All posts by hannahviolin

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

End of Vacation

Okay, so technically my vacation ended yesterday morning, when I went back to work. But I had off this afternoon and evening and I ran errands (target-Christmas décor, toiletries, etc), did some baking (morning glory muffins and pumpkin bread), some meal prep for the week ahead (pasta, quinoa), laundry, and oh…now I’m exhausted just reading about it all. I should have been like, reading and relaxing. Maybe I can do that next!

Tomorrow starts a two week stretch of what is looking to be somehow the busiest two weeks of the year. Let’s take my normal teaching schedule, stop it at 6:30 but move some people earlier, and then add a Broadway show every night and four on the weekend, plus two church services. And voila, you have a ridiculous schedule, BUT one that I’m really looking forward to. I had a blast playing a Broadway show last year, and I’m excited to be in the pit for the King and I. After that it’s only one more really busy week, one week finishing up, and then…TWO weeks of vacation. Two glorious weeks.

But my house looks awesome. I’m thrilled I got the place decorated for Christmas this year.

Thanksgiving went well. My two pies were a giant success, and I wish I could eat pie every day. Yes, my crusts are ugly. If I made pie more often I’m sure I’d be better at them, but I have enough problems with my weight!

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Everybody seemed to love both pies though. Should I share the recipes? Is anybody reading?

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Thanksgiving plate and a terrible picture of the table…

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We went for a walk in the afternoon on Thanksgiving day—over to Forest Park and by the ice rink, where there was a giant snow pile.

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Christmas decorations. I finally decorated with a tree for the first time since my divorce. I’d always had a tree since I graduated from school, but then the first year on my own I didn’t bother, and then Louie had never done one, so he didn’t care at all…and a few years went by. This year I got in the holiday spirit early with a Messiah gig and I said, you know what, I’m doing it. I got a new artificial tree (I actually love them, plus since I’m traveling over the actual holiday it’s just way easier to deal with) and found all my ornament and decoration boxes, and boom! The tree arrived Wed, and then I woke up Friday morning and decorated it, and now we (and all my students!) will enjoy it all month long.

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It’s weird…for the first while after my divorce I felt like nothing in life was quite real or permanent, but now I feel grounded, like I know where my life is going, and I’m happy with it, and I’m busy working and loving it, and I have so much Christmas stuff happening, and I’m just really in the right mood. I feel happiest when I’m on the busier side, even though I cherish downtime…and being so busy just feels more festive somehow. It’s also been challenging working through everything with Louie and making our holiday traditions work together, and all of that baggage that comes with dating somebody who already had decades of life without you. It’s not easy, but it’s well worth it, and I’m so thankful for him. And though he doesn’t care as much about the tree, he thinks it’s fun and he sees that it brings me joy.

We’re giving this guy back tonight sometime. It’s been fun having an extra dog around.

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Both are named Louie.

So there you have it, some serious thoughts, some fun thoughts. Oh, and I did this yesterday…so much fun!

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It’s weird, being a freelance musician. You want to talk about work, but sometimes it feels weird or awkward. ESPECIALLY on social media, because you don’t want to be bragging or making people jealous, but I like to share what my life is like. So many people look down on freelance musicians, teachers, musicians in general, and I sometimes let that bother me, but the truth is, I kind of love what I do. My students are generally awesome people (and often hilarious), I work with other great musicians (especially with the quartet, but across the board), and I get to do all kinds of different things in my day to day life. It’s a struggle sometimes, the schedule, the sheer amount of things to do, keeping track of expenses and deductions and accounts, keeping up on practicing, BUT it’s worth it overall.  At least I try to convince myself of that Winking smile

Happy Thanksgiving

I’m in between making pies right now—chocolate bourbon pecan is in the oven, and then I’ll make the old fashioned cream.

I’d offered to bring pie to Thanksgiving dinner at Louie’s mom’s, mostly because I love pie. I figured since Louie’s brother is vegan I’d try to make a vegan thing too, and picked out an amazing looking pumpkin cheesecake. I finished teaching last night around  6 and started working on it, because it was a bit involved—lots of food processing and blending of cashews, pecans, tofu, etc. We even made the marble effect, and then starting baking it. I’m not sure if my oven is a little cool—I usually think it is, but then I worry, so I didn’t turn it up. It seemed to need more time in the oven, so I kept checking it every 5 minutes, and gently jiggling it to check texture. I took it out another time…and somehow the bottom of the pan popped up and the whole thing fell out onto the oven door…

After quite a lot of tears and self loathing, Louie helped me clean it up, we tried a little bit (verdict, might have been better if cooked all the way) and then decided that one less dessert on Thanksgiving was okay.

So that’s how my vacation is going so far! I have today and tomorrow off work, and I swear I’m not going to answer work emails (the good thing is that on holidays you get less, but the bad thing is that I was already behind so there are a few burning holes in my email inbox), practice (except I agreed to play a gig Sunday morning that has two rather challenging pieces, somehow!) or even think about work (ha!, that was a joke).

Here’s a few snippets from the past week:

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Had a really good quartet concert—played Mendelssohn and Onslow and it was great. The venue was really nice too, and we’re hoping to play again there (a local church, Bethel Lutheran).

I also had a few students play in the SLAMTA (music teacher’s association) playathon at the Galleria Mall. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the kids had a great time and I always enjoy activities that build community and encourage practicing.

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I got a review published in the American Music Teacher! And we are dogsitting for my friend Jen’s dog Louie. He’s a hilarious little guy, who was afraid to go downstairs, though last night he finally did, which was awesome. It’s important to know my kitchen is downstairs, and that’s where the dogs are fed, so we had to carry him down the stairs many times, and he hated this. (Never mind that when he got there he got food, he still hated it and was terrified.)

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And yesterday we took both dogs on a little hike at Forest 44 Conservation area. It isn’t a terribly scenic place to hike but it’s easy to get to, not too crowded, and you still get into the woods and get fresh air away from the city, so it’s a favorite of ours.

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So: coming up, playing for Mannheim Steamroller, playing two weeks of the King and I at the Fox Theatre, various Christmas gigs, lessons, juries, end of semester grading (I actually have papers to grade for one job!) and then it’ll be Christmas vacation. I’ll have two actual weeks off, well, almost, from December 25 to January 7, no work at all other than some practice, likely. That doesn’t count as work, even though it is, somehow.

I’d better check on my pie. Right now my dessert making is 0 for 1. Hoping to make it 2 for 3 by noon.

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have a wonderful time celebrating with your friends and family and loved ones, and I hope some of those categories overlap.

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.