Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

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.”

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.


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.


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


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.


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!