theremin major

notes from me and my moog etherwave pro

On my way to school: Obstacles! March 6, 2007

Filed under: On my way to school: Obstacles — jenhammaker @ 5:24 pm

First off, let me say, I am aware that most of these stories could be shorter, but I don’t want to forget any of these details. All this writing is brain insurance for my memory.

So after that unbelievable phone conversation, I met with the Assistant Director of [A Paradigm of Higher Learning Specializing in Classical Music Education].

He agreed to consider me audition for the diploma program at [A Paradigm of Higher Learning Specializing in Classical Music Education].  It’s mostly for adults who have an undergraduate degree in something other than music. For example, I have a B.F.A. in Acting from Southern Methodist University. I am getting college credit for the classes that I’m in, so If I choose to go to grad school, I’ve got the know-how.

(So now you’re thinking, “Her poor parents! What a nightmare! First acting, now this?!!” The truth is, my parents are wonderful and very supportive of my artistic endeavors and for that I am eternally greatful.)

Anyway, the Assistant Director and I talked about what I had in mind for my time at [A Paradigm of Higher Learning Specializing in Classical Music Education]. He gave me an application and told me about the audition, which was scheduled for January 16th.

That gave me over a month to work my ass off.

Flashback to May 2006. I started to train for the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco with Team in Training to benefit The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. It was a goal of mine to run a marathon before I turned 30. My family hates cancer and specifically lymphoma because lymphoma was very greedy and stole one of us a few years back. Running 26.2 miles uphill was the least I could do in order to stick-it to cancer.

Early August 2006: I got a last- minute call from a guy who was doing an internet TV show variety act and he wanted me to play! (my theremin) This was an exciting milestone for me. No one had ever come to me with an opportunity like that. The show was late that night. After running, I came home to practice and prepare for the show. Suddenly, I felt unbearably intense pain in the front and back of my left side. I couldn’t walk, couldn’t lie down, or do anything in-between. Thinking it was appendicitis, I made my roommate take me to the ER. Turns out I had a 2mm kidney stone. CAUSE: dehydration from marathon training. Doctor gave me painkillers, told me it would pass on it’s own, that I needed to drink 3 quarts of water a day from now on, and sent me home. At 3am. So I missed the gig.

Mid-August 2006: I got a theremin gig working on an opera that was a part HERE’s Living Room Festival. I was really excited to work on this. The music was really ineresting and I could improvise well to it because it was screaming, “this needs theremin!” (Yeah, literally! Isn’t that insane?!) The people were nice, funny and great singers, and the story was really strange. So it was going to be an exciting adventure!

Then I got a call from my dad. My mother was diagnosed with stage IV stomach cancer. Stomach cancer is EVIL because it’s hardly detectable in it’s early stages. Now, my mom already HAS cancer. She’s been fighting stage IV thyroid cancer for 16 years. She’s in remission, but luckily, when she went in to have her routine scans, they found this completely unrelated bullshit in her stomach and intestines, and liver.

That first day that I knew, a Wednesday, my dad told me not to rush home to Atlanta. They were going to the Mayo clinic in Rochester MN, to get more tests and then he would let me know what the situation was.

The next day, I got a call from the internet variety tv show again, informing me that missing the last show didn’t ruin my reputation and that he wanted me to come back the next Wednesday. Friday (before the inter-tv gig, during rehearsals for the opera) my dad called and told me that I should probably book a flight to Minnesota.

So, I had to cancel the opera gig and the internet variety tv show (again. no, he hasn’t called me since. Sure, you went to the ER and your mom has cancer, you hypochondriatic freak. Just kidding, he didn’t say that.) So, I’m thinking my reputation is hella tarnished, but what could I do. John Hoge took my place in the opera, so that made me happy!

I went to Minnesota. On a 98-degree afternoon, in a cramped but high-tech office at Mayo Clinic, the doctor sat down with me, my father, uncle, and mother, explained to us the gravity of the situation. If she decided to do chemo, My mom’s chances of living any longer than a year were slim to none.

WHATZ UP, CANCER! You wanna take this outside? And by outside, I mean me pounding the crap out the pavement for upwards of 5 hours on an ascending slope in the hilly-est city you can think of. F%#@ you, cancer!! I continued training for the marathon.

Early October 2006: I quit my insanely cushy job as an assistant at a successful hedge fund so that I can go home to Atlanta more often to spend time with my family and my mom.

October 22, 2006: I completed the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco, running 26.2 miles uphill in 5 hours, 10 minutes and 1 second. Incidentally, I raised over $5,000 for cancer research. So, there, cancer, you’re going DOWN.

AND WE’RE BACK to December. I went home to Atlanta for a month with my theremin and we spent time with my family and prepared for the audition. It was an emotional Christmas. I left Atlanta after my mom had her 7th round of chemo. It was her last round before she took a 2 month break. The day before I left, she had some tests done and some CT scans. The results were cause to celebrate. Despite the odds and against all medical predictions up to this point, my mother’s tumors had shrunk by 90 percent.

Up until this point, I was really hesitant to go back to school. Now, I knew it would be okay. [A Paradigm of Higher Learning Specializing in Classical Music Education] is a three year program and I’m allowed up to a year leave-of-absence. I’m leaving my summer free to go home. My parents are travelling, now, and want to be on their own, so I can’t be of any help anyway . . .

January 16, 2007: I’m ready! My audition is at 3pm.

11am: INTENSE PAIN resumes in the front and back of my left side AGAIN. This time, I knew exactly what it was. I took a cab to the ER. CT scan showed that I had the SAME kidney stone that I had back in August except that it had grown to 5mm. At 5pm, the doctor sent me home with painkillers, and told me if I didn’t pass the stone in 3 days, to see a Urologist.

I missed the audition. WTF, Universe! You think this is funny?

After leaving numerous voicemails and emails with the people at [A Paradigm of Higher Learning Specializing in Classical Music Education], and crying for hours, I finally heard back from the Assistant Director. He said that he was sorry that I missed the audition and how everyone was looking forward to the first audition where a musician was going to have to plug-in. He told me that my situation wasn’t hopeless yet. One thing that the audition was going to do for me was expose my instrument to a slue of potential Master Teachers, who might have been wary about the theremin until they heard what it could do , and in which case, might agree to take me on as a student. Since I missed that showcase, I had one final option. All I had to do was contact this one Master Teacher, a violinist who plays a lot of new music and mentioned that she would be open to a theremin player as a student , and ask her if I could audition for her privately. If she accepted me as a student, then I was IN, but if she didn’t want to take on the crazy theremin challenge, then it was OVER for me until the next audition day, in May.

January 18th: I audition privately with the Master Teacher and I am accepted!!

January 22nd: I begin school.

February 20th: I finally go to a Urologist.

Maybe next I should become a plumber.

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5 Responses to “On my way to school: Obstacles!”

  1. Jon B. Says:

    Jeezus! When you said \”long story short\” in your previous post, you weren\’t kidding!

    Anyway, great story, and best wishes for your mom.

  2. jenhammaker Says:

    ha~ thanks!

  3. For what it’s worth, my involvement with the theremin seems to have resulted from urological issues.

    That is to say, in the summer of 2005, my prostate gland began behaving like that of a much older man. Prescription drugs for it significantly impaired my powers of rational thought… and more or less on a dare from one of my students, I started playing theremin.

    Describing the mystical link between the theremin and the human urinary tract is left to the reader as an exercise.

    Seriously, though, here’s hoping that your mom’s recovery continues.

  4. Synge Says:

    But is the kidnet stone gone yet, or is it sticking around to continue to inform your life’s choices?

    glad to hear your mom’s tumors shrank 90%! that is so freaking amazingly wonderful! that made my day and gives me hope. thanks.

  5. jenhammaker Says:

    Brian ~ weird and hilarious. maybe there is a correlation. . .

    Le Synge ~ The status of the stone is yet to be determined by my Urologist. I’ll find out next week.
    Yay for hope. It’s a scarce and highly valuable resource in this medical game. I am pleased to have found some to give to you.
    Best wishes to you and your family!


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