Monday, October 15, 2007

Made in Vermont wrap-up

Our Made in Vermont Music Festival statewide tour has come to its conclusion and little remains but a few brilliant leaves and the warm feeling one gets from great friends and great music.

In line with my unwavering efforts to harvest entertaining tidbits from the musicians, I asked them each three questions about life as a musician. The questions sought to get a look at the details of a musician’s life – the things that others might not even consider. The musicians responded with humor, honesty, and an obvious love of Vermont.

As an orchestral musician, one finds work where it is available, never limiting oneself to the opportunities in one’s own backyard (though it’s convenient when such gigs arise). Our orchestra for Made in Vermont was made up of part Vermonter, part…should I say “other”? Some came from Massachusetts, others from New York, and even one weary traveler from Texas! I asked, when musicians are away from home for two weeks, what do they bring from home that they absolutely cannot live without? Responses ranged from the practical (cell phone charger, snacks for the road, iPod, a good book) to the downright strange (Russian kettlebell? Cast iron purse? Are these the same thing?). Mary Gibson, violin, says that she never leaves home without her sense of humor, which was imperative for her cheese raffle drawing shtick alongside fellow violinist Hilary Hatch. Personalities can vary greatly in the orchestra: whereas Abby Karr, violin, claimed she had a hard enough time remembering the essentials to consider bringing other comforts of home, fellow violinist Woonkuo Soon admitted he couldn’t leave home without his “decent stereo system, home theatre projector, and laptop.” Sounds like a green room screening waiting to happen!

OK, you’ve made it to the gig, the rehearsals elevated your confidence in the program, and you’ve had your share of Turkey dinner provided in Vergennes by Roland’s Place – yum! Concert time is rapidly approaching and your stomach starts doing cartwheels. How does a professional musician deal with nerves? If you’re Harold Lieberman, viola, you’ve already taken care of this problem with dinner. He lists “eating” as his anti-anxiety drug of choice. Similarly, Luke Baker, bass, positions himself at the VSO snack table to take off the edge. Others opt for actual drugs (OTC, naturally!): coffee, Ibuprofen paired with coffee, inderal (beta-blocker), or bananas (nature’s beta-blocker). Several respondents reported that deep breathing, quasi-meditative states, inner and external silence, Qi gong, yoga stretches, and praying assisted in calming their pre-concert jitters. Who knew the VSO was blessed with such spiritual folks?

Let’s face it, one of the unique perks associated with VSO affiliation is traveling through the idyllic landscape and exploring the picturesque towns. The Made in Vermont tour is geared toward just that, aiming to align the concert route with peak foliage around the state. I asked the musicians what they love about Vermont (keep in mind not all are Vermonters). Dieuwke Davydov, a cellist from Middlebury, made reference to this year’s prolonged Indian Summer by naming humidity as her favorite aspect of Vermont! Among the myriad answers, one stood out to me as a reinforcement of why I am here. Lino Tanaka, a violinist from Cambridge, Massachusetts, says his favorite part of Vermont is, “everything, absolutely everything.” Well said.