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!



Back to the grind!

As you can probably imagine because of my lack of blog posts, I have been insanely busy this summer.  So a vacation was exactly what I needed.  After spending  two weeks in Colorado, I have been thrown back into reality and I am back to work…plus I’m starting a new teaching gig at a high school this week.  Oyyyyy!  So.  Busy.

The last two weeks were absolutely wonderful, relaxing, and made me want to move back to Colorado SO BADLY!  I miss the people, the weather, and my family and friends.  This month marks six years since we moved away, its crazy!  All Ben and I could talk about the last couple days we were in Colorado was how/when we were going to move back!  Now that I’m back in Virginia, I’m a little bit more grounded in reality, but the desire to go back is still there.  Obviously I would have to get out of the Navy (still waiting for them to establish “Navy Band Denver”, LOL) in order to do this, but I’ve been having the urge to go back to school.  I really love teaching, but often I feel like I’m “winging it”, and not really knowing what I’m doing.  What a great way to become a pedagogue than to get my DMA!  I am thinking that I would like to eventually make pedagogy more the focus of my career.  I think I’m better at it than the performance aspect.  AND I really feel like I get much more out of teaching than performing.  I think I would try to go to CU-Boulder (its a respectable music school, and its close to home!) for this.  And Ben would get a job at one of the many budding distilleries or breweries in the area.  Not that I have thought about it or anything…ha.

Anyways, even if I was completely sure about doing that, I am still going to be employed by the Navy through May of 2016 whether I like it or not.  So I need to focus on that for now.  Right now we’re in the middle of our summer concert series with the wind ensemble, which has been fun.  We’re playing some pretty challenging stuff, and I’m playing first clarinet so I’ve been practicing a lot for that.  This past week was our first week back and we had concerts both Tuesday and Wednesday!  So before I went on leave, I decided that I should probably bring my clarinets with me to practice while I was in Colorado.  So I did…but I only picked it up a couple times.  Enough to keep some endurance, I guess.  But the two concerts were still pretty rough around the edges for me, especially towards the end.  Especially after a full day of rehearsals on Monday.  Oh well.  Next concert is not for a couple weeks, thank goodness.

This week also marked the official start of an instructor job I accepted a few months back.  Its for a high school marching band in Virginia Beach.  Before you judge, these kids are amazing!  They work so hard, and they care so much about getting it right, I love it!  Basically, I’m going to be in charge of running the sectionals for the woodwinds.  It also means I’m going to be super busy till November!  Anytime I’m not doing stuff for the Navy, I’ll be over at the high school doing stuff for them!

I also got a freakin’ amazing evaluation this year at the band.  Basically, it means I actually have a chance at getting promoted to E5 the next two promotion cycles.  So in addition to all the crap I’m doing, I’ve gotta study like crazy for the advancement test.  My goal is to score 5 or more points higher than I have before…much easier said than done!

Icing on the cake would be if the Navy Band (DC) posted an opening for clarinet.  My brain might explode then, haha.

Completely unrelated…I got the recording back from the chamber recital I performed in back in June.  Its up on the “audio” section, check it out!

Finally being taken seriously!

Wow this week has been busy! I feel like I’m back in school…well, minus the homework. I started rehearsals again with the Virginia Wind Symphony, had craziness and gigs galore at work, and to top it all off I had my audition with the principal clarinetist of the Virginia Symphony, Patti Carlson. The highlight of the week was definitely the audition! It took place at her house, which was nice…I have found that auditions at people’s houses tend to be less stress-y. My navy audition took place at someone’s house (see my previous post about it), and that had a great outcome, obviously.  Anyway, I was actually not that nervous for this audition, I kind of approached it like it was a lesson, and that’s seemed to put less pressure on me.  She was super nice, and actually thanked me for coming out and playing for her.

For the actual audition, I played the Mozart exposition, and considering how little I had practiced it (I kept forgetting to bring the music with me to work) I played it really really well.  Then we started with the excerpts – I had told her I had prepared the “standard fare” and whipped out my Hadcock book.  Started with Brahms 3…including some parts in the first movement which I had not been practicing.  It went fine though, she asked for the A clarinet solos, which I had done before and aren’t that crazy.  Then I played some Beethoven 6…1st movement of course…2nd movement…then she turned to the 3rd movement, the scherzo!  Ack!  I think she sensed my deer in headlights feeling, but I played it anyway.  I played it through once, and then she coached me a little on it, and I played it again and nailed it!  I think that showed her a lot more than just playing it right the first time.  I played some more stuff on the list that I had established in my last post, including Beethoven 8, Mendelssohn scherzo, RK Capriccio, & RK Scherezade.  Pretty much nailed all of it!

So I’m now on the Virginia Symphony sub list, officially!  It feels good to know that I played well enough at the audition that she trusted I could do the job of playing in a professional orchestra.  I’ve never had anyone show me that trust before!  If so, I would have either won jobs, or been on more sub lists.  This shows just how much I’ve improved since I’ve left school, and even since I’ve been in the Navy!  Since I’ve left the college environment, I have done my best to make sure that I don’t take any steps backward in my playing.  I think it has paid off!  And it doesn’t hurt that I get to practice all day.  I love this job!

Trip to Colorado and recital

Wow!  The last week has gone by in a flash!  I had such a great time in Colorado, I really didn’t want to come back!  Actually, if my husband wasn’t still in NY I probably would have stayed!  

I arrived in Denver after a very smooth trip; the only delay was in Rochester because  a bird ran into the plane on the way in and they needed to “clean up” and inspect the plane (it ran into the actual plane, not the engine)…but I still arrived in my connecting airport early!  My sister and her husband came to pick me up, along with her friend (and now my friend too) Courtney.  I had quite an entourage.

Wednesday morning I went to breakfast with my sister, my brother in law, and my mom to Lucile’s, which is like, the best place to have breakfast in Foco.  Just saying.  After that my mom let me use her truck (I know, shocker!  I’m almost 28 and she finally trusts me to take one of her vehicles, LOL) and I went to Greeley to meet with my friend Adele, who was playing the Poulenc with me on my recital.  We ended up rehearsing the Poulenc for a little bit and then talking and playing other duets for a couple hours!  It was great fun.  But then I had to get going to get my hair cut…my ends were quite gross – it had been over 10 months since I had it cut last!!  Obviously I really like my hairdresser since I let my hair go for months and months until I can make it back to Colorado, ha.

Mmmmmm Lucile’s
Wednesday night was the whole reason that I came at this particular time: my sister was having her last concert with her a capella group, Curious Gage.  My brother in law has been in it for awhile, and right when I moved to NY she had auditioned and won an open spot in the group.  So I’ve never heard her sing in the group!!  And this was my last chance to see her, and I am so happy that it worked out!  I seriously was so blown away by how much she has improved her singing and I was so proud of her, I thought I was going to cry during the first song!  The concert was Halloween themed, and I totally wore my tinkerbell costume!  All the members of the group also dressed up – Kristi being a vintage Barbie of course!
Thursday and Friday were spent mostly preparing for my recital on Friday night.  I had enough time to go for a run with my mom and also have some good quality time hanging out with my mom.  It was really nice!  Thursday night was my dress rehearsal.  I won’t go into details, but it ended up being a little frustrating.  I’ll be honest, it ended up not being the quality that I hoped – I have been so spoiled with Eastman pianists!!  Rehearsal ended up lasting almost three hours without a break…I was so pooped at the end!  Luckily Kristi was armed with cupcakes, so I felt better!  

Luckily my reeds changed very minimally in Colorado, but I am glad that I got the slightly softer strength, they ended up being just perfect!  I hardly needed to work on them, which was nice.  Also, my breathing adjusted very well to the altitude.  I had to re-do some breaths in the Poulenc that were on the verge of being impossible in Rochester and became entirely impossible at 5000 feet, but other than that I didn’t need to adjust anything!  

I also had a slight wardrobe emergency.  The outfit I planned on wearing was a long skirt and a shirt that I ordered from this Chinese company about 3 weeks ago.  I paid for 7 day shipping, thinking that it would be here in plenty of time.  Well, it didn’t actually arrive until last Tuesday (the day I left for CO) and it needed a signature confirmation…I was at work and Ben was asleep when the guy came to deliver it.  So he left a nice little note that stated that it would be available to pick up at the post office after 9am on Wednesday.  Well that sucks!  I was leaving that night!  So Ben had to go pick it up for me, and he overnighted it to me at my parent’s house.  Which was fine, it was better than trying to find a new shirt.  (Although now, a $15 shirt ended up costing me almost $50…)  Well when I finally opened the package on Thursday night, it ended up being WAY to small (I had ordered a medium, but I guess I wasn’t thinking in “asian girl” sizes, ha!).  I tried to stay calm, not panic…we can fix it.  And I showed it to my mom in the morning…and she fixed it!  There were only little buttons that fastened the shirt closed, and and all we needed to do was move the buttons!  It ended up fitting perfectly and looked fabulous.  Whew!  

The recital was held at Magnolia Music Studio, which is owned by Cynthia Vaughn, who used to teach voice at CSU.  Basically, she is awesome, and I loved playing in her space!  It was very intimate, which I liked, I felt like I could really connect with my audience because they were right there. 

The actual recital went very well.  I don’t think I could have played better considering the time frame that I had to prepare.  The turnout was great too, almost a full house!!  I have a feeling that the pianist went home and practiced a bunch on Friday because it was so much better than it had been on Thursday night.  And I actually spoke to the audience without feeling like I made an ass out of myself.  Win!  Unfortunately, I had a projectile spit event on the Sutermeister, but I recovered the best I could.  It happens.  

Everyone LOVED the Debussy that I arranged.  I was really surprised by the reaction to it – many people said it was their favorite piece of the concert.  I think it was mine too, actually!  

Saturday, my parents hosted an open house for me, so that my friends could come see me, instead of having to stress about making sure I see them.  That was really fun, a lot of the same people who came to the recital came to the open house too.  It was nice though, because I could chat with them more at the open house since it wasn’t as crazy.  

On Saturday night, I went to the Zombie Crawl in Fort Collins with Kristi and Courtney.  We got all “zombied out” and had a great time.  Kristi was a zombie bride, and Courtney and I were her zombie bridesmaids.  
Trying to eat my dad’s brains (and he’s also being attacked by golden retrievers)

Saturday night was so much fun, but I had an extremely early flight the next morning so I definitely paid for that fun.  I think I went to bed around 1am and I got up at 3am.  My flight was at 6am out of Denver, gross.  But I made it, and luckily the flight back was even smoother than the flight into Denver.  I slept almost the entire way.  Oh and then I taught a clarinet lesson that afternoon…that’s how desperate for money I am!

It was kind of sad to be back in Rochester after having so much fun in Colorado, but it is what it is.  Back to real life!!  At least I have Ben here, and we are going to be leaving soon.  Although I would love to move back to Fort Collins, but its just not in the cards, unfortunately.  But somewhere other than Rochester sounds real nice right now.

Coming up, I am forcing myself to take a week off from practicing (seriously forced – I keep wanting to get my horn out!), then I am going to start preparing for the Navy Band audition in January.  I met with my recruiter today, and he is totally excited for me to audition for the band.  Apparently, if I win the job, I will outrank almost everyone in the office after I get out of basic training.  Ha!  So crazy.  I was hoping to repeat my recital here in Rochester, but it looks like I won’t be able to afford it (I really don’t want to charge for tickets).  So I’m going to focus my efforts elsewhere.  I’m still hoping to maybe work something out with the Medical Center and their concert series, but nobody seems to be getting back to me.  Whatever.  

So I’m going to enjoy my week of no clarinet!  Maybe I’ll try to be productive….