In my post, Favorite Space, I shared thoughts about a recent performance experience. What a bright spot in my week! Today, I would like to share the performance recording. I hope you enjoy it! ❤️
It lives there
Or years of
No more time
Back and forth
We are ready
And the audience
Is waiting to listen
Time on stage
To find presence
In my favorite space
Lost in the music
My favorite part of being a musician is collaborating with other musicians. There is something magical about learning my part of the music and then hearing it come together with another.
Working as an accompanist used to take up much of my professional time. These days, not so much. Both time and opportunity often play a role, and that is ok. But an opportunity came along recently. And I am glad I said yes!
This past week, I had the privilege of accompanying a young cellist, eleven years old. He was to be a spotlight performer for the Tulsa Youth Symphony during their dinner fundraiser. He needed an accompanist, and a former colleague passed along my name.
We met once to rehearse. The level of preparedness, skill, and musicality was impressive. Easy to work with and kind. Eleven years old.
Waiting backstage, we both admitted to being a little nervous. But once in front of the audience, it was all about the music. Afterward, this truth was rekindled-Moments like these are my favorite. And they are to be treasured.
A Social Distance Duet
I love playing the piano. And playing the piano in collaboration with another musician is even better. It requires a whole new level of concentration. But it also provides a whole new level of enjoyment.
Not only am I reading and listening to my part, but I am also doing the same for the other instrument. One section on its own does not make sense. But when played at the same time, harmony in motion. Almost like two characters telling the same story from their own perspective.
Even though collaborative playing is one of my favorite ways to experience music, it has not been part of my life in more recent times. Right now, my professional life is more focused on teaching. Playing is mostly for my own enjoyment.
That is ok. I am not complaining, just setting the scene.
Here we are, many months of living during a worldwide pandemic. The school year ended strangely. So many plans put on hold. And just when it seemed things were improving, our numbers are on the rise again.
There are so many questions about the future. How long will this last? What will school look like? It is easy to feel anxious.
What better way to calm anxious thoughts than some musical collaboration?
My friend, Lisa, came over and brought her oboe. Lisa and I teach music in the same district. She is also a professional musician. We have talked many times about getting together and playing music.
What better time than during the middle of a pandemic?
My music room has glass doors that open up to the main entrance. So, we opened the doors and sat a chair and music stand in the entryway. That way, we could still maintain a social distance but also have a sightline.
We played music for almost two hours! The time flew by. My fingers got a workout, but my brain was at peace. The music was beautiful! And we had the perfect audience, my miniature dachshund, Poppy.
Poppy’s bed was placed between the piano and the oboe. She was perfectly still, relaxed in her bed the entire time. I think she approved.
Playing music did not erase our questions or concerns. But it did provide some moments of contentment. Music is powerful, therapeutic. And the therapy is even sweeter when it’s a social distance duet with a friend.
Today’s the day! The official release of The Poets Symphony. If you love music and poetry, check it out! I’m proud to have five poems included in this collection.
This beautifully edited book is available for purchase from the following locations:
(paperback-quickest to ship)
and Noble (paperback)
There is something I have wanted for quite a while. A material possession, but so much more. An object, but also an extension of my being.
If you are a musician, you will understand. An artist, a writer-anyone who utilizes something material to help express their innermost thoughts, emotions, and feelings-you will relate.
I am sure you have guessed by now. A piano.
I have played many pianos in my lifetime. Starting with the old upright at my grandmother’s house and then the spinet my parents bought me when I was a girl. We have had a couple of pianos in our home. The most recent, an electronic piano.
While I am thankful for the technological capabilities, I miss practicing on an acoustic piano. Due to my recent neck and arm issues, I struggle with the touch. Now that we are home for this unknown period, I desperately want to practice.
I know he will not want any recognition, but he is getting it anyway. My sweet husband understands this connection to the piano. He understands my need to play.
We had been talking about getting a new piano. Looking ahead to summer. Those kinds of plans are easier to focus on when school is not in session. Then everything changed.
Suddenly, there was no more going back after spring break. The reality that we would be home for an extended time began to set in. I began to feel restless.
After some research, we arranged for me to safely test out four pianos. The one I chose was delivered last week. My mom has already received a recording. Some friends suggested a FaceTime concert. The possibilities are endless!
No, this does not change our current world situation. However, it will bring a little joy to my corner of the world. And just maybe, that joy will spread. That is certainly my hope. On that note, here are my first couple of recordings.
When it comes to practicing challenging music, I am a little out of practice. 😉 Yes, I have rehearsed and performed solos with high school students and played for our all-school musical this school year. There were challenges, but none which required extended focused practice.
I am currently preparing to accompany seven college students at the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) competition. Each singer prepares four pieces from different time periods with contrasting styles.
Let’s do some math: 7 singers x 4 pieces = 28 individual songs.
I have played some of this music in years past. Some songs immediately returned to my hands. Muscle memory took over and the notes fit right under my fingers. Others, not so easy. Plus there are new ones I’m learning for the first time.
While talking to my mom on the phone today, I mentioned going home to practice after school. She laughed and said, “It’s been a while since you’ve really had to practice, huh?” I’m afraid she is right.
I have great sight-reading skills. Skills which have helped me through many a lesson, rehearsal, and even some performances. Not a practice I would recommend. And certainly not one acceptable for this current playing opportunity.
Practicing is hard work! Not a new truth. It was my life for many years. I can’t say I miss spending 3-4 hours a day in a practice room. But I was young and didn’t need to rest or stretch every 30 minutes. Nor did I have these pains in my neck and shoulders…
Despite the physical challenges which now accompany extended practice time, it is time well-spent. The list of benefits could go on and on, but here are a few:
- Finally correcting a wrong note/rhythm
- Repeating a particular phrase until it works
- Combining my practice with the practice of others
- Creating beautiful music
I suppose this experience falls into the life-long learner category. Learning new music and re-learning old. Discovering the need to change my practice habits. Shorter amounts of time, practicing more efficiently. Yes, I still have the ability. The process just looks a little different than it did thirty years ago.
I’ve had some dinner and taken a couple of Aleve. Put on a pot of decaf. Beginning to feel a tiny bit rested. Guess I’d better go practice! 🎶🎹🎶
Thoughts from the Orchestra Pit
Have you considered how many times in our lives are we called to provide a foundation for something we will never get to see? Parents, teachers, even musicians in an orchestra pit can all relate to this dilemma. How will we know if all our hard work paid off? Did we provide enough support to lead to a positive outcome?
Decisions we make as parents definitely fit that description. Parenting is hard work. We raise our children not knowing what their future holds. All we can do is our best. Trusting that we laid a strong, though most assuredly imperfect, foundation.
This idea also applies to a teacher. Think about all of the students a teacher inspires. New groups every year multiplied by the years taught. The numbers can be staggering. And the range of influence for all of them cannot be seen. Yet teachers continue to lay a foundation for students to learn and be successful.
As I was practicing in the orchestra pit this week for our upcoming all-school musical, it hit me how the experience provides a literal illustration for this truth. Think about it. All these amazing musicians, hidden under the stage, working hard every day to play beautiful music. And their music provides sure footing for everything that happens on stage.
The downside? We never get to fully see the amazing things occurring on stage. If there’s a long enough pause in the music, we might stand up and catch a glimpse of the actors and sets. Since we are performing during the most dramatic and exciting parts, those we never get to see at the moment.
Although it makes for an interesting predicament, those of us in the pit wouldn’t change a thing. We get to be a part of something bigger than us. Something which takes many people doing many different jobs to succeed. The final outcome is incredible, and we get to be the foundation. (Not to mention, it’s a fun place to hang out.) 😉
Even though we may not be able to see the final outcome in each of these situations, there are moments which affirm our choices. For a parent that affirmation may come in witnessing a thoughtful or compassionate action by their child. For a teacher, it might come in a simple thank you from a former student. No, not the end result, but the motivation to continue doing what needs to be done.
So, what about those musicians in the orchestra pit? What is that moment for us? I’d have to say it’s at the very end of the show. That moment when all the singers, actors and dancers have taken their bow and they direct the audience’s attention to the pit. They all point in unison towards us, showing their appreciation while encouraging the audience to do the same.
Hopefully, this reflection will help me look for more of those significant moments instead of worrying about the future. Realizing what I do today is important. And that I am not working alone. No matter which role I happen to be in on any given day, there are others right alongside me, working for the same outcome, laying the same foundation.
Here’s to hope for the future, which just happens to include a bunch of talented students performing in a musical-on stage and in the pit.