More Chicago!

When I was in Chicago, I stayed with a flutist that I met at a summer festival. Her roommates were another Canadian flutist, and the other flutists’ boyfriend, a violinist playing in Chicago Civic. Civic were having an open rehearsal, so in the evening after the audition he got me ticket for that. it was a very neat idea– when I heard it was an open rehearsal I assumed it was just a normal rehearsal that the public was allowed to come to, but in reality it was more in the vein of a performance, but with a lot more talking. Riccardo Muti is utterly charming to the audience and he spoke for a long time about the piece, both for the benefit of the audience and the orchestra, and rehearsed very thoroughly for about an hour and a half before doing final “performance” run and calling it a night. It was clearly intended to be educational programming, but never felt patronizing the way some “inside the orchestra”-type concerts can be.

I stayed an extra day after the concert, figuring it would be silly to go all the way to Chicago and not hear the CSO play. Luckily there was a concert on the day after– Tchaikovsky’s The Tempest, La Mer and Tchaik 4. The performance got me thinking about aspects of concert hall design besides acoustics. I had been warned before the audition that the acoustics in the hall were fairly dry– not really a problem for this orchestra, who of course have no problem making themselves heard and understood. (But annoying for some auditionees, including one player I spoke to who said it came as a shock to him since he owns, lives and practices in a church!) However, my assigned seat was on the right side of the floor, very close to the stage, meaning I had an excellent view of a few bass players’ legs, but not much else. Although I could still hear the rest of the orchestra, if not see them, it was undeniably not a good listening experience. Why? Why is it so important to see the people making the music at a concert? Is it just because that’s all that separates the experience from staying home and listening to a recording? Hilary Hahn recently wrote a post suggesting “Things to Watch in an Orchestra Concert“– one example being brass players’ eyebrows! Often orchestral concerts choose to ignore or deride the visual element of music, possibly to our detriment. As if, if you need a visual element to appreciate the music, you must not be truly appreciating it. Well, I like to watch real human beings play, with my eyes. I moved to a balcony for the second half where I had spotted some empty seats.

The rest of that day I also did some touristy things– the house I was staying in was near a little neighbourhood where I went walking a few times:

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I went to the Art Institute of Chicago during the day, and although I don’t know a lot about vidaul art I did recognize one painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, the subject of the Sondheim musical Sunday in the Park with George.

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I also saw some paintings that I couldn’t get quite as excited about.

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Near Symphony Hall and the Art Institute are some landmarks… IMG_1220

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Noe that that’s done, I’m leaving for Thunder Bay in just under a week! I went to a University of Toronto Symphony Orchestra concert last night, and will go to some masterclasses and Nuit Blanche before leaving.

Chicago Symphony audition: internalizing the process cues

I just got back from Chicago!

I was in Chicago for the same reason every other bassoonist was– to audition for principal bassoon spot of the Chicago Symphony. This was something I decided to do during the Brott festival, more as a scheduling decision than anything else. I had all of September free, the audition was at the end of the month, and I figured I needed something motivating to do for the month after Brott ended and before Thunder Bay started. So, that was it. I booked a plane ticket from the computer at camp, once I decided I didn’t want to give myself the option of not doing it. (Sure enough the week before the audition I was cursing/thanking my past self for not giving my pre-audition self the option of backing out…)

My audition was on the 29th. There were, I believe, 80 people who played on that day, and there had also been two other days of preliminaries. They worked in groups of 8 people, announcing after every 8 who was invited back for the next round in January. Nobody in my group advanced, and I only know the name of the one person who advanced from the group before me, so I don’t really have any idea of how many people might be invited to the finals.

However, as we all know (do we all know this? Gabe Radford said this at NYO, and I think it’s true. You’ll know now!) the most important part of an audition is what you write and reflect upon afterwards.

(An aside, a quotation from Gabe’s audition seminar handout:
“Simply going to the audition is often the biggest hurdle. What will keep you going back to auditions with a happy and balanced approach is how you react to success and failure.
Start writing down some thoughts. You will never have greater clarity on the level of your performing than in the days after an audition. Refer to your notes before your next audition.
Whether it is a certain technical concern that keeps cropping up, or something specific that phases you on the day, if you jot it down after an audition, it will help you immensely for the next one.”)

For me, this audition had an element that I had never encountered before (besides, you know, being for an orchestra so famous that it feels ridiculous even to say you’re auditioning for.) Instead of giving you the excerpts that have been chosen shortly before you go onstage, and letting you put your music in order and warm up accordingly, they just told us that the first item would be the Mozart concerto, and we were to take only that on stage. All of the excerpts were then the CSO’s copies placed on the stand by the proctor during the audition.

This outlined a fairly serious flaw in my audition procedure: I rely way too much on visual cues! On one hand this can be a strength. Usually what I do is write a set of instructions on the music or on a sticky note on the page, which I read before beginning an excerpt every time. This has the advantage of a) reminding me of what I need to do to play the excerpt successfully, and b) providing a mandatory “downtime” between excerpts, where I can get into the mood of the next one. This is technically known as a “process cue” in sports psychology, although often mine also involve instructions that aren’t necessarily process cues (for instance, reminders to check the status of my whisper lock, Ab-Bb trill mechanism, or blow out my bocal.) So, these little notes I believe generally do me good. However… what happens when I can’t see them?

Usually, at auditions, I am very deliberate about the time in between excerpts being a good preparation for the next excerpt. But somehow, with the whole routine of my excerpt binder/process cue note thrown off, I suddenly became very bad at using my time in between excerpts. When the proctor placed the first movement of Tchaik 6 on the stand after Figaro, instead of calmly moving to switch reeds I felt sudden shock and panic: “oh god I have to use a different reed now shit my water container isn’t open oh god what if I drop it I wonder if it’s still soaked from the warmup room, better dunk it just in case oh god I’m taking too long they think I’m a moron, they’re wondering what the hell I’m doing that’s taking so long, look at this place I can’t believe I’m even here, hmm I wonder what it would be like to actually play Tchaik 6 in this hall, okay jam that baby on I need to start this damn excerpt right now let’s go…” Needless to say the first note of Tchaik 6 was not all that I hoped it would be.

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So, based on that experience: writing stuff down is great, and if I were advising a young student on how to prepare for an audition with known repertoire I would probably advise them to give my note system a try for a while. However, after a certain point– say, maybe the point where you start auditioning for the Chicago Symphony– maybe a process cue needs to be able to be solely internal. The key to internalizing the process cue, however, will need to be doing it every time. There can be no skipping of steps in practice, because if I do, I might forget the step in performance. As an example, my process cue note for Rite of Spring looks something like:

-Lock off, Knob off (“Knob” is how I refer to by Ab-Bb trill mechanism. Because that’s what it is.)
-Blow out bocal and reed
-Hear first 2 bars in head for tempo
-Breathe 2 beats out, 2 beats in, begin note with no tongue but distinct beginning.

(When I actually played Rite of Spring, my instructions to myself got a little out of control, to the point that the 2nd bassoonist commented on the “novel” appearing at the top of the page. I erased the whole mess, simplified and re-wrote it, recognizing his important (if perhaps unintentional) point: if your process cue is too long or complicated, when you get to the performance, your adrenaline is going to prevent you from actually reading/internalizing the instructions. At least personally, I know that Performance Me doesn’t have a lot of intellectual power, so simpler is better.)

The first instruction– “lock off, knob off” is something that appears at the beginning of all excerpts: these two things I always check. (Obviously, it doesn’t always say “off”; sometimes it says “on”, for the ones where, well, I want one or both on.) That’s easy to internalize: before beginning any excerpt, at any time, practice or performance, I will always check the status of these to “presets” of my instrument. No exceptions, or I’m training myself to forget.

“Blow out bocal and reed” are similarly generic instructions, although might not be necessary for every excerpt (more planning and reflection needed on this count!)

The third instruction is different for every excerpt, but similar in form; I always choose a set number of bars to hear, so in this case I just need to remember how many bars of what I want to hear in my head. I don’t always choose the beginning of the excerpt; if it’s more appropriate I’ll choose to hear another instrument’s line, or a section from later in the piece (for instance, for the sixteenth notes in the last movement of Symphonie Fantastique, I hear the theme starting at 64 to get the tempo, instead of trying to pull the tempo of the bassoon part from thin air.) So, that element is different for every excerpt but memorizing what to hear in my head before I start playing can be made part of the process of learning the excerpt.

The last instruction is similar, in that it’s different for each excerpt but I always decide in advance the number of beats I will breathe out and then in.

When I’m practicing excerpts, though– and here’s the challenge with internalizing the process cue– I don’t always go through the whole process. Most often, I skimp on the “hearing” step; after all, I reason, if I just want to practice being able to play the excerpt, it doesn’t matter if I don’t hear it first to the exact extent that I’m planning on doing so in the audition– right?

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BZZZZZT. Wrong!

Like I said– Performance Me is dumb. All she knows how to do is mindlessly reproduce whatever happened over and over in the practice room. And hey, that’s fine! As long as she can do that reproduction accurately, Practice Room Me can take care of the rest. Which means giving meticulous instructions to Performance Me by doing it the same way, every single time. (Unless the first way sucked, in which case she has to change the way, and then do the better way the same every… blah, blah, blah, you get the idea.)

So, that was one of the things that I took away from this audition! Obviously there were many other thoughts I had, which I recorded in my physical notebook immediately after the audition ended. This was the first time that I had been to an audition of this size, which is of course normal since there aren’t that many auditions of this size– which is partly why I felt compelled to go, and see what the real world is like.

In Canada, we are both privileged and in some ways hampered by our system of national/international auditions. On one hand, national auditions are great, and overall I think a positive force for music in Canada: they give orchestras the chance to find a qualified person in Canada first, which is awesome! Often people are frustrated when orchestras don’t hire from the national audition, but I prefer to think of it this way: National audition went nowhere? Cool! All the Canadians just got the advantage of having not just a mock audition, but a whole practice audition before the real audition, complete with the real performance space, list, and panel. How sweet is that? And then, of course, sometimes they do hire from the nationals, and that’s awesome.

The downside of the system, for me and people my age, is that it gives young Canadian musicians starting out in the audition scene an unrealistic idea of what the competition is like outside of the country. Canada has fewer people in it than the US, and thus proportionally fewer musicians on any given instrument competing for a job. Which is sometimes great! But then, it can be a bit of a shock to the system to go from Canadian national auditions for major orchestras that pull in maybe 20 bassoonists– all of whom probably know each other– to a big American orchestra like the CSO, which based on the number of people were on my day of preliminaries, I would guess had between 200 and 250 bassoonists audition. This is probably why there’s a strong tradition of Canadian musicians (and probably people in in other professional, merit-based fields) doing undergrads in Canada and graduate degrees in the US: it’s good to see what’s out there. Because it seems like mostly what’s out there is… a hell of a lot of other people.

Me reflected in the Bean in Millennium Park, where there were also a hell of a lot of other people.

Me reflected in the Bean in Millennium Park, where there were also a hell of a lot of other people.

The difference between an orchestra and robot spam

Like every other blog on the internet, I get a fair amount of robot spam popping up on this site. Most of it gets caught in the spam filter and I never even read it, but today (after an extended blog absence– sorry!) I logged on to my admin panel to find this comment awaiting moderation:

Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 9.15.55 PM [Text: I see a lot of interesting posts on your blog. You have to spend a lot of time writing, i know how to save you a lot of time, there is a tool that creates unique, SEO-friendly articles in couple of seconds, just type in google – k2 unlimited content]

I usually wouldn’t waste my time reading spam comments on my little-used blog, but– wait, what? This was a spam robot commenting (ironically, on my post about David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest) complimenting my “interesting articles” and… proposing that I use a an automated tool to write blog posts for me? Even better– “unlimited content”! And best of all, it’s “SEO-friendly”; optimized for being found by search engines. It must be every lazy blogger’s dream!

To gain more recognition and reward for less effort and output– that’s the idea that whoever thought this bit of spam was a good idea assumed I– or at least someone– would buy into. Don’t bother writing your own content, and use search engine optimization to become a star and rake in the dough! If only orchestras could apply the same concept to… oh wait…

Yesterday, the musicians of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra were locked out by their management. In 2012, after a short lockout, the musicians agreed to a 14% pay cut, a reduction in forces and reduction in the length of the season, with a promise that the pay cut was a one-time-only affair meant to balance the budget once and for all. It didn’t work. Now negotiations are back, and the management are out for blood, it seems. The ASO is trying to seize the right to change, at any time, any aspect of the musician’s health care plan or even the orchestra itself. As in, if they decide that the orchestra should consist of a string quartet, amplified chainsaw and electric banjo, then the orchestra is a string quartet, amplified chainsaw and electric banjo. (And them chainsaw players aren’t even in in the union!) No, but in all seriousness, this would be dangerous news for an orchestra during a time in which the buzzword is “new model.”

Q: Use the buzzword “new model” correctly in a sentence.
A: “Our organization plans on thriving in a new model in which we pay an insufficient number of musicians an insufficient amount of money to play an ever-shrinking number of concerts, more and more of which should have nothing whatsoever to do with the actual symphonic repertoire.”

Or, in the words of the ASO president: “While we value the art and the artists of the ASO enormously, we believe we must develop a new model that will allow us to balance our artistic and financial needs. Clearly, that is not the model we have today.”

Is it not? Why not? The ASO management seemed to think that the “new model” would take shape after the 2012 cuts. The players did as they asked, and trusted them to hold up their end of the bargain. Why should anyone believe it this time?

As Scott Chamberlain says on his blog : “No business thrives by diluting and diminishing their core product. And since the musicians are your core product, I would advise changing your frame of reference to reflect that.”

The core, if humble, “product” of this here blog–such as it is– is words written, or arranged and commented upon, by me. Thus, it is clearly nonsensical for my robotic spammer to suggest that the blog would thrive more by containing fewer words written by me, less often. In the same way, it is nonsensical to suggest that the Atlanta Symphony, or any orchestra, will become more successful by having fewer musicians, having them play fewer and smaller concerts, and paying them less for it. You cannot SEO-optimize* music.

Orchestra managements– stop using the techniques of crude internet spammers to try to run your organizations.

(And everybody else– please see Rob Knopper’s post on the Met Orchestra Musician’s blog about what all of us can do to help the musicians of the ASO!)

*I am aware that “SEO-optimize” is redundant, but it sounds dumb to say “you cannot SEO music.” But, for the record, you also can’t do that.

End of Brott Festival

Three days ago I played principal on both the Firebird and the Rite of Spring in the final Brott Festival concert– did I do that? hey cool, I actually did!– and then the next day my house began the slow process of de-Hamilton-izing.

In front of our house

In front of our house

This was our guard pig. He guarded the house valiantly while wearing this newspaper hat

This was our guard pig. He guarded the house valiantly while wearing this newspaper hat

Or sometimes this stop mute

Or sometimes this stop mute

Eventually Julie turned his hat into another piggy to keep him company

Eventually Julie turned his hat into another piggy to keep him company

Then he photobombed our house picture

Then he photobombed our house picture

Backstage before the second half of the final concert

Backstage before the second half of the final concert

This house played a lot of board- and card-games. Others more so than me because I usually get really angry when I play games.

This house played a lot of board- and card-games. Others more so than me because I usually get really angry when I play games.

Our house had a HUGE backyard!

Our house had a HUGE backyard!

This week I’m reading some quintets with some old friends from the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra days, playing in the orchestra for TaiwanFest at the Harbourfront Centre, and then going up to teach at the Interprovincial Music Camp for the last week of August!

Beethoven, Pines, fruits, vegetables

Last week we had two shows at the Brott festival. On Friday we played The Poulenc double piano concerto, Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, Beethoven 5, and a premiere of a piece written by one of the professors at the college we were performing at for that concert, Redeemer University College. I played 1st on the two Beethoven pieces and 2nd on the Poulenc and the new work. I had never played or heard the Choral Fantasy before this concert cycle… it’s a very strange piece, which starts with an extended piano solo which then goes into the “Finale” which constitutes most of the piece. About 3/4 of the way through the work, the choir finally comes in, and the main theme is a kind of prototype of Ode to Joy. Verrry strange… also a scary 16th note passage near the beginning for 1st bassoon! It all went great, though, and the concert seemed well-received overall. Here is a review of that show.

Then on Sunday, we played Bruch’s Violin Concerto, a piece called Martlet’s Muse written by the Maestro’s father, Alexander Brott– which, strangely enough, is about McGill University– Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola, and Pines of Rome. I played principal for Pines and second for everything else. I’m pretty sure I nailed the opening lick :P but it’s kind of hard to actually tell! That concert was especially fun because the orchestra had to bring in extra musicians, so there were plenty of new people. I had recommended my friend Kevin, who was in NYO for the past 2 years with me, so he came in to play contra and did a great job. The soloists for the night were Martin Beaver on violin and Nicolò Eugelmi on viola, and they both did masterclasses the next day for the strings. During that same time the brass had a masterclass with horn player Chris Gongos, and the winds had a masterclass with flutist Leslie Newman.

Today we have a day off, and my housemates and I went to this crazy produce place! It’s called Fiddles Wholesale Produce, and it’s operated in this warehouse out back of a residential house. They just have a warehouse floor and two giant walk-in freezers, and you fill a cart and a guy with a calculator figures out how much you owe (cash only). It’s way better quality than the supermarket and about half the price– I didn’t tabulate everything that I got but my housemate Lara did, and for $30 she got: 5 peppers, a bunch of bananas, an avocado, sweet potato, onion, 5 nectarines, an orange, 2 pints of baby tomatoes, basil, grapes, green beans, a kiwi, a pint of blueberries and a big container of raspberries. I got a similar haul, including a giant thing of lettuce that will keep our six-person house well-fed, salad-wise, for quite a while.

Sign at the F.W.P warehouse

Sign at the F.W.P warehouse

For the next week we have a bit of a break on the repertoire, since it’s two pops shows. The first one is Frank Sinatra, and the second is a SECRET. I’m not kidding, I actually can’t tell you. I can tell you to come to the show after that, though, which is Broadway, and the one after that, which is three different versions of the Romeo and Juliet story– Prokofiev’s, Tchaikovsky’s, and the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. You can browse the concerts here.

I aw this bunny outside of the Burlington Performing Arts Centre!

I saw this bunny outside of the Burlington Performing Arts Centre!

Before the Beethoven 5 concert, we went to a restaurant in Ancaster that gives you free cotton candy at the end of your meal.

Before the Beethoven 5 concert, we went to a restaurant in Ancaster that gives you free cotton candy at the end of your meal.

I found this deer waiting next to the bus stop opposite our house as I came home from a run one day.

I found this deer waiting next to the bus stop opposite our house as I came home from a run one day.

I drove a virtual spaceship on my day off, how ’bout you

After the concert on Friday, we have a four day long weekend with NAO. Most of my housemates went to Toronto for the Pride festivities, but I came to Kitchener instead to visit my boyfriend, my mom and see some concerts at the National Youth Orchestra, which is training at Laurier again. Last night I went to a faculty concert where David Hetherington and the percussion students played Tan Dun’s Snow in June, and the string faculty played Schubert’s Quintet. Today we went to Balzac’s– the coffee shop– with one oboist from Brott and one from NYO, and as we were all walking out we saw a sign for CAFKA– Community Art Forum, Kitchener and Area– about something called In Search of Abandoned. A guy inside the building, which happens to be the Communitech Hub, came out and asked if we wanted to see it. We said OK, so we went inside and were led through multiple card-access-only doors to something called the HIVE: Hub Interactive Virtual Environment. It seems like a pretty rad place to work. On the way we saw stuff like this:
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Inside the HIVE, three of us got normal 3D glasses and one got special “pilot”s glasses”, which had three little extra motion sensor knobs sticking out of each side of the frames. Then we were in the middle of a bunch of virtual mountains. The pilot controls the perspective on the mountains– if they’re looking down, you see them from above– and uses a steering wheel and some ropes to control the speed and direction, like so:

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Obviously the 3D brit doesn't work in pictures. It was 3D, promise.

Obviously the 3D bit doesn’t work in pictures. It was 3D, promise.

The exhibit ends today, so you probably can’t go see it. Sorry. Suckerrrrrs!

(If you want to see something else cool, I’m going to one of the NYO’s free chamber concerts tomorrow. There’s a Mozart flute quartet, Berio’s Opus Zoo– aka the quintet piece that has always eluded me but I really want to play as soon as I find enough other people who are down for it– Ligeti’s Six Bagatelles, and the Brahms horn trio. You can find the complete list of NYO chamber music, faculty, and full orchestra concerts here.

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The orchestra rehearsing at the Player's Guild in Hamilton

The orchestra rehearsing at the Player’s Guild in Hamilton

On Thursday was our first concert with the National Academy Orchestra! We played Mozart’s Jupiter symphony, the Mozart Requiem, and a piece by the director of the choir who came in for the Requiem. This Friday we have our next concert, which is all Beethoven (a celebration of Beethoven in Eb major?) with the Emperor concerto and Eroica symphony. You can find the full list of concerts here: http://www.brottmusic.com/concerts-tickets/2014-concerts/

The last concert, I should add, has the Rite of Spring, the Firebird suite, and three other pieces on the same program…

They see me rollin’, finally

So, for the past few years, I had been keeping a deep, dark secret.

I couldn’t drive a car. Physically or legally.

This wasn’t always a deep dark secret. I grew up I the west end of Toronto, five minutes away from a subway station. If I wanted to get anywhere inside the city (and, as a true Torontonian, uh, why would you ever want to get anywhere not in Toronto? Come on.) The fastest and cheapest option was the TTC, a station conveniently located 5 minutes from my house. I went to a public high school whose admissions criteria were entirely based on proximity and which feeder school you were coming from, so all of my high school friends were in the same position. In my high school, when you turned 16 you had a party and then continued to walk, ride your bike or take the TTC everywhere you needed to go. Probably a few kids learned to drive, but there was none of the mass excited counting down to your 16th birthday and thus your first permit that I now know there to be in many other places. Nobody really talked about it!

So, when I graduated high school I had no idea that not being able to drive was at all out of the ordinary for someone entering the adult world. When I went to McGill, of course I met many more people who did drive. Almost all of the students from the U.S drove and many even owned their own cars, and of course anyone from a more rural area had felt the necessity of driving as soon as possible. However, since Montreal is also a major city with well-established public transport, very few of the McGill students who did drive actually did so regularly during their degrees (with the exception of those from areas surrounding Montreal who already had cars and were living at home, but I even know lots of people in that position who took public transit.)

The moment at which not driving became a problem was when I won the job in the Niagara symphony. Of course, for a while I had been getting the feeling that I would have to learn to drive eventually. As a freelancer, especially, it’s necessary to be able to transport yourself independently to whatever city or location today’s gig is in. However, since I won the Niagara job before I finished school, I wasn’t expecting to be entering that world of the “freeway philharmonic” so soon. Fortunately, for most of the Niagara services, I was able to find a regular carpool from Toronto with a player who had a van and thus ended up being more or less the NSO chauffeur (sorry, Andy…) However, for the first time I was among people who were living the freeway philharmonic life constantly– driving to a different city every few days to play with a different orchestra. I realized that, although I still wanted to eventually win a full-time job with a major orchestra, I would probably end up being that kind of a freelancer for a while first– and I was pretty excited for it! It may not be the kind of job stability that most university graduates are expecting, but there are worse things, especially when you’re young, than to have constant adventure, excitement and really wild things thrust upon you by your job(s).

In that kind of company, admitting that I couldn’t drive became more embarrassing, because not driving means you’re probably not working much. Which, of course, I wasn’t. But just because you’re the youngest member of an orchestra and the only one still in school (in a different province) doesn’t mean you need to go around reminding everyone of that!

So, I started commuting back to Toronto not just for Niagara gigs, but also (on different occasions) for driving lessons. This was, to say the least, highly inconvenient, and I often cursed my clueless high-school self who could have just done it while actually living in Toronto,and avoided all this fuss.

When I got the Thunder Bay job, however, I was glad that I was putting in the effort to get it done even at this later date, because I can’t imagine not being able to drive in Thunder Bay. I can’t even walk to a grocery store from my apartment in Thunder Bay, and not because my apartment is poorly located. (Actually, most of my neighbours are Lakehead professors, so I’m assuming the neighbourhood where all the professors live must be a pretty good one.)

I finished all of my driving lessons, coming 6 hours on the megabus for each one. Every time my instructor asked if I’d been practicing I just laughed. Naturally I know the value of practicing, and would if I could– but when, and in what vehicle, would I have been practicing? Sooooo, I was actually kind of surprised when yesterday I passed my G1 exit test and got my G2 on the first try! Whereas the G1 is a learner’s permit and doesn’t allow you to drive alone or on the highway, the G2’s only restrictions are that your blood alcohol must be 0 (I rarely drink anyway), you can only have as many passengers as working seatbelts (uh… isn’t wearing a seatbelt required by law anyway?) and you can only drive G class vehicles (alas, my motorcycle dreams have been dashed!) In fact, the G2 is so similar to the full G licence, and lasts for so long as a valid licence (I have to take my G road test by 2018) that lots of people forget they don’t yet have a full licence, forget to take the G test, and end up back at the beginning with no licence at all :P (I’m going to remember to do the next test in time, though!)

The road test was really pretty easy, and only lasted about 15 minutes. My parallel parking wasn’t great but then, she asked me to do it right in front of a driveway that sloped down to meet the street, so no wonder I couldn’t tell where the curb was. There are a lot of stories instructors like to tell of people who failed the test and had to turn back before even getting out of the parking lot, but… you have to remember that those were likely 16-year olds making dumb 16-year old decisions that the examiners deemed too unsafe to even let them out on the road. So, maybe there is an upside to my having waited for so long to learn to drive. :D

Now I just need… a car. Vroom vroom!

Vay-cay-shun

Since Convocation and my crazy rash of gigs ended, I have been relaxing ‘n stuff! Pretty much every day I go to the U of T music school to practice. For the past while the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute has been going on in there, so the practice rooms were open (and exciting people like lutists and baroque oboists were populating them!) Now that’s ended so I’m back to finding someone to open the hallway for me, or if it’s fairly busy just banging on the door. On one hand, I’m not really supposed to be in there. I’m not a U of T student. I’m not any kind of student (yee-haw!) On the other hand, music students from other schools would come visit at McGill all the time, and of course someone who needs a practice room and knows how to put it to good use would always be let in to our practice hallway. It’s just a polite thing to do to offer comrades a practice room when they’re traveling :P So, I don’t feel too bad about imposing on U of T. Besides… It’s June. It’s not like the rooms are in high demand. The only irritating thing is that unlike McGill which has handy counter space and free-floating music stands, U of T just has pianos, so my practice space ends up looking like this:

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If anyone from U of T is reading this, I promise I’m not spilling reed water all over your pianos! I’m very careful.

I’m working on my music from NAO, as well as the Nussio Variations on a Theme by Pergolesi as a personal project. It’s a bit bizarre working on solo rep with no timeline for it, and not even a weekly check-in with a teacher to measure my progress on it. I have no idea when I’ll get to play it… Nadina did mention something about her doing a masterclass or workshop at NAO, but I don’t think the whole piece will be ready for a public performance by then, and I don’t even know what kind of class it would be in the first place or if that would be a possible venue for my performing it. I’d like to put on some kind of recital some time before I leave for Thunder Bay, in a hospital or church or something, so I would need to chose some more music. I’d like to do some Bach, probably the flute partita in A minor. I really like Bernaud’s Hallucinations as well. Anyway, that’s all far away… In the next few days I just need to move to Hamilton!

Although it feels like longer since I’m not even moved out there yet, the first concert of the Brott Music Festival is actually in only slightly over a week! We’re playing my favourite piece by Mozart– the Requiem– along with the Jupiter symphony and Beckett’s An Offering of Songs. You can buy tickets here: http://www.brottmusic.com/2014/05/mozart-requiemthe-genius-of-amadeus/