Saturday, May 26, 2007

Rocky Mountain Rejection/Honolulu Hook

0 for 3
I got back from Denver earlier this week and auditioned for Honolulu (in Chicago) yesterday. Won't bore you with the details. Suffice it to say few people were being advanced at either site and I was among the many.

(1) Driving and walking around downtown Chicago is always a blast (coming from rural Zwingle). There are so many people that I go into social-sensory overload. And the cab drivers'll run you up on the sidewalk as sure as look at you!

(2) Thanks to Pops for splitting the roadtrip/audition tour with me. The highpoint was seeing my great aunt and uncle and meeting my first cousin once removed and second cousins in Colorado (I think I've got that right). It reminds me that I come from good stock all around.

(3) Tomorrow is the Madison Marathon. I'm going to cheer on my younger brother and my sister in-law who are both trying to qualify for Boston. I'm not bummed at all about having to drop out of the race. It was the right thing to do and I'll get a better chance at it down the road. Hi-dee-ho!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

One down. Five to go.

You know the saying about New York?

"If you can make it there you can make it anywhere!"

Well might there be an inverse one about Sioux Falls, South Dakota?

"If you can't make it here, quit trying!"

No luck for me in the city which is mostly remembered by people, if it is remembered at all, for simultaneous floods and fires. It was a nice surprise to see Spot in the middle of nowhere (would you really give up a nice "cushy" opera gig in Europe to play in South Dakota?!) and my friend SM, both of whom advanced (Yeah!! Who won guys?).

I did not advance (pisser). Generally speaking, when the first note out of the horn is fracked, that's a bad sign. Other things were going well but just too many chips here and there and everywhere. I was waiting for the proctor to ask the committee if they needed more salsa!

I am glad my friends got to stick around a bit longer. I just wish I was able to as well. In part because I know they are good horn players and so, by association, if I were among them in the later rounds I must be a good horn player too.

Instead I sit sulking somewhere in the middle of Nebraska en route to Denver for stop #2 on Spring Audition Tour '07. To paraphrase Sinatra, "Ya can't cheat the notes. Ya gotta sing um." Here's hoping I hit a few more of those notes next Tuesday. (pisser)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Small Sad World

I was just checking some other horn player blogs for the week and came upon the sad news of KM's tragic death, along with that of his fiance and the other plane crash victims. I spent a summer in Austria with K and can attest to his gregarious spirit, generous and warm manner, and wonderful musicianship. I remember his method for auditioning. He would play every excerpt from memory while closing his eyes and visualizing being conducted through it. I ran into him once more since then in Ann Arbor, MI for an audition for the symphony there a few years back. We caught up in a very friendly manner even though I called him 'Chris' upon first seeing him again. He then proceeded to kick mine and everyone else's butt and win the position.

Season Ending Stock-Taking

The seasons have all ended. In a great way, too, with back to back Tchaikovsky symphonies. And if you ever get a chance to see and hear this group do not hesitate. They were the real highpoint of our last concert in my opinion. The bass player can also be heard here. And, of course, with the close of each performance season comes the expected ruminations on where you've been and where you're going. That's the point, after all.

I remember a particular run around my block in rural Zwingle (about 9 miles) when the weather was warming considerably. Grass was straightening and greening, trees were budding, birds were flitting and flirting. But, in addition to the Spring rejuvenation going on all around, the newly vanished highway ditch-snow revealed Winter's carnage and debris. Freeze dried deer carcasses. Deep skid ruts from careening SUVs and the odd jackknifed semi. All manner of refuse collected, suspended inanimately for months and deposited like a glacier garbage moraine after the thaw. Notable among this refuse: Piss bombs. I even remember trying to compose a poem about it on the run.

Still Life with Piss Bombs

Matted carcass sleeps,
Eternally withering,
Amongst golden vessels of relief
And a rusted riveter.
Five syllables here.

The warm rains of Spring bring with them the potential for new growth but they also wash away the cold cover for Winter's accumulated detritus. All to say, sometimes personal growth reveals some of the less pretty things about your life more clearly. Or some shit like that.

This season I won several minor-league auditions firming up a nice freelance “career” but have failed thus far in my attempts at a full-time gig. I fell hard for a wonderful woman but ultimately, in the fantastically apt words of my friend AS, got kicked to the curb. I ran some good races and got in a lot of nice training runs but bonked in the preparation for a sub-3:00 marathon (knees, schedule, weather... excuses!). I have more summer playing lined up than I did last season but don't have a real summer gig.


This summer, in some order of priority:

(1) Audition preparation. While I did get to play on stage at Symphony Hall in Boston, and did well (until the Schönberg! ugh.) the only unqualified audition successes this season were local. I need to start advancing at auditions for full-time gigs. This probably means playing excerpts for everyone and anyone who'll listen critically and give candid advice. Aw hell! Anyone who'll listen, period!

(2) Get up off the curb. Raleigh's change of heart was just a thorn on a great big, beautiful rose... which was ripped from my hand. At least I know the old ticker still works like it used to. In the immortal words of George Costanza, “I'm back baby! I'm back!” Of course George also pontificated, “Every woman on the face of the Earth has complete control over my life, yet I want them all. Is that irony?”

(3) Start planning for next summer this summer! Summer gigs are few in number to be sure (paying ones, anyway) but if I get going on it sooner I'll give myself a much better shot. Help me out here. I will form a summer gig list in a subsequent post and examine the options in detail. Please submit your favorites, reader!

(4) S-l-o-w-l-y get ready for a nice fall marathon. Maybe Chicago. I'll definitely put together a little racing season this summer. I didn't run all last Winter just to sit around in the Summer.

In the mean time I'm heading off on a little audition tour (South Dakota on Saturday, then on to Denver and Chicago next week) and will update from the road if possible. I know I'm on the right route. Just gotta keep on truckin'. No time for a rest stop so just let the piss bombs fly!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Wireless Ramble

I'm taking a practice break here at Drake University, watching the goldfinches dart between the trees in the quad like little yellow torpedoes. The semester must have wound to a close this week as all the rooms save one are unoccupied. Just a lone class piano student hammering away at Chopin's E-minor Prelude. It's the same one I memorized for one of my class piano juries.

The practice rooms here have these great big back-sloping windows which look out over the campus. They make me feel like I'm on the bridge of a destroyer or in an air traffic control tower or something. The rooms have a good sound but are very leaky. If someone is practicing next door it is like they are playing right into your ear. Still, aside from the sound proofing and the distracting view, I would rate them among the best I've used.

This evening I've booked myself so tight that after finishing a concert at the Hotel Fort Des Moines I'll just have time to stuff my horn in my gig bag, bell sticking out, and race 7 blocks to the civic center for a Tchaik 4 rehearsal. For some reason I love when things like that happen. Running from one downtown venue to another. I wish every day could be that packed with communal music making. And usually it isn't 7 blocks but 7 counties between gigs. I swear I'm paid much more to chauffeur myself around than to play horn.

To give you some idea of how much driving is entailed in freelancing in the Midwest (outside of Chicago, that is), yesterday I put new tires on my car. This is the second set in 16 months and I ran them near bald. They will be paid for by part of my tax refund which itself is largely due to 30,000 deducted business miles last year. And keep in mind I don't do much work related driving in the summer so that comes to about 10k miles every three months or about 100 miles a day. If you want to do this kind of work you had better enjoy your car... a lot! That's enough stream of consciousness for today.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Faux Fab Four

We played a couple bogus-Beatles pops concerts in CR a few weekends ago with these guys. I like the Beatles but I'm no expert. I talked to some people who are big fans and their assessment was that these guys are exactly like the original band; the same vocal inflections (they are all Americans faking the Liverpool accent); “Ringo” had the same drum fills as the real Ringo; They looked a lot like the fab four and wore “historically accurate” costumes throughout the show. I even think they interacted with the audience consistently (Harrison saluting, Lennon waving, etc.)

It was the second time in a year that I got to play with these guys (once last July with the QCSO) and I think all were the best pops shows I've ever played. The audience, obviously being taken on a nostalgic roller coaster ride, was ecstatic at each sold-out show. I think this was the first time I've ever seen a symphony orchestra audience wave their lit cellphones back and forth during a concert. (It was during “Hey Jude”. Well, okay. The conductor had to egg them on by getting his out and waving it at them first. But he had a symphony-concert-cellphone taboo to overcome!)

I'm certain this was the first time I ever did the twist on stage during a concert when the entire orchestra cut loose during one of the encores. Well, almost the entire orchestra. One horn player and the trumpets and trombones were being wallflowers. But everyone else was twisting and shouting with their cellos, clarinets, violins and each other. The audience loved it. ("Ha-Ha! Lookit the stuffy orchestra acting all silly!") We should have tried it again during the last movement of Tchaik 5 the next weekend. And props to our principal trumpet for the season, AC, who nailed the piss out of the "Penny Lane" solo every freakin' time.

One unfortunate side affect: I wasn't able to get “Let It Be” out of my head for days... and they didn't even sing that one!

Neglected Blog

"The sky is clearing, the thermometer is rising (slowly) and the water in the basement is falling (even more slowly). The European starlings outside my windows are busily gathering dry long-grass for nests. Jays are screeching, robins are worm-hunting, red-wing blackbirds are dive bombing and cardinals are belting it out, divas that they are. (Or should that be "divos"? The males do all the coloratura.) Spring is here! "

I've been neglecting my blog quite a bit this spring. This is easy to do since I don't have an Internet connection from my country home (other than email/some web surfing through my cell phone). I try to frequent a Hy-Vee in whatever town I'm in (they sometimes have wireless in the deli) but those visits can be spotty. I do write posts but they often don't seem to make it past the editing stage and eventually they become too dated to bother publishing (e.g. this post's opening paragraph). I will do better. Honest.

In reality the sun is setting after a hot May day in Des Moines where I am rehearsing all week for the season closer (Tchaik 4) this weekend. I'm enjoying the amenities of this second home, including wireless so I should be able to make up for lost blogging time over the next few days. In consulting my archives it seems I've come full circle and not really gotten anywhere!

Soooo I might as well post some old stuff even if it isn't current. Like NBC used to announce when they were trying to flog viewers into watching repeats: "If you haven't seen it, it's new to you!"