Blog 3: Beginning of the Semester

I have now been in Mannheim for over two weeks and am finally beginning to feel more settled. The new semester has called for new routines, and my practice has been gaining momentum with the help of reed and practice diaries. 

Last week, my friend Laura visited from Berlin which was lovely. She studied her Erasmus at the Royal College of Music last year and had an audition in Mannheim, so it was great to be able to host a friend here.

Another person I have met here is a lovely lady called Bettina. She is a friend of my girlfriend Hannah’s grandad and I am so grateful to have been introduced to her. We met for coffee and spoke in German for about half the time, which was hard for me but a welcome challenge. She has two children and has invited me for dinner, so hopefully speaking with her children will help my German even more.

At the weekend my flatmates and I had a flat warming party (another opportunity for German speaking…) which was really fun but trying to follow the fast-paced conversations was exhausting. At this point I hadn’t spoken any German with my flatmates because, despite their patience, I was too embarrassed and the prospect of speaking was daunting. However, we then had the idea of creating a timetable which dictates which language we speak on each day of the week. Most days we speak German, with some English and a day of French (mainly for Anna Lena and Lyson). In German, this schedule is called a “Wohngemeinschaftsprachzulassungsordnung” (see picture), which translates as Shared Flat Language Authorisation Routine – just a long word we made for the fun of it!











In terms of wellbeing, I’ve noticed that I’m at my lowest in the evenings and when things are quieter, so I have joined a gym and also started an arrangement for wind ensemble to fill in the gaps in my day. If someone had told me five years ago that I’d be living in Germany AND have a gym membership I definitely would have laughed. 

My professor Ole’s arrival in Mannheim last Sunday has meant I’ve had a busy week, including lessons, ‘Drill Olympics’, reed classes with Prof. Mikko-Pekka Svala (principal bassoon of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra) and a first orchestra rehearsal. The Drill Olympics was intense but great fun, helping the class to gel together – this sense of team spirit seems really important in Ole’s method of teaching. I have settled easily into the bassoon class because everyone is so friendly and supportive of each other, creating an atmosphere free from tension and arrogance; I feel very lucky to be here. Along with the rest of the class, I now am proudly wearing the Mannheim crest on my bassoon case. My first lesson with Ole was fantastic and I know what I need to be working on and how to work on it – he will visit again in two weeks time for a Klassenabend (class concert) and more lessons. 

Also this week, my first tube cane order arrived from Rigotti in time for reed classes with Mikko-Pekka, who has been here for the past three days. I have never made reeds from tube cane before so I have been learning how to choose the best tubes, split them, pre gauge, gauge, profile, and then finally shape the cane, all in the Popov style favoured by Mikko-Pekka. So far I have had great results and have made a lot of notes. I am really looking forward to his next visit in December. 

Next week I am off to Ochsenhausen for the orchestra tour with concerts in Ochsenhausen, Heidelberg, Neustadt and Mannheim. I am glad to be busier again, but I need to pace myself to avoid an early burnout. I am glad I had two weeks to find my feet in Mannheim before Ole arrived, bringing with him a much busier week than in my last blog. I am having a great time and loving it here. 

Thank you for following my blog and I hope to see you at the next one! 🙂

Ashby x