Thursday, August 21, 2008

From the Mouths of Babes

The last few days since Ravinia have been heavenly. Thanks to the magic of plane travel, I was able to spend some time with Jeremy, who is in Los Angeles right now, working on their exciting upcoming production of Il Trittico, as well as catch up with good friends who are also working with Jeremy. Thanks to the magic of the internet, I was able to catch up on all of my Olympics watching (I am an Olympics fanatic), catch up on all the blogs I have been ignoring, and generally waste time. Thanks to the magic of LA weather, I was also able to go for a swim everyday, which felt decadent.

Ravinia was also an incredible experience. Getting to sing with the Chicago Symphony again was a real luxury – they are such an incredible orchestra, and being the group that I made my concert debut with a while back, it is always a special experience to be with them. Mozart and the CSO – I am not sure it can get much better than that. Except for maybe Stravinsky and the CSO – but I am getting a bit ahead of myself (I can't help myself there - I am really excited).

Another thing that made Ravinia so exceptional was a moment that occurred while I was at a friend's house in Chicago for an exceptional dinner. I met my friend's 16 year old niece, who confessed to us a burgeoning interest in music and singing. At one point during the dinner, she said, "Imagine if going to work meant singing every day – I can't imagine anything better than that." I looked at her, taken aback and humbled at how easy it is to take this life and all this opportunity for granted, and felt gratitude overwhelm me that this is my life.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


For my month in Marlboro, I was insulated in the wooded slopes of Vermont, surrounded by friends practically every waking moment. We shared communal meals together, rehearsed together, and relaxed over a glass of wine together before collapsing and commencing our daily cycle again the next day. Time stood still at the same time that it felt like it was flying by. It was magical, profound, moving, life-changing, educational, intense, and exciting. I found some of the innocent joy that music-making can bring me that was so constant and natural when I was a teenager and that is sometimes forgotten in world of professional music-making.

Part-way through, a fellow Marlboro participant in his first year expressed surprise that he had spent so little time alone, able to work on the personal projects he thought he would have time to focus on while sequestered away in the woods. I, myself, even though I knew to expect the all-consuming quality of Marlboro Time, was a little caught off guard. Many things fell by the wayside that weren't my immediate musical projects – the book I've been reading, emails, phone calls, dealing with plans post-Marlboro, this blog, among other things. My life went off-kilter, and any pretense I attempt at trying to find some sort of balance in my life went out the window. In a way, balance wasn't necessary – I was on a vacation from the real world. That is why Marlboro is so isolated, so remote. It allows us to pretend that it is almost possible leave the worries of the real world behind, that it is possible to push them away to the outskirts of our concern, and to immerse ourselves in a sort of musical think-tank. It will take me months to sort out all that I gleaned from my month there, although I am already starting to be able to see some ways in which I have grown. My heart is more open, my ears are sharper, my technical brain more precise, and my musical focus clearer.

The transition back is always a rocky one, though, and as I struggle to adjust to going from living in a commune to my solitary hotel room in the suburbs of Chicago, I see how I can't carry on so imbalanced in the "real" world. Thankfully, I have to focus much of my energies on the performances we have of Abduction here in Ravinia this weekend. Luckily, my colleagues here are open, generous, and wonderful, and they make the transition ever so much easier as I ease back into the routine of my "normal" life.