Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I have two pieces of news.

First, a week ago I graduated from CCM with my MM in oboe performance! Technically, graduation was on the 12th, but my oboe written exam (16 pages, single spaced, on history, pieces, performers, techniques, teaching, etc.) was due last Wednesday. We were each given a CCM Alumni hat following the graduation ceremony.

Second, in the fall I will be attending Oxford (New College) for a MPhil in Musicology. I'm incredibly excited, and pretty nervous both to move to England and to go to Oxford. When I applied in the fall I never truly expected to get in, and while I received nice offers from both Case Western and Tufts for their masters programs, I couldn't turn down Oxford. It's really a dream come true for me.


Well, hello. I don't know that I've ever been as busy in school as I was this last quarter. In some ways it was great, and I got to play on a couple recitals, in the pit for Die Fledermaus, and in an extra orchestra concert, but I felt pretty overwhelmed the last couple weeks of school, working on a presentation, a paper, two exams, an excerpt board, and an opera.

I'm so happy that I got to play so much this year; a recital of my own, pieces on four other recitals, my orchestra rotation, a conducting workshop, Schubert Symphony 5, and 3 operas. I feel that I've improved a lot this year, both as a solo and chamber player and as an orchestral player. The Schubert concert was among if not the best concert I've ever played, despite the fact that I am utterly terrified of Schubert. (Everything must be exact, clear, simple, and beautiful at all times. That's a lot of pressure!) Less seriously, I played in a reading of Mahler 6 with two string players and 12 each horns and trumpets.

I've also learned a lot about what I need to work on. I feel like I've got a much more solid basis for tonguing, and I know how to work on that, and I also have a solid start to circular breathing and double tonguing. I'm also much more confident in an orchestral setting, in large part from playing in three chamber operas. And my tuning has gotten immeasurably better, though I'm still often nervous and mistrustful of it. However, I need to work on more accurately hearing the sound I produce. I was unaware of the positive qualities of my vibrato, and find it very hard to judge my volume accurately. In general, I need to play much louder when in orchestra, and even when playing in a chamber group. I also need to work on finessing the beginnings and ends of notes.
Something that Dwight said which really stuck with me was "Oboe playing is like a book - even when what's in the middle is beautiful and interesting, the beginning and the end are what hooks people and what they remember." I thought that was really clear imagery as well as a great combination of compliment and critique.


This quarter I got to work with several teachers: three of the oboists in the symphony downtown, and another teacher from out of town. They are all fabulous teachers, and although I missed my professor, I really enjoyed working with several different people. Sometimes it can be frustrating going back and forth between different view points, particularly if one of them falls much more in line with your own views, but at the same time it's nice to get a lot of different view points, especially on the pieces, including really big audition excerpts, which are being played downtown. So even though I only worked on excerpts for my board nearly all quarter, I feel that I got a lot done.

The Master's excerpt board is the excerpts from 20 pieces, though as I was doing some very oboe heavy pieces I only did 18 on my prof's suggestion. Here's what I played:

Bach - Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen
Bartok - Concerto for Orchestra
Beethoven - Symphony 3
Bizet - Symphony in C
Brahms - Symphony 1
Brahms - Violin Concerto
Mahler - Symphony 3
Mussorgsky - Pictures at an Exhibition
Ravel - Tombeau de Couperin
Rimsky-Korsakov - Scheherazade
Rossini - La Scala Di Seta
Schubert - Symphony 9 (The Great)
Shostakovich - Symphony 1
Shostakovich - Symphony 5
Strauss - Don Juan
Stravinsky - Pulcinella
Tchaikovsky - Symphony 4
Tchaikovsky - Symphony 5

I was also able to work with some great professors in my academic classes this year. My best class was probably one on American Symphonies in the first half of the 20th century. The topic isn't my general area of study, but the professor was articulate and engaging, and the class was truly interactive. We had some great discussion, both serious and a bit more frivolous - I must admit I love a class in which you can compare a symphony to a fantasy movie score and not be laughed at.

I'm fortunate enough to be going to CCM's opera program in Spoleto, Italy (which kind of piggybacks off of THE Spoleto Festival) for 5 weeks in July and August. I'll be playing The Rape of Lucretia again, so I'm going to spend the next several weeks working at my highly convenient desk job, practicing like crazy, and making reeds. Oh, yes, and learning Italian. :-)