A Series of Unfortunate Events


That is truly what my life feels like right now, a comedic tragedy. Most of you are reading this post because I linked it to FB for a more in depth explanation of why I am not going back to Cleveland this year. Others probably just miss my witty prose. Either way, here we go.

About 3 years ago I started experiencing a tingling and sometimes numb sensation in my left ring and pinky fingers. Initial tests didn’t find anything, but the conclusion was my Ulnar nerve was irritated or pinched. Some of you know I have been dealing with this off and on since then, some times feeling no symptoms, sometimes really bad, and everything in between. Sometimes I would go months without feeling anything.

That was what happened at CIM. I was practicing more than I ever had, was doing it smarter, and more consistently, and my first semester was one of those wonderful times. Shoot forward to February. Opera pit was the death of me and my symptoms shot back up to the horrible red zone again. I thought I had it under control, but then I was preparing for the Utah Symphony audition and wasn’t listening to my body at all. Like most people know, preparing for an audition is like getting ready for an Olympic event.

Essentially, I have an overuse injury, and have had one for some time. I always thought it was in my shoulder, but recent consults and tests have shown that it is in my elbow as well. The end of the semester came, and I took time off to try and see if it got better. It didn’t. After doctor’s appointments and many tears, I decided for my health that I needed to drop out of Chautauqua for my own good. I came back home to Reno to take more time off and hopefully heal and find more long term solutions.

What is ironic about this is I thought the hardest decision this summer was whether to go to Chautauqua or not. Wrong! The longer I was home, the more time passed without any improvement in my symptoms. Mind you, this was the WORST it had ever been. I had been doing everything I had done in the past that had kept it at bay the last couple years: chiropractic work, massage, stretching, etc. I was even adding new things: yoga, strength training, physical therapy, and I even tried acupuncture. I finally tried a heavy duty anti-inflammatory which helped some, but didn’t offer any kind of permanent solution.

I finally had to face the music and consider my options. I wasn’t able to play, and I had no idea when I would. CIM was a performing school, so I had no place there if I couldn’t practice. So again, after many tears and hard phone calls, I am officially taking a leave of absence for a year on medical grounds. My spot and scholarship will be held for a year, so I at least have that time to work on finding a treatment plan that works for me. What my doctors keep saying is I need time, and I definitely have that now.

What worries me the most is whether I will heal at all. I have the greatest hope that everything will work out, but I keep having this nagging feeling that I need to be prepared for other outcomes. I’m going to take some classes to start working on a public teachers license just as a safety net and to keep the loan sharks at bay. And for work, I’m going to be a substitute teacher for the year, which is going to be some pretty good money.

I started playing a bit of piano again to feel like I am still a musician. I’ve really struggled with the purpose of why I am experiencing this HUGE detour in my life, but I’m finally accepting that this is exactly where I need to be. I have been going through a grieving process of sorts for a couple weeks, and feel like I’m starting to get to real acceptance. This was not, no, it was NEVER part of the plan. But I have hope for and faith in there being a purpose for this and an outcome and plan better than I could have planned for myself.

I’m open to any advice, love, and support over the next while as I go through this process. My nerve damage is bad enough that one of the solutions on the table might be surgery. I absolutely don’t want to do that, but we’ll see. I’ve painted my fingernails for the first time the last few days and I’ve started wearing rings, because it always bothered me before, but now I can’t even play, so why the heck not, right? 🙂

I’m really doing okay, but I have good and bad days. I just hope I start having more good days.


The Long Haul


So yes. I’m still here. More specifically, I’m done with my first year of my masters degree. When did that happen??? Oh ya, the last 9 months. I guess I just had a grad school baby.

I always say I’m going to update more than I do, and never keep my promises. Looking at the state of my last two blogposts, you would think the I’m still in China (which was a YEAR ago now!) and that the only thing that occupies my mind is hairy legs. NOT the case.

Who knows if I will ever write about China on here, but my friend Holland is writing about it on her blog right now, so I might follow suit. I think about it all of the time and the wonderful experience it was and how grateful I am that I was part of such a fantastic tour. The Cleveland Orchestra just performed a piece we played on tour this weekend and a bunch of memories came flooding back.

I’m still in a post semester coma right now, even though my year has been over for a week. But I’m enjoying my time and happy I made it. Now to get started on the future!

I’m going to have another viola-crazed summer this year! SO PUMPED. I head out to Viola Congress in just a couple short weeks and I could NOT be more excited. I’m going to the Tuttle Workshop this year! I haven’t been in 4 years and I’m excited to get more Tuttle insights. Oh ya, and I made this poster:


I’m also going to Chautauqua for 7 weeks! It has been 3 years since I’ve gone to a camp that was longer than a month, so I hope I can keep up my momentum!

Whether I write about the past year or not, know that Cleveland has been the right place for me. I’m unsure about the future, but I know I will be lead to where I need to be again. More coming soon! 🙂



Remember when you were like 11 or 12 (well, at least for me), and you were SO excited when your mom was going to let you start shaving your legs?  (Or you did it behind her back, whichever.)  It was new and you wanted to do it all.the.time and wear things that showed off this new talent.  I never had the awkward “I can’t do this” cutting phase my friends seemed to have, which made me enjoy it more.

Well, I think it shows my old age when on a Saturday I scratch my leg and say, “Whoa!  When was the last time I shaved?” and realize it was last Sunday.  BUT this is my point.  Instead of saying, “Yay!  I get to shave my legs!” it is “Again?  Seriously?  Haven’t I been doing this long enough that it would stop…growing?”

Maybe I should invent a cure and make millions.  Then I could feed my viola habit more dutifully.

In the Beginning: Part 1


I was trying to think of the best way to update this thing, and I think going chronologically will be the best, instead of my original plan to go backwards.

I guess I will start!

The lone post WAY back in January was before all of the insanity began.  As previously posted, I had heard from all of the schools except Juilliard about my audition dates, with my first being the 17th of January at Maryland.  I heard from Juilliard on January 11th saying that I hadn’t gotten past pre-screens.  Now, that was a blow.  Yes, I hadn’t felt that good about my recording I sent in.  But I figured because I had done everything right, meaning having lessons and keeping in contact, I at least thought that would have merited an audition.  It came at a really critical time as well.  With one week until Maryland, I could have chosen to sulk and have that effect my progress, but I knew it happened for a reason.  Still not exactly sure why, well…I am more so now, but it would have been nice to at least audition.  But I have heard from several sources that this year was weird.  People who are better than me didn’t get past either, but then others who were maybe at my level or lower, had.  It’s just the system I guess.  Maybe DMA, but who knows what I will be doing in 2 years!

Now, to Maryland!  I was able to stay with Randy and Nancy Smith, Katie Nibley’s WONDERFUL parents.  I stayed with them last year when I was visiting, and it was nice to get taken care of and have a blast with 2 of my favorite people.  After a night with them, I was picked up by none other than Carrie and Seth Castleton!  It was so nice to see two of my dearest friends in the world and see how much they have grown in their new life as grad students.  At that point, they were just starting to tell people they were expecting, so it was fun to be one of the first ones to know!  They really calmed my nerves and helped me focus.  The day of the audition was really chill!  Maryland doesn’t have any placement tests, so all I had to do was show up for the audition.  Calm and confident during this one, and I feel like in the end, this was one of my best auditions.  No glaring mistakes, I answered a few questions they asked clearly, and left feeling like I nailed it.

Once I got back to Provo, I had 5 days until I left again for my next audition at CIM.  It was pretty crazy continuing school AND practice.  In Cleveland, I was able to stay with Julie Beistline who is also a fellow BYU grad.  It was nice to be with her too, as I’m sure I wouldn’t have handled what happened as well if she hadn’t been there.  Now, Cleveland audition day was definitely more intense.  They had placement tests, which I had studied for, but you know how that goes.  I took them in the morning and waited around until the afternoon for my audition.  It was nice that day to have my friend Charlie Longtine from Domaine Forget last summer, who was also auditioning, to each lunch with and steal his practice room for extra warm-up time.  As everyone knows, CIM was my dream school, especially after Juilliard was off of the table.  I felt a lot of pressure from myself all day because I wanted to get in SOOOOOOOOOOOOO badly.  I walked up stairs, and the committee was obviously on a break.  Ms. Ramsey was in the hallway talking to someone, and when I walked up she said “Hi Noelle!”  I was a couple minutes early, and it was funny to see them all doing whatever.  Ms. Ramsey said just a couple minutes for someone to get back and then they would get going.  I was feeling okay still, and when Mr. Irvine got back, he said, “Want to come in?”  I started with my Bach and it wasn’t nearly as good as the week before with the Walton coming next.  They listened to the 1st FOUR pages, and looking back at this, all of my other auditions, I only got through 2!  I also was asked for a scale, and by that point I was so frustrated with how poorly I was playing, my scale didn’t even go well.  My audition was done after the scale, and while I was walking out, Mr. Vernon (!) said “Great improvement.” kind of quietly….wait, did I hear that right????  I said thank you and he knodded and said something else, but I was so flustered from everything, I didn’t really hear it.  Ms. Ramsey walked me out of the room and said, “Noelle, you have just improved so much” when we got in the hallway.  I said “Thank you, I have been working really hard the past four years.”  She said “I can tell, you have improved so much.”  I then said this, “Thank you, but I was a little disappointed with my Walton.  I usually play it better than that.”  And she said “Ya, I could tell you were a little nervous.”  It seems like I said something else, but she ended with the “again, you have improved so much” and smiled her warm, beautiful smile at me and walked back into the room.  She didn’t HAVE to do that, but she did!  That is why I love her so much.

After my Cleveland audition, I was convinced that I had played so poorly, there was no CHANCE I was getting in.  It was quite a letdown after the previous weekend, let alone having a HORRIBLE audition at my dream school.  You do not know how many tears were shed in the aftermath of this audition, but I finally learned that I needed to be okay with it, and whatever the result of the audition, everything was going to work out in the end.

I’m actually kind of chuckling to myself right now as I write this, because the results turned out so differently from what I felt then.  (I think I’m going to post this and then start working on the second half of my audition experience.)  Most of you who read this blog probably already know that I AM going to CIM next year and might find it as funny as I did how I felt after my audition!  But I’m putting this out there for me and for anyone to remember that if you work hard and try your best, something will work out.  It did for me.

Second half is coming soon.  Meanwhile, here is a little something get you excited about CHINA.

Yep, you guessed it, me on the GREAT WALL OF CHINA.

Hello World


Okay, so a MASSIVE update is coming soon.  The last 6 months have been some of the most intense in every department of my life.  It was always so funny to think to myself “I need to update the blog with what just happened” and then have the next thing come and go as well, until finally, MONTHS passed.  Man, I’m horrible at this.

I’ve just been reflecting a lot on…life, I guess.  In the recent months, lots of reflection and hopeful planning have occupied my mind.  I don’t have any deep musings to share, but let me throw it out there how grateful I am for all of my numerous blessings.  My heart is full!

Winter semester 2011 coming soon.  China tour coming soon.  Noelle’s future life coming soon.


2010 in Review


This is the first new year I have had with this blog, so I thought I would do a recap of everything I did in 2010.

-Left the country for the first time, if Canada counts!

-Went to Boston, New York, Houston and Cincinnati for the first time

-Presented my research at the 38th International Viola Congress

-Played in master classes for Samuel Rhodes, Lynne Ramsey, Atar Arad, Misha Amory, James Dunham, Sabina Thatcher, Paul Silverthorne, Carl Johanson, and Charlie Pikler

-Had lessons with Katherine Murdock, Helen Callus, Misha Amory, Roger Tapping, James Dunham, Ivo-Jan Van der Werff, Dimitri Murrath and Francois Paradis

-Taught my own students, 160R’s through BYU and my (finally!) couple of ADORABLE high school students

-Got a research grant from BYU to transcribe Technique is Memory

-Said goodbye to some really good friends who left BYU

-Met some really AWESOME friends in Canada that I will have for the rest of my life

-Auditioned for the Utah Symphony and all the CRAZINESS that came with that


-Spent WAY too many hours on Facebook

-Had some of the BEST roommates ever

-Got to see Celia Hatton, Daniel Campos, Madeline Sharp, and Adam Kramer

-Played some of the master works of the Classical Repertoire in orchestra and chamber music

-Had my junior recital

-Got my dog, Baby, a Christmas sweater (with toggles!)

-Learned one of the Big Three viola concertos

-Had my wisdom teeth out

-Got my ears pierced

-Getting closer to 3 years since my last date

-Wrote some really crappy papers

-Started this blog

Phew!  What a year!  I can’t believe I made it.  If you had asked me at this point last year what I would have done in the next 12 months, almost NONE of this would have been on it.  So, to have a reference for this time next year, I’m writing what this next should entail!

-Go to Houston, Boston, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Maryland for sure, and hopefully New York


-Senior Recital in March

-Getting IN to one the 6 schools I applied for, with hopefully a really nice scholarship

-Hopefully not getting to 3 years since my last date

-Getting to see some of my friends at auditions

-Going to a festival this summer, maybe Domaine again!

-3 weeks in China on tour with the BYU Chamber Orchestra

-And finally, graduating with my Bachelors of Music in Viola Performance!

Again, we will see what happens on top of the expected, because 2/3 of the first list was not on the list originally!  But, oh, how it turned out better!

In other news, Penderecki is LEARNED…but ask me later about Vieuxtemps.  But hey, 8 days until my first audition!  I’ll keep you posted 🙂



Just heard from the last school without a pre-screen!  Here is when I will be swinging into town!

University of Maryland: January 17th

Cleveland Institute of Music: January 23rd

University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music: February 5th

Rice University: February 11th

New England Conservatory: February 15th

Now, go practice Noelle!