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Emily Grossman


September 11, 2013 at 3:46 PM

The audition could have gone better. Had I been able to perform publicly on a consistent basis, or at least been able to put myself in front of my students, or dogs, or whatever (yes, turtles, I admit I didn't use you nearly enough), I might have been more comfortable. But really, it's called stage fright for a reason, and I hadn't taken the actual stage for an audition since, well, high school. Twenty years. How's that for stage fright? So, given the circumstances, I played acceptably. My bow arm suffered rigor mortis from the sudden death it feared, so the phrasing in the Mozart came across as choppy and inconclusive. But the runs mostly came out. And the rest of the audition? Well, it went. I missed a shift in the Bartok, and they let me redo it, unexpectedly. Afterward, I couldn't get far enough away from that audition, and I was thankful for the 150 miles that separated me from home, which would allow myself to unwind as I drove.

But 150 miles... When the news arrived the next day that I'd secured not only a position as a substitute violist, but a tenured position as well, I actually cried. I should have been overjoyed! I was definitely flattered. But 150 miles... I looked at the schedule. As a tenured violist, I would be required to attend all rehearsals, and this included not only the usual five classical concerts, but the pops concerts, the Nutcracker, the children's concerts, and the silent film--I simply could not make the commute. I'd already committed to a full semester of teaching 35 students, and even if I threw prudence to the wind, I had no housing, no way to pay off the loan on my current violin, no possible way to be a full-fledged symphony musician without moving to Anchorage. This was me, the poster child of the Advocacy of Dreamchasing, taking an ice-cold reality check.

The decision must be made. I slept on it. I began a letter, half a dozen times, but procrastinated in sending it, just in case I'd overlooked something, or circumstances had changed somehow. The next day, as I walked the dogs in the neverending rain, I thought over all the discussions that had gone back and forth, and seemingly impenetrable "no" surrounding the possibility of moving to Anchorage. When I returned, I saw the number flashing on my answering machine and replayed a message from the personnel manager, who sought to ascertain my decision; they needed to print the season programs and would like to know if I would be added as a tenured player this year. I picked up the phone. My heart sank. I would have to turn down the tenured spot and remain a sub.

It was not until four in the morning that, having awoken inexplicably from a deep sleep, it all finally hit me. I'd dozed off on the couch; alone in the darkness, I felt a sudden surge of anger and pain. This was not just a fanciful dream; this was my career! I'd worked so hard, so many hours a day, all these years, and now I was forced to deny myself the reward of my efforts. And for what? For what? So I could play Sousa marches in the community orchestra? So I could play unaccompanied Bach, all alone in my studio, crossing my fingers in hopes that ASO needs a sub for the next concert? And what if they don't? Entire years have gone by without a phone call. I'd end up teaching my 35 lessons a week, paying my bills like a good girl, growing old in quiet resignation... At four in the morning, when these thoughts assailed me, I felt like hopping in the car and driving far, far away. I didn't even know where I'd go; this time of year, I'm always overwhelmed with a strong, survival-driven urge to migrate. Quick, before the snow flies.

Is the best answer to move out of state? Am I only being discontent and overlooking all the positive aspects of being a violinist in Soldotna, AK? Am I losing hope in my vision when everything is getting ready to finally come together? I don't know. I do know that I will be subbing for the two fall concerts with the Anchorage Symphony. I'm incredibly grateful for these opportunities, and I practice faithfully each day, in hopes of future playing and performing opportunities. I'm grateful for the time I've had to myself, to be able to devote my undivided attention to practicing and improving my skills. It's been a good journey so far. ...Rough at times, but this is Alaska, after all.

I don't know what's ahead. I keep hoping it's something good. We'll see.

From Dottie Case
Posted on September 11, 2013 at 4:44 PM
Whoa.... and bravo. And... yikes.

Not knowing what 'tenured' means in terms of income/job security, etc., that's about all I can say. Other than, I suspect that you too are standing on the shores of a new thing.


From jean dubuisson
Posted on September 11, 2013 at 7:11 PM
I am a bit confused Emily, did or did you not accept the tenure position? I hope you did. Since I am unclear about your private circumstances I am not clearly understanding why you cannot accept the position without moving to Anchorage, or for that matter, would no longer to be able to pay the bills if you took the position. Sorry for my confusion. Even if it is a five hour drive, one-way, I'd still do it. With sympathy
From Tom Bop
Posted on September 11, 2013 at 7:53 PM
"Muddy water, let stand, becomes clear." In all your writings, you seem very happy with your life in Soldotna, and it sounds idyllic in many ways. It also sounds like you're equally aware of it's many limitations. Wherever you go, there'd be a new set of compromises. Good luck figuring it all out!
From Tom Holzman
Posted on September 11, 2013 at 8:07 PM
Emily - I think you are very clear about the pros and the cons of your situation, and you have always been aware of them. It is not clear from your post what you decided to do, although it sounds as if you turned down the position and are having second thoughts. I hope you took the position, but I certainly would understand if you chose not to. I am not sure you need to move out of AK to have a life which permits you to "have it all" as a musician, but Soldotna certainly offers more limited opportunities, and you are not footloose and fancy-free, as they say. Did you discuss with your husband what course of action made the most sense? If so, you did not say. I would think that your initial instinct might have been to sound him out and get his perspective.

I hope and trust that things will work out for you. Good luck!

From Emily Grossman
Posted on September 11, 2013 at 8:09 PM
Sorry, I'll try to clarify. I can sub (fill in when there's openings) without attending all rehearsals or concerts, which is what I've currently been doing on the violin. I originally auditioned so I could do the same on viola. In order to secure a tenured position, I am required to attend all rehearsals and performances, which is not financially possible, due to the amount of travel time and the number of lessons I'd have to cancel. Moving to Anchorage is not an option at this time. But the good part is, I may get more subbing opportunities now that subbing as a violist is an option. And I guess that was the point of my audition, so I'm happy about that.
From Maria Allison
Posted on September 11, 2013 at 9:15 PM
Yes it's true, we play one Sousa march a year, as a baton auction for an annual fundraiser concert. The rest of the year, we work on Dvorak, Shostakovich, Rossini, Beethoven, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Grieg, Brahms and many others. Every symphony orchestra plays some "pops" cheese from time to time. Our small community is blessed to offer opportunities to play these major orchestral works, as well as putting together chamber ensembles. We work hard, laugh a lot, and put on some darn good concerts! (I should add, Emily and I live in the same community, Kenai/Soldotna, Alaska.)
From Tom Holzman
Posted on September 11, 2013 at 9:28 PM
Thanks for clarifying and explaining your decision. I hope it works well for you.
From Emily Grossman
Posted on September 12, 2013 at 2:30 AM
I stand corrected, and would like to offer a public apology for implying that our community orchestra is any less than the great opportunity that it is to join the community together in making great music. My only wish is that there would be more of it, especially the classical concerts. The friends I have in this community mean so much to me, and I would play chamber music whenever I get a chance, and have such great fun with everyone here--and we do put together some nice performances. I didn't think, until after I wrote out my thoughts this morning, about how much I take for granted my friends that live close by. Leaving them would be the hardest part about leaving Soldotna. I owe them all so much more than this apology, and I hope I can show them how much I truly appreciate all of them.
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on September 12, 2013 at 2:45 PM
I can understand why you're conflicted. But this situation is better than it was before the audition, anyway, and congratulations on getting the job, even if you didn't take it. What I'm still confused about though, is, if moving to Anchorage is not an option, why would moving out of state be an option instead?
From Emily Grossman
Posted on September 12, 2013 at 5:48 PM
George would rather leave the state. For one, the weather would probably be nicer! I would miss this state, though.
From Christian Vachon
Posted on September 12, 2013 at 10:55 PM
Hi Emily,

Just a quick word to say congratulations! Whatever choice(s) you decide to pursue, your hard work of the summer really paid off. Very happy for you!


From jean dubuisson
Posted on September 13, 2013 at 12:40 PM
same here, Emily, so you are now doing what you originally applied for, good for you!
From Peter Kent
Posted on September 16, 2013 at 12:56 AM
Your beautiful part of the world is almost it's own heck with Anchorage....bump the price on your private studio....they'll understand, get your friend Maria and do some strolling at the Salty Dawg....they'd love the LeClair duets etc...and all the halibut and salmon you can tolerate....

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