke up crying. Two years ago, awake very early in the morning, nursing J, and hearing on the radio (the station rarely plays flute music) Poulenc’s Sonata for flute and piano, my very favorite flute piece and the one that most reminds me of Max. Things like that.

I rarely play anymore, and have halted giving flute lessons. I feel like I lost my drive to play and gradually lost my love of teaching after Max’s death. Silly, yes, as the drive should be an internal one, but that’s how I feel. When I was still teaching I wanted and needed so badly to talk to him about my students, about how I could be a better teacher, and I just couldn’t. Today I wish so badly I could talk to him about how terrible I feel that I don’t play anymore and how guilty I feel about that, that I feel like I wasted his time and effort on me. I know he wouldn’t accept it, still love me, and tell me that right now my boys need me and the flute will still be there, but…

I still miss him terribly. So, Max, wherever you are, I hope you’re playing duets with the best up there. Please know that I miss you and still love you. Please know that I’ll pick up my flute again and love it again, that someday I’ll again find the joy in a beautiful phrase I’ve made. And most of all, I hope you know what a difference you made in my life and how lucky I was to have had you in it.