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Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I rejoined the orchestra at my university. The director called, as he does every semester, and asked if I'd be interested. 2 years ago I was pregnant for the first time, and renovating a house. Either one of those things can be overwhelming, but both at once? I just couldn't take on another commitment.

Last year I had a 5 month old and had just really been hit with the reality of full-time work. Although I went back to work when the Guajolotita #1 was 12 weeks, it was summer at a university. Two weeks before classes began, sh*t got real. 10-12 hr days, 5 days a week. Emailing evenings and weekends too. Unless the kid was REALLY sick, doctor-sick, I couldn't just stay home to spend time with her. If a sitter couldn't make it, I had to find another childcare solution. It was already too much time away from my sweet baby. (Things calm down about a month in, which I knew after many years at the same institution, but nonetheless I couldn't opt for MORE time away!)

So this year he called. I'm pregnant again, and overwhelmed with the thought of 2 kids. Childcare for 2. Family vacations for 4? 2 snakes kids on a plane?? Nooooooo! I can't pass the audition, I told him straight out. I'm a great sight reader, and a competent orchestral player, but I have 0 experience with any solo music (besides the Bach Unaccompanied, I can scrape out some movements of some of those because that's like the definition of playing viola). He just needed more bodies to round out the section, he said. So I said yes, half-intending to back out.

The next morning on my commute, still not having told my husband, I read this by Katie Allison Granju. (I also commented via my phone, but it appears not to have stuck. I thanked her for her post, it was a very heartfelt response, but alas, the moment is gone.) I cried. (Pregnancy hormones? perhaps...) I thought about Korinthia Klein, whose musical/luthier career (and overall excellent parenting/personhood) I find very inspiring. I resolved to ask my husband what he thought - and pick up the music that day as I'd arranged.

Since orchestra means coming home a bit later than usual, it means he must commit to being home "on time" so the babysitter can leave. Over the weekend I pulled out the sheet music and showed it to him. He was surprisingly supportive. He took the kiddo outside for at least an hour each day so that I could practice.

And I went. I've been to two rehearsals, sat in the back both times. I have no doubt most of the players ahead of me are more skilled than I am, and certainly most are in better practice. However, they're also undergrads. A lack of focus/commitment is a hallmark of the undergraduate (I don't think violas 3-5 ahead of me are string performance majors - maybe the first stand could be). As the conductor asks us to start again at bar 275 or G or whatever, one of the girls doesn't even pick up her instrument until the rest of us are a bar and a half along. Yesterday he told me to move up a chair, which I'm mostly glad about because I want to mark up my music as we go.

I really like the conductor, I'd say it's the second best conductor experience in my life. And the one time that was better was a week with a guest conductor that was just transformative - really an exceptional conductor and an experience I'll never forget. Anyway he's great, and I'm really enjoying this.

But the real point here is the Guajolotita #1 and her experience. Right now, this is our 7am anthem (also bathtime, parents-come-home-from-work time, and all-hours-of-the-weekend time):

Her favorite tunes now, besides the above, are Itsy Bitsy Spider and Happy Birthday. Johnny Be Good would take some work, and my viola-work right now is going towards Night on Bald Mountain (glad I've played that in the past! I think I'd be really intimidated otherwise!), but Happy Birthday I can do. :-P

When she comes inside and I am practicing, she gets fairly jealous. She wants to "help": she wants Up! Up! She shoves trucks on my lap, she tries to pull the music down, whatever she can do to disrupt the non-child focus.

So I knelt on the floor and had her grab the wood of the bow. Together we sawed it back and forth as I fingered the notes for Happy Birthday. It was so fun to do that together!! Now whenever she sees my case out, she starts asking, "Hab B-D-D?" In the last two days, she says "Musica!" and "Tocar!" as well, which is AMAZING.

Then, THCSITU found this video. He was working at the computer and she was using similar tactics as she does with me to make me stop practicing. So he thought this video would entertain her. We've never played a video for her before - we always just grab music and turn off the screen to listen.

Anyway, she was enthralled for a few minutes, then she disappeared. I heard her in our room - she was trying to drag my viola case out! She wanted to play too. So of course, I got it out and we played "Hab B-D-D" a few times together.

I'm so excited that she's interested. I have learned the melodies to some of her favorite Mexican children's tunes, so I can play along to her recordings. Whatever she might like, it's my side project (to this general viola side project) to learn. Whether she sings or dances or plays the ukelele, I hope she will always love music!


  1. I'm so impressed with you for jumping back into orchestra! There really is nothing like it, and I found it interesting that all three of my kids reacted to my playing differently while I was pregnant with them. I struggle to find time to practice and wonder sometimes if it's worth the hassle, but you know what? It really is. It's good to have a life outside of your commitment to your kids and there is nothing quite like making music.

    And I'm honored to be mentioned in your blog. Thank you for the kind words.

    1. It totally is. And thanks for the encouragement. Tonight we read through parts of the soundtrack to Psycho - I guess there's a Halloween concert?! And Monday we play through the Mozart concerto in A Maj that we've been working on for 2 weeks, with the pianist for the first time. Mixing it up, this conductor! :)


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