Friday, December 16, 2011

I've been playing Amahl and the Night Visitors.  It's really such a charming, sweet opera.  And in some ways, surprisingly relevant.  Alas, our version cuts the best oboe stuff, but I'm still enjoying it.  I am posting the version with Teresa Stratas that I remember watching as a child. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011


I am proud to share a first name with this courageous woman.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

If your bus company gets in trouble for having women sit at the back of the bus, but you still want to keep genders separated for religious reasons, why not just have women on the left and men on the right? Or vice versa.  That way neither gender feels 2nd-class.  Just saying. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fabio Luisi on Sunday
Loved this NYTimes article.  Adorable.

Friday, October 7, 2011

In honor of Steve Jobs, a picture of my first Apple product:  my dad's computer that I loved to play games on as a little girl!  It didn't do anything until you put in a disk . . .  but it was great fun!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2001

I am writing this entry to help myself process both that day and the years since.  I realize my experience was in no way as traumatizing as those who experienced it first-hand, but I think most would agree that the events of that day have affected all of us.

When I was in high school, it seemed like the world was moving forward.  President Clinton may have done some stupid things in his personal life, but the budget was balanced, we were not at war, there had even been a peace agreement for Palestine and Israel.  The troubles in Ireland seemed to be mostly over. Although the world possessed nuclear weapons, it seemed extremely unlikely that they would ever be used.  In reading some of my favorite children's literature from earlier decades, such as A Wrinkle In Time, it seemed quaint to me that they were so worried about a nuclear holocaust.  Granted, I was a naive high school student, but things were looking pretty rosy.  In short, it was a time of relative peace and prosperity, at least for America. 

In 2000, George Bush was elected, and it seemed things were a little fishy with that, but hey, things were fishy in Chicago when dead people helped elect President Kennedy (being half Irish-Catholic, I recognize a particular importance to his election), so I guess things were just evening out.  Besides, it didn't even seem like the President really made much difference in my life. 

On September 11, 2001, at 8am Central Time, I was in Houston, finishing packing up my belongings to go to college.  I had the radio on as I was packing.  There was a breaking news report on NPR that a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York City.  My first thoughts, along with many other people's, were, this must be some sort of terrible accident!  Terrorists hijacked airplanes, bombed airplanes, but to use an airplane AS a bomb, that wouldn't have occurred to me.  Nevertheless, I called out the news to my parents, who were taking care of some last-minute trip plans downstairs.  We continued to go about our work, but with an ear on the news.

Not too long after came the news that a second plane had hit the second tower.  Now it became clear that this was no accident.  We stopped working, we went down and sat in front of the TV.  There were the two towers, burning and smoking.  There were the fire engines and police cars, rushing to the site.  The papers floating eerily down.  There were the little people, running from the building, some of them jumping.  I remember thinking, "That's not an actual PERSON, is it?" as I saw the tiny figures leaping from the building.  But I soon realized they WERE people.  And I remember thinking that given the choice, I'd pick death by fall over death by fire, as well.

The newscasters described the events, bringing new details about a plane in Pennsylvania and another at the Pentagon.  There were images of the crashed planes and the scarred Pentagon building.  They kept speaking, but it was clear that they were just as confused as we were.  They were simply describing what we were seeing, not explaining it.  It was unexplainable.

My family sat watching, unable to take our eyes off the television. Then the unthinkable happened.  The first tower collapsed in front of our eyes.  Simply crumbled to dust. Then the second tower, crumbled to dust.  Right then. In front of our eyes.  I couldn't process it. At all.  "They evacuated everyone already, right?"  The newscasters didn't answer,  they were just as shocked as we were.  My parents didn't answer, they couldn't. "They evacuated, right?" I kept repeating, to no one in particular.

New York City now had a huge cloud of debris hanging over it, and dust began to cover everything.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

But we had to keep going, we had to be in Chicago the day after tomorrow . . . I don't remember how we managed to wrench ourselves away from the TV, but we did, and we packed the car, and we started driving east and north.  We listened to NPR news coverage the whole way.  People put out their flags.  We made and received calls from friends and relatives in the Northeast, just checking to see if everyone was OK.  No one really knew what was going on or what the extent of the attacks were.  We stopped somewhere in the middle of nowhere, Louisiana, where they were convinced the terrorists would attack because of the large oil reserves located there.  We spent the night in a random motel, I can't even remember in what state.

A couple of days later, we drove up Lakeshore Drive in Chicago toward Northwestern.  I was awestruck by the beauty of Chicago, and happy to be moving there.  Northwestern was busy with freshmen moving in in time for new student week, though a good deal of us were delayed in arriving.  My dorm, the International Studies Residential College, had a high percentage of students from abroad, delayed by the chaos 9-11 caused air travel.  It was comforting, somehow, to see The Rock, traditionally guarded by different student groups and painted for various causes, painted as an American flag with the words "9-11-01, United We Stand."

It was also comforting to share stories with other students, and perhaps the conditions of our arrival allowed our class to bond stronger, and sooner.  I remember watching a performance of the Chicago sketch/improv theater group The Neo-Futurists for the new freshman, with a piece I still remember about the 9/11 attacks, featuring drifting paper, reminiscent of the paper that floated down from the towers.  That we could all sit in the auditorium and experience it together was a comfort. 

It has also been a comfort to me to hear the stories of people that day, firefighters and policemen and priests and everyday civilians, who acted bravely and kindly to their fellows.  Being half Irish and half Italian, half from New York and half from Boston, I felt those Irish and Italian FDNY  firefighters and NYPD cops were my people, with my roots, and I was proud of them. 

We all knew that the world had changed that day. But no one knew exactly how, or to what extent.  9-11 has brought us interminable wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, thousands of dollars spent. It has cost us the lives of thousands of brave soldiers.  It has left many people with a hole in their family, and grief over a life unfairly taken from them.

On a more mundane level, it has brought hours in airport security lines, countless confiscated screwdrivers and nailclippers and knitting needles,  3-oz containers of liquids in ziplock bags, barefoot treks through various security machines.  It meant that my first flight home from college, my parents couldn't meet me at my gate, but rather in the baggage claim.  While at first it brought a surge of support for America, the interminable wars soon meant that trips to Europe made me feel uncomfortable to be an American abroad, no matter what terrible things other countries have done in their pasts.  It meant recessions and instability, it meant taking a longer time to put my life together.  It meant a change from optimism to pessimism, and a world that seems to continue to spiral downward.  It meant an inability to work together to solve the most pressing of issues, throughout the world. 

Is it possible to return to better times?  In some ways, I envy the children of the Depression, who thought the world was poverty-stricken and hungry, only to find it wasn't half so bad.  Instead, my generation thought things were headed forward, only to realize that we had no idea where the world was heading, and wherever it was going, it was limping and reeling.  Can we yet come together to fix the earth?  It remains to be seen.  But I am American, and I don't give up, 9-11 or not.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Pictures from Maine

 Moss in the Forest, Wolfe's Neck
 Purple Mushrooms, Birch
Purple Mushrooms, Moss
Seagull on the Shore

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Marshall plays oboe!

I enjoy watching the summertime TV show In Plain Sight, and I was tickled when the most recent episode revealed that one of the main characters used to play oboe! Honestly, the writers did a good job--if I had to guess what the character of Marshall Marshall Mann would play, it would definitely be oboe. He totally has a dorky, slightly OCD oboe personality.

Friday, August 12, 2011

musical practicalities

Another thing that's been bothering me lately: things I wish I'd learned in music school. Basic, practical matters about how to live life as a musician. For example: taxes. Taxes for a freelancer are so confusing. There are so many different income sources, many for just a couple hundred dollars, and then there's what you can deduct and what you can't, and what category to put your deductions in, etc etc. Northwestern offered little seminars on these things, but I always said, I'll wait until I'm in grad school til I think about those things. Which is fine, because I probably would have forgot anything useful I'd learned by the time I actually had to pay taxes 3 years later. But I guess I was assuming that USC would have similar offerings, which of course they don't, because their music school is a bureaucratic mess that seems to be slowly disintegrating while all the money continues to flow into the ethically-challenged football team. Oh and into Colburn. So anyway, I never learned that stuff.

Nor did I learn that in Los Angeles, if you own your own business (and yes, being a freelance musician is considered owning your own business in terms of taxes), you have to apply for small business license from the city. Now, if you apply for it and you make less than $100,000/yr, you don't actually have to pay taxes as long as you show the city what you make. If, however, you don't do anything, you owe back-taxes on the pittance you made, despite the fact that if you had done your paperwork on time, you would owe nothing. Cool, huh? And a complete waste of hours trying to figure this stuff out. Not only that, but you must divide your earnings into teaching and performing. More fun.

Finally, I was in my car the other day and Marketplace was on NPR. It was the part of the show where they take questions from listeners about their financial situations. One of them was from a guy who was 28 and had worked a job for a few years where he had started a retirement fund, and was now going back to school. He wondered what to do about his retirement fund. At the same age, I thought, $&#*, I don't have a retirement fund! I don't know anything about retirement funds! Because my income doesn't come from any one source, I have no plan in which my company matches what I save or some sort of investment package. I don't how much I should be saving per month now, or what's normal for people, or what then end goal is. I know the musician's union offers something, but the number of union gigs I get in inconsequential, so I doubt the union would be much help. So for now, I'm probably just going to save what I can and hope for the best. The present economic situation isn't exactly helping my peace of mind, either!

So anyway, go Northwestern for actually making an effort to help people with these things, and boo USC for not doing so. But really, I think it would be great if there was some sort of "Musicians' Econ" class offered at music schools that was mandatory to graduate. Because it really would make life easier.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

musician etiquette

A while back I was having a discussion with some fellow LA freelance musicians on musician etiquette. I wanted to blog about it but haven't had the creative energy lately, until now. Here is a list I created for my middle school students about what kind of behavior is expected of a professional musician (and therefore what they should aspire to). Essentially, the list boils down to 3 things: 1 don't be a jerk, 2 use common sense, 3 be responsible.

Musician Etiquette

1.) Always be on time.
In a professional situation, you will not be hired again if you are late!
2.) Always come prepared.
Your colleagues will not appreciate it if they have worked hard to prepare the music, but you have not, and you keep the group back. This behavior would also cause you to not be hired again!
Always make sure you’ve brought everything you need: instrument, music, pencil, reeds, whatever you need to play.
4.) Resist the urge to play the hardest, fastest, loudest music for your instrument when warming up.
Real musicians warm up with scales and long tones, and the surest way to seem amateur and unprofessional is to play unnecessarily difficult music when warming up. Real musicians find this both juvenile and annoying.
5.) Never talk down to or denigrate your fellow musicians.
This is unthinkably rude and a sure way to make sure you will never get hired again. Do NOT point out a colleague’s mistakes or correct them in any way. They most likely know their mistake, and if not, let the conductor correct them.
6.) Try not to talk in rehearsal unless necessary.
Never talk loudly. Raise your hand if you have a question for the conductor that will pertain to the whole group. If it will not affect anyone but you, talk to the conductor after rehearsal to avoid wasting the ensemble’s time.
7.) Do not do other things, like read or play with your phone, during rehearsal. It’s rude and will cause you to miss entrances and musical directions.
8.) Always arrive early to performances.

9.) At performances, always wear appropriate clothing: nothing that will get you noticed for what you are wearing.
People are there to hear you play.*
10.) At auditions, do not try to “psych out” your competition.
Keep to yourself, warm up in a way that will serve you well, ignore those around you who are also auditioning, and remember that you want to win by playing your best.

*A note about #9: This is particularly for girls. There have been a lot of women in music who've had to put up with a lot of &$*# over the years in order that women today can perform in orchestras and win jobs fairly. To dress in a way that calls attention to something other than our playing, particularly in an orchestral situation, where our male counterparts are wearing suits or tuxes, is disrespectful to the women who fought for our right to perform as equals.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Why would anyone want to play the oboe??

So, I haven't posted in a while. But this is a good video to start back with.

Friday, May 27, 2011

4, 5, or 6?

Why is this debate centered on the lower age limit rather than the upper age limit? Insisting that kids actually start kindergarten before they're 6 would solve this problem just as well.

Monday, April 18, 2011

agent orange

So I just watched Platoon (or most of it, since a few chapters of the DVD didn't work), and I googled Agent Orange since I didn't know much about it. Jesus Christ, that stuff is scary. I can't believe we actually did that. And for what?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

St. Patrick's Day Movie Recommendations:

The Secret of Kells -- GORGEOUS animation, lovely story.
The Secret of Roan Inish -- I guess there are a lot of secrets in Ireland? Directed by John Sayles.
Into the West -- one of my all-time favorite movies. I love Jim Sheridan. Gabriel Byrne doesn't hurt either.

The Wind That Shakes The Barley -- I cried. A lot. And it made me angry. With Cillian Murphy.
In the Name of the Father -- ditto. But a bit more uplifting than the previous entry. Really great film. Jim Sheridan, Pete Postlethwaite, Emma Thompson, Corin Redgrave, Daniel Day-Lewis.
The Boxer -- also excellent. Also Jim Sheridan and Daniel Day-Lewis, with Emily Watson.
Angela's Ashes -- also with Emily Watson. The book is better, but I liked the movie, too.

Thanks to my Godmother Pauline, who made sure I got my Irish culture in, complete with Frank Patterson, fiddle music, Riverdance (really), and scary stories about the Cliffs of Moher. And of course, my mom.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

There was an earthquake in New Zealand, now in Japan, are we next? These things make me nervous.

Meanwhile a close friend will be moving to Japan. She won a job there, yay! But sad for me here in LA.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oscar time!

I am going to weigh in on the Oscars, because, well, what is a blog for but to give the interwebs one's unsolicited opinion?

I'm glad Inception won some, it was visually quite stunning. I am also very happy that Natalie Portman and Colin Firth won, I think they both deserved their wins for their roles and I admire their careers in general. They also seem like nice people, compared to some other Hollywood types, though that's pretty hard to tell. I think Melissa Leo deserved her Oscar but she seems like a weirdo. And Christian Bale also deserved his. It was strange to hear his normal speaking voice, not sure that I've ever heard it before.

I think that Inception should have won over The Social Network for score. Sorry, but I do. In general I think that The Social Network was well-made and an interesting movie, but I just didn't like it that much. Winter's Bone, Black Swan, and True Grit were all good, but I do think The King's Speech deserved its Best Picture win. Still haven't seen 127 Hours.

I wish I had more opportunity to see some of those short films! And I need to get on top of the foreign ones. I hadn't seen any. Anne Hathaway and James Franco were cute as hosts, but I would love Billy Crystal to come back. And James seemed a little stoned . . .

Best song, whatever, nothing seemed all the great to me. Jai Ho was much more fun. Toy Story 3 was good, but it wasn't an Up or a WALL-E.

For the dresses, my favorites included Natalie, Amy Adams, Hailee Steinfeld (who looked adorable in her dress--it was nice to see a young star wearing sometime age-appropriate, instead of going Lindsey Lohan/Miley Cyrus), and two of Anne Hathaway's: the opening white dress and the burgundy one.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

the Decemberists - the wanting comes in wavesrepaid - (8 of 17)

Also really been enjoying the Decemberists The Hazards of Love in the car!

Fabrizio de Andre - Volta la carta

I was listening to this in the car today. I used to dance to LOVE to dance to it when I was about 4.

I've seen this posted on facebook a few times and felt a need to share. Because it's awesome.

Friday, February 18, 2011

hiatus over

Well, I haven't blogged in a while. So here are few unrelated things that I've been thinking about.

My friend from Northwestern, Stephanie, has a new blog about frugal living that I enjoy reading.

I am a now a big fan of Gabrielle Giffords, not just because she shares my first name, but I admit that might have something to do with it. I wish her a speedy recovery.

I played some pretty cool concerts last weekend. One of them was Peter & the Wolf with Jack Black as narrator. His son decided that the story's ending was too sad, and that the duck should have laser eyes. So, now I have laser eyes--pretty sweet!!

The other was Prokofiev's Classical Symphony with Symbiosis, a new group organized by my cellist friend Joo Lee. It was without a conductor and it was FUN!

WildUp had a concert that I unfortunately missed.

I've been teaching more, and enjoying it, but also with more teaching come more issues to solve, and sometimes I've been struggling with them. But not necessarily in a bad way. More in a, this is interesting, how do I fix it, kind of way.

OK, that's all for now. Hopefully I will be a little better about keeping this blog updated in the near future.