This morning I recieved a phone call from my father. My grandfather had slipped into a coma that morning and wasn't expected to make it through the night. A little while later, I recieved an e-mail from my sister. My grandfather and uncle were doing their morning routine, and my grandfather was singing a silly song... "my name Johansen, I come from Winconson..." It was something he started doing in the hospital when the nurse asked him his name each and every time before giving him his medications, food, and any other check-ups througout the day. He had gotten tired of the sterile hospital routine, and would sing this little song instead. This morning he sang this song before breakfast as usual, after he finished the song he slipped into a coma.
Several hours later, I recieved another call. He had just passed away. Tomorrow I head to Texas to be with the family and then attend his funeral and play his eulogy.
It didn't start off well. I left my day planner at home and totally forgot that lessons would NOT be at his house, but at a studio I have never been to before across town. His wife didn't have the address, but did have the address of one of their favorite restaurants kiddy-corner from the studio. TG I have a nav system. I found the place (already 15 minutes late by now, I'm NEVER late!!!), and the building requires a "secret access number" to get in! A few minutes after I arrived, someone was leaving so I could get into the building, then the great hunt to find the studio. 30 minutes after my lessons were originally to begin I finally found the room! Luckily, Brian is a very easy going kind of guy, forgiving for being so late, and let me have my hour long lesson (I was his last student). I owe him something special for this inconvience!
Started with the usual warm-up scale, and he stopped me half way through. In my head I was thinking "can't even get through a simple scale". But.... instead I got "your bow arm has improved ALOT! Did you tape your fingers like last time?" (It has been a few weeks since my last lesson). I proceeded to tell him the story on how I focused on nothing but bowing for quite awhile, but without taping my fingers into a curve. So, continue on the 2 octave scale. Then to 3 octave.. before coming back down the scale, stop again (what is it THIS time?!?)
>>>"Did we talk about your left hand technique before?"
>>>"Well, it really is very good, even if you get a note wrong, you adjust quickly. Good ear!"
On to Bruch Romanze - FINALLY! I played through the entire piece, then waited for the comments.
>>>"How many lessons did you get on that last page?"
>>>You taught yourself how to play that on your own?"
>>>"I'm impressed, not many people can do that. It is a very difficult section."
>>> "Your rhythm is pretty good, but needs some work"
So we worked on going from triplets, to 1/16ths to 1/8ths for the rest of the hour. It was almost like patting your head and rubbing your tummy when I was trying to play triplets while he banged out a 1/8th beat! He gave some mneumonic suggestions for each rhythm, some of which had me laughing so hard I just couldn't continue playing. One had to do with a curse and spinach.
I have one more lesson with Brian before resuming lessons with Joel again. It seems that Brian is quite determined to improve my skills so dramatically in just a few lessons in order to do a "one-up" on Joel when I have lessons with him again in 2 weeks. They are colleagues, and Joel arranged this for me. I think they have some friendly competition going on, and this was just to opportunistic for Brian to pass up. :)
My quartet played some of Bach's fugues tonight. They seem quite simple on the surface - lots of half notes, quarter notes with a few 1/16ths thrown in for good measure (pun intended). Practicing these by yourself is quite boring. I ended up running through them quickly then putting them aside. Well, throw in 2 violins and a cello into the mix and the story is entirely different. Mis-count your 15 measures of rests before you come in and you don't know you are off until the piece ends and you are either still playing when everyone else finished or visa versa. Even worse is when the piece ends on a fermata, and you only clue that you are off by either a beat or a whole measure is the occasional "off note" that didn't quite sound right with everyone else. But when everyone is couting correctly at the exact same tempo - WOW - you can definitely feel the music resonate.
I was back in the Bay Area for a week for the "Oracle Implementation". When I first arrived, we began running the scripts to update the new database (hours of waiting). Good thing I brought my viola! Some of the team got a late night private concert. OK, so it was me practicing in the office while waiting for the scripts to finish running so I could do my part. I guess my musical skill really did improve. Instead of my team-mates asking me to stop, they asked me to continue playing for them! WOW! Never thought that would happen in a million years!
I also had the opportunity to meet up with my viola teacher I had in Palo Alto. We got together after her last lesson for the day where she teaches. So what do we do? Do we discuss the fact that she got married, or my move to Oregon and other life events that happened over the past year? No. I showed off my new viola, and she gave it a whirl (sounds better under her hands than mine). She played a new piece that she was working on for me. I played Bruch Romanze for her. She played Schumann for me, we both played Bach's 6th Prelude together. She started playing Bach's 3rd, I joined half way through. Basically, it was a "see what I've learned or worked on this last year". Two hours later, we finally got around to talking about matters other than music - cars...
I had been working for 10 days straight, 12+ hours each day while in San Jose. That night was worth more to me than any vacation I could have taken. I arrived tired and mentally exhausted, and left feeling refreshed and energized. Which was good, since I had the night shift support duty.
I chuckled when I read the discussion thread about if playing violin is useful. For me, it is the most useful tool I have in my tool-box for keeping a level head at my day job no matter where it takes me. It is portable, relatively inexpensive (compared to golf for instance - no greens fees), relaxing, and has the most amazing ability to create a mini-vacation experience in a hotel (or office). Yes, playing music is most useful.
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