You Can't Cram Viola

I've had an odd sort of day. I woke up and was exceedingly productive, checking off item after item on my "get done before school starts again" list (already being a week overdue, it was time to get things done!), enjoying my coffee, and listening to music. I paid bills and answered myriad emails, uploaded syllabi to Blackboard, and did bowings for the upcoming MSO concert. Finally at 1 PM I broke for "breakfast," which really was lunch, and then I started practicing.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I'm in surprisingly good playing shape for the start of the year, as I have a recital in a few days. Generally it takes me a few weeks to get my chops back into working order after summer vacation, but having had a rather uneventful summer, I kept practicing and am in good shape. One of my students wants to learn the Brahms f minor sonata, which I haven't played since 2005. I told him I'd best go over the fingerings and bowings in my part before I lend it to him to reference, and did so today. I was pleased with my ability to rather deftly get through a difficult work I haven't touched in ten years. I even updated a few fingering and bowing choices, and cleaned up the part a bit.

I then sight read a few of the Fuchs Character Etudes that another of my students wants to play, and looked at a few pieces from Brazil. Then I did some "actual practice," (i.e. work on my recital repertoire!), and finally at around 4:30 decided to get some exercise.

I rode my bike to the public library to return a book, and then to the BSU gym to go rock climbing. As many of you know, I love to rock climb. It's an incredible work out, and is a lot of fun. My good friend introduced me to it while I was still a doctoral student at the University of North Texas, and in the past years I've tried to keep up my skills. But one of the problems with Muncie is that it is rather flat. There isn't anywhere to go climbing on real rocks (the closest area is the Red River Gorge in Kentucky, a good 4 hour drive away), and the climbing community isn't as tight knit here as it was at UNT. Despite this, I content myself with the Ball Wall. It's a good wall, and the staff are friendly. I've even made a few friends there. But I didn't climb all summer, so I'm in bad shape.

I got on a few easy/moderate routes and found my lack of upper body strength frustrating and exhausting. I wasn't having a good climbing day at all. I kept falling on routes I would have been able to ascend without any problems a few months ago. In musical terms, it was like being able to play Hindemith and Brahms sonatas, and now not being able to sight read nor even problem solve something in Suzuki book 3.

I left the Wall feeling dejected, riding home slowly. I kept thinking about my climbing experience today, and how I'd gone to the Wall excited to get back on the horse. My experience there wasn't fun at all. It was frustrating and embarrassing, and I'm sad about having lost skills that I used to have.

As I say to my students, "you can't cram viola," and it's clearly true for climbing too. Instead of letting myself stay defeated, I'll get back on the Wall in a few days, and start working my way through the kinks. I know what I was once capable of achieving, and though it'll probably take a while to get there, at least I can have fun in the process of increasing my skills now that I've gotten the initial frustration and embarrassment out. It's back to basics for this out of shape climber!

Happy practicing!



BSU Begins

On Monday, classes began at Ball State. The summer went by quickly, filled with moving boxes, moving hassles (including a tow truck towing the 26-foot Penske truck that was towing James' car), new house woes (all worked out now!), a quick vacation to West Virginia, and a week of orientation activities before classes started six days ago. It has been a whirlwind month, but finally I feel more-or-less settled in our house and in my office. It is a beautiful office. I cannot get over the amazing facilities in which I now work! What an incredibly pleasant place to go to work every day.

And I finally have time to really practice again. I am preparing for a recital in early October, and have spent a good portion of this day off (!) working on some of the pieces I'll be performing. More than the rest, I find myself playing the Reger Solo Suite No. 2 in D major, which I utterly love. I truly enjoyed working on the First suite for my recital at Tech last October, and am, again, truly enjoying working on this second Suite. What amazing music. I'll have to prepare the Third for my next recital. :)

I think my favorite part of being a string player is the ability to play multiple sustained notes at the same time. I can accompany myself, and especially appreciate doing it to the refined music Reger composed in these Solo Suites for Viola.

Happy practicing, indeed! 

Back to normal.

After the excitement of Monday, I just couldn't get myself to report on the daily happenings of yesterday. So here I am after a day's break in blogging, and while I don't have amazing experiences with world-famous artists to report, I think I had a pretty good day.

Wednesdays, in general, are an "easy" day, in that I only teach three lessons, have quartet rehearsal, and teach studio class. So I taught three productive lessons today, and actually had a very productive quartet rehearsal, even though one member was out of town.

Studio class was the highlight of my day. Almost all of my students played, and each of them is already progressing in their playing. What I was very proud to see was the especially-prone-to-performance-anxiety students get up in front of their peers, and PERFORM. It's not easy for a lot of people, so Studio is there for us to work out the kinks in a warm and supportive environment, and almost everyone embraced that opportunity.

To finish out the day, I finally I went back to the Rec Center! It had been days, and it was much needed. I ran just over two miles on the track again, and think I'll start trying to increase my length of time running, instead of counting laps around the track to tally distance. I also finally went back to the climbing wall. It feels like eons since I've been climbing, so it was good to get back to it. I am pretty weak in my forearms, but I was happy to see I still had some "moves" left. The guy I was climbing with complemented me on a specific move I did to get a high right foot. That was nice, and made me feel better about my otherwise total lack of climbing!

So, I think perhaps these next few weeks will be "regular," whatever that means in academia! It will be nice to have a week where nothing in my schedule changes-- we'll see if that actually works out!

Happy practicing!

A good Friday!

I'll be honest, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed today. But I had to be at Convocation at 9 AM, so I dragged myself to work (with a large coffee in tow-- that helped). Convocation was delightfully funny, which apparently is a departure from the norm. The College of Visual and Performing Arts dean and chairs dressed up in costume and rapped and pranced around the stage. It was hilarious.

Then I had a productive meeting with Jeffrey Lastrapes, head of the string department, and I feel better about some of the non-viola-teaching/playing things I need to do. Then I came home for a brief but productive practice session. I am convinced that my Reger fingering is a good one for me, except it's still a bit tricky to get in tune at the recapitulation. Good thing I still have a few weeks before my recital to get it right!

And then I went to the movies. I'm usually not a political person, but my father insisted that I see 2016: Obama's America, and I'm glad I did. It provided food for thought.

Afterwards, I met with a new private student who shows so much potential! I'm looking forward to our next lesson.

And I finally rounded out my day with a trip to the Rec Center. Had a great cardio workout, and even managed to get a few good climbs in!

So, all in all, a perfect day! I got to do almost all of my favorite things: laugh, play viola, be entertained and educated, teach viola, and climb! I hope that the next time I wake up grumpy my day turns out as exceptional as today did.

Till next time, happy practicing!