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When Inspiration Knocks

I had this conversation with a student of mine who just graduated. It’s a tough situation for her: suddenly no stimulus of fellow students, no schedule to follow, lack of money, and pressure of entrance auditions for the next degree. As a foreigner, she has no support system and must provide her own stability and motivation. The result of this is mild depression and reculsiveness. So my pep talk to her included the phrase:”Inspiration doesn’t come knocking at the door, you have to get out and find it”!

I don’t know to what extent this is true. And I don’t think it helped, but we’ll see how she does this month with the auditions.

It is however good that I remember these words for myself. As I mentioned in my last post, my husband needed to kick me out the door to attend a concert of “Plush Music Festival” at the Loft. I’ve been house bound except for the necessary teaching, meetings etc. Missing many good concerts. It was time for some inspiration and I found it! Last night’s concert opened with Simon Nabatov (piano) playing Herbie Nichols. Boy does he rock! And I am sad I don’t play a harmony instrument – what lushness…. And power – the sheer volume of it, but never harsh or grating. On the flip side, the second set featured Hayden Chisholm and his quartet playing original works. I’ve never heard a sax player play so sustainedly quiet. What subtlety and color!

When you leave a concert thinking: “oh dear, I’ve got a lot to learn”, I think you can say it was worthwhile.

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Recording session 25 Dec

I like this blog venue, I can publish those funny pictures that are kinda cool, but you just don’t know where to put them. They’re not “official” enough for the website, and certainly don’t belong hanging on my wall.

My piano partner Lyosha just sent me the best of our session from 25 Dec. 2008. It turned out to be a really mellow session, almost minimalistic. I was in a strange frame of mind. In the western world, it was Christmas Day. In Russia, which goes by the old calendar, it was just a working day. Not that it makes much difference to me. There are basically no holidays for musicians anyway.

So it was a steeley gray and very cold day in St. Petersburg. We’d just arrived at Babushka and Dedushka’s two days ago, with our 4-month-old in tow, and I was still recovering from the trip. One of those “vacations” which is not a vacation. Family trip, plus had a difficult program to learn for a concert on Jan 9th in Cologne so no time to really slack off.
But I always find time to play with Lyosha. He’d just bought his new grand piano, and his new at-home studio was now set up and ready to go. So armed with extra woolen socks, my husband and I set out to the session.

Here’s a take from the session, Lyosha titled it “House on the Lake”. Quite minimal but it has something, I think:

House on the Lake

Here is a photo of our concert that we played at the GEZ a few days later. Don’t have the recording of that yet, am curious! That’s Vladimir Shostak on bass and Nikolai Rubanov on bass clarinet.

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discrimination sexism

Sexism; what, me, bitter?!


Here I am about 5 months pregnant!

About 20 years ago I ran into a male flute friend of mine who had just finished studying with a majorly famous European teacher (no longer among the living). I don’t know what possessed my friend to make the following confidence, but the shadow it cast has been long and tenuous.
He told me that this teacher openly favored his male students, told him that he tries to help them along more than the women in his studio. Needless to say I was pretty shocked.

I am trying to speculate in a kind way as to why this teacher had these attitudes. (And I’m sure this old-school, Old World guy was not alone in his practices.) Maybe he saw the practicality of his investment in male students: they would be bread-winners, the women would get married, live off their husbands and spend their time and energies having babies.

As a student, I had my share of old-school teachers. And looking back, I think I was definitely a victim of this sort of treatment. Honestly, I don’t think it was all intentional either. I would like to think that nobody treats anybody this way in order to be mean: it’s just programmed behavior of a certain generation and culture. And what 19-year-old female student has the presence of mind to say:”hey, pay attention to me, make your investment in me! In 20 years I will be the bread-winner of my family, supporting my spouse and child on my fluting skills!”
Would they have believed me? Would I have believed me? That’s the trouble, I think. I didn’t believe in myself then. I think young boys/men are more used to believing in themselves.

But here I am, the man of the house (for now at least), relying heavily on my basic skills, since I have little time to actually practice. Thank goodness for the training I do have, and for those who believed in, or at least did their duty by me.

But I have to ask myself, am I completely gender-blind when it comes to my own students:? a gaggle of beautiful, poised, talented young women, and at the most one or two young men. There, you see, even the language I use: gaggle. It’s a collective word, not geared to viewing the individual.

We all need a kick in the butt sometimes.

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