Tuesday, November 27, 2012

etiquette for musicians

Lesson #1: Hiring a pianist 

This could actually be a multi-part lesson, because people hire pianists to accompany all sorts of things, like end-of-semester juries (final exam for students of performance, for those of you who don't know), choral rehearsals, degree recitals, auditions, you-name-it. For today, let's start with the sort of requests I'm getting right now, which are panicked emails from undergraduates who are scrambling to find a pianist for their juries. And let's start with an example of what not to do, namely send me an email like the one I got this morning (I'm paraphrasing heavily here and leaving out specifics, because I do have to maintain at least some level of professionalism here):

Hi, my name is ____ and I'm a ____ major. I have my jury in ten days and I know it's crunch time but my accompanist just backed out on me a week ago. The piece is pretty tricky, but we don't need much rehearsal time. Of course I'll pay you, I just hope it's not too much per hour.

Uh, yeah. This kind of request guarantees the answer will be NO. First of all, what have you been doing since last week when you found out your pianist couldn't play for you, if indeed that is true? (I get that sob story all the time, and I'm not convinced those kids don't lie about it to cover their own irresponsibility.) I don't care how desperate you are, I'm not obligated to learn a difficult piece at the last minute because you didn't get your act together. Second of all, what's with the "I hope it's not too much per hour" bit? You've got to be kidding me. You don't wait until the last minute to find a pianist to learn a really difficult piece at the last minute during the busiest time of the semester, and then on top of it all hope for a bargain price. Everything about that is just insulting. This is how I earn my living, yo.

(Of course, professional that I am, I just respectfully declined, saying I have another performance that day and that I'm too busy the week leading up to the jury, which is all true. I could have given this person a dressing down, but I didn't. I prefer not to burn my bridges before I've even met a person, you know?)

A better way go about asking a pianist for a last-minute request is to humbly ask if she is available to play a difficult piece (it is pretty important to be up front about that) on short notice and you are more than happy to pay what she asks because you are so totally appreciative that she is willing to save your sorry ass.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


We've been spending a lot of time outside lately, or at least, as much time outside as limited daylight allows. The weather has been really mild so far this fall, which is both nice because we can be outdoors without bundling up too much and distressing because it's yet more evidence that global warming is happening alarmingly fast.

A while ago, a friend of mine recommended the book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, and last week I finally got around to checking it out from the library. I'm only a few chapters in, but so far I find it fascinating, as well as affirming. I've always thought that it's important to spend a lot of time outside, especially in natural settings. Some of my sharpest memories from childhood are of camping in the mountains when I was about Anya's age, and running loose on my grandparents' and uncles' farm as a school age kid. As it turns out, there's a whole bunch of research  that supports the theory that being outside is good for people - especially kids - and promotes physical, emotional and mental health.

On Thanksgiving Day, the temps were up in the 60s, so Stuart and the kids and I spent most of the afternoon on the outskirts of a conservation park in our neighborhood. Daniel and Anya climbed trees, played by an old stone fence, made it into a fort, and rode an ancient seesaw for a good two hours before daylight began to fade and we had to head home. I know how extraordinarily lucky we are to live where we have access to so much natural space; walk five minutes in any direction from our house and you can be in the woods or by a creek bed or even a restored prairie. A month ago we even saw wild turkeys making their way through the neighbors' yard. I wish every child could have this.

I'm lucky enough not to have serious trouble with anxiety, but the last few years I've noticed I feel tense and anxious this time of year, even when there isn't anything specific to worry about. It's probably just the combination of the stress of parenting young children and trying to figure out holiday travel plans and fitting in all the extra accompanying work that usually picks up with the end of the semester and the fact that the sun is barely up in the sky before it goes back down again that makes me worry about every little thing. And every day that everything is fine, I find myself thinking, so what about tomorrow? what if everything isn't fine then? Sometimes I wish I could be like a bear and hibernate until spring. It's totally irrational, I know, but it's there.

Being outside and breathing fresh air, though, is restorative. Whether I'm out on a run or picking my way along the boulders lining a dry creek bed while the kids pretend to set up camp, or even just walking up the hill to get Daniel and his friend to school in the morning, I feel myself calming down just a little bit. And for those few minutes, at least, I am able to put my own miniscule problems and worries into perspective, and I know everything will be all right.

Friday, November 16, 2012

five on friday: the anya lexicon

You know how kids say funny things all the time, right? My Anya is no different. Every once in a while she comes up with some hilarious new way of expressing herself. I ought to write them all down, but I don't. Here are five I can remember to share with you:

1. "Mom? Is this the other side of yesterday?"

2. When we were making sandwiches for lunch one day: "Dad, remember I wanted three put-ins. Three! Ham, cheese and mayo. Those are my put-ins."

3. After putting mittens on her hands on a chilly morning: Now I look fall-ess!
Me: Fall-ess??
Anya: Yup, yup, yup. It's fall, and now I look fall-ess!

4. Watching a couple of guys work on the roof next door: "Look at the house-climbers!"

5. This morning, she named her backpack "Poodle-pants".

Monday, November 12, 2012

is it okay to relax now?

Last week I was traveling on Monday, then again Wednesday through Saturday, with Election Day in between. Stress all around! My parents came for the week to help with the kids, for which I am extremely grateful. The performances went very well, though the audiences were rather small (par for the course for guest recitals at small colleges, I'm afraid), there were no airline snafus or travel glitches. No one got sick, though my mom seems to be allergic to our basement; she was sneezing all night. The kids didn't seem to miss me, and I was honestly too busy to get homesick while I was in Kansas.

Also, the election results were obviously a big relief for lefties like me.

My parents left this morning, I just dropped off Anya at 4K, and now I have exactly one hour to myself before I pick up Daniel from school.  One. Whole. Hour. In which I'm trying to get dinner made (I have a meeting tonight, so we have to be ready to eat by 6:00 or I don't get dinner) and catch up on laundry and I probably should be going on a run or looking at some trombone music I agreed to start rehearsing this weekend, but the truth is, I'm spent, exhausted. My brain needs some time to re-charge. I'm so relieved that last week went okay that I'm afraid it's all going to hit the fan this week and I need to be ready for it.

Is that the definition of anxiety? Constantly being worried about the next thing?

Anyway, I'm letting myself sit here with a cup of lukewarm coffee, and I'm trying to enjoy the next 45 minutes (down from that hour previously mentioned) of solitude without feeling guilty about not getting things done for right now.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

election day

I'm so tired. Tired because I had a performance out of town yesterday and didn't get home until after 11:00 and I'm leaving tomorrow for another one. Tired of getting 2 dozen emails every day from political groups. Tired of worrying about the election, tired of talking about politics all the time (though I can't help it!)

I voted, of course. And if you are a U.S. citizen and at least 18 years of age, I certainly hope you voted, too.

And because I'm so tired I'm just going to send you over to Elvis Sightings to read JoyMama's post on Election Day. It's definitely worth reading.