I woke up this morning with my first thought being “Where am I and what day is this?” This, the result of being on my fifth trip in about as many weeks, during which time I have played eleven recitals and given five Masterclasses with three different chamber groups in six different states, performed at a national conference, completed a training for my reed sponsor in California, and presented two clarinet clinics in the public schools in Birmingham- oh, and taught my students when I was in town. My suitcase has stayed out in the guest room, leaving my poor dogs in a never ending peroxim of anxiety each time they hear the sound of a zipper emanating from that vicinity. My poor husband, gearing up for another shoulder surgery a week from Monday, has been left to keep the house going and take care of the critters on top of his already busy schedule, along with propping up and encouraging his stressed-out and exhausted wife who has been at times tearful, emotional, and full of self-doubt throughout it all. We are both ready to be in the same place at the same time, and I have no doubt that my wonderful students are ready for that as well.
The silver lining- this trip is the last one, the Florida solo tour that I have been worried about the most. It is a challenging program that I am playing with my amazing colleague, Van Cliburn silver medalist Yakov Kasman, which we will perform on our faculty recital next Thursday. With my already wonderfully crazy teaching and performing schedule, I doubted that I would be ready. I am famous for taking on too much, but this semester I outdid myself quite impressively. But you know what- it has been a journey filled with lessons, with adventure, and with growth. I wouldn’t change a thing (but I vow to never heap quite so much on myself in such a short time again…remind of that, okay?).
This Florida trip had some special gifts attached; I was able to connect with a dear friend and former UAB colleague in Tampa, and had the treat of seeing my little sister and her husband. We enjoyed an amazing dinner at the historic Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City together, which included a beautifully choreographed flamenco floor show. Yakov and I visited the impressive Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, and enjoyed the tour given by one of the best and funniest docents I have ever met. Dali’s work fascinates and inspires me, and it was nice to step away from the stress of performing and delve into creativity of another kind.
Last night’s recital at Stetson University in DeLand was special in a different way. Aside from getting to see and play for an audience that included a dear former student, two wonderful clarinet colleagues, and a friend who drove a distance to hear the recital, something else important clicked in me. I was mentally exhausted and wondered if I would be able to get through the program and keep my focus. Lack of good sleep and stress often have an adverse affect on me, and I was afraid that I would let my colleagues and friends down. But…something shifted in my perspective- perhaps I was just too tired to get anxious? I looked out into the audience at the friendly and smiling faces and began to play, hearing Yakov’s and my sounds mingle and fill the hall. I felt confident and so happy to be doing what I love- and ended up playing one of the best recitals I have ever played. If only I could bottle that mindset.
The best part of this trip has been getting to spend time and perform with my friend and colleague, Yakov. A brilliant and fascinating man, he inspires me to reach deeper and higher musically. This is our first tour together, and I have so enjoyed getting to see a different side of him away from work. He is a world traveler full of rich stories from his experiences around the globe, an incredibly devoted and sentimental husband and father, and one of the most amazing artists I have ever met. One of my favorite stories of our trip- we wanted to get a quick lunch and Yakov said he wasn’t adverse to fast food (which I usually only eat under duress). His favorite restaurant- other than his other favorite standby, Korean food? McDonald’s. He proudly treated me to a fish sandwich for lunch and told me all about McDonald’s in Russia when they first came out- the “taste of freedom, the taste of America.”
And now it is time to head to the airport yet again, but this time I’m heading home and can finally put my suitcase away. The light at the end of the tunnel is in sight, and I am both relieved to reach the end and grateful to have experienced it all. Life is good. No, I take that back- life is amazing.