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Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Morning Check In: The Adventure Begins

This is a different Monday morning post, because I embark on a new adventure this morning. At noon today I will board a flight bound (eventually) for New York City (the Long Island airport to be precise). From the airport, I will venture into midtown Manhattan to prepare for a performance with the Artisan Quartet in Carnegie Hall on Thursday evening. The entire enterprise stretches all of us in so many unforeseen ways.

First, we planned our performance over a year ago. After receiving the invitation to perform as part of the 30th anniversary season of MidAmerica Productions, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall series, a benefactor stepped forward to cover the costs of our performance. At that point we raised travel costs through fund raising performances that provided us with enough funds to make the journey and stay in an interesting hotel (more on the hotel later, just wait!).

Next, we worked on a suitable program at the same time that we continued our Beethoven string quartet cycle. We finally chose a program that drew a little bit from our Beethoven series and a little bit from other performances that we gave at other festivals. We were fortunate to perform various aspects of the program throughout the past year, enough so that our chosen repertoire became more like a familiar old friend than a momentary one-concert acquaintance.

We finally made our travel plans a few months ago. Making travel plans for four individuals (and one cello) taxed me to my travel savvy limits. How does one list a cello in a way that satisfies the TSA? How will boarding priorities work? Which airline? Which airport (there are three that service the New York area)? Which hotel? Should we stay nearby or within walking distance? Oh right, the cello. We cannot walk too far. Cabs? Coming from a town where its residents rely on driving to their destinations, how would we manage transportation in "the city that never sleeps"? [For that matter, what does the other song mean when it refers to the Bronx being "up" and the Battery "down"?] Aargh!

Travel plans made, we held one last preview concert this past Saturday night in Austin. We performed our entire Carnegie Hall program for our special friends in the recital hall at Blackerby Violin Shop of Austin and celebrated the coming journey at a reception after the performance. We raised enough funds to cover our expenses and maybe offer the cello a "spa day" if it so desires.

I saved the hotel for last because this will be our biggest part of the adventure. We will be staying at one of the boutique hotels very close to the hall itself. The hotel is renowned for its Andy Warhol prints and other eclectic decor. I am actually more eager to experience the hotel than I am any other part of my journey. There is much to do and see in New York, but in our short amount of time, I am uncertain how much we will be able to accomplish. I hope to see Central Park (did someone say there were carriage rides?) and the Museum of Modern Art (I want to see those Impressionists up close and personal!). We have our tickets reserved for the 9/11 Ground Zero Memorial and I expect to be emotional. One of our members has compiled a list of recommended restaurants of such length that I worry about how many extra pounds I might bring back home with me. I want to sit in the eclectic hotel lounge and experience my hotel to its fullest. I want to visit with our friends and relatives who are making the journey with us.

As I scrambled around this afternoon and evening doing laundry, packing, and getting the house and chores in order for my absence, I thought about the ramifications of embarking on such an adventure. Although most definitions of the word include something about it being hazardous or risky, I prefer to think of an adventure as something that is new, fresh, and exciting. I think it is important that we find occasion to step outside of ourselves and follow a path that leads us somewhere unknown.

Some of my best memories from my Rome trip last summer were my morning rambles that sometimes lasted four or more hours. I would step off in one direction from my hotel with no more intention than finding a good cappuccino and a dolce of some sort, and maybe finding that little basilica or church someone mentioned. Perhaps a few hours into my long walk, I would have to refer to the map to realize that I had completely turned myself around in a circle. I saw things I could not have planned to see, and I found places that I wanted to visit again later. My entire wandering was as aimless as I could let it be, and it was wonderful. My legs were tired, but I did not mind the long walk. Eventually I would discover a tucked-away piazza with a sweet ristorante and a menu outside the door that had three choices of meals (complete with antipasto, pasta, desert, and beverage).

Eating in Italy and drinking coffee are the most relaxing things I have ever done in a very long time. The experience is lengthy, but the enforced wait is pleasurable. When I returned home to the US, I had every intention of continuing my lengthy sit downs at meals and over coffee. Hmm, too often I lament the fact that I am unable to sit down at the table to finish my coffee or eat my breakfast. I do entirely too much of that in the car.

But I digress. My point was that the long, rambling walks were the best part of the adventure last summer in Italy. I hope to have a similar experience in New York. I want to step out of my hotel and walk the few blocks to Central Park and then make a decision to go left or right and see what I find. I am certain that I will fill my creative tank with this incredible Artist Date opportunity. For more about Artist Dates, click here.

I have had fun this past week posting videos on Facebook that are related to the New York trip: Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind," Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York," and the classic "New York, New York" from the movie "On the Town," starring Frank Sinatra and my all time favorite Gene Kelly. My favorite preparation event was when the quartet's Richard Kilmer showed up at our last performance wearing this T-shirt.

For any of our friends who are going to be in the New York City area this week, please come share our exciting journey with us on Thursday, March 22, 2012, at 8:00 p.m in the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, where we will perform the Beethoven string quartet in F major, op. 14, no. 1 (which Beethoven transcribed from his piano sonata no. 9 in E major) and string quartet in F major, op. 135 (Beethoven's last quartet). Also on the program is the Grieg string quartet in G minor, op. 27 and the Mambo 7/16 by Roberto Sierra (do not try to dance to this or you will hurt yourself!). For more information about the performance in New York, click here. For more information about the Artisan Quartet, click here. For more about Sierra's "Mambo" click here. You can also leave me a comment below!


  1. Paula, I am so excited for you! Hope you enjoy your NY trip and especially performing at Carnegie Hall - it sounds well-deserved! Looking forward to reading about all your experiences there. I bet your students are proud of you!

    1. Thanks, Hannah! It was a great trip! I have much to digest and remember. I appreciate your enthusiastic support!

  2. Paula, I am so thrilled for you and your upcoming adventure in NY. It's been such a long time - I've thought of you often since way back when, and now it's wonderful to see all the different things you're up to these days. The best of luck at Carnegie - i hope you slay them!

    1. Wow, it has been a long time. I actually googled you after I got this comment. I see you are still in FLA. Having a blast, I'm sure. Stay in touch!

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