Written by Amy Beth Horman
Published: October 1, 2014 at 2:57 PM [UTC]
I was in a position in my youth where I decided to do something rather unusual in my circle of young musicians. I left my country at almost 16 and went to the Paris Conservatory, quitting high school and leaving everything and everyone I knew behind. I did it for good reason and never regretted it. But as a young girl, living alone in Paris under a fair amount of pressure, I felt homesick more than I liked to admit. Email was nonexistent as were cell phones! So my only mode to talk to my parents or teacher from home was to call them at a very high expense. Being the child of two working musicians didn’t afford us much time to chat.
So I turned to the Barber Concerto, Waxman’s Carmen Fantasy, Heifetz’s arrangement of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. and the Copland Sonata. I sought out American music as therapy for my heart and spirit. I had my parents ship over pieces written by American composers for me to learn while I was there amongst other things and introduced them to the students around me. They were fascinated and open to all of it and I was able to feel the pride of being an American in Paris.(reference intended!) It was a wonderful time in my life, very productive and full of inspiration. I chose these pieces in part for my Senior Recital at the Conservatory and played them with as much heart and soul as I could muster.
Now as I work on them for a concert this weekend I feel those sentiments resurge in me, reminding me of the challenges I felt when I was younger and on my own away from home. These pieces were gifts to me in a time when I needed to feel like home. They gave me a greater sense of identity in a new place and I was empowered by them. In some ways, I found my voice in the writing of these composers. They were better than any friend, soothed my spirit, and bolstered me when I needed it.
As I head into the weekend, I am tasked with performing for a fundraiser in hopes that we will raise enough funds to commission a new work from another wonderful American composer, John Wineglass. John took an interest in my work 5 years ago when he heard me perform the Nielsen Concerto. It has been a long road but we are hopeful he will be writing a Rhapsody for violin and orchestra for me to premier next year with the Piedmont Symphony. John knows I champion American composers and that it is something that is very close to my heart. Not only did I depend on American music in the most challenging period of my training but my father is an American Composer. His writing and talent has been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember.
Receiving support and gaining grants for commissions can be a tricky business. Some patrons are loathe to hop on board. But this music is coming from present day emotion, talent and experience and is so crucial to musicians everywhere. I hope that by championing new works, I am contributing in a way that has real staying power with future violinists, presenters, and programming. And I hope more people will do the same.
Below is an audio take from our rehearsal yesterday on Heifetz’s transcription of “My Man’s Gone Now”, one of the many works that kept me company while in Paris attending conservatory.