Tag Archives: Life

Dubai, the beginning

It has been one week since my wife and I arrived in Dubai. The sites are grand and we are slowly acclimating to our new home. If only our household shipment would arrive. Having some of the comforts that are in our shipment would make all so much better. While I know a simple vegetable peeler or juicer I is not a necessity, they do make things simpler and more normal.

We have been enjoying several of the local sites and the cuisine. The most recognizable is the Burj Khalifa and the water fountain show, as well as some shopping. All quite amazing.

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This is just the beginning of our life here in Dubai. So looking forward to all in this interesting, and rapidly growing city.

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Summer of New Journeys

What an amazing Summer I have experienced. It is difficult to know where to begin, but to say WOW!!

I met an incredible woman last Winter and this was just the first of many wonderful New Journeys. A lifetime past, but now a lifetime together has given a bright light in my life. Jennifer and I were married on 11 July 2011 and have made the start of our life together with a huge move to Hanoi, Vietnam. I cannot express the excitement that is ever present in each day, hour, and minute as we explore our new lives together here in Hanoi.

Panoramic Image of My Neighborhood in Hanoi, Vietnam

Panoramic of My Neighborhood

Hanoi and the people of Vietnam are incredible. I am so enjoying meeting and learning from every person I come in contact with each day. All have been so helpful to me. This is especially true since my skills in the Vietnamese language are nil. I have learned a few words and am able to greet others, give some basic directions, and a a couple of weather terms. Ah, yes it is a joy to try and learn these few words, and one day I will be able to converse in some basic manner.

I have great respect for all people here on our incredible planet, and feel it is important to respect the culture, society, to try and learn the language, and embrace all that is Vietnam. Thus, I am trying new words, walking up to people asking questions, and being what my Twitter profile states, “…all around good guy with an inquisitive mind”.

Each day this journey has new paths that are unveiled. Choosing a path, has nothing to do with worrying about whether the path chosen is correct, but that one makes a choice and learns. Each path brings about new people, thoughts, sights, sounds, and so many different things that I cannot list in this post. A path is about exploring and I am doing so every chance that comes about. Even the most simple path of acclimating my body to the heat and humidity of Hanoi can be daunting, but to get my running game back on track I must chose that path and learn. The same goes for anything we do in life … a bit of reinventing … never think that one knows all that is on any particular item as all in life is ever-changing, ever-growing, and truly a journey along the many paths of life.

This Summer of New Journeys has been a grand experience with my marriage to Jennifer, the move to Hanoi, and sharing ones life with all in the world. This short post is the beginning of what I hope will be many posts about the many experiences in Hanoi, the wonderful people of Vietnam, and all that exists in this grand world of ours.

Keep checking back for new posts as this is going to be a joyous ride. Also, keep up with me on the various social networking sites as I write, tweet, post about life, share photos of all that I see through the camera lens, and meet new friends around the world.

Cyclist

Early Morning Cyclist

Gardner taking care of the roundabout

Gardner

Vietnamese woman walking on streets of Ciputra, Hanoi, Vietnam

Walker

 

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Crossing the Line. Hornist Behind Bars.

Before continuing one moment reading this blog post I would like for you to read David H. Thomas’ post at The Buzzing Reed. David, who I met online via Twitter, is Principal Clarinetist of the Columbus Symphony in Ohio. You will enjoy his thoughts and writing. My post will have more meaning after reading his post My Practice, My Life. Breathing Clarinet Air.

Michael holding horn in front of his face

Behind the bars looking for freedom

Thank you for coming back. I do hope you enjoyed David’s posts, as I know I did. Please check out his other blog posts, videos, and audio files as his thoughts and openness on playing and the “behind the scenes” world of practice are rare. Musicians do not often share their thoughts on practice and preparation. This world is somewhat intimate as we bare all working on the music for performances.

David has found something that I feel is quite elusive for many musicians. What he has found is something I gave up on some 10 years ago. This elusive item is not something a musician needs to perform, but I feel it is something we need as a person, as a musician, and as a being in this world. I know what is running through your mind, “What is so elusive for musicians and is it really important”. Yes!! It is elusive and important not only for musicians, but for all of us.

David wrote two thoughts that struck me. Let me address the first one where David states:

I began to sheepishly admit to myself: as much as I enjoy performing, I actually enjoy practicing and playing music for myself even more! Who needs an audience! I find myself by losing myself practicing a deeply challenging Jeanjean etude, or a musically rich Bach unaccompanied cello suite. Performing almost ruins the spontaneous beauty of it all, with the accompanying high standards one must meet to be approved; and with the perfectionist expectations most listeners have nowadays from hearing so many artificially perfected recordings

Musicians spend countless hours practicing and preparing for performances. The expectations are extremely high in the professional music world. Perfection. No missed notes, beautiful phrases, gorgeous interactions as musicians exchange musical thoughts. Perfection. The expectations are so high and we musicians become so entwined with doing what we do. We perform because it is what we do. Just like you get up each morning, grab a quick shower and something to eat while driving to work, and then work. You do what you do. I, too, fell into this so many years ago and gave up trying to cross that line from doing to being.

The other thought of David’s, which I have eluded to above is beautifully stated:

I had performed because it was what I was supposed to do. I am a clarinetist after all. It’s what I do. Please don’t misunderstand. I have never hated performing, only misunderstood the larger picture of why I do what I do.

The above statement hit me like a hammer. We musicians do what we do and that is perform, but there is so much more and I see how this applies to my past, present, and future musical world. Eyes wide open I now see. I also feel you are wondering what this is all about. Is this not some reiteration of what David so eloquently wrote?

This applies to my own world with this brief bit of my past. In December of 1998 I awakened one morning and did not wish to go to rehearsal. After 10 years with the Air Force Band program I wanted to stay in bed, sleep, and not do anything. Being in the Air Force Bands is quite prestigious and I did not want to go rehearse on the instrument that I had spent my life studying. After 10 years of traveling the world and being honored to perform for so many leaders of our world, and most importantly, performing for the people of the world. What an honor.

I was tired. I just wanted to stay home as I was the hornist behind bars unable to cross that line. Unable to cross that line into being all that is. Music and the musician world is so much more than practicing perfection. We have lost so much in reaching for this goal. I lost. I gave up on the climb to that mountain top that David mentions by letting the stress of perfectionist practice and performance, hundreds of performances each year, and the hours of travel grab hold and throw me down the mountainside.

I had given up on climbing the mountain and placed my horn in its case. I left the mountain growing smaller, and smaller in my rearview mirror. So much has happened in the years since that day. After reading David’s thoughts I am now looking for that mountain that I left so many years ago. Yes, I have played since that time as a professional but still with the thought of it being what I do. Each year I would accept fewer students and performances. Now, I have turned around. Want to face that climb and I am looking for that mountain. Ready to fight and cross that line. Being a musician and being a person in this wonderful world is so much more than doing what we do. We must live every moment. Remove the perfectionist thoughts and enjoy.

David stated:

Follow me if you like. See you at the top.

I am looking for my mountain from so long ago. With arms wide open to embrace that which I let toss me aside. Ready to enjoy all that is. I hope that you too will open your mind. Do not do what you are suppose to do, but love what you do. I am going to breath horn air, and I hope that you breath that which is yours, and enjoy all that is around you. Happy day to everyone.

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So You Want to be a Professional Hornist?

{Disclaimer: The below is very basic information and not intended to be the right thing for any individual person. We are all different and need different thoughts and techniques to reach the goals we seek. I believe that every music school should provide a class that is required of every music student. This class should be about the world of music, expectations, number of jobs for number of job seekers, and basically telling the student what they are getting themselves into}

Reading through tweets on Twitter today my mind began to wander. Not that what I was reading was not interesting, informative, humorous, or enjoyable, but some tweets tweaked my minds thought processes. Those individuals, fellow musicians, I follow on Twitter that have such wonderful minds. So open, fresh, thought-provoking, and they just seem to be good people. Today, especially, the posts from these individuals brought to mind some thoughts on the job as a principal horn and what takes to be a professional hornist.

Holding the principal horn position in an orchestra is quite thrilling, but also quite demanding mentally and physically. Every little thing that happens to you health-wise or in every day life can affect your performance. This is not just an issue for the principal hornist but any performing musician. Health is the utmost importance and I can say that I have played through colds, flu, strep throat, headaches, and myriad other maladies.

In speaking with other principal horn colleagues there are some that feel our necks are on the line each and every time we put horn up to play. Some expressed they felt this even when practicing at home. In the back of ones mind is the thought that one must not make mistakes. Mistakes happen, but as principal horn with the numerous solos, playing only in the upper tessitura, long periods of not playing (where are we? Rest 124?) and then being required to peg some stratospheric note out of nowhere, and so much more the expectations are quite high.

Life as a musician is quite grand. To perform music is such an honor. So many times I found myself listening to a colleague during a performance and becoming so enthralled with their expression that I felt time had stopped. It can be so glorious.

So, do you still want to be a professional hornist? Let me provide some thoughts. Most of these have been garnered from my teachers or colleagues. This is not the end-all method for anyone to become a professional hornist. Just some thoughts on the topic.

Typical Daily Regime for the serious student which was garnered from Kendall Betts, former principal horn of the Minnesota Orchestra during a master class:

  • 20-45 minutes F horn warm up such as Farkas.
  • 30-60 minutes etudes, some or all on F horn, such as Kopprasch, Kling, Gallay, Belloli, Reynolds, and others.
  • 20-45 minutes technical routines such as scales, arpeggios, broken arpeggios, chordal arpeggios, Clarke, Arban, Singer, or other technical materials.
  • 20-45 minutes long tones: pp<ff>pp; ff>pp<ff: holding pp, holding ff. (Long tones should not be performed higher than current capability. Slowly add a half-step every couple of weeks or so.)
  • 30-60 minutes repertoire: solos, excerpts, orchestral parts, etc.

After that master class I lived by the above regime. Even today I work on these areas each and every day.

As with any muscle-related activity one must be very cognizant to not overdue. If you are currently not practicing regularly do not attempt to use the above regime. One must also consider rehearsal and performance schedule. It is also very important to log your practice. As a student logging your practice regime will allow you to analyze your routine, when you are tired, when you feel fresh, and work to change your routine so that it meets your needs.

For young students work on the F horn is extremely important. Work on this side of the horn truly aids endurance, more natural slurs, better intonation, smoother piano not attacks, and more tonal color due to the sounding overtones. Truly, work on the F horn will provide one with some difficult practice After one has work through the first four or five Kopprasch Etudes the results will be clearly evident.

Kopprasch, Etudes, Op. 6, etude no. 29, mm. 1-18.

The above only provides some basic information on the time involved each day for a hornist. This will vary depending on the needs of the individual. There is so much more to being a professional musician on any instrument, and this is only the beginning. These are just thoughts from one hornist on a cold, snowy day who had a little bit of time in between playing scales and arpeggios, and going through a few Kopprasch etudes on F horn.

Let me leave you with Sir Simon Rattle’s thoughts on hornists:

You never eyeball a horn player. You just don’t. They’re stuntmen. You don’t eyeball stuntmen when they’re about to dice with death.

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Chinese Tea Eggs – Yum!

I like eggs, and eggs seem to like me. So, in an effort to find new recipes for my egg enjoyment I ran across Chinese Tea Eggs. Oh my you need to try this out.

Chinese Tea Eggs

Chinese Tea Eggs

6 medium to large eggs
2 tea bags of earl grey tea
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
4 pieces star anise
1 pinch of pepper

  1. Put eggs in a medium-sized pot with enough water to cover the eggs.
  2. Bring water to boil, then lower heat to simmer for 4 minutes.
  3. Remove eggs from heat and allow them to cool.
  4. Take the back of a knife or spoon and crack eggs evenly all around.
  5. Return eggs to the pot and add the rest of the ingredients.
  6. Bring liquid to boil again, then simmer on very low heat for 1 to 4 hours (longer = more color/flavor), add water if level gets too low.
  7. Remove from heat, cool, peel shells and enjoy.

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