Monday, June 05, 2006

Wanna play Bassoon?

Life as a Bassoonist

I started to learn to play the piano when I was 8 years old. I didn't want to learn to play an instrument, but my mom insisted. To her, for her children to not grow up playing an instrument, was completely out of the question. She had grown up playing the cello and remembered how much fun she had with it, and she was not about to let her kids grow up without such a wonderful opportunity.

My mother told me when I was 9, that "I could pick a classical orchestral instrument to play when I turned 10," and to "keep my eyes open." I was home-schooled then and I didn't get outside of the house very frequently, so I used pictures from the dictionary to help me. However I had something infinitely better when my mom offered to my sister and me a chance to come watch her play in her orchestra, the Palomar Community College Symphony Orchestra.

My first pick was percussion, Timpani to be exact. The Orchestra was playing a piece called Carmina Barona and I found it absolutely thrilling! It's a dark dramatic piece in which the most important instrument is the Timpani or Kettle Drums. My mom however did all that she could to discourage me from pursuing the tympani by telling me that it was "not an option", "they're boring to practice", "they're too loud" and finally when I persisted, "No."

So I was back to the drawing board. What to pick!? I considered strings, brass, and upper wood-winds. I was somewhat attracted to the trumpet, but not fatally so. I looked at the strings busily sawing away at their instruments and thought yeah why not, mom plays cello and maybe... naaaah. How about the wood-winds? Maybe the flute, in all it's surreal glory, or the clarinet and it's smooth milky tones flying into eternity. No? How about the sweet oboe giving it's amorous cry to the wind and the human-like English Horn speaking so strongly of reality? Or maybe the bassoon with it's low rich but sometimes comical personality?

I was stuck. After all, it's probably one of the hardest choices you'll ever have to make at age 9. I decided that I should play a wind instrument, and the idea was satisfying for the time. So like every other industrious, hard-working elementary student, I let the whole idea go to the recycling bin.

A year later when I was 10, my mom dragged me with her to a chamber rehearsal that consisted of a cello, a flute, an oboe, and a bassoon. It was lovely music and I was particularly interested in the bassoon, it was such a strange instrument, all long and red shining wood with an incredible network of silver keys that shone brilliantly. It seemed ancient, medieval and definitely very classical. I didn't particularly like the way it sounded, but I felt strangely compelled towards it, as if it was my destiny. (bty, I don't believe in destiny, but I do believe in providence)

When we returned home, I told Mom that I wanted to play bassoon. My mother was thrilled, and for several reasons, the bassoon is not widely known about and therefore not many people play it which makes it much easier to get substantial college scholarships. It was not a loud brass instrument that could deafen all who got within 20 feet of it. It was not timpani, and it wasn't something huge to haul around like the harp.
However mom was much more hesitant when she found out that bassoons in the pricing range could go for anywhere from $1,500 to $60,000. I personally like to look at it as an early college payment, that ends up paying for itself, if practiced regularly.
My first bassoon was fairly old, and we're still not sure if it is a Selmer, a Schriber, or something else. All my mother cared about is that we had found one of the legendary $1,500 bassoons that was still decent, without any major cracks, and small enough to fit in a child's hands.

I was positively thrilled for the first 20 minutes after we took it home, assembled it and tried to make some noises on it, but then I sort of lost interest and it was about all mom could do to make me practice for 15 minutes a day.

Pretty soon we hunted down a bassoon teacher and I took lessons with her for 2 years before joining the CYO Wind Ensemble.
It was my first experience playing in a group of instruments and it was a little intimidating. It was also one of my first experiences as a home-schooler to hang out with other kids my age. To make things even more nerve wracking, the conductor wasn't about to put you at your ease. He loved to yell at us, and even once offered to come to our homes and yell at us.

After 3 years that I spent with that group I moved on to join the Civic Youth Orchestra (CYO). The year before that I had gotten a new teacher and with him I was entering a world that was completely foreign to me.

The players in CYO were in general much older than I and much better at their instruments which at fist, to my incredibly inexperienced person, was quite scary.

Playing next to people who just seemed so incredible at what they did sent me into a mild form of shock, but that is when I realized that there were only two options if I was to remain in the orchestra. The first option was to keep progressing at the rate that I was going and let all the better players just drag me along with them as they pulled the orchestra. The second was to progress at a much faster level and pull my own weight.
Getting another bassoon (this time a brand new fox!) helped me to choose the second option. Watching my peers be just so incredible inspired me to try to be the same, and my teacher showed me how to enjoy practicing which of course spiked my practicing hours. :)

The most important lesson that my teacher has taught me so far is to appreciate music, and to be musical. That by itself has opened so many doors of thought for me that I am sure that I am a different person now.

My second year with CYO took me to Russia, Finland, and Sweden where we played; Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony, Scheherazade, Cappriccio Espagnol, Star Wars, and Hoe Down (by Aaron Copeland). Scheherazade has a magnificently huge bassoon solo right after the violin cadenza (2nd movement) which I got to play as principal bassoon. (yes!!!)

Becoming a Hybrid

When I returned from Russia that summer I auditioned for another orchestra called SDYS and amazingly acquired the principal position of that group and another more advanced group called Philharmonia. I am playing with those orchestras currently and loving it.
The conductor has very interesting musical insights.

Good News!

I will also be getting weekly lessons with my amazing bassoon teacher instead of biweekly!!!!


I'm going on a orchestra trip with SDYS to Tijuana! It should be fun, we will get to eat lots of cool food, play a concert, and stay up till all hours!!!
Adios amigos, (I hope that's spelled correctly)


Yes! I am so happy to be back from Tijuana! -Don't get me wrong, I had a great time an it was a chance to get closer with my friends but I definitely prefer the atmosphere back in the USA. It was really good to talk with the other musicians in SDYS who have been there for a longer amount of time than I have. Anyways, the bus ride was great! We went on a bus called Mexicoach... hilarious. Philip showed me a book called 'Beyond Talent' which I have already purchased. It looks really good. From what I can tell it seems to deal with a broad scope of questions that musicians have, but the part I saw dealt with the 'why am I dedicating my life to this?' kind of thing.
The whole trip was to honor the new Archbishop of Mexico er wherever (whom I never actually got to see) . Going to Mexico was really easy. The buses just drove over the border and away! Coming back on the other hand was different. We each had to get out of the bus and walk in single file past a security guard, holding our pass ports while he checked them. A couple of the kids in front of me were stopped by this security guard, who said to them with a twinkle in his eye, "I don't think that picture looks like you" the kids just froze up and stared wide-eyed at him for a couple seconds until he smiled and said "but it's close enough," and with a wave of his hand "go on!"

Concerto Competition

Tomorrow I'm going to do a recording of Mozart B flat Bassoon Concerto with piano. It's for the Young Artists Concerto Competition. I'm going to wear a dress that my first bassoon teacher (Tammy) gave to me before she moved away. I'm not nervous now, but I suppose that means that I'll be a wreck tomorrow. This is my first competition which I guess I why I'm so nervous.. I keep reminding myself that whatever happens I can only do my best.


Well, I didn't progress to the finals :( but it was good experience. :D


Yes you guessed it! I'll be busking in the Park with Phil his Clarinet and Dimitri. Has anyone heard of the crime rate in Balboa Park? My dad said that it was fairly high but the park ranger still hasn't returned my call, so either they thought I was playing a practical joke or they're really going to try and hide something that just doesn't need to be turned up. ;) It's cool though, because not only are we going to be busking (with adult supervision) but I'm an orange belt in Tae Kwon Do, and Phil is a black belt.
Anywho, my Saturday is totally booked. CYO, come home eat lunch drive to lesson with my AWSOME bassoon teacher, to Philharmonia, then the OH so lucrative job of playing for people who pass by, yes that would be Busking!!

It's a cool word, I've studied Latin and when you try to find out the meaning of a word you just break it down to it's Latin roots, then piece it back together.
In this case you'd break this down into 'bus' and 'king'. 'Bus' meaning 'large federally funded vehicle that carries lots of people but mainly the housefully challenged' and 'king' meaning 'the sole ruler of a land, haha not really, he's either ruled by Parliament or that wife of his known of as a Queen (should be Quing)'
Put those together (meaning woman snatcher) and you get a 'large federally funded vehicle that carries the housefully challenged and Quings, both of whom have no idea what they're doing there. The housefully challenged because they wouldn't know what was happening anyway, and the Quings because if they're on a Federally funded vehicle, then they've somehow left their countries and are traveling at 30 miles an hour to who knows where as they sit on chewing gum'.


Ok, first of all this is the post that will answer all your questions about my seemingly weird email; The ending is Latin,"eo.ire," and it starts with bassoon (and we all know that putting 'Bassoon' in your email is genius to begin with so 'nough said ;)
What's this eo . ire thing? YESSS! that what's really been bugging you! ok now seriously, 'eo, ire' are Latin verbal suffixes meaning 'to go'. So you have 'eo', which is the present participle and 'ire' which is the passive participle, and it's only function here in the email is to let people know that this was a Latin verb in the first place. By placing 'eo, ire' (properly notated with a comma, but you can't use commas in your email address, weird huh?) at the end of 'Bassoon' you get the meanings; 'go bassoon!', 'go the way of the bassoon', 'do bassoon', and 'the bassoon goes(rocks)'. Hehe, pretty cool huh? Yeah, that's why I stopped learning Latin, and to believe, this is the only salvaging of all those years of Latin to actually serve a useful purpose!
And remember; Semper ubi sub-ubi!

End of Semester

Ok, another school year is ending and with it, orchestra. :( SDYS is the first to go, it ends tomorrow, and CYO will go second. It ends next week.

Ok, just a quick list of all my leaving friends (tear) and a thank you to them for all the things they've taught me over the year. :)

Dearest Oboe, Jeff; because of his wondrously antinomian views and total lack of respect for authority figures who don't deserve it! Go Jeff! You rock my socks!

Philip, principal clarinet; who showed me what 100% really means, along with humility, graciousness, and to understand how the crazy music industry works. Thank you.

Soyeon, principal flute; who's work ethic is totally inspiring, and who's wacky sense of humor took the nervous edge off many performances. :)

Soleen, assistant clarinet; whose endearing personality and courage even in the face of 9 classes a semester is to be given a medal! (ok so she's not leaving, but she still deserves something!)

Last but definitely not least, my bassoon buddy Alex;
who is the first person to make me feel really excepted in SDYS. His sardonic, sarcastic, always hilarious sense of humor kept me laughing through the entire rehearsal! Don't leave!!!! I'm going to be so board next year! ;)

SDYS Quartet '07! From left to right we have; Jeff, me, Philip, Soyeon.

Aloha SUMMER!!!!!!

Wow, ya gotta love summer! It is warm, careless, and gorgeously green! It's the time when you leave the house and go somewhere exotic and cool just to be lazy and drink Pina Coladas!

Our little "vacation" found it's self in the heart of America, that's right the nation's #1 summer resort; Nebraska. Now you might be saying "What on earth would posses them to do a thing like that?" and my response would be "first of all, we were all possessed to begin with and second, how could one resist the charms of guaranteed mugginess, and a total of FOUR DAYS locked in a car with your all-understanding and beloved sister, your calm mother distracted by a dog more interested in being outside of the car, and a stressed father, who's only resource amidst this... situation, is his booming voice carring far beyond the car's four walls... Love those road trips, just love'em to death.

Actually it wasn't that bad. The only real shrieking happened when I was driving the car. Yes, a very good atmosphere for concentration. I've never really known what it was like to balance two decisions, be well informed by a freaking sister that I was a terrible driver, hear threats issuing from my father that if I didn't slow down.... you fill in the blank, see my mom nervously clutching the dog and hoarsely whispering over and over "slow down, slow down, slow down...", all while you're trying to slow down on a steep 'S' shaped grade, with your breaks threatening to give out at any minute, a reckless huge semi behind who pursues you like a mad man down that hill, oh yeah, one more distraction, place a giant canyon to your left with only a little silver rail between you and it at the end of the Colorado Rockies, with civilization hundreds of miles away and you have my situation. As my best friend astutely pointed out "It's a good thing you're still alive!"

Of course there was no end to what a terrible driver I was when we reached my Grandparents house. (yes, all that for real genuine Nebraskan Pina Coladas!) It was at my grandparents house that I seriously considered becoming a vegetarian. I love the food my Grandparents make and the donuts they give us every morning, and that's the problem really. I must have put on 5 pounds over vacation.

It was fabulous to see the Grandparents again. Both my Mom and my Dad's parents live in good ole NE. Pretty much everyone else to whom we're related lives there also. Both my Aunts on my dad's side had recently decided to become business women and it was great to see them at it!

We shot off fireworks on the 2nd, 3rd, and of course the 4th of July, which was a lot of fun except for the part where I tried to hold the fuses of two huge Sumo-Chinese fire-works together, and ended up with second degree burns. I actually didn't realized I had burnt myself until I looked down, and saw my thumb on fire.
Hydrocortizone is a really good cream for burns, I had mostly recovered after five days.

Practicing was a little painful, especially since it was the thumb on the left hand that I burned. For bassoons, that is the one finger that has the privilege of playing up to 11 keys, if you have a left hand whisper key lock. :)

Summer is winding down now, we completely missed (again) the fruit on our apricot tree, which only gives fruit on the first two weeks of July. We're constantly bombarded with mail from colleges, urging us to take classes from them and orchestras reminding us to get signed up. But that's not all, as surely as death comes the SAT creeps slowly and silently with a self esteem vacuum couched within it's deep folding black robes. :-/
Until then, Aloha!

Puppy Mills

This is a story about dogs.
It all began when my dog started to get sick, he showed all the symptoms of flu, and a few more. His Lymph nodes were severely enlarged and his liver also. We took him to the vet, who told us that he has Lymphoma and will (with light treatment) live for only eight more weeks. His name is Angus MacFangus McBark'n'bite Clark, and he is a Scottish Terrier with a strong hunting and digging instinct. There are only two things that exist in his mind. 1 is food, 2 is cats for hunting. We love him a lot.
Mom was looking online for anything which could cure his cancer. Unfortunately, the best we could possibly do would be prolong his life for a maximum of 2 years, with severe treatment happening frequently, if his system could take it. In the end we decided that giving him two more years filled with (seeming) torture would not be a good way for him to go on.
But something unexpected did show up while my mom was searching.

She stumbled a upon a website that spoke about dogs who have much more painful problems, problems which are actually preventable, if not curable. These dogs live caged lives and have no concept of the word freedom. I owe it to my dog to at least say something about this, that even though there isn't much hope left for him, there is some for these dogs.

Go there, and make a difference. In life we don't always have a lot of options, we don't always get what we want, but sometimes we can change things for the better, and make the world a better place, not just for humans but for all creatures.

In dedication to my beloved dog Angus, who made the dull times sparkle, and the painful ones comforted. We will miss you.

-Approximate time of death; August 30, 2007, 4:10PM


The Voting!

Well as you can see my little sister just ransacked my voting down there... Nobody really thinks that the bassoon is farty do they? Oh the pain! Please put your votes in, because what you think counts!
I Used to have a fairly dim view of the bassoon. I thought it was for stuffy old people, needless to say my views have changed since then... but it would be interesting to see what non-bassoon playing peoples think. Don't let that stop you if you play bassoon, I want to see what you think too! I'll catch ya later, hopefully we can really start talking about bassoons again. :) Good night!

Oh yeah, and don't forget to VOTE!!!!


So I auditioned for SDYS again. How did it go you say? Well that's an interesting question. It was embarrassing, I wasn't prepared adequately and something between my airflow and my reed wasn't working. There were a lot of squawks.
And a few wrong notes. The lesson from that is; be prepared, and actually look at your excerpts page before you offer to play from it. Ugh.
Anyways, it was just embarrassing I'll probably hold my current position. :) Every audition is a new experience whether good or bad, but it's like looking at yourself in the mirror. I guess I haven't showered in a while...
I've been playing a musical called 'The King and I'. It's a community performance with Patio Play House, and it was fun. Lots of beetles in the park, so life was never dull! I love beetles!

College is crazy, I'm taking music theory and it's hard and fast. I don't sing, or read treble clef, or play piano so I'm behind compared to some. But I managed to get a B on my first quiz, not my favorite grade but not bad for having to learn treble clef in a week! I've got so many classes I'm finding it hard to find time to practice and exercise... probably should stop writing about it and start doing it. ;)
Ok, I'll catch ya later! Stay Cool!

Music Theory and the coming of Wisdom

Music theory has just opened my eyes to a whole new world of musical thought! But it hasn't made me any wiser.
The reference '...the coming of Wisdom' was actually a reference to my teeth. Yes my teeth.
I've got pretty good teeth, but now I'm going to undergo surgery for the first time and I'm somewhat chicken.
The wisdom teeth need to go, they're going to ruin my toothy smile if they don't. This will put me out of commission completely as I will be utterly stoned on pain medication. Haha. I won't even be able to practice for a week! Not cause I'm stoned, but because the surgery needs to heal before any pressure is put on my mouth.

Did you know...?

-In the course of surgery, if your wisdom tooth was wrapped around the nerve that controls all of the feeling in your lips, gums, jaw, etc. at the time when they pull it out, you could permanently lose all sensitivity in those areas?

-That if your tooth wasn't developed enough and too close to the jaw bone, you could end up with a fractured jaw that would take 6 months to heal?

-That if worst came to worst, you could end up dead?

Of course with any surgery there is a chance of infection and especially with ones in the mouth, as there is a particular kind of bacteria there that is really hard to treat with antibiotics. But dentists don't even test for this bacteria before they start. They looked at my chart and said "You're healthy, you probably won't get infection."

Now you know why I'm chicken. My mom said that they never told her this kind of stuff before her surgery, but then law suits weren't as common back in her day.

Obviously I won't be adding anything to the blog for a while, since I'll be totally out of it. SO:

Send money and lots of it to me, here, where I live.
You rock!

Oh yeah, just a little geeky thing here; The word 'Coupon' is not pronounced Que-pon, it is pronounced Coo-pon. It comes from the French verb 'couper' (pronounced coo-pay) which means 'to cut' which is very appropriate as a coupon is used to cut prices. :)