Wednesday, February 8

Adult Masterclass : Rebirth of the Phoenix!

Blogger statistics show that people have been searching for information about IMS and various pain-related questions. I’ll give an update on my progress next time and touch on why I think some people might consider the treatments don’t work, when in fact they do, to the extent they were intended to.

1942_GhostFrankenstein_img6Frankenstein’s demise foretells a new birth!

Early last year, I wrote a blog post (Frankenstein's First Steps) with a title that essentially forecasted my whole oboe year. I hope this post will do the same.

I started this blog roughly 8 months after beginning to practice the oboe with some regularity, having left it nearly untouched for 10 years … well doing an average of 30 minutes a month… The blog was to motivate me to practice more seriously and to track my physical hurdles. Other people had similar stories to tell and sharing them on other venues had proven really comforting and encouraging, so I thought this blog might prove interesting.

tumblr_ltro19D96K1qbbjxvo1_500During the 10 years of near abstinence, every time I picked-up the oboe produced mixed feelings:

  1. sheer joy and a feeling of breathing fresh air after having held my breath underwater (swimming in the heavy burden of math and software assignments)
  2. horrifying frustration at sounding as bad as a beginner, made much worse at remembering the recitals and concerts I did, including such difficult repertoire as Symphonie Fantastique and Prélude à l’Après-midi d’un Faune.

By the time I started the blog, I thought my playing was decent for an amateur, but recordings left me feeling really embarrassed, again mostly for the memory of how I used to play. Now, a few weeks ago (a touch over a year into my blog or a year and a half into my oboe re-birth), I participated in a master class for adult amateurs and played the 1st movement of the Saint-Saëns sonata… and I did so believing I could pull it off without insulting music.
…This alone means I made some very decent improvement.

Adult Master Class – Lesson of the Phoenix!

250px-Phoenix-FabelwesenHuge credit is due to the organizers of the Ottawa Oboe Extravaganza. They had the incredible foresight and showed real community stewardship by inviting adult amateurs to play on stage to receive the tutelage of an excellent oboist, Susan Morris of the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra and Ottawa Youth Orchestra Academy. This activity really makes people feel like they belong to the musical world and it shows just how far one can get if we follow our dreams wholeheartedly.

It was only a week before the event I realized I could play in the master class. I was in the process of recording the last of 3 duets for 2 oboes by Nino Rota. So I only had time to practice excerpts from Petrushka, and only a little bit. On the night before the masterclass, I had to wait at the university for hours, so I found a spot to practice and a gut feeling told me to do something else: the Saint-Saëns would be a much better show off of my improvement in articulations and dynamics. I didn’t have the parts, but I had played it so much in the past that practicing from memory was not a problem.

masterClassContrary to Expectations

The masterclass started and adult amateurs ranging from the very beginner to the much more experienced than myself went on stage. About 30 minutes before my turn, a cold draft ignited muscle spasms in my neck and fibro-fog set in: I was mortified to go on stage. I went anyway because I had made such a fuss with Chip to go… it would be really bad to back down. Chip had participants explain our musical stories and the fibro-fog created such confusion I could hardly speak with any coherence at all.

So I started playing the 1st movement of the Saint-Saëns sonata. I would have expected notes to cack, articulations to fail, dynamics to freeze and so on… the usual! But instead, I was surprized that my slurring felt very smooth, my pp and ff dynamics seemed very distinct and solid and both the articulation and release of notes were in full control. Actually, even most of the rhythm and character was quite solid. What went berzerk was that nerves seemed to make me loose my embouchure, bite like a shark and therefore sound like tin can! … and naturally the fortissimo triplet arpeggios slipped and fell like Sandy Hill covered with freezing rain! (Ottawa winter applied to playing the oboe…)

This anxiety was very strange, because I never used to be nervous in concert…. at least, not enough to fear playing on stage. Exams and rehearsals used to mortify me, really intimidated about playing with my peers and betters. But public performance bliss usually trumped all anxiety.

Harry-Potter-And-The-Order-Of-The-Phoenix_novelMy next steps as a musician…

Here is where the Phoenix comes in. The legend says that, at the end of its life, the Phoenix bursts into flames and is reborn of its own ashes. Well, if I did crash-and-burn at that masterclass, I hope is was a fire ignited by my year of blogging (practicing and recording) and that it ended the dark silent now past. I hope it means that now I can be reborn of those ashes and perhaps begin a new musical life with possibilities that I am as yet too inexperienced to imagine.

I must imagine that my next steps, as a musician, would be to overcome the anxiety I felt at the masterclass and regain my former performance bliss. I suppose, then, that I need to meet people and find the proper ensemble in a setting suited to my profession as a software engineer.

If the Almighty wishes it, then it will be and the Phoneix will fly in a beautiful blaze, its tears with the power to heal and wings capable of carrying even my dreams into reality.


Tania S-C said...

I have just read this post & the similarities between your situation & my own make me feel sure that I have the potential to succeed. I am an oboist myself & have just graduated with a BMus. I suffer with a number of medical conditions including Basilar type Migraine with Aura (which can cause me to loose consciousness) & have recently been diagnosed with Chronic Widespread Multiple Skeletal Pain & Fibromyalgia. I have just begun a blog & twitter account in the hope that I might inspire someone to follow their dreams despite any obstacles that are put in their way. This is the feeling I got from reading your blog post & am even more driven to make it as a professional performer. I have a good feeling that your Phoenix will indeed rise, carrying your dreams with it. Best wishes, Tania

RobinDesHautbois said...

I'm really happy you dropped by,Tania.
It really bothers me that these problems seem to affect women more often and more severely than men.

I suffered migraines (aura? no clue - doctors not diligent enough) for years until I got married.... that's when God apparently decided it would be wise to switch with fibromyalgia....

I'm preparing a few monster posts on my own pain conditions and also how I'm coping. It can seem depressing and scary to people who don't live these conditions, but in reality, it's a huge success story that I hope will continue.

I'll be reading your blog too. I was most impressed with a former conductor of mine who was a flautist and continues to manage a very busy musical career.

Rule #1: DON'T GIVE UP!
Rule #2: always keep fighting!!
Rule #3: DON'T GIVE-IN!!!