Anatomy of a Recital, Part 4



Recitals are not cheap. Especially when you’re not getting paid to do them.


On the other hand, how many people on the planet actually get paid to do a horn recital? Outside of a university setting? Maybe a handful. Maybe less than that.

So I thought it might be good for me and general populace (read: my school, financial aid people or anybody else getting ready to do this) to actually look at the cost breakdown, line by painful line.

Pianist – $250 (The ever-fabulous Michael Dauphinais. This included all of the rehearsal time and the actual recital.)

Venue – $125 (I chose an outside venue, but the is what is would have cost me to use one of the halls at the school of music.)

Dress – $91 (on sale from $300!)

Posters – $3.50

Programs – $11.50 (I made colour ones for my committee, my school portfolio and my own personal file; the rest were black and white.)

Gas – $40 (There were two occasions that I had to come up to school from where I live that weren’t my normal school days.)

Babysitter – $30

In ‘n’ Out Burger – $10 (I didn’t eat a lot before so I was pretty ravenous afterwards.)

TOTAL: $561

Holy cow! This is in addition to tuition and fees. In this economy.

Where could I have saved money? I could have done an entire recital without accompaniment. And it would have been depressing, awful, somewhat boring and really tiring. I also could have used a classroom at school instead of a hall or the church that I ended up using and that would have been free. And depressing, unprofessional and clinical. I could have skipped the posters. I could have gotten my husband to stay home with the little people instead having his presence and support. The programs are a part of my requirement (although not an official one, I might add) but I could have skipped the colour versions.

So now that I’m thoroughly depressed, let’s look on the bright side. This could have been a whole lot more expensive.  So, where did I save money? By having a fabulous pianist who was prepared and professional, as well as being someone that I musical “gel” with, I saved myself some rehearsal time. The dress, kind of. I wasn’t originally looking for a dress so I did overspend my shirt budget of about $50, but it was WORTH EVERY PENNY. So compared to the original price of the dress, yes I saved. I’m going to go with that. Other saving? My posters and the photography for them and my program. I wasn’t going to do any of it and then I got persuaded that it would a god idea. I took (or set up up) my own pictures and did my own editing. I had a sweet friend print my posters out for me at the Honors’ College on campus (it’s only for undergrads, but she bent the rules for me a bit) and it was only $0.25 for each colour page. I also borrowed a digital recording device from a friend, so I didn’t pay anyone to record the recital, which can get spendy, depending on who does it.

I think I was as “thrifty” as I could have been, with maybe one exception. But honestly, being thrifty wasn’t the point of the exercise. I’d anticipated the costs last spring and set aside some of my gig money for it. But it’s still a little ouchy, all things considered.

UPDATE: I forgot about the $100 worth of music that I bought for the occasion. That brings my total to $661. Zoinks.


A Leeky Problem



I’m not posting about Thanksgiving today because we didn’t have any time to celebrate. I makes me sad that we couldn’t and also tat we couldn’t be with friends and family for turkey and pie. Especially the pie. But we might do a little turkey time next week-end and if we do, there’ll be something delicious posted here on Monday.

We belong to a food co-op and it’s fantastic. But I had deadline fast approaching and the leeks were still in my crisper drawer. Which is to say, I forgot about them until the day before we were supposed to pick up our share of fruits and veg.

So I whipped up a little something to please my inner frugalista and not waste my leeks (or in this case, leek, singular) and feed the little people. I’m lucky enough not to have super picky little people, but little c definitely has more preferences than his older sister. He will eat chickpeas and sweet, green peas, though. And noodles. What 2-year-old doesn’t like noodles?

This is what I came up with:

Leek, Legume and Lemon Thyme pasta

12 oz. short pasta of your choice (I used farfalle – to the little people, they look like bow ties for tiny clowns)

1 cup frozen peas

1 can (or equivalent) chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 Tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 leek (2 if you like) cut in half lengthwise, sliced and rinsed.

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

3/4 cup whole milk or heavy cream

Parmesan or pecorino romano, if you prefer

In a pot of boiling, salted water, cook pasta until al dente, adding the peas and chickpeas for the last 2 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oil  and butter in a large pan. Add leeks and sauté until soft (about 3-5 minutes). Season with salt and pepper. Add the milk/ cream and cook for 2-4 minutes, until reduced slightly. Toss pasta and a little of the pasta water with the cream and leek mixture. Serve with grated parmesan and the lemon thyme sprinkle on top.

The Verdict: Earthy and good. I’d like a little more color, but not bad for using up what I had in the fridge. And the little people ate it up. Winning.

Anatomy of a Recital, Part 3



A lot of people ask any professional musician or teacher how much they should be practicing. The answer? It varies.

This recital was different from the first solo recital I presented last December (less than a year ago – zoinks!). Not just in the content, but in the preparation. I picked my pieces last May and early June. And then I didn’t practice them. Not ever, just for a while.  I just wasn’t in the head space to do it. I was a little (ok a lot) burnt out from the previous semester/season and I just wanted to be home and play with my little people and have folded laundry again.

I’d also sent my horn back to its maker, ostensibly to have the bell cut, but in reality, he basically rebuilt the thing. In the meantime, I played around on a borrowed Kruspe, didn’t spend a lot of time commuting anywhere, built a bookcase and immersed myself in Charlotte’s Web and play dough. Oh, and started this blog.

So it was more like July, maybe even mid-July before I started what I would call actual recital preparation. Around the same time, I started doing some different technical routines and I was also taking a goal-setting course for musicians. So, basically a new horn, a new method of practicing and now new repertoire. It didn’t really occur to me until now, but that’s a lot to mess with just before something like this.

How much time I spent is a really good question. Because I wasn’t keeping track and I have no idea. I do know that I fell into a routine of technique in the morning with pieces and etudes in the afternoon. What I didn’t do this time around is an evening session, until a few weeks before the recital. I probably should have. But I was in a pretty good head space about things, mainly because I found myself day-dreaming about my pieces, pretty much all the time. Being a little older (and possibly wiser?) I physically can’t spend 6 hours with the horn on my face to fix problems. It’s inefficient, physically silly and with the little people running around, I don’t have that kind of time.

The two weeks before the recital was where I really worked my endurance. Endurance prep for me is running the whole program, warts and all, with no breaks, not even for the bathroom. Some people do a version of this where they don’t take the horn off their face, even for a second, but I’m not that extreme. I just tried to create situations that could only be worse than any possible worst-case scenario for the recital. I figured that if I’d already practiced in the morning for 90 minutes, had a lesson and a 45 minute rehearsal in the afternoon and then run my program in the evening without any breaks that it was far worse than what I’d likely do on the day of the recital. Despite all that, I was still in doubt mode in the hours before I played the recital. Would my face give out? What if I didn’t use enough support? Will my legs hold me while I play for that long? At some point, I had to let that all go and just walk on stage.

There was also the non-musical preparation that people in the audience didn’t see. I was back at the gym for the first time in a year, doing cardio to better my lung capacity and lower my heart rate. I’d been doing some goal-setting for the recital and before each practice session. I’d done some visualizing of myself playing the space. The afternoon of the recital, I wrote out a list of affirmations about who I am and my playing and tucked it into my case before I left for the venue. And the sessions with my pianist were so helpful for me to make my musical intentions clearer and brighter.

All this, because time marches on. The countdown was over.

Anatomy of a Recital, Part 2




Doing this in chronological order would be too easy. So I won’t.

I started thinking about this recital a while ago. In fact, I started thinking about it shortly after my last recital, a chamber music extravaganza, last April. To some people, that might seem like a lot of time to plan a recital. It’s really not. When I was doing piano stuff in high school, at the very end of my study, it was taking me months and months just to learn a piece. I think it took me almost a year to learn a complete Beethoven Sonata. So four months is pretty snappy.

This first thing I did was to secure my pianist, Michael Dauphinais. He’s ostensibly on faculty at my school, but he really isn’t utilized the way he should be. Why Michael? Because he’s easy to work with, professional, and a lovely, musical pianist. He played for me for my first doctoral recital and it was such a joy to work with him.

The second thing I did was try to find a date that worked for me, my committee of three, Michael and the school at three different halls in two venues. At previous institutions that I’ve attended, there was always a designated period for degree recitals and the faculty gave their availability to scheduling people. So I just go down to the scheduling people and I could pick from there (or, in the case of McGill, they told me when my recital was and that was that). But not here. Sigh. So I did a doodle poll with a bunch of times and places and between the bunch of us, we found a single date (out of about 10, whittled down to 4) which I then immediately booked with my committee, Michael and the venue.

Doodle is both annoying and awesome. Awesome, because you can ask a bunch of people about scheduling. Annoying, because people don’t get back to you all at once and you keep getting an email every time someone finally gets back to you. Kind of like Chinese water torture. And there’s almost always a lone holdout. But I digress.

Since I decided to use an off campus venue, I actually forgot to tell the school until the end of August. Oops. There was a form that everyone on my committee had to sign that approved the music I chose and the date and venue (again) and there was another card that just my supervising professor had to sign so that the school would even know the recital was happening. That was the one I forgot. It’s due 30 days before the recital. I think it waltzed in about 21 days before. They knew about the recital but this was just one of those crossing the “t’s” moments that I’m not always good at/don’t care to remember.

I also had to book the recital venue and I ended up choosing something off campus. Why? The two halls that are available at school don’t have great acoustics – one is too boomy and the other swallows you up (or me at least). The real kicker is that you have to pay for them and it’s not a minimal $25 fee or something. I’ve just gotta say – I really disagree with this. I have to present 4 recitals because of my degree. I have already paid fees and tuition because of my degree (ok, I’ve got scholarships, but there are always some little things that add up). I’m already charged an extra fee for lessons because of my degree. One would think they’d let you use the hall in the school that you’ve paid tuition and a pint of blood to attend for the recitals that you need to present BECAUSE OF THE DEGREE.

Anyhow, I chose an Episcopalian church used to having chamber music concerts and recitals. It’s fairly close to campus. They’ve got a nice Baldwin grand in there (never thought I’d say that about a Baldwin, but there’s a first time for everything) and the staff at Grace-St. Paul’s was lovely to work with.

Not too much visual clutter and the only thing I really needed to think about was where I was going to stand. I did my first recital for my DMA here, so it was almost comforting. That help, the comforting bit, when you’re under stress. I’d imagine these things get worse when you don’t know what you’re walking into. You control what you can and this was something over which I had a say. And there’s a built-in fence there in case anybody in the audience gets rowdy and rushes the stage.

Hey. It could happen!


Will it chip?: Part 3

I promise at some point I will get to non-leafy green things, but for now I’m doing an exhaustive study.

Collard greens.

Hmmmhave I ever had collard greens in my house? ‘Round ’bout these parts, we eat pretty healthy. Kale, spinach, mustard greens, swiss chard. But collards? I’d always understood them to be a south of the Mason-Dixon line sort of thing. I’m from north of 40. So there you go

Upon further examination, I decided to use the slow and low method that I’ve perfect with my Tuscan kale. And this is what came out:

Washed and dry (thoroughly!), tear into chip-sized pieces and toss with olive oil. Spread over parchment, sprinkle a bit of sea salt and roast at 250F for about 30-35 minutes.

Verdict: Still awesome. They have more of a nori/seaweed texture to them than the kale or brussels sprouts and a slightly nuttier flavor while being really delicate. Yay!

Anatomy of a Recital, Part 1



I’ve been MIA for a bit. Not only has school been crazy but I presented a recital as part of my degree requirements. I’ve got four of those suckers, total, and this was the third one.

Also, recital was designated a solo recital. No chamber music. No collaborations, other than with my fabulous pianist. Me, standing up, not sitting, for 55 minutes worth of music. Knocking knees and all.

So I thought I’d write a bit about some of the various components of last Monday, starting with the most important part.

The dress.

Awesome, no?

And it was a last-minute dealie, too. I was hunting Marshall’s for a flashy top of some sort to pair with black suit pants and flats – nothing terribly interesting, but it works for me. I found nothing. Nothing hit that balance of a little bit of flash, flexibility for breathing, formality and not too much flesh. Horn players in recital shouldn’t be flashing too much cleavage. Or maybe that’s my old-fashioned upbringing talking.

So I decided to check out Dillard’s, a place I’ve never been. It kind of reminded of The Bay, maybe a little bit of the long-gone Eaton’s. But a little less focused and definitely not Canadian. I searched the whole stinking place and the  I spotted this. Keep in mind, I wasn’t looking for a dress, I was looking for a shirt. A top. Something that stops somewhere around my hips, possibly an inch of two lower. Not a FULL-LENGTH, FORMAL EVENING GOWN.

But I found it. And it was perfect. And it was on SALE! I thought it was too good to be true. It couldn’t possibly be comfortable, could it? It was. I couldn’t breathe in it, could I? I could. Did I look awesome? I DID.

There were two great things about this dress: ruching and a knit lining are apparently every horn girl’s best friend. A close third? The length. I wore flat, not so pretty sandals hat nobody could see (or hear – they were stealth shoes) and it felt like I was playing barefoot. Bonus.

All this add up to one thing: I looked good and felt great. I didn’t feel restricted but I did feel special. And did I mention it was on SALE?


Urban Farm Extravaganza! OK, I might be overstating that a little.




I would love to have a garden. A real, honest-to-goodness vegetable garden like the one my Mum had at our first house. She fed us, my uncle’s family, my grandparents and anybody who strayed over to our house, summer upon summer.

Until we moved. From the Prairies to Ontario and the town/city where we lived was a 15 minutes drive from the vegetable basket of Canada. So, no more veggies (excepting some half-hearted rhubarb and asparagus patches) and in came lots of pretty flowers and shrubbery.

Not that I minded, but I really wasn’t interested. Belly first!

So even though we live in the desert and my thumb is at best a blackish sort of grey, we decided to do a little bit of container gardening. I wanted the Little People to see that food doesn’t randomly and generically appear at some supermarket. Some things were spectacularly successful and some things were spectacular failures.

This was one of the successes:

Who’da thunk that carrots would have worked in a container? Not I.

We also discovered that basil, lemon thyme and swiss chard were desert container garden superstars.

Our flubs? The lettuce got burnt by the sun and was so peppery as to be inedible. Blech. We also had some pollination issues over at our house. Apparently all the bees hang out in the pond at the front of our house and not at the back. Not cool enough for you, eh? Both varieties of tomatoes (cherry and patio sized) grew well and made lots of flowers, those flowers didn’t always bear fruit. Same story with our japanese cucumbers. By the time I found out how to, erm, hand pollinate my cukes and tomatoes, it was kind of too late in the season to do so. That, and I couldn’t stop cackling long enough to find a q-tip.

So we live and learn and know what to do next year. In the mean time, the Little People and I have had fun watching the little buds come up from the soil and decorating the pots with sidewalk chalk and watching it all get drenched in the monsoon rains so we could do it all over again. Regardless of what worked and what didn’t work, it was a good growing season.



Sometimes I let them paint (but not often).


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I love art. I love my kids. I love it when my kids do art. Or so the theory goes.

But I hate cleaning up after “art time”. It makes me bonkers. And therefore, I rarely let them paint. Unless it’s outside and I can hose them and the grass off afterwards. And then they can air dry.

We did some painting and print making last August and they did these beautiful greeny-bluey potato prints. Then Little m decided that it would look better to paint the potato before using it to print. Little c decided it was much more fun to just shmear the whole thing around. And As I was watching them, I was kicking myself (yet again) that we don’t do this more often. What better way is there to learn what the color blue is than to have your hand covered in blue paint?

I don’t lack for ideas, but some days (like today) I lack for energy and the impetus to get the ball rolling. I personally believe that kids need free-form art expression for everything from math skills to science experiments to emotional outlets. Being a musician, I want them to sing while they do it, if they like. By art, I also don’t mean just a colouring book or page, although they have their uses.

I’m not a neat freak, but I’ve got to get over this art=mess business. It’s antithetical to my belief system and makes me a crappy mom. Or at least a mom who hates washing towels…



Current Auditions – September Edition


Here’s the latest from the AFM:

Cleveland Orchestra

Fourth Horn

Resume Date: October 1, 2012
Audition Date: January 14, 2013
Start Date: Employment of the successful candidates to begin on a mutually agreed upon date during the 2012-13 season.
General Information: The Audition Committee reserves the right to dismiss immediately any candidate not meeting the highest professional standards of The Cleveland Orchestra. Repertoire will be posted on our
Contact Information: Please send a one-page resume by fax, mail, or email to: The Cleveland Orchestra Auditions Severance Hall 11001 Euclid Avenue Cleveland, OH 44106

Illinois Symphony Orchestra

Horn II

Resume Date: Sept 14, 2012
Audition Date: September 29 – October 2
Start Date: visit website
General Information: Alastair Willis, Music Director Announces the following vacancies for the 2012-2013 season
Contact Information: Send resume & $25 Audition Deposit by September 14, 2012 to: Auditions Illinois Symphony Orchestra P.O. Box 5191 Springfield, IL 62705 Phone: 217-522-2838 Fax:
Phone: 217-522-2838

Assistant/Utility Horn

Resume Date: Sept 14, 2012
Audition Date: September 29 – October 2
Start Date: visit website
General Information: Alastair Willis, Music Director Announces the following vacancies for the 2012-2013 season
Contact Information: Send resume & $25 Audition Deposit by September 14, 2012 to: Auditions Illinois Symphony Orchestra P.O. Box 5191 Springfield, IL 62705 Phone: 217-522-2838 Fax:
Phone: 217-522-2838

Nashville Symphony Orchestra

Associate Principal 3rd Horn

Resume Date: November 2, 2012
Audition Date: February 23-25, 2013
Salary/Benefits: 2012-13 Salary: $69,000.36 + EMG (Signatory to the IMA), Benefits and 7.63% AFM Pension
General Information: Employment begins at a mutually agreed upon time. Repertoire will not be given over the phone. No phone calls please.
Contact Information: E-mail resume to: Or post two copies of your one-page resume to: Audition Coordinator The Nashville Symphony One Symphony Place Nashville, TN 37201-2031 Visit our website for more information:

San Antonio Symphony Orchestra

Associate Principal/3rd Horn

Resume Date: October 1, 2012
Audition Date: November 5 & 6, 2012
Start Date: Position to start at candidate’s earliest availability beginning January 2013
Salary/Benefits: see website
Services: see website
General Information: The San Antonio Symphony is an Equal Opportunity Employer For complete details
Contact Information: Highly qualified candidates please e-mail a one-page resume (PDF or Word) by deadline to: Auditions [Horn]- San Antonio Symphony

Will it chip? Part 2.


My son doesn’t eat veggies.

This is really embarassing to admit. We actually eat a variety of healthy food at our house. Local and organic when possible or feasible. Little M is the epitome of a fabulous eater. She will try everything and continue eating about 99% of it. She cleans her plate and never complains.

Little C is definitely his own person. But I digress.

We have had enormous success feeding him veggie “chips” or as he says it “tsips”. And this was no exception.

Brussels Sprouts!


He loves these like dogs like rolling in smelly things. They’re that good.

We’ve tried these a few ways: low and slow, high and quick. I think it depends on how much moisture you have in the sprout leaves and how much crunchy versus chewy you go for.

Here’s what we did:

Remove as many of the outer leaves from your brussels sprouts as possible. This might require cutting the stem periodically. Wash and dry thoroughly. Preheat oven to 300F. Toss with good quality olive oil and lay out in a single layer on some parchment paper on a baking sheet. Dust with salt (or pepper or herbs or parmesan cheese: you get the picture) to taste. Bake for 20 minutes, checking to see if they’re getting too brown too quickly. If so, turn the heat down and possibly increase the time. Testing one or two chips is always an option to know where you are in the scheme of things.

Verdict: Not quite as crunchy or delicate as the kale chips, but still quite delectable. Devoured by all. It chips!