Sunday, November 30, 2003

Thanksgiving Break

I have returned from a wonderful Thanksgiving break, spent with Jen and her family at their house in Pennsylvania. They're all from Long Island, and their accents are hilarious. They were so kind and friendly to include me in their holiday celebration. I learned a teeny bit of judo from Jen's step-dad, goofed off with Kourtney, her little sister, had some wonderful talks with Jen, and watched movies and slept a lot. Her whole family is wonderful, and it was a nice time to rest and be lazy! I did practice some too, though. (I hope I practiced more scales than Story did so I can win the scale competition!) Jen's mom and stepdad liked my playing and made me promise to send them tickets to my eventual concert in Lincoln center.

And now I'm back at Gordon for the end-of-semester sprint-to-the-finish-line... you know, that time that comes before The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. A research paper, music history final exam, New Testament final exam, theory exam, new orchestra music to learn, lessons, and of course, juries. But my nerves are made of steel, my heart is stout, and my mind is solid... I will prevail.

I bought Christmas lights at WalMart over break, and I just put them up in my room after arriving back from PA. It looks lovely and sparkly and cheerful and bright! And I'm listening to Christmas music on the radio. I know, I know... with all that I have to do I should be studying or practicing... but I refuse to let reality sink in quite yet.

When I was in Boston with my Dad, we walked through some old cemeteries. We saw graves of people like Paul Revere and John Hancock. We also saw so many graves of babies. I can't imagine having your baby die, and still having to get up each morning and keep living. I also remember in particular one grave that belonged to a woman whose first name I've forgotten. What I remember about that grave was the inscription. It read something like this: "here lies the mortal part of the virtuous and amiable wife of Moses Black." And I thought to myself, that's how I'd like to be remembered. Virtuous and amiable.

I wonder what I'd like my grave to say? Perhaps that I was virtuous and amiable. Perhaps that I loved and served the Lord. Or maybe I'd just like it to say, "Behold, I tell you a mystery..."

Well, I'm alive now, and life is full of possibilities and things to learn and people to love!

Concert tonight... the Ying Quartet!

Monday, November 24, 2003


By popular demand I will write something in my blog today. Sorry it's been a while... I've been busy.

Things of note from this past week:

1) I had a good lesson on Wednesday... but sometimes this learning process is overwhelming.

2) My Dad spent the weekend here visiting me! He arrived Friday evening and left last night. It was so good to see him!

3) I played the first mvt. of the Barber concerto in a general student recital here Friday evening. I like the professor who is my accompanist. I fumbled an entrance slightly, and he was terrific in covering for me. He did a great job making the piano reduction sound as big and orchestral as possible. I guess overall the performance went okay. I was so nervous about it, probably because I really haven't performed much - not anything to speak of - since high school. I know, it's weird... but I've managed to avoid most "opportunities" to perform in the past few years. I think some things went well, and other things could have been better. However, everyone seemed to enjoy it. Today one of my professors here, who is kind of a cynical, sarcastic, closed-off, hard-to-please, and overall mean person stopped me in the hall and told me what a great job I'd done in the recital. So, wow, high praise indeed. And best of all, my Dad liked hearing me play.

4) Our orchestra concert yesterday was really fun. I loved all the repertoire we did. Smetana is such fun, Mozart is charming, Enesco is rhapsodic, and Brahms... well, what can one say about Brahms?! After the concert we took some pictures, then I went out to dinner with my Dad, and Jen came along. Oh, I just love Jen! I love spending time with her, and tomorrow I leave to go spend Thanksgiving break with her and her family!

5) I had a New Testament exam this morning... blah. I actually studied for this one a little bit, but I have a feeling I may have done worse than I did on the previous exams, where I never did anything to prepare except go to class. We'll see.

6) I must practice lots over Thanksgiving break. I must practice lots of scales, in particular, so I can beat Story in the scale competition! Have I mentioned Story yet in my blog? Perhaps I haven't. Well, she's just one of the most wonderful people I know. And she's my stand partner in orchestra when the mentors aren't there. We have dinner together after scale class each week, and I always look forward to it. Sometimes we practice scales together, too. Last Thursday we got tired after about half an hour, and we tried practicing lying down. It's kind of tricky that way.

7) The season of Advent is about to begin! I love the anticipation of Christmas. I can hardly wait until I can go home for Christmas... I'll sit at the piano and play Christmas hymns and just relax, and spend time with my family, and sleep in for at least a few mornings. Oh, it will be so nice. Christmas!!

8) I have a quiz tomorrow in music history, plus outlines and listening entries due. Then I have a test to finish in theory class, and a rough draft of a paper on Purcell's Dido and Aeneas due. I had better get to work.

Au revoir, friends. I hope this satisfies you for now.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Lesson Synopsis etc.

I had a good lesson on Wednesday. I think it was my first lesson with my teacher where I've come very close to crying. But still, it was really good. Not in the sense that I was as prepared as I should have been, and not in the sense that I played well or impressed him, but in the sense that I learned a lot. And I've been working harder since then, too.

Things I learned from my brilliant teacher (taken from brief and probably slightly incomprehensible notes jotted down immediately after my lesson):

1) attention span and concentration, dilligence and consistency in practice.
2) security - our culture and generation is obsessed with it, in every sense of the word. But don't be afraid to decide what you want in life and then work as hard as you can to attain it. "Keeping your options open" isn't always a virtue, even though it may feel more secure or safe, not having to commit to something and thus fear that you might not be able to attain it. Trust God for eternal security (Providence, not Prudential ;)), but then remember the parable of the talents and go be a good steward by practicing your butt off!
3) Rode - practice scales in 3rds to help in learning this etude. Remember: 0 eye --> 1 ear --> 2 brain --> 3 fingers. My teacher said that the last 45 seconds spent on this etude in the lesson proved to him once again that I can do it - I looked at the double stops and heard them in my ear, sang them accurately and "beautifully", then played them - the first time okay, the second time better, and the third time exactly right. Practice like that - expect that of yourself!
4) Telemann - bow speed; dance; "paaauum" sound; 2 voices, hear counterpoint; 1st note must lead to 2nd, vibrate; framing; rhythm; tempo; energy; dynamics; don't be sticky.
5) 2 things in practicing - better ears and a more alert mind, or just repetition. Both have their place in practicing, and a lack of the latter was evident in my lesson - showed that I hadn't practiced enough to prepare during the week.
6) About me - my teacher said once again that my mind is very sharp and good and I have no handicaps and nothing holding me back, and that I also have a great musical sensitivty being unearthed and developed. (This is when I felt like crying, because even though he can be mean, really my teacher is so good to me and I owe it to him to practice more than I had in the past week! WHY do I let my moods affect my practicing? It shouldn't matter at all! Why can't I just block people and emotions out of my practicing and do what I need to do each day?)

After my lesson my teacher came and jointly coached the chamber music sessions for the day with his wife. I loved every minute of it and learned so much from both of them - as I always do.
The Gilbert and Sullivan gig I played for this past week was kind of fun. I enjoyed seeing and hearing the students perform. The best part was after the final performance, when the students acknowledged all the people who had made it possible. The love these kids had for their music teachers was so evident, and it just amazes me, the immense way in which one person's life can influence so many others... wow.

Well, the time has come. I have to play a solo in a recital here on Friday. I mean, really have to. My quartet was signed up to play, thus conveniently getting my required general recital performance out of the way in a non-stressful way, but Nicky's still mostly unable to play, and Mike doesn't really want to do the quartet anyway, and so I am going to be playing a solo.

Last night I was practicing until late in the recital hall, and Jon came in to say hi. He said he'd never heard me play before, and asked me to play for him. Eventually I consented (well, after he sang "Lord God of Abraham" for me) and I played a movement of the concerto I'm studying. I'm glad I did. I've never had the experience of playing for anyone before who loved it so much, except maybe my parents. He really just sat there loving to hear me play, sometimes closing his eyes, and each time I paused telling me to keep playing. It made me happy, seeing him enjoying it like that. He told me I should perform it soon and that it was definitely ready. I told him what terrible performance-phobia I have and that I knew I'd screw it all up. So then, he decided to record me playing, so I could hear it "from the outside." The Green Room was open, and he insisted that we do it right then. I played the first movement through again, and he put it onto a blank CD, and then afterwards we listened to it together. He was so encouraging and kept pointing out all the parts that he loved and all the things he liked about the way I was playing the piece. Of course, mostly I hate the way it sounds, but there are parts that I like, and that is encouraging. And the parts that I don't like are very helpful too, because now I know more clearly what to be working on. So, Jon is a cool person.

Tonight Sarah H. and I listened to the first 2 CDs of Les Miserables. I love Les Miserables... it's all grace and hope and redemption and love and life... it's so wonderful.

Tomorrow is the Day of Prayer... which means... NO CLASSES!! Hurrah! But of course, tons of work to do: a theory paper to write and a theory exam to prepare for, loads of practicing to do, a New Testament exam to study for, and piles of music history homework to do, as usual.

On Friday my DADDY is coming to visit me!!! (Well, he's coming out to the area for a business trip, but then coming here to see me! And he'll be here for the recital Friday night and we'll spend Saturday together and he'll come to our orchestra concert on Sunday.) Oh, happiness. I love my Dad!

My roommate from last year sent me cookies last week, which is just one small example of the sweet and thoughtful and wonderful sorts of things that she is always doing for people! I miss her. It's hard to go from being roommates with her to this - not knowing much about her life and not having her know much about mine. I miss late-night talks and inside jokes and pretzels and ice cream at the Stupe. I miss just having a cozy room with someone wonderful and fun and cute and funny to share it with, someone to come back to at the end of a day who would always listen to my ramblings and tell me her own, too. I remember how she used to watch taped episodes of Gilmore Girls every night while she did her nightly situps and pushups. And I always just loved her and thought she was so funny, so cute!

But I shouldn't end this evening's blog on an unhappy note, so I'll add that having a room to myself is rather nice too, in it's own way. And I am not unhappy. In fact, I am quite happy.

And with that, I am going to bed.