band nerd for life.

I think becoming a band nerd was an inevitable outcome for me. My mom was a music ed major in college (though, she ended up far from that working for Indiana’s leading heart surgeon group)… so, well, joining band wasn’t really a question, it was just sort of expected. But at that stage of my life, I wanted to. My big brother was in band, and frankly, probably two-thirds of my school was as well. It wasn’t really seen as nerdy back in 5th grade.

Though I probably could have picked any instrument I wanted, we had an alto sax and a trumpet at home–so that sort of became my two options. The trumpet was my brother’s old student one, and the alto my dad’s old (beautiful) one from when he was in grade school. There were auditions and try outs–mainly to make sure we didn’t have a band of only sax, flute, and percussion. By the time I made it in, the sax section was full. The decision was made for me that I’d play trumpet.

I don’t really regret being “stuck” with the trumpet. But by 8th grade, I wasn’t fond of that instrument. I hit a plateau in my ability and was just getting frustrated. So I told my director that if I wasn’t able to switch instruments, I was quitting. Within a few weeks, I was playing baritone. Yet again, I’d followed my brother, only by this point he was playing tuba already and I had no plans at all on switching to tuba at any time.

Look at those nerds… my 8th grade band picture (’98/99) & my brother’s freshman band picture (’96/97)

The baritone was a dream. The perfect match for me. By high school I’d packed away tattered bell-front baritones, and was on to playing the euphonium. If you know the difference between a trumpet and a cornet, you pretty much know the difference between a baritone and a euphonium. And despite my small hands, I was getting pretty awesome with our four-valved horns. I even marched a marching baritone, which let me tell you, those are not for the weak! Homegirl had some guns. I was section leader for a few years, even did State Solo & Ensemble. I played for one semester in college, and that was it. They bought a brand new euphonium for me, but come opera season the director only wanted trombones in the pit, so I quit.

And that was it. Until years later I met Mucca Pazza, found a beautiful Holton bell-front euphonium* on ebay, bought a pink mouthpiece**, and joined the Reading Band. I was scared at first. I hadn’t played in years, let alone to start playing with strangers. I stayed pretty nervous and timid for a while. And though I settled in enough for our first concert, and felt better for our second, and then our third… I still lacked confidence. I felt more comfortable managing and organizing the group–which I eventually started doing–than having much of a featured part.

Our first concert! Told you my horn is beautiful…

But back in May 2010, we disbanded. The group that let us use their studio space was moving to a new location and well, people were just getting busy. (I’d also lost my pink mouthpiece, but luckily had a spare glow-in-the-dark one.) So, I packed up my horn and it just sat.

Until last night.

After over a year and half, Reading Band got back together. We were always a somewhat small group, and last night wasn’t much different. Flute, melodica, accordion, alto sax, tuba and myself. As I looked over the music last night before everyone got there–I’m still organizing the group, if not more so than before–well, I realized something. Holy crap had I actually forgotten how to read music?! Luckily it wasn’t the case, but it’d been a long time and my mind had to scramble a bit to make sense of the little dots on the page.

I have to say, last night was amazing. It felt good and natural, and oh so very right, to be playing my horn again–to be with my group again. I went in last night kind of expecting to sound like complete crap. And besides just needing to build my embouchure back up and getting my fingers twisted, I sort of surprised myself. I surprised myself even further talking with bandmates about rearranging one of our pieces and asking for a baritone feature. I was actually asking for a solo-ish part.

I’m pretty damn excited about getting back into playing music, to being a part of it. Glad I wasn’t the only one thinking we should do more than just one practice a month! December 8th can’t come soon enough!

*I actually measured. It’s conical. My horn’s a euphonium. Yes, I am a huge nerd.
**yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Plastic mouthpiece… weird. But it was awesome and I’m sad it’s gone. Though now that we’re back into things, I’m going to get a couple new mouthpieces (metal and plastic). Need to find the right fit!

ALSO: Today is the VERY LAST DAY to enter my uber awesome 500th post giveaway. Gap jeans, Mucca tshirts, Modify Watches, artwork, cupcakes… there’s a lot you could win! Go! Enter! Win free stuff! Tell me about the instrument you played for an extra entry. Or if you didn’t play an instrument, what thing did you take a long break from and then finally get back into? (Don’t forget to look through the rest of this weeks’ posts for other ways of getting bonus entries.) Contest ends at midnight CST! 

Barnyards, Barricades, and Balkans

So it’s the 4th Tuesday of the month… and normally I’d be at the studio by now for band practice. However, I’m obviously not there. The flu is stupid.

Missing band practice generally isn’t a big deal.  We meet twice a month and we realize that life happens.  But we’ve got a show next week.  That’s right, next week.  And this show is sort of a biggie.

We’re joining with some other bands and a DJ to put together a little show for you…  All of the proceeds will be benefiting Dennis Dixon, an amazing Chicago activist who was attacked on the transit system in late June.  He was hospitalized with some major injuries without insurance.  The mere $10 you pay to see 3 bands and dance your ass off with a DJ will help over Dennis’ living expenses.

If you’re in the area… you should definitely check us out!

From my awesome bandmate, David:

Hello Friends,

On Thursday, September 3, starting at 8:30 p.m., some of Chicago’s great performers will be coming together to support activist and musician Dennis Dixon with some dance and some noise.

DJ Jacob Ross will get your feet twitchin’;
Renegade Brass Brigade (I’ll have trumpet in hand) will rouse you to the barricades;
Golden Horse Ranch Band will have you swingin’ your neighbor with a dosey-doh;
Black Bear Combo will get a whole lot of folks in a frenzy.

The cost is $10, proceeds going to Dennis’ living expenses in this period just out of the hospital.

Would be great to see you there!


rocking the bariphonium

I am a band nerd.

I have been since… well… I think I was born into this (thanks mom).  I mean, seriously, when your mom’s a music ed. major (though didn’t pursue it professionally), and your dad sells and installs audio-visual equipment… it’s just a recipe for aurally inclined nerdom.  I don’t think band was an option, it was just an understood that both my brother and I would join — which really wasn’t a problem for us.  It was popular when we started.

Regardless, at the ripe age of 11 I joined our school’s band.  My choices were alto sax or trumpet (since we owned both of those instruments), and well, the sax section was filled.   So as mentioned in my biography, I followed my brother’s example and started on the trumpet — his old trumpet to be exact (the sax was my dad’s).  I played that (terribly) until 8th grade when I told my director that either he’d let me switch to baritone or I was quitting.  A week later I was playing baritone.

Back then, I had no idea what a euphonium was or the differences between it and a baritone.  In fact, I didn’t learn most of the differences until recently… Anyway, in high school I was introduced to the euphonium through a new shiny Yamaha four-valved horn.  I loved it.  I was also introduce to the bulk of a marching baritone (which seriously resembles a bloated trumpet-mellophone combination).  I actually developed decent upper body strength because of marching with that beast.

I enjoyed a happy life with my euphonium in high school (well, as happy as high school can be).  I stopped following my brother’s footsteps because I was definitely not skilled or designed to play a tuba.  My school lacked tubas for short peoples — and well, I lacked uber lungs.  However, since I did not own my own euphonium or baritone, my days of playing pretty much ended in high school.  I played for one semester in college — even took private lessons.  But when my director said he only wanted trombones for the opera, I quit.

Until this last summer I never really though much about picking up the horn again.  I had no reason really.  And then Weiss introduced me to the amazingness that is Mucca Pazza.  I was instantly in love.

After the show, I had to meet some of them.  Bask in the nerdiness.  It was after that show that I decided I needed my own horn.  So I met Ronnie (accordion), who also played Happy Birthday for me (since it was my birthday weekend)… and Tom (trombone), who mentioned the cd release show happening a few days later.  And well, since I thought Tom was quite the hotty (only later did I find out he was married with a kid), I knew I had to go to that second show.

Mark Messing @ Tour de Fat
Mark Messing @ Tour de Fat

So I did.  And that’s where I met Tony (percussion).  And then I found out about MP playing a few days later at Tour de Fat.  Of course I went.  (This is where I found out about, and met Tom’s family.)  It was after this concert that Tony introduced me to Elanor (trombone) and I found out more about the community reading band that MP had started.  So after a few ebay attempts and various emails, I found myself with a horn and joined up.

So now I own my very own bariphonium (technically a euphonium).  It’s a silver holton bell-front.  I use a 6.5AL pink mouthpiece.  And I’m damn proud and comfortable being a nerd.  I feel that any girl who can wield a low brass instrument is pretty awesome — and as we all know, I’m pretty damn awesome.

However, I will admit, since I haven’t played in a while… and because I was taught to be a little repetitious monkey rather than gaining skills in improv or jamming, well.. I’ll admit to not being all that amazing on my horn.  I can play, and I’m not absolutely terrible… but tell me to do a bit of a solo, just improv for a few bars, and well, it’s painful.

lucyfur and the bariphonium
lucyfur and the bariphonium

Anyway… Tonight, now that MP is back from their southwest tour, we’re starting up reading band again.  I’m looking forward to seeing everyone and hoping that my suckage is minimal.  It’s been great getting to know various members of MP.  I highly recommend seeing one of their shows if you get a chance.

As they say, Ibbidy IP!

the daily habituals…

morning routine - xkcd
morning routine - xkcd

So… I’ve actually been thinking of my morning routine for a few weeks now…. and I decided to share it (along with my whole day) with you. (aw, yay. .. right?)


    1. 6:13a – alarm goes off, I’m either out of bed already, or debating whether to pull my comforter over my head…
    2. Shower — hot, steamy goodness.  5-20minutes.  depends on how I feel.
    3. sitting at either my computer or my laptop (in the living room), checking the weather, email, facebook, the interblags, and possibly watching the last Daily Show on hulu.
    4. somewhere near 7a – get dressed.
    5. dental hygiene, hair, make up.
    6. grab lunch, take vitamins (if I remember), pack bag
    7. shoo kittens out of my room, turn off my music, put on shoes
    8. leave for work — 4 El stops.
    9. ~8a – Work.  Work. Lunch.  Work.  Interblags.  Work.
    10. ~5p – leave work — ride the El with George.  (I do actually look forward to this)
    11. ~5:25p – arrive home.
    12. Kittens, foodstuff, interblags, reading, random mild debauchery, maybe a movie…. chaos and whatnot.
    13. turn on music, dental hygiene, change into my peejays, go to bed…
    14. 1 hour later… kick kittens out of my bed room
    15. fall asleep.

      wake up, See Weekday# 2, 3, get dress about 30-40 minutes later (sometimes longer), 5, 12, 12, 12 (probably with friends), 13, 14, 15

      You also have to throw in random things like:
      dancing, calling mom, talking with Chrissy, dancing, velociraptor attacks, and lot of randomness with various friends who are awesome, reading band once a month (started by Mucca Pazza), non-profit planning meeting (started by the reading band), more dancing, meandering around the city, and (hopefully) potlucks on sunday*

      Yep.  That’s pretty much it.

      *I’ve only been to one.  Had a superb time.  Hoping to attend more.