Quiet time

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. This is mostly because I don’t have that much to say at the moment. I’ve been practicing sporadically and my chops are suffering for it. While I had expected to have time during this break from my normal routine to practice a lot, I’ve found myself caught up in family stuff. I’ve been averaging a meager 45 minutes to an hour a day and I’ve missed a day or two as well. So I’ve managed to lose lots of endurance over the holiday break. Sigh.

I’ve also found myself a bit bored with what I’m practicing and I think this due to several things. One, I’m not playing very well and that’s depressing and frustrating. I like the music that I’m working on a lot but it really isn’t fun when I miss more notes than I get. Two, when I’m only playing for 45 minutes most of that time is taken up by my warm-up which I’m getting pretty sick of. I’m going to have to, at the very least, change the order of what I play for my warm-up. Part of my problem with my warm-up is that it’s turned into something I do by rote just to get through it. Not good. Then there’s my latest problem – D above third space C through G are flat. I’ve been doing something differently over the past two weeks that’s causing this and I can’t figure out how to fix it. I don’t think it’s an air support problem but who knows, it could be. The rest of my range is okay.

Perhaps bored isn’t exactly the right word. Maybe saying my enthusiasm has waned just a bit is more appropriate. Hopefully when the holidays are over and my schedule gets back to normal my horn playing will also get back to normal.

Happy holidays to everyone!

Breakthrough? –>

Downs and ups

The past couple of weeks have been tumultuous to say the least. Finding time to practice was difficult but I did manage to put in around 40 minutes daily except for one day when I didn’t play at all. Just one day. Well you’d think I hadn’t picked up the horn in months by the way I played for several days after that one day of rest.

I think I’ve discovered a trend. If I back off my usual two hours of practice per day, or heaven forbid, skip a day, I play poorly for several days after. Then I get a bit better than I was before my lapse in practicing. When I read my practice notes from way back I noticed that every time I missed a day or more of practice I suffered for it. What’s hard to understand is how some of my fellow band members manage to play quite well – decent tone, only a few missed notes, etc. – each week at rehearsal without picking up their horn during the week. They walk in, toot a few notes as a warmup if they aren’t late, and get through an entire rehearsal. And this is band so we play non-stop for the whole rehearsal.

I was talking to my horn teacher last week about this and we thought this might be a ‘the more you play, the more you need to play’ problem. In other words, the muscles in my chops are used to playing a couple of hours a day every day and consequently, need to be used a couple hours a day. This is different than the typical weight training schedule of working one group of muscles one day and resting them the next day. For most things rest is usually helpful. This doesn’t seem to be true for me when it comes to playing the horn. Do any of you experience anything like this? Will I get to a point where I can take a day off and not pay for it with several days of poor horn playing?

My schedule eases off after an orchestra concert tonight so I should be able to practice everyday and stick to a plan. When I have band rehearsals I don’t practice for more than 40 minutes, if that, in order to save my chops for the rehearsal. I don’t have rehearsals again until the first week in January.  It will be interesting to see if several weeks of very consistent practicing will make a noticeable improvement.

Quiet time –>

Passing on

My mom passed away Saturday morning. I’m posting about her because I think many younger musicians probably don’t know about her. This is her bio from the Groves Dictionary of Music.

“Ludmila Ulehla: b Flushing, NY, 20 May 1923). American composer, pianist and teacher of Czech descent. She began writing music at the age of five and later studied at the Manhattan School of Music (BMus 1946, MMus 1947), where her composition teacher was Vittorio Giannini. She became a professor at the Manhattan School in 1947 and was chairperson of the composition department there from 1970 to 1989; she received the President’s Medal for Distinguished Faculty Service from the school in 1998. Additionally she taught at the Hoff-Barthelson Music School, Scarsdale, New York (1968–91), and acted as chairperson of the American Society of University Composers (1972–3) and programme chairperson for the National Association for American Composers and Conductors (1967–74). She has received awards and grants from ASCAP and Meet the Composer. Although Ulehla’s musical language is contemporary, the legacy of the classical canon as well as Slav influences have clearly contributed to its evolution. Her works are tonal, but are not organized by key; emphasis is given to the function of phrases rather than bar-lines, and the balance of contrast and unity helps to articulate formal structures. Her writings include Contemporary Harmony: Romanticism through the Twelve-Tone Row (New York, 1966/R).”

In addition to the Groves bio, Manhattan School of Music also includes this information:

“Ludmila Ulehla’s commissions include a work for the Stony Brook Contemporary Chamber Players that was premiered in 1998, as well as such past works as Gargoyles for Hindell; Michelangelo for Orchestral Society of Westchester; Remembrances for Heifetz; and Unrolling a Chinese Scroll for Schefflien. Ms. Ulehla has been named Outstanding Educator in Who’s Who of American Women, named in the New Grove Dictionary of Women Composers, and has received ASCAP awards. Her chamber opera, Sybil of the American Revolution, was premiered in 1993; and in 1999, Undersea Fantasy for Orchestra was premiered by the Manhattan School of Music Philharmonia under the direction of David Gilbert. Her publications, printed by Advance Music, include the books Contemporary Harmony and Sonata for Improvisation for clarinet, soprano saxophone, and piano. Ludmila Ulehla has been honored for her valuable half-century devotion and contribution to Manhattan School of Music through the awarding of the School’s first Presidential Award for Distinguished Service in 1998.”

There will be a celebration of her life at the Manhattan School of Music this spring. We are also establishing a scholarship for composition students in her name.

Downs and ups –>