Thank You Ludwig Van
As many of you friends and fans know, I am finishing up recovery from abdominal surgery that took place in December. I had an enormous fibroid tumor removed. According to my surgeon, it was a bowling ball in both weight and circumference and it was perfectly round. Over the past five years, I've had two kids with this tumor in my body. In between and after the kids, I still looked pregnant because of this large creature in my body, who I affectionately named Phoebe. Phoebe is gone now. Good riddance! The next time you see me, I will finally not look pregnant! Aren't you excited? I am! When you play a wind instrument for a living, having major abdominal surgery puts you out of commission for a while. We planned on my recovery taking as long as eight weeks.
At week three I actually felt up to doing some teaching. I was excited to pack up my clarinet, get in the car, interact with people and use my brain. I planned on not really playing, but it felt weird to not have my clarinet with me, so I brought it along. I assured my husband I wouldn't actually play. I was just bringing it along to demonstrate fingerings and stuff. I got all settled into my teaching room and sat down with my clarinet on my left and an eighth grader on my right. My craving for Vandoren cane could NO LONGER BE IGNORED. I went to play a typical clarinetty warm-up scale and I could feel my stitches pulling against the strain of my air support and something inside of me said, "STOOOOOP!!!" "Okay, " I thought to myself, "Let's try this again next week."
The next week my warm up scale felt okay and I actually played through an entire Jean Jean etude before I started feeling too much pain. I won't even mention the pain in my embouchure after not playing for five plus weeks, but nonetheless I was amazed at how much better things were feeling.
Right around week five, I began to play on a daily basis and really work to rebuild my muscles. My abs felt like jelly. I felt like a tall tower with a tiny foundation ready to topple over. Now more than ever, it was imperative that I practice with focus, clarity and insist on my body relearning how to do what once felt completely intuitive.
Right around week seven, I was hired by the Highland Park Strings to play Principal Clarinet on Beethoven 8 and Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2. I hesitated slightly in accepting the offer, but decided it would be a great motivator to kick my regiment into high gear.
Playing a Beethoven Symphony is truly a gift. Sitting in the wind section of one of these masterful symphonies grounds me. As I sink into the familiar harmonic language, searching for the sweet spot of my note of the chord, creating the perfect clarisoon with the gentleman to my left, the heavenly flunet with the lady in front of me, soaring above the horn choir in a charming minuet. I cannot imagine a more perfect setting for bringing myself back to my instrument.
So with that thank you, my beloved Beethoven for being such a master. Your symphonic settings always reaffirm that I am exactly where I belong. At this phase of my life, as I work to regain my strength, you are more wonderful than ever.
Now, back to practicing! I have a lot of notes to learn for Luna de Cuernos in the Spring!
This blog post was written by 5HE clarinetist Jenny Woodrum.
Photo: Jenny playing Beethoven's Septet on the Rush Hour Concert Series in August of 2011. Credit - Rush Hour Concerts