2019 year in review, decade in review, and what’s coming in 2020

So here we are again at the end of one year and the start of another.  I can’t help looking back at 2019 and reflecting on what I accomplished this year. 2019 was a year of transition for me and my family and trying to adjust to a new home thousands of miles away from where we had spent the last four years proved difficult. I really had a hard time moving from Hawaii. It is such a special place for me and I definitely left a piece of my heart there.

My last sunset in Hawaii. December 21, 2018

Its also 2019, which means we’re about to transition into a new decade. I actually started this blog at the brink of the last decade in 2009, documenting my struggles of trying to “make it” as a clarinetist. Seems like so long ago and also not that long ago all at the same time. I guess that’s what happens when we become adults!

So let’s take a quick look back. Things were so different for me and my family in 2009. Back then, I was still pretty fresh off my masters degree from Eastman, and still living in Rochester in our cute little house in the South Wedge.  I still miss that neighborhood! I had landed a job as a secretary at the University of Rochester Hospital, working 9-5 to make ends meet and trying to practice and take auditions in my off-time.  I was so lucky; I had a very supportive employer who allowed me to take the time off I needed for those auditions!  I was also so young! I was still in my mid-20s and my husband and I were still fairly new at the marriage thing.  No dogs, no kids.  Man, that was the life!  Haha…

And now…I’m in my mid-thirties, a mom to a now four year old boy, and dog mom to three little fluffy chihuahuas. Still married to my husband, who has followed me around on this crazy adventure! So thankful that he’s down for whatever the Navy throws at us. I’m on my third enlistment contract with the Navy, which seems crazy but its true. We started out the decade in Rochester, moved to Virginia after joining the Navy, moved to Hawaii, and now we’re back in Virginia.

And 2019…what a weird year you were.  As mentioned earlier, we were in the process of moving from Hawaii back to Virginia. In fact, exactly one year ago we were technically homeless, but the timing of everything meant we got to spend the holidays at home in Colorado with extended family. That was probably the one positive thing about the whole move.

A year ago I was gearing myself up for the Unit Leader Course at the Naval School of Music, which was starting in January. The course turned out to be one of the hardest things I have ever done.  Eight months of 10-12 hour days, and constantly being forced out of my comfort zone.  But, I also met a bunch of amazing people through that course that I will be lifelong friends with! Now I feel like if I can get through that course, I can get through anything!

My amazing ULC class.
Really out of my comfort zone here.
World’s OK-est drum major.
A beautiful moment with my friend Patrick, and Sailor Ducky.

I was so thankful that I got orders back to the band here in Virginia, and because of that we didn’t have to pick up and move again.  Especially because my son had started a special education pre-school program here in Virginia Beach and he was really doing well, and his teacher is amazing.  We were glad we didn’t have to start over somewhere else!

10 minute walk from my house in Virginia Beach…not bad!

We were fortunate to be able to go back to Colorado in August after my graduation from the course and visit family again.  My grandmother from Brazil was visiting, so it was wonderful to spend time with her and she got to meet *another* one of her great-grandchildren.  I didn’t play clarinet for probably about a month, and when I got back and checked into the band, the Navy Band in DC had posted an audition for November.  Initially, I said no way.  Just over two months till this audition and I hadn’t even touched my horn for a month…it was more work than I initially wanted to put in.  But one of my co-workers convinced me (thanks Nicole! haha) to just go for it.  And I did.  Didn’t work out, but I learned a lot.  The audition ended up being a no-hire, so there should be another one coming fairly soon.  I’m gonna go for it.

Which leads me to my goals for 2020.  I’d like to put clarinet back to the top of the priority list, it was definitely not up there for 2019. I worked super hard for the audition this past November, and I’d like to keep that kind of motivation all year. But I need something to work towards. The D.C. band has not posted anything about the next clarinet audition yet, so I need something to drive me until that happens. I have found that if I don’t have something to work towards, I tend to get complacent and inconsistent with my practicing.  So what can I do to stay motivated?  I think its pretty clear that practice challenges don’t work for me.  If you are a follower of my blog, you know that I attempted to do a 100 day practice challenge, and then a 30 day practice challenge, and they both kind of fizzled.  

Not sure that attempting another challenge will do anything for me. I think I need to accept that I’m not a seven day a week type of practicer, and that’s ok. I think 4-5 days a week works best for me. Practicing efficiently and consistently while leaving room for other things is what works for me. Even when I was prepping for an audition, 6 days a week was a stretch.  I’m set to take over the woodwind quintet at work, and I have a really heavy collateral duty on top of that so I need to accept that sometimes sitting down in a practice room just won’t happen. 

So how about a project of some sort? I turned to thinking about creating content for this blog. Something that has been pretty universal in trying to become a clarinetist (or any classical musician in general) is EXCERPTS.  I feel like I’ve gotten really good at some of these crazy band excerpts.  I can break them down and explain the challenges and the practice techniques that I have found to work to overcome those challenges. It’ll keep me in practice for any upcoming auditions, and I’ll get to share some of the knowledge I’ve gained over the years.

So that’s what I’ll do this year. I’m not sure how I’ll pick the excerpts, but I’ll try to do common ones first, and then sprinkle in some wild cards…because we all know how these audition lists work.

All in all, I’m looking forward to great things in 2020!

 

 

Audition reflection

Finally I have a bit of time and I thought I would post about my Navy Band audition nearly three (!) months ago.  If you don’t feel like reading a lot today, here’s is the long story short…I felt extremely prepared, and I probably played the best I’ve ever played in an audition for a long time.  Not the best I can play, but the best I’ve played in a high pressure situation.  But despite playing ALL the excerpts in the 2nd round PLUS the sight-reading selection, they didn’t advance me to the final round.  And according to the guy who was running the audition, they (the audition committee) talked about me a lot, which means that at least some of them wanted to keep me around.  That’s almost worse than playing crappy!

So here’s the long story: unfortunately, I didn’t start the day very well…I was told to be there by 9:00, although the check-in began at 7:30.  I decided since I’m a fleet MU and will be automatically advanced to the semis no matter what, that it would be better to go later in the day.  What I didn’t count on was how terrible the parking situation was on the Navy Yard.  I ended up having to park on the other side of the Yard and didn’t get to the building until 9:15…oops.  But it was all good, I just was the last person to show up, so I was dead last in the prelim round.

So I think I only waited about 3 hours to go, which is pretty good, considering at the President’s Own I waited about 5 hours to play my round.  I saw some familiar faces, my old boss from Fleet Forces, and another officer from the fleet who works in DC now.  This guy was also there to wish me luck in my “on deck” room:

What a funny painting.  Anyway, despite all of my preparation and the total lack of consequences in the first round, I was extremely nervous.  I tried to mentally “center” myself and calm down, but it seemed like no matter what I did, I couldn’t get my heart rate down.  So my first round was OK.  I had to play a couple of excerpts over, just because my nerves really got to me.  I can’t remember exactly what I played, but I do remember that I played the march and I absolutely nailed it!

Since I was last, I didn’t have to wait long to get the results of the first round, although I knew that I would be going through no matter what.  We had about 30 minutes to get ready for the semis, and I drew the number 4 out of 9 (I think)…right in the middle.  This is the round that is going to count for me.

So, once again, I found myself being extremely nervous and anxious, AGAIN.  I went in, and I fell on my face (figuratively, not literally, haha!) a couple of times, but I replayed those excerpts and completely nailed them the second time.  The committee remained silent, so I just kept on playing excerpts!  I fully expected a “THANK YOU” every time I finished playing something, but didn’t get it.  Finally, I got instructions to play the sight-reading selection on the stand.  I did ok on it, I’m not the best sight-reader, so I did well for me.

I had hopes that I would make it through to the finals, because when I did play well, I played really well.   And I played everything, which many others in the round didn’t get to do.  But I had too many mistakes, so that was it for me.  3 months of hard preparation and sacrifice done in about 10 minutes of playing.  It’s really depressing when you think about in that way.  Like I said before, the guy running the audition found me after everything was said and done and explained how the committee felt about me.  They want me to come back next time.  Its going to be hard, since I’m in Hawaii now, but I think I’ll be willing to try to make it happen when the time comes.

At the end of the day, I was really disappointed with how things went.  This is by far the most prepared I’ve been for an audition ever and I still let my nerves get the best of me.  Seriously, I had absolutely no reason to be so nervous.  The worst that would happen would be that I didn’t get the job and I would get to move to Hawaii.  It was a total win-win situation.  This was probably the least amount of pressure that I’ve had for an audition!  So I’ve really began to explore other options when it comes to managing my anxiety at auditions.

In the musician community, things like beta-blockers or other types of “medical” ways to manage performance anxiety can spark a lot of controversy.  Some might consider them “performance enhancers”.  I disagree.  If someone takes beta-blockers for an audition but doesn’t prepare well, it’s not like they magically become well prepared!  I have never taken them, and I don’t look down on people who do.  I do think that they should be an absolute last resort and one should only take them if necessary.  I’m getting to the point where I might consider it.  It feels as if I’ve tried everything!  I’ve read books, tried relaxation techniques, mental exercises, breathing exercises, vitamin supplements, etc.  Nothing seems to ease the anxiety at the moment of the audition.  It seems to be calming right up until the moment, but when the moment comes, nothing seems to matter and I’m still paralyzed by my anxiety.  So am I a good candidate for a more medical approach to my anxiety?  Maybe.  Will I do it?  Who knows.  My sister suffers from true anxiety, and she’s found some success with hypnosis.  I think I would try that over taking a pill!  I’m open to anything now!

So we will see what the future brings.  I think I have found a great preparation method for auditions, so something good did come out of the whole thing.  For now, I’m just trying to get situated in Hawaii.  We finally move in to our new place this coming Thursday.  We scored a three bedroom place, so I get my own practice room!  I’m very excited about that.  Finally I get a space solely dedicated to working on clarinet.  Teaching there is out, just because its government housing so they have certain rules about running a business in your residence.  But that’s ok, I think I want to take some time off from teaching anyway.  I was starting to get burned out in Virginia.  I just want to play my clarinet, and enjoy living in paradise for a while!

Execution vs. performance

Phase 2 is complete! Wow, the last four weeks certainly went by fast. In fact, it feels like I just started this whole process just the other day, but it was 8 weeks ago!

Anyway, back then I really wasn’t sure what I would focus on in “phase 3”, other than a two week “taper”. I think I have figured it out…the final phase needs to be shifting my focus from execution of the excerpts, to the performance of the excerpts. Did I just blow your mind? Because mine did a little when I thought of this. It makes so much sense! I have been skipping this part the whole time, going straight from executing to the audition where I was expected to perform. I’m hoping that this is the key to my mental blockage during the audition.

This phase also makes me rather nervous and uncomfortable. Why? Well I’ve spent my entire auditioning career practicing full blast right up until the audition. And now I’m doing something completely different – I’m stopping the “full blast” practice routine two weeks before the audition. While it makes perfect sense for brass players, I’m still not 100% convinced that it’s the best thing for me to do.

Coincidentally, it just so happens that I am running my 3rd (!!) half marathon of the year just 2 ½ weeks post-audition (on August 31). Because I’ve been doing both the running training plan and the audition prep training plan nearly the same time (my running plan is two weeks behind my clarinet plan), it’s been easy to see how they relate. And it reminds me that they need to be similar! Today I’m trying to put myself in the mindset of just finishing my last long training run, which is usually 12 miles (which I will be doing two weeks from now!). I love the last two weeks of a training plan – easy runs and time to eat all the calories I want. Although the food thing I can’t get away with for an audition, I should think of my practice sessions as easy from now on. I’m almost there; just downhill from here!

bazu-2140249

Pre-audition thoughts

So lets see…its been almost three years since I’ve taken any kind of audition.  Wow that’s crazy!  Time has flown by since I’ve been in the Navy.  Tomorrow I’m headed to Washington, D.C. once again to be one of the probably hundred clarinetists to take the President’s Own audition.  This time is going to be quite interesting, because I am certainly a different player than I was three years ago.  The change has come mostly to adjust to my life as a Navy musician and a professional march player.  I learned quickly that its very difficult to play those crazy marches using the heavy reeds that I was using.  While I was in school (Eastman specifically) I was always so concerned with making my sound as dark as possible, so the heavier the reed, the better.  But it made it hard to play things sometimes, I think that’s why I had so much trouble in auditions most of the time.  My reed was so heavy that if it wasn’t absolutely perfect in the audition room, it was over for me.  I wish I had realized that sooner, I would have saved myself a lot of heartache.

Since I stopped taking auditions (and especially since I joined the Navy), I have realized that I really don’t want that dark sound, and I’ve been trying to brighten it up a little.  I’ve since dropped down to a Vandoren 3 1/2+ V12, and I couldn’t be happier.  Its so much easier to play things now!  And I am really starting to enjoy my sound.  I also feel that I’ve matured incredibly over the last two years musically.  For the first time in my life, I feel like I can truly express myself musically.  It’s a great feeling!

Its interesting…I really didn’t, or couldn’t, discover who I was until I had no teacher to tell me what to do.  Granted, I am extremely grateful to my teachers for pointing me in the right direction, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am without them.  But, I didn’t truly grow as a musician until I had to listen to myself 100% of the time and be my own teacher.  When you have a teacher, its easy to turn off your ears and just do what they tell you to do.  But when you don’t have that, you are forced to grow into something beyond what your teacher has taught you to be.  I think that’s pretty amazing.

For this audition, I’ve really paid a lot of attention to the details.  Like, REALLY paid attention, and committed to making things perfect.  Before, I kind of glossed over little things and hoped for the best at the actual audition.  A really good example of this is one of the excerpts on the list this time.   It is from De Meij’s Lord of the Rings Symphony, specifically the “Gollum” movement.  There are a lot of grace notes in the excerpt, and one of them really gave me trouble:

lor

I kept getting a grunty sound when I would re-articulate the C grace note.  UGH so frustrating!  Before I would just forget about it, and assume and hope that all the other applicants had trouble with it too.  I’m not sure if it was a time thing (my practice time was always limited, especially when I was working full-time), or just a laziness thing, but I knew if I wanted to do well, I needed to abandon that attitude for this audition.  Maybe boot camp taught me something after all…attention to detail!  After a lot of trial and error, I figured out a way to get the C out, and I played just this measure literally hundreds of times, slowly and correctly.  I think I annoyed some people at work, because I would just play it over and over before rehearsals, haha.  It is a pretty annoying figure to be playing over and over, but whatever.  Anyway, it was worth it, because now I can play it right nearly every time.  Yes!

I’ve also spent a great deal of time trying to visualize the audition.  A lot of my audition failures in the past have been due to my own mental sabotage.  So instead of going to my “happy place” during all those boring change of command and retirement ceremonies that I have been at for work, I’ve simply been imagining myself at the audition, playing through the excerpts in my head, imagining my inevitable anxiety, etc.  Its pretty easy because I know what the room looks like, and how the room sounds because I’ve been there before…January 2010.  Wow that was almost four years ago!  Anyway, I have no idea if the visualization is going to help when the time comes, but when I step into that audition room I will take comfort in the fact that I have been there done that a number of times already, even if it was just in my head.

Yesterday I got some news at work that might make the audition easier for me to get through.  It’s not for sure or official yet, so I can’t say anything at the moment.  So we will see what happens Monday.  Wish me luck!

(Wait, I don’t need luck because I’m super prepared and I’m going to rock it!)

Midwest Clinic

Last week I had the pleasure of traveling to Chicago and attending the Midwest Clinic to play a concert with the Virginia Wind Symphony.  I have never been to the conference, and playing there was on my bucket list, for sure.  The conference is mostly geared towards the music educator/band director type, which I am definitely not.  But, I used the opportunity to visit the exhibits and be a clarinet nerd.  All the major clarinet brands were there, in addition to Rico and Vandoren.

I really wanted to try the new Rico Reserve mouthpiece, which I had heard so much about from the ICA convention this summer.  I tried the more open one first (X5), even though I knew I liked the close facing better in general.  I tried it with my own reed.  It was ok, not something I would want to play on.  Then I tried the X0, which is their close facing.  Really nice!  I tried it with both my reed and one of their reeds.  I actually liked it better with their reed…I wonder if they planned that, ha!  It had a clarity of sound that I enjoy with the closer facing, but had a little more depth of tone than my Vandoren M15, but still not as good as my Hawkins R.  Anyways, my final verdict is that the Rico Reserve X0 is a great mouthpiece for the money ($80-$100).  So if you want something with a little more finesse than the Vandoren, but don’t want to spend $300 on a Zinner blank, this is the way to go!  I may even have the Navy buy me one to go with my Prestige…

I also came across something called a Reedgeek.  The demo was amazing!  So amazing, in fact that I actually bought one.  I haven’t had much of a chance to use it, but from what I can see, it will replace all of my reed tools (AND it can go on airplane carry-on).  I plan on devoting a blog post to review this thing once I figure out how exactly to use it.  I really geeked out on this one.  (you see what I did there?)

They had many music publishers there, and I was able to find a new student duet book, which is always good.  I need some fresh duets (I’ve been playing the same couple books with my students for a few years now).

I wanted to devote some time to trying clarinets.  Not that I’m in the market right now, I just am very curious.  I haven’t tried clarinets since I bought my last pair almost 9 years ago!  I stopped first at the Buffet booth and tried their new Bb clarinet, the Divine (they didn’t have an A to try).  It was pretty nice, very smooth.  I liked how it felt in my hands, which is important to me since I have small hands.  I tried all the usual suspects also, including the Tosca, Tosca Greenline, Vintage, Prestige, Festival, and of course the R-13.  They only had A Toscas, no Bb, unfortunately, but all the others had matching pairs.  My favorite by far was the Festival.  It was the smoothest sound, and the darkest, which is what I prefer.  I was suprised that I didn’t like the Tosca at all!  From what I have heard, it is the most similar to my Concertos.  I had wished I brought my Eb mouthpiece, they had some to try, but I just didn’t think of it when I was packing for the trip!

Next stop was Conn-Selmer.  I tried the Recital series, and the Signature series.  They had A/Bb pair for both models.  I fell in love with the Recital series!  So smooth and sweet sounding.  I especially liked the A clarinet.  Now this is a clarinet I could buy!  The only weird thing is that the Recital is visibly larger in diameter – it looks like a fat clarinet!  Unfortunately, the only Leblancs they had were student models, including the “Bliss”.  Didn’t try them!

I went to the Yamaha booth, on recommendation from a Depaul student that I chatted with a little bit at the Conn-Selmer booth, to try their new clarinet.  I cannot remember what the exact model number was…but it was nice.  Very Yamaha-ish.  It was weird because it had an alternate low F (like what the Buffet Tosca and the Buffet Divine have), but instead of the key being just below the regular F key, it was a thumb key on the back of the instrument, much like you find on low C basses.  It was odd because the placement of this key was much lower than where the thumb rested underneath the thumbrest.  It wasn’t just a thumb size thing…I had to actually remove my thumb from under the thumbrest and move it down an inch or so to use this key.  My hands are not THAT small!  So in order to use this key, one has to wear a neckstrap or have giant thumbs.

Most of my time at the Clinic was taken up by playing with the Virginia Wind Symphony.  We played a concert on Friday afternoon, and then participated in a clinic by Colonel John R. Bourgeois, USMC (Ret.) on Saturday morning.  Thursday evening we had our rehearsal to prepare for the concert and Saturday morning’s clinic.  The rehearsal was supposed to be from 3:45-6:00, but we didn’t get done until almost 7!  And we didn’t have a break; it was really rough towards the end.  I haven’t been that consistent this month with my practicing, so my endurance wasn’t all that great.  But we had so many guest conductors and other players that hadn’t rehearsed with us yet, so we had to go through every piece on the program, including several marches for Saturday morning’s clinic.  It was very tiring.  Also, almost all the composers were present at the rehearsal!

Program for the concert with all the guest conductors!
Program for the concert with all the guest conductors!

The concert went very well, probably the best we’ve played our program ever.  We priemeiered a piece by Julie Giroux and our soloist was Pat Sheridan, which my husband is chums with – he tried to study with him at UCLA for a doctorate, but was unable to due to all the red tape (aka the school didn’t have funding for a tuba DMA).  He’s an amazing player!  It was very inspiring.   I was able to see some familiar faces from CSU after the concert, which was great!  I also got to finally meet a fellow Fort Collins native who teaches clarinet up at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.  I definitely want to try to make it up to Richmond sometime to talk some clarinet!

Saturday morning’s clinic was fun; as I mentioned before, we played a wide variety of marches, as that was what the clinic was about.  Colonel Bourgeois is an amazing conductor – he’s very picky about the small details, which I like.  All the marches we played were edited by him, of course!  I remember playing under Colonel Bourgeois in 2000 at the CSU Music Camp, right before my senior year of high school.  I remember it to be amazing, and I actually practiced my music that year, ha ha.  I didn’t do much practicing before college…

After the clinic was over, my husband and I had the entire rest of the day to see Chicago.  We had driven from Virginia (!) and we weren’t planning on starting the drive back until Sunday morning.  We walked around Millenium park and saw some of the sights.

Walking to Millenium park
Walking to Millenium park

Cloud gate
Cloud gate

Hello!
Hello!

Cool building
Cool building

What a fun trip!  Luckily we missed all the crazy weather driving to and from Chicago.  We had a little snow while we were there which was nice.  Also, it was refreshing to feel real cold again!  It doesn’t get cold like that in Virginia, that’s for sure.

I’m taking a break from practicing until I’m officially back to work on the 7th.  Its nice to take some time off every once in awhile.  I’m trying to keep busy practicing excerpts, but it is hard when you don’t have much to practice for.  I’m hoping to get a recording done for the ICA Orchestral Audition competition this spring, I’ll keep you all up to date (hopefully).

I’m thinking about going to the Saxophone Symposium in DC next weekend…not sure though.  The Chicago trip pretty much drained my savings, so I don’t have much even for gas money up to DC.  But if I can make it happen, I think I’ll try to go up for Saturdays stuff at least.

 

Blue shades solo…or not.

This summer, part of the repertoire that we are playing in the wind ensemble concerts at the navy band is Ticheli’s Blue Shades.  Most band people are probably familiar with it, and even more clarinetists know of the notorious full page solo near the end.

I was browsing Youtube this morning and I found this video of an entire 1st clarinet section (5 players) playing the solo. I was thinking, oh, this might be cool.

 

Um, WHAT? No, not cool. If you’re going to attempt to play such a crazy solo as a soli, at least make sure its all together and all in tune. It kind of sounded like a hack job to me. I’m sure all those players are very talented, but it just didn’t work as a soli. I’m sure it would be totally awesome if all 5 clarinetists were completely in sync with each other and in tune…but they weren’t and that’s just too bad.

So what if I have ridiculously high standards?

Exciting things…

Exciting musical things are happening in my life! For the first time in a long time, I feel totally motivated about music and performing…hope it lasts!

The first big thing is that I have the opportunity to play Mendelssohn’s Concertpiece No. 2 with the Fleet Forces Wind Ensemble this summer! I’m playing with another clarinetist in the band, I’m playing the first part, and she’s playing the basset horn part on bass clarinet. Its going to be so fun! We’ve already rehearsed (just the two of us) a few times and its going to sound great. If you don’t know the piece, its one of those super showy pieces with a lot of technical flair. I’m looking forward to the performance in June.

This summer is going to be filled with wind ensemble concerts at work. From what I can gather, we’ll be doing a concert at least once a week for a couple of months! Since we’ve had a couple clarinetists leave since the last wind ensemble concert, the parts got shuffled around and I got put on first part! I’m very excited for the challenge, and a little nervous because now I actually have to practice and I can’t hide back in the third section, LOL. We’re playing some great rep, too!

One of my coworkers whom I went to the Navy school with also asked if I would be interested in collaborating in a chamber music recital at the end of the summer. I was like, YES YES! He wants to do the Reinecke Trio for Clarinet, Horn and piano (he’s a horn player, obviously). I’ve heard of the piece, but I’ve never actually played or heard it. I’m listening to it for the first time as we speak! I am hoping that everything comes together and the recital actually happens. I was also thinking, it might be fun and challenging to start something like the group I played with in Rochester, Ad-Hoc. That group was started by people just like me!

Lastly, I’ve been really committed to getting better at flute! I’ve been practicing everyday for the past two months and I’m really seeing myself improve a lot. The first month or so it was hard because my sound was so awful at times, especially in the low and high registers. I tried to focus on long tones a lot, and playing large intervals (which is very tricky on flute!). I’ve never taken a lesson on flute, so I’m taking a lot of the long tone fundamentals that I practice on clarinet and applying them to flute. So far, its working fine! I also have been practicing harmonics, and playing out of my sister’s old method books. I feel like I have a controlled and solid sound, and now I can start focusing on finger technique. I still find myself “trying” to apply clarinet fingerings to the flute…its mostly just pressing down keys that aren’t there, and when I see first line G, I tend to let go of all the keys, LOL! The more I practice scales, the less I do it, which is good.

If I want to play flute in the band, I MUST learn piccolo. There is no flute in ceremonial bands! I think that I’ve gotten good enough at flute that it’s time for me to check out a picc from the band and start practicing. Gotta start learning Stars and Stripes!

I’ve also thought about trying to get back into the orchestra scene. As much as I love being in band, I do miss orchestra a bit. I would like to try to get on sub lists for orchestras in the area. I know, easier said than done, but doesn’t hurt to try to get my name out there! I’ve even dusted off my Hadcock excerpt book and started practicing excerpts again 🙂

So things are going pretty well for me this year so far. One thing that I can tell, my summer is going to be sooooo busy and full of music! I love it!

Pathway to normalcy

Wow I can’t believe its been almost a month since my last blog post!  Time has been absolutely flying by.  I’ve been so busy this month, I’ve hardly had time to do anything!  The best thing that’s happened since the last time I wrote was that Ben moved here to Norfolk and I moved off base to live with him!  Its been so nice, I actually feel like a 100% normal human being again.  The apartment we got isn’t as nice as we probably would have wanted, but its a place, and considering the amount of time we had to find a place to live, I think we did pretty well.  The location is great (I can practically see the band hall from where we live – we’re right outside of the gate), and its a great price.  We’re just so used to living in our own house, its hard to transition to apartment life (especially when you’re neighbors are super loud and have super loud kids!)  Good thing is, in a year if we want to move, we can (and we probably will!)

The only drawback right now is that I have a 20 minute commute in the morning.  Which isn’t all that bad I guess, I’m just used to only driving 10 minutes to work or school (like in Rochester), or walking 5 minutes from the barracks to the school.  And the commute sucks when you have a watch/duty every other day!  That is the way it has been for the whole month of September since there is no Army class, so there are only Marines and Sailors to fill up the watch bill. 

For those of you who are confused by that…here’s how it is: at the school, all the basic students have to stand watches either at the school telephone (day), the barracks telephone (night), or a roving barracks security (night).  They are only two hour shifts, but they can really suck if they are in the middle of the night.  Right now I’ve got it worked out with the watch bill coordinator (the person who does the schedule) so that I don’t have to stand midnight-2am or 2am-4am watch…but all others I can be scheduled for.  For example this past week I had 10pm-midnight on tuesday night, and 4-6 on Friday morning at the barracks.  Friday morning I had to get up at 2:30am to be able to get ready and get to my watch on time!  And since morning muster is at 7:20, I just went and practiced after my watch.  I was sooooooo tired by the end of the day.  And I get to do it again 2 more times this week, woo!  Those watches were so much easier when I lived right upstairs!  But its worth it to live with Ben.  Honestly I don’t think I should have to stand the barracks watches because I don’t live at the barracks, but I don’t make the rules I guess…  Luckily a new army class should be coming in the next couple weeks so I should only have watch once a week or so.

Anyways, other than standing the watch, I love my job!  Getting paid to practice?  OK!  And I do a lot of it.  I’m trying to learn as much as I can from my instructors here, especially from my clarinet instructor.  She is really good (she has a masters degree also) and definitely knows what she is talking about!  I’ve never played so many marches in my life, but its pretty fun.  Basically my day starts at around 6am – we are required to get an hour of practice time outside of school hours and I get it done before school starts so that I can just go home at the end of the day.  We muster at 7:20, then school officially begins at 7:30.  We have a “period” system, like in high school.  Periods 1-4 are in the morning, then we go to lunch, then we have 3 more periods in the afternoon.  After 7th period, we have what is called “service specific time” which means we do stuff with our respective services (navy, marines), usually PT (physical training – aka exercise).  Its a lot to do in one day, but I would never trade it for what I was doing before I joined the Navy.

So I officially have about 4 weeks left before I graduate from the school.  I’m trying to get all my academics done ASAP, but I’m also trying to take my time because I can possibly qualify for early advancement to E-4.  That means a pay raise without having to take the E-4 exam!  Its a difficult balance, but I’m managing.  I’m starting to run out of time though!  I’m super stressed out at the moment.  I just can’t wait until a month from now.  Everyone says that its way easier being in the band than it is at the school.  I just hope they are right!

Natural disaster week!

Apparently in Virginia it was national disasters week because not only did we have a hurricane over the weekend, we also had an earthquake earlier in the week!  We also woke up to yucky smoke on Thursday morning from a wildfire that was burning south of us.  It truly looked apocalyptic!!

The earthquake was the first time I’ve ever felt something like that.  Last year there was an earthquake felt in Rochester, but I was at work in a very large building and I definitely didn’t feel it at all.  It was weird, it just felt like the building was wobbling for a good 15 seconds.  It was not what I thought an earthquake should feel like!

And then there was Irene…hurricane Irene that is.  At first, the school of music was going to have us all evacuate to an army base up by Richmond, VA.  But then on Thursday the decision was made to “shelter in place” here in the barracks.  I was glad that we didn’t have to go anywhere!  But a little scared because I’ve never been in a hurricane before.

So on Friday we ended up not having any classes, instead we helped to secure the music building for the hurricane.  It involved lots of sandbags and lots of plastic:

Photo credit: School of Music facebook page

Fun times!  We were done by 11am, so then we had the rest of the day off!  The rain started at around midnight on Friday night (I only know this because I had watch from midnight – 2am that night), and it didn’t stop until after the storm passed on Sunday morning.  Basically we had wind and rain all day on Saturday, we even had a couple tornado warnings in the morning where we all had to go down to the bottom floor of the building that I live in.  But that was the most excitement that I experienced.  The wind got pretty bad when the hurricane actually got to us, but honestly, I slept through most of it!  We didn’t even lose power.  Woke up Sunday morning to blue skies and sunshine.  It was such a beautiful day considering how it was 24 hours prior!  So the moral of the story…category 1 hurricane = no big deal.  Just stay inside!

So beside the hurricane/earthquake/fire, all is well.  I’m working really hard here!  I’ve been trying to go to school early (ahem, 6:30am!) to get a warm up in, and it really does help.  The past week I’ve been in a playing group for the first two periods of the day, so it helps to get some long tones in before I start.  And I haven’t had that much time to practice during the day because my schedule is full of ensembles – I’m one of only two clarinetists here!  I’ve already had a performance with the “grad band” at graduation.  It was pretty scary, mostly because I am still learning all the movements that we have to do while marching.  Drill band is a constant stressor in my life right now, haha.  It is so much new information that I have to process and execute, and I’m not exactly the most coordinated person ever.  I still really suck at doing an about face (which I have to do to get out of the concert split formation during graduation performances!)

Basically, I’m pretty exhausted by the time evening muster comes around at 9:45pm.  But I want to make my experience worthwhile here, I want to get better!  I want that early advancement, which I can get if I do really well here at the school.  And of course I still want to be in a premiere band one day.

For my solo piece here at the school, I’ve decided to to A Set for Clarinet by Martino.  I’m looking forward to playing the piece, but I’m sure that I will want to kill myself at some point between now and my final audition, LOL!  Its just that type of piece.  But I’ve done difficult works like this in a limited amount of time (flashback to my Eastman MM recital and Dancing Solo!) so I know I can do it.  And I basically have more practice time than I know what to do with here!

In other news, Ben is moving down here this week!  Last weekend we actually found an apartment to live in, and it happens to be right outside the base gate that the band hall is just inside of.  We didn’t even know that until after we had put a deposit down on the place!  So it worked out.  Its about 20 minutes away from Little Creek, but I think I can deal with that for 2 months (plus I’m probably going to be commuting at 6am or earlier, so traffic shouldn’t be an issue).  I’m just excited that I get to move out of the barracks!

Its been about 6 weeks since I arrived here.  I can’t believe how fast its going by!  I’ve almost been here for as long as I was at boot camp.  I hope that it keeps going by fast, I want to get to the band and start what I joined the Navy to do.  Just over 8 weeks left to go!