So we have two large and smelly dogs, Abby and Sally. Abby is a Golden Retriever and Sally is a Shepherd-something.  After the Airbender cartoon, we call them Abby-tar the Great Furbender and her sister Sally-tar. They are also known at various times as Stinks, Stinker, Stinky Girl, Stink-butt, Fluff, Fluffs, Fluffy, Fluffbudget, and my personal favorite, Sisters-in-Fur. If we are in a hurry they become an amalgamation of Sally and Abby…..either Sabby or Bally…(and they respond to this).

Along with giving them various nicknames, we also engage in wordplay. For instance, we have noticed that Sally is growing a benign lump on her forehead that is pointing upwards.  So we tease that she might need cosmetic surgery which my husband calls ‘Plastic Fur-gery’. Abby is becoming grey in the snout. So we tell her solemnly (as if she can understand, mind you) that she needs highlights and a mani-pedi to keep her girlish looks.

Why do we do this?  Why this obsession with cute nicknames and funny plays on words? Why the persistance in ascribing human characteristics to these beasts? And what are your nicknames for your pets? Please…tell me we are not the only ones who do this.

In an earlier post I mentioned my recent musical venture to Lake Placid, New York.  Lake Placid Sinfonietta is a chamber orchestra almost 100 years old. The Sinfonietta has a rich history of players from the Boston Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic and teachers from Eastman School of Music, among many other top-notch music schools and orchestras.  I went in part because my clarinet professor, D. Stanley Hasty had played at Lake Placid in the 1950s.  More on that another time.

One player still active in the Sinfonietta is K. David van Hoesen (KDVH), former Principal Bassoon of the Rochester Philharmonic and Professor of Bassoon at Eastman School of Music. He coached me in several groups during my time at Eastman. So it was a joy, so many years later, to sit beside him as a colleague. He knew every note in every score.  It was uncanny! In his mid-80s, David still has the famous ‘van-Hoesen’ sound. I’ll ask bassoonists to describe it for I cannot. Suffice it to say that he was another one of the reasons I went to Lake Placid Sinfonietta. (PS: He has played there since 1947!)

But the best part was visiting David and his wife Carol for lunch and a ride through their land on his bright blue ATV. As we careened around over hill and dale, I kept thinking, “In college would I have ever imagined off-roading with David van Hoesen?” Boy, life sure is interesting!

For any up and coming musicians reading this blog, keep this in mind:

1) Experienced musicians are not to be discarded lightly. Treat them with respect they deserve based on their years of experience. Ask them questions. Engage them, talk to them. They are a wealth of wisdom.

2) Anytime we have a chance to work with a master let us not turn down the opportunity. Besides, we never know when we might go off-roading!

A memorial service for my clarinet professor, D. Stanley Hasty, was held this past Saturday. He died on June 22, 2011 at the age of 91. I wish I could have attended the memorial service but it was not to be. Happily, a 90th birthday party for him last year at Eastman meant many of us could thank him for his musical genius, great integrity, and sometimes his tough love in our lives.  There is rarely a day that goes by, especially during our orchestral season, where I do not think of something he said or showed me. Sometimes I think he is such a part of my musical make-up that I do not realize how deep it goes.

I didn’t even know who Stan Hasty was when auditiong for Eastman! I didn’t know what Eastman was, either. We went for the audition because my dad had read about Eastman in a newspaper or magazine. Our family grew up in a small town far from orchestra youth programs and college professors. I am forever grateful to my parents for being so supportive. They made Eastman possible. I also owe Mr. Hasty more than words can express. Without his guidance I wouldn’t have had a career.

My thoughts and prayers are with his wife June and the Hasty family during this time.

And may we remember to visit those we love while they are alive whenever possible.