Category Archives: Performing

Unseasonably warm and support the Arts

It feels like spring is already here. I suspect (hope) it isn’t, for no other reason than I worry the mosquitoes will be unbearable this summer. I don’t know if that’s scientific or rational, but it feels right, and that’s the only thing that matters, right?

The spring semester is in full swing. I’m 5 weeks into my college teaching (out of 14 total weeks), I’m near spring break, I’m overwhelmed and stressed yet this week I’ve found more time than I really needed to get things done, which is great. I haven’t done as much exercising as I would like as the time has been awkward and perhaps, just perhaps, the lack of planning and wanting to get up earlier falls on me. I must do better!

I’ve got some fun performances coming up: Carmen with Winter Opera, and then the Ravel String Quartet. Solo wise I’m playing a piece or two on a recital at the end of April (Prokofiev Sonata, I believe, and maybe one short piece too, I’m only one performer on the concert.) And I’m learning Astor Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons to play with the Metropolitan Orchestra of St Louis in the fall, and I’m totally psyched and excited (and honored!). It’s going to be a blast.

I find myself fretting quite a bit over the news. I wrote a half dozen postcards yesterday and mailed them (the ones listed on this activism checklist) and I’ve been writing and faxing letters to my congresspersons. The news is stressful and worrisome, and while I’d love to hide my head in the sand and hope for the best, the fact is: I can’t afford to do that because others can’t afford to do that. I must stand up for those who cannot, and for those who need me to.  You may disagree, but that’s your right. My right is to call, write, protest, fax, and blog Smile

All the while playing music. Come see Carmen! Go see your local symphony or opera company. Support local artists: don’t JUST go to the big symphony or big opera company, go see a small group, a chamber group, a start-up troupe. Just like going to a mom and pop owned restaurant puts more money directly into their pocket, going to a concert by a small organization supports them more than going to the concert by the well established organization does! Don’t assume you won’t like it as much. Of course, I also attend the symphony here and go to Jazz at the Bistro, but I also try to see smaller groups (well, when my friends play, and when I’m not playing!) as those are important too. Don’t just attend Opera Theatre St Louis, go to Winter Opera and Union Avenue and more. Don’t just see the St Louis Symphony, go to the Metropolitan Orchestra of St Louis, the Arianna String Quartet, the Perseid (hah, that’s me). Go see local productions of musicals. Support artists, and support your heart and soul.

There’s my sales pitch. Maybe the federal government sees no need for the arts, but I think they are incredibly important on so many levels, ranging from emotional levels to economic levels. The arts boost the economy.

Oh, and I mention classical music mostly, but pick what you love best: visual art, musicals, plays, etc. It’s all great!

Apologies for the random post. I had a lot of ideas and typed them quickly. Publish now and off I go!

Taco Thursday

I’m still playing catch-up on life (and vacation blogging, I know, it’s seriously been like three months), and I’m still exhausted, but I am SO CLOSE. Sunday is the recital performance and then it’s all relaxing and unicorns and glitter from there on! I’m trying to stay positive and remember that ultimately, none of this matters and the sun is going to take over the earth anyway.

Last night after teaching Louie suggested we go to Olio for dinner rather than cook, so we went out for a nice meal. Olio is a place I’ve been a few times and they used to have this delicious whitefish salad that was absolutely to die for. Unfortunately it is gone from the menu. Our dinner was quite good but I’ll always miss that whitefish plate.

I’ve had the morning off, which means practicing. The joint of my right index finger is a little achy so I’ve been taking it easy. I am as ready as I’ll be at this point and it’s just a matter of relaxing. I’ve got the Bach memorized well, and I love playing it. I blame the weather for aches and pains—it feels like it’s going to rain, and we’ve finally got into some nice fall weather.

Many of you might follow me on Instagram, but if you don’t (even if you do) here are some pictures I took during the Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder run the past two weeks.

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Here’s one of me in the pit. SELFIE.

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I look a teensy bit creepy there, but that’s just how I look these days Smile

I know that Sunday after the performance I will feel great, and be relieved and all that, and that Monday I will be relaxed and get to sleep in and catch up on a variety of errands and all kinds of things, but until then, I’m just stressed to the max. Preparing for this concert has been much more challenging for me than I anticipated. I will probably have to give quite a lot of thought to things in the future, what went wrong, how I could have done things differently, all that.

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To end on a lol note Smile

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.

It’s definitely July

The heat. My god, the heat. (I’m not quoting Seinfeld, he doesn’t own the English language. I made that up on my own.)

We are under a heat advisory until Friday night! This is typical for St Louis. I did go for a short run this morning—I’d gotten new shoes on a steep discount on Amazon Prime Day and was glad they arrived just before I went out. I shouldn’t have waited until 10 am to run though, as it was a heat index of 99 already. I figure it’s good to get acclimated, but also good to take it easy, keep it short, and drink loads of water.

This summer is flying by. Much like life. We are one week away from going out of town for a few weeks. ROAD TRIP. Which was the big climax of the summer and I feel like the summer has been kind of a bummer. It’s no one thing, and honestly, there have been a lot of great moments and activities. But it’s just been a tough year, for a variety of reasons, and the summer hasn’t been any easier. Between personal and career stressors, people and animals being sick and dying, and the horrible things going on in the world and politically, it’s hard to stay positive! I do need to try to do better. Louie suggested we start meditating, and maybe he’s right. I’ve never been one for sitting still and thinking or whatever meditation is about, and maybe it would be good for me.

But as usual, lots of activities. Last week we went to the Cat Video Festival at the Museum of Contemporary Art. It was a fun evening, though the sound for the movies was way too loud! We laughed a lot, and enjoyed a photo booth beforehand.

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I was a VIP. This was because I paid more for our tickets and got a reserved seat. It was annoyingly an obstructed view seat. Maybe I’m complaining too much—it was fun! I wish I had cats!

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Mackenzie is doing a bit better though. Her hair is growing back in many places and she seems to be feeling a lot better too.

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April took some nice photos during the Gateway Festival Orchestra concert last weekend. I had a solo, for which I was very excited about, until I got a giant nerve attack. I was taken aback by getting all shaky as I’ve performed a lot recently, and I do have solos with Winter Opera too! But I got really shaky and didn’t have any beta blockers left…I used to take them for auditions and stuff, but ran out a few years ago and never got another prescription since I thought I was fine. So now I’m not sure what to do. Again, maybe the meditation would help. I think I’ve been under a lot of stress, much of it self-inflicted, and it WAS a big crowd, and an orchestra of people who don’t know me well, and that I was wanting so hard to make a good impression on. Oh well! I think it was still okay, and if they want to judge me for having nerve issues, then fine. Judge me. Join the crowds.

Last night we went to dinner at a restaurant called Sheesh on South Grand. I loved the presentation, so beautiful! The food was delicious as well.

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I’m off to practice for a bit before I teach. I am teaching until the night before we leave, so no rest for the weary!

Super Tuesday

Can you believe the election cycle is still going on? I am trying to think of ways to cope. Sometimes I get too upset and angry over things, both in the news and in day to day life, and I really need to work on staying calmer and reminding myself that the world is a richer place when people see the world differently. And reminding myself that I have chosen a different path in life.

SO…my weekend was crazy. Saturday morning was the Castlewood Cup, for which I was quite undertrained and so was Louie, but we had a great time and I didn’t even come in last…even though I thought I did at the time. I am a seriously slow runner. All of you who say, oh, I’m slow. No. I am. And there was also so much mud, and I thought I was going to die and/or get sucked down into it, lost forever. I might write a proper recap another day. But we lived and we made it! And Louie is a more natural runner than I am and he did quite well.

Then it was pizza and showering and then a Perseid Quartet concert at the Tavern of Fine Arts. We played Dvorak and Smetana and had a great time. This ended up being one of my favorite programs—I’m such a sucker for a romantic program. We had a large and enthusiastic crowd and just had a great time overall. I was starving by the time the concert was over and so really enjoyed my food there too. They have a relatively new chef and he’s fantastic.

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Sunday was a double opera rehearsal day, but at least I got to have a relaxing enough morning. The conductor for the opera, Darwin Aquino, is really great…he’s also a composer and I’m currently listening to a piece he wrote for violin solo. I’m brainstorming a solo violin (only me, no one else) recital program…there are so many cool pieces out there for solo violin, and I’m also finding some (and looking for more) by female composers. That’s another blog post for another day too, probably Smile

So then Monday flew by with lots of students, practice and a rehearsal. Today I had a short rehearsal and then a vet visit. Both of the pets are somewhat on the mend…Chloe’s eyes have definitely cleared up though we have to continue her medication for that, and while Mackenzie isn’t exactly healed, she is doing a bit better for now. I will naturally keep you posted.

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The rest of the week is for teaching, dress rehearsals for the opera, and rehearsals for a young composer’s concert at Webster on Saturday. Should be fun, I guess?!

An Evening Off

It’s amazing to have an evening off. I got home from my fall student recital, put some laundry in, practiced scales for approximately 1 hour and now I’m relaxing. I figured I’d better write a blog post before I fall asleep…even though it’s only 5:20 it’s pitch black outside (well, except for street lights) so I feel like it must be nearly bedtime.

This fall has been out of control. I can’t believe I’m looking forward to the holiday season because things will be less busy. It’s also possible I’m totally wrong on that prediction.

Let’s work backwards. This afternoon 14 students played on my student recital. Today was the first time I’d organized a fall recital for my private students and I’m so glad I was able to get it together. I know the kids learn so much preparing for and performing on recitals. I was particularly proud of a few of my students, one with cochlear implants playing his first recital, another who surprised me by playing from memory when she’d planned to use the music, and two adults who had the nerve to play on a recital with a bunch of kids! But I’m proud of ALL of them, and was so happy with everybody’s performances. I was proud of the students who made mistakes, the ones that stood tall and focused better than they do in the lessons, the one who lost his nerve and had to sit down (especially him, and I hope he doesn’t give up on recitals!)…everybody learned something, and accomplished something that few people in the world are able to. How many of you have played violin on a recital?

Last night the Perseid Quartet played at the Tavern of Fine Arts with Diana Umali. We played Beethoven’s Quartet Opus 59 #1 and Dohnanyi’s Piano Quintet. This was our second performance of the program, and I was glad to have had the first one under our belt. This program was no joke and was a big challenge to have undertaken, but I think we really pulled it off. I believe we are growing as a quartet, and even though we aren’t able to rehearse or practice as much as we might if we weren’t all full time violin/viola/cello teachers as well, we really made some great music! I was pretty stressed about the performance but part way through I really started enjoying myself.

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Many thanks to the Tavern for providing a fun place to perform and watch concerts. I’m sure it’s the case in many places, but Louie and I are constantly struck by how many concerts and performances one can attend practically every night, and especially on the weekends. Mostly we are sorry to miss performances, but when we do get to see them we love it!

Friday night we managed to get to Jazz at the Bistro to see the group Omaha Diner.  I taught right beforehand so we decided to make a night of it and get dinner there. The food was alright—it’s catered by Catering St Louis and I think it’s an improvement over the food they used to have but nothing to write home about. However, being able to eat while enjoying excellent music is a real plus!

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We initially had seats in the balcony, but for the second set (you can stay for no charge if there is availability) we sat on the main floor really near the stage. Both sets of seats were great!

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We ended up sharing our table for the second set with a nice young couple and had a great time chatting with them while waiting for the band to go on again. So, not only great music, decent food, but excellent socialization opportunities? And while I’m not a giant jazz fan (Louie is) I really enjoyed this band—I think it was my favorite concert I’ve attended at Jazz at the Bistro.

Thursday night was our usual Taco Thursday. We’ve ended up going with our friends Ben and Roz quite a few times (they are great to humor our late night dinner schedule! The main issue we have with the event is finding places that serve dinner until 10 pm on Thursday, which is more difficult than you’d think here in STL) and Thursday we did again. We tried Chava’s in Soulard, where I had been years ago but not recently. I had the fried fish tacos and they were pretty good. I’d go there again.

So that’s the highlights of the week. Otherwise it was just teaching, practicing, and rehearsing, with some running (3 times a week pretty consistently), reading (enjoying Gretchen Rubin’s Happier at Home recently) and of course, lots of pets…

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Now it’s nearly dinner time—sweet potatoes and red peppers are roasting in the oven, to be added with beans to tortillas for tacos!