September 11 to 24, 2000
Music became more intense at the South Dakota State University, where I finished my undergraduate studies in physics and math. I played in the concert band, and second clarinet in a few musicals. During my senior year, I took up oboe, and toured with the concert band as an oboist that year (bombing out on a couple of solos along the way - much to the chagrin of our wonderful director, Prof. Carl "Christy" Christensen).
Then came a musical lull, while I was at Cal Tech for a year of graduate studies, and on to the University of Alaska for my very first real job, observing the aurora. Between 1950 and 1960, I did pick up the clarinet from time to time, and noodle. Around 1960, the Fairbanks Symphony community orchestra was formed. I allowed as how I once played oboe, and was enlisted. I will never forget our first concert, where I managed to start one of the Beethoven symphonies with a forte B natural, instead of the correct B flat. But they let me stay. About the same time, I began to play some chamber music with friends. I have been playing chamber music ever since. After moving to Iowa City, I played oboe in a friendly woodwind quintet. We sometimes played with a talented amateur pianist, Richard Caplan, M.D. It was there that I played the marvelous sextette by Poulenc, and the wind/piano quintets by Mozart and Beethoven. When we had no bassoon, James Christensen, cellist and another M.D. at the University of Iowa Hospital, played with us. He later wrote a thoughtful book, "Chamber Music - Notes for Players".
We moved to Boulder in 1966, and shortly thereafter I joined the Boulder Philharmonic, as second oboe. It was a good amateur orchestra then (professional now), and I played in many memorable concerts with the Phil. In late 1973, I developed a very strong, not-to-be-denied, urge to learn to play the flute. I bought an inexpensive student flute, and got one of the flutists in the Boulder Phil to give me lessons. I left the Phil, and played oboe for a year in the Boulder Concert Band, then abandoned the oboe and switched to the flute section of the Band for a year more. That was a frustrating experience, because I had great trouble hearing myself.
In about 1970, I started going to an annual weekend of chamber music playing at Chamberre of the Rockies, held at the Rocky Ridge Music School near Longs Peak in Colorado. This turned into a life-long love affair- I have only missed two or three years in the past thirty. The joy of playing and socializing with old and new friends, while isolated from the rest of the world, is an annual highlight of our year.
I continued flute lessons for some time after 1973, including a couple years with Larry Jordan, a former student of Tom Nyfenger. But I didn't have enough savvy to properly tap Larry's experience. I know three former students of Nyfenger, and I have always admired their flute playing. In 1988, after losing my first wife to cancer, I started studying with Susanella Noble, who considerably improved my playing. Although I am no longer taking lessons, I still consider myself a student of the flute, always trying to improve. One of my recent advances was changing my approach from worrying about my embouchure to finding the "sweet spot" in my sound. Just one of the many tips that I have picked up from reading the postings on the List.
Chamber music is the real love of my musical life, as a player and listener. Since 1994, I have shared this passion with my dear wife and friend, Joan, who is a cellist. Since taking up the flute, most of my experience has been in playing with strings. There are a large number of beautiful pieces of chamber music for flute plus two, three and four strings. I strongly recommend playing chamber music as a wonderful outlet. Try to start playing chamber music as early as you can in your musical life. Learn to sight read well, for you will be depending on that skill. Be friendly and considerate of others in your group. Initially take the music under tempo, if need be, to assure that the weakest player is part of the group. It is not much fun to play with "hot shots" who take a piece up to tempo, while leaving someone in the dust. That is not what the composer intended. If the piece is satisfying, go back and play it a second time - it will be much more musical. Take joy in the beauty of the music that the group makes together, even if your part is not very interesting. I can think of few other group efforts as demanding of team work as performing chamber music.
Finally, a heart-felt thanks to all the members of the List, who continually contribute so much information and useful advice to all of us, young and old.