Yep! It's on the internet, even. With my picture and everything. So that you, too, can be puzzled at the sight of a reed player holding their instrument with a reed on the bocal and also wearing red lipstick for some reason.
When Bradley Thachuk, the music director in Niagara, first suggested that I play John Williams' Five Sacred Trees and I agreed, to be perfectly honest I couldn't have hummed you a single bar of it. I sent off an email saying yes, that sounds like a good choice, then hopped over to youtube to listen to it. And thought, oh, this sounds kinda hard. Uh-oh.
That was about a year and a half ago. That initial listen put the fear of God in me, and I immediately ordered a part and started working on it. Finally, about two weeks ago, I could at last say that I was able to play all the right notes, in the right order, at more or less the right tempo. (Actually, if I had said that two weeks ago, I would have been technically incorrect-- I only noticed yesterday that I learned a run in the fourth movement-- luckily only a single bar-- in the wrong clef. WHOOPS. Fixed now.) Not-so-coincidentally, last week I traveled to Ottawa to have a lesson with Christopher Millard, principal bassoon in NACO, on the piece.
Usually, I would prefer to be farther along in the preparation process than just "able to play correct pitches" before traveling for a lesson. But in this instance, I didn't really have choice. I knew I wanted to play it for someone who had performed it recently, and Chris gave the Canadian premiere of the work. And it needed to be before he left for summer festival work in mid-July, because on August 12th, I'm getting in the car and beginning the drive to Regina for the season.
So, that's just the way it was. And honestly? I needed the deadline of a lesson to make me put my butt in a chair and finish learning the thing.
In a sense, the time, expense and general inconvenience involved in going to Ottawa was the whole point. As they say in my current home city of Kitchener-Waterloo: it’s not a bug, it’s a feature. As the vast legions of ABD graduate students of the world can tell you, human psychology is uniquely poorly equipped to deal with large projects with definite endpoints but no immediate pressures driving them forward. So, creating a short-term deadline that had meaning and importance suddenly became a much higher priority for me when I won the Regina audition.
Prior to that audition, I had been planning on attending the Glenn Gould School for next year. I had decided it was a good time to go back to school because I wanted the structure of school to help me achieve my goals. And mostly what structure is, is small but strategically placed deadlines. Lessons every week, studio recitals every few months, final recital at the end of your degree. (Or something similar to that schedule.) I wasn’t at all worried about learning this enormous concerto, because I would have all the right kinds of pressure to keep me on track with it. I might even have other performance opportunities (recital, concerto competition, etc.) to get it ready.
As soon as I got the Regina job, all of that assurance vanished. Not only would I not have any of those same small deadlines looming for the concerto, suddenly I had a whole lot of new deadlines, of a sort I have never really encountered before: namely, preparing and performing an entire, full-time season as a principal player in a professional orchestra.
Considering that this time last year I had just been accepted to paramedic college and was seriously considering how relaxing and fun it would be to just play music as an amateur, uh, a principal job and a concerto in the same season is a little bit of a change of pace.
(Spoiler alert: I did not end up attending paramedic college this year. I like having hobbies, but I’m not quite at the win-a-bassoon-job-while-in-school-for-a-completely-different-discipline kind of level.)
So, that's what the next six months are going to be about for me: manufacturing deadlines, as well as managing the ones I already have. I'm grateful for my time as a freelancer/underemployed musician (let's be real here) because it taught me that manufacturing deadlines is a huge part of a life in music.
Woohoo! Let's all make up some arbitrary dates to freak out over!