Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

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.


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


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



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



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.


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.

A New Month

Perhaps February will be a better month! I’m happy to shut the door on January.

Chloe has a new wound. She spent all day at the vet for testing and then came home and we saw a new wound. That meant she spent more time back at the vet (for free, thankfully) getting stiches. Now she has less fur than ever, but seems to be glad to be home and stitched up. She has a rare condition that seems to be known as fragile skin syndrome, and what the cause of it is is partly why she spent the day at the vet for testing. (Also for her diabetes). We’re going to try having her wear a shirt, I think.



She’s a cutie and a sweet cat. It took me a little while to warm up to her when I first met her, because she likes to cuddle on your chest with her claws out, and she used to “knead” with her claws out too, and I didn’t care for that. But we’ve come to an understanding, and we are enjoying our time together.


She sat on my lap last night. She usually smells like urine and obviously can’t groom herself, but she’s sweet. We don’t have the relationship I had with the Fatness, obviously, but I’m fond of her, and I’m sorry she’s having such a hard time. She’s still enjoying cuddling and eating and doing stuff, so we are forging ahead.

I’m sorry if some of those pictures might be gross—I’ve gotten used to seeing her. You get used to weird stuff I guess!

Mackenzie is trying a special diet. She is not a huge fan, simply because it means no more table scraps, which she loved. But hopefully she will stop being so itchy and maybe even regrow her hair…she has a friend visiting this weekend (litter mate!) and they are having a pretty good time. (edited to add: she seems to like the new food, it’s just being limited to ONLY that food that makes her sad. Or it makes ME sad, when she looks at me with those eyes!)


In non-pet-related news…(is there anything else going on really?) the weather over the weekend was amazing.

Friday night we had dinner at Sapporo 2 in Midtown. It was quite good! Louie and I shared this chirashi bowl and a swordfish dish.


Louie and I went to Forest Park on Saturday to walk around with the dogs. (darn it, mentioned the pets again!)


The previous week this was ice and geese covered!

I had a quartet rehearsal after that, and then we went to a surprise party for April’s boyfriend Charlie. I couldn’t make the surprise bit, so we got the party after he already knew it was happening, but it was still fun Winking smile

And then Sunday my quartet had a concert in Edwardsville. We had nice audience and played pretty well. It was our third performance of the Beethoven Quartet and the first of the Smetana Quartet. I talked about the Smetana and thought the audience responded well, especially when I read some of Smetana’s words about the piece, so I’ll have to do the same for our repeat performance at the end of February.


Afterwards we all went out to dinner in Edwardsville to celebrate. Stephanie (our cellist) had a bunch of family at the concert and it was fun to chat with them and enjoy some good food (we went to Social Gastropub and I would recommend it) and relax!

So here we are, February 1. Here’s hoping the month is less stressful and worrisome than January. There are quite a few things going on, and the remaining pets are still sick, so I’m not super hopeful, but losing the Fatness definitely ruined January…


It’s not just pets to worry about, there are also various family members going through things…I hate to think that this is what getting old is like, but I think it is. You just deal with what’s right ahead of you, treasure the time you have with loved ones, and hold tight to happy times and memories?

Feeling Quasi-inspired

I’m feeling quasi-inspired to write a year in review post. Here we are at the end of 2015..what a year!

I’m torn about how my year went. On the one hand, I had several amazing trips.  I also had some great meals, great hikes, read a bunch of good books, hung out with Louie and a few other friends, had fun with the pets. I played a bunch of fun concerts with the quartet, with Jen, and with other groups. I was in a play! I went to some parties and dinners, I ran some fun races and enjoyed challenging myself. I maxed out my IRA for the first time and met some other financial goals, putting myself in a really good place for this year, and I have good insurance (thanks Obama!).

But, this year was stressful. I let my emotions get the best of me sometimes, I compared myself to others too often, and I let myself worry too much. The pets are having health issues. I worry that I’m not working enough and that I don’t have enough friends.

By any measure my life is going really well. I guess I still just have that niggling fear that I’ve failed, that I should have a full-time job in a full-time orchestra, and that I made mistakes in the past putting my relationship in front of my career…even though today my relationship is going really well, and I often think that I’m lucky I ended up where I am in order to have met Louie when I did.

In other words, I’m probably really normal. I like to reassure myself by telling myself that most people don’t feel like they have their shit together, that I’m really normal. Don’t dissuade me of this notion!

So I’ve been giving some thought to what I want to improve and work on for the new year of 2016. I want to work on my relationships with colleagues and friends. If you are reading this, get in touch with me. Email, comment, call, facebook message, what have you. Let’s talk. Let’s do lunch. I want more people in my life. I have limited myself for a few years. I’ve let my relationships limit me. I want to do more, I want to talk to more people, I want to open more doors (and windows!) and network and find common goals and aspirations, and feel like we are all here in this world together. And of course, always, I want to make more music…I’ve made some mistakes over the years, I’ve cut some people off, I’ve cut off opportunities for various reasons. I want to build bridges and create new opportunities, I want to say hello and clink glasses together, and I want to make new friends.

And I want 2016 to be more relaxed. Another blogger I read came up with the theme of “peace” and I think I’m going to copy. To have peace to move forward, to let go, to relax, to misunderstand, to grow, and to realize that people’s outsides don’t match their insides, to calm down and not overreact, to let things go, to be okay when new stuff comes up that isn’t on my calendar, and…to realize that when people invite me to something on Monday at 5 pm it isn’t out of spite, that they don’t know my schedule, to be peaceful and realize it’s okay to say, no, I’m sorry, I can’t do it, I have to work…and to not feel like a horrible person because my work hours are slightly different than many people’s work hours. Peace.

So there you have it. My year-end wrap up. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Let’s network…I want to reconnect with old friends and meet new people and play, always I want to play the violin. I love teaching, sure, but I love playing more. That’s why I do this all. And if you are reading this, and you want to play more too, or to network, or to get to know me better or to get reacquainted, contact me! So my two goals for the year: the one word goal to rule them all, Peace, and then…network.

What are your goals for 2016? How did 2015 go for you?