Monday, April 29, 2013

Profiling of a Different Sort

I've noticed a change of attitude recently in store clerks when I enter a store carrying my bassoon.  Like most bassoonists, I have a black case cover.

Lately, I've been getting more attention upon entering the store than I'm used to. I went into a CVS in an inner-ring suburb in Cleveland last week.  When I've been in this store in the past, the clerks mostly couldn't be bothered to ask me if I need help finding something.  I'm quite fine with that as I prefer to do my own looking around.

However, this time upon entering the store with my bassoon over my shoulder, the clerk behind the counter immediately asked me if I needed help finding something and the store manager walked towards me briskly and asked the same thing.  Their attentiveness startled me for a minute, but I declined their offer of help and strolled down an aisle to start shopping.
This has happened to me in a few other stores recently. Normally I would have just attributed this to having entered the store during a less busy time, but the CVS had plenty of other customers in it when I was there.

Some things my daughters have told me combined with recent events in the United States leave me wondering if I am being profiled because of the "black bag" I'm carrying.

My older daughter had a job in a bakery this year.  She recently had to participate in "Active Shooter Training" or ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training. Additionally, my younger daughter recently had a day off from school because her teachers had to attend an all-day workshop for ALICE training. 

My older daughter says one of the things you look for when a suspicious person enters the store is someone carrying a large black bag. The Boston Marathon bombers used black bags to carry their pressure cooker bombs, for instance.  Shooters have used them to carry concealed weapons.

I wonder how many businesses are now requiring this kind of training of their employees and whether the stores I've entered recently have trained their workers this way.

My younger daughter says the teachers at her school are even being trained in how to resist an armed attacker. This is from the Wikipedia page on Active Shooter:

"On-Location Responders (school staff, faculty and campus security) play a crucial role during the initial moments of an attack, prior to law enforcement intervention, when most casualties occur (in the first 10 minutes). People on site that are properly trained can rapidly assess the threat, use cover and evacuate safely when possible, or barricade and hide from the shooter. Collective resistance tactics can be used as Last Resort Survival Measures to fight the shooter and take control of their weapon. Pre-incident training and preparations can save lives."

In other words, teachers may now be expected to fight shooters and take control of weapons! Given the fact that most of my daughter's teachers are petite 20-somethings I find this a preposterous idea! 

There is something wrong with a world that looks at the black bag that surrounds an instrument and thinks it's concealing a weapon. Would that it were the case that musical instruments were more numerous in this country than weapons!

Friday, April 12, 2013

The "Rite" Ice Cream

This year many orchestras and ballet companies are celebrating the 100th anniversary of one of the most famous -- or infamous -- premieres in the history of the arts.

On 29 May 1913, at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, concertgoers witnessed the birth of one of the towering works of the past 100 years -- Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. 

The Cleveland Orchestra will mark the anniversary with performances with the Joffrey Ballet at the Blossom Music Center this August.

The Columbus Symphony recently performed the work to sold-out audiences with its ballet company.  Principal Bassoonist, Betsy Sturdevant writes about it in her recent post.  Betsy's blog is terrific, by the way.  Another view on life inside a big symphony orchestra. She gives some very helpful tips on how to play the opening solo.

In what must be one of the most unusual and tasty ways of marking the centennial, Jeni's Ice Cream (a Columbus based company) has produced a limited edition ice cream in honor of the Columbus Symphony's performances!  Its flavors (absinthe and meringue) conjure up the atmosphere of a Belle Epoque Parisian cafe like those frequented by artists such as Toulouse-Latrec and other absinthe drinkers.

I had heard that this flavor was available at the Jeni's stores in Columbus, but was pleasantly surprised to find it also in our local Chagrin Falls store! You can also order pints on line!

Taking a cue from the craft beer movement, Jeni's produces ice cream by melding exotic ingredients and by offering limited edition flavors. Warning!  If you're a plain vanilla/chocolate person, this one's not for you!  However, if you would like a creamy, anise-flavored treat, this is just the ticket!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Pilgrimage to Rochester

As many of you know, I spent my college days at the Eastman School of Music where I studied with K. David Van Hoesen.

Since graduating, I've made several trips back to Rochester to play for him and receive feedback on my playing.  Maintaining a relationship with your primary teacher after graduation is important and helpful in many ways.

That person can write recommendation letters for you when you apply for positions, be a reference and a good sounding board for your playing as well as give advice on your career.

David Van Hoesen has been all these things for me. In addition, I know from personal experience that it's very rewarding for a teacher to see how former students are doing long after they've graduated. 

I have played audition excerpt lists for him prior to auditions on many occasions. During one visit I interviewed him for an article published in the Double Reed Magazine. Here is the article in case you would like to read it.

And here's an interview of me done by Carol Cope Lowe about Van Hoesen.

This time I traveled with Jonathan Sherwin and his wife, Sally. At the Van Hoesens we were joined by Rochester Philharmonic bassoonist, Martha Sholl for quartets.  Yes, David Van Hoesen is still making reeds and playing at age 86!

Another former student, Ann Davis stopped by to say hello, too.

We spent the better part of the afternoon playing and talking.  It was really nice to get caught up.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

An Action-Packed 48 Hours

48 Hours On Tour

An orchestra tour is a study in contrasts. A lot of musical activity is compressed into a short time frame. Concerts we present on tour are often high-profile, intended to make a big impression.  Therefore, we have to be ready to play our best. The repertoire features big works and often we accompany a renowned soloist. When there is downtime, often it's enough just to stay rested and practice, make reeds, etc.

On the other hand there is a lot of time spent waiting in airports, riding on buses or sitting in hotel lobbies waiting for rooms to be ready. Occasionally there are some stretches of free time as well.

In this sense, our March trip to Miami was typical. At the beginning of the week we were busy with rehearsals for Beethoven's 9th Symphony.  The end of the week was less busy with just three evening performances. On the way home on Sunday, we stopped in Chapel Hill, North Carolina to play a concert there.  More about this hectic day later!

There is usually not a complete day off on a short tour like this one, so free afternoons or mornings become cherished time off.  It's fun to see what others plan for these short breaks in the action.

Some went to the World Baseball Classic in the Marlins' new stadium, others shopped and looked around in South Beach.

After our Friday night Beethoven, two friend and I got up EARLY on Saturday morning and drove up to Lake Worth to run in the Shamrock 10 miler

The weather was cool and the times were fast!  I hit a PR in the 10 mile, finishing in 72:20.

After a rest in the afternoon we packed and played the concert on Saturday night.  The next morning we flew to Chapel Hill for that concert.

The Chapel Hill concert is what we refer to as a pass-through concert.  You start the day in another city, fly to the concert venue, get back on the plane after the concert and arrive home that night.

This was a tough day!  The concert venue (Memorial Hall) had very little room for storage, so our wardrobe trunks were not available that day.  That means we had to bag our concert attire separately on Saturday night after our concert in Miami.

We would also have no access to checked luggage so that meant that reed knives, etc. had to be packed in the instrument trunks (not in your instrument case if you were carrying your instrument on the plane!) if you wanted to adjust reeds that day at all.

The program was different from that in Miami.  We played Copland's Billy the Kid Suite, Lieberson's Pablo Neruda Songs (actually we had played this in Miami) and Petroushka.  We had played the outer two pieces with our conductor,Giancarlo Guerrero in Cleveland last November. Prior to this concert, though we  rehearsed the Copland and Stravinsky for just parts of two rehearsals earlier in the week - essentially just run-throughs with no time to work on details.

This is what I call a "Warm and Serve" concert! We arrived at the Raleigh-Durham airport at a little after 4:00pm, were instructed to get something to eat there, got on the bus and at the hall just before 6:00pm for the 7:00pm concert.

At intermission I was able to spend 5 minutes with my mother-in-law and her husband who live in the area, before getting back to my seat for Petroushka. John Clouser had the concert off, so I was playing the entire concert.

After the concert we dressed and packed our trunks, bussed to the airport and flew home.  We touched down in Cleveland at 11:59pm, missing overtime payment by 1 minute!!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Auditioning via DVD Follow-up

Auditioning via DVD

A friend of mine wrote me today with some great comments engendered by his reading of my recent post about DVD auditions.

Here's what he had to say:

"I'm always interested in thoughts on auditions because . . . I've served on juries at the (Vienna) State Opera many, many times. Awesome, the advantages made available by modern technology.
On occasion, I've advised young people on how to approach an audition. String players should tune as quietly as they can and thereby demonstrate bow control and how well the pegs on their instrument are maintained, for instance. Regarding the music itself I agree that it should be clear from the musical presentation — the playing itself — that the player knows the required excerpts IN CONTEXT — that they know what is going on around them while they are performing. Any member of the jury will immediately notice, as you say, whether the candidate knows the music or is simply trying to get the notes right. And in Vienna it is very important to be familiar with the style and traditional Viennese interpretations of these works — in the vein of the "picky" part of your blog. (How often have I heard: "great playing, but that's not the way we do it in Vienna!")
If, for whatever reason, at a live audition a candidate is interrupted by a member of the jury (which can actually be a very positive sign) and asked to play a passage differently, it will always impress the jury if the candidate can spontaneously and professionally respond to what is asked of him or her.
Given the always stiffer competition I agree that the more professional tape may very very well make the difference, all other things being equal. It is also a sign of respect to the adjudicators, who are human beings and react unconsciously to subliminal signals."