George and I went up to Juneau Falls on Sunday.
This time, I wanted my five-year-old to listen to what finger birdies #1 and #2 were doing when he put them down on the string. We stopped what we were doing and sang the words to "Hot Cross Buns" slowly, so he could match each pitch with my voice. "Now," I explained, "your violin is going to sing the same song your voice did, and if you listen, your ears will tell you if each finger birdie is singing the right note." He placed his fingers on the string and began to pluck.
"Okay now, ask your ears--" I began. But before I could finish my sentence, he'd already come up with a better idea. Erupting with excitement, he stepped back, thrust his violin skyward, and interjected, "OR... I could ask GOD!"
"--Well, yes. I suppose it couldn't hurt."
After two failed attempts, I finally made it all the way to Anchorage in time to reach the music store before it closed. Two weekends in a row, I was so busy having fun on the mountain that I didn't bother to get down in time. But I'd promised the kids new books, and I needed to look through the bins to get some ideas. If I didn't go this time, I was officially a slacker teacher. Slacker... Gosh, this year it seemed so difficult to make the transition from summer mode to fall responsibilities. Fortunately for the kids, rainy weather kept my trail shoes in the gym bag, and I drove past the mountains this time. Maybe the music bins would spark something for my musical drive.
An hour later, I left the store with a bag of shiny new books, including the Bach double concerto. I could play that with a student, possibly. If no one else would play it with me, I could record one part with my camera, upload it, and play along side myself. Heck, I could even add my own accompaniment while I'm at it. These were my thoughts as I ate my sushi alone at the local Asian market. As I sat there, each bite reminded me of all the times I stopped for sushi on the way to symphony rehearsal over the past three years.
Still no word from them as to whether they would be using me. They told me when they hired me that since I wouldn't be able to attend all the rehearsals, I could only be hired as a substitute. That meant that if they ever had enough violins in Anchorage, they wouldn't need me anymore.
As I waited patiently for an answer to the query I'd emailed them earlier, I'd been trying hard not to think about all the things I would be missing if I didn't get to play this year. The music itself goes without speaking, of course; my whole musical career thrives from the technical challenge, the professional demands, and the relationships I build with fellow colleagues who enjoy discussing such topics as the conductor's tempi for the finale of the Tchaikovsky. But playing those concerts offers me so much more than music--like pre-rehearsal sushi, for instance. Then there's Thursday night celtic fiddling at McGinley's pub. And chocolate covered coffee beans in the quarter machine. And bistros and brewhouses, elevators and cordial doormen, and all the things that cater to the city girl inside me--the one who appreciates culture, fine art, and all the man-made beauty that exists on earth.
Most of all, I enjoyed being able to fly across the inlet, disappear downtown, and become someone else for an extended weekend. Anonymously, I walked down the city blocks in dress shoes with a tidy purse and a red scarf, window shopping between undisturbed practice sessions in the hotel room. I liked sipping coffee in the corner cafe, watching people through the window, and thinking about all the various walks of life that exist in humanity. Here I was, living the life of the symphony musician, if only for the weekend.
I can easily put these thoughts aside when the weather is warm and the outdoors beckon. In the mountains, I'm happily at home, and my focus shifts to energy bars, waterproof equipment, and gps devices. Who needs heels and high rises when I've got dirt under my heels and breathtaking skylines to summit just as fast as my feet can climb?
PLEASANT SURROUNDINGS AND A HAPPY TIME AHEAD
One nice thing about taking an extended break from the violin is that you have the opportunity to reinvent yourself when you return. I, for instance, have decided to become a jazz violinist. I smoke three packs a day to encourage a raspy, throaty sound, and I drink like I'm trying to forget all the years lost in a doomed classical relationship. I'll make a couple of recordings of my ideas, and when I'm dead, someone can steal them and make a fortune (in the age old tradition of the blues musician).
I jest, I jest. But playing jazz sure is nice for a change.
I close with another photo of my summer ramblings. Enjoy.
A friend sent me an email with information regarding an international string competition--something I actually qualify to enter, for a change. Why not? I need something to do this fall. Gotta start practicing again, though. The winners get to play at Carnegie Hall.
I'll think about it.
Couldn't hurt to try.
Here's a photo from this weekend's hike, at the Russian River Falls. The weather's been so wonderful this fall.
More entries: August 2009
Enter to win Leonidas Kavakos' recording of the Brahms Violin Concerto.
Emily Grossman is from Soldotna, Alaska. Biography
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