Day Five: Slaying Dragons and Finding my Way in Madrid

The first day of ClarinetFest in Madrid was incredibly inspirational, full of great music, exploration, and the slaying of a few personal dragons. The more time I spend in this city, the more I fall in love…and the more I learn about myself. Gifts of every kind, from hearing players that make me remember yet again why I love playing and teaching clarinet so much, to seeing sights that awaken my love of history and beauty. In Madrid I have been lost, but also found. 

The day began with the Board recital that I have been so anxious about. It is scary and challenging to play on the world stage in front of players and legends that I have admired so, some since my youth. I have worked hard on preparing myself mentally for this performance- one that I dedicated to my best friend Diane, who is home battling breast cancer, and in memory of my mother, who died just under a year ago. Since my love of music is so tied to memories of my mom and her many sacrifices, performing has been a challenge sometimes since she died. I wanted more than anything to play beautifully for Diane and Mom, and to hold my own with my very talented colleagues on the Board of the International Clarinet Association. 

 Some of my colleagues on the Board performing a trio. 

I woke up at 4:30am, and decided to go ahead and get up to meditate and do a long yoga session to calm me and loosen up my body to play. We got to the Conde Duque Cultural Center in plenty of time to get into the hall to warm up and check reeds, something that helped a lot in calming me. The head of the Spanish team gave opening comments, and then the recital began. There was no Green Room, so we had to sit in the audience and wait out turn…something that I have never liked to do, as you don’t get to check your reed or anything- you have to walk up and play. That happens sometimes, and as a professional player, you have to “man up” and make it work. 


I held Mom’s button between my fingers for several seconds before I walked on stage to the warm applause, and I wore a special music breast cancer awareness pin that Diane had sent to me so that I could feel like she was on stage with me. I felt a sense of peace wash over me. I was no longer afraid, but felt wrapped in love and support. As I adjusted the music stand, I told the audience the story of originally planning to play a duo piece with Diane, about her battle this summer with breast cancer, and that I was playing her arrangement of the La Sonnambula in her honor. I smiled at my wonderful Spanish accompanist, took a deep breath, and began to play. Something clicked, and I sang my heart out to Diane and my mom through my clarinet…I played the best I could  have played, and I enjoyed every second. When I was done, the audience erupted into applause and cheers. I hadn’t even looked to see who was in the audience, as I didn’t want to scare myself, but then I saw my Backun Musical Services family was there to cheer me on, and I was so touched. My clarinet professor from my Master’s degree came up to me with tears in his eyes and told me it was the best he had ever heard me play, and I had made him so proud. So many kind comments that made my heart swell. I am no star, but in that moment, I knew that I had given it my all and my best, and it felt so good. 

  With virtuoso Italian clarinetist, Corrado Giuffredi- one of my heroes and one of the nicest men I’ve ever met. 

 Our lunch partner. 

After a Board meeting, I met up with my dear friend John to have tapas and catch up on life. John asked me to slip away for a little bit to visit the Reina Sophia Museum of Modern Art, and I’m so glad that I went with him. We walked through the streets of Madrid in a torrential rain storm (added to the adventure!), and I had my first experience riding the Madrid subway, too.  We got pretty lost for a while, but thankfully John navigated us back to the hotel at the end of our adventure. All part of the experience…and sometimes when you are lost, you see the most wonderful things. 

 So much beauty everywhere, and I made a mental note of the things I want to revisit when I go to the Prado. John wanted to see the original Piccaso works specifically. I wasn’t allowed to photograph them, but I was allowed to take several other photos in the museum.  

Along the way we saw so many interesting things, especially as we got close to the museums… 


The day ended with an amazing orchestra concert featuring Backun virtuosos Corrado Giuffredi (Italy), Jose Franch-Ballester (Spain) and Ricardo Morales (U.S.). The young Spanish orchestra who accompanied them was amazing – vibrant, talented, and filled with joy as they played. It was electric. I was incredibly proud of and inspired by the trio of Backun Artists, who premiered new works for clarinet and orchestra, and finished with a surprise trio at the end of the concert.  


And that’s only the first day of ClarinetFest. I can’t wait to see what is in store for me today in the magic city of Madrid. 

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