Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

Do you hate classical music?

I’ve played a few concerts at various retirement homes recently. I’ll tell you what, the elderly don’t hold back punches. At least some of them.

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The Perseid Quartet played a great program of Beethoven and Brahms at Ladue Chapel, and then we repeated the program for a concert at a retirement home. After the third movement of the C minor Brahms quartets, one of the audience members piped up “are you going to play anything we know?” and then when we said, well, I guess not, one of her friends said “well, you tried.”

It made me sad on so many levels. One because if I were in a home this is the concert I would love to hear. We worked our butts off and played them a really good concert, instead of sight reading some schlock. But then it also made me sad for this woman, that was stuck in a place with concerts she didn’t enjoy and probably doesn’t have too much going on to look forward to.

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Another time I was playing with a flute/violin/piano trio. I’d gotten there first and was setting up and an elderly woman asked what we were playing. As I was telling her, her face fell, and she said “I don’t like Classical Music.” I suggested it was a fun program and she might enjoy it anyway, but she told me she must have gotten her nights mixed up and then left in a huff…well, as much of a huff as she could.

I know you can’t please everybody all the time. And that night several audiences members came up to us afterwards and said how much they enjoyed it. The negative comments are kind of funny, but they also reflect how we classical musicians feel in society sometimes. The thing is, I absolutely love the music I play. It means the world to me, and I try to show my audiences that, and my biggest hope and dream would be that everybody finds music that moves them in the same way. My music covers every detail and depth of human emotion and the human experience. I suppose it’s easy to hate on that! FEELINGS. Plus, then when I say that, some people hear “I think I’m superior”. Winking smile

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This is a nice weekend. Tonight we are going to see a show at Jazz at the Bistro. Tomorrow we are either going to the Pet Parade or just for a hike, and then tomorrow night I have the first opera performance of Carmen with Winter Opera. I spent the morning sleeping in, sending faxes to my Senators and Congressman (I use an online service called Faxzero, which is free for up to 5 faxes a day– I hope they are getting my thoughtfully written letters), and taking the dogs for a walk (dog-sitting for Banjo.). The week was hectic and busy, and the next one will be too, but for once I get a fairly relaxing weekend. My to do list isn’t getting shorter, but it’s not getting much longer right now either, so that’s good. Life, for right now, is manageable and interesting, so that’s good enough!

We’re Still Fighting

I know some people think that people should keep their political thoughts out of the public sphere.

Especially someone like me. I’m self-employed. I should keep my thoughts to myself. But I believe that part of my job as a musician is to make the world a better place. My biggest hope for all of my students is that through their violin lessons, they become more compassionate people, better able to communicate their thoughts and feelings, better able to accept their failures and successes, and better able to work with other people to achieve a goal. I have always wanted to make the world a better place through music.

Through my life as an artist, I have been fortunate to travel the world. I have been fortunate to meet people from all walks of life.

I do live in a bubble here, I live in a city, I mostly hang out with other similarly educated people, because most of my friends I have met through work. I have many gay friends, but less non-white friends than I should. I live next door to a family of immigrants and I don’t know them very well and I should. I don’t speak up enough against injustice, but I am now. I haven’t done enough in the past, but I want to change that.

I know many people say we should wait and see, that we shouldn’t worry, than this isn’t the end of the world. I agree that they have the right to say that. But we are in unprecedented times, and whether or not you agree with me on that, I hope you understand where I am coming from.

I will protest. I will call my representatives to complain. I will do what I can.

The other day I posted on facebook after calling my Senators and two of my friends commented that I inspired them to all. Me! That’s all I really want, to encourage others to do what is good, what is right. I’m not perfect, and I’ve never claimed to be. But if we all work together, in our imperfections, doing our best, we can make our nation, our world, into a better place for everyone.

I’m not afraid. I am, of course, but not of immigrants. I’m not afraid of terrorists, or refugees, or people who are different than me. I’m afraid of losing our right to free speech and free press, of losing our autonomy as women, of losing the fight against climate change, of losing our nation to people who want to close our borders and only let white people, mostly men, be in charge.

I will never understand, and I won’t accept it. I know we lost the election, but we didn’t lose our country. We didn’t lose our values forever.

Maybe this is part of why I’m here, maybe this is one of my purposes.

Let’s work together to truly make the world better. I don’t know exactly how, but if we all take small steps we will. This is not a time to hide our heads under the sand. We have been for too long.

From Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, p. 649 in my edition:

Luna said, encouragingly…“That’s right, Harry…come on, think of something happy…”

“Something happy?” he said, his voice cracked.

We’re all still here,” she whispered, “we’re still fighting.”

That’s one of my favorite Harry Potter quotes. It gets me through rough times. And of course, Gandalf from Lord of the Rings.

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

House of Cards

No, not the show. The show that we now look at and say, gosh, I wish Frank Underwood were our president.

But the schedule. OH the lesson schedule! It’s a delicate house of cards, and then just when you figure it out, someone says, but wait, can I move to such and such day and time since this other activity changed…and first you think “NO YOU CAN’T” but then you think about how much you like that student and then you say, sure, let me email 17 other students and see if anybody can switch. And then you wait.

I woke up feeling really stressed. Some of that, but that’s not a big deal. Worst case, I can’t fix it, I lose that student, I gain another. I’ve lost a few students in the last few weeks and when that happens I tend to 1) panic 2) post on facebook that I have a few openings 3) start thinking about ways to advertise 4) get a lot of potential new students before I do much else.  Career wise things are just fine.

It’s all this country stuff. I’m worried, I’m scared, I am terrified for our future. I worry about everything—I started to make a list, but it was too long. Basically I can’t believe that our country is now headed in the direction it is headed. I work with immigrants EVERY DAY and my life is considerably richer because of it.

I will march again. I called my senators yesterday and I will keep doing so. I will write them. I will call. I will keep donating money to causes that are important to me. You should too.

And now I will retreat. I will practice. I will read a mystery novel. I will teach my students (and wait for emails). I will play an opera tonight. I will come home and relax. I will make the best of life while I can, while it is still here for us to enjoy. You should too.

Rainy Day

Happy Birthday to my sister Carrie today! She is the “baby” of the family and lives in booming NYC. Where it is hard to get Amazon deliveries properly, apparently, as both my sister Leslie and I have had issues. I thought they were using drones these days?

I keep getting reminded that most of adulthood is dealing with small issues that arise that mostly aren’t your fault. I’ve dealt with car problems, computer issues, customer service issues, and more over the past two weeks. Every time I think I am getting organized and have things together something else goes wrong that I have to tackle. And you know what, that’s life. I tend to initially want to take things personally but I don’t actually believe that things happen for a reason (unless that reason is randomness) and so why should I assume that a company is out to get me or that the IT dept at a school is trying to make my life harder? Everybody is trying to do their best (well, let’s say 80 percent) and I can’t take it personally.

Life has been ticking along. January is always a little slow performance wise, but there’s been plenty to do with practice and student organization. Next week I start with all my college students (at two colleges!) in addition to my private students AND Winter Opera rehearsals, so…it’ll be busy!

I got off the phone with Carrie who is planning a cross country camping trip with her boyfriend. I’m so excited for her! I realized I never finished blogging about my last summer trip (well, I didn’t just realize this, it’s an off and on feeling of, hmm, can I still adequately write about it?) and I should, because I think journaling is such a valuable resource. She’s looking at Colorado, Utah, Sequoia, perhaps, and it just sounds so wonderful and fun! Of course, we could do something like that, but I think this summer we might take a different vacation approach. I still want to get some good camping in…there’s something about the feeling of being on the road, living out of the car, cooking over a little stove and relaxing at night outside in front of the campfire. Plus the beautiful scenery! As much as I do love playing the violin and seeing my students and everything, oh man, being on vacation permanently sure would be nice. I hope to retire someday while I’m still active and healthy enough to enjoy it (my parents are an excellent example).

Sometimes I think about my life goals. I often feel they are much as odds with the people profiled in the newspaper these days. I want to leave the world a better place than it was before me, I want to make a difference to people, to be a person who makes their lives richer and fuller (these seem like selfish goals, but that’s okay), I want to travel, I want to read a lot, I want to be healthy, I want to be able to retire, and I want to have more cats Smile I want to be a good friend and family member, and I want to be content with my partner. Those aren’t even in any particular order, but those are my general goals. Maybe they are the same as many people, but sometimes it feels like I want different things. I’ve always known I was different than many people, but the past few months have really made me feel it. Then again, I also feel a great sense of community with others, so I guess the country is just more obviously divided. I spent a lot of my childhood feeling alienated from my classmates so it shouldn’t surprise me that I have different life goals than they do.

And now! I must practice! I have a performance tomorrow morning that I’m filling in for at the last minute (well, I had yesterday to prepare) so I’d better get to it. I only have 3 or 4 students today, and it’s easy to feel like you have so much time, and no matter what, time ticks by and the day disappears.

Holidaze

As you’ve no doubt noticed (well, there’s a doubt) I haven’t found the time to blog lately! Or made the time…time is what you make of it, right? That’s why I’ve decided that each day will henceforth have 27 hours rather than 24 to fit more things in, including sleep.

But seriously, I haven’t blogged all December. So much has been going on! We had our last Perseid Quartet concert of the year, at the Danforth University Center on the campus of Washington University (Wash U, as we call it) and it was a great success—full house, plus talked to some great people and might have gotten another interesting opportunity from it. The next week I played a concert with my newly formed piano trio in Illinois. It was a cold night, but we had a few in attendance and had a nice time sharing our program. It was a little stressful as rehearsals had been harder to schedule than we’d hoped but we pulled it off.

Through it all you know how December can be for musicians, lots and lots of extra concerts. Remind me next year not to commit myself to any serious performances in December that require practice…for instance, tonight I’m playing a solo performance to benefit some of my students, but AH I’ve had to keep up on practicing while going crazy. At least I’m done for the semester at Wash U now, grades are submitted…oh, and I got another adjunct position, at Lindenwood University, so that’ll be another thing to add to my schedule. Louie joked that I’m taking all the jobs, singlehandedly, and there aren’t any left for anybody else, but the truth is, to make this whole freelance thing work financially you have to work a ton. I’m having a good time with it though, and I honestly feel like this has been the best year, career-wise, in a long time. And the other truth is that I have hectic crazy weeks but I have time, it’s there, it just needs organizing. And I love doing all this. I thrive on being overworked.

It’s been a terrible year otherwise, and I’ve also been grabbing as much work as possible to try to save money for fear of what is going to happen over the next few years. Luckily I am now going on Louie’s health insurance rather than staying with the marketplace because that’s just a mess. I don’t know how our insurance will be impacted if and when the idiots in government repeal the ACA (without replacing, because they are the party of “NO” without any ideas of their own) but I know whatever happens will be better through his employer than through the marketplace. I am angry and bitter that I have to, that I cannot make this work in this country without a partner. But he is a good partner at least and is somebody worth depending on Smile

I think I’m going to try to get a quick nap in before the day gets away from me (I was up really early and didn’t get enough sleep due to a late rehearsal) and I need the energy to perform tonight. I’m playing Prokofiev’s Solo Sonata—I’ve performed the first movement several times over the past 15 years, but never all three movements! Wish me luck!

Bach thoughts

The weekend absolutely flew by! I was mostly working though Louie and I did get to enjoy a nice (but hot) bike ride along the Riverfront Trail on Monday morning.

I’m just popping in for a quick blog post. I know many of you are eagerly waiting to hear more about my travels, and I will, I will tell you!

But not now because I am still busy scheduling and rescheduling students, and mostly busy practicing for an upcoming recital/concert on October 2.

I’m performing Bach’s C Major Violin Sonata for the first time ever, and I’m totally overwhelmed and stressed by this. I’m playing from memory, as one must…at least that’s how I feel about it. The fugue is ridiculous and amazing…I remember the first time I ever heard it (I believe on a CD while I was in high school) and I was blown away by, how could music be like that? It was nothing like I’d ever heard before.

There are 3 Sonatas and 3 Partitas for Solo Violin by Bach, and I’ve performed most of all the other ones except for the C Major (Sonata no. 3), so it was time. And this concert is in a big church, so it will be very nice for Bach.

The thing about solo Bach is…well, there are millions of different ways to perform it, so there’s the fact of deciding how I want to play it, while worrying (and I know I shouldn’t but I do) that any other musicians in the audience will be judging me for playing inauthentically or NOT in the style that they think it should be. Plus worrying about memory and intonation and all of that.

And I’m doing all of this mostly for free. I teach and play gigs and weddings, but most of the “serious” concerts I play are basically for free. I do often get a small stipend, but when you consider all the practice and rehearsal that goes into them…not that I’m complaining, but just telling you.

It’s kind of ridiculous, except those are what I live for! Those concerts are WHY I play the violin, why I insist upon making a living doing this, and why I teach. Especially why I teach, so that my students can appreciate and love a piece of music as much as I do. And if I didn’t surround myself with music all the time, I wouldn’t be the musician I am.

If you aren’t a musician, or if you aren’t crazy this post might not resonate with you, but perhaps you can all appreciate the feeling of worrying about what everybody thinks while just really doing something that you care deeply about that takes up a lot of work…not for financial gain, but simply for yourself.

I do hard things because I can. I look forward to performing, I look forward to being done performing, and knowing that I did something difficult, something challenging, something that might seem pointless (I mean, really, how many times can one play Brahms and Bach and Beethoven…but really, the answer is an infinite number of times, and not everything we do with music has to be new and different and sometimes it can simply be something we love and if that’s the same thing that hundreds of other violinists loved, and maybe even played better, music isn’t a zero-sum game…)…

And what I sometimes forget: maybe somebody in the audience will hear the fugue for the first time, and they will be amazed and changed, just like I was. Just because hundreds or thousands of violinist have performed it, not everybody has heard it. There are people in the world who have never heard Dvorak’s American Quartet, or Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, or perhaps (less likely, but perhaps) Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.

I’m not even sure where I’m going with this, except that I feel better having written it.