September 29, 2010

The Other Side of Sunset at this point I'm sure none of you will be surprised to learn that I am officially in love with Lake Michigan.

Check this out...

Last night when I drove up to Regenstein Hall (one of the main NU music buildings) for my evening practice session, the water was spectacular. Only the merest folds of wetness were lapping against the shore...I can't imagine a lake of this size being more calm. There was not a breath of wind and all was noticeably hushed. Athough the sun had long since set, the light reflecting off a tin-blue sky gave the barely-ruffed water a radiant sheen of opalescence like the oily glint of a dragonfly's wing. The base of the sky on the eastern horizon was bathed in a deep blue and melted up into the waning twilight through shades of dusty pink and orange.

I took 13 or 14 pictures in the 5 minutes this particular moment lasted...and of course very little of the scene's true magic comes through in any of them. I found myself wishing I were a gifted to render a quiet spectacle of color into permanence from memory.

September 28, 2010

The Library Saga

Thank you again to all of you who have been reading and commenting. It is a great encouragement to know there are people out there who support me and I appreciate all of your kind words, insights and Movie recommendations (thanks aunt Janice! Yes, I've certainly heard very interesting things by and about Temple Grandin--I'll have to watch for that movie.)

In my lesson today Charlie asked how I was doing. I replied that I was feeling pretty overwhelmed, but that I try to start every day fresh.
"Well, then let me ask you this," he quipped, "Do you know the difference between a person who is sane--who's basically got things together, and one who is just off their rocker? There's really just one thing: the ability for that person to wake up in the morning and feel hope--'start fresh' as you say. So at least you know you're not insane!"

Though there have already been a few days since the beginning of school when I've felt so mentally and physically taxed by what I have to do (and what I worry I'll have to do) that I've gone to bed choking back tears, usually (and a big thanks goes out to Rob for talking me down on more than a few occasions) I have been able to pull myself up the next day and try to make the most of whatever time I have to work. And good things have been happening. I still worry that I don't have the chops to effectively practice everything I'm required to learn. There's just so much new and challenging rep to get under my belt and it all has to be perfect by next week...or tomorrow! Still, I've done my best to be efficient in the practice room and for the most part have surprised myself by what I've been able to pull off. For my lesson next week though Charlie's assigned me FIVE etudes, a bit of a solo, and a couple excerpts...all I can do is my best.

Yesterday was the first rehearsal of the Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra (NUSO). I have been assigned to this group for the quarter and am playing 2nd trumpet on Bruckner 7 for our first concert. We spent all of yesterday's rehearsal first running the whole symphony and then going back a little to touch up a few transitions. It's an awesome piece! A great showpiece for brass and a real chop killer. Bruckner always writes very lyrically expansive, beautifully rich, and massively deep brass lines that are reminiscent of his principal instrument: the organ. By the time we reached the end of the final movement there were drops of blood pooling underneath the back row of brass...well, not really, but after playing so hard it certainly felt as though there should have been.

I also spent some time yesterday trying to navigate the utterly confusing (but architecturally beautiful) NU Library. I have to do a report/in-class presentation on the American poet Wallace Stevens and needed to find some reputable sources (anything except wiki!). I spent some time on line, collected a few call numbers, and set out to track them down.

The library's main collection is divided between three towers that are connected by a large central area containing computer labs and some special collections. Once I figured out in which tower my call numbers could be found (the south tower), it took me a good 10 minutes to find the correct stairway that would take me there. It's one of those buildings where one stairway will take you up to the 2nd floor, but the one that will get you to the 3rd and 4th is in a different location entirely.

Once I made it to the south tower, the correct floor of the south tower, and then found the room containing the group of books I was looking for, I found that the stacks were organized, very atypically, like rays of a sun emanating from a small central circle of study desks and catalogue computers. It's aesthetically pretty to be sure, but trying to figure out how the numbers progress from one "ray" to another is definitely not intuitive. Once I found my books, my next task was getting back to the exit...which (as you can maybe imagine in a giant round room that appears to be the same wherever you're standing and is further obscured by oddly spaced metal shelves) was a bit of a task. Even with exit signs posted here and there I found it difficult to make it back to where I started.

I'm hoping that future treks into the library will prove to be a bit easier. NU's library has an exceptional collection (the 10th largest university library in the country) and it would be a shame for me not to take advantage of it just because I may require a topographical map, good shoes, and sufficient food and water in order to navigate its halls.

September 25, 2010


It's been a tough week.

In many ways it seems that though I'm 10 years older than most of my fellow students, I'm 10 years behind them. I feel I have so much to catch up on that I almost wish I were coming in as a freshman! And even then, I think I've already mentioned how astounding this year's freshmen are...

NU will certainly be a challenge, but I have to remember that's precisely why I came here!

My thought for the week is something I came across while doing my required reading assignment for American Art Song...

"The difficult appeals through the traces it carries of another world in which it would be easy."

From Simon Firth: "Performing Rites: on the value of popular music"

So...once I go "starting today".

September 22, 2010

Solo Class...and the Moon

Two posts in one day...I clearly have waaaay too much free time.
That won't last long!

I'm writing for two reasons tonight...

One: I played for solo class today, as did all the new NU students...three masters, one doctoral, and four freshmen. I had a horrible bout of the shakes and nervous brain, so to put it nicely, I didn't play up to my standard. More truthfully, I really sucked it up. I also sounded poor next to all the others that played. I do have to say...there are some FREAKING AMAZING players here--some real honest-to-god prodigies. That's awesome on one hand. I'll be surrounded by and playing with some inspiring musicians. On the other hand, it's going to be difficult to keep my own esteem in check. When I hear great players like I did today and then fall flat on my face in front of them it's difficult to believe anyone when they tell me that I deserve to be here. After the class was over everyone came up and said "great job!", but I think that's mostly just because everyone is really nice and that's just what people do in this class. Well, I guess that by starting at the bottom, there's nowhere for me to go but that a good way to look at it?

Two: the moon is BEAUTIFUL tonight! I went for a walk along the lake and it was slowly rising above the water.

All along the NU lake shore there are massive piles of rocks--many of which are painted with artwork, graduation memorials, marriage proposals, and general poetry. I liked the combination here of the smiley face with the moon...the GF proposal is cute too...if a little juvenile.

As it got darker, Jupiter began to emerge from the haze...what a sight!

Back to School

My first day of classes was technically yesterday, but as most of my performance classes don't officially get underway until next week, it was a somewhat uneventful day.

I did have my first lesson with Charlie. We went over his and Barbara's comments on both my auditions--the pool audition as well as my audition for NU--and to sum up his advice, the biggest hurdle he feels I'll have to overcome is my own self doubt, an internal emotion that externally colors my appearance on stage and has some detrimental effects on the music I make. Jokingly, he said I might need a therapist to work through some of these issues...I didn't tell him that I had already made an appointment to see one.

This morning I attended the first meeting of a real academic class!!! That's right...I'm gonna have readings and homework, papers and quizzes, and a big final project, which in this case will be the production of a music video based on a 20th century American art song. Why am I excited about this? Well, I'm one of those weirdos that actually likes learning and academics. I've been aching to take a class of some kind for years...and now my time has come with "American Art Song" led by professor Davies. Brain cells...get set!

The class is hugely (and perhaps predictably) dominated by vocal majors, but there are a couple of instrumentalists as well as a token english major (which is good, because much of our study will be devoted to the poetry of art song). Today in fact, we began by studying a poem by James Agee that was set to music by Samuel Barber...

SURE on this shining night
Of starmade shadows round,
Kindness must watch for me
This side the ground.

The late year lies down the north.
All is healed, all is health.
High summer holds the earth.
Hearts are whole.

Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder wandering far alone
Of shadows on the stars.

What a lovely poem.

I was immediately drawn in by the references to stars...starmade shadows no less. In order for stars to cast shadows themselves there must be total darkness and no moon. I pictured myself wandering alone under a summer desert sky...a dim shadow cast around me by blue starlight and my eyes drawn up in wonder at the vast milky way above. The words carry with them a kind of pleading, which is accentuated by Barber's melody--a slight rise in the voice at the end of the first three lines--inquisitive, questioning. Then, in hushed tones, he prays for a benevolent force to "watch" for him as he moves upon his journey toward an inevitable destiny: "this side the ground" other terms may be: this side of the grave.

As the speaker turns his thoughts to the future north, (possibly another astronomical reference to the setting of the Milky Way that happens, at least in the northern hemisphere, as autumn progresses to that time, the wanderer would cast no shadow as the starscape above would have become significantly more sparse...though if you look on the bright side, we get to see the Orion nebula instead!) his sense of melancholy unassumingly persists. When he proclaims "All is healed, all is health" (the musical climax of the song) is he actually sadly and distantly referring to other's health...other's he is left feeling less than whole?

In the last two lines I find it exceptionally interesting that Agee uses the words "shadows ON the stars" which, if you think about it, evokes quite a different image than that of the brilliant milky way smiling down upon a soul in wonder. I didn't bring this up in class, but I wonder if this might suggest that the melancholy and inquiring heart of our lonely wanderer has left its own imprint, a shadow, on the heavens...or at least how he is able to see them.

September 20, 2010

Viva Muti!

Yesterday afternoon I and some fellow NU music grad students took the el from Evanston to the heart of downtown Chicago and watched a free outdoor concert featuring the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by its new music director Ricardo Muti.

"Festa Muti" took place in Millennium Park (see my previous 2010 post: "Picture of the Month: June) and was attended, I found out on NPR this morning, by 25,000 people. There were so many people in fact that the area was gated off and about 10 minutes after we got there, guards stopped letting anyone in in order to prevent a safety hazard. As my eyes travelled across this great sea of humanity I had visions of a possible the event of a sudden panic, could a mass of classical music buffs be capable of trampling people on their frantic way to an exit? Considering that people have been trampled to death during various religious gatherings worldwide and in Walmart at Christmastime, I decided that pretty much anything was possible and that if push came to shove, symphony heads could potentially be just as dangerous as rabid soccer fans or wild congregates at a death-metal show.

We found a place at the very back of the seating area among a bunch of people who'd spread blankets over the concrete and were nibbling crackers and imbibing various beverages. Seeing the stage would obviously be impossible, but I was assured by a rowdy but friendly young couple, Mike and Meredith, sitting nearby that the sound system was "kickass" and that we'd be able to enjoy a rich nuanced performance despite being out in the open air.

If you Judge by the general stereotypes, Mike seemed to be about the last person in the world you'd expect to see at a symphony concert...voluntarily. He plowed through several cans of bud lite and about half a dozen cigarettes during the show and was constantly up and about yelling stuff like "Go Bears!!!" and pulling mini pranks on passersby...nothing fact the people he hassled would usually move on with a high 5 and a quiet chuckle. Mike said that he'd just started taking violin lessons 3 months ago and loves it. "All my friends were learning guitar, but I was like, I wanna do somethin' different, and violin rocks! You can do so much with it...classical stuff, and like, the Irish music and everything. Classical music is so awesome! I love it!" It was pretty refreshing to hear his story. It seems that a lot of people talk about learning an instrument later in life, but will rarely follow through...then there's this guy, a trucker with no musical upbringing at all, who is totally jazzed about violin and classical music...go figure. His fiance, a nurse, said she used to play the flute--maybe she played a part in influencing his decision.

The orchestra played:

Verdi...Overture to La Forza del Destino
Liszt...Les Preludes
Tchaikovsky...Romeo and Juliet

and a personal favorite of mine...

Respighi...The Pines of Rome

The orchestra sounded glorious and Muti's interpretations were infused with passion and sensitivity. After each piece the park erupted into thunderous applause and thousands waved little white "Festa Muti" flags that had been passed out free to all by volunteers before the performance began. As evening approached and the sky began to darken behind a featureless blanket of gray, lights in the windows of at least three nearby skyscrapers were lit up to celebrate the occasion. It was thrilling to see such spirit for the "home team"!

After the final booming notes of "Pines" drifted away into the city glow, the sky was suddenly lit by an ecstatic burst of fireworks and the multitudes cheered!

As our group meandered through throngs of concertgoers on our way out of the park, Maestro Muti got up on stage once more to say some brief words of "thank you", put a plug in for the CSO's exciting upcoming performances, and remind everyone that "the orchestra can sound even better inside the concert hall".

"Yeah, but it's not free!" I heard someone retort.

True enough.

September 17, 2010

Pool Auditions

The trumpet "pool" auditions were today--sort of a grand anxious climax to a week of orientation sessions and academic placement exams. I'd started preparing for this audition a couple months ago when the letter containing the repertoire was mailed out, and up untill my arrival on campus had felt fairly confident that I'd do well. My only misgivings stemmed from the chop "issues" I've been negotiating with over the last couple of weeks, along with the thought I've had lingering in the back of my mind that after a somewhat mediocre audition for NU this spring, I really needed to justify my presence at NU...particularly to Barbara Butler.

The audition consisted of Charlier etude #6, Arban's Characteristic study #12, the opening of Mahler 7, Lt. Kiji, the slow solo from Gershwin's Piano Concerto, and the last movement's opening of Dvorak 8. I felt great about everything except (predictably perhaps) the Mahler...which requires playing a melodic line containing 4 high Cs in close right after the other. It is a glorious segment of the piece to listen to, but it addresses perhaps my #1 trumpet-playing difficulty: high range. Before today I had only been able to play through this entire excerpt once...that magical experience having taken place about a month ago.

I'd had another bad-chop day yesterday and was hoping that a good overnight rest would leave my lips feeling refreshed and ready for the task at hand. I warmed up carefully this morning. My sound started out rather "hairy" and strained, so I did everything in my power to release the tension in my body and mind in order to purify and add a singing brilliance to the core of my tone...this means that I rested as much if not more than I actually played. After a few minutes things seemed to improve a bit and I spent some time just starting a couple of the pieces...pulling off a good beginning can do a lot to increase a player's chances of continuing success in a performance.

I could hear other players warming up all around me and they all sounded fabulous. During my meeting with Charlie Geyer yesterday he told me that because of my age and experience I'd likely serve as a mentoring figure to some of the younger students, but as I continue to listen to the glorious playing of my fellows, I know that the mentoring will be going both ways.

It is important in an audition to keep from being influenced or distracted by other players. I reminded myself that I deserve to be here as much as anyone else. I have talent. I've worked hard and done as much preparation as could be expected. There are things I have to offer in my playing that are unique and valuable. I am here to learn and improve.

I went down to the audition location about 5 minutes before I was to play. As I stood outside the door of the Regenstein recital hall I could hear someone else finishing up their audition...once again a wonderful performance. When it was my turn I took a deep breath and walked out on stage with as much assurance as I could muster. Charlie and Barbara were sitting at a table on one end of the stage and I took a seat in front of a music stand upon which all the audition excerpts were laid out in order. My stomach was churning and I could feel my hands tremble slightly, but I started in on the material with an attitude of letting go..."just play" I told myself.

My performance certainly wasn't anywhere near perfect. I had a couple of near catastrophic stumbles, but kept going with everything I had in me. My main failing during my entrance audition this past spring had been stopping, making a face, and actually vocalizing my displeasure when the first piece I played had begun horribly. Barbara had felt (correctly) that this was a highly unprofessional way to react, so one of my main objectives with this first audition was to behave as professionally as I knew how...I really wanted to make a better impression on Barbara.

A couple of the excerpts (the Gershwin in particular) I think went fairly well, and despite a couple hiccoughs, the Charlier was also decent. When I had finished, they said "Welcome to Northwestern!" and that I'd find out about my ensemble assignment early next week. Charlie said "That was a good first audition." and Barbara said "It was nice to hear you."

I exited the stage and walked back to my instrument locker trying to institute a pattern of thought that would allow me to take the audition I'd just experienced and use it as a stepping stone to better things. Everything I've seen of the music department so far has given me the impression that the Beinen School is a positive, dedicated, and supportive community of musicians ready to learn and work together. I've got nothing to lose and everything to gain by being here. Cheers to the future!

September 16, 2010

A Sad Ending

Here's the unfortunate ending to the story in my last blog post:

When that bomb went off it took the life of a 21 year old man who was loved and admired by his friends and family, but who'd also battled depression for most of his life. Those who knew him said his suicide, though a great tragedy, was "not a complete surprise". The man had moved to Evanston from Madison Wisconsin in order to get better care for his psychiatric ailments and had enrolled at a local community college. Everyone agreed that he seemed to be doing much better...

The second bomb found on the scene and later detonated by police was most likely a back up in case the first was ..."unsuccessful"... what a horrible word to use in this case.

This story saddens me. I (as I know many have) have had my own battles with depression and I'd be lying if I were to say that I've never considered...well...ending things. A part of me feels very ashamed to have somewhat sensationalized a story that ultimately proved to be such an intimate tragedy.

My heart goes out to all those who've ever reached those depths where the soul seems absent and the mind is captive to an oppressive void of despair, and I thank those who've patiently and lovingly assisted me during the times I've found myself wandering through that terrible darkness.

September 14, 2010

Rude Awakening

Sometime in the still-dark hours of this morning I was abruptly shaken from sleep by a massive BOOM followed by a ruckus of multiple car alarms going off simultaneously. "Jeeze!" I thought, "That lightning must've been right on top of us!" A few seconds later I found myself wondering why I hadn't seen a flash of light.

Mercifully, all the vehicle alarms were soon turned off (by neighbors undoubtedly wondering why they'd purchased them in the first place...who could be thrilled at the idea of having to get up at whatever ridiculous hour it was to shut off the durn car alarm after some stray lightning?) and quiet settled in over the neighborhood once more. I didn't hear any further rumbles (which in my half-asleep mind did seem just a little odd), and eventually got back to my dreaming.

I woke up again around 6:00 and was surprised when I looked out my window to see a completely clear soon-to-be blue sky. "Hmm...that must have been a really compact storm," I thought as I made breakfast and got myself ready for the day. After 15 minutes or so I heard some commotion outside. I ran to the window and saw a large street sweeper swishing away along the curb. "Oh crap! It's Tuesday and my car is on the wrong side of the road!" Residential streets in Evanston are cleaned on a weekly basis, each side scheduled for sweeping on a different day of the week, and tickets are issued to anyone who's parked in the way of the sweepers. I ran downstairs, out the door, and about a block north from my building to where my car was parked. I was lucky: just as I was getting into my car to move it, a guy across the street was getting into his on his way (I assumed from his attire) to the office...leaving a fresh space ripe for my taking. "Piece o' cake!" I thought as I walked back inside. I finished my toilette and left the house at 7:01 in time to catch the 7:10 Intercampus Shuttle to the University and start my usual routine of concentrated morning practice.

When I finished up, I decided to head home and take my car out for some overdue errand running. I still hadn't had time to find the local wells fargo and I needed to take care of some banking issues. When I got off the shuttle and walked along Main Street from Chicago to Sherman I noticed a parking enforcement officer standing in front of his vehicle which was parked so that it blocked the entrance to my street entirely. "Wow," I thought, "These people really take their street cleaning seriously!"

I turned the corner and heard a yell: "Excuse me! Hey! Hold on ma'am! Where do you think you're going?" I stopped, puzzled, and told him that I lived on this street and had to go and get my car. "Well I can't let you drive up this street right now." the man said, "Can't you see we've got it all blocked up? They're investigating a bomb. Did you hear it go off last night?" I felt my stomach start to churn...that blast last night had been a bomb? The man continued, "Man blew his head off over there at the school and they're lookin' for more bombs they think might be in the area. You might want to stick around just in case they get to interviewing witnesses." I was, of course, shocked...and a little scared. I eventually persuaded the man that I was just going to go get my car which was parked just a little ways up the street, turn right back around, and leave the area. I continued up the street and a second parking officer stopped and questioned me. I again explained that I was just going to get my car which was (fortunately for me) parked just in front of the main areas blocked by the police. She let me pass. I tried calling my mom at that point to see if she could look up any information about what was going on, but she didn't answer. I got in my car, turned around, and happily exited Sherman Ave. Just a block or so up Main I passed another area bustling with police and emergency personnel. "What...are there bombs all over the neighborhood?" I thought.

My mom eventually called me back and said she'd get online and see what she could find out. I won't bother trying to give you any more reporting on the incident. If you're interested, here's a link to a Chicago Sun-Times article or you can google "Evanston Bomb". Just as another reference though, the cordoned-off area I passed on my drive up Main was the building where the guy who died from the explosion had most likely lived.

I'm a little freaked out that this happened so close to me. Nichols Middle School is literally steps from my door. That headless body was still laying there in the park when I ran out to move my car for street cleaning...the guy with his dog had only just discovered it. Sheesh! I'm glad nothing worse occurred.

September 12, 2010


Check out Lake Michigan today...gorgeous!

Last night my mom sent me a pix message showing the odometer of her car reading: 99111. Of course part of the interest there is that it reached that milage on...well, 9,11 (but no, she didn't send the message at 9:11:).

I think I may have mentioned before that I was in Manhattan on 9,11,01. The terror attacks happened, if I'm remembering correctly, just a few days after the start of classes. I realized when I got my mom's message that this may have been the first 9,11 since 2001 that the day almost passed me by entirely without my noticing it. Granted I've been distracted dealing with temperamental chops (which were about as bad as they've ever been yesterday), while at the same time being caught in what has felt like some sort of time void: with no set schedule I've had trouble remembering what day of the week it is, let alone what day of the month.

On 9,11s past I've sometimes called an old friend or two, maybe Gareth or Micah...some of those who were there with me on that day...just to say hello and do a bit of remembering together. On 9,11,02 I was in Hawaii and was moved by an evocative ocean vista to create a piece of art illustrating some of what still lingered in my mind concerning the events of that day. On occasion I've watched whatever 9,11 specials have been aired on TV...seeing those scenes replayed still gives causes something of a tremor in my gut. This year however, the dismal anniversary completely slipped my mind, (which upset me a little) and as I walked along lake Michigan this morning, I resolved to blog a bit about what I remember of that day...if only because I've forgotten so much about it already...and it's important for me to remember.

Just as many people remember what they were wearing when JFK was assassinated, one of my clearest memories is what I wore the morning of 9,11,01. I was back in NY after a summer of daily morning jogs and was in as-good-a-shape as I've ever been. I felt skinny that morning and wore a stretchy form-fitting shortish skirt I'd made from a shirt I'd found in the share box the year before, a tight but high-necked gray sleeveless shirt, sandals, and, because there was already a slight chill in the morning air, a short pale green fleece jacket. I won't lie...I felt like I was pretty hot! I was excited to be back among my Juilliard friends and was mostly optimistic about the coming year.

I say mostly because I'd had an odd experience as the plane from SLC got ready to land at JFK airport a few days before classes had begun. The plane started its final approach in early evening and as we all raised our seat backs and tray tables I was able to take in an incredible view of the whole of lower Manhattan from my south-facing window. The buildings were lit up with the fire of a glorious sunset and particularly prominent were the sparkling orange silhouettes of the World Trade Center's two giant towers. It really was beautiful. What surprised me was that while viewing this scene I experienced an odd sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach and a voice inside my head seemed to say, "I'm not sure I should be New York city...I think I should be home." Now I have to say that though I do think intuition can be a useful tool at times, I'm not convinced that such voices inside the mind can really offer a true portend of future events, (especially these days I tend to be a skeptic). It's certainly conceivable that in this case the sense of foreboding came more from nervousness regarding the soon-to-begin school year rather than an actual sense of inevitable future occurrences. Even so, I remember calling my cousin Grace at some point and telling her about the experience...the oddity of it...

Anyway, on the morning of 9,11,01 I took the A train down from 207th street, got off at Columbus Circle as usual, and walked (it was a lovely crisp and sunny late-summer day) up Broadway to Lincoln Center in order to arrive on time to my first class: history of early music. I feel terrible that I no longer remember the name of the professor who taught that class. He was a very kind and congenial man, also serious and scholarly, and he started things maybe a little late that day...I remember he seemed hurried.

A few minutes into the lecture (which I don't remember) a girl who'd arrived late stood shyly at the door and interrupted tentatively, "um, I think I heard something about a plane hitting the World Trade Center...". She seemed to want to ask if class was still happening, or if maybe we could pause to check the news for word about what was going on, but the professor just looked at her a moment and said something like, "Oh...well, that's interesting, but we've got to get started here, so come in and sit down".

Beyond a hint of general curiosity, I didn't think much of it at the time either. Once when I was a kid I'd tried to find out all the interesting things that had ever happened on my birthday, July 28th. I learned, among other things, that it was also Jackie Kennedy Onassis' birthday, and that in 1945 a B-25 bomber had run into the Empire State Building while trying to navigate through dense fog. Certainly the crash the girl mentioned was something like that: an unfortunate accident, but nothing to stop class over. A couple days later when classes resumed, the professor preceded his lecture with a grave and humble apology for disregarding the girl's comment. Of course none of us really held it against him.

When class ended I remember heading outside and being surprised to find things in chaos. People were running up and down the walkway in front of Juilliard with nervous expressions on their faces. Some were trying to make phone calls. Some stood huddled together with friends. There were words going around about "a second plane?" and "terrorists", but I didn't understand any of it for a while.

I remember seeing smoke in the distance and taking the elevator up to the first floor of the dorms and looking with a crowd of others out their south-facing windows for a better view. There may have been a news feed on somewhere...I remember getting sick when I heard that people were jumping from the towers. Someone next to me, a bass trombonist I was acquainted with, said something like, "those ****ing towelheads! I'm gonna quit school and go join the army! We're going to war over this!" (as an aside, I don't approve of such racial slurs and was extremely bothered at the time to hear words of such intense and angry aggression spoken by people I knew. It was unbelievably frightening to me).

I tried calling my mom over and over...the call wouldn't go through. I don't remember when we found out about the collapse of the towers or when I finally got through to my mom. One part of my memory carries an image of seeing a tower fall as I was standing at the dorm windows...or maybe just a sudden increase in the size of the smoke cloud. One bit of memory tells me it was my mom who informed me of the tower's collapse. It is odd to me that I don't remember for sure.

At some point the Juilliard security guards started rounding up all the students they could and protectively ushering them into one of the lower performance halls...something of a shelter as it was underground. I sat with a few of my friends, Micah is the one I remember most clearly, and waited for someone to get up at the front of the hall and tell us what was going on. No one was sure if this was the beginning of a larger attack on the city or something more isolated. I don't remember how long we stayed there, but as we waited I heard more people talking about leaving school and joining the military to fight a war...or just going many, including me, just wanted to go home. The school president eventually got up on stage and gave us all the information he could. We were later cleared to leave and I remember Isabelle Leonard inviting many of us to come to her parents' apartment a ways north of the school just for support and the sake of togetherness. As the subways were not working I got in a cab with Micah and a couple others to accept her invitation.

When we arrived, Isabelle's mother had prepared a feast of a lunch and the 9 or 10 of us that were there ate while watching disney's "The Little Mermaid" in order to divert our minds for a while from the terrible things that had occurred. I remember that being the first time I'd ever tried pesto...delicious!

The rest of the day is pretty much gone from my mind. I ended up spending a few hours with my friends at the Leonard's. When the movie ended it was difficult to talk and I don't remember really much of what we all said. Eventually some of the subways started up again and I made it back to my apartment in Inwood late in the evening. I called my boyfriend at the time in Hawaii and listened to him rant some more about the "****ing towelheads", (...sigh...) I think I talked to my mom again...perhaps about somehow finding a way to bring me home...and finally, still in a bit of shock, I went to sleep.

The next day the theme of the moment seemed to be getting up and "keeping on" so that the "terrorists wouldn't win". I woke up that morning and took a jog around Inwood Park and up a wooded hill that afforded lovely views of the Hudson River. I thought about trying to donate blood, but heard that the lines at donation centers were huge...almost too many people were out there trying to help in any way they could. It felt good to be a "New Yorker" then...everyone was out to offer support and lift up their fellow citizens during the difficult time (though I also remember worrying that the city's middle eastern population might be in danger of hate crimes and misdirected anger), and stories about the kindness of strangers and the heroism and sacrifice of the city's firemen and police officers abounded. American flags were everywhere. I was particularly taken with an enormous one that hung from the Metropolitan Opera for a few weeks and one morning I spent a couple hours with a sketchpad and pen illustrating the incredible sight.

I talked with my parents a bit more about the possibility of coming home for a while, but there was really no practical way to do that. Airports were stalled and I seem to remember the buses and trains being stopped as well...or maybe they were just too overwhelmed with diverted airline patrons to make those modes of travel seem viable. So my family advised me to stay strong, call whenever I needed to, and there'd soon be a better opportunity to visit.

Eventually, the day-to-day seemed to get back to (a somewhat uneasy) normal. Classes started up again. Though some students had somehow gotten out of Manhattan to be with their families, most, probably all, soon came back to restart the year and keep things going. I did my best, but I have to admit that the experience had shaken me to the core and I started to question the importance of what I was doing. "I'm here in NY getting a music degree of all things...does that really matter? Shouldn't I care more about being with the people I love?" I sometimes wonder if I would have been able to perform a little better during that last year if 9,11 hadn't happened...though of course it's only in the past and all any of us can ever do is muddle forward as best we can. No sense in worrying about "what might have been" as they say.

For years after this experience I started seeing the numbers 911 everywhere. It seemed that I'd always happen to look at the clock, morning and evening, at "9:11", I'd encounter dollar amounts, flight numbers, confirmation codes...all sorts of things that contained those numbers...911. I told my mom about seeing the numbers everywhere and soon she started to have the same experience. I guess maybe we just find what we look for...consciously or un...who knows?

I'm sure that's why my mom sent me that pix message last night. In any case, I'm glad to have done some remembering today...glad to have taken the time to write all this down...if only for myself.

September 11, 2010

Looking Up...or trying to...

So, despite all the great things I've discovered so far in Evanston, it has been a bit of a rough week for me. I've been a little lonely here and there--missing people, organizations, landscapes...and puppies:(...and I've also been experiencing some real struggles getting my chops back to where they need to be. Ability on the trumpet can seem so fickle at day I'll wake up and my lips will feel like gold for no apparent reason...and the next day I might do everything "right" and still find it impossible to simply eliminate the double buzz from my sound. I've had a decent moment or two this week, but on the whole I've found myself stuck in the practice room just having to repair my sound and get the basics working at a really elementary level. Needless to say, with auditions coming up in less than a week this has been more than frustrating. Add all that to the hassles and worries of making sure my condo is going to be ready to put on the market !!ASAP!! and you might get a sense of why I've been less than sunny these past few days.

In order to give my mind and body a break from all this stress I decided to swallow my tears for a while and head up to campus yesterday evening for the weekly open house at the Dearborn Observatory...something I'd been looking forward to since before I got here. The ivy-covered domed building houses a beautiful old 18 1/2 inch refracting telescope. Its lenses, the largest in the world at the time it was built, were made prior to 1861 originally for the University of Mississippi, but with the onset of the civil war these plans were scrapped and the giant lenses sat idle until purchased by the Chicago Astronomical Society in 1863.

The finished telescope began its life in the midwest on the University of Chicago campus, but after the great Chicago fire and later the bankruptcy of the university, it was moved to Northwestern. In 1939 the entire observatory...all 2700 tons of it...was moved a final 644 feet to its present location in order to make room for NU's new Technological Institute building. In a pamphlet about the observatory I picked up in the lobby it says:

"Twenty-six men using jacks moved it for three months at a top speed of 20 inches per minute. It was in motion for a total of seven hours."

WOW! What a job to imagine!

The weather all day had been as clear and glorious as you could possibly of those idyllic late-summer days of blue skies cooly lit by golden sunshine and freshened by the merest hint of a breeze. When twilight began however, thin splotchy clouds rolled in and eliminated any real chance of having a star party. Still, the observatory is opened every friday rain or shine for tours so I decided to go anyway if only to scope out the building and see if I could get any information about the possibilities for working with the telescope.

When I arrived there were a few others in the dome listening to a student worker talk about the telescope and its observing history. The dome was open and the room was bathed in red light (red lights are used during observing sessions to help preserve dark-adapted vision), but it must have just been for effect because, as you can see in the following photos, the sky was still blanketed with clouds. Still the sight of the giant refractor reaching towards a small slit of exposed sky was utterly arresting and I found myself almost praying that there'd be some way I might involve myself with its operation someday.

Though the scope in its lifetime has made significant contributions to the early study of Jupiter, the discovery of hundreds of new double stars (including the first observation of Sirius B in 1862--the first ever observation of a white dwarf), and the proper motion and parallax of stars, it is now used primarily for public outreach events and, indeed, anyone in the NU community with an interest is welcome to train to work there! The student giving the tour last night was a chemical engineering major and he said that there are people from all over campus involved "even a couple art majors." I believe that, as with most student jobs on campus, employment is conditioned upon one's eligibility for work study (which I didn't qualify for this year...damn savings!), so I may have to wait for my chance till next year...we'll see.

The tour guide moved the scope around a couple of times just to illustrate its operation. It was obviously built waaay before computers had even been dreamed of and at one time moved using a complicated system of pullys and cranks, but today all that old equipment is gone and the thing swivels around with the flick of a remote control switch...a little bit of a disappointment in some ways... how fun it would have been to see the thing work using all the old mechanisms! It was also quite different to imagine spending a night observing with only a small portion of sky visible at any one time. I'm so used to being outside underneath an enormous ceiling of stars and picking objects to view on a whim using readily visible constellations and other star patterns to zoom in on a distant object.

Still my mouth was watering at the thought of seeing Jupiter through such a large refractor!...the detail that must be visible...even polluted by so much glare from the city. While walking back to my car in fact I did get a glimpse of the planet peeking furtively through the clouds and haze and almost turned around to see if they'd be able to pick it up in the scope, but sadly it still looked a bit low in the sky to even be viewable above the high walls of the observatory and would likely still be behind some trees anyway. I'm sure I'll be back soon enough on a better night.

September 8, 2010

Lake Michigan and Dragonflies

I guess it's a little obvious, but the bit of natural beauty in Evanston I seemed to have latched onto is Lake Michigan. As I was getting ready to leave Salt Lake I constantly bemoaned the fact that I'd be away from my beloved mountains for so long and more specifically, that I'd no longer be able to wake up in the morning to the ever changing grandeur of Mount Olympus outside my window.

Lake Michigan is about as far from being a mountain as you can get, but what I've observed of it so's subtle to enormous changes in color and activity...

...and its ever present influence on climate and the local feeling of space...
...make it an ideal muse for my nature-craving soul.

There are numerous lakeside parks edging the shoreline from downtown Chicago north and as I've had a good bit of free time these last couple days I've taken advantage of the mild (if windy) weather to explore a few miles of walking/biking trails that connect these lakeside oases. Yesterday afternoon the wind was outrageous and the air was absolutely filled with gigantic irridescent dragonflies dodging and swooping in and out among invisible eddies of air...and apparently having a ball! In places there were congregations of so many I felt I had to do a good bit of dodging myself in order to avoid collisions on all sides! When I took this next photo I had no idea I'd accidentally captured one of them in the image...but I like seeing it there anyway.

A little further down there was a large flock of geese and seagulls enjoying the afternoon sun...or perhaps just taking a break from wrestling with 40 mile per hour gusts of wind!

There have already been at least a dozen times when I've found myself walking by the lake and the scene is so beautiful and different that I have to kick myself for leaving my camera at home. I would always have it with me except that I often have to carry so much around that any bit of weight I can take off my shoulders seems more important when I'm packing my daily load than the thought of perhaps getting to take a lovely the camera stays on the dresser.

September 7, 2010

Slowly but Surely

Alright...I'm coming online slowly but surely!

The NU offices were open again today after the Labor Day break and I was able to call the tech center and get help logging on to the NU wireless system, so now I have 2 great places from which to access the internet for free: NU and the public library. One of these days I'll follow through and get set up with a personal connection at home...that way I'll be able to go to all my favorite sleazy websites without having to worry about those prudish librarians peeking over my shoulder...just kidding:)

I am finally starting to feel myself again on the trumpet! I went in early to practice today and was able to get through most of the audition materials without too much trouble. My efforts for the next couple weeks will primarily be directed towards polishing up rough spots and making sure I've got the endurance to make it through the long etudes with my sound and flexibility intact.

So far there have only been a smattering of other musicians using the practice rooms at any given time: a couple string players...a couple low brassers...maybe a double reed or two...(still no other trumpeters that I've heard)...and at this point everyone's been able to space themselves out enough so that the noise isn't too overwhelming. The rooms are all quite close together and there doesn't seem to be much soundproofing so I'm sure when the school year gets into full swing it will turn into quite a cacophony! I guess that working in such an environment will just force me to focus and help me overcome my occasional bad habit of listening to what's going on with others more than paying attention to my own business.

Still, I must admit it's been fun to (clandestinely) listen to some great playing going on around me. Last night, a mallet player came in and started playing some mean xylophone! It was awesome to listen to his/her precise and energetic musical pointillism during my breaks. It is obvious I will certainly be working with some excellent musicians this year!...hope I can keep up!

September 5, 2010

Picture of the Month: September 2010

Ok, I know all of you have been waiting hungrily beside your computers wondering why I haven't added a single post in nearly a week! Well, the suspense is now over. I finally dragged myself into the local Starbucks (still wondering if it has really been worth the $4.00 hot chocolate...sheesh!) in order to take advantage of the wifi and catch up on my online business.

I got to my new apartment in Evanston this past Wednesday after a long cross country drive with my dad (and several days without sufficient or meaningful practice--which nearly drove me crazy!) and have been running around like a chicken with it's head cut off ever since trying to get everything unpacked and all the little bits and pieces of my life put together in this new city. Most of the basics have now been taken care of, though I've still been unable to get internet coverage at home or figure out how to connect to the free coverage at NU--thus my grudging trip to Starbucks.

It's ridiculous how much I've come to depend on an internet connection in order to plan my life. A year ago I was getting along just fine with my only access to a computer being the local public library across the street, and I had fought militantly against purchasing a computer for most of my adult life...only giving in when the grad-school application process made only an hour per day of computer time a bit insufficient. Now I find myself completely flummoxed without constant access to the internet: how do I find my way around the city and around do I find maps and fares for public do I find phone numbers for important people and services I need to connect can I possibly get my crossword-with-Rob can I watch NOVA...Nature...all my other favorite PBS do I communicate at all...with anybody??? Of course all of these things are possible without the internet, but I've been spoiled for so long by having one convenient place where ALL the information and entertainment I need has been right at my fingertips whenever I want that finding the reg'lar ol' ways of getting things done has forced me to stretch muscles that have been out of use for quite a while...and it's been (blush) a little stressful.

Anyway, there are a lot of good things here to talk about.

Evanston is a beautiful town and I LOVE my new apartment (teensy tiny though it is). Most of the places I'll need on a regular basis (public transit, grocery store, library...subway sandwich shop:) are within walking distance, and the people I've met so far have been very congenial, relaxed, and extremely helpful. The shore of Lake Michigan is about 1/2 mile from my apartment and about 50 feet from the music building at NU...many of the practice rooms have a view of the many-shades-of-blue water lapping up onto sandy beaches and rocky outcroppings. My 2nd-floor apt. windows look out on a quiet residential street lined with trees and at night I can lay in my bed and (when it's clear) see a decent smattering of stars...last night I noticed the constellations Cassiopeia and Andromeda framed together in my little patch of clear sky. The one neighbor I've met so far, John, commented that Evanston is a great town for people looking to "find themselves"...what more could I ask? back to the picture of the month.

I was extremely fortunate during this move to have my wonderful dad (seen here wrestling with our first sampling of true Chicago-style deep dish pizza) along to help out. He was the sole driver of my moving truck (a good thing considering how I struggle maneuvering large vehicles) and the main source of muscle as we carted large pieces of furniture and boxes up the stairs to my new apartment. He was patient during my wild mood swings and was calm during my frustrating first attempts to navigate the streets of this new town and learn to deal with drivers a good bit more aggressive than those back home in SLC. Thanks Dad! I owe you BIG time!!!

On Friday after I finished my morning practice, we took some time to stroll a bit around campus and check out the NU neighborhood. While walking through the library, Dad noticed a magazine advertising the Chicago Jazz Festival which took place this past weekend. Being an awesome tenor sax player and life-long jazz buff, he eagerly talked me in to checking out a performance at the Green Mill--a night club about 8 or 9 miles south of Evanston. A tenor player he was familiar with, Greg Fishman, was performing with trumpeter Marquis Hill, bassist John Tate, and drummer Michael Raynor, in a quintet led by pianist Dennis Luxion.

I'm certainly not an able jazz or music critic, but I have to say that this group was one of the tightest and most subtly musical small jazz ensembles I've had the pleasure of hearing. The blend between trumpet and sax was exquisite, their precision and ability to respond together was near flawless, and their pianissimos were incredible. All during my band and orchestra experiences in middle and high school I was a bit puzzled (as most young and enthusiastic musicians are) by directors who would tell us that the truest sign of quality musicianship could not really be heard during the loudest moments of a piece, but rather during the softest. The tone and expressivity these guys demonstrated during those subtler moments was a perfect illustration of this idea.

During the performance, in typical Kelly fashion, I was sitting at our little table playing around with the candle. I'm sure I must have seemed like quite a weirdo as I moved the table settings around and found as many odd angles to take pictures of the room and our table as I could. I loved the mix of intense greens, muted reds, and warm yellows that colored the club's ambiance, and I liked the juxtaposition of rough textured glass with the the flatish geometry of the table and tablecloth.

We stayed for two of their three sets and drove home at about 12:30 tired, but uplifted by the great music.

So there ya go...a first little taste of my new life in the midwest. I've left out a lot of cool little details that I'm sure I'll elaborate on in future posts. I'm really looking forward to the start of school and hoping that the many good things I've found in this lovely little city north of Chicago will help sustain my spirit during the long winter.