Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

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.

No More Cats

Sometimes I get so sad, thinking about the poor kitties. This year I had to put down my dear Oistrakh as well as Louie’s cat, Chloe. Though they were both old, it was still challenging. I think of their last moments, and especially Chloe, who was just sitting there, looking so sweet (with her skin just a mess, because she had a skin condition) and it just makes me cry. And then poor Mackenzie, the dog, is having some weird skin condition, and she just hasn’t gotten any better, and we are waiting for the results of her biopsy. It’s been a difficult year as a pet owner, and I’m hoping it gets better instead of worse. The vet said we should know the results by Monday (she gets her stitches out then) and hopefully there is some good news.

Sigh.

Sometimes I read back through old blog posts. I’ve mentioned this before. And it’s fun to read what I was doing, but the thing that sticks out at me is that I keep talking about work the same way. I’m always either too busy or worried. I’m feeling like things are getting easier…or I’m not. As a freelancer/teacher, there isn’t a big break coming. It will likely always be like this. I won’t get to a point of feeling comfortable, because there isn’t a guarantee. I just have to get more used to it, and in a way, I have, and in other ways, I haven’t.  I’ll always be thinking of new ideas, new ways to teach, and new ways to make music. That’s just the way it is, and the way it has to be!

Several people have asked what I have coming up. For the summer, the truth is, nothing, performance-wise! Which is a little weird, but nice, and relaxing. I’m working on repertoire for the fall. In the fall so far there is some great stuff lined up: I’m playing a variety of Perseid Quartet concerts, mostly in November/early December (including one at Washington University, and one at the World Chess Hall of Fame), I’m playing another solo recital (with my pianist friend Jen) at Christ Church Cathedral in October(full of standard rep), I got asked to play with a musical at the Fox (in the pit!), and I’m playing for the First Tuesday Composer’s Club at the Dark Room in September. So the fall looks pretty fun and busy, and that doesn’t include Winter Opera and of course, my regular teaching schedule. More will be added, but that’s what I’m working on, and what I’m practicing. Some of the weeks are a little overwhelming, and mostly I’m just working on the solo Bach, because I want to be as solid on the memory of the fugue as possible, especially since I’ll be taking 3 weeks off in late-July/early August.

All that being said, I’m always up for more playing, so no one reading this should assume my schedule is at its saturation point. It’s not. I love playing concerts, I love learning new music, and I love working towards goals.

Did anybody get some vouchers from Ticketmaster? I can’t even recall what I used the site for (tickets to figure skating??) but got some vouchers. They seem basically completely useless, especially as the list seemed to have only one concert in my area, which I have absolutely no desire to see. Seems like an easy settlement, oh, let’s give our wronged customers a pretty worthless settlement. Unlike Amazon, who gave out gift card balance for the Kindle books settlement, and it’s good anything on their site, not just, say, a select amount of Kindle books, none of which you’d ever want to read or that are related in any way to the books you originally bought on the site. (It’s possible that Amazon is just a company that is far more useful to me?)

Today we have a predicted high of 101. I guess Leslie is sending part of Phoenix ahead of her Smile Stay cool my friends!

the days are long but the weeks are short

How is it Friday already??

This week was pretty hectic. I’ve been teaching at the Webster U Community Music School String Camp every morning, in addition to my normal arduous teaching schedule…well, that is, 21 students this week. About half my normal schedule.

I lost one of my favorite students—her family is moving further away and will be changing teachers, and I’m very sad about it. Yesterday’s lesson was really wonderful and bittersweet.

More sad news (devastating?) is that the Tavern of Fine Arts is closing. I’ve played there a dozen or more times in the past few years—really, probably more, dozens?—and attended many concerts by my friends and colleagues, and I’m so sad they are closing. Being able to play and attend concerts at the Tavern was a true gift here, and now we won’t have that anymore. It was a special place and will be missed!

It’s tough, being a classical musician, being an artist. It’s a constant hustle. I don’t take the Tavern closing as a signal that “classical music is dead” but that the restaurant business is hard work, and our economy isn’t so good, and that the arts are always something that is hard to turn a profit with…the symphony doesn’t, Jazz at the Bistro doesn’t…Sigh. 

(I wanted to add, I’m so grateful for the owners, Aaron and Matt, and their vision, and all they did for five years to make St Louis a better place, and I’m so sad that they have to close.)

It’s a damn shame, because it was awesome to have somewhere to play and somewhere to see others play, for free. Maybe that was the problem, though I always made sure to order a drink and usually food, but who knows. The arts are incredible, they are important, they are worth money.

My head is full of new ideas and brainstorming. The one thing I’m sure of is that those of us most affected by this will move on and continue to make a wonderful contribution to the local arts world, because that’s what we do. We pull ourselves up, over and over again, because we love it. I teach violin and I play classical music because there isn’t anything else I would ever be happy doing. Or at least I have no interest in trying!

Well, this blog took a turn, but I’m okay with that. We are living through troubled times, especially with the recent shooting in Orlando…though I imagine that all times of human history are troubled. Throughout it all, what’s important is love and kindness, music and art, and doing our best to make the world better.

Winter Is Back

After a beautiful weekend, this morning I opened the door to snow flurries and freezing temperatures again. What is going on? I was under the impression the groundhog was OUT and winter was over. I’m very disappointed.

I played in the Bach at the Sem concert over the weekend, which was a sad thing because we lost a friend and colleague, Fred DeVaney, to cancer last week. I played quite a few concerts with Fred over the years and he was a good guy and a great musician.  He read my blog sometimes and commented that he would prefer less cat pictures and more of everything else. I feel like I’ve probably been disappointing him for some time. The group dedicated the concert to him, as many groups around the area will be doing for their next concert.

We will all miss him. Cancer is a terrible disease.

What do I say next? Life is short…hug the person next to you and appreciate what you have while you have it. The more loss I deal with the more it makes me think about what people will say about me when I’m gone, and I want that to be good stuff! Or at least, “she loved her pets…” Winking smile

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I was dogsitting for April’s dog, Olive, over the weekend. She’s a cutie!

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Chloe’s ears were chafing so we tried a few other things for her.

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The shirt didn’t actually work out, but she now has a new cone that doesn’t seem to rub her ears as much and is more flexible. I suppose it might be a little harder to see with but she seems to be moving a bit better. Louie and I had hoped to find something that she could wear to protect herself without a cone, but I don’t think we can. Even if we found a shirt with a high enough neck, she would get urine on it, as we learned. Sigh. Her ears are healing though, and hopefully her wounds as well. I don’t know how long she will have, but if we are careful maybe we can manage for a bit longer.

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A piece I am learning. What fingernails?

This week is full of the usual: teaching, practicing, paperwork (getting students signed up for the Federation Festival in April!), rehearsals, appointments, and running…it’s a busy month ahead, but busy with fun things like going to concerts, playing in concerts, running a trail race, and planning a short trip to Chicago over spring break. In between there is plenty of time for worry and stress, but I’m trying to remain as positive as I can.

This year is not what I had hoped for so far, but it makes me remember what is truly important, and that I am able to deal with whatever is thrown at me. I have learned some new things about my relationship with Louie while dealing with all of these pet stressors (and grief) and I think it’s all good and important things to have learned. I am stronger than I think, always.