Monday, January 30, 2006

Be Careful What You Wish For

I've enumerated the reasons for my online existence, one of which is to keep getting the word out there that my world (of opera, chamber music, symphony...) is a great place to be. Classical music is not "good for us" like medicine (ah, medicine, dear to my heart at this particular moment, but more on that later), rather it's an incredible thing that can become a fascinating part of the fabric of our lives. Anyway, I choose to further the cause by writing about it, describing how it works (at least in my little corner), and demystifying it. To that end, I'm thrilled when I get new readers.

My sense of timing is a little off, though.

Both DCist and ionarts have linked to the blog this week, in connection with my upcoming concert this Friday with the fabulous bass-baritone (and Wolf Trap Opera alum) Alan Held. Normally, I'd want to dust myself off and put on my best face for new readers and new potential concert-goers. Unfortunately, I haven't had a good couple of weeks, and although I'm back on track for a great collaboration on Friday, I'm afraid I'm not capable of blogging anything of substance just yet.

So here's the plan. Alan travels to Virginia from his home (and his four adorable kids and beautiful wife) in Pennsylvania on Wednesday. We're rehearsing on Wednesday and Thursday, and I promise to post after those rehearsals. If you're coming to the concert (or if you're not in the area, and you just want to read about it), check back in a couple of days for a detailed look on how we put it together.

For those who have asked, I'm going to be fine. Just a persistent infection that took a wrong turn. But I had some simple outpatient surgery today, and I'll be better in no time. But I'm going into a narcotic blur as soon as the anaesthetic wears off, and I wouldn't want to be responsible for blogging in an altered state.

See you Wednesday.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Whine whine whine

Trying to honor my promise to post at least 3 times a week, but I may have to fall short. Irritating medical/dental things this week... now have some sort of lymph node imfection that's puffing up my neck. (I am Jeremiah the Bullfrog.)

I know, T.M.I. But I have this perverse obsession with proving I'm not a slacker.

On the bright side, I did write 65 audition feedback emails this week. (If you got one of them and I sounded surly, blame it on the pain medication.)

Back online as soon as I can.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Big Birthday Week

The inescapable Mozart mania will be heartily embraced by some and barely tolerated by others who resent the flood of words and notes that will be unleashed on the birthday boy this week. As happens so frighteningly often, I find myself in the middle. (More on that in a later post.)

Heard Jane Glover speaking on NPR today about her new book on Mozart's Women. Haven't read it but plan to. (I have a serious backlog of Mozart books that I've promised myself to get through this year.) Wolfgang's onstage women were strong-willed, hotblooded, and downright smart in a way that all but disappeared in 19th century grand opera. The women in the composer's life were a vivid presence, and his relationships with them seemed to be significantly less destructive than those with his father and his male employers. (Sorry if I'm pulling the feminist card - I've recently been reminded how freakishly male-dominated the arts blogging scene seems to be, and I'm overcompensating.) Anyway, looking forward to reading Jane's book.

Does his music measure up to the hype? More often than not. I'm repeatedly struck dumb by the last 5 operas in particular - Figaro, Giovanni, Cosi, Flute, Tito - in spite of my own personal overexposure to Mozart's stage works. (I've been involved in 34 productions of 11 different Mozart operas in the last 24 years.) Tim Page got most of it right in today's Washington Post article, particularly about Figaro - "I marvel anew that one of my fellow human beings actually managed to pull himself far enough out of the mud to create this miracle of order and civility. Yet it's such a friendly masterpiece -- warm, funny, forgiving, even downright silly -- and if there is an important universal emotion that is not explored, musically and dramatically, over the course of the opera's duration, I don't know what it is."

I only take serious issue with two of Mr. Page's corollary points. 1) "...almost any third-year piano student can read through the Mozart sonatas" (I taught piano lessons far too long to buy into this one:), and 2) "Charming composers such as Vivaldi and Telemann offer a good deal of pleasure but usually -- usually -- not much else." We're out to prove this one wrong in just a few months.

Unedited Audition Comments - Chapter Two

Shuffled and slightly edited to preserve anonymity. And I've been reminded that there are shop-talk terms in these comments that could stand to be defined. I promise that the next installment will include the beginnings of a glossary.

  • He has assets, but the picture isn’t complete; is learning how to mask his liabilities
  • The line never takes off. There is a really nice voice underneath - but it sounds somehow obstructed. Trapped. Maddening.
  • The Wagner is irrelevant vocally, but he’s singing it musically, and in tune
  • Such a messy sound; even this bright room it sounds like it’s coming from under a blanket
  • Beginning of the refrain demonstrates what’s wrong with this picture; “Ah reponds” is a pure soprano color, and as she descends she dips into full and raw chest for mezzo
  • She should start with this; it’s a better impression; the Puccini showcases the ambiguous nature of the timbre
  • In this Fach we need serious serious charm, although she’s perky, I’m not sure it’s the right kind
  • Getting lost in her own ornaments. Almost wild vibrato at times.
  • Not thrilled about singing the Juliette; looks as if Juliette isn’t really happy to be at the ball...
  • Pulling out all of the acrobatic stops for the repeat; oddly satisfying on an athletic level
  • The physical and dramatic approach is studiously coquettish, but doesn’t really say anything else
  • First Queen of the Night aria: Don’t start with this if you don’t have beauty or substance in the midvoice...
  • She’s savvy; the instrument isn’t absolutely top-flight, but she knows how to use it; has the uncanny knack of completely identifying with this material
  • Seems to be at the point where she’s matching her equipment to the task but not going beyond that
  • I’m finding this room increasingly difficult to listen in
  • She’s charming, yes, but there’s a slight indescribable stiltedness to the visual presentation; she’s beautiful and should be more unreservedly expressive than this
  • He and his own pianist can’t get in the same tempo; what a strange strange thing…
  • The voice becomes something different at forte…the resonance seems to change dramatically with dynamic and tessitura
  • The top is so bright that it’s painful in here, but that’s not his fault; in a normal acoustic it would be exciting
  • Has no control over his body, he just kind of reacts to the phrasing.
  • His eyes are dead a little too often.
  • The mezzo color is really suspicious; the bottom registers as chest, and the top is soprano, but the midvoice hasn’t taken fire
  • Still a little stiff, but more importantly, he just doesn’t stay with it; I feel as if I want to get in his face and yell when he disappears so he knows when he’s doing it
  • He really made big strides dramatically. Maybe he just learned to audition better.
  • A lot of activity in the sound; not enough line, phrasing and focus
  • There’s just something very unstable about the sound; it’s both intonation and timbre
  • Still young, tho, and this instrument is promising; at its best it’s clear and sweet, but it’s under incomplete control, if under any control at all...right now the physicalization is all about trying to hold it together
  • There’s just no traction, no legato; like listening to a typewriter sing
  • She is so unbelievably nervous….Why is she putting herself through this?
  • Every time the sound should increase in excitement, it deadens instead; severe restrictions above the passaggio.
  • She’s done her homework, but the overall effect is one of slightly distracted but intense emotion
  • A luxurious sound, and it gives this aria the emotional content it needs; she’s not demonstrative, but she feels it deeply and is able to communicate that
  • The challenge for her will be how to tie this instrument together. And discover her body as part of the equation.
  • The Bb is a serious money note
  • Many good things about this. She needs a good home while going through the next couple years. We need voices like hers.

And just in case you think the audition panel always knows what it's doing:

  • This continues to be confusing…she’s accomplished, musical, committed…the top doesn’t do what it has to in order to make this aria work…….there’s a lot of activity in the sound…resume looks good; she’s doing very well for herself…there are some attractive components to the sound, and it’s pretty large… maybe it’s lack of versatility, range of expression… talking myself in circles....

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The "Off" Season...

I've been silent for too many days, trying to dig myself out of what appears to be a bottomless well of administrative tasks. I'm afraid I'm surfacing mostly to whine. Don't say you weren't warned.

What Do You Do in the Winter?

Q: Where do you work?
A: Wolf Trap.
Q. That must be a great job. What do you do all winter?

Grrrrrrr. I must admit that before I started working here full time (I worked here on a seasonal basis for 13 years before signing on year-round), I didn't have a really clear grasp of what in the world could consume the September-April months. Sometimes, even now, I find it inconceivable that this midwinter period can be so busy.

For my own amusement and amazement, and to explain why we are going full tilt every day, I make lists. I'm tremendously glad I'm not a lawyer, but if I were, I'd be flawless at billing clients for my time:)

Skip over the list unless you're curious how we spend our time. I'm making the list for cathartic purposes.

This week (probably spilling over into next...)

  • Schedule grid and contract drafts for music and production staff
  • Ticket scales and pricing research
  • Documentation for new WT Music library
  • Send rental scores for first opera to singers and staff
  • Review chorus needs for all 3 operas; make draft chorus rehearsal schedule
  • Identify and engage lighting and wigs/makeup designers
  • Choose from among apprentice coach and apprentice director candidates
  • Draft orchestra rehearsal schedule
  • Send email notice about Kennedy Center Chamber Players concert this Friday
  • Make inquiries for Boston Brass school outreach locations in March
  • Notes for pre-show talk presentation on February 3 (Alan Held's recital)
  • Opera and symphony performance descriptions for summer brochure
  • Practice...

I never intended to spend my days sitting at a desk, and although this work is very rewarding, there are days when the paperwork just seems to mock me. Months ago I pulled a quote from the Artful Manager blog - the source was Peter F. Drucker’s essay on ''Management as Social Function and Liberal Art''. It has helped me regain respective more than once:

"Management is about human beings. Its task is to make people capable of joint performance, to make their strengths effective and their weaknesses irrelevant. This is what organization is all about."

Unedited Audition Comments - First Installment

As I'm preparing to send some audition feedback emails, I'm revisiting all of our remarks from the live auditions. Here's the first in a series of unedited comments - they were exported in random order from our database. They're totally anonymous, excerpted and shuffled in such a way that if you think you see yourself in any segment, you're just being paranoid.

Read this list if you are a singer who wonders what kind of responses a panel might have to your audition. Read it if you aren't a singer but are just curious about how all of this works. Don't be needlessly offended by the bluntness of some of the observations. There's a line between clarity and cruelty, and we have a mandate not to cross it.

  • She’s either terrified or extremely introverted
  • This fits her well, plays to her strengths
  • Doubt that there’s much versatility at the top
  • His pianist is mangling this aria
  • Very musical, good sense of text and line
  • Flat. A quarter tone.
  • He’s a confident artist; the voice isn’t top flight, but he uses it well
  • There’s a limit to the beauty and squillo in the voice, and that would probably keep him out of serious contention at the highest level
  • She’s able to command some legit sounds in specific registers; it’s not consistent, though
  • The basic sound is not unattractive at all. But it seems as if there’s huge unrealized potential.
  • I do wonder if this is the right rep; there just doesn’t seem to be enough steel and core in the sound
  • Her temperament is dramatic, and the voice has a few of those qualities, but the essential size doesn’t add up
  • He looks right to left every 3 seconds; like he’s watching a tennis match; terribly frenetic
  • Some major textual errors. Making this up.
  • Facing an uphill battle in his Fach. Limited in size, scope, color and impact.
  • There’s something scary about the appearance of the technique toward the top; the whole mechanism shakes; tough to watch
  • This is so obviously effortful; visually and audibly apparent
  • Brought a pianist who can’t play this. Not a good idea.
  • Stage presence is underwhelming.
  • The voice is still decidedly not mainstream, but he may just figure out a way to have a career; already the rep list shows that he kind of has this figured out
  • In order to be competitive she needs a lot more flair, charm, spirit
  • The coloratura at the end of the A section derails, and it’s totally devoid of intention
  • Very restrained and almost awkward physical presence.
  • Takes lots of musical chances, and most of them pay off
  • There’s a significant flutter and it’s not always under control; there are some go-for-broke moments that end up being variable in pitch and placement
  • Ascending scalar coloratura is spot-on, but the gestures at the top are shrill and flat
  • The whole thing is under-performed; very little fire there
  • I don’t find enough opulence in it across the board to justify all of the lyric rep on the list
  • Steely top. With a bit of a wobble. It’s not pretty per se, but interesting.
  • Some humor in the characterizaton, but ignores the value of forward momentum
  • He works very hard, but the performance doesn’t fully take off. My response is one of respect, but not one of wanting to hire him
  • This is a soprano [not a mezzo], I’m afraid; the voice just doesn’t have the right heft in the right places; seems most clear when she sings less than forte; at forte the darkening of the voice gives it some depth, but at piano, it’s all gone
  • I’m struck by a level of activity in the sound that gets in the way; I guess it’s an incipient wobble, but that sounds a little harsh.
  • Very stylish. The quiet singing is very elegant, but floated high notes are rather breathy. Once she pushes on the top it becomes more brittle.
  • Intense, and thoroughly committed
  • Big empty expanses near the beginning that encourage mugging; appreciate the effort, but the effect is off the mark
  • The sound has a flutter and a certain unsteadiness to it. Top is strong but a little tight. Is it nerves, or is this the voice? There is a distinct tension.
  • pitch pitch pitch
  • Tuning problems. Deteriorating - pitch getting worse and worse.
  • Some amazing sounds at the top of the staff; some real clarion quality
  • She is making choices - don’t always agree, but she is shaping her phrases.
  • Hanging in there with this dry acoustic; the voice probably travels well in a hall, and it stands up under scrutiny
  • Big voice. Very messy vocalism. Clarion voice on the top.
  • Sort of a textbook example of preternatural physical calm; he doesn’t move a muscle; is he frozen?
  • Singing himself out by the end of this; it’s entirely too heavy for him
  • I think the move to the heavier Fach is probably a good one; the midvoice isn’t quite there yet, tho
  • The voice is certainly promising, just somehow a little anonymous; maybe it’s still growing
  • Trouble expressing different characters/ideas, it all sounds the same.
  • The instrument has potential, but she’s not using it for any clear purpose right now
  • It’s also very monochromatic; I think she’s only capable of forte in the top half of the voice
  • This aria is only about vocal athletics for her
  • The top extension is really coming into focus
  • She is a totally different person away from singing. More active and aware.
  • Insecure. As if she had given up before the audition.
  • He put the Mozart aria on the new rep list and seems dismayed that we asked for it..
  • Closes his eyes and goes to a faraway place too often; the gaze is worried and indiscriminate
  • She’s earnest, focused, and the voice is of an acceptable size and footprint; coloratura is fine and the extension is reliable and versatile
  • The voice is larger than some, but it’s relentlessly driven and artificially darkened
  • Doesn’t sing a single clear vowel
  • The high Bb is terrifying
  • Never laugh at the pianist

Friday, January 13, 2006

New York

In New York for the Chamber Music America conference. Talking business all day, so it's up to the Tkts 50% off booth for a theatre ticket for tonight. Going to "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee".

Art & Entertainment Wars
Lots of spirited discussion at the conference about the difference between "art music" and "popular music", whether or not sophistication is the kiss of death, why elitism in cultural is anathema yet exclusionary cliquish behavior in popular culture is a irresistible... Predictably inconclusive but reassuringly spirited discussion.

The Blogosphere
I met Drew McManus this morning at a "Blogging (or how to build an audience without leaving home)" session at the Chamber Music America conference. And I was flattered today to see that Deceptively Simple mentioned my blog. He finds my writing a little too "touchy-feely", but I've been called worse. I'll take it.

I was yanked back to my grouchy concert-going episode of last week by an entry in today's Artful Manager posting. The current buzzword seems to be Insperience. It's not news that affluent consumers are creating state-of-the-art entertainment environments at home - but does this new technology keep people from seeking out live performances or supplement (maybe even whet appetites...) for more?

The Road to Hell
It's paved with my good intentions to keep practicing all month. This week totally got away from me. Got into the Bach WTC but ending up fast-forwarding past all of the fugues with more than 3 voices and anything in a key I don't particularly like. (For the record: C-Sharp Major, a-flat minor, oddly enough E major.) Anyway, I'm consoling myself with the knowledge that a large portion of the February 3rd concert is devoted to material that is reduced from orchestration and songs that exist both in pianistic and orchestral versions. I've convinced myself that it's equally important for me to spend some time this week listening to the Mahler Wunderhorn songs, and a smattering of Mussourgsky and Wagner.

The fog outside the train window this morning was opaque, and I was dreading firing up the laptop to do my usual installment of travel work. My Amtrak seatmate was flustered to find out that she had forgotten her laptop power cord. I kindly (and unselfishly...) offered the use of my laptop cord so she could work, effectively giving myself an excuse to plug into my iPod for 3 hours.

  • Nicolai Gedda, Beethoven's Adelaide. Some synchronicity here. Beethoven's In questa tomba is on Alan's recital.
  • Ann Hampton & Liz Callaway, Our Time from Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along. A gorgeous song from a problematic musical that I adore.
  • Hide and Seek, Imogen Heap. Thanks, Lexi.
  • Birgit Nilsson, Liebestod. (The shuffle can only offer so many coincidences. I admit I went in search of this one.) I met Ms. Nilsson only once - I was the pianist for a master class she gave some 25 years ago. In spite of the bad rap I've given master classes on these pages, I must admit that my memories of that afternoon are all positive. Astonishing artist, classy lady, generous spirit. May she rest in peace.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Letting the Silt Settle

I honestly can't remember where or when this image first grabbed me. But it has saved my sanity more than a few times.

I'm one of those people who tries hard. Usually a little too hard. If a problem resists solution, if an obstacle seems insurmountable, well, I just dig in my heels and grunt. Only recently have I been truly convinced of the futility of this approach.

Simple, really. When my mind gets cluttered and confused, and my thinking gets hazy, I conjure up the image of a bottle full of silty, cloudy water. I imagine shaking it as furiously as I can, in as many different and imaginative ways as I can, and with all the earnestness, good intentions, and critical thinking I can muster. And I witness the water getting more and more opaque.

Then I'm reminded that the way to separate the silt from the crystal-clear water is to do nothing. Sit still, breathe, pray, dream. And clarity returns. Yielding to any temptation to try to do something to fix the problem is to doom the outcome.

Those of you out there with a natural yogic spirit will be nodding, wondering how this could not be obvious. But for some of us (you know who you are...) it's unthinkable.

This week, in particular, is all about marketing - specifically trying to figure out how to best reflect the spirit of next summer's operas in our printed materials. I am decidedly not good at this. I'm also having a crisis of confidence about exactly how I believe we should be approaching our marketing for this summer. Take a difficult task, add some natural aversion, toss in some philosophical paralysis - what do you get? All I can do is let the silt settle.


Each fall, during our audition process, I am seized with a fit of good intentions, and I offer to all singers who audition for our company the opportunity to ask for feedback on their audition. At the time, it seems like a noble thing to do. After all, getting better at this necessary evil of auditioning should be easier with some idea of how one's auditions are perceived. And since we tell applicants that they have to wait until January 1 to ask for feedback, it all seems doable. Until January rolls around.

A little more than a week into the new year, and I already have over 50 requests for comments on last fall's auditions. And many more will follow. (I don't know whether to be in awe of or afraid of those singers who actually sent their feedback requests on New Year's Day. Pretty determined bunch, I'd say.)

I can write about 3 or 4 of these feedback emails an hour. It involves going back into the database, looking at all of the comments we made on the audition, and trying to put them together in a way that has any chance of being meaningful to the singer. So I figure I already have a backlog of about 12 hours...

If past responses are any guide, singers are very appreciative of this offer. So I'll keep on doing it. All of the emails are prefaced with a disclaimer - after all, we only hear people for about 8 minutes, so our reactions are not exactly definitive. But very often, our comments are consistent with feedback they're getting from coaches, teachers, and mentors. And in some cases, singers are only hearing generically encouraging cheerleading from those who wish them well, and they're actually hungry for some specific reactions.

If you've written for feedback already, please give me another 1-2 weeks. Then I'll start churning them out. And if you're interested in exactly what I mean by all of this, I promise I'll give some anonymous "for-instances" in a future posting (when I'm in that groove).

Friday, January 06, 2006

Out and About

Spent the last two evenings at the Kennedy Center, at two wildly different events. But the most important thing I learned had nothing to do with either the performers or the content. Rather, I was reminded how difficult it can be to incorporate concert-going into one's life. (And in case you're wondering, I'm sticking to my guns: I don't blog "reviews" of concerts.)

Just Do It

We gnash our teeth a great deal about getting audiences' butts into seats. But I have great admiration for anyone with enough get-up-and-go to actually make it to a performance. At the end of the evening I'm always (almost always...) glad I went, but at the beginning I'm usually wondering what in the world possessed me. (Kind of like going to the gym.)) After a full day of work, a pitiful smattering of housewifery (groceries, dinner, laundry, whatever), and the latest skirmish in The Great Homework Wars, by the time I get in my seat I'm ready to snooze.

No wonder I look out over the audience and see few age peers. Last night there was a huge contingent of patrons older than myself, and a reasonable representation of younger students and music-lovers. But those of us in the trenches need art and entertainment (go here and here for today's entry in the art vs. entertainment battles) as much as the rest of the world, but it's a hard sell. If I didn't work in this business, would I go??? Or would I be one of those stay-at-home-buy-a-CD people that we producers and presenters love to hate? The rewards of live music are significant, but you can't experience them if you don't haul yourself to the hall.

Get 'Em While They're Young

This morning I seized the opportunity to visit the Cypress String Quartet as they spent time with middle school students in a DC-area school. They do "outreach" (a useful term, but one that many people dislike) extremely well - playing terrific music and talking comfortably and openly to the kids about it. It was an interesting counterpoint to my grumpy theatre- and concert-going this week.

If we are able to bring music (and dance and theatre and art) to young people, and do it in a way that imprints itself strongly and positively on their minds and hearts, then maybe when they grow up, they'll not be as ambivalent as I am about pushing through their grouchy fatigue to get to a concert.

Kids are most definitely not easy targets for this stuff - it takes good material and an honest approach to win them over. But it's worth the effort. If the music sparks their imagination and touches their hearts just once, it may be enough to keep them coming back for more. And each time, it may be easier for them to remember how sharing in the experience of live music feeds our souls and gives us perspective and energy to get back out there and tackle the world. (Well, maybe not the Homework Wars, but almost anything else...)

Not blogging over the weekend - see you Monday or Tuesday.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Nitty Gritty

January finds us in an exciting, thrill-a-minute phase of arts administration. The mounds of paperwork dwarf the memory of how exciting it was to hear the auditions and pick the operas. (Yes, I know I said I'd talk more about the operas, but I can't just yet... Soon. Promise.)

Auditioning and casting was tiring and sometimes tedious, but the music reigned supreme. Now we venture into the steel-gray days of winter when it's easy to lose sight of the goal. Spending my days churning out emails, making phone calls, checking availability, negotiating fees, discussing contractual arrangements, doing and re-doing spreadsheets. The glamorous part of the job. All you aspiring artistic directors who look forward to spending your careers creating dream casts for Traviata - beware!

What we're doing is putting together the rest of what makes the opera company tick. For 2006:

  • Conductors (3)
  • Directors (4)
  • Music & language coaches (~6)
  • Stage managers (4)
  • Designers (10)
  • Apprentices (2)
  • Scenic & wardrobe shop staff (~15)
  • Interns (7-10)
  • And somewhere around 150 orchestra musicians & choristers

In between, we're working on ads and program copy for this month's Kennedy Center Chamber Players concert and next month's recital with Alan Held. Omigod... don't panic... have to practice.... must practice...

Monday, January 02, 2006

It's January. Do you know where your chops are?

The good news: I still get to play the piano in public a few times a year.

The better news: In one month, I have the privilege of playing a concert with one of Wolf Trap's most marvelous alumni, bass-baritone Alan Held.

The bad news: I have to find my chops again.

When I went from spending 8 hours a day at the piano keyboard to putting in 8+ hours/day at a desk, a colleague of mine (who had made a similar transition in her professional life) told me that I would never play the piano passably again. Use it or lose it.

The first few times I pieced together my keyboard technique it was daunting. Actually, it was terrifying. They say it's like riding a bike - you never forget. Well, I certainly didn't forget. My mind and my ear knew exactly what I was after. But my muscles rebelled.

But each time my musician alter-ego rose from the ashes, it got a little easier. By now it's almost predictable. If I haven't played seriously for months (in this case, since last September), it takes about a month to bounce back. The first week is disorienting, but by now I've been down this path often enough for the fog to be familiar. By the end of the second week, it feels like home again, and by the third week I almost feel like a musician.

I've even developed something of a routine. The first few days (and that's where I am right now) is 75% Bach. A little odd for someone who plays lots of opera and song. But there's something calming about counterpoint. (Don't laugh. My preoccupation with Bach is one of the remaining vestiges of my high school math geekdom.) The Baroque style allows me to focus first on the fine motor skills before I have to dig into the heavier stuff. And counterpoint immediately puts me in the right mental state for the ultimate goal - listening to one melodic line while producing another.

Finding My Chops: Menu for Week 1

Bach: All the two- and three-part inventions, Well-Tempered Clavier Books 1 & 2, English and French suites, Partitas, the Goldberg variations (just the easier ones...) Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue, and the Italian concerto
Mozart or Beethoven: At least one sonata a day
Fauré or Chopin: Two nocturnes a day
Schumann: Bits and pieces of Papillons, Carnaval, Davidsbündlertänze, Fantasiestücke... the easy ones at first, the harder ones as I dare

Against my better judgment... answers to the Meme of Four. Other bloggers' lists are entertaining and surprising. Mine is breathtakingly normal. I post it not to astound, amaze, or entertain, but to strike a blow for the power of the ordinary:)

Four jobs you've had in your life: 1) music therapist; 2) pit pianist; 3) church organist; 4) teacher

Four movies you could watch over and over: I don't think I've ever watched any movie more than once, except unwittingly. My memory is terrible, and I often don't realize I've seen something before until I'm halfway through it.

Four places you've lived: 1) Elizabethtown; 2) East Haddam; 3) Hyattsville; 4) Vienna

Four TV shows you love to watch: OK, so I've only really watched two TV shows in the last year. And seeing them in print is pretty embarrassing. 1) Desperate Housewives 2) The Biggest Loser

Four places you've been on vacation: 1) Venice; 2) Yosemite; 3) Denver; 4) Vienna

Four blogs you visit daily: 1) ionarts; 2) Adaptistration; 3) The Artful Manager; 4) The Rest is Noise

Four of your favorite foods: 1) anything chocolate; 2) anything with seafood; 3) did I mention chocolate?; 4) anything I personally don't have to cook

Four places you'd rather be: Geez, I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be. I am officially terminally boring.

Back to Work Tomorrow!

Apologies to those who weren't fortunate enough to get a midwinter break. Mine was worth its weight in gold. Now to find a way to bottle the serenity and dispense it next summer...