Remember that little trip to Chicago I took in October? It was just last week, but it feels like it was a gazillion years ago! It was exciting, exhausting, exhilarating, and everything you would expect. Overall, my experiment of going to a city and playing as many concerts as I could for as many different groups of people as possible worked. I learned a hella lotta stuff about the whole process of sending press releases, booking concerts and venues and more importantly, I learned a lot about myself and what I need in terms of concert prep. I need enough time to calm down after a stressful drive, but not so long that I start to feel bored and tired before I play. Which spoken program notes are helpful and which ones come off sounding ridiculous, how much coffee I should have so that I am awake, but not tight; the list goes on and on. So, to recap, my amazing friend and colleague, Sarah Bob, and I flew to Chicago on Saturday and arrived to warm sunny weather. Here’s Sarah taking it all in (it was her first trip to Chicago!).
We had our first concert that night in the beautiful pianoforte salon. It was the first time I performed the Piazzolla and I was super nervous. It was also the first time I used my new video camera. The best part of that night was that my high school advisor, Darrelyn Marx came to see me perform. I haven’t seen her since I graduated, but she looks the exact same. SO good to catch up. I love that about recitals. There is always at least one surprise audience member.
After a well-deserved long sleep at the beautiful Homestead Inn in Evanston, we had recital #2 on Sunday afternoon. This one was at the Armenian General Benevolent Union Center on the outskirts of the city. This concert was part of their Armenian Humanities Festival, and the room was wall-to-wall Armenians. My people. Some of my cousins drove in from Milwaukee, which was so nice, and we had a nice little reunion. After the concert, there was a reception and cd signing time (thanks, Gary for remembering to bring a sharpie!!). Sarah and I both felt less focused on Sunday than we did on Saturday, but I think it all went okay. We managed to get a backstage selfie with my nephew, Theo. Theo is awesome.
Monday was a day off. The temperature had dropped and it was a cold and rainy day in Chicago. We decided to head downtown anyway, and found shelter in the Art Institute. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Art Institute of Chicago. Of course, as a kid I took it for granted that one could look at these amazing works of art any old day, but having not seen them in over a decade, I was filled with a renewed sense of awe for that collection. Chicagoans are a lucky bunch!
Tuesday, we got to take it easy a bit. We had a free morning, and Sarah and I both practiced a bit on our own and then ventured downtown again to perform at The Clare–a very glam retirement “community” right smack dab in the middle of it all. They happen to have a VERY nice piano and many of their residents are music lovers and quite knowledgeable. We loved chatting with everyone after the concert.
Wednesday was our last day as a duo and a double-whammy concert day. First up was a concert at the Harold Washington Library. There is this gorgeous concert hall downstairs (who knew? Apparently, most Chicagoans) called the Pritzger Auditorium. It was such a pleasure to play there. A bit hard to hear, but apparently it was okay. The surprise audience member at that one was my friend Jay, who I grew up with-we studied with the same cello teacher. Good surprise! My brother, whose office is around the corner, had taken the day off, but then trekked into the city to see me play anyway. Good brother! Here is a photo of me with him and our mom. It’s probably the only photo in existence where we are all looking at the same camera at the same time.
Okay, so Wednesday afternoon Sarah and I were both about to crash. We were a couple of TIRED kids, and I think naps were had. Neither of us felt the need to practice, but she went for a walk and I went to get a coffee and then we just got dressed and played another concert. This last one was the easiest logistically. It was at my mom’s residence, next door to our hotel. So we just walked over and played. And just as I would have wanted, the last concert was definitely our best. Things just felt good (again, maybe because we were so tired!). The audience was enthusiastic and lovely, and it was a very nice way to end the last of our duo concerts.
Thursday morning Sarah ubered back to O’hare, and I headed off to Lake Forest Academy to work with their cellists. They have 8! Such a nice group of kids. I wished we had had more time together, but we still had a blast.
Friday and Saturday were off for me. In hindsight that provided a bit too much of pause of adrenaline, but it did give me time to visit with friends and some relatives, do some shopping with mom, and have some needed quiet (practicing!) time. On Saturday night my whole family went out for dinner. My nephews are the best. Seriously, The.Best-I mean, just look at these cuties! (but let’s not talk about how the one on the left is almost taller than me, okay?) I miss them so much already, and it’s only been a week!
Sunday was my last day in Chicago, and my last concert. There was a Nor’easter brewing in Boston and of course United canceled all of their flights into the city that afternoon and evening. So instead of warming up and relaxing before my recital, I was on hold with an airline for way too long while they sorted something out for me. They were able to get me on an 8pm flight on American, and I was off to Wilmette–the town I grew up in. It was so surreal to walk into that Library—it’s where I learned to read, chose all of my first books, did research for my 4th grade “research project” on Orcas. This was a completely different program—a one hour long solo cello program. I was nervous to be playing one of the pieces for the first “official” time but overall, I was really happy with how it all went. It was a nice way to end the week. The surprise audience member was Mr. Fowler, my high school orchestra conductor. I graduated 25 years ago and this man HAS NOT AGED. Seriously. He looks exactly the same. I think he was even wearing his same navy-blue wool turtleneck! But so nice to see faces from my past-the people who supported me and taught me and gave me such wonderful opportunities. I feel like I owe them all so much, and to see them still, after all these years, being the ones making the effort to come out and see ME perform, well, it’s humbling to say the least.
After the concert, I said goodbye to my family and my mom drove me to the airport. There were a few delays, but the (incredibly bumpy) flight finally landed around 12:15am. I got back to my condo, took my concert gowns out of the suitcase and slept on the sofa for a few hours. I had to leave at 8am again to go BACK to the airport and fly to Bermuda.
And now, here I am–back on my little rock. I am so grateful to everyone who helped to make the week such a success. I am already hard at work booking similar trips to Florida and Charleston, with a bit of an exciting twist that I will announce soon. I just feel so incredibly lucky to do what I do!
Cheers, everyone! And Happy November!