No More Cats

Sometimes I get so sad, thinking about the poor kitties. This year I had to put down my dear Oistrakh as well as Louie’s cat, Chloe. Though they were both old, it was still challenging. I think of their last moments, and especially Chloe, who was just sitting there, looking so sweet (with her skin just a mess, because she had a skin condition) and it just makes me cry. And then poor Mackenzie, the dog, is having some weird skin condition, and she just hasn’t gotten any better, and we are waiting for the results of her biopsy. It’s been a difficult year as a pet owner, and I’m hoping it gets better instead of worse. The vet said we should know the results by Monday (she gets her stitches out then) and hopefully there is some good news.

Sigh.

Sometimes I read back through old blog posts. I’ve mentioned this before. And it’s fun to read what I was doing, but the thing that sticks out at me is that I keep talking about work the same way. I’m always either too busy or worried. I’m feeling like things are getting easier…or I’m not. As a freelancer/teacher, there isn’t a big break coming. It will likely always be like this. I won’t get to a point of feeling comfortable, because there isn’t a guarantee. I just have to get more used to it, and in a way, I have, and in other ways, I haven’t.  I’ll always be thinking of new ideas, new ways to teach, and new ways to make music. That’s just the way it is, and the way it has to be!

Several people have asked what I have coming up. For the summer, the truth is, nothing, performance-wise! Which is a little weird, but nice, and relaxing. I’m working on repertoire for the fall. In the fall so far there is some great stuff lined up: I’m playing a variety of Perseid Quartet concerts, mostly in November/early December (including one at Washington University, and one at the World Chess Hall of Fame), I’m playing another solo recital (with my pianist friend Jen) at Christ Church Cathedral in October(full of standard rep), I got asked to play with a musical at the Fox (in the pit!), and I’m playing for the First Tuesday Composer’s Club at the Dark Room in September. So the fall looks pretty fun and busy, and that doesn’t include Winter Opera and of course, my regular teaching schedule. More will be added, but that’s what I’m working on, and what I’m practicing. Some of the weeks are a little overwhelming, and mostly I’m just working on the solo Bach, because I want to be as solid on the memory of the fugue as possible, especially since I’ll be taking 3 weeks off in late-July/early August.

All that being said, I’m always up for more playing, so no one reading this should assume my schedule is at its saturation point. It’s not. I love playing concerts, I love learning new music, and I love working towards goals.

Did anybody get some vouchers from Ticketmaster? I can’t even recall what I used the site for (tickets to figure skating??) but got some vouchers. They seem basically completely useless, especially as the list seemed to have only one concert in my area, which I have absolutely no desire to see. Seems like an easy settlement, oh, let’s give our wronged customers a pretty worthless settlement. Unlike Amazon, who gave out gift card balance for the Kindle books settlement, and it’s good anything on their site, not just, say, a select amount of Kindle books, none of which you’d ever want to read or that are related in any way to the books you originally bought on the site. (It’s possible that Amazon is just a company that is far more useful to me?)

Today we have a predicted high of 101. I guess Leslie is sending part of Phoenix ahead of her Smile Stay cool my friends!

Summer is here

And by that I mean it’s been really hot. Though, technically, yes, it is officially summer. And as usual, it’s flying by.

Every summer I have loads of ideas in my mind of things I want to do or accomplish. Every summer I get through many or some of them, but mostly time just flies by and honestly, I forget how HOT it gets (how quickly we forget).

One of the life goals Louie and I have is to make sure to take advantage of opportunities to experience new things. This ranges from taking hikes, taking trips, going to shows and concerts, and whatever else pops up. Sometimes it costs money (concerts, operas, mud runs), sometimes it’s free (hiking) and sometimes it is fairly inexpensive (camping, road trips). 

Friday was the final concert for the music camp I’d been helping out at. I wasn’t required to attend the concert, but I thought it would be fun to see the kids play, and also wanted to catch up with some colleagues. I had a couple of private students playing and thought I might run into their parents as well.

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This was the youngest orchestra playing. All the groups did a wonderful job. For one of my students, this camp was his first orchestral experience, and I think he loved it. (I should have encouraged him earlier! I’m trying to do better with encouraging my private students to participate in outside orchestras-some have them at school, but others don’t.)

After I finished teaching, we loaded up a little picnic and went to meet April at Shakespeare in the Park. Each year, there are several weeks of a free outdoor performance of Shakespeare in Forest Park. This was the first time I’d managed to go, and I’m so glad I did. The play was Midsummer Night’s Dream, which I thought I’d seen, but realized, after it started, that I was thinking of Much Ado About Nothing. Anyway, the weather was really fantastic, breezy and not too humid (it had been really hot all week, so we got lucky) and we enjoyed some snacks and drinks while watching a great performance.

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Saturday I had to work: two weddings. That somehow took up the whole day! In the evening I just realized and read—Louie was hanging out with a friend from out of town, but I felt I’d been running around all day and just wanted some downtime rather than trying to socialize.

Sunday morning we got up early and took two dogs (we were dogsitting Banjo for the weekend) and met April, who had her dog and another dog, and went for a little hike in Forest 44 Conservation Area. It’s near 44/141 and is a nice place to do a little hiking. We’ve been a few times, and this time we tried a hike we hadn’t done before. It was pretty neat, except for one place where a bridge was out! Luckily we were able to backtrack, as there were a few loops, and we ended up deciding to cross a creek to get to a part of the trail we hadn’t been on yet. The dogs loved it, we were sweating but not too bad, and everybody except me found ticks on themselves afterwards.

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I had my selfie stick with me so we got a picture of the whole gang! It’s hard with the dogs because they don’t understand what we are trying to do.

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Sunday evening Louie and I had tickets for Shalimar the Clown at Opera Theatre. This was our other show for the Young Friends Subscription. We had some friends who were attending as well, but first we went to get our buffet dinner.  We sat and chatted with people for a few minutes, and this time there was a really friendly “host” sitting with us. She was awesome and made me think, gosh, I should join the Young Friends board. And then I thought, yeah, they probably meet during the week after “normal” people work, like at 5 or 6 on a Tuesday, you know, when “everybody” can make it. But maybe not.

After dinner we hung out with friends (Opera Theatre sets up this whole area with chairs and tables and tents for people to picnic and hang out before and after the shows) until it was time to take our seats for the show. This time our seats were further away, but more center.

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Another pre-show picture.

I have to say, I absolutely loved the opera. It was gorgeous: the music, the costumes, the set. It was deep and dramatic, and the story was so tragic, but so good. I love modern opera best, I think. I wish I could see it again, it was that good. I want to watch it again and see what I missed (for instance, that the main female lead played both herself and her daughter, something I didn’t notice until the bows), and to enjoy it again. I just loved it.  I am going to read the book (it’s based on a Salman Rushdie book, Shalimar the Clown) and I hope that other opera companies will perform it, and maybe we will travel to go see it somewhere else Smile . In any case, I have my memories, and my thoughts.

Now we are back into the regular work week. This is a 19 student week, though it’s possible it’ll be a 17 student week. Or less, you just never know. Leslie and Athena are visiting on Thursday and I’m very excited about that, and worried about whether the house will be in proper shape. (probably not, but I’ll do what I can.) We don’t have many plans for the weekend, but I think the zoo is in order, and some restaurants, lots of chitchat and hanging out, and probably reading some books over and over and over, as one does with a toddler Winking smile

Oh, and I finished “Eligible” by Curtis Sittenfeld. Not my favorite of her books, and I pretty much knew how it would end (it’s a modern day retelling of Pride and Prejudice) but it was fun and I enjoyed it. I still think Prep is the best of all her books, though American Wife is a close second.

the days are long but the weeks are short

How is it Friday already??

This week was pretty hectic. I’ve been teaching at the Webster U Community Music School String Camp every morning, in addition to my normal arduous teaching schedule…well, that is, 21 students this week. About half my normal schedule.

I lost one of my favorite students—her family is moving further away and will be changing teachers, and I’m very sad about it. Yesterday’s lesson was really wonderful and bittersweet.

More sad news (devastating?) is that the Tavern of Fine Arts is closing. I’ve played there a dozen or more times in the past few years—really, probably more, dozens?—and attended many concerts by my friends and colleagues, and I’m so sad they are closing. Being able to play and attend concerts at the Tavern was a true gift here, and now we won’t have that anymore. It was a special place and will be missed!

It’s tough, being a classical musician, being an artist. It’s a constant hustle. I don’t take the Tavern closing as a signal that “classical music is dead” but that the restaurant business is hard work, and our economy isn’t so good, and that the arts are always something that is hard to turn a profit with…the symphony doesn’t, Jazz at the Bistro doesn’t…Sigh. 

(I wanted to add, I’m so grateful for the owners, Aaron and Matt, and their vision, and all they did for five years to make St Louis a better place, and I’m so sad that they have to close.)

It’s a damn shame, because it was awesome to have somewhere to play and somewhere to see others play, for free. Maybe that was the problem, though I always made sure to order a drink and usually food, but who knows. The arts are incredible, they are important, they are worth money.

My head is full of new ideas and brainstorming. The one thing I’m sure of is that those of us most affected by this will move on and continue to make a wonderful contribution to the local arts world, because that’s what we do. We pull ourselves up, over and over again, because we love it. I teach violin and I play classical music because there isn’t anything else I would ever be happy doing. Or at least I have no interest in trying!

Well, this blog took a turn, but I’m okay with that. We are living through troubled times, especially with the recent shooting in Orlando…though I imagine that all times of human history are troubled. Throughout it all, what’s important is love and kindness, music and art, and doing our best to make the world better.

Lone Elk Park

I can’t believe it’s Tuesday already. This summer is flying by! This week I am helping out at the Community Music School’s String Camp. I’ve done this for a few years (I think this is my third year) and it continues to be a fun activity. Each day I give a 45 minute sectional to each of the three different orchestras. I try to make it enjoyable for the students as well as informative! (A sectional is when the orchestra divides into parts, so I teach either the 1st and 2nd violins together, or just one of those sections.)

I’ve done a few interesting things since we last spoke. Thursday night I went to see Opera Theatre St Louis perform Ariadne. Louie and I got a good deal on tickets to two shows as part of the “Young Friends” subscription. For those “young” people under 45, you get dinner, drinks, and a show all for about $40. We had to commit to two shows, so we have another coming up that I’m really looking forward to. The dinner was a buffet style dinner outside under a tent, and we chatted with another couple beforehand. It was open seating at dinner and we tried to be friendly, but we were joined at a table for 8 by 4 other people who knew each other already and didn’t even say hello to us, which is frankly kind of rude at an event. Especially when two of those people were wearing badges saying that they were “hosts” of the event! But, we had a good time nonetheless, and the opera was fun. The first act was stronger than the second act, plot wise, and I would have preferred to hear it sung in German, but otherwise it was a wonderful performance. Maybe someday Winter Opera will have the same budget!

And then on Sunday Louie and I were going to do a long hike, but the weather was super hot and I didn’t sleep well and we wanted to take it easy and leave Mackenzie (the dog) at home—she gets hot easily and has been having more hair issues too. So we decided to go to Lone Elk Park. Lone Elk Park (listed in the 60 hikes book!) is a place that doesn’t allow pets, EVEN in the car, because there is wildlife and BISON. BISON! HERE IN ST LOUIS.

I only learned this last year after our trip, which made me super excited, but I hadn’t had a good opportunity to visit. First we did a 3.5 mile hike on the White Basin Trail, The hike was very nice and had a variety of terrain. It was really hot but the trail was mostly shaded, and easy to follow. There were a few trees to climb over. We passed two other hikers who told us they’d seen a bunch of elk, so we kept our eyes open, but didn’t see any on our hike, only lots of squirrels and chipmunks.

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After finishing the hike, we got in the car, turned on the a/c, had some snacks, and went to drive all around the park. First we did see a whole bunch of elk!

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There were quite a few females or young elk, hanging out by the road. It seemed like their fur was shedding. They didn’t seem to pay us much attention.

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And then we drove through the bison area. Louie and I are old hat at looking for wildlife while driving slowly, and we were in luck. Oh, right before we turned to the bison road we saw a male elk from a distance as well! Too far for a picture without a good zoom lens though. So the bison seem to be kept in a certain area, and the signs warn you not to get out of your car at all.

We weren’t disappointed. It only took a few minutes until we saw them. Maybe 5-6 of them up a hill in a shady area, pretty far away, but one closer, that we stopped and watched for a few minutes.

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He got closer too, and we were ready to drive away if needed, but he also seemed more concerned with eating grass than anything, so we just enjoyed watching the strange creature. I could be wrong but they seemed smaller than the ones at Yellowstone?

In any case, it was a delightful afternoon, and so unique. I want to go back! Oh, and we saw a couple of friendly raccoons, who came up to the car. I assume people feed them, but we didn’t.

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Look at that guy with his weird toes!

I definitely recommend you check out Lone Elk Park if you like animals! It was a really neat experience. The hike wasn’t super exciting, but it was pleasant, and NOT difficult—the signs at the parking lot say “difficult”. I’d say “intermediate” in that there are some up and downs, but in the sense that “easy” would be a flat paved walk.

This week: teaching, practicing, getting ready for Leslie and Athena to visit next week (!!!!), another Opera, and, weather permitting, Shakespeare. Plus a few dinners with friends. I’m tired just thinking about it Winking smile

The Crusher Mud Run

Woo hoo, there are some pictures from the Mud Run last Sunday!

Things I learned:

1. There’s a lot of waiting in line. For this race, it seemed particularly bad. There was nearly a 30-45 minute wait for one of the obstacles, and probably 10-15 for practically all the others.

2. Mud isn’t so bad. You just have to accept being muddy and dirty. And keep your mouth shut when crawling in the mud.

3. I have no upper body strength and cannot lift myself up. Some of the obstacles I wasn’t able to do because of this. And while maybe I could have gotten a boost from my teammates, maybe it wasn’t quite enough. I need to work on this!

4. I love swimming and I am not afraid of falling in the water. One of the obstacles was crossing a small river/large creek on a rope. There was a rope over and a rope under and people tried to hold out to the top one while walking. It was the scariest thing ever to get started on, as the start was muddy and over an embankment, but I kept telling myself, make it over the water and then it doesn’t matter. I fell in. It was lovely.

5. Running around in a cornfield isn’t that fun. Since the mud run was a 5k, we did a bunch of obstacles (stuff floating in the water, going under ropes over the mud, going through muddy tubes, etc.) but still had to get some running in. I am the worst at running. I can run for a long time, but I’m just so slow. Add to the things I need to work on.

6. It was fun! Mud is fun! We had a great time as a team. Wear old clothes, but they will likely be able to get clean again. Wear old shoes, but don’t assume you can’t wash those either. It’s just mud. After the race they had fire hoses to rinse off, which we thought would be cold but actually were really nice. Bring lots of towels and definitely bring a change of shoes!

My arms are very long.

I look like I’m having fun. I’m not sure if that was actually the case.

Writing your number on your arm was optional, but seemed hard-core. I’m always obsessed with trying to seem hard-core, aren’t I?

Tunnels are hard. I couldn’t crawl anymore so I was pulling myself.

Louie climbing over the wall like a boss. Do the kids still say that?

(April had enough upper body strength that Louie’s boost really helped! TEAMWORK!)

We got mugs at the end of the race. They had also had pint glasses but they only had mugs by the time we finished. At the time we were annoyed, but after drinking out of my mug a few times, I’m happy about it.

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The team! Oh, another thing I learned, looking at these photos. I should wear lighter clothing next time so the mud shows up more in the pictures!

Have you ever done a mud run? Would you?

Bell Mountain and Toughness is just a word

I sound tough sometimes, on this here blog, but I never feel very tough. (Do I sound tough here sometimes?)

Right now, I feel exhausted. April and I ran a 5k yesterday morning, and then today Louie, April, and two friends named Amanda joined me for a mud run called the Crusher in Eureka, Missouri.

I say, I’m not tough, because both Amandas seemed to think that hiking in and out of the Grand Canyon and running a 5K the day before meant I was tough and all kinds of athletic and would do well. I’m not. I get scared easily and I fall a bunch. I lack upper body strength and I run very slow.

I’m going to process today a bit more, and also hope that the races will put pictures up to share. But a mud run was an experience I hadn’t had today. Are they supposed to be mostly waiting in line to do the obstacles? We did wait an awful lot, probably as long as we were running and actually trying to complete the obstacles.

I digress.

Last weekend after our float trip got canceled, Louie and I decided it would be best to do an epic hike in the area. We chose to go up and around Bell Mountain, which made a 12 mile hike. It was about a 2 hour drive.

We probably underestimated the difficulty, and it was muddy, I actually ran out of water, I wished I’d brought my hiking sticks, and most of the folks we saw were backpackers, but we had a memorable day, probably pushed the dog too much even though she seemed to have fun, and definitely made a great memory!

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The trail to the top of Bell Mountain starts on the Ozark Trail. We didn’t hike far on the OT though, before going off on the Bell Mountain loop. If you want to take the loop, the author of 60 Hikes within 60 Miles recommended going counterclockwise so you save the views for the later portion. It was muddy from the get go but once you get used to that, and just accept that you’re going to get a little wet, it was pretty nice.

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Not sure what’s going on with me in this picture, but there were lots of rocky parts. This hike was similar in ways to our hike last fall in Taum Sauk State Park.

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There were several creek crossings. By now creek crossings were old hat for us. I guess I’m becoming a more experienced hiker, even though I keep making mistakes like not bringing enough snacks and thinking that a 12 mile hike will be easy because it’s in Missouri.

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There wasn’t as much elevation change as in the Grand Canyon, but there were some steep parts, especially the climb from the creek up to the summit. We were hoping for the expansive views the book author promised us, but we just got a teeny bit. Maybe because of all the trees. As always, no matter the challenge…hiking in Missouri continues to be mostly wandering in the woods. We sometimes daydream about moving somewhere more scenic (sorry Missouri) but then we remember how cheap it is to live here and how we get to travel a lot, and how our jobs and such are here. Sigh.

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But the view was pretty decent from the top. Amazing for this area, honestly. That’s what happens when you see the world. You get spoiled. Smile

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Okay, fine, it’s really beautiful. And we were jealous of all the people backpacking. There were a few ready made camping sites along the trail, one I thought looked really cute near the creek, and then on top of the mountain too.

So we might be back, though summer ends up usually getting pretty hot and buggy here.

thoughts about violin, teaching, running, life.