Friday, March 25, 2011


It's been a while, my dear readers. And while I can tell by the flood of comments (i.e., NOTHING since mid-February) that you're just dying to know the details of our lives, it's been busy. So, we'll play a little ketchup. Errr, catch up. [NOTE: the ketchup had to be Heinz. I'm a Pittsburgher now, and as I'm sure you alllllll know, Heinz ketchup hails from the 'Burgh.]

I spent most of last week in the pit for the Undercroft Opera, a volunteer ensemble in the city. I took the audition on a whim, after having been tipped off to the group by two of my friends (a singer and a violist), both of whom perform with the ensemble. As luck would have it, my bow was broken and in the shop until two days before the scheduled audition, and as I haven't been practicing very much at all these days, I basically played it totally cold (fortunately, they stopped me after the first page of the Prokofiev, before things would have probably gone south). In any case, they invited me to join the ensemble.

At the first rehearsal, I was shocked at how out of shape I was. It seemed everything was going by too fast for my brain--switching from pizz to arco, changing time signatures and key signatures and all sorts of other surprises. Thankfully, I remembered after a while. I had forgotten, though, what it feels like to play in the pit for the run of the show. Perhaps I never really knew. At BYU, we had rotating seating for opera, so you didn't have to be there every night. (Also, there were treats to be enjoyed during your rests.) For this, we had evening dress rehearsals and performances 6 nights in a week. Pretty exhausting.

I can't say, at least on the part of the orchestra, that the performances were stellar. Our intonation was pretty wretched (I was relieved when I realized that most of the time, it was not me who played out of tune), our ensemble was sketchy, our dynamics were nonexistent, and our musical expression was very two-dimensional. Even so, though, I started to remember.

I remembered how it feels to craft a phrase, to play a certain nuance because there is no other way that it has any meaning. I remembered experiencing emotions in my music so intense I'd never felt them in my own life. There was an exhilaration that came with music, an energy I felt after a performance. That's what made it all worthwhile.

Since I stopped playing so much, I've cried a lot less. I've probably been a lot kinder to myself, not constantly berating myself for not being good enough. There has been a definite leveling out, which I used to think was a good thing. Now I'm not so sure.

I'm like an addict. The lows are pretty damn low, but the highs make it all worth it.

Now, to find an outlet . . .


  1. Well, I can definitely comment on this!!

    Here's my comment: I know EXACTLY what you mean.

    I know the high, and I KNOW the low. And I hate to admit that I don't get the high I am seeking when I play with a mediocre group. I know, how snobby is that? But it's true. And since I am not in a position in my life right now to keep my skills at the level they need to be for me to get a professional gig (plus, they're so abundant in Provo...), my options are limited. And the things I have tried have been depressingly un-fulfilling.

    I hope you can find something that's perfect for you. That you can play as you feel you're meant to play, and that you can find a balance between practicing as much as you'd like, and accepting that you can't practice as much as you'd like if you want to do anything else in your life!!

    And I wouldn't give up completely on the leveling out idea...there has to be some kind of happy middle ground. Can't there be wonderful music making with emotionally healthy musicians? (Are those two things mutually exclusive? I wonder...)

    Anyway, I love your blog, and I read faithfully, even though I'm a lame commenter!!
    And I remember our days of making music together as some of the very best of my life. So thank you for that.


  2. i read too! I love your blog! It helps me feel connected all the way from TX. I think you need to post more and I'll comment more ;) Deal?!