Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Day 09 (Round III) "In the trenches" (dress rehearsal edition)

Hump day, 3rd week, all up in this joint.

Spring semester is typically a time of (a) great distraction, (b) great complication, and (c) great anxiety on a USA university campus. It's a time of (a) distraction, especially for a music conservatory, because it is so frequently interrupted, both cognitively and chronometrically: between Xmas and mid-March, most of the kids are barely able to focus on their work because they're so anxious to get it done and get off to Spring Break--they're like kids at the supper table reluctantly (but swiftly) shoveling down the distasteful peas so they can get to the ice cream dessert. It's a time of (b) complication because there are so many spring conferences, spring ensemble tours (essential for our recruiting efforts), and spring performance obligations. As an example: I am now opening the delicate diplomatic negotiations necessary to hat-in-hand attempt to elicit from the local orchestra's music director permission for three of my players to miss one rehearsal in late April, so they can play the Celtic Ensemble's concert: "Maestro, if you could possibly see your way to using three substitutes, just for that evening's rehearsal, it certainly would facilitate our concert's success." I don't enjoy having to "play nice" like this, but the delicate world of regional arts politics (and egos) means if I don't, I probably will get hamstrung three musicians. It's Jan 21, and I'm making this request now for a concert over three months away. That's how complicated the schedules are.

It's a semester of (c) great anxiety because it's typically the semester when seniors and grad students are trying to graduate. For the ones who've kept their schedules well in hand, and moved through/made timely progress toward their degrees, it's very exciting and not too excessively stressful (though I do frequently have to talk hyper-self-critical grad students down off metaphorical ledges when they are convinced that they are less capable/prepared than in fact they are). But for the ones who are behind, for good or bad reasons, it's an insane jam-up as they realize that, holy crap, they've got to complete 16 or 19 or 21 credit hours in a single semester.

[ETA 15 1/2 hours after starting this post]

Good dress rehearsal from the Celtic Ensemble, for all that, with the level of illness running rampant through the School of Music, they sound like a TB ward or a County Clare workhouse c1900. I'm actually glad that the dress rehearsal was 4 days in advance of the concert--gives them a chance to recover a little bit.

On the other hand, it was a great pleasure, this morning at 6:40am, to look over to the TV monitor of the adjacent cross-trainer and see the Fox news airheads (I think they actively recruit for stupidity, just so the morning show hosts don't make the terrified mentally-elderly Fox AM viewers feel intimidated) and to see those airbrushed male and female bimbos frantically trying to find something credibly critical to say about yesterday's events: "the oath wasn't valid!" "he was mean about the Bush years!" "Carter snubbed the Clintons!" "the press is giving Obama a pass!" I love that last one especially: this from Fox News, who for eight years have done everything they could to prop up the absurd proposition that George W. Bush was a functional human being. I love watching them freak out; it's like you can see them slipping under the horizon, like Captain Bligh marooned after a mutiny, as the Ship of State sails away.

Below the jump: winter photo Zen on the South Plains:

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