Sunday, February 27, 2011

The 2011 Academy Awards

This was the first year I ever watched the Oscars. I know - probably weird, right? But I knew that The King's Speech was up for several Academy Awards, and I was really hoping for Colin Firth to finally win an Oscar. So I was actually pretty excited about watching the whole event.

14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld looked beautiful and refreshingly age-appropriate. I approved.

Another age-appropriate dresser? Helen Mirren. Honestly, a lot of the celebrities just didn't look their best in the dresses they were wearing. Helen looked glamorous in grey.

Not a fan of Melissa Leo's speech. But David Seidler's? That's what an acceptance speech ought to be.

Mila Kunis was a little awkward, but - aside from the color - I liked her dress.

Christian Bale's beard has got to go.

Cate Blanchett's dress was weird.

Okay, a lot of women's dresses were weird.

Camila Alves is gorgeous.

I don't know where Natalie Portman stands on political issues, but her best actress acceptance speech happened to be beautifully in support of life: she thanked her parents for giving her the gift of life, and then her fiance for her most important role yet, that of becoming a mother. I liked that.

Sandra Bullock was elegant and gracious and charming as she presented the award I cared about the most - Best Actor in a Leading Role - which, I was thrilled to see, went to Colin Firth. It was a moment I wanted very badly for him, which really was kind of weird, since I seldom get attached to celebrities.

I did think Jesse Eisenberg was really good in The Social Network, and deserved recognition, but Colin Firth was nothing short of tremendous. And while I enjoyed The Social Network, I don't think it'll really be on the radar in terms of film history in even a few years, much less a few decades. The King's Speech, on the other hand, I predict will become a timeless classic. [But what do I know?]

Of course, I think Beethoven should have gotten some acknowledgement for his brilliant 7th Symphony featured in The King's Speech. But in a way he got his moment in the limelight alongside Colin, as they used the speech (and underlying symphony) from the film as the background sound throughout the clips of all ten films nominated for Best Picture. I was, of course, pulling for The King's Speech to take home this Academy Award as well - and it did!

And I really enjoyed the sight of those PS22 kids singing their hearts out on Somewhere Over The Rainbow. I mentioned them once before and continue to salute music teachers who inspire kids like that to dare to dream dreams that really can come true.

So, now I've watched the Oscars. Pop culture - who knew it could be so enjoyable?

Note to Self

I wrote myself an inspirational notecard and put it in my violin case last week.

Okay, so maybe it depends on your definition of "inspirational."

Saturday, February 26, 2011


"One was sweet, with a beautiful voice, but not very strong. The other was so well-built, but not as sweet... although that was okay with me."

[It was a conversation about violins, of course. What did you think?]

Friday, February 25, 2011

Just Another Day

Expected all-nighter averted.

Actually got three hours of sleep last night.

Presentation on Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1 deemed "excellent" by professor.

Plan to get eight hours of sleep tonight.

Will be prepared to conquer the world by tomorrow.

I'm still not entirely accustomed to the fact that I attend a conservatory of music, theater, and dance where it's not unusual to walk past a dance classroom and see men dancing in nothing but women's underwear.

And I'll leave you with that pleasant little glimpse into my day.

Dmitri Potter?

I appear to be pulling an all-nighter. Or something close to that. I totally expected myself to be mature enough, organized enough, and responsible enough by this age that grad school would never entail things such as all-nighters. And yet here I am, working on a detailed analysis of Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1 for a class presentation tomorrow... err, later today.

At three in the morning, I'm finding it harder than usual to keep my mind trained securely on Dmitri Shostakovich and not on wands and charms and, well, Harry Potter.

Do you understand my predicament?

I'm picturing an eighth book in the series, possibly entitled "Harry Potter and the Governmentally Oppressed Russian Virtuoso." In it, a pivotal scene would involve Shostakovich's friend Yevgeny Mravinsky conducting the premiere of the First Violin Concerto. Mravinsky suddenly shouts "expelliarmus!" while pointing his wand baton in the general direction of David Oistrakh, whose bow subsequently flies out of his hand in the middle of the devilishly difficult Scherzo movement.

Then, one can't help wondering, if Stalin is to Shostakovich as Lord Voldemort He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is to Harry Potter (and this much should be obvious -- are you with me?!), what does that make my school orchestra conductor, who I've long thought bore a striking resemblance to that particular communist dictator?

Maestro Joseph Voldemort?
Maestro Tom Stalin?
Maestro J. Vissarionovich Voldemort?

Yes, Maestro, I should have practiced the Schubert before our first rehearsal! Please don't send me to the gulag, or even worse, use an Unforgivable Curse on me!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Things of Interest

After a very late night of practicing and preparing for a class presentation last night, this morning I was awakened far too early to the sound of a jackhammer working on the street right outside my window. Fantastic.

ModCloth is having their Cabin Fever Sale. Stuff is priced down by $100 or more; things you might never be able to afford are suddenly at Old Navy prices! Check it out.

I read Mark Bittman's piece on McDonald's oatmeal over my own bowl of oats this morning.

"Incredibly, the McDonald’s product contains more sugar than a Snickers bar and only 10 fewer calories than a McDonald’s cheeseburger or Egg McMuffin. (Even without the brown sugar it has more calories than a McDonald’s hamburger.)"

I haven't been in a McDonald's in, well, a long time, and I was glad to be consuming a very tasty bowl of oats that I knew were just oats, water, a spoon of almond butter, a drizzle of almond milk, and a sliced banana. My fav. And no unpronounceable ingredients.

Space Shuttle Discovery launches this evening on its final voyage - the beginning of the end for the shuttle program. I feel oddly - and yes, irrationally - depressed about this. I used to want to be an astronaut. I knew every shuttle in the fleet and the date of each maiden flight, the name of each first crew member. I idolized astronauts from commanders to payload specialists, but especially pilots. I wanted to join the military and be trained as a pilot, and then work for NASA. It was all planned out in my little sixth-grade head. I read everything I could get my hands on about space travel: its technology, its history, its projected future. Well, with three more shuttle launches before the end of an era, it's obvious this particular dream didn't come through for me. With no training in the sciences whatsoever (well hang on, I did take a gen ed course in college), the only way I'll be leaving the clutches of gravity is if NASA needs a violinist to go serenade as-yet-undiscovered citizens of other galaxies. Or if I become extraordinarily wealthy and can buy myself a ticket to the moon someday.

Well, just so I don't end this post on a depressing note, I want to make these spicy black bean cakes sometime soon. First I need to master a vast amount of violin music (preferably by this afternoon), finish preparing a presentation on Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1, and make it through several rehearsals and other obligations.

I need more time in my life. If I had more time, I could have become both a violinist and an astronaut. If I had more time, I could cook tasty meals and be in grad school at the same time. If I had more time, I could learn to take great pictures on my Nikon and also master the Bach C Major Fugue. If I had more time, I could...

...I should...

...stop spending it by writing on my blog?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Glee Style

I think some of the outfits featured on Glee are totally fabulous.

I recognize that Glee takes place in a high school.

Does this make me juvenile?

Rachel recently wore this gorgeous Harvested Honey Coat from Anthropologie:

And Quinn looked so cute in the Anthropologie Walk With Me Dress:

I also loved Quinn's knit pixie hat, which everyone seems to want but no one seems to know where to get:

[Guess I should learn to knit.]

Not all the looks sported by the cast of Glee are in the Anthropologie-and-up price range, though; a lot of the outfits Quinn, Brittany, and the others wear are from everyday affordable hotspots like H&M. So even if you can't belt show tunes like Rachel, you can dress like she does if you want to! [Remember, no reindeer sweaters.]

The Sartorialist even got [and then gave] a shout-out on Glee recently, for purportedly naming Brittany "the trendiest girl in America."

Oh, and hey Glee, using leg warmers as arm warmers is the newest fashion?

I totally refashioned a pair of clearance Target knee socks into a pair of arm warmers last winter. Does that count as cool?

[I'm the freshest trendsetter around and I didn't even know it.]

Thursday, February 17, 2011


I slept later than I ought to have, and liked it.

I skipped school orchestra because I wasn't feeling well and needed the rest.

I talked to my Mom on the phone as I drove to school.

I played Shostakovich with my string quartet.

I tangoed with my violin teacher.

I ate crunchy roasted chickpeas for lunch.

I worked on the Fuga from Bach's C Major solo sonata [rhythm, sound quality, left hand organization!] and the first movement of the Sibelius concerto [breathe, release, get those fifths in tune!] in my violin lesson.

I went to orchestral excerpts class.

I went to studio class and heard Paganini and Korngold.

I went out with my studio; our teacher bought us pizza for dinner and J.P. Licks for dessert!

We talked about relationships, and whether they should be difficult or simple.

I played Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and Menotti's The Old Maid and The Thief in a rehearsal.

I was home by 11:00 pm.

Now, time to practice Dvorak and Bartok and Kodaly.

It's not that I prefer practicing in the middle of the night.

It's just...

...When else would I do it?!

Phone Call From Arizona

Nathan: I miss you. I wish you were here, or I were there, or both.

Sarah: Both? If you were here and I were there, we'd still be apart.

Nathan: Oh. Well, you know what I mean.


Dear Diary,

Today I used the word "inscrutable" in casual conversation. The sentence went something like this: "I was just wondering what you might be thinking, because your expressions can be inscrutable."

I was so pleased with myself. It's hard to call it a day well spent if I haven't slipped at least one good word into a sentence.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pop Quiz

I found it rather funny timing that just a week or two after playing for a production of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance, I found myself spending a busy week's worth of evenings in a pit for a high school production of Thoroughly Modern Millie.

I will give a prize to anyone who can tell me [without Googling it!] the connection between these two shows.

And because I find it interesting, I will post the answer sometime soon.

Friday, February 11, 2011

My Week

After playing a run of Pirates of Penzance two weeks ago and a Brahms/Wyner concert last weekend, I hardly had a chance to breathe before this week was underway.

Monday: Practice for half an hour, then into Boston for two-hour school orchestra rehearsal (Dvorak, Kodaly, and Bartok), drive home, practice for half an hour, off to a Thoroughly Modern Millie pit rehearsal, conduct children's orchestra rehearsal, coach high school chamber ensemble, grocery shop, home by 8:30, dinner, practice for two and a half hours, bed.

Tuesday: Practice for half an hour, drive to school orchestra rehearsal (string sectionals), home, practice one hour, get car inspected so I don't get a ticket, practice half an hour, teach seven students, G___ orchestra rehearsal (Brahms, Rossini, and Beethoven), home around 10:30 pm, late dinner, practice until 1:00 am with practice mute so as not to disturb Nathan, bed.

Wednesday: Practice for half an hour in the morning, teach one morning lesson to a home schooled student, into Boston for school orchestra rehearsal, home, teach nine students, Millie pit dress rehearsal, home around 10 pm, practice until bed around midnight.

Thursday: Up at 5:00 am, shower and get ready, drive into Boston for a morning audition, take audition, screw up audition quite fantastically, go to school orchestra rehearsal, feed parking meter, try to find a practice room to prepare for violin lesson, sit on the floor of a friend's practice room in utter exhaustion after failing to find an available room, go to violin lesson, orchestral excerpts class, Millie show, home at 10:30, practice, bed.

Friday: Practice for an hour in the morning, school orchestra rehearsal (string sectionals), run to feed parking meter, back to school building for 3-hour class on Shostakovich, feed meter, quartet rehearsal, home to pick up Nathan but no time to even go inside, Millie show, done at 10:30, grocery shopping on the way home to get ingredients for a cake, home at 11:00, prepare cake and put it in the oven, practice from midnight to 1 am, blog about my crazy week while I continue to wait for the cake layers to finish baking.

[The cake is for a reception for Nathan to be held Sunday afternoon at the church where he has worked for five years. He resigned from his position back in December, and this Sunday is his last day. I'll probably write more about it sometime. I offered to bring his favorite cake for the reception because I love him, and because my life just lacked meaning back when I understood the phrase "free time."]

It's pretty much been a horrible week. It's not that I mind being busy, really; I just hate being so busy I don't feel like I have time to do all the things I'm doing to the best of my ability.

But if I can make it through the weekend I'll get a fresh start next week, and maybe I'll actually find a few minutes to put in some much-needed practice time on that Dvorak symphony before our next rehearsal on Monday. Here's what my weekend holds:

Saturday: Up at 7:00 am, practice, teach two lessons, dress rehearsal for Mahler/Vaughan-Williams/Elgar concert in Swampscott, drive to Ipswich high school, teach eight students, home for half an hour, put in any needed practice on Mahler and Vaughan-Williams, final Millie show, hopefully home by 10:30, make sure house guest for the night has clean sheets and is comfortable, make ganache frosting for cake, assemble and frost cake, try to get to bed by midnight.

Sunday: Up at 6:30, get ready for church, church choir rehearsal, sing in/attend two services there for the last time (halleLUjah, but that is another story for another time), try not to yawn (because, you may recall, I've been chastised for such behavior), attend reception and try to smile at everyone graciously, depart church with delicious finality, to Swampscott for a 3 pm concert, and finally, home home home by 6 or so.

And Sunday evening I get to spend time with my husband!

Some people look forward to their weekends. I don't tend to be one of those people. But weekend, I will survive you. Dvorak symphony with way too many high notes, I will conquer you. Students, I will try to be a good teacher to you. Vaughan-Williams, I will try to practice you, and failing that, to fake your hard spots to the best of my ability. [I'm sorry.]

Timer went off. Cake is baked. Can no longer think in complete sentences or otherwise function. Bed.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Dear composers who write G-flats an octave above a reasonable G-flat (i.e. four ledger lines + 8va),

Please don't.

No one wants to play those notes.

Or hear them.

In fact, some find the very sight of them unsettling.

Very sincerely yours,


Sunday, February 6, 2011

"What So Proudly We Watched..."

I've never been interested in football.

I don't watch the Superbowl.

But something I do find interesting?

Christina Aguilera forgetting the words to the National Anthem in front of the entire United States of America.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Snow Shoveling

I think I can safely add to my list of occasions for which a girl ought to get a little dressed up: If you must shovel snow from your driveway, you might want to try doing it in a skirt.

Wednesday morning I spent about 30 minutes shoveling snow from our driveway, and by early afternoon I was out there again for a second round of shoveling so my students could easily park for their lessons.

I should mention that I am by no means a damsel in distress when it comes to snow removal; I grew up regularly shoveling snow not only for my family's driveway but for the entire private road on which we lived. I am a snow-shoveling pro, and I don't mind the work in the least.

However, after about five minutes, a guy with a plow on his truck who was driving by waved at me, honked, and gestured for me to step aside. In two pushes and thirty seconds he accomplished what would have taken me about half an hour.

When I told Nathan what had happened, he said, "From now on you're the designated snow shoveler. Whenever we need to shovel the driveway I'm just sending you outside to stand there and look pretty."

Musical Tension

Along with the Brahms Symphony on this weekend's concert, the orchestra is also doing a work for soprano and orchestra by a well-known Boston area composer. I've played a work by this local, living composer before, and found him to be a rather fascinating individual in my [limited] interactions with him. He has attended rehearsals for the upcoming concert to clarify any questions the musicians might have about the score as well as to offer his interpretive insight into the work.

At a recent rehearsal where the composer was not present, our conductor told us, "Yehudi (the composer) told me this movement should be filled with sexual tension." He grinned at us, shrugged his shoulders, and declared matter-of-factly, "I have no idea what that translates into, or how exactly to play with sexual tension."

One violinist suggested facetiously, "Use more vibrato?"

I love it that musicians can be both ethereal and oh-so matter-of-fact.

[And funny, too.]

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Homework Reticence

Tonight, while creating an analytical chart of Shostakovich's 5th Symphony, I grumpily remarked to Nathan, "This is a dumb assignment. I'm not learning anything."

He replied with a smirk, "You seem very determined not to. I am sure you will triumph."

I seem to have married a smarty-pants.

Strange Confession

Sometimes in the winter I find that I can go a whole day without using the restroom.

See, emptying one's bladder necessitates (at least for those of us of the female variety) removing, at least in part, an article of clothing. And below-freezing temperatures outside can cause an all-over lingering chill, even when indoors, that causes one to become loathe to remove said article of clothing.

And so it is that I arrive home after a day of class, a violin lesson, and two rehearsals, and, while needing to use the restroom, am still reticent to do so.

This is probably the weirdest thing you'll read all day. Let me know if you come across something weirder.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

World's Oldest Person Dies

Yesterday marked the passing of the world's oldest person, Eunice Sanborn.

Deeply religious, she credited her faith for her long life.

"Honey, if you have the Lord Jesus, you don't need anything else," Sanborn said shortly after being named the oldest person in the U.S. in April, according to the Daily Progress.

Taking Eunice's place as the world's oldest living person is Besse Cooper, born in 1896. Wondering what the secret to long life is? States the article, "Cooper has credited her longevity to staying away from junk food and 'minding her own business.'"

There you have it!