Do it anyway - most of the time

I had a student the other day who told me at the beginning of her lesson that she “just didn’t feel like practicing” during the previous week. 

And honestly, it was so much easier for me to hear that than excuses like “I had a lot of homework” (yes, and practicing you instrument should be considered part of that homework) or “I had a sport practice/game/club meeting/drama practice” (okay, but those things don’t last all week, and just as you have committed to those things, you’ve committed to instrument lessons too) because we could simply cut through all the talk and get to what happens when you don’t feel like practicing, and what to do about it. So, brava, my student.  Thanks for your honesty, and yeah, you’re going to repeat last week’s assignment. Cue the sad trombone. 

I understand, I really do. There are LOTS of days I don’t want to practice. Heck, there are lots of days I DO want to practice, but other responsibilities get in the way (oh geez, sounds like I’m making excuses! ). The point is, we all feel like this, but sometimes we have to rally, and push forward. 

I read an article about motivation on a running website once, in which the author explained that on the days she really didn’t feel like going for a run, she would make a promise to herself to just go run for 15 minutes, and if she still wasn’t feeling it, she could go home. What usually ended up happening was the after 15 minutes, she felt like it really wasn’t that hard to just keep going and finish her workout. I remind myself of this often, and it usually works for me. After getting my clarinet together, setting up my music stand and chair, etc., there’s really nothing standing in my way anymore. And if one has a designed place to practice that they didn’t have to set up every time, it’s even easier. 


So yes, there will be days when practicing is the last thing you want to do. And every once in a while, take a day off. But on most days, even 15 minutes is better than nothing.


Summer (so far)

Hey there!

It’s been a while since my last entry, so here’s how I’ve been spending my summer vacation.

This summer, I decided my big summer project would NOT be musical. I usually try to se practice goals, and challenge myself to learn more and play more Han just teaching lesson and band concerts, but this summer, I’m focusing on renovating my bathroom, which has been in a sorry state for about 8 years now. But it’s tough to put a bathroom out of commission when it’s the only one you have. But this summer, the opportunity arose, and Jay and I jumped at it. So it’s been pretty much all bathroom work, all the time.

Or so I planned. Music creeps in. I played my usual Fourth of July parade gig with the always awesome Marching Milkman Band of Monroe Dairy, and last week I spent a few days at the URI Summer Music Academy, coaching high school clarinets. It’s a pretty cool feeling to coach students on the same stage I performed on in my undergrad days. I hope to do that again next summer. And of course there are summer lessons. More than usual this year, thanks to Rick’s Musical Instruments in Cumberland. They kept my phone ringing with kids asking for sax and clarinet lessons, and my Monday is pretty much entirely booked there (not complaining! Thanks so much, Rick and company!)

The rest of the summer will hopefully be quiet, with lessons on Mondays and Tuesdays, and he rest of the time taken with getting a fully functioning bathroom ASAP. With a few American Band concerts in between. We’re playing this Thursday at 5 at Dexter Park (my neighborhood!) and August 9 at John Brown House at 6:30. Come catch a concert, they’re outside and a lot of fun.

That’s the plan. We’ll see if it changes.

Why Warming-Up is Important (or, How an Elementary School Band Concert Kicked Me in the Face)

I've never been a morning person, but I can manage if I must (thanks, in recent years, to developing a taste for coffee). That said, playing clarinet at 9am has never been appealing to me. So over the past few weeks, I've been sitting in with a few small elementary/middle school bands to fill in/support parts. And some of these concerts have been in the morning, and 9am. Wooo, okay, let's go.

But the music isn't hard, right? No, in fact, it's sight-readable. These are young kids, after all. So there's that. Well, imagine my surprise when after four easy band songs, my face felt like I had been playing a 2 hour rehearsal after not playing for 2 weeks! Ugh! My best guess: I didn't warm up.

I've noticed, as I've gotten older, or maybe I've become more dialed in to what I want my sound and playing to be, that a good warm up is essential to me making it though a long rehearsal and actually enjoying it. I need to play some long tones and scales with different speeds and articulations to fully feel like my fingers and face are ready for the music ahead. It's something I learned though years of experience. If you don't have a warm up routine that makes you feel ready, may I recommend you do something of the same? Start with long tones to get your air moving, and then add scales to get your fingers and tongue going too. Find what works for you, but I like starting with one aspect of playing (air) and adding others to it (fingers, articulation).

Oh, and if it's 9am, you may want to drink some coffee beforehand. 

Clarinet Expo Recap

Last Saturday was the Clarinet Expo at Rick's. And I'm still recovering from it. one crazy busy day of all clarinet. Here's a picture of my D'Addario table, taken before people started to arrive:

 Nice, huh? Look how I fanned out those reed boxes. Later on, people knocked them over like dominoes when they put their cases down on the table.

Nice, huh? Look how I fanned out those reed boxes. Later on, people knocked them over like dominoes when they put their cases down on the table.

Along with the table, I taught four 10-minute trial lessons, and tried to catch the other clinician's talks.  It wasn't easy, but I really have to thank Martha and Bill from Rick's for watching the table when I needed to be away! I met so many cool people, played a beautiful low C bass clarinet from Buffet (that was played by a musician form the London Symphony just a few days prior!) and a carbon fiber Bacun Bb clarinet that cost more then twice my car did. So, a very good day. I have so many things that I want to do now, clarinet-wise, that I should probably make a list. 

1. Learn scales with the intention of using them for jazz

2. Learn circular breathing

Okay, that wasn't much of a list.  No worries, I'm sure those two things will take me a while.  No need to load up, I've also got music to practice (I'm looking at you, Shostakovich Violin Concerto mvt 2).

It's Getting Kinda Busy Around Here

I always felt like May and June are months when everything happens all at once. School Musicals, end of the year concerts, recitals, it all happens in these last few weeks before summer vacation. For me, a freelance musician and teacher, it's like getting swallowed into a tornado, and then spat out after the storm. It's crazy, sometimes I don't know what's happening, and I'm holding on one day at a time, but then it's over, and things are eerily calm.

So, here's what's up for May and June: I'm currently playing clarinet and alto sax in the pit for Mt. Hope High School's (Bristol, RI) production of Curtains. It's a fun murder mystery musical comedy, and that runs through Sunday. Then next Saturday (May 12) is the Clarinet Expo at Rick's Musical Instruments (Cumberland, RI), which is akin to Comicon for Clarinets (Clarinetcon?). It's a fun day, I'll be talking mouthpieces for D'Addario Woodwinds, along with playing some tunes with the other special clarinet guests.  So, there's some music to learn.  There are a few more clinics (well, more than there should be. I got behind on my count.) between May and June, as well as some school concerts for Paul Effman.  Along with my schools (which between then have 3 concerts, all on the SAME DAY!), I'll be sitting in and covering a few parts for some of the other bands. Let's throw in weekly private lessons and rehearsals for NABSCO (concert on June 10) and The American Band, and I've got quite the full calendar. So its kinda funny that I'm not really too stressed out (yet). Everything has luckily not conflicted with each other, and hopefully not much else will get added.

Usually I host a private studio recital around this time of year, but between my schedule and some renovations going on at the usual venue, that's getting postponed.  Which is good.  

Here's the flyer for the Clarinet Expo, in case you're in the Southern New England area and would like to join us. It runs 10-4, with talks and demonstrations throughout the day. Bring your clarinet, because at 12:30 there's an all ages clarinet choir, and everyone can join!



I might not be so good at blogging, if my posts are about 2 years apart. Eh, pick up with now.  Things have been busy. I started an awesome job as a clinician with D’Addario woodwinds in fall of 2016, and I’ve been giving clinics on reeds and mouthpieces in schools and music stores locally.  It’s been great! I love talking with kids about clarinet and saxophone things, and being a geek about reeds and mouthpieces. I’ve started teaching beginner saxophone lessons, and that’s been going well too.  I’m teaching from home, and also at Rick’s Musical Instruments in Cumberland, RI. I’m doing some teaching for Paul Effman Music in a few schools around here. Teaching everything - winds, percussion, and brass (I know - how the heck did that happen?). I considered simply deleting this blog since it’s been so long, but maybe I’ll give it another go.  Let’s start with one blog post per week, and see how we do, shall we?


Recital Recap

I realized that I haven't written a blog post in over a month.  Ugh.  Planning and preparing for the recital and playing a show the week before definitely made things crazy.  But the recital was a success, and I think everyone who played was happy, and everyone who came enjoyed it very much.  I still have some video/audio editing to do, but I'm pretty happy.  So now onto the next projects: learning the Reed 1 book for Drowsy Chaperone (which is really doing wonders for my flute/sax chops - hooray!) and preparing to make an audition recording for an orchestra sub list. Maybe that will be the topic of my next blog post.  That's not a bad idea... :)