Saturday, July 21, 2012

Glorious Youth in our Company

Glorious Youth in our Company
Right now, we are listening to the first edit of Guy’s recording of the Lussier concerto for trumpet and strings (Impressions d’Alameda) that he recorded on July 19.  We are sitting with 3 young trumpeters (ages 6,10 and 12) whose bright eyes are reflecting every soaring note that is coming from my old speakers.
Yesterday (July 20, 2012), Guy and I went to speak with the young members of the National Academy Orchestra in Hamilton, Ontario.
We went at the invitation of the powerhouse young manager of the NAO, Megan Jones, to speak about our wide-ranging careers, to play a bit for these young professionals and to listen to bassoonist Kristin Day play the Allemande from the Bach Flute Partita and trumpeter Ben Promane play Honnegger’s Intrada.  Both players came with beautiful sounds and we both had a lot to say about the speaking of music through a wind instrument (rather than specifics of bassoon or trumpet).  Maybe you had to be there for it to make sense since so much of our teaching is based on image and movement. 
Guy and I cherish opportunities to speak to our younger colleagues... I know it sounds corny and possibly disingenuous, but we can remember our youth, the ardent striving and the deep doubts.  We want to describe our lives and to provoke their questions and remind them that they are needed and their imaginations are as important as their skills.  Well, this is what I am thinking and I hope that by exposing our work to them, it will ignite something original and powerful in them.
Here are my rough notes from  the class and I will add to them later based on some of the incredible, probing questions that came from the serious yet joyful young players who crowded around us after the session.

Afterwards, we drove to the small town of Elora to pick up the first edit of the Sicialian Proverbs (Michael Occhipinti) and the trumpet concerto which we recorded on July 17 and 18.  This is the fastest turn-around ever (from recording to first edit) and our engineer Ed Marshall laughed at our undisguised glee.  We are now listening to both the edit and all of the takes that were done in the seven hours of recording, so that is fascinating too.  The trumpet concerto sounds spectacular and the double concerto will sound glorious once we have messed with some more edits.

OK, now I have to go buy a fridge!  There was a funny smell in the house when we returned last night and the big shiny stainless steel fridge has decided to go toes-up for the second time this year.  Life is never only about music!!
Where the Wind Blows:  classical performer’s survival guide to building a powerful multifaceted career
Throughout our careers, we carry the idea that our goal is simply to be good and that the desired rewards will follow.
What is rarely seen is the struggle that every passionate musician faces when attempting to balance the pursuit of art with the need to make a living; often one cancels the other.  
In fact, balance is the word that comes up most often when in reality, choices must be made that, in other professions, would be called sacrifices.
Students looking at the bios of professionals can be overwhelmed by the scope of accomplishments listed.   
Professionals in the midst of their careers can be overwhelmed by looking at the bios of colleagues and assume that others have more talent, time or money at their disposal. 
Ours is a profession that has no arrival point of absolute security.  Yet ours is the profession that allows us to be constantly renewed.  The injuries that come our way provide more fuel for expression and the joy confirms the value of our occupation.
I believe that the future of classical music lies in the hands and imaginations of the individual musician.  It is urgent that musicians of every level participate in creating events that develop and further our art.  To achieve this we need to have strategies that allows us to earn a living while developing our craft.
I am a quintessential product of the narrowly-focused orchestral training programs soon to fade into the recent past, and the fact that I operate successfully both outside the confines of that world speaks volumes about lasting virtues of the  strict training of university/conservatory system.  
In this lecture, I will discuss the skills and talents that the individual student can perceive and develop in himself, preparing new possibilities for the future while developing the traditional musical skills in the present.  
Where the Wind Blows:   classical performer’s survival guide to building a powerful multifaceted career
Everything, absolutely everything, is learned on the job.  But before that, an idea must take root and a plan must follow. 
Essential element of developing a multi-faceted career include planning, scheduling and thinking for yourself..
1.  Daily planning = Life planning 
-assume that you are capable of achieving your goals
-develop the tools necessary
organizing yourself to achieve career goals
-conceptualizing overview – dreamer – realist - critic
-maintaining practical aspects
-planning is believing – give yourself your big break – making concerts and ideas come to life
-setting dates with destiny (recitals, grants, recordings) can start immediately
2.  Who Do You Think You Are?  - finding your own voice under the influence of a commercial culture.

The Bold Monk
- confidence and humility
-how to use publicity to create opportunities for your best work
Hymns and Devotion - Marketing and Promotion 
-dedication to craft combined with articulation of ideas and art
Solitary Refinement
-how to use the discipline that comes from sustained personal practise to achieve other goals
-the practise of practise
Developing a Solo Repertoire and Reputation 
-does this help your orchestral/teaching career?
-are bassoonists allowed to be divas?
Winning the Lottery or Free Time:  choices – always be prepared
-you’re not bored, you’re just acting stupid
-practice while there is time… once you hit the big time there is never any time ever again
3.  Body of Work:  
-how to be strong enough to have a performance career
-endurance training (recitals and concerti)
-sprint training (orchestral excerpts)
-recovery from playing (rest etc)
-recovery from accidents and illness
-building strength (physical exercise)
-mental stamina to face life’s challenges and maintain performance standards
Mind & Body
-practising confidence and purposefulness
--auditioning and not feeling sorry for yourself
-techniques for stage confidence
Playing By Heart
-choosing projects that allow you to create a life in music
4.  The Office
Read your contracts
Research Skills
Writing Skills: CVs; resumés; programmes, grants; bios; proposals
Negotiating Skills – how to collaborate at every level
Legal Matters and Accounting:  archives and accounts
Developing a Library:  solo and orchestral
Developing Websites:  current information for fans
Ideas for Fundraising:  new ways to pay for cultural initiatives.
Rumor Mill – how to use it
Grant Applications
-assembling materials
Publishing:  Recordings and articles
-write it down, commit, develop
-management of project
-planning and execution
-maintaining performance standards
Investing wisely to support your artistic goals
-time, money and energy must be used as commodities of equal value to attain your goals.

5.  The Company You Keep - Cooperation, Collaboration and Negotiating Long Term Musical Relationships, Ethical and artistic decision making in the classical music world
-your choice of colleagues can forever change your musical life.
-gving interviews; talking to conductors; talking to colleagues
Winning and Keeping an Orchestral Job
- orchestral excerpt training – basis of technical training
-playing the excerpts is not the same as playing the music!
Developing Chamber Music Groups
-don’t wait for them to come to you
-build within school and orchestra
Home Front
-Goose /Gander - pay and gender differences in the classical world 
-Family -  can you have a family and a performance career?
6.  Life-long Learning – parallel occupations
-learning historical instruments expands your knowledge of your instrument 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Hot Stuff

Words that you do not want to see on the day of a recording project in a heritage church that does not have air-conditioning:
Extreme heat alert
Humidex advisory
Severe thunderstorm watch
Planning a recording takes a huge amount of advance work.  Emails fly back and forth as I collect dates and data from the other soloist, the conductor, the composers, orchestra, the venue.  And after all of that sometimes, the things beyond our control add a completely unexpected level of challenge.  Weather and family always come first in this situation.
 Monday, July 17 dawned bright and hot. I had time to make a new reed and then Guy and I went early to the St Anne’s church on Gladstone Avenue (near Little Italy in Toronto and across from the Cadbury factory).  We stopped to buy snacks for our orchestra.  Our engineer, Ed Marshall, arrived early to check his gear which was already in place.   We had already moved the pews and set up the orchestra during the previous day’s rehearsal.  Our extra drummer arrived early (he hadn’t been available for the previous day’s rehearsal) and we moved the viola section over to make room for him in the centre of the group.  Our composer/guitarist arrived and we found a spot for him and his monitors behind the bass section.
 Our spectacular conductor (Eric Paetkau) string players arrived and everyone commented on the heavy humidity and the heat.
We got into position with two drummers, electric guitar, and chamber strings (including our jazz bassist friend Daniel Fortin) and Guy and me as solo trumpet and bassoon.
The session went hard and fast and we played flat out for the about three hours of the four hour session (with two 20’ breaks).  Everyone was hot but it went really well.  Our composer (Michael Occhipinti) gave very good comments and our conductor was amazingly quick at coordinating the jazz style with the classical players.  There was just enough time at the end to record a short piece by Glenn Buhr for corno da caccia, bassoon and strings and we thought it would be a nice way to end before lunch and heading into the late afternoon session for the solo bassoon piece (Le Dernier Chant d’Ophélie by Mathieu Lussier).
My instrument was hot and gluey with sweat, but I had complete confidence that it would work.  And that is when something strange began to happen.  I could play for about 30 seconds, then keys would begin to gently stick.  I really couldn’t tell which ones were doing it and the panic clouded my mind.  We opted to break early so that I could talk to my repairman and take the horn into an air-conditioned space.  Shane Wieler, my repairman, pointed out that this was the hottest day on record to date and it might be out of our control.  But we both were puzzled because my 15,000 series Heckel is an extremely stable instrument.  
During that time, my elderly father called me in a panic from his northern home (a three hour drive from Toronto)... he really needed company and needed to get to Toronto to be with me.  It has been a very hard year in terms of health for him.  In the 45 minutes before I had to be recording again, I called 3 friends and found someone who could drive him part way so that I could then plan to drive an hour north and collect him after the recording session.
When we returned for the late afternoon session, I hoped against hope that it would work... we got about 4 minutes into the piece when the humidity took over again.  I could not see any springs out of place on the bassoon and I used paper to clear the humidity from the pads, but it instantly took over again the minute I began to play.
Just when I realized that I was in trouble again, my cell phone began flashing my son’s name.  My boy never uses the phone, so I thought it must be important.  I answered, and he had forgotten his house key and his Dad was not home and not answering any calls.  So I quickly tried to find a solution to that problem before trying a few more times to get through the session.
I had to cancel the session and will rebook for September, which will cost me thousands of extra dollars.  The conductor asked if I could borrow a bassoon... I said no.  These projects are so expensive and require such a level of preparation that I must be playing on the best bassoon available, which of course is my own!  Not to mention that there would be no way to find a pro instrument in time to finish the sessions.  I am now seriously considering buying a back-up instrument.
We packed up for the night.  The next day was scheduled for Guy’s recording of the trumpet concerto (Impressions d’Alameda) and we hoped that we might be able to slot in the short piece at the end of that session.  Guy and I went for a coffee, then I drove up north to pick up my dear old Dad.
We are now in the process of finding dates that will work for the same orchestra members in September, which is a big challenge.  And I will have a back-up bassoon with me this time!  And I will make sure that people are watching over my son and Dad before the sessions start, just so that fate will have to get inventive.
Life is complex and I think that I actually like it this way.  The good news is that our engineer did the first edit on the following day, so we will have the luxury of hearing two of the pieces before we go in to record the last four pieces.  This is an unprecedented gift.

I have a lot more to tell you about the rest of the sessions, but now have to get ready to go to Hamilton to speak to the young members of the National Academy Orchestra about a multifaceted life in music... I think that I know what to tell them!
  1. ernoon Weather Webcast: July 17, 2012
    Jul 17, 2012

    Severe thunderstorm watch, humidex advisory and extreme heat alert in effect in Toronto. 
  1. pastedGraphic.pdf
    Mid-morning Weather Webcast: July 17, 2012

    Jul 17, 2012

    Hot and humid. Risk of thunderstorms or active weather. High of 37 C. 
  1. pastedGraphic_1.pdf
    Morning Weather Webcast: July 17, 2012

    Jul 17, 2012

    High of 37C feeling like 44 C with the humidity.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Recording and Learning

Part of me wants to wait for a quiet moment to write my thoughts in a cogent and useful manner, then the other part of me remembers that nothing will get written if I think this way.  Life is layered, with one unfinished project overlapping the next, and there is nothing tidy about an intensely creative life.  And a creative life can be kind of boring in the telling if not the living....

Tomorrow, Monday, July 16 will be the rehearsals for our Canadian Concerto project, Part One.

Today was spent by both me and Guy in working out our new solos in Michael Occhpinti's new work, commissioned by us, for trumpet, bassoon, electric guitar, percussion and string orchestra.  We wanted something that could fit on on a pops programme and give a hint of the dynamic, propulsive jazz lyricism that Michael is so good at.  As part of the preparation for future performances as well as to give me a glimmer of insight into the process of writing, I have taken some lessons with the jazz bassist Daniel Fortin and I will continue learning about improvisation.  It is something that I have always wanted to do, and now we have a concerto that allows for this.  In the meantime, Michael has written some wonderfully challenging solos for trumpet and bassoon and will fill in with a lot of his own improvising.

The other music that will go on this disc is two concerti that were commissioned by CBC for me and Guy in 2008;  Le Dernier Chant d'Ophélie for bassoon and strings,  and Guy's concerto, Impressions d'Alameda.  We will also record the Oddbird Concerto for bassoon and strings (2012) and a Glenn Buhr work for corno da caccia, bassoon and strings, man will only grieve if he believes the sun stands still (2010)  and a short fast Occhipinti work for trumpet and strings.

Our second disc will be recorded in November, 2013 --- a new concerto by Paul Frehner and 2 works by Alain Trudel, including the beautiful Carnets de Voyages that was also a CBC commission for trumpet, bassoon, percussion and string orchestra.

Rehearsal should be fun tomorrow as we have a lot of music to cover in a short time... Eric Paetkau is leading the orchestra and Michael Occipinti has flown in from his tour on the west coast... Ed Marshall is recording us and the church should be incredibly hot for the next few days...

Stay tuned and I will let you know how it all shakes down.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I love my job Part 2

Still revelling in the memories of my first-ever trip to the Oregon Bach Festival... still remembering the people, the vivid landscapes, the musical richness of the experience.  I will never forget the electric surge that came from the 400 musicians and patrons who attended our recital on July 3 in Beall Hall and flooded to talk to us at the intermission and after the concert.  Or the brilliant crabby man who stayed to the end to share his thoughts about the repertoire and our outfits.  It was all incredible.

Our suitcases lingered for an extra 30 hours in the western paradise of Oregon/California and were delivered to our Toronto house today, along with all of Guy's trumpets, my reed tools and scores and gowns and the copies of the final edit of my new Vivaldi concerto disc that were all in my suitcase (not the trumpets).

Our first day home was spent contacting the composers and conductor and engineer for the recording project next week... everything is coming together though because it is new music, some things are going to be ready quite close to the sessions!  And the artist Scott McKowen has started the cover art for the Vivaldi disc... his particular style of scratchboard will make a beautiful cover.... you can get an idea by looking at the illustrations in his recent book, A Fine Line.  And contacting my next composer for a bassoon concerto to be performed and recorded in November 2013... will announce once everything is really truly in place.

Tomorrow, I get to play in my third large choral/orchestral work of the summer (Elijah with the Elora Festival).  Then practise like a crazy lady on the new Michael Occhipinti double concerto, Ballo and Mathieu Lussier's,  Le Dernier Chant d'Ophélie and Glenn Buhr's  and man will only grieve.

After the recordings, we are giving a lecture/mini-recital and mini-masterclass for the National Academy Orchestra in Hamilton.

Then I am going to take my Dad shopping... he wants to trade his little Ford ranger for a sports car!