March Madness

I’m copying the title from my friend Eliana, who wrote a post about Viola March Madness. March and April are busy times—in fact, March is flying by so quickly I almost feel like I’ve missed it. The other odd thing is that I keep thinking the next month is August. At least three times in the past few days I’ve said August when I meant to say April. I don’t know what that means—am I having a nervous breakdown or early-onset dementia?

So, Spring Break was fun, though not as relaxing as one might hope. I did read several books, including Station Eleven which I absolutely loved and can’t stop thinking about.

I had lots of baby time!

IMG_2146

She’s trapped and I won’t let go.

IMG_2147

Overindulged and then passed out.

IMG_2191

Leslie and I started trying to teach her that these were fake, plastic keys, and that if she had REAL keys she shouldn’t put them in her mouth.

IMG_2261

She enjoyed swinging quite a bit!

Overall I’m so glad I got to visit for a week. She is my first niece and is 5 months old now. It was also one of the best weather weeks in Phoenix that I’ve ever experienced! It did rain one day, but otherwise was really nice and warm, even cool at night, and only one day felt too hot! By the way, I am not in the large group of people who think that the weather is Phoenix is amazing all the time. On the plane ride home I overheard people behind me talking about how the weather is so great, and it’s a dry heat, and up to 105 it’s just amazing. Which may or may not be true, but how many days per year are over 105?  That being said, my sister and her husband are doing really well and have a really great house in a walkable neighborhood that is close to downtown, which is pretty much exactly what I love too.

So after Spring Break ended, I took a very early flight home and hit the ground running. I’ve been teaching a ton, had several rehearsals and the weekend is full of more of the same. On Sunday my quartet (Perseid Quartet) is playing at the Ethical Society for their morning service.  One of the challenging things our quartet has been doing lately is learning some pieces that composition students at Washington University wrote. We had an adventurous rehearsal yesterday reading through the pieces. Sometimes music notation is so challenging. I think of how it would be looking at a Brahms Quartet for the first time…without the benefit of hundreds of recordings, years of study and listening. I guess that’s part of why people love new music—the challenge…and also being able to play something without hundreds of years of history telling you how you aren’t playing it well enough. You know me and my constant fear of not being good enough (based on years of being told that, but that’s hardly an excuse!)

IMG_2168

I found this picture on facebook from a concert I played the other week. My hair looks great from the back, and I’d like all my students to notice how my violin is over my shoulder, parallel to the floor, my wrist in straight, my thumb is relaxed, and my bow is also straight, though it’s hard to see since it is disappearing into the light. I had one of those teaching weeks where I felt that everything I asked my students to do was ignored and they just kept playing exactly how they wanted to. Ranging from requests to check their bowhold before they started, to play closer to the bridge, to watch their bow, and even in some cases, to play a different piece than the one they were doing. Maybe I need to be meaner?

I’m looking forward to the weekend. I have a few things I need to accomplish today, but then the evening is free for recreation (though Louie is sick, so it’s possible the evening will be just relaxing in front of the television—currently we are watching The Americans, on a Dr. Who hiatus), and tomorrow evening is free as well! I’d love to go out to dinner and maybe to a concert or a movie. Suggestions?

Nearly Spring Break

This year I decided to take an actual spring break. I realized that most of my students had their school spring breaks on the same week (and as far as I can tell, those that don’t simply don’t have spring break at their school so it isn’t that their break is the week before or after) so I declared that to be spring break week for my studio. Not every year is so lucky, in fact, I recall one year where I was teaching kids and there were three weeks in a row that different people had spring break. It’s not that I necessarily need a spring break (well, I do) but it’s that when say, 1/3 of your students are missing it STILL feels like a regular work week since you are usually still teaching from 3 to 8 or 9, and yet you aren’t making as much money. This year is different, and after a concert this afternoon I’m officially on Spring Break (capitalized!) until the following Monday.

So I’m off to Phoenix to visit with my niece and Leslie and Peter. And by visit I really mean babysit while they are at work, but I’m sure it will be delightful and we will really bond.

IMG_2065

Unfortunately Louie had some time off that didn’t coincide so he won’t be coming along. I believe they say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, don’t they?

I had to do some digging yesterday to find if I had any shorts that fit to bring to Phoenix. The answer: two pairs. It’ll do for the week, but I’ll tell you, I keep finding myself without clothes that fit properly. I wish I were one of those people that could maintain a size from year to year, but I haven’t managed to do that. It’s a goal of mine, to be able to change from winter to spring wardrobe and still have plenty of stuff to wear from the year before. Shirts are easy, but pants/shorts are just ridiculous. Like I said though, I do have a couple pairs. I fully expect everything I bring along to be either spit up on or peed on so I’m sure there will be laundry done. Ha! Babies! They make a mess, right?

suzukiworkshop

So far March has been flying by. I attended a Suzuki Teacher Workshop the other week—it was taught by Nancy Lokken and it was shorter than I’d thought it would be, but I learned a few things and got some new ideas about how to teach my students to have a beautiful tone and how to insist on it. I played with Winter Opera St Louis and  we had a conductor emergency and had to get a new conductor for the final dress rehearsal and performances. It was stressful but went well. I played Irish music for a little concert with some folks and had a good time. I’m playing on an all-Bach choral concert this afternoon. I’ve taught a million (probably an exaggeration) lessons and my students have tried my patience in every single way, though hopefully I’ve maintained it nonetheless.

irishquartet

(onstage for our Irish music concert)

Outside of work, I’ve managed to squeeze in a few social activities. Last night I went to see Manuela (the other violinist in my quartet) play a wonderful recital with Diana (pianist who we played with in the fall) at the Tavern of Fine Arts. It was great seeing her perform and was very inspiring! And yes, that counts as a social activity. I’ve also met up with a few friends and eaten too much Mexican food. The weather is nice so I’ve made it on a few short runs, and though I haven’t gone to gym in a few weeks, I’ve done some body weight workouts around the house and I’m feeling okay. I think it would be fun to train for a race again!

tavernoffinearts

(slightly obstructed view seats at the Tavern)

Here’s the question: I don’t want to bring my violin to Phoenix. I don’t think I’d have much time to practice anyway, but really I want to take a break from it. My concern is that when I get back I have some rehearsals right away and some performances coming up. I do think that my wrist is pretty tired and my pinky still hasn’t totally recovered from my fall back in February and a few days off would likely do wonders (or a week!). I’m leaning towards not bringing it but asking Leslie if I could play on hers a bit if I felt the need to practice. I guess it’s not really a question. I don’t want to bring my violin, but I don’t want to feel guilty about it. Help!

Small Victories

I don’t know exactly what to write today but I feel like writing. Or blogging, as it’s called in this format. Last night’s rehearsal was something else, and I don’t think I should go into it in a public forum, but it’s making me think quite a lot about people and how we react to one another. And how you don’t ever know what’s really going on inside people’s heads or behind the scenes.

I don’t care about making a lot of money. My career and life choices have never been based on that, and instead are based on personal fulfillment and making the world better. And I would never allow someone to make me feel bad about not having a lot of money, because that just isn’t something important to me. (Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to make a lot of money playing the violin, but I chose violin over money.)  Yet…I’ll let someone make me feel bad for something else, and the premise is the same. For instance, I might allow someone to make me feel bad about not having kids, or not being in the symphony.

ANYWAY. I’m not honestly sure where I am going with all of this, because there are so many things I shouldn’t say, and I’ve deleted more than I’ve left. And what I’ve left doesn’t even make sense on it’s own, but whatever. It’s my blog, and you already don’t expect it to make sense. The good thing is writing has solidified a few thoughts in my mind and I’m (again) ready to move forward in a positive way.

So that brings us to the next topic of conversation. Cats.

catseating

Look carefully and you’ll see two kitties eating. In the same area, and they both just dug in and didn’t fight! Small victory, but a victory nonetheless. Things are simpler and calmer around the house with only the two cats and one dog. And yes, simpler and calmer is a good thing.

March Madness

Time flies! I’m in the middle of opera rehearsals which always throw off my schedule and make me busy. Winter Opera St Louis is performing Otello this weekend.

I’m also playing some Irish music this weekend (Saturday night) with a pick-up group. Visit the facebook event page for more information, but it’s a lot of fun, we sound pretty good, and $5 gets you two drink coupons plus the show. A fantastic deal! And seriously, playing Irish music has been really fun for me.  Here’s a video we took at a rehearsal. https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10153093443515853

So as much as I haven’t been sitting down and blogging I’ve been having fun taking at least one picture a day and posting it to Instagram, so I’m documenting my life that way. It’s fun and mostly it’s food, pets, and the occasionally selfie. When I think about my life it’s probably pretty boring right now: students, pets, violin, repeat! Which is partly why I haven’t been blogging, but the other part is, I haven’t had time…or haven’t made time at least.

I have been making efforts to be more social and ask friends to do things. I think the cold weather always makes me want to be a homebody but then I start feeling sorry for myself for having no friends…then I remind myself I’m in control of that. Mostly. So I’ve been making an effort to leave the house more and not just sit around watching Dr Who with Louie in my downtime. Not that that isn’t actually one of my favorite activities, but does it really make as much of an impact on my life as having a lovely dinner with friends? (and any friends reading this saying, hey what about me, just ask!)

We had a decently successful Perseid Quartet concert last weekend. I say decently successful because I was quite happy with how we played but wished a few more folks had come. Perhaps the weather kept them away, or maybe we didn’t promote as well as we could have. Nonetheless the audience we did have was wonderful and supportive and seemed to really enjoy the concert! We are repeating the program on April 19 with an additional piece by Hindemith and doing some other things in between.

My friend April took some pictures at the show.

IMG_1950 IMG_1951

IMG_1953

I love how intense I look when I play. And that I don’t know what to do with my feet!

Okay, random picture and thought time! I’m done being quasi-serious for now.

IMG_1971

Trader Joe’s pizza with sauteed mushrooms and egg. Just crack the egg on the frozen pizza and bake as usual!

IMG_1975

Too many flats!

IMG_1934

I got new glasses. Normally I wear contacts, but these are cute and (finally) come with an up to date prescription that I can SEE with.

IMG_1966

I love our fruit bowl. I’m not saying a red pepper is a fruit though.

IMG_1899

I haven’t taken as many pictures of the fatness lately for a variety of reasons. One was that we were dog sitting for another dog and she was hiding out the entire time. She basically moved on top of a tall dresser for the week and only came out when absolutely necessary. Things are back to normal now though, so perhaps she’ll start feeling comfortable again.

IMG_2003

We went to a couple of symphony concerts recently. This was from one with Augustin Hadelich playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. Oh my. He was wonderful! Impeccable technique, great sound, and wonderful musicianship. I was blown away. And he played an encore of Paganini’s 5th Caprice “because he can” as a friend said. It’s weird going to symphony concerts since my ex-husband is a member, but it gets less weird as I keep going. I guess it’s only weird now because he’s ON the stage. But he does live here in town somewhere, and we are both musicians (yes, I am a musician even though I’m not in the symphony, ha!) so I suppose we do co-exist. Sometimes it’s hard for me knowing he is here and is of course more respected since I’m “just” a freelancer, teacher, (and woman), and I wonder if I’m missing opportunities because of him. But I can’t really let that bother me, and I just have to do my thing, don’t I?

That being said (I’m putting on a brave smile and thinking of how much happier I am today), the Tchaikovsky Concerto was excellent, Tchiakovsky Symphony no. 6 was great the week before, and then we braved the snowstorm on Saturday to see Stephanie from my quartet play baroque cello at the Tavern of Fine Arts with another group of hers. The program was Vivaldi and other composers I’d never heard of, and it was great. I love seeing concerts at the Tavern, and I enjoyed hearing “new” music and supporting a friend.

(The large necked instrument is a theorbo.)

IMG_2008

To end on a funny note, here’s something a friend posted on my facebook wall.

Snow Day

Well, so far it’s just a regular day for me because I don’t start teaching until 3:30. How is it out there? I’m safe and warm at home and enjoying a lazy start to the week…as usual.

Valentine’s Day Weekend was fun.  We went to the Missouri History Museum on Saturday to see the 250 in 250 exhibit (about 250 years of St Louis History) before it closed. I’d gone with my parents but Louie hadn’t seen it and I thought it was good enough to see again. It was freezing cold and as we power walked from where we parked to the museum, I tripped over a small bump in the sidewalk and fell. As I landed I bent my pinky and wrist backwards, hit my left shoulder and almost hit my head!

IMG_1888

Walking is hard, evidently. More concerning was how much my pinky finger hurt (remember, I play violin, so that’s important.) I haven’t played since then…my pinky is feeling a bit better today but it’s still sore at the joint and it worries me a little. It’s definitely improving though, so hopefully by tomorrow I will feel confident practicing again, because SATURDAY is our first quartet concert of the year and I really want it to go well.  I’d had high hopes of doing a lot of practicing over the weekend, but what can you do? Playing on a hurt finger doesn’t make it better.

IMG_1889

We went to Five Bistro for V-day dinner. We’d thought it would be pricey, but we had NO idea! (I suppose we could have called). The prix fix menu was delicious, but the weird thing was that when it was over we were still kinda hungry and wished there had been more food. Every course was delicious but tiny. We were glad we went out though, and despite the meal costing as much as a plane ticket enjoyed ourselves. We also enjoyed being in the restaurant with a ton of other people, all of whom were likely experiencing the same sort of thing..awkward sticker shock by the menu, deciding to stay anyway, enjoying the taste of their meal, noticing how little lamb chop was served, realizing they were paying this much and considering running through Taco Bell afterwards. We did the wine pairings too, and the one thing I will say is that I enjoyed ALL the wines, even the white wines, which I never have in the past.

IMG_1902 IMG_1906

Front and back of house scenes of a snowy day. The front steps will definitely need to be shoveled. I suppose that would be an excellent workout for today!

And check out this awesome picture Leslie sent me of my niece:

IMG_1867

I should get a matching “I love my niece” onesie.

IMG_1873 IMG_1856

Scenes from the “zoo”.

IMG_1866

How much snow did you get? I won’t complain a bit thinking of all the people who have just been getting hammered this winter! It’s pretty to look at, though I’m glad I haven’t had to venture out in it yet. Since it’s a holiday I suspect the roads are a little worse than they might be normally.

Taco Tuesday

Confession: I didn’t have tacos today.

BUT I did have tacos on (I think) Sunday night, so that totally counts, I believe. Vegetarian (perhaps even vegan, but I’m not counting) tacos with sweet potatoes, seitan, onions, and peppers. I am not a huge fan of peppers but I’ll tolerate red peppers that are cooked. I am a huge fan of onions and sweet potatoes though.

As an aside, I can’t say “sweet potato” without thinking of “Suite Potato” which was the name of a family concert with the Canton Symphony many years ago. My sister Leslie had this sad, homestar runner like way of saying “Suite Potato” that went on all season in anticipation of the family concert. I don’t have much recollection of the actual concert, but I do recall her saying “Suite Potato.”

I’ve decided that my life has gotten kind of boring lately. I’m spending entirely too much time focusing on the violin and teaching and playing and practicing and whatnot, and what is left? Yeah, sure, there’s running and dog walking and pet parades and such, but I feel like mostly it’s work and then TV watching. Which honestly, is totally fine LIVING it but writing a blog about it…perhaps a bit boring? Maybe it’s my fault for not making what I do sound more interesting. That’s probably what I really need to work on. Because obviously work is important and what people mostly do in their lives, right? And TV, especially Dr. Who and then Broadchurch because you miss David Tennant as Dr. Who, well those are both important and interesting…right?

Two fat cats

One of the highlights of every week is quartet rehearsal.  We rehearse nearly every week on a morning, because that just works well for us. Oh, and we have a concert coming up on February 21 at 7 pm. I was thinking about playing chamber music the other day. While at school (back in the day) I wasn’t really into chamber music. I had a few groups here and there and they generally dissolved with great drama, anger, and resentment between the parties involved. We never managed to get our acts together and be mature enough to really have fun and play together. I’ll never know if this was mostly my fault or just bad luck but the most awesome part of my quartet is that AS OF YET we still get along well enough and respect each other and have a great time making music. I’m sure we each have days where we leave rehearsal a little annoyed and it’s not that every rehearsal is just a love fest (though many are, in that we end up just telling ridiculous teaching stories and waste half the rehearsal doing that!) but that we learn from each other, we work hard, and we are (mostly) all on the same page as far as our goals and our commitment to the group. I also feel that my playing has improved since joining the group and it’s just been one of my favorite things that I’ve been involved with in the past year. I’m really looking forward to our next concert as it includes two of my all-time favorite quartets—Borodin’s Quartet no. 2 (my guilty pleasure piece) and Shostakovich’s 8th quartet.

I was having a discussion with Louie the other day about being our best selves, and I said to him that I really felt I was in the best violin playing shape of my life. l don’t know if that’s true exactly, because how does one know? But I do know that I feel like I am, and that I feel like I’m becoming a real violinist, and a real person, and I’m not living in anybody’s musical shadow or following them around anymore, and it’s really been quite fun. I won’t say that I don’t have moments of feeling like a total failure but overall, I’m enjoying what I’m doing. I’m also not saying that my calendar is totally full and in fact today I thought to myself, wow I have mostly wasted the day AND I’ve gotten most of what I needed to get done done…I need more to do! But then I remembered a whole bunch of things that I should be working on so I think I just had one of those days where I didn’t feel stressed or productive. I could use more paying work, but who couldn’t? And I’m sure that the calendar will fill up and get crazy again soon and this is just the late winter lull…and I’m trying to take advantage of it and have fun! And it’s been easy to do that on the weekends at least.

Anyway, that’s my brain dump on this here “Taco Tuesday.” I had bean soup for dinner.

Bean soup

I like to take this stuff and make it in the crockpot. Today I added “Soyrizo”, carrots, a can of diced tomatos, and some barley I had on hand. It turned out great and I had nearly two bowls worth.

Soup is good food

thoughts about violin, teaching, running, life.