I almost missed Paul Rosenthal on Monday, but the Anchorage Daily News featured him in the Sunday paper with a full page photo, so luckily I made it just in time to slide into a front row seat at Christ Lutheran and glance through the program to see what was on the menu this time.
If you don't know who violinist Paul Rosenthal is, it's not because of his lack of credentials or connections to the upper echelons of the music scene. No, it would be because once long ago, right in the middle of a series of intense master classes with Jascha Heifetz, Paul's brother invited him to visit him up in Alaska; from that point on, he was hooked. A pioneer in every sense of the word, Rosenthal moved up with no job and no running water, but with plenty of wide open space to grow new musical venues. With the desire to organize ensembles to perform beautiful chamber music in beautiful surroundings, he pretty much carved the Alaskan music scene, taking other members of the Heifetz/Piatigorsky circle up to perform in the most remote locations. Soldotna happened to be one of them.
Paul always brings the greatest musicians to town, and this evening proved to be no exception. The featured performer was cellist Jeffrey Solow, president of ASTA. What a treat it was to be able to sit three feet from his rock stop and feel the full impact of his gorgeous instrument! The Beethoven piano trio was ethereal. It lifted me out of everyday existence into an entirely different realm of music making. It made me feel so...
I have to admit, I've hardly touched my instrument since I concluded my Brahms and Beethoven recital last December. I'm currently not playing with the Anchorage Symphony, and I haven't had any other gigs, either. Well, that's not true, exactly: there's the Peter Pan musical--if 80's style disco pit music counts.
As I sit through each pit rehearsal, though, I can't help but think: this is it. This is your future musical career in Soldotna Alaska. And the thought of it absolutely frightens me. It's not that I hate playing in the community musical. It's not that I'm discontent with being a much-needed violin teacher in this town: on the contrary, I love cultivating musical skills in others. But just as I keep telling each of my students how important it is to have personal goals and opportunities to perform, I also need mine. One of my dreams was playing in a professional level string quartet. Now, after all the hard work I put into finally achieving a professional level of playing over the past seven years, it seems I've nowhere to use it, and I'm beginning to waste away inside. I'm worried that maybe Soldotna has no place for a professional violinist; we've certainly no cellists. So now what? Do I stay and see if things change? Or do I go somewhere else and see if I can find what I'm looking for?
As much as I loved watching Paul Rosenthal play a Beethoven piano trio, it was almost too much to bear, for even though I have the same dream of making chamber music in a beautiful place, I don't seem to have the means or the skills to assemble the musicians here to make it happen. I don't need a big audience. I don't need a salary. It doesn't even have to be chamber music. I just want other willing and able people, kindred spirits, to make music with me.
Yeah. I'm a little lonely these days.
My dog chose to be sick in a most untimely fashion. He didn't set a specific schedule, but randomly would throw up and get a case of the trots every few days or so. Sometimes, a week and a half would pass between episodes, which was just long enough for us to think everything was back to business as usual. But after a month of this recurring behavior, I decided it was time to call the vet. Of course, we'd been hesitating to call the vet because we already knew what the next step of action would be:
George and I tossed the responsibility of this procedure back and forth: he had to go cook for a retreat. But I had to teach lessons. "He's your dog, George. And I don't know how; I've never even changed a diaper, much less taken a fecal sample!" We decided that the duty would fall on whoever happened to be available when nature called. George headed to the kitchen, and I to my studio.
Somewhere between lesson #6 and #7, Ben began to drop some serious hints. Wagging by the door as Sydney walked in, he threw me a pointed look. "Ben if you can just wait an hour, I'll be finished teaching, and then we can hash everything out." To my student I explained that my dog was sick and I needed to keep an eye on him. Ben dutifully resumed his holding pattern, and I resumed proper bow hold with Sydney.
Lesson #7 sat waiting on the sofa as Sydney grabbed her coat and donned her shoes. Ben was dancing all around. Anxiously, I debated back and forth between #7 and Ben, and finally decided: #2 wins. "You know what, Tyler, I need to take care of something. If you don't mind, we'll be running five minutes behind schedule. You just have a seat there, and I'll be right back." I tried not to look embarrassed. Scrambling through the cupboard for an empty salmon jar, I hurried to the door with a shovel, a leash, and my desperate dog.
--Oh my gosh, we are really going to do this.--
Ben unloaded his burden only a few seconds from the door while Tyler's dad and his girlfriend watched from their truck. There, in front of the headlights, I jabbed the shovel into place and captured as much of a sample as I could, placed the jar in the snow, and tipped the shovel over the opening, forcing back a gag reflex as I waited for the contents to slide into the jar. We then headed over to the truck.
"Hey... Sorry, my dog is sick, see, so we are getting a late start on Tyler's lesson. Do you mind if I keep him ten minutes over?" Somehow, they seemed to understand perfectly and needed no further explanation.
I tried to hide the jar from view as we returned to the house, making sure to send Tyler back to the studio so as not to let him see me tucking it behind a box in the corner of the living room. "I'll be right there, just let me wash my hands real quick..." I then tried my best to conduct our lesson as though nothing had happened, but the whole ordeal was much harder to put behind me than I'd like to admit.
What a way to end the week. I've had some awkward moments in my seven years of teaching in the Steele String Studio, but Stool Sample Friday really does take the cake.
...make your teacher very happy and go practice!
I'll give you a sticker--way to go!
More entries: January 2011
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