Thoughts on life and music.

Last Days in Sarajevo, Back in the USA

Narodno Pozorište Sarajevo I can't believe it's been two and a half months since we played our last concert of the season, the Ramazanski konzert. Turkish conductor Oguzhan Balci worked with us again, and brought a few vocalists and a qanun soloist with him from Turkey. The qanun is a traditional stringed Turkish instrument used in a lot of Arabic music, especially the religious court songs we were playing. The set list is packed in my suitcase and I can't remember the name of my favorite Sultan tune, but I've got a few videos I'll post to my YouTube channel this week. I think this was the Bosnian equivalent of a concert of hymns, or as the conductor suggested, "It's serious music, like you are performing Verdi's Requiem" when he asked the choir not to smile.

The concert was only an hour long, so we had plenty of time to enjoy our last night together. The Albanians were leaving at 8am the next morning, so we went to Pivnica for sausages and beer. We stopped in the theater bar on the way out to say goodbye to Adi, the conductor and a few other people that weren't going to Pivnica with us.

The Otes Bus... How I'll miss you.

Rebecca, Adnan and I at Franz and Sophie

Ivana at the Music Academy

The cast of Friends... I mean us!

The Sarajevska Filharmonija Horns

Mattia and his ladies... And a Kentleman.

It was an emotional night, and I was sad to be leaving so many wonderful people. But the prospect of coming home and starting the next chapter was too exciting to be sad for long!

Rebecca needed a valve job done on her horn, so 5 days after we returned to the US she flew out to NYC and spent a week hanging out in the worst heat wave of the summer. It was really bizarre picking her up at the airport and realizing we'd never seen each other on American soil. We did some touristy things and heard the NY Philharmonic play Tchaikovsky 5 in the park! But we spent a lot of time at Starbucks enjoying their very effective air conditioning...

Rebecca and I on the waterfront in Jersey City

Shortly thereafter, I packed my bags again and got on a Greyhound bus to Charlottesville, VA. After a year of Centrotrans busses, the Greyhound was like a luxury cruise. I got to plug in my computer and use their free wifi, it doesn't get better than that. It was much nicer than I was imagining, and with my car in Vegas it was a very good way to get there.

I played third horn on Carousel for the Ash Lawn Opera Festival in Charlottesville, a wonderful summer opera company that is on a great path of growth. Only a few years ago it was a high level community theater, and now principal roles are performed by singers taking time off from their seasons at the Met! The level of singing was incredible, and a joy to listen to. While I was there, I reconnected with a singer I met last year at Sewanee, and a soprano who attended Hartt my freshman year that were both part of the company. The music world is amazingly small, it never ceases to amaze me when I cross paths with people I least expect to see. The orchestra was great, and my section was a lot of fun to play with. Adjusting to A=440 again after a season of 442 was interesting to say the least, I found myself pulling my slides out more than I ever thought I'd need to. My mother cried during the show she came to see, so I'd call it a success.

Ash Lawn Opera


My brother, my mom and I

We visited some of the Paul family, my dad is from the Charlottesville area (roughly) and I was born in Richmond. It was awesome to see everyone, we don't get together very often since we're farther away!

Paul Family

A few days after getting back to New Jersey, I flew back to Vegas to FINALLY officially move. My friend Katie graciously allowed me to keep my things and my car at her house, and had taken great care of old Florence the Camry while I was gone. I worked with the Foothill High School marching band for a week, it was great to see the kids again. I had coached the mellophones last year, and worked with the horn section during concert band season as well as teaching two of the horn players privately. I always enjoy my time at Foothill, the kids are great and we have fun getting better together. Their favorite is the Hindu, this posture exercise I learned while at Waterford High. You deconstruct your spine one section at a time, essentially bending over to touch your toes and releasing. Then you "stack" the vertebrae by the same sections on the way back up, and end by lifting your head and standing at attention. It's a great exercise for posture, it achieves the desired outcome in small increments that the kids can grasp. Teenagers don't always have great control over or awareness of their bodies. You can tell them to stand up straighter or tuck in their hips, but it doesn't always work as well as you'd like, so the Hindu exercise helps alot. Thanks for that one, WHS Band!

While I was in Vegas, I had a lesson with my former teacher, Bill Bernatis. It was interesting to have a lesson after a year on my own; I'd been a student of someone since 2002, so getting out of the lesson groove was an odd transition while I was in Bosnia. I didn't have anyone giving me a weekly evaluation, more than ever before I had to be my own teacher, evaluate myself and find solutions instead of thinking "Well, I'll see what ____ has to say about this on Tuesday". It was quite beneficial to my practice habits, I record myself more often and listen more critically during practice sessions. All this coupled with a real orchestra job helped solidify my perception of myself as a professional musician over the last year. When you're in school, it's easy to get stuck in "student mode" and see those around you playing professionally as automatically superior in knowledge and ability. I've shifted my self-concept to recognize that in fact, I am a professional-level player... I'm no longer a student, and I totally know what I'm doing! I'm certainly not done learning nor have I reached perfect musician Nirvana, but I've leveled up.

My drive back from Vegas really deserves its own post, so I'll probably work on that eventually. Now that I'm in New York freelancing, building websites and office temping I don't have lazy afternoons of tea and cookies to blog! The pace of life has picked back up, American style. It's good to be home!


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