artist life — sold a few paintings, met a few people

Art Show #1
On Saturday, Sept 15, I hosted the first of two art shows at my studio home in Drayton.
Glad to say that I sold 4 works (possibly five pending if painting matches someone’s couch) including Sweet Trash, Bright Bassoon, Diva, Missive and Fox Trot II and these works will be making their homes in Waterloo, Orangeville, Drayton and Los Angeles.

Next show is Saturday, Sept 29 from 11am to 4pm for Culture Days Ontario and I will be showing some hitherto unseen new works for the first time. There will also be posters and cock-a-doodle-doo coffee mugs available with the cultured rooster from my poster!


This past weekend, I displayed a large swath of my work, from 1998 to date with 30 new works being shown for the first time. My junior artist colleagues came over early to set up their art and treated the numbered catalogue as the key to a treasure hunt.

On the beautiful hot September afternoon, friends and neighbours came to visit and the even the mayor of Mapleton attended. And ten young people came to look at the art, ranging in age of 3 to 15 years old. They were vocal about which paintings they would like to buy and they generally had expensive taste.


I featured guest artists, including Dawn McLeod, a Drayton-based photographer who specializes in wildlife and nature shots. She is working on a new website to show her remarkable and sensitive art photos. She also photographed all of my art for my website shop, a difficult task and a godsend for me to have.



The junior guest artists were my youngest neighbours, Caitlin, Hannah, Daniel and George Rogerson who displayed a large selection of the clay objects that we created during the year after our intermittent bassoon lessons, plus paintings that they have done. I wanted them to have the opportunity to expose their art to more people and also to see it in a new space.


At the end of the day, after almost everyone had left, I taught a bassoon lesson to a gifted young player who had driven in from Toronto, starting our official lessons for the year. After a day of thinking about art, we focused on the fundamentals of sound, finding ways to let the full spectrum of tone colour emerge from having a correctly formed embouchure and airstream… amazing how quickly and immediately young people can understand. The sympathetic acoustic of my church-turned-studio, which is even more resonant now that I have decluttered, revealed the quick changes in tone production that my student was able to make.
Having an art show is a bit like presenting a solo concert… you muster the faith and courage to present your best work in the present moment.  Doubt may flicker, but really, taking the step to bring our work to other people is as important as anything in becoming an artist. Oddly though, I am fearless when it comes to showing my visual art, though I was quite tired the next day! Regardless, I know that it is essential to have many and frequent opportunities to present my work and music, and for that reason, I also work hard to provide opportunities and support to others. And I am as grateful as can be to those who helped me on my way, including everyone who came to the show, the kids, the neighbours, the buyers and fellow musicians and artists.  We really are all in this together. 



GO JUMP IN THE LAKE! Learning to swim in new places

My life is always nuts. Even though I am just a quiet little blue-haired bassoonist, trying to look after my family, students, pay bills, update my website, make art, make reeds, light a fire under my snoozy management and play concerts, other stuff is always happening.  My lawyer doesn’t even say hello when she answers the phone these days, she just laughs and says, “What now!?”

But you get good at whatever you do all the time, and I am getting good at multi-tasking.  And I love connecting with people through playing my bassoon, and I am finding ways to bring music to new places as part of my complex life.

Life involves family… my family is complicated. My parents had extraordinary lives, helping thousands of people learn to build their own homes, self-publishing books, activism and more.  My Dad, B. Allan Mackie, finished his last house six years ago, at the age of 84, then began a truly epic health battle (cancer, Parkinson’s and more), yet he can still motivate and inspire me by the fact that he just doesn’t give up, even when the pain is overwhelming.  My Mom, Mary Mackie, was felled with breast cancer exactly four years and one month ago, but her spirit lives on. And she kept writing in her political blog, the Legislature Raids under the pseudonym of BC Mary (and continued by her friend Robin Matthews) until the moment of her final taxi ride. What I’m trying to say is that I have witnessed the true superheroes of my life being slowly twisted to the ground with mortal injuries that they had never anticipated, and still, despite the exhaustion, confusion and pain, their lives are still worthwhile and immensely valuable.
So, as I fit in the duties of life while playing concerts, commissioning new composers, writing grants for the next Juno-nominated CDs (a girl can dream), developing the new website, finishing large art projects and booking for the upcoming seasons, I am also seeing how many ways I can fit the bassoon into my life in ways that I never have before. Life is never convenient and it is my job to remind it (life) of my priorities.

I have now played regularly for the residents of my father’s hospital, West Parry Sound Health Centre. I make the long drive once per week to check on him, his house, and just make sure all is well, and I book other friends to keep him company every day. I have come to love the other elders who are waiting in the same transitional wing for a long-term care nursing home to become available. Though I wish them to heal, or to find a comfortable new home, my heart also lifts with gladness to see them again. Some of them open their arms for hugs, others tell me of watching over my Dad and bringing him a blanket, or adjusting the window shades… they are all different and they are all generous. One of them, who had lost his voice, was once a square dance caller!  He loves music and still goes dancing with his daughter and is completely interested in whatever I bring.  Another man, Mike, was a guitar player and would like to play again.

And one of them, an elven, bright-eyed man named Art, can no longer walk, and sometimes starts a rhythmic yelling of whatever phrase is in his mind. Two weeks ago, I opted to play for the group in the wide part of the hallways, near the nursing station, since some of them are not permitted to leave the area.  And here is where the experience of adjusting to circumstance is really good for me… I played with full energy and perhaps a touch of anxiety, as I am doing everything from memory as part of the personal growth element. Art (who I affectionately call Yelling Guy when he’s out of earshot) was initially beating time with his hand, but I was playing too forcefully for the space, and he began roaring, “JUMP IN THE LAKE!”, so I packed up and my little team moved with me out into the lobby of the West Parry Sound Health Centre.

I had played the previous week in the lobby and the acoustics are amazingly spacious yet clear… certainly the best hall I have played in Parry Sound, but also the only place that I have played in Parry Sound.   A small girl danced to the slow movement of my Vivaldi, an older volunteer danced, too… Terry, one of the elders in rehab, said that it sounded like a symphony!  Bill asked if I liked playing my machine, then turned to his visiting daughter, and said, “Ya gotta hear what she can do on this thing!”  The staff brought me a glass of water each time.   Alphonse tells me that I am great and I return the comment, because he really does pump out so much positive energy that it is palpable.  Marie, small and beautiful, parks her wheelchair at the end of the hall, far from the group, and listens to every note.

The first week, a few people came to listen, scattered throughout the lobby, the next week, more people gathered, and more people talked to me (I learned that the daughter of one of the surgeons plays the bassoon!). The next week, the nurses called the other wards and brought wheelchair bound patients out to listen and everyone gathered quite naturally into a concert formation, sitting on the welcoming couches and chairs in the lobby.  Racil Land (angel friend) wheeled my Dad out in his reclining chair. And Art, aka Yelling Guy, came too! And this time, the sound moved through a bigger space, I was also careful not to use my spear-throwing tone technique, and I played in ways that encircled my listeners, sometimes approaching them, other times backing off, talking directly to them or fading out so they could relax. I am adding more pieces to my memorized repertoire, and last week, played them a Bach prelude, three Scarlatti sonatas (had a memory blank on the D minor, so more like two sonatas), Vivaldi C Minor RV 480, Flight of the Bumble Bee and ended with Weber’s Andante and Rondo… next week, if I’m ready (or even if I’m not) I will play the solo bassoon part for LeDernier Chant d’Ophélie, composed for me with string orchestra and percussion, premiered at CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio and  featured on our Juno-nominated CD; for this event, it will be introduced as a piece of music written for me by a friend.

One of the nurses said this was the first time she had heard the bassoon and she loved it. I said I would like to return with my chamber orchestra and play the concerti with the full sound, since the hospital sounds so good, and Roxanne said she would come in even if it were her day off.  We all know how hard these nurses work, so I cherish that comment.
This same nurse had wheeled Yelling Guy into the concert area, and this time she finally smiled and let him holler, “Fantastic!” along with “Hey, hey, hey!”, all of which meant that he liked it.

I told my group of attentive listeners that I was playing some music that included an orchestra, and that when I am performing these concerti next June in Oregon, I will be strengthened by the memory of playing for them today.

I know that next week might be different, and that Yelling Guy (I love that his real name is Art) might kick my butt again in the future, but if he tells me to jump in the lake again, I am prepared, thanks to him!

First movement of Vivaldi’s Concerto #14 in C Minor, RV 480, video by Racil Land

Flight of the BumbleBee for Bassoon and Orchestra (or piano!), video by Racil Land

Make a Note of This

I have always kept journals.  And I encourage my students to do the same.  
And to be truthful, I have many simultaneously-running journals…  a reed-making journal, a student development journal, a health journal for my father, development journals for my son when he was younger, a training journal for me, a project journal for my website and concerts and future projects… you get the idea.
But the main journal is the account of things that happen every day, rather like the impartial eye of the camera, sometimes recording things of note, but mostly capturing the events of the day.  Only later do some of these things take on a shine after the passage of time.  
Daily writing also allows me to keep my written script at its current level of florid fabulousness.
But I have gone through some difficult moments with my journals and have backed away from writing for brief periods.  Or worse…
At the age of 22, right when I was starting my busy career with the Montreal Symphony with an impressively relentless schedule that included an intense concert season (150 per year), tours throughout North America, Europe and the Orient and a recording timeline that eventually included 85 projects.  At the same time, I was learning to speak French, developing chamber groups and having a string of gorgeous Québecois boyfriends, all of which I dutifully recounted in my journals.
Suddenly, I was mortified by my confessions.  So in an uncharacteristic fit of prudishness, I took the volumes that I had curated and schlepped from city to city since starting my music studies 6 years earlier at the age of 16, and had my own private book burning.  Except that it was in my rue Hutchison apartment in lower Outremont.  And I used scissors, and really ripped the crap out of the journals.  I have regretted this ever since… I would be soooooo amused to read my accounts of learning to become a bassoonist while navigating boyfriends in two countries and two languages.
So, in this Savonarola-esque moment, I wiped out part of my own history… losing my own account of my teenage years and the beginning of my music studies and career with the Montreal Symphony.  I know that if I had it now, it might help me understand my students better.  And it would be so damn funny, but at the time, I censored myself.
And speaking of censorship, when I was married, my former husband would mutter complaints under his breath about the rasp of my pen on paper as he was trying to drift into sleep, so I would find ways to write earlier in the evening… one of the glories of not being married is that I can scrawl, bleary-eyed and comfortable, anywhere, anytime.  And I do.
But encouragement has always been the stronger force in my life.  My mother loved my writing so much that she would, to my discomfort, ask permission to read my journals; I would have preferred that she surreptitiously read them!
And early on in the internet world, my web designer encouraged me to start a blog, and I loved it! Then, in spring, 2014, I began an extensive western Canadian tour with Guy Few, and had ambitions of writing a comprehensive journal about all of our concerts from northern Manitoba, across the Prairies and finishing in BC over a 6 week period… the tour of a lifetime!  However, my management was concerned about the details that I was offering in the blog, and there were some photos of the many children at our concerts, so they asked me to thoroughly edit the blog… I felt discouraged, but really, I should have shown more spirit!  I should have ignored them and just continued creating my story through the blog.  Instead, I took a loooooooong and unnecessary break from my innocent and inclusive blog.  Live and learn.
Yesterday, I visited an old friend, a former drama professor and one of the early founders of women’s study courses at the University of Guelph.  He was donating a bassoon to my charitable status group, the Council of Canadian Bassoonists, and in the course of chatting, he asked me if I were still writing… I confessed that I had become a bit discouraged, and he said, simply, that I must continue writing.  

And oddly, just that simple word of encouragement and support was all I needed to cheerfully return to journal keeping in all of it’s forms.

And I am hugely inspired by Gloria Steinem’s new book, My Life on the Road, where she refers to all the notes she garnered from her travels, not to mention the defining experiences of her whole life.  The stories are valuable, and she created forums for other women too.  More on that later.

I now have so many volumes that they fill out an antique carpet pack that once was loaded onto the backs of camels.  Here I am, sitting comfortably on my complete collection of journals.   





Gumption 101 (Summertime for Bassoon Students)

Teachers and performers who really make the world a better place are a rare breed, and Jo Ann Simpson is one of these people.
A fine professional bassoonist, she is an exceptional individual who actively, calmly, and insightfully nurtures the talents of young players and those of the many professionals she invites to her camp. 
For those bassoonists who attend, from beginner to worldly professional, it’s a rare glimpse into a totally successful life as a musician, bassoonist and teacher, far from the support systems of traditional orchestras and university positions.
I receive many requests each year from different music camps and universities, all wanting me to promote their schools to my students.  I forward some of the links but usually feel a bit weird about it. As a performer and teacher myself, I tend to be familiar with places that have included me in some capacity, which means that there are many that I don’t know anything about.  But I know something about Brooke Valley Bassoon Days, and this is the one that I would recommend first.
When I taught and performed there in 2014, I saw a camp that allowed easy interaction between students and teachers, one that was professional, structured and musically disciplined with lessons, rehearsals and concerts, but also respected the whole person by offering yoga classes, recreation time, collective meals, and reed-making events. 
As a teacher and performer, I had the opportunity to teach and to play exactly the repertoire I wanted, plus do a workshop that incorporated discovery and experimentation for both the students and me.   
The country setting kept everything in close connection to the natural world, and there was a sense of familial safety; rooms were identified by the names of great bassoon performers, thus directing our thoughts to players beyond the borders of our experience, and reminding us that we are part of a larger community of bassoonists.  Members of the class were encouraged to perform, participate, talk, swim, and exercise… to live life to the full, while at the same time being encouraged to care for each other.  At least, that is how it seemed to me.
The whole atmosphere breathed of resourcefulness, of a life fully lived in music, with discipline and open-mindedness.  Jo Ann runs Brooke Valley Bassoon Days in collaboration with my former orchestra colleague and dear friend, Richard Hoenich.  A genuinely gifted musician, conductor and wonderful former principal bassoonist of the Montreal Symphony, Richard brings wisdom and truly beautiful musicianship to the camp. Each season, they invite other guest professional bassoonists, along with bassoon makers and repairmen, to widen everyone’s horizons. 
This season’s featured teacher and performer Christopher Millard, beloved principal bassoonist of NACO, along with bassoon makers and repairmen.  Go to the website to check out the details  and get an idea of the impressive offerings.  But mostly, go to this camp to absorb some of the gumption that the founders, Jo Ann Simpson and Richard Hoenich have shown during their rich and successful careers in music.  ALL ages and skill levels are welcomed and incorporated into the musical fabric.
(August 20-26, 2016)
And speaking of gumption and initiative, a young professional, Mike Harley wrote to me recently about a weekend workshop on NewBassoon Workshop – multiphonics, circular breathing, electronics, live-looping, commissioning, !@#!@#$ BERIO), that is being run out of Eastman by the Dark  in the Song collective.  Here are players who are fearlessly exploring the newer techniques and repertoire for our fabulous instrument and it’s essential learning for all of us.  The tuition covers 30 hours of instruction and I think is enormously worthwhile for bassoonists of every age.  Go! I might go too.  (July 6-9)
There are, of course, other many music camps for bassoonists in Canada. Here is an incomplete list, based on the letters written to me recently by the directors. I have no direct experience with any of them, but I always respect initiative and I promised the writers that I would mention their camps. I may have forgotten some because filing is not my strong point, but in any case, here are three:
VSO Institute   (June 26 – July 5), Scotia Festival Young Artists Program  (May 22 to June 5) and PRISMA   (June 12-25).
GUMPTION ALERT – ALL these schools need bassoonists!  If you have the moxie (aka gumption), ask for a scholarship and be prepared to be a stellar candidate if they grant you one!
Parting thought (GUMPTION 101) —-You can do all of these camps, and/or, DIY! Consider asking a great teacher if you can have private lessons. You can tailor an individualized program of study and practice that will boost your playing enormously. There are many great bassoonists in Canada and beyond… think of one whom you admire and ask for a lesson!  Or start a fund raising campaign and raise the money for 10 lessons, and book a recital in your hometown to finish the summer.  There is a world out there that needs your creativity and ideas too.
Gumption and summertime… an unbeatable combination.  I’ll stop saying gumption now.
Love to all,


Back to the Blog

I have never stopped thinking, albeit a tiny thread of a thought, about my blog…. my life has been so, well…. life-y!  in the past year… tours with classical and folk musicians, first art show in 5 years, selling house, moving to apartment, waiting for rezoning a church, couch surfing, touring, looking after elderly father and family, teaching, moving into my church, premiering new concerti…

I’ve been in my new place for 6 weeks and I am happy.  My church is the place I’ve always wanted… it’s like I am living in a concert hall with a really good backstage…and my bed is in the same room as the grand piano.  This must be why I live alone, who else could tolerate such weirdness!?  I am still doing all the things I’ve ever done, including playing concerts, helping my fantastic, iconic, frail-former-superhero father, touring, recording (today, finishing my THREE disc with Lesllie Newman and Guy Few at Maureen Forrester Recital Hall in Waterloo).  Yet it’s better now…I have a studio home smack in the downtown core of a small town, steps from the postoffice, surrounded by kindly neighbours and the wafting fragrances of different types of farms.   I’m on the highway a lot to be in different big cities, which is exactly how I like it.

And between unpacking boxes and practising, I am grabbing some time to learn about the phenomenal tools available to musicians and artists these days, following a 9 week free course by the incredibly experienced and dedicated Ariel Hyatt of Cyper PR and learning something mind-glowingly relevant every day, sometimes twice per day.

So life is still very life-y, but I am enjoying all of it… here is the back of my former church/new studio.

Coming Back to Life!

I need just a few more hours in the day!  I am coming back to writing about my life.
Right now, I am having time to process some of the ground-shifting experiences I have had this year… 50 solo concerts across the continent, from the deep south to the far north and to the coast and throughout the Prairies… recitals with Guy, concerti with different orchestras and my first life-changing concerts with the beautiful Valdy and Karel.  I have been a deer-in-the-headlights but so happy.  Other big changes are on the way, having sold my beautiful Toronto house but with time for one more art show before I move.

Lots to tell in the days to come…

Meanwhile, here are some images… I met so many inspiring musicians this summer… here is the inimitable Jane Siberry… she asked me to sit in her band at the first Kingsville Folk Festival and I almost fainted… bumped into her later in the summer at my favourite Toronto gym! I was actually wearing the T shirt that had her name on the back (I didn’t tell her).   So much more to tell you about my first folk festivals (Kingsville and Summerfolk)…

With Valdy and Karel before our first show at Kingsville Folk Festival… first time out for my pink pants too!  Anyway, best summer ever, playing with these crazily musical men and meeting so many passionate musicians.
Met the songwriter, mad genius Graham Shaw… Valdy and Karel and I had dinner at his lakeside home and Graham insisted on giving me his fabulous paper hat after we had all jumped in the lake…
Had my first art show in 4 years on Sept 13/14… called it “ZOOM – near + far” and sold about a dozen of the 40 new works… including this one, the newest oil painting, called “Sunfall”
Touring with Valdy and Karel was a dream come true… here we are standing in front of Blueberry, his Merc touring van with our wonderful new friends from Burns Lake, B. C.,
Karen Cyr and Sandra Barth… so much more to tell about this tour!
Our really fancy tour T-shirts did not sell well in northern B. C.  (our CDs did, thank goodness)… we now have work-out gear for the rest of our lives (not really)
please write to me if you want one… they are fantastic quality, really.
We each got commemorative paddles from the

Chief Louie Paddle Company in Burns Lake and I clutched mine for the rest of the tour and it is on my dresser in my bedroom and makes me happy whenever I look at it

This is me after the Summerfolk Festival in Owen Sound, teaching two days later at the Brooke Valley Bassoon Days… this was a helluva summer for me…
Then on to the deep south, here at the University of Southern Mississippi with Dr Kim Wooly and her lovely student before our recital on August 27… I took Graham Shaw’s hat to the deep south with me… it survived and I did too
Two of my favourite musicians of my life… Guy + Valdy, both wearing almost the same shirt!


And so impressed with Lecolion Washington, bassoon professor at University of Memphis, here getting ready for Bassoon-a-Palooza with 23 young players


Rehearsing with Lecolion Washington before our recital on August 30 at the Univ of Memphis


 Guy and I flew to Eugene, Oregon on October 15 to attend Arts Northwest Showcase with one of our managers, Allison Bent.
Fun and crazy… met amazing musicians, might get a U.S. tour out of this for 2016
Anyway, we were pretending that our tour bus was parked outside the Hilton.
My Valdy tour took me straight back to my home territory for the first time ion my whole career… and while I was gone, they made the whole area into one territory!  Saw Nadina Mountain (my namesake) (it means “mountain that stands alone” because it does) from 50 miles away… gotta go back soon


Wild drive down the Fraser Canyon with Valdy whipping that pony through the mountains from Quesnel to the coast to catch the last ferry to Pender Island for our last concert on the B. C. leg of tour…


So much more to tell.
But for now,
it has been a great year.
The future is open.