It has occurred to me that the music directors of all three of "my orchestras" are women. I suppose it's not fair to count the same person twice (Anu Tali, of the Sarasota Orchestra and Nordic Symphony), and we don't yet know who will replace Marin Alsop at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music after her final season this summer, so I may not be able to say this for much longer. But, nevertheless, I realize that I'm probably in a relatively rare situation. Thankfully, this coincidental "rarity" of mine will probably not seem so rare in the coming years, as orchestral music further evolves to promote pure talent with less of the gender (and other) biases that have hampered our success. Anyway...it's cool to be able to say that right now.
Speaking of these two conductors, I can't help but appreciate that many of my most rewarding artistic experiences have happened under their leadership. That's one of the reasons I'll be so sad to see Marin move on from Cabrillo after her final (25th) season this summer. I first met Marin in Miami at the New World Symphony. I was playing principal clarinet in John Corigliano's extraordinary "Symphony No. 1," and Marin was conducting. I'm not sure whether she was based in Eugene or Denver at that time, but she was somewhere earlier in her famous trajectory. Her work with us was powerful and poignant, and, as she would later tell me, that experience ended up becoming my invitation to Cabrillo.
I started at Cabrillo playing Second and E-Flat Clarinet. There were some terrifying early experiences in that role (like handling Aaron Jay Kernis' "Color Wheel" on the e-flat!), but it was all worth it. And, later, after I was "promoted" and was able to have two of the most extraordinary clarinetists in the world join me in the section (John Schertle and Michael Maccaferri), those early experiences would feel like a prelude to the most satisfying (and sometimes still terrifying) concerts I've ever played. I'm very proud to be able to say that I've been a part of 15 of Marin's 25 seasons there. Many more words will be said about her departure, including more of my own, but I will leave this here for now.
With Anu Tali, the experiences have been blending discovery at home and abroad. In Sarasota we're evolving quickly to incorporate more of the styles and repertoire of European composers who yearned for independence and freedom -some of whom would never truly have it. And, though this may be an overreach, it is not lost on us that our Music Director herself spent formative years in Soviet occupied Estonia, before the country gained its independence. These musical explorations are not always the most pleasant ones because the subjects are difficult, but they are coming with an authenticity that is changing our musical culture dramatically for the better.
You can read a review of our first concerts of 2016 here: http://ticket.heraldtribune.com/2016/01/08/concert-review-contrasts-mark-winter-dreams-by-sarasota-orchestra/
In Estonia, I'm learning both how quickly the language of music can create wonderful new friendships and how slow the process will ultimately be to comprehend the history there. With anywhere from 10-15 different countries represented in the body of that wonderful orchestra, I have been able to build new relationships and to learn from people of tremendously different backgrounds. Traveling to Tallinn last month, I arrived to feel as though I was actually "home" among those wonderful musicians. But earlier, in August, after travel through Stockholm, Riga, and Vilnius, I saw for myself how some of my new friends (who make their lives there) perform the same music we do while still living with the firsthand echoes and even contemporary worries of oppression. Nevertheless, these people and these families are blessings, and the travels are themselves a joy.