Oh hey.

Oh hey.  Remember me?  Yeah, I know.  I blinked and all of the sudden it’s July.  What happened?

Well, I’ve been super busy (obviously).  Between juggling work life and home life, there’s not much left over.  In fact, I’ve had to sacrifice clarinet practice a little, just to keep a good balance.  I wish it didn’t have to be that way!

I’ve definitely been in survival mode when it comes to my clarinet practice.  I’m lucky if I even get past my fundamentals.  It sucks, because I want to so much more than just keep my head above water!  I haven’t even come close to achieving the goals that I had put forth in my last post.  It drives me crazy, but the best I can do right now is maintain, and I have to be OK with that.

In early May, I got the opportunity to go to Queensland, Australia with my quintet.  What a great trip!  We spent a week doing military ceremonies, school clinics, and recitals.  This is what I joined the Navy to do!

I also had an awesome opportunity to play the Artie Shaw Concerto again, this time in an indoor setting!  It was programmed into the Joint Forces Concert this year.  Here’s an amazing video that my student’s father took and posted of the performance:

I’m pretty happy with my performance, although I almost had a music malfunction…haha.  The page turns are crazy, and I had to tape part of one page onto another and it was pretty much literally hanging by a thread.  Luckily it didn’t fall off until after I passed that part.  Also, luckily everyone loved my performance.  It’s definitely a crowd pleaser!

So I guess my goal for the rest of the year is to just keep swimming with my head above water.  I can’t even think about taking any auditions right now!  I hardly have time to practice my work stuff.  I suppose that’s ok for now.

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New Year, New Goals

Happy new year!  I hope you all had a great holiday season and a great start to 2017.  2016 sure was a blur for me!  A good kind of blur, but a blur nonetheless.  Watching my son grow into his own little self has definitely been a highlight.  I also started teaching private lessons again a couple months ago, which has been a great change of pace.

We were also able to come home to Colorado for Christmas, thanks to my in laws.  It was Oscar’s first trip off the island, and he got to experience snow!  In fact it was quite a winter wonderland when we landed three weeks ago.  Quite a change from the 80 degree weather we left in Hawaii!  It ended up being a well deserved break from the craziness of my job the last couple months.

I’m not one for new years resolutions, but I always seem to pause for some reflection at this time of year.  I am painfully aware that I haven’t even started my “challenge 2.0” that I set out to do a month and a half ago.  Ouch.  Life got in the way, big time!  So because of this, I have made the official decision to not go to the Navy Band audition in February.  It makes me sad, but there’s just no way I’d be ready for it.  Six weeks is not enough time to prepare!  And I want to be 100% ready, especially since I have to travel so far (an pay for it).  Its not something that I want to half-ass! 

I’ve been thinking about what some realistic goals for me could be for 2017.  Maybe this year isn’t my year for auditioning, but it might a good year to work on fundamentals and audition skills, to get ready for that audition that I can take, whenever that will be.  I also want to make sure that I don’t lose sight of my actual job that I have right now.  Although audition preparation does have a positive collateral effect on my overall musicianship, I want to shift the focus back to being the best musician and leader I can be at my band right now.  That was not my focus in 2016.  I was caught up in auditions and the transition to being a working/nursing mom.  This year will be different.  Even though my little one is still breastfeeding (and will be for awhile, the little rascal!), I am able to wean off the breast-pump to just once a day now since he’s over one year old (off from 3-4 times a day).  Doesn’t seem like a lot, but it opens up a lot of time during the workday for me!

With all that said, I’ve decided to set some specific goals for 2017.

  • Make time for reed working, separate from practice time.  Set aside an hour or two each week to only work on reeds.
  • Set specific practice goals each week, and record a video (like in the audition challenge).
  • Make practice (at least the fundamentals on busy days) a priority.  Shoot for 4-5 days per week.
  • Practice visualization for 10 minutes 4-5 times a week

I’m trying stay away from setting goals for specific repertoire.  I do have pieces and excerpts I want to work on, but things change all the time and I don’t want to nail myself down to specific things like that.  It’s too restrictive in my eyes, and doesn’t help me get to where I want to be in the long run.  

And looking at the list of goals, I’m wondering if I really have the discipline to do this the entire year.  But I need to get my butt in gear if I want to end up in D.C. one day.  I’ll take it one week at a time for now!  Its all about establishing a routine, right?  Perhaps after a month of doing it consistently it will be easy!

What are your goals for 2017?

Perfect Storm

Wow, talk about making a plan, and then just watching it go down the toilet…that was my week in a nutshell.

I mean, I knew it was going to be crazy.  I have so many responsibilities at work right now that I knew it was going to be a stretch to even sit down for a few minutes each day for practice. Just to be clear, we’re talking 10 gigs in a 10 day period (yesterday was gig number 4 of the 10).  And that doesn’t include all the rehearsals for those gigs!  While that may not sound like a lot on paper, when you’re in charge of logistics for 8 of those gigs it can start to feel like I’m going a little bit insane.  And plus all my non-musical duites!  It basically turned into a perfect storm of responsibilities, which came to a head this past week.

So what is it that is making it so busy?  This year is the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  There are so many memorials, ceremonies, and concerts devoted to remembering what happened right here 75 years ago.  As busy as I am, I am honored that I get to be a part of something so historic.  This is why I do what I do!  But I’m still going to be doing the happy dance on December 10th, when all the craziness is over.

As if I wasn’t busy enough, my son is turning one year old in the middle of everything!  Luckily there is a small gap in the schedule on Wednesday afternoon, so we are able to celebrate his birthday!  I am planning on making a smash cake for my little guy to go crazy on.  I have my ONE day off today, so I’m going to be doing that, ha.  I seriously can’t believe that he’s a year old already!

So with all that said, I didn’t even have time to think about my “challenge 2.0”.  It seemed like whatever I did, by the time I did everything I needed to do, it was the end of the day and I hadn’t practiced a lick.  Ugh, its so frustrating when that happens.  But although I have a busy upcoming week of performances, all the legwork and rehearsals for those performances are pretty much done, so I should be able to devote a little time to practice.  Therefore, I adjusted my challenge plan so that I start this coming week (December 5th).  That still gives me 10 weeks to prepare for the audition in February.

Speaking of the audition, I still don’t know if I’m actually going to be able to make the trip.  The navy is unable to pay for my travel this time, so its basically on me to come up with the funds.  I’m keeping an eye on airfare prices, so if I can get a good deal on a plane ticket, I’m going to go.  If I can’t, then I won’t.  Pretty simple.  So we’ll see.  I’m still going to prepare and practice like I am going.  I really don’t have anything to lose!

I hope I survive the week.  Its a countdown to December 10th!  I can make it, I can make it…

Family picture from my work holiday party on Thursday.

 

Clarinet Challenge 2.0

Well, unfortunately, the end of the challenge kind of fizzled out for me.  I just ran out of time and had no motivation to finish it out.  But it’s OK though, I learned a lot about audition preparation over the last 14 weeks despite being unable to finish it out.  If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you know that I have been struggling with audition day nerves and being able to come through when it counted.  I think I’ve finally figured out some of the missing pieces.

Technical preparation, while a large part, is only just part of it.

In my mind I have always known this, but had always been a little bit in denial.  Yes, while being able to execute each excerpt effectively is very, very important, I found that recording a weekly video in one take with no re-dos for all the world to see brought one aspect to the preparation that I had been missing.  Before, I didn’t do any sort of mock auditions until only a couple weeks prior to the audition, but now I understand the benefit of doing mock performances throughout the preparation process, even when the technique isn’t quite there yet.

I learned how to visualize.  And it wasn’t how I thought it would be!

This challenge forced me to visualize, and to make visualization work for me.  I learned pretty quickly that visualizing in a sequential way (like watching a movie in my head) really didn’t work for me.  And that’s why I had always given up on visualizations before now.  It was REALLY hard, and it didn’t seem to work very well.  Or I would visualize, and my brain would literally skip over the hard parts.  What ended up working for me was visualizing only certain aspects.  For example, if I often flubbed a certain note in a certain passage, I would take a moment to visualize myself playing that note perfectly prior to actually playing the passage.  Worked every time!  It helped to make a small list of things to visualize for each excerpt, so I wouldn’t waste time trying to remember what the weak areas were.

Fundamentals are key.

OK, I didn’t actually learn this, because I’ve known this for a while now.  But this challenge proved just how important fundamentals are.  You can get away with a lot if you just go through your fundamental skills every day.  I can’t tell you how many practice sessions in this challenge were spent only playing my fundamentals.  And yet I was somehow able to get away with recording the excerpts without ever falling on my face!  Honestly, I didn’t put all that much time into practicing excerpts.

What’s next now?  Well, honestly I have the next two weeks to get through for work.  It is the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, and there are so many ceremonies and memorials!  Its weeks like this that make me feel needed in the Navy!  I’m in charge of the woodwind quintet so I have a lot of work to do.  Despite that, I’m going to attempt to start the challenge again after Thanksgiving.  I have decided (for now) to audition for Navy Band in February.  I might change my mind, there’s a lot of factors that could keep me from going.  But its easier to quit preparation already in progress than to get an audition ready at the last minute.  I’m already a little behind, if I start after Thanksgiving weekend, it only gives me 11 weeks to prepare.  But the excerpt list is short (click here to see) and not too crazy.

I’ve already created the whole plan of action.  I freaking love spreadsheets, so I created one to organize it all:

untitled

There it is, week 11-0.  And I’ve already separated the excerpts into practice groups, and I have a video assignment planned for each week.  I’ve also separated the whole thing into phases: phase 1 is wood-shedding/technical practice (orange), phase 2 is polishing (green), and final preparation/taper (blue).  You might notice the two and a half weeks in the middle of phase 1 that is grayed out.  We’re coming home to Colorado for Christmas, and I’m not planning on taking my instrument home with me.  I need the break.  Plus, with all the crap we will be traveling with (see: traveling with a baby), I don’t want to be lugging a clarinet case along.  And whenever I bring my horn on visits home, I never really play.  So I decided to really work on visualizing and listening during that time.  I’ve never devoted that much time to mental practice, so it should be interesting.  And coming back to playing in January should be a fun time.  Heyoooo endurance.  But, I have about six weeks from when I get back home to Hawaii to the audition, so I should be alright.

I would have started the challenge this week (give myself 12 weeks instead of 11), but I know better.  With the holiday and everything, I’m not going to be able to commit the time I want, so I’m just skipping it.  I’m only committing to practice on my work days, and only have a two day work week.  Not a lot that can get done in those two days.

I’m also not going to be as strict with posting videos this time around.  Again, I know better.  I will still be recording videos (because they help!), and they will eventually be posted, but I’m not going to stress about blogging about it.  I’ll get to it when I get to it!

My son will also be turning one in a couple weeks…it is hard to believe how fast this year has gone.  It seems like it was just the other day that he was born.  Now he’s walking, talking (sort of), and developing into his own little person.  Its amazing.

So happy Thanksgiving!  The next few weeks are going to be pretty insane, so I will probably see you on the other side!

Week 2 Epiphany!

I was fairly successful in getting back on the practice train this week, after completely falling off the last couple weeks.  My week was busy, but it really came down to making it a priority and making the time.  It can be done!

I really focused on practicing visualizations prior to playing each excerpt this week.  And I realized something…I was having a hard time with visualizing because I was focused on “singing” the melody in my head, undisturbed.  I discovered that its more effective for me if I visualize myself executing certain parts, even just certain individual notes.  I was trying too hard to keep the music intact in my head; but my weakness isn’t performing the music, its the technical execution.  So instead of imagining myself playing the melody of say, Mozart Concerto, I imagined myself playing the rhythm perfectly in a certain measure, or having perfect fingers in a certain spot where I tend to flub.  Once I stopped trying to be so cumulative in my visualizations, that’s when it started working for me.

What I need to do now is write down my weakness in each excerpt so that I remember what to visualize prior to playing an excerpt.  I found I spent most of my 20 seconds this week trying to identify what to visualize.  If I know what I need to visualize before I start, I can be more focused and efficient!

And now my video…I had a total derp moment where I forgot to change from A to Bb clarinet after the Mozart.  Whoops.  Forgive me.

Considering I haven’t even played the concerto in a couple weeks, I think it went pretty good.  I also recorded my video right after listening to my friend Deanna do a mock audition using the same excerpt list!  But she is way more prepared than me because she’s actually taking the audition.  And she’s gonna kill it!

Week 1

So close to the end!  This week’s assignment is going to be exactly like last weeks, except I’m reducing the visualization time from 20 seconds to 10 seconds.  Time to get efficient!  In case you need it, here’s a reminder of what the assignment is:

  • Mozart Concerto, exposition
  • 5 excerpts, chosen at random right before recording the video

Alrighty.  We’re almost done.  Next week is the last week of the challenge!

There’s another DC Navy Band audition coming up in February.  I haven’t decided whether or not to take it.  It all kind of depends on my son and how much he’s still nursing.  I have a feeling he’s gonna be a “night nurser” for awhile, but if I can get him to wean a little during the day I think I’ll be able to make the trip OK.  The constant breast pumping was the hardest part of my trip the last time!  I’ll start working on the list, and then make a final decision closer to the audition, probably in January.

But till then, gotta finish the challenge! (If only to start right back up again!)

Getting back on the train…

Oof.  So I definitely fell off the practice train.  Week 4 and 3 of the challenge kinda went down the toilet!  Work and life really got in the way.  I didn’t even get a chance to practice during week 4, so now my endurance is completely shot.  But its ok, the best thing I can do now is try to get back on the train.

I think if I were actually taking a real audition at the end of this challenge, I would seriously consider NOT taking the audition.  I would not be 100% prepared (like I should be for auditions, especially when I have to travel so far).  But since I’m not taking an actual audition, I’m going to just jump back on the challenge as if I never got side tracked…

Week 2

This week is the start of our “taper” into the audition.  The focus now is to visualize and practice performing.  During week 5, I practiced a little visualization with the Mozart Concerto.  Wow, I realized how terrible I am at it!  This may be the root of my problem.  I can hardly get through the first phrase without losing focus!  So the assignment this week will involve a lot of timed visualization, with the intention of incorporating it into the audition itself.

So the video this week should be a mock audition for the camera.  But instead of just playing through each excerpt, set a timer for 20 seconds and do a 20 second visualization prior to playing each excerpt.  Its important to be disciplined here…20 seconds of focus before putting the horn to your face each time, no more, no less.  The eventual goal is to reduce this time to 10 seconds, and make it part of playing the excerpt for the audition.  So here’s the assignment:

  • Mozart Concerto, beginning of solo to measure 98.
  • Choose 5 excerpts at random, selected just prior to recording video.

Hokay…so lets hope I can hit the restart button successfully this week!  Happy practicing!

 

 

 

#TBT

Thanks to Facebook’s fun little memories feature, a note that I wrote after I almost won a job in the Coast Guard Band in 2008 popped up the other day.  I thought I would share it, since I wrote it before I started this little blog!  Really interesting to read this and remember that day and what went right.  Too bad they didn’t pick anyone that day!  Haha, I wonder what things would be like if I had actually won the job…

CG Audition, 9/28/08

So I’m writing this blog sitting in my hotel room in New London, CT. I just got back from my audition for the Coast Guard band. It was a loooooooong ass day.

I got to the academy at about 9:20 (I had to be there at 9:30) and I checked in. My prelim time was tentatively at 10:55. Sweet. I even got a nice little piece of real estate in the common warm-up room between some lockers. It was really nice not having a clarinet honking away right next to me.

They ended up falling so far behind that I didn’t actually go until about an hour after my originally scheduled time. That was fine though, I usually expect those things to happen in an audition. I got into the audition area, which was their concert hall, and tried to settle down. I was really nervous. I took some deep breaths and tried to relax. Then I thought, “who cares, lets Weber this place up!” (the solo for the preliminary round was the Weber concerto no. 2, the 3rd movement) Luckily, I didn’t have to play the whole thing. And no sextuplets, woohoo!

Now for the excerpts. It was Brahms 3 2nd movement, Mendelssohn scherzo, and *scary music* Hindemith symphony in Bb. Exactly the same as it was in April. I played them, they were going pretty well. I even played the Hindemith ok. They of course asked me to play the first phrase of the Hindemith again, I had kind of flubbed some of the notes….

The last audition, the audition committee asked me to play the Hindemith again, and I totally dropped the ball and I couldn’t do it. This time, I maintained my focus and I totally nailed it the second time!!!!! Freakin sweet. Prelims are done.

I ended up having to wait almost an hour for them to come back with the results of our group. For those of you who don’t know, the basic protocol for professional auditions is they separate the applicants into groups, and once each person in a certain group has auditioned, they let the group know who has advanced. This is so that people don’t have to wait all day to know whether or not they have advanced to the next round of auditions. Anyways, I was in the third and final group of the day. At around 1pm, we found out that I and another girl had been advanced to the semifinal round! I was so excited!!!! I’ve never made it past the prelims in any audition, it was my goal for this audition.

They ended up only advancing 4 out of about 30ish in total. How exciting! We kept the same order for the semis, which were also screened (the committee cannot see the person playing) just like the prelims, so I was third. I got my own warm-up room, and we each got 5 minutes to practice in the hall, where the audition was taking place. I was excited for that, because my reed sounded really grainy during the prelims, so I wanted to pick something better. Here was the lineup….Mozart 1st movement, Shostakovich 9, Mendelssohn scherzo again, and Dahl Sinfonietta. Ok, so I’m going to be honest…I knew about a week ago that the preliminary round was only Bb…so therefore I did not practice my A clarinet stuff very much at all. Soooooo I was pretty nervous for the Mozart and the shostakovich. It went ok, they had me play the shostakovich again slower, and they requested that I not “clip” the ends of my phrases. Oops. Well I think I did pretty well. The nice thing about the later rounds is that you don’t really have to be a “robot”, and you can take more risks musically and I did.

It paid off, because I advanced again to the 3rd and final round. This time, it was the entire Mozart exposition and every excerpt on the list. I ended up going third and last, because the girl that was after me got cut. By this time it was almost 2:30 and I was freaking out. I might actually win this thing. Holy crap. I didn’t end up playing until almost 4:00, because they gave us each as much time as they wanted to give us. So I went in with the attitude that I have exceeded my own expectations already, anything more would be just icing on the cake. So I was much more relaxed, although still anxious, mostly because the screen was down now. Its weird playing when you can see the faces of the people judging you. I think I did ok, more flubs than I probably would have liked though. They had me play the stupid Hindemith twice, of couse they wanted it faster. Jerks. But I was able to do it. Whew!

So I was done. We weren’t sure if they were going to ask us back for the quintet round (we were given a woodwind quintet as part of our excerpts) or not. We waited for a good half hour or so before the committee came back with their decision. They decided to skip the quintet round and go ahead and hire someone. Except that they didn’t. That’s right, the committee couldn’t decide on someone to hire, they were completely divided between the three of us. They are going to give us comments on stuff that they think we need to work on for next time, and they invited us to come back and audition. I was really happy with what I did today and how much I accomplished in my own playing. I am exhausted. Playing three rounds spread out all day really took it out of me. But it was completely worth it! I had so much fun and I am so proud of myself. You can bet that I’m going to be back for the next audition!!!!

This has been the confidence boost that I really needed. I am actually good at this stupid instrument, and today proved it. I really don’t think that it was luck that I made it as far as I did. Maybe third time’s a charm? We’ll see in a few months I guess!

And I took a few pictures that day too, haha…