Tuesday, July 19, 2005

On Practicing in Strange Places

One reason why I find I tend to have a little resistance to traveling is that I like to stay in practice with my music, and that requires practicing every day, if possible, but when you are on the road, it can be difficult to find places to practice. If you are an anxious sort who doesn't like others to hear you except in performance settings, then it is even harder. Real practicing is not pretty.

Before the trip to Chautauqua, my friends told me, "Oh, don't worry about that! You can play on the lovely grounds -- people will like it! Or, you can always play in your room!"

When we got to our lodging, among the rules about our stay there was in fact a specific note requesting that people not practice instruments in the house, as it "disturbs other guests" -- exactly what I most feared!

(By the end of our stay, we were all laughing about this, because the house was right next to the Amphitheater, and so we were subject to loud rehearsals and piano tuning all day, not to mention concerts that went late every evening! Of course, I didn't mind -- I really liked this -- but the irony was funny.)

So, my heart sank. There was no way I was going to play on the grounds! Chautauqua is densely populated, and once I arrived, I realized how many fine musicians there were because of the music programs.

But, to my delight, I learned that there were practice rooms that you could rent out! Even more wonderful (or so I thought), they were stand-alone little cabins! Here's a picture of what the cabins looked like:




Initially I thought it was a splendid idea for there to be separate little cabins, because that would help provide natural soundproofing. But as I walked among them, I realized how woefully mistaken I was. It was so hot and humid that of course everyone had their windows open! What a bizarre mixture of sound! Harps, French Horns, pianos, singers, an accordian, violins, clarinets ... you name it, I heard it! All wafting into my open window as my own practicing wafted out:

Fortunately, there was an overhead fan:


The furnishings included a chair (with my flute on it as evidence that I really was there!), and two mirrors (one is shown here), but no music stand! Fortunately, in playing Irish traditional music, I don't need a music stand.

I think the pictures do capture some of the rugged and desolate feel of the space. Still, I must say that I appreciated it very much! Even though I could hear others and they could hear me (and there were constantly people walking among the cabins peering into the windows), I didn't feel self-conscious. Everyone was seriously practicing, and like I said, that's not pretty -- so I didn't feel self-conscious about not making pretty music myself. I'd screech my high notes while the xylophone player next door played the same passage a hundred times and the singer on the other side wailed her scales and the pianist across the way pounded loudly through intensely moody music. It was a thrill to be in the midst of so many dedicated, serious musicians!

On my next trip (coming up in a few days) it may be harder to find a good place to practice, but I'm still taking my flute! Because now I know you never know what you may find!

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