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!



Field of Flags

A few weeks ago, James got me an excellently wonderful gift: a brand new road bike! A really special feature of this part of the country is the Cardinal Greenway.  It is a 62-mile converted railroad that is closed to motorized vehicles. In Muncie, very near our house, the White River Greenway connects to the Cardinal Greenway, and I have been going for bike rides on my awesome new bike.

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While I've never even gotten close to the full trail, I am getting faster and better at road biking, and I really enjoy it. This evening I came across a beautiful sight at Muncie's Minnetrista Cultural Center.


It is a field of flags, in honor of those fallen during and after the September 11th attacks.   I found this both spectacularly beautiful, and quite touching. I still distinctly remember that day, nearly 12 years ago, and am moved to find myself in a community, so far from where the attacks occurred, memorializing America's fallen.

I added another feather to Muncie's cap this morning:  I won tickets to Saturday's Ball State football game (against Army!) simply for listening to Indiana Public Radio. How much more patriotic can today get? The promise of free football followed by a field of flags? Sometimes I find myself distinctly proud to be an American. Today is one of those days.

Happy practicing.


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!


Yesterday was a great day. I slept in (oh my, how I needed that!), woke up refreshed and happy, cooked a super yummy omelet for breakfast, and started practicing. After about an hour and a half of getting to know my LSO music better, I headed to the Rec Center.

I actually ran two full miles on the track, averaging about a 9.5 minute mile. It's not fast or glorious, but I'm happy with my slow progress back to being a runner. Then I climbed stairs for 35 minutes, and ended out my workout by strength training my legs and abs. A very good session.

I came home for a shower, some more practice, and another super yummy meal. My, how nice weekends are! I can actually cook! And finally I headed to TTU for my very first LSO rehearsal. It was great fun! I was actually surprised when our conductor, David Cho called break time. I think it's going to be a great year with LSO, and I am so very excited about playing with Yo-Yo Ma tomorrow! 

After rehearsal I went to a new friend's house, where I had a few raw figs from her fig tree. I'd never had a raw fig before, but they're delicious! What a treat. She even gave me a few to take home and enjoy today.


It was a wonderful day. Now I'm gearing up for two LSO rehearsals and some editing of a student's DMA paper. No time to get to the Rec Center today, unfortunately. Ah well, I'm glad I got a great workout in yesterday.

Happy practicing!

Ready for the week!

I did get to bed early last night, and slept well. I woke up well rested, and got straight to practicing (after brewing some coffee). I started off with the usual open strings and scales (oh how I miss my bow! Can I say that a few more times before it gets annoying?) and then launched in to my LSO music. I spent a good half hour picking apart Dvorak's Slavonic Dance No. 1. It's in B major, and there are a lot of really uncomfortable notes... And then I realized it was the wrong Dance. We'll be playing Nos 2 and 7. Brilliant. Well, at least I got my brain working. Hah!

This afternoon I went back to the Rec Center for an excellent cardio workout. I've slowly been building up my running stamina, so today I ran 15 loops around the track. Next time will be 16, and then I'll be a half-loop shy of 2 miles. There was a period a few months ago where I was running 4-5 miles a few times per week. But a long hot summer of no running has me back to basics. It's getting better though, and I'm finding the enjoyment again. Then I did 35 minutes on the stair climber. I love the stair climber!

And finally I decided to try out the outdoor lazy river. It was really nice. I can see that being a great place to go with friends. I even bumped in to one of my colleagues! But it was a quick visit, because I had to get home to do more work, including getting my visa application set so that I can go to Brazil next month. I'm so excited!

So, there are still a few hours of viable evening left, so I'm off to practice some more. I'm really looking forward to the meat of my job-- teaching! I start tomorrow.

Happy practicing!