This year I turn 60. It feels like a big number and I have no idea how this happened. My self-image is still of a well-toned 32 year old but the morning mirror always tells a different story. (Incidentally, have you ever noticed how you can be a different person depending upon a different mirror?) But the words of the poet are very much in my mind: “Death tweaks my ear”…”Live,” he says. “I am coming.”
That is quite an injunction to throw out there and it all turns upon philosophy and existential matters conflicted by the pragmatism of day-to-day living. In these next few years what do I want to achieve and what do I wish to do with the opportunity that life provides? I regret having spent so much of my career in the mired world of orchestras, but I am grateful for all the professional skills it has given me. Gratitude is in my heart for the joy of leading New England Conservatory and its place in the music world.
NEC has reminded and reintroduced me to so much that I have always cared about, and the major heading for this would be ideals and creativity. Still having ideals at my tender age I feel is strong. The opportunity to lose them through the battering life gives you is manifest but I take comfort in still having in my day to day thinking the importance of social change, justice, education, the need for care given to the under served, and the place of politics in investing in our societies. (Now that last one deserves a whole essay unto itself, so we’ll return to it later in this blog.) And…creativity.
NEC has reintroduced me to unfettered creativity. It is the “something” that has always inspired me. My recent discoveries have powered energy and aliveness in all my thinking: the short stories of Daniyal Mueenuddin and Téa Obreht, Mark Rylance as Valere in David Hirson’s “La Bête,” the Lyric Stage of Boston’s production of “Nicholas Nickleby,” the potent musicality of our student Eden MacAdam-Somer, the joyous improvisations of the Harlem Quartet, “Scheherazade” given virtually a first performance by Mei-Ann Chen and the NEC Philharmonia. All these and many more demonstrate in their fleeting but substantial way the power of creativity to change our very souls.
That is what I love about NEC. Creativity knows no bounds. It comes from the studio, from our great faculty; it is in the very fabric of Jordan Hall. And it’s about music making and teaching and preparation combined with so many other things. For example, our liberal Arts classes teach everything from acting (I have seen this class and it’s terrific) to Greek mythology, to creative writing and analytical reading. Then there is the new Entrepreneurial Musicianship program that is providing the “other” skills musicians really need to be leaders in our communities, And, there’s the Abreu Fellows program which prepares outstanding young leaders for their new roles in society using much of the philosophy of El Sistema in Venezuela. (There has been much press comment on this program recently but the very simple point is that training is what NEC does best…and that’s why it’s our focus.) All these elements go to make New England Conservatory not just a great school but a unique school.
So….what am I going to do with the rest of my life?
Such a great question.
In this blog , I’ll lay out my experiences, thoughts, successes and mistakes, and the new directions that I discover. It’s just a small journey that we are all taking and I am happy to share mine.