All posts by hannahviolin

I am a violinist. I also enjoy running, working out, reading, and hanging with my friends and cat.

Mid November

I had a nice trip to visit April in Atlanta—three days off work (some of you call that a weekend—I had worked for 60 straight days before that)…and it wasn’t enough. I’m back at it, and I’m exhausted! I am really looking forward to Thanksgiving break, during which I’ll get two entire days off!

Yes, I’m working too hard. But the good news is I’m finally seeing an increase in the bank balance, and I’m really trying to save. I did a little more shopping this fall than last year—mostly updating my “black” wardrobe, with a few other fun items, but I’m feeling better about my financial future than I did a few years ago. Maybe my taxes will go up, maybe I’ll never see any social security (even though I pay into it every quarter, at a higher rate than you do, unless you are also self employed), maybe the world will end in fire, but other than being exhausted and occasionally making totally boneheaded moves like having to email one student three times to get it right…and even then having the email be pretty confusing…life is okay.

I had a few realizations today. One: I spent many adult years feeling lonely. I don’t anymore, even though I wish I had a few more close friends. I feel like I know where I belong, and I have enough meaningful relationships and my romantic partner understands me. Two: I don’t recall what’s it’s like to be bored or have too much time on my hands. I know it’s only November and in August we took 2 weeks off to travel…but that too was scheduled…maybe I really need to figure out a time to focus on self-care (that’s the hot topic, right?) and be able to relax.

Or I just need to make sure I’m eating right, finding time to exercise, sleep, and maintain some relationships well enough. And then the rest is just how it is. This is 39.

On the other end

I made it! I made it through several weeks of craziness, and I had a fantastic concert!

I worked hard, I spent months and months learning and perfecting the piece I was to perform, and the work paid off. I felt that the concert was one of my best performances ever, and that I was very happy with how it went.

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Me and Wendy Lea, conductor. I’m so glad she gave me this opportunity and had a blast working with her!

I want to play the piece again! I felt like so much of my violin playing until now was just leading up to me learning and performing Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons! And I want to wear that dress again…it was amazingly flattering!

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My parents came out to see it, several friends and quite a few students did too. It was really a blast, even though it was also very stressful and I know that I had a hard time dealing with the stress leading up to it. I couldn’t have done this nearly as well without Louie’s support, and I’m so grateful for him.

But now it’s DONE and it went great, and I’m happy, and there will be a video and more photos, and now…now what? What’s the next big thing?

Right now, it’s just a few days getting back into the normal life, and getting ready for a Perseid Quartet concert next weekend, and going to visit April in Atlanta this weekend. And being more relaxed. The next few months (until Christmas) are still very busy, but the stress level is WAY down.

And yay for many of the election results last night. Perhaps our country can turn some things around. Perhaps we aren’t too far gone. Perhaps all the hard work people have put in will pay off even more.

Other photos from the past few weeks:

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We went on the radio with Jim Doyle to promote our concert. Mostly we talked about my love of the color purple…

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Playing with the Illinois Symphony. I’ve learned and relearned quite a lot between playing in a quartet, in an orchestra, doing some improv in a group, and playing as a soloist with an orchestra, all in the past 30 days! Each group requires different skills, different sound, different WAYS to play the violin, and I’m so glad I’ve been saying yes so much! (I say this TODAY, since I had the morning off to run errands and all the stress is currently behind me or in the distant future…) In any case, I didn’t realize how much I missed playing in orchestra, and I’m glad I signed on for a few concerts this year. I always have a lot of teacher guilt when I have to miss or reschedule lessons, but I have to admit: performing is my first love. And more performing makes me a better teacher, and a happier person.

I want to do some more things now: I want to blog more, I want to get back to running (I’ve taken two weeks off, and now I’m taking a little more time off because I had to get a weird thing removed from the back of my leg, but I should be good early next week), I want to focus on some broader technique ideas on the violin in order to help my students more, and I’m thinking of doing 100 days of practice on the viola when I finish up my current challenge. (Follow me on Instagram!) I’m not making it 100 days in a row, but I’m allowing for travel in between—I took off for our Smoky Mountain trip, for a day when I cut my thumb, and I’ll miss this weekend because I’m not bringing my fiddle with me, but it’s been a great challenge nonetheless. I keep meaning to work on the viola more (I’m technically the viola instructor at one of the colleges I teach at) and I think the 100 days challenge will be a fun way to push myself. It’ll be harder because I won’t be bringing the viola with me as much, but it doesn’t require much time, only consistency.

I also want to reconnect with friends that I’ve left behind over the past few months. It’s been a hard fall! And I want to get back into more involvement with the resistance movement. I’ve been too busy and too stressed to show up.

Who am I kidding, it’s not over yet. Atlanta, quartet concert, lots of gigs, lots of teaching, recitals, juries…I don’t suddenly have loads of time. But this is the life I’ve chosen, and I’ve realized over the past few weeks, this is the life I want! At least a lot of the aspects of it Smile

Crunch time

I thought I’d pop in and say a quick hello! I won’t even look to see how long it’s been because it doesn’t matter, nobody reads this except my mom anyway. BUT I still like having a blog.

What have I been up to? Practicing, rehearsing, teaching, stressing out, running…there’s been more going on this fall than ever since I moved to St Louis 9 years ago! I haven’t had a day off since September 11 and won’t until November 11, but I am nearer the end than the beginning and I will make it.

In the immediate past: two weekends ago I had a variety of concerts with my friend Amy, playing in our violin-viola duo called Duo Sirena. My students also participated in a fun event called the Arch Cup and a few of them got to bring home trophies for superior plus performances.

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I’ve now had two rehearsals for my upcoming performance of Piazzolla’s Four Seasons with the Metropolitan Orchestra of St Louis. They both went really well. I’m having so much fun playing with the group, even though this has been an incredibly stressful opportunity! Last night was the second rehearsal and I recorded the whole thing. I haven’t had a chance to listen to more than a few minutes of it, but I will do so today.

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Over the past weekend I played a wedding at the Four Seasons. This is mostly interesting because later than night Katy Perry crashed a wedding party at the Four Seasons, and it was the one that I’d played the ceremony for earlier! But I was at Jazz at the Bistro enjoying a nice show of the Harold Lopez-Nussa trio.

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That night Louie did the four times rescheduled Moonlight Ramble but I had committed to running the Go Halloween 10k in the morning so I did that instead. I was so slow but I finished! I have been trying to run 3 times a week for the past several months and I’ve kept it up. My next plan to try to run faster, hah! And the race was nice—I’d been concerned by the forecast which was…storms and rain, but it mostly only drizzled on us, which was pleasant in the temperatures we had that day.

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So this week is flying by, as things tend to do when one is completely busy all the time. I did have during the day off on Monday since it’s Lindenwood fall break and I was able to go dress shopping for the concert. Tonight starts the Illinois Symphony rehearsals—I haven’t played in a full orchestra in YEARS and I’ve missed it, and apparently I’ve missed it enough to drive 3 hours round trip several days in a row (and one day nearly 6 hours), but I’m looking forward to it. Friday morning I’ll be on the radio (107.3 Radio Arts Foundation) with the conductor of the MOSL, Wendy, talking about our concert, and then the weekend will be another wedding, ISO concerts, rehearsal for a show with Third Millennium World’s Fair (violin, clarinet, guitar, and didgeridoo) on Halloween. We also have a quartet performance next Friday. Yes, I’ve taken on too much! But I’m making it through, with lots of scheduling, careful planning, waking up in the middle of the night stressed out, and COFFEE.

I’d better get back to it! Have a wonderful week, blog readers, and don’t worry, I’ve got this. Mostly.

Breathe in, breathe out

We are all busy people. I might be complaining about it more than others. I might be more busy. Or I might not.

What do I mean by busy? I mean that there aren’t enough hours in the day. Do we all take on too many things? Probably, but I won’t simply work for money. I need to work a certain amount for money. And then I need to practice, and that’s for me. And I need to (I put need in my career and life aspirations here, to be clear) perform and play chamber music and other concerts. If I don’t do those things, then what is the point? The issue is when they all run together and there just isn’t enough time to get all the things done: to run a private studio, to meet the needs of my college students also, to respond to emails, to order what needs ordering, to respond to phone calls, to listen to music, to eat as healthy as possible throughout all of this and to work out several times a week…

But this week I’ve been breathing. I’m not totally sure why. Partly because I’m just used to it all now, partly because some of my students have canceled for various reasons and I end up with an extra 30 minutes here, an hour there. Partly because my practice has paid off and some upcoming performances are feeling READY and so I’m less panicked…who knows why.

Tomorrow night my friend and colleague Amy and I are playing a terrific program at Wash U. We are very excited to perform: it’s a really varied program and has been a lot of fun to put together. Amy and I approach music in a very similar way, at least as far as I can tell working with her so far, and that’s both good and bad. But she’s been really fun to work with, and I’m excited about our concert. We named our duo Duo Sirena, and plan to play some more. 

I’m also still of course working with my friends at the Perseid Quartet and we finally have our concert in November booked. It’s hard managing one’s own career and there’s an ebb and flow, and this season has been a little slower getting started, but we’ve got some great stuff planned and I’m excited to learn quite a few new pieces.

As far as my students, their needs range. I’m trying to participate in or organize some events throughout the year, and this weekend is the second year some are playing for the Arch Cup. I’m hoping they get some more trophies like last year! And then I’m working on getting some to play on the play-a-thon at the Galleria that SLAMTA runs (this is a holiday event) and have decided to push the recital back into February and maybe I’ll have a Valentine’s theme or something? College students have different needs, mostly they need to practice more (oh that’s all of them, and YES I mean you!), but they have juries and recitals and worries about the future, and I try to be as present for everybody as I can.

I know this has been a tough year. I get stressed out easily. I’ve been working too much but I feel it’s necessary. I spend too much time reading the news and worrying (what will happen when the market goes down, what will happen to my health insurance, what if there’s a nuclear war, why are people so horrible to each other?). I’ve worked for 32 days straight now (for me that doesn’t count practice or working from home, but counts any scheduled work activity like a rehearsal, lesson, concert, or gig) and the end isn’t really in sight (there’s a possibility coming up but I suspect it will get filled because there are some unscheduled rehearsals needed, and that’s okay). I can handle it. I have been sleeping a little more than earlier in the month (Opera was a challenge) and the weather is cooler and I love it and I will make it.

There’s my brain dump. I must remember to breathe.

My niece turns three soon. My earliest memory (as I recall and claim) is my third birthday party. I feel like the pressure is ON now! In all honesty, she is an adorable lucky child who feels safe, secure, and loved, and I’m trying to decide between two gifts I’ve found online and hope that she likes whatever I give her. I won’t see her until Christmas and she’ll probably pretend not to remember me.

Sunday night is not for relaxing

Well, I’m taking a few minutes to blog, so there is SOME downtime. Today I got to sleep in…I’m going to be honest, I’ve been having a hard time not feeling overwhelmed. I think it’s more than just my overly busy schedule, but I think after my solo performance with the MOSL in early November I’ll be much more relaxed. I hope. Or I’m doing too much, but although that’s possible, my schedule isn’t something I can’t handle. It might be that it’s the additional stress that I’m having trouble with.

Enough complaining though Winking smile What have I been doing? Well, besides teaching my nearly 45 students (something like that, though of course statistically I’m always missing a few each week), I’ve been rehearsing for various concerts and such, practicing, trying to answer emails…oh, do you mean for fun? Well, does going to the symphony concert on Friday night count? No? (It does, a little…)

Not much, which is the other reason I’m having a tough time…(Oh, I said less complaining). I feel like I used to have a more active social life, but gosh, life is just so crazy! I do have fun in rehearsals with my friends and colleagues, but lately by the end of the night I’m just beat and want to lie down and read instead of talk to people. I think that I need to grab this busy-ness while I can though, because I know January/February will be less so and the summer too, and my work is cyclical enough that I really need to take advantage.

Especially since our country’s future is so uncertain, and who knows what retirement will look like, I feel like I need to work and sock away as much as I can. I’m sure social security will be on the chopping block soon. Speaking of, did you know that self-employed people pay a higher percentage into social security that people who have employers? This is ostensibly because people’s employer’s pay on their behalf, but it still boils down to more of my money going out of my pocket, into the social security fund, and then I’m told that it’s an entitlement? HA. I’d be happy to take that cash back, with the growth it would have had while in my IRA though. And then we can call it an entitlement.

Politics is definitely tough lately. People want to yell at each other rather than listen. I had a few interesting facebook experiences lately, actually, nothing to do with politics, but it made me think. The first was when my coffee maker broke the other week. Oh, this was a sad time! I have a little tiny coffee maker than fits under a shelf in my kitchen. I don’t have a ton of counter space, so being able to fit the coffee maker under this shelf is important to me. However, I went to look online and there were sparse options for small (under 10 inches!) coffee makers, so I thought I’d try a bit of crowd sourcing. Most of the responses I got weren’t about coffee makers; they were people telling me to get a french press. Now, I love my friends and I appreciate them responding, but I already have a french press. I have a stovetop espresso maker too, a pour over thingy, and an espresso maker. I wanted a coffee maker, something I can use to make coffee, something you fill up with water, coffee, hit a button, go do something else (this is key for me, as you know) and then you return when you have a minute to pour the coffee.

My next experience was when I was changing my strings the other night. I was trying to change the G and the string kept slipping out of the peg hole (violinists know what I mean, the rest of you are going to be confused, and for that I’m sorry). What was supposed to take 5 minutes ended up taking over 20! Every time I’d get the G up past an F it would slip, making this horrible sound and making me stressed and frazzled! I finally got it to stay by using a different hole in the peg than before, making sure to wrap the string around the end a few times, and then I went and laid on the couch. But not before posting a little blurb on facebook because I was curious if this was an experience others had had. And I got numerous responses (again, if you are reading, thanks, and I love you guys!) about how to keep my pegs from slipping. Which is not the issue I had!! (I still don’t know why this was such an issue, and I will be asking my luthier next time I see him). In any case, my new strings sound great.

But what I thought was: how often does this happen? We don’t read what the person wrote, or we don’t write precisely enough, and we end up having a huge misunderstanding, or end up feeling that nobody cares or understands us, when it is simply a communication issue. Maybe social media really isn’t the best way to interact. And yet, I love seeing vacation photos, I love keeping up on my friends who live out of town and seeing what everybody is up to. So social media is wonderful for some things, and it’s just hard to figure out what’s good and what isn’t. And honestly, crowdsourcing can be really helpful! But not in the above mentioned cases.

Oh, and I did get to have lunch with a friend last week and we tried a fun new Chinese crepe place in the Loop called Bing Bing. So I’m not totally without social engagement, though it might feel like it at times. You know I tend to get overly emotional and am prone to dramatics. I’m having a GREAT time preparing for a large variety of concerts; it’s just the stress. And I’m trying to do my best for my students too, and this weekend there’s an event several are participating in, and I’m hoping that I’m giving them what they need to succeed. I’m loving teaching college students, I’m loving all the chamber music I get to play, and I’m looking forward to playing in a full orchestra concert this month…I’ve dearly missed doing that, and too much time has passed. I hope I remember how!

I’m still plugging away at the #100daysofpractice challenge on Instagram. It’s been a great motivation and a really interesting experience. It’s possible the challenge adds to my stress levels, but I think the positives outweigh the negatives.

And as I said to a colleague on the phone the other day (probably sounding a little insane at the end of the week!), the trick to being busy is finding somebody else MORE busy and then you don’t feel like you are taking on too much. There’s always somebody working more, there’s always a bit more room in the schedule (especially for random gigs!) and there’s always more to learn, to experience, and to play!

And there you have it. My tired Sunday night ramblings and diatribe. But one of my personal goals is to continue to blog, at least shoot for weekly, because as I always say, I enjoy it. It helps organize my thoughts as well, and I enjoy making the record. Even if blogging is “dead.”

Oh hey there

I haven’t forgotten about you all. I’ve just been running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  Waking up, going to work, teaching, rehearsals, practicing in all my spare time until late in the evening, and when I have a few moments, trying to catch up on my emails! It’s been a busy start to the fall. Maybe I took on too many students. Maybe I have too many concerts coming up. Or maybe this is all okay, and transitioning from summer to fall is hard!

In any case, I’m here. I’m alive. I’m getting back. I’m only partially losing my mind, but most importantly, I’m making it work. Is this how I envisioned my life when I was in music school? No, but this is how it is right now, and it’s working. I currently have 45 students between home and schools, and I have a quartet, a duo, some other random chamber music groups, a concerto performance, an opera (done!) and so many weddings and other gigs…and it’s all fitting together.

I credit my to do list, my calendar, my sense of timing, and my insatiable desire to make it all work.

Sunday is a day off, though it will be spent catching up. This life isn’t for the weak Smile I’m exhausted, but so are so many other people. I’m sometimes frustrated, sometimes exhilarated, and having a good time teaching kids to play the violin (and adults too). I read other people’s advice on how to make it in the music world, and they recommend not doing a lot of things that I’ve done. Maybe I’ll write my own advice book.

But currently I’m trying to decide whether I should change into long pants or if capri length jeans are good for teaching today…and then I am back to it for 4 1/2 hours, so I’m going to just leave you with this!

How’s your fall going?