Meet Jeff

We are excited to be presenting our first concert with a percussionist! Over a year ago we got an email from this guy introducing himself. We checked out his youtube channel and were impressed, so we working him into this really fantastic program. In fact, he has a piece all to himself!  

Jeff's story -

The way my mom tells it, my musical career started when I was 2 years old.  We'd be visiting my grandparents, and I would climb up to the piano and plunk out melodies that I had heard on the stereo or just make up my own melodies.  I got started on piano lessons a couple of years later, but was always looking forward to the 4th grade, when we got to start participating in band.  I always knew I wanted to play percussion - in fact, it was completely amazing to me that some people DIDN'T want to play percussion.  Once I started, there was no looking back.  When it came time to start thinking of careers and college majors, I couldn't imagine myself doing anything other than music.  Nothing else seemed right.

Jeff with some of his "toys".

Jeff with some of his "toys".

I got my degree in music education from Penn State University, but didn't quite feel ready to enter the work force - I wanted to really hone my skills as a performer.  So I resumed my studies at the University of Michigan, earning my master's degree in percussion performance.  After graduating, I returned to my home state of New Jersey to start my teaching career.  For three years, I worked as an elementary school band director and district percussion specialist.  I had a great time doing it, but rather quickly realized that this was not my life's calling - I wanted to work with college students, those who have made the decision to dedicate their lives to music.  So I returned to Ann Arbor and graduated with my DMA, also in percussion performance.  Upon graduating, I was fortunate enough to find employment at Lindenwood University.

Just one of the instruments Jeff will be performing on with us. This is a marimba. 

Just one of the instruments Jeff will be performing on with us. This is a marimba. 


Working at LU has been fantastic - my students and colleagues are great, and I am totally justified in choosing this career path.  I am currently the Director of Percussion Studies at the St. Charles campus, and the Director of Bands at the Belleville campus.  I am thrilled to be playing with Chamber Project STL - chamber music has always been a very important part of my musical education and career, and being able to continue that with this group means a lot to me.  The 'Weave' program features great music (although I am partial to Reich's Vermont Counterpoint, my solo debut with the group!), and I'm sure you'll love it as much as we do.  Thanks for supporting Chamber Project STL and the arts!  Please visit my website at and my YouTube channel at to see my videos and learn more about me.  

Meet Jeff at our Very Open Rehearsal on Jan 9 and hear him perform Jan 17 and 29th. Check out our concerts page for details.

Where in the world...

Our upcoming concert is called "Voyage" and explores music that expresses some kind of journey. We asked our musicians about their musical Voyages! Cellist Valentina Takova previously shared her story, which envovles an intense journey of leaving her homeland and moving to America with her cello. You can read that here. But this time she shares something a little lighter. And sandier.

Don't you wish you were here right now!?

"I have traveled quite a bit because of my cello but I think my favorite work related voyage is going to Hawaii! Yes, you read this right! I play with the Honolulu Symphony from time to time and there is nothing better than dropping off your cello after rehearsal and going to the beach or to swim with turtles! Every day is sunny and beautiful. Girls wear flowers in their hair and people say Aloha when you walk in to Walgreen's. And at the end of the get payed...Yes, you read that right too! Of course there are always dangers like getting your ears full with sand from a big wave, falling off of a cliff while hiking or being bitten by a giant bug...but I'll take it! Thank you Honolulu Symphony! Definitely my favorite musical voyage!"

Artistic Director and flutist, Jennifer Gartley shares her story of going to a festival in Canada where she fell in love....sort of.  She's also been to Mexico, but that story is for later.

I can tell you Jen never stops talking about this guy.

A few summers ago, well more than a few now, I spent a couple weeks up in Canada, north of Quebec at a music festival called Domaine Forget.  The sole reason I went was to learn from my flute boyfriend: Emmanuel Pahud. To be clear, he is unfortunately not my boyfriend, but I can promise you if you ask any of my college students about my flute boyfriend, they will know exactly who you are talking about. Now, I did not just love him because he is beautiful and French - but that didn't hurt.  I loved him mostly because he was the most amazing flute player I had ever heard.  My

Emmanuel Pahud, Jens not so secret celebrity crush.

friend Anne and I drove up from Portland, Maine in an old ford taurus that had seen better days.  We arrived and the views were breathtaking and there were a ton of flutists.  Flutists sometimes get a bad rep for being ul

tra competitive and dare we say not very friendly, but that was not my experience.  I made a ton of new flute friends from all over the globe and I got to practice my French a little bit.  Emmanuel Pahud turned out to be not only an amazing player, but also an empathetic, daring, and inspiring teacher.  On our free days, we walked through the streets of Quebec and I bought a really great pair of earrings from this fancy Canadian store, that turned out to be an American chain retailer - but I felt very fancy for a moment. The lessons I learned about being open to other musicians, making intentional artistic decisions, and hearing J.S. Bach in an entirely new way are lessons I have carried with me ever since.

Vince Varvel, guitar enjoyed performing all over Europe. Vince is performing with Chamber Project for the first time on Voyage. 

vinceI think my favorite musical "voyage" up to now has been the first time I went to Europe to play. The excitement of being in Europe combined with the experience of playing for the wonderful audiences over there was a life-changing experience for me.  While it was wonderful performing in a big city like Paris, my favorite concerts were the ones played in the smaller towns in the countryside where we were welcomed and treated like family (and fed pretty well, to boot!)

FEB 22, 7:00pm at The Saint Louis Art Museum Art After 5 series.Call 314-721-0072 to reserve your free tickets. **THIS CONCERT IS SOLD OUT**

MARCH 1, 8:00pm at The Chapel Venue. $10 in advance, $15 at the door. Includes 2 drinks. Click here for advance ticket purchase.

Full Program PIAZZOLLA            L’histoire du Tango BERMEL                Soul Garden SCHOENBERG     Transfigured Night

Meet Eliana

Our upcoming concert is titled "VOYAGE" because all of the pieces start somewhere and end up somewhere different. We thought it would be fun to learn about Voyages our musicians have taken so we asked them to share. Eliana Haig (viola) will be making her debut with Chamber Project next week. She's new to Saint Louis so take a moment and get to know her and her story! We'll have a few more stories coming soon.  Hi! My name is Eliana and I am very excited to be playing viola on the Voyage concerts for Chamber Project! I am a Saint Louis newbie, having just moved here with my fiance, Alex, in August. I currently teach about 22 private students (and growing) and freelance throughout the region.

Eliana and her beloved viola!

I decided on the viola in 3rd grade string orchestra through a process of elimination. I decided that 1) the violin was too high-pitched and annoying (upon working with many great violinists I have since changed my view) and 2) the cello was going to be a pain to carry around. The viola and I have been inseparable ever since. I love playing the middle voice and being in the center of the action.

I’ve been lucky that my viola playing has allowed me to enjoy many different parts of the world as well as many different musical experiences. I just moved to Saint Louis from Rochester, New York: I got my Master’s degree from the Eastman School of Music, then lived “downstate” (NYC area) for two years, then went back to Rochester, and now here. I grew up in Kentucky, but did my Bachelor’s degree in Wisconsin, so I’ve sort of lived a little bit of everywhere! My most interesting musical voyage, however, was the year I spent studying abroad in Austria.

Beethoven Monument in Vienna

Like many American students, I did a study abroad program for a semester, and chose Vienna as my destination. To non-musicians this may seem a bit random. Why not London or Paris or Berlin? But Vienna is actually a musician’s dream destination. Most of the composers we know best lived there, including Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, Schubert, and Schumann. Arnold Schoenberg, the composer of Verklärte Nacht [which is on the upcoming concert], was born in Vienna and lived and worked there before being forced to emigrate when the Nazi party rose to power. {click here to watch a short video about Schoenberg in Vienna} I got to visit Beethoven’s apartment, explore an entire museum devoted to Mahler, and see a Bruckner Symphony with the same orchestra and the same hall where it was premiered. During my semester in Vienna, I also took lessons with a fantastic viola teacher, from whom I learned so much that I decided to stay the rest of the year.

This teacher actually taught full-time at a school in Graz, a small city in the southern part of Austria, so I enrolled there. I learned conversational German, though much of it I have forgotten. I played a lot of concerts, and met many people from all over the world. Being far away from home with only a passable command of the language was exciting, fascinating, confusing, and lonely, often all in the same day! Since I often think in musical terms, the best way I can think to describing my experience is that it was like learning a completely new piece of music for the first time.

Beginning to rehearse a new piece, while fun and exciting, is often disorienting. Even if I have listened to the piece with the score, hearing my part combined with the others for the first time feels like information overload. Especially when I’m preparing to perform piece of contemporary music, it takes a while to try to understand the “musical language” of the composer. Why do they want it to get louder there? What emotional or coloristic effect is he or she going for? Sometimes a new piece seems so “foreign” that I’m not even sure if certain markings in the score are clerical errors or intentional musical instructions. But much like the thrill of travelling, I love playing new music because it stretches me intellectually and forces me to try new ways of doing things - all in real time and while responding to the other musicians. That’s why live music is so much fun!

Much like a composer’s notes in the score, symbolic instructions can get lost in translation. This ambiguous sign, which I saw outside of public transit station in Graz, Austria, says “uneven surfaces”.

What does this mean?!

Be sure to say hi to Eliana at one of our upcoming concerts!

FEB 22, 7:00pm at The Saint Louis Art Museum Art After 5 series.Call 314-721-0072 to reserve your free tickets.

MARCH 1, 8:00pm at The Chapel Venue. $10 in advance, $15 at the door. Includes 2 drinks. Click here for advance ticket purchase.

Full Program PIAZZOLLA            L’histoire du Tango BERMEL                Soul Garden SCHOENBERG     Transfigured Night

Meet Hannah

Hi everybody.  I'm Hannah and I play the violin.  The group asked me to write a blog entry about myself, and even though I write my own blog about myself all the time, I am having a hard time figuring out what to write about here—

Playing violin with Chamber Project St. Louis has been such a fun experience!  Let me tell you how my lifelong journey with the violin has led me here.

I started playing violin at the age of 5 using the Suzuki Method.  If you aren't familiar with the Suzuki Method, the concept is that one can learn to play a musical instrument the same way one learns a language—starting young, listening to the music, repeating familiar songs (words), and with active parental involvement and positive reinforcement.  I loved played the violin, but mostly I loved playing the violin with other people, an opportunity I had in Suzuki group lessons.

 HannahChristmas 1983

(And FOR other people too!)

As I grew up and continued to play, I became more serious about music, and found great joy (while having a lot of fun!) collaborating with other musicians.  My first love was orchestra.  I played in the Carolina Youth Symphony for many years, and looked forward to the weekly rehearsals.  I loved the camaraderie of playing in a large group, and was inspired by how the entirety of the orchestra—the collective sound, the togetherness of the experience—was (cliché ahead!) truly greater than the sum of the individual parts.

As far as chamber music went, my only real experience until I got to late high school was playing duets with my sister Leslie, who is also a violinist.  As I grew older and more experienced,  I learned that playing chamber music with people who are not related to you is different than playing with your sister.  You see, with those pesky non-relatives you have to be nicer and more diplomatic, and "because I'm older" is generally not an acceptable reason to do things your way.  However, it is less likely that your fellow musicians will burst into tears or threaten to "tell mom", so that's a definite bonus!


(Performing with Leslie on one of her graduate recitals)

Anyway, by the time I got to high school I knew I wanted to go into music for a living.  My goal was to become a violinist in a major symphony orchestra.  Since I had so far pretty much achieved every goal I set my mind to I didn't see any reason why I wouldn't achieve that goal as well.  I went to the Cleveland Institute of Music for college, and stayed there for graduate school as well.  During that time I practiced hard, had many amazing orchestral and chamber music experiences, and, well, met my husband, Chris.  I also began to realize how difficult it was to get a job in a symphony orchestra.


(Me, playing the violin a couple of years ago…at a wedding!)

Nonetheless I wasn't going to let that challenge stop me.  I won my first (and probably last) symphony job right out of school and moved to North Carolina to play with the Charlotte Symphony.  I had done it—I had realized my dream!  I was on the cusp of my new life and career as a professional orchestral musician and couldn't wait for the future.  But the future wouldn't turn out quite as I thought (does it ever?)  After playing a couple of seasons with the orchestra, I just wasn't…happy—I realized that professional achievement doesn't automatically bring about personal fulfillment, and, frankly, I was miserable without Chris nearby.  I left after a couple of years to return to Ohio to freelance and teach.  Chris did a variety of different things, and then ultimately we decided to move to St Louis so he could play with the Symphony here. 

That didn't leave much for me to do, unfortunately, so when the ladies of Chamber Project asked me to play a concert with them the other year, I jumped on it!  After enduring a couple of years devoid of chamber music, it was a lifesaver.  Not only are they all delightful people and friends, they are wonderful to work with and fun to make music with.  I've learned so much from everyone and from playing with Chamber Project, not just musically, but in terms of engaging the audience, public speaking, and all kinds of administrative-type stuff that goes into running a chamber music group.  It's been great, and I'm honored to be a part of it.


(after our March concert at the Wine Press)

It's funny how life surprises you.  If you'd asked 16 year old Hannah if she thought she'd follow a man to a city where she didn't have any work she would have smacked you.  If you'd asked that same Hannah if she thought she'd love playing chamber music with a bunch of women who had a chamber music project and a dream, she would have laughed in your face.  But here I am, and all I know is that each year just keeps getting better. 


(Warming up for a performance in April)

I hope you can join us for our Audience Choice Concert on June 1 at 8 pm at the Chapel.  I'll be playing!

Nina's Musical Cocktail Party

Our pianist, Nina Ferrigno, shares what it is she loves about chamber music, and the many paths it has lead her down! You can hear Nina with Chamber Project on June 1 at our Third Annual Audience Choice Concert!

Amongst your classical musicians, pianists definitely have a superiority complex.  Being a pianist myself, I’ll not bore you here with all the many reasons why this is totally justified, but just think of a pianist’s brain!  Reading two clefs at the same time, two hands working independently, ten fingers playing twelve-note chords (thanks, Messaien)!  Add this to the multitudinous hours spent alone in a practice room perfecting the ability to handle it all, the muscle, the power, the inexplicable delicacy, dexterity and grace, it’s amazing we keep it in check at all!  I missed a lot of social gatherings growing up.  I was practicing.  It’s OK, I think that helped me avoid being a victim of “mean girl” syndrome in high school (New Hampshire can be brutal.  It’s not all fall foliage and snow...).  But I consider myself a social creature so imagine my joy at discovering CHAMBER MUSIC at age 13.

To me, chamber music is like playing a mini-concerto and having a non-stop musical cocktail party all at the same time.  I get to “talk” a lot (I’m good at that) through my instrument and I get to listen to others “talk” through theirs.  During rehearsals I love this non-verbal communication followed by the “what just happened there” questions and ensuing discussions as to whether we really meant it!  Leading up to the performance these are such important discussions as we build trust as an ensemble and lay the groundwork that allows us to throw most of that plan out the window while on stage.  I don’t improvise notes like a jazz musician but chamber music performances are a kind of improvisation.  Everyone’s unique musical personality shines through the give and take of musical expression in each piece played.  Every performance is different, every rehearsal different.  This kind of playing really keeps my ears open and I love adapting to the moment!

Nina and Jen

As a pianist, I seek out new experiences in chamber music all the time.  Along with Jennifer Lucht, cello, and Catherine French, violin,  I formed the Boston-based Calyx Piano Trio in 2001.  Simply stated, we have a great time playing together!  The trio repertoire is second to none and really exemplifies the spirit of partnership while maintaining the solo identities of each member.  Since moving to St. Louis in 2007 I have appeared regularly with Chamber Project St. Louis and love the interesting pieces the flexible instrumentation of our ensemble provides us!  Sometimes we are really challenged by poor pianos in our venues, but as we move forward we are committed to finding instruments worthy of our artistic output!  In many ways some of the extra demands placed on us while dealing with less-than-ideal pianos have yielded some of our most interesting and connected performances!  Yeah, CHAMBER MUSIC!

My love of chamber music has also lead me to starting the Missouri Chamber Music Festival, ( with Scott Andrews, clarinet (husband and partner in every way).  Concerts June 21-23, 2012 in Webster Groves mark our second season and we are thrilled with how the creation of this Festival has lead to some of the most inspired classical music performances of the St. Louis concert season!  We bring musicians in from all around the country to take up residence in Webster rehearse with fabulous musicians from St. Louis and create some incredible performances as a result.   We also run the MOCM  ProAm Chamber Music Intensive which is for adult amateur chamber musicians.  Over a workshop weekend we put groups together, take over the Community Music School building of Webster University and throw ourselves into chamber music.  We have doubled our enrollment this second year!  It has totally added to the “non-stop musical cocktail party” feeling chamber music instills in me!

Meet Valentina

Our cellist, Valentina Takova shares her story. Valentina at The Chapel

I am from Sofia, Bulgaria. My childhood experience was very different than that of the kids here in the U.S., but I like where I come from and I think I turned out OK. I started playing the cello when I was six years old, but actually my big dream was to play the violin, because my older brother, my first cousin and my aunt played the violin. So naturally, I expected to play the violin. I could not wait to start.

Well, during communism you couldn't really choose what you want to do, and the Dean of the Sofia Music School had other plans for me. Getting in to the  school was very competitive at the time and of course, he had to make sure that all the kids of famous people got in. So even though the audition process was "official", there was quite a bit going on behind the scenes (many of the violin positions were already filled!). He counted the open violin spots, and then he counted the kids that he "had" to accept and realizing all the violin spots were taken, assigned me the cello. Major drama ensued in our house:  my dad showed up at home with a cello in a plastic bag, I ran away from him and cried…and cried….I was supposed to play the violin…my life was over…my world was falling apart! This lasted a few days. Once the initial shock was over I got used to playing the cello, and I am so glad it turned out this way. Violin players have very hard parts with so many notes! We cello players have to keep it together in the foundation of the group, but we get to play the most beautiful and heartbreaking melodies. With so much amazingly beautiful music written for the cello, I cannot complain!

My musical training was very strict and growing up in a music school we had lots of extra subjects like music theory, music history, solfege, harmony, acoustics (and more that I can't even remember) and of course I had cello lessons twice a week, chamber music and orchestra. I did not do much sports and most of the time while my friends were playing on the street, always whistling under my window to come out and play, I had to stay home and practice.

But now I am thankful. Because of my cello I was able to leave Bulgaria at the most difficult period, the late 1990s, get full scholarships in every school I attended, travel the world and live a life with beautiful music every day. I was able to escape the impossible task of finding a job in a post-Communist country where nothing was working right. Here in the United States I can (as Dana says) "Do what I love", and have a life that would be impossible in my country. I love Bulgaria and I miss it every day, but I know that my cello saved me and I am grateful every day.

Meet Melissa!

Melissa is performing with Chamber Project for the first time this Saturday! She is a Core Member of Chamber Project, and brings a lot to the table! She writes about her instrument, her story,  and gives a preview of the music we're performing on Saturday Greetings from the Bassoon section!

Being a woodwind player, and especially a bassoonist, I approach chamber music with two minds. On the one hand, I have some great repertoire, by great composers, that I love to play. But I also am extremely envious of string players and pianists and their seemingly endless supply of Beethoven Quartets, Mozart Sonatas, Bartok Quartets, and Shostakovich Quintets. The woodwind repertoire has so few works that I feel like are on that level, that some days I wish I had picked up the viola or the cello instead of the bassoon. That being said, I love my instrument, how it sounds (on good days at least), and I love playing chamber music, whether it’s by Walter Piston or by Mozart.

I switched to bassoon (from flute) as a freshman in high school, so almost as soon as I could figure out how to hold the thing I had teachers recruiting me for orchestras and chamber groups. Chamber music has been a part of my musical life from the very beginning. Chamber music is intimate, communicative, fun, conversational, challenging, and always different with different people. To be good at it, you have to be good at your instrument, good at accompanying, good at leading, and good with all kinds of personalities. I think most musicians think of it as the most fun you can have while playing your instrument.

Melissa and her Bassoon

I have played all the pieces on Saturday’s program at other points in my life (except the one work that has no bassoon part…) So in some ways this program has been a walk down memory lane, reminding me of places and people from my musical past. But I’ve never played these works with the ladies of Chamber Project, or in St. Louis before. The Piston trio (Three Pieces) is the work I have the most experience with. It was really fun to play it at the Very Open Rehearsal with Jen, Dana, and an audience. It’s a great work. Piston is a really smart composer. Each movement has a small kernel of an idea with 3 layers (one layer in each instrument). He develops the movement by playing with the layers, rearranging them, shifting them, and repeating them. Listen carefully to the first few measures of each movement, and you can unfold the rest of the piece from that first idea.

Charles Koechlin (1867-1950) is not a particularly well-known composer, although many of his works have finally been published in the last 20 years or so. He was a student of Faure. He was a big fan of Bach’s music, and you absolutely hear that influence in his Trio for Flute, Clarinet and Bassoon. Like the Piston, each movement is based on a small idea, but gets developed in a Baroque style rather than a more 20th Century style. (Interestingly, the works were written a year apart- Koechlin’s in 1924, and the Piston in 1925.) While the way he develops his ideas are old-fashioned, his harmony and use of instrumental color are all 20th Century, and reminiscent of Faure. The first and second movements of the Trio have a theme that gets passed around and is ever-present, while the other two voices add counterpoint- similar to a chaccone or use of a cantus firmus. The last movement is a fugue. (You can’t get much more Bach-like than that.) I am a giant fan of Koechlin’s, because his Bassoon Sonata is gorgeous, and probably my favorite solo work.

The first time I played the Poulenc Trio was in the spring of 1992, almost exactly 20 years ago. I’ve been practicing from the part that I used for that performance. (You should be impressed that I still have it, after all this time, and through the 7 moves to different cities I’ve made since then.) It’s comforting and horrifying to me that the passages I marked back then as needing “some extra attention” are exactly the same passages that need attention now. I’m telling myself that they don’t need as much attention now as they did then, but I’m not sure if that’s true. Some things are just difficult, no matter how experienced you are. I love this piece as much today as ever. It’s exuberant, highly influenced by the French cabaret music that Poulenc’s life was filled with, and so much fun to play. When Adrienne suggested substituting soprano sax for oboe, I was a little skeptical, but curious to hear how it would sound. At the risk of offending some oboists, I have to say that I think it’s a great substitution, and Adrienne is doing a great job. I think Poulenc would approve.



posted by Dana


A few weeks ago, we were asked by STL TV to come on their weekly show STL LIVE! This was our second TV appearance this year, and it was really different from the first one, which was live on Fox 2 News really early in the morning. This time we actually got to be on the set in the studio! The set looks different in person than it does on TV, some crazy thing they do with perspective. On TV it looks like you're standing on the same level as the furniture, but really, you're standing a foot lower and much closer to it than you'd think. And it was cold in there!

dana in studio

Danielle, our host, was great, and our camera guys were really supportive and kept us laughing. We didn't get to play live on the air, like we did at Fox, but we hope to get back to STL TV sometime to do that! I wasn't able to shout out a "HI MOM" in either appearance, so maybe I'll get that in next time too! Thanks also to April, the program director who invited us on! Below are YouTube links to the two parts. Check them out if you want to learn more about us or our upcoming concerts in November. Or just watch me be slightly bewildered by having to answer questions under the glare of really bright lights.

Part 1: We talk about what we do and where we perform, with a recording of us playing in the background.

Part 2: We talk about the music on our upcoming Strings Attached program.

We got about 24 hours notice for this appearance, and luckily Hannah and I were available to come in. And yes, we were nervous! And yes, it's sort of weird watching yourself on camera! And no, being a performer does not really prepare you for something like this! Hannah has a little post about this on her blog if you'd like to see a few more pics of inside the studio.


Saturday October 29 Webster Groves Presbyterian Church                                 1:00 and 3:15, free.    These performances are  part of a really fun event in Webster Groves called Art on the Town. There will be events all over Webster all day. CLICK HERE for a full schedule. We're going to play some old favorites, including one of the pieces you hear in the background of our TV appearance, and will give a sneak peak of our Strings Attached program. You can also hear the Musicians of MOCM and some of the CMS Prep students at the same venue. We hope to see you there!

Strings Attached - November 3 @ The Chapel, November 4 @ The Tavern of Fine Arts.  We started rehearsing for our Strings Attached program last week. The Emmanuel came together really easily on Wednesday, although there are some tricky moments in the last movement! There were two rehearsals on Friday, Mozart in the afternoon, and Jen, Laura and Valentina spent their Friday evening working on the Roussel.

Next week our post is going to be all about our Strings Attached program from the musicians perspective. Do you have any questions about any of the music we're performing soon? Let us know, we'll answer give you an answer next week.

Saved by the Band

This post is by Jennifer - the flutist of CPSTL. Recently at Washington University, a much beloved dean passed away.  Dean McLeod was a leader and visionary, but he genuinely was interested in people.  He would ask people upon meeting them, "tell me your story."  I share his love of listening to people's stories.  So here is a little part of my story  - the real story - of how the flute brought me back to a place of happiness.

I grew up in Maine through the 6th grade. My family was awesome, idyllic if not a little quirky.  My dad was a war hero and my mom was a Southern lady transplanted to the great white North.  We spent summers between Northern Maine and the Isle of Palms, SC and there was never a shortage of laughter.

Life was good.  My mom decided from around 1984-1987 that she would dress all of us alike... all the time.  This may be considered a slight form of child abuse, and you can tell from our faces that we were thrilled about Mom's fashion demands....but honestly, that was the largest problem we had to deal with.

I started playing the flute in the fifth grade.  It was my second choice because I was dying to play the French horn.  My mom was convinced it would leave a ring around my lips and my dad was much more interested in the $18 a month price tag of the flute vs the $52 price tag of the French horn.  So since I had already failed at piano, I decided that I would play the flute.  I never practiced. Ever.

Sixth grade rolled around, and my world fell apart.  A couple things happened - I decided my eyes were too small for my face and my parents got divorced. I learned words like "mediation," and "custody," and "guardian ad litum."

Everything I knew was changing, and we were moving to South Carolina.  Three little girls and one baby boy were leaving everything they knew to start again.  And Dad was staying behind in Maine.  Some kids bounce back quickly from divorce, but in our case, it was catastrophic.

Seventh grade rolled around and I learned words like, "y'all" and "sir" and "maam."  Things were not good, I was so angry about everything and I had no friends.  Then, I had my first day of band in my new school, and surprise surprise - I was REALLY good at the flute in South Carolina (I was not great in Maine).  We were playing things like the theme from Robin Hood (the Kevin Costner version) and I remember spending hours mastering the complicated rhythms from the theme music from Beverly Hills Cop starring Eddie Murphy.  It may not have been Beethoven or Mozart, but for the first time in a long time, I was happy and excited about doing something.  I may not have loved music at that time, but I LOVED band.  I just loved it and the friends I made in middle school and high school band are friends I have carried with me for life.

Things eventually got better and better, but playing the flute was my always my constant.  Through music, I was able to become a normal kid again... with great friends and a real zealous love for band - total nerd alert.  As I grew up and started playing really great music, I came to realize that not only did I love band, I loved music.  I think even to this day, I treasure the friendships and the music making in my life, because I know where it started and what it has blossomed into.  My family is still awesome and amazing - just a little different, but I cannot imagine where I would be without band class....

Getting To Know Us

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you” is the song that is running through my head right now.  I am a fan of musicals, and this song is from “The King and I”, but I’m not usually one to walk around all day singing show tunes.  Sometimes songs that are appropriate for certain situations just seem to pop into my head.  What can I say…guess I’m a music nerd. So…our first few blog posts are going to be about you getting to know us—the musicians of Chamber Project St. Louis—on a more personal level.  Last week Dana posted our first blog entry entitled “Do What You Love."  Now it’s my turn!

I come from a big family.  I only have two older sisters, but my Dad was the eighth of nine children and my Mom was the third of seven children, so I have a few cousins to say the least.  During my childhood, holidays were spent driving around to the different family get-togethers where there would be anywhere from twenty people to one hundred people.  I fondly remember watching my uncles and cousins play football out in the yard on Thanksgiving Day throughout the years.  When you’re from a small town there’s not much to do besides engage in some type of athletic activity, so that’s what we did.  And that’s what I’d like to share with you now…my dirty little secret…I was a JOCK.

It started with T-ball when I was six years old.  I moved on to fast pitch softball later in middle school and continued in high school.  My Dad bought me my first set of golf clubs when I was eight (but I actually started playing before that).  I started playing basketball when I was ten or so, probably the same time that I started playing the saxophone.  I ran track in the seventh and eighth grades; hurdles and the high jump were my specialties.  In high school I played golf all four years, softball for three years, and basketball for one year.  As my high school years progressed I started dropping the sports and focusing more on what I hoped my career would be—music.

7th grade basketball1
7th grade basketball1

By the time I was in junior high I knew that I wanted to study music in college, but that certainly didn’t keep me from my love for sports.

8th grade basketball1
8th grade basketball1
Softball 1990
Softball 1990
Golf newspaper clipping
Golf newspaper clipping

Finally, as high school came to an end, I had a choice to make.  Accept the full scholarship to play golf at a small private college in northern Illinois with a tiny music department, or forego golf altogether and attend the University of Illinois to study music.  I chose the latter.

It wasn’t until I went to college that I realized the connection between music and sports.  Mentally, they’re the same.  Taking auditions, trying out for the basketball team, same.  Performing under pressure, same.  Physically and emotionally draining?  Yes and yes.  Challenging and rewarding at the same time?  Definitely.

Once my saxophone professor in college found out that I had been an athlete in high school, she began making analogies in my lessons that made so much sense to me.  Why hadn’t I thought of this before?!  Michael Jordan tried out and didn’t make the varsity basketball team.  Did he give up or stop practicing?!  NO!  Tiger Woods doesn’t just hit a few shots until he hits a good one, he hits thousands of practice shots a day!  And this brings me to one of my favorite sports/music adages:

Don’t practice until you get it right, practice until you can’t get it wrong.

college golf shot
college golf shot

I may not play sports competitively anymore, but I still get to enjoy golf with my family.  I love playing golf with my Dad.

Dad, Carolyn, and I golfing
Dad, Carolyn, and I golfing

I also loved playing golf with my Grandma.  This is one of my favorite photos of her.

Grandma getting ready to golf
Grandma getting ready to golf

Music, golf, time with family…to borrow from Dana’s blog…”Do What You Love.”

Also...coming soon to a Chamber Project St. Louis blog near you....what is classical saxophone and why should I care?!

Do what you love.

In this blog we're going to tell you about music, why we do it, why we love it, and also tell you about ourselves a bit. This post is by our Clarinetist and one of the Artistic Directors, Dana Hotle. _____________________________________________________________________

"It's so great you get to do what you love!" A statement I hear over and over again when people I meet find out I'm a musician. Often accompanied by a quickly masked look of confusion as they try to figure out what a clarinet is. I appreciate their enthusiasm for my job, and often wonder what it is that they love that they are not doing, but that's a story for another blog. I smile, I nod, I try to match their enthusiasm for me doing what I love. I do love being a musician. I love music. I love talking about music, learning about music.  I love all of the different "hats" I get to wear. I love the people I work with. Mostly, I love making music with people. I love the layers and depth of relationship you develop by rehearsing and performing music with people. I love making people happy by performing for them. I love that people love that I love what I do. But music was not my first love. No, not at all. Not even close. My first love, was horses. Horses, horses, horses everywhere as a kid. Drawing horses, reading every horse book ever written. Horse stuffed animals, posters, figurines.  My mom finally caved, and took me to my first riding lesson.

Riding at age 8

She says she hoped I would hate it, or be scared, and never want to go back. Of course, that is not what happened and she started shelling out for riding lessons about the same time she put me in piano lessons.

I was unbelievably lucky that I had a grandfather that loved horses too, and he had some land, and somehow we ended up with two adorable Shetland Ponies. Every little girl's dream, come true!

Me on Marmaduke. Callaway County Mo. Late 80's

Dana and Ponies

These ponies, best friends, became legendary in the family. Marmaduke was as sweet as a puppy and would've followed us into the house if we'd let her. Patches was ornery and sometimes mean. I loved them both. Eventually, when I rode the ponies, they had six legs as mine were touching the ground. They got passed on to another lucky little girl, and grandpa bought a full sized horse! He bred the mare and gave me the colt. My very own horse.

Dana riding her horse with colt at side

Carrie, Me, Horses

Meanwhile, I had started clarinet in the band, played the oboe for a year, then back to the clarinet. Started doing all the "band geek" things in high school with my friends. (Keep following this blog, you will see me in a marching band uniform, I promise ;-)  I Fell in love with Beethoven, Schostakovich, and this St. Louis Symphony recording of American music I can't find or even name (Susan Slaughter at her best.) And it was good. Music was fine. I enjoyed practicing, but really, my heart was with the horses. Eventually I decided that clarinets were less expensive to feed than horses, and I'd better make a choice. So I did.  And it was a good choice. I do love what I do.

But always, when people exclaim, "You're SO LUCKY, you get to do what you love!", some little part of me is thinking, "Yeah . . . but really, really I want to be on a horse; swaying to and fro with its gentle walk,  in the woods with the sun rising, the early morning mist evaporating, the bugs lazily buzzing around us . . ."