Friday, December 18, 2009

Winter Break!

Hey ya'll, it's been a while since I posted in here last. Been super busy with school--percussion concert, Cynthia Yeh masterclass, Tom Freer masterclass, etc etc. All of which went really well! All and all it was a great semester for me. Music for Pieces of Wood, which I mentioned in my last post, went really well--and helped my arms out a lot. My marimba-related problems are getting a lot better too, even though they're still somewhat present. My physical therapist seemed to find the part of my arm that was causing the problems, so I've only seen improvement since.

My grad school plans have changed a lot since the last update as well. I had a long talk with Bob about what my options were, and he pretty much left me with two options: I audition for Yale this year and get in, or I don't get in and try again next year. He seemed to think taking a semester off might actually be a bad idea, and going to a different grad school first would just leave me exhausted. He told me he thought I was ready, and he didn't think I would be playing that much more at Yale than I am here now. Him saying that definitely gave me a lot more hope, so I'm feeling pretty optimistic now. All I have to do is get this freakin' recital ready first!

I'm back home in Connecticut now, on my new laptop. Just flew in this evening, actually. This computer is super awesome--it's a Toshiba running Windows Vista. However, it came with a free mail-in upgrade to Windows 7! I am super excited about that. I recently got a job working at RadioShack (to fill in the slow winter season on Spirit Cruises right now), and found this there on clearance. This computer is a huge improvement from my last one, and I'm excited about all the music I'll (hopefully) be able to create with it. I need to get my Dwelling of Duels entry ready for Magfest!

Not much to say here, really. Or rather, too much to say in one blog post. Mainly just wanted to indicate to you all (and myself) that I'm still alive!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Grad School

I'm over halfway into this semester now, and I'm beginning to realize that I probably wont be able to learn my recital rep in time for my recital...whenever that's going to be. I guess we'll see what happens. My arms are way better than they were after the So incident now... but unfortunately there's still something wrong with my right arm. It mainly bothers me when I play marimba, but I even noticed it while playing Music for Pieces of Wood by Steve Reich yesterday (I'm beginning to find that my favorite composer may actually be my body's greatest foe). I guess I'll just have to keep doing what I'm doing, and wait and see what happens.

As I think ahead to auditioning for grad school next year, I've found myself having to explore more possibilities than just "I want to go to Yale." In fact, I'd say it's turned into something more like "I want to go to _____ so I can get ready for Yale." Yale is still my dream, and I know I can make it there someday if I have enough time... but how do I have enough time?

There are two ways that this year can end. I graduate, and get into Yale (or have reason to believe that I could be there very soon), or I graduate and don't get into Yale (or have reason to believe I couldn't be there very soon). Either way, I think I want to take a year off in between college and grad school. My arms are getting better every day, but I'm going to need to be playing way more per day than I am now. I'm just about caught up to what I consider to be the "Peabody average", or the amount of time you need to practice to stay on track here, but I know Yale will add a good 2-3 hours at least to whatever that is. A year off would give me a lot of time to prepare for the physical demands grad school will have.

If I get in to Yale this year (or if Bob recommends I wait until next year to audition), I'll spend my year off in Connecticut. Before school starts, I'd want to try to find work and be able to start building/rebuilding all of the Connecticut connections that I could have. That means playing jazz gigs again, trying to work more closely with the school systems, possibly doing the ARC program (Alternate Route to Certification) and becoming certified to teach, continuing to try to build a teaching reputation around the town and getting a steady job--music related or not. Of course, I'll be practicing throughout all of this, possibly even getting lessons from whoever I can...but without the stress of the regular playing commitments being in college presents.

If I do not get into Yale (or Bob recommends that I don't audition), I just began seriously considering doing my (first!) masters at the University of Miami in jazz vibraphone. Svet Stoyanov, who taught me for two years at Peabody, just started his job as the professor of percussion down there--in my last conversation with him, he remarked about how serious the jazz program seemed. The more I think about it, this could be a great opportunity to really polish my jazz chops and re-identify with that part of my musical personality--but still keep my classical chops in place by taking lessons with Svet. Plus, who could say no to two years in Miami? If that all goes well, I could audition for Yale after those two years and possibly be in even better shape for the audition than I would be otherwise. If I go down this track, I'd want to spend my year off in Baltimore--I've got so much work lined up here, as well as a great apartment, it would be silly to leave it and start the job search all over again in Connecticut. I'll also have more flexibility to go home more often throughout the year.

Of course, this could all backfire in my face, and I could end up at Yale next year. Or I could end up with a real job next year. Or I could end up in another country for whatever reason next year. Maybe I'll go to school for composition. Maybe the band I just joined will make it big and I'll be a rock star. Maybe I'll develop telekinesis. Who knows.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

More Tendon crap

It's been 3 weeks since I hurt myself playing with So Percussion, and today I started to feel actual pain while playing. I know I whine about this a lot here, but it really concerns me. I don't really have time to take off from playing this year, so I need this to pass. I'm seeing my therapist again on Friday, so hopefully he can help me out.

Even though Thursdays are my busiest days, I'm going to try to start moving tomorrow. I have to teach jazz ear training in the morning, then go to orchestra until 5:30, but after I eat dinner maybe I can find some time to move stuff before I go to choir rehearsal at 7. I guess it's only an hour, but hey--it's a start. I'll start moving stuff for real on Friday.

I can't wait to get out of this apartment--even though I love it. The last month here has been a real struggle--the building's completely empty, the ceiling is falling apart and I have had no motivation to keep the place clean--simply because I'm leaving soon. But I'm really going to miss this place. I have a lot of fond memories about this apartment, even though it was basically my tendinitis jail cell. I wish I could go back to the beginning of my junior year of college. I was at school practicing all day (with no pain!), would get to hang out with all my friends there, and then come home to my roommate mixing rum and cokes and playing Wii sports. What a great time! Hanging out with him was awesome, practicing all day was awesome... I wish I hadn't spent so much of that time being sad about the break-up I went through over the summer. Of course, then the pain kicked in at the beginning of November... and the rest is history.

But even still: re-arranging furniture, getting plants, playing Chrono Cross with the windows open in the springtime, reading on my roof, jamming with Nick, and heck, getting drunk just because we could. I'll probably even miss doing dishes with a dishwasher (new place doesn't have one!) All of these things are memories now, but they are memories that I will hold close for the rest of my life. Even the little things. Especially the little things.

By the way, I'm an unbelievably nostalgic person.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Just got back from another basketball game... pulled something in my neck almost immediately (can't look to the left right now), but it was fun to run around and stuff. I might be going to Philly to see the orchestra play Berlioz' Symphoy Fantastique tomorrow or Saturday, not sure yet. I was going to run the Baltimore 5K on Saturday morning, but it sold out right before my boss called me to confirm that I had that morning off. Go figure.

I don't know how other people experience this sort of thing (or even if they do), but I've always been fairly keen on what one would call "gut feelings". For me, it's just something that lingers in the background of whatever your thinking of... but sometimes, if you notice it, it will be glaringly obvious how a situation will turn out. It could be as stupid as a game of rock-paper-scissors, bringing your hand down and thinking "oh, I'm going to win this one" (which you do), or as crazy as Kei Maeda (a fellow percussionist at Peabody who doesn't really play basketball) dribbling a basketball at half-court, saying "I'm going to make this one. I feel it." (He made that half-court shot--and only that one).

The fact of the matter is, at least for me, they're there. You can't look for it, you can't fabricate it--it's just there, and you have to get lucky enough to notice it. It was the feeling I had going into my senior year of school--I thought my hands were good enough to go back to playing, but something just didn't feel right. Turns out, I wasn't ready to go back into playing full time. Same thing happened this year, and I was in way better shape than last year. Something just didn't feel right, and lo and behold--I injured myself playing with So.

But today, while playing snare drum, I caught myself thinking about how happy I was to be playing back in the studio, with Vikki (another percussionist, obviously) also playing in the room next to me. We both would always be practicing at the same time before we got injured, and it was nice to be doing it again. Then all the sudden, the thought crossed my mind:

"I'll really look forward to it next semester, when I'm completely healed."

That's when I realized...that gut anxiety I've had is gone. Even though I'm injured right now, it's gone. Suddenly it was just granted that everything would be back to normal. That normally doesn't happen that way, at least for me.

I dunno. I think a sign is a sign. I'm going to heed that sign...I like what it's saying. Of course, I'll still be careful--that's part of the deal. But I'll keep my head up, shoulders back, and just keep moving forward.

Just as soon as I get my neck looked at. Ow.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Music and exercise

I just got back from a soccer game over at Hopkins. It was like, twelve of us from Peabody against a simple six man team from Hopkins. They creamed us, 8-0. But it was so much fun!

I'm realizing how important it is, as a musician, to get exercise. From the mental perspective, being shut into Peabody for so long really does a number on you, and sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to get out and run around. I've been in a slump lately, and this helped so much.

The physical side is super important as well though, and for me probably the most important. My right arm, for the moment, feels great. All that blood flow really does the body good. A warm muscle is a happy muscle, and my muscles really need that blood to keep them warm and help them heal. We'll see how it feels tomorrow, but for the time being I am happy.

I wish I could say the same for my right leg, though. My IT band is giving me the same pain that I have to deal with every once and a while. I'm pretty sure at this point I have some sort of predisposition to overuse injury, and I'd love to find out what it is.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Clever commercials

So I was watching Heroes today, and a commercial for some toy train set by Playskool came on. At least I think it was Playskool. Whatever. Anyway, the jingle for the commercial went "Play, Laugh, Grow", and the notes were something like "D, A, C". But being the nerd I am, I instinctively began singing it in solfege syllables. "Re, La, Do!"

Do you see the connection?!

Anyway, I played for the first time since So was here today. Wasn't too bad, but my arm still doesn't feel great. I hope it gets better soon. I think it will--it's not hurting anymore, so I know that's better. But it still feels pretty weak.

I'm trying to get my life as a whole super organized, now that I have some time to do that. To start, I've changed my active email address from to Honestly, the biggest reason I wanted to switch to Gmail is because I liked the idea of being able to delete Thunderbird off my computer. Don't get me wrong, I think Thunderbird is a great program. But if I'm using Internet Explorer, I want to use Outlook Express for email. If I'm using Firefox for browsing, I want Thunderbird as my email. But I use Google Chrome as a browser now, and Google doesn't have a client-side email application. Honestly, I freakin' love Google. I use Google Chrome, Google Pages, Google Calendar... heck, YouTube and Blogger are also owned by Google. If Google takes over the world and suddenly I find myself under a worldwide dictatorship, so be it. At least I'll be able to find my shit.

My laptop is on it's way out, unfortunately. The power jack is failing more and more, the longer it's on... I have a feeling by the end of this week it will become completely unresponsive. I need to purchase a new power jack and have someone replace it for me (unless I want to try to replace it myself, but that's risky). Once I do that, I need to replace the battery. After that, I need to fix my iPod. After that, I need to repossess my desktop and fill it with memory/ram. If I can do all of that, I will reorganize my software and keep my laptop for personal stuff (homework, email, browsing, and of course chatting), and use my desktop strictly for music and perhaps some gaming (like I have time to do that anymore anyway). Apparently desktops are way more stable than laptops in general when it comes to music stuff, and if I can get the right upgrades my desktop should do me a lot of good.

I actually really miss playing video games. It's weird... during the school year, I'm pretty much scared of playing them because I assume there's something more important I need to do. However, it's one of those things that really helps me blow off steam from the stresses of school. I guess everyone needs a hobby, and gaming for me isn't like how it is for most basement-dwelling 20-30 year olds who got their degree in computer science so that they could use irc in all of their classes. Every game I play, I'm playing it like it's a form of art--listening to the music, seeing how it interacts with the artwork, the gameplay, how the art interacts with the gameplay and the script, how the script interacts with the music, etc. The game to best achieve this balance for me is by far Cave Story (or Dokutsu Monogatari, if you are Japaneasily inclined). Closest thing to a perfect game you'll ever play.

Of course, writing blog posts like this aren't really much of a better use of my time. I guess at least I'm writing, which is something you're supposed to be good at.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Busy weekends!

It's funny, seems like the weekend is the busiest time of the week for me! I guess if I had to choose between a two day work week versus a five day work week, my decision would be pretty obvious.

Haven't really played since the So Percussion incident, with the exception of a few triangle notes in PSO (for our concert tonight!) Worked until about 4 or so, went to the library to check out some scores, and started going through Strauss' Burleske in D minor with the recording and my part. I figure if I can't play right now, I better be able to understand this music inside and out.

I'm pretty worried about how I'm going to keep up this year. I'm probably playing Village Burial in December, I have a recital in February (well, technically in November but I highly doubt it's going to be ready by then... I'm probably going to take an incomplete), an audition for Yale in March or April, and between then and now I just want to get really good. However, I feel like I can't keep up with everything. I definitely couldn't afford to take this break, I'm barely keeping up with my VB part (thank god for the chanting sections), I haven't found half of my setup for ...And Points North (theater piece by Stuart Saunders Smith), I haven't played marimba in like a week, and I've only finished one page of Omar (vibraphone piece by Franco Donatoni) when I'm supposed to have the notes to the first movement learned by the time Bob gets back. On top of that, I've got a whole slew of snare drum stuff that I need to learn for David Skidmore (Bob's teaching assistant), and four major orchestral works on timpani. Personally, snare drum is the most important to me right now, because it's my weakest discipline. However, academically, everything else is more important! Argh.

My right arm is feeling a lot better since Thursday. I went to therapy Friday morning (which helped a lot) and have been resting it since then, so hopefully I can start using it again soon. It still feels weak (which is strange, I'm not used to my left arm feeling stronger than my right), but I think I'll be back into playing soon. Just gotta stay smart!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Who knows.

Funny how things work out. Yesterday, my left arm was super tired. But today, it feels fine. However, after another full day of playing Drumming, my right arm is feeling pretty bad. I'm gonna have to take the weekend off from playing, unfortunately. Hopefully, by then, it'll be all healed up and ready to go. Who knows.

Teaching jazz ear training was fine this morning, even though I had to miss pretty much all of the morning So Percussion class. Only one person showed up on time, however--everyone else was anywhere from five minutes to twenty minutes late. I guess that's just a jazz thing. Who knows.

Orchestra (both concert and symphony) seems particularly nasty this year. The common opinion among the Peabody student body is "oh man, Teri (our conductor) sucks, I hate orchestra so I don't care about it." To be completely honest, I'm not particularly fond of the way Teri conducts, how he runs rehearsal, or how he interacts with students. It's not a personal thing--I'm just not a fan. However, it frustrates me to no end that the people who complain about orchestra the most are the ones who consistently come in unprepared and don't try at all to make the music sound good--especially because Teri actually does a really good job doing his homework as our conductor and coming to rehearsal prepared. I really felt for Gleb (sophomore clarinetist, playing principal in the Barber Second Essay) today--he has a lot of really hard stuff to play (both solos as well as just tough ensemble material), and he showed up to the first rehearsal with that shit nailed to the wall. We just had our third rehearsal, and he still sounds fantastic. However, Teri tore into him a couple of times today about rhythmic stuff, how he needs to count, the usual. The thing I found really impressing was how he took all of the comments from the conductor, immediately adjusted to his demands, and was able to maintain the same musical integrity he had before. I wished two things:

1. For Teri to acknowledge to him and the orchestra how well he was doing,
2. For everybody else to know their parts like he did (myself included).

Teri really isn't looking for much music right now, and I'm not sure if that's his fault or ours. Teri's been really fixated on counting lately, saying things like "orchestra, you can't feel this music, you have to count it" way more than he normally does. I don't think that's necessarily true--people aren't trying to "feel" the music... they just don't know it. People need to learn their parts, listen to the piece, get familiar enough with the music so that by the first rehearsal, people aren't sight reading and we can actually focus on things like musicality. Once everyone in the group has their part nailed to the wall, then we can complain about Teri. But right now, he knows this music better than we do--so we can't really complain.

Honestly, it puts me in a strange situation. I think part of the reason the orchestra is so unprepared (for this example, especially PCO) is because we have a lot of young, wide-eyed string players, many of which who have never been in an institution of this caliber and are looking for inspiration and eager to fall in love with orchestral repertoire. We absolutely do not get this under Teri's baton, and I don't think that many would disagree with me there. But at the same time, that's just because Teri is not that type of conductor--and it would be a little silly for him to try to fake something like that. Teri is the type of conductor who comes to rehearsal knowing the music inside-out, and expects everyone else to know it like that too. He's not looking to be your friend, he's not looking to have fun with you, and he's not going to put up with anything he considers bullshit. What he wants, and I have to respect this, is to be able to work with musicians who are as prepared and serious as he is. Personally, I'd love to have a conductor who is both. So what do I do? Do I don the attitude of "man orchestra sucks I don't like Teri so I'm not gonna care about it", and resolve to the fact that we're going to suck and I didn't try to do anything about it? Or do I have to start tapping violinists on the shoulder and say "dude, how about you do us all a favor and go learn that rhythm", and perhaps even burn a few bridges along the way? Maybe, as I often do, I can find a compromise. Who knows.

In more positive news, even though working with So might have cost me an arm (but not a leg, as the saying would continue), it made me realize that I would really love working with a group like that for the rest of my life. There are even a few people in school with me right now I could see my self playing with for the rest of my life. Who knows!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hello, bandwagon!

After reading through the blog of my good friend and extraordinary artist Doug B. Horak, I decided it was time for me to jump on the blogging bandwagon. Who knows, maybe having a real, true to life "Blog" will encourage me to actually write intelligently about intelligent things, as opposed to the constant stream of non-sequitur blurbs that Livejournal, Twitter and Facebook have encouraged me to spew over the past couple of years. Those jerks.

I guess you can expect to hear all sorts of stuff about my life as a classical percussionist, jazz percussionist, video game remixer/composer/enthusiast, college student, runner, cook, nerd, and general human being. For example, I just got done with a long day of working with the percussion chamber group So Percussion, who came to Peabody today to work with us on a lot of stuff. I played Village Burial with Fire by James Wood for them today with the rest of my group. We had been needing a coaching with somebody for a while, and So had a lot of great things to say. The piece opens up with a lot of chanting and screaming, as we're trying to portray somebody pretty much being burned alive. It was at points more of a voice lesson than a percussion lesson, as they talked to us about how we should be placing the notes in our respective ranges. They also gave us some ideas about the unison instrumental section we played for them (I'm playing the xylophone part... which is really hard!), but for the most part it seemed we really had our stuff together and they were pretty please with what we had so far! Guess I don't need to be so worried about it. Now to just learn the xylophone solo.

After that, we learned all about the Steve Reich piece "Drumming", which I have decidedly named this blog after. Learning that was pretty much centered around playing the core motif over and over and over again. I got to play both some marimba stuff and some bongo stuff with them. My left arm is super tired. I hope I didn't overdo it... but on a positive note, my right arm feels great! What a trooper.

Tomorrow I have to teach the jazz ear training class (the first of five weeks), as well as play in orchestra and do more stuff with So. I'm a bit worried about this year... I have a lot of music to learn, and I'm still not sure how to balance it all out without blowing my arms out again. I think I'll be okay... but I can't have too many days like this one.