Thursday, March 24, 2011

Love What You Do

I’m reluctantly about to play the “I’ve been around a long time and learned a lot” card. Sometimes things are so obvious we miss the presence of poignantly clear and valuable information. The conducting and masterclass tour that began exactly one month ago is coming to an end in a week, and those obvious things that can be so easily missed have now become clearly visible through the course of this musical junket.

After a week of dog sleds and reindeer far inside the Arctic Circle in Lapland, I started work with the fantastic brass section of the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra; it was a week of pleasure and gratification. Finally, also in Tampere, Finland, I had two full days of masterclasses with the brass players of the Tampere Conservatory. I was amazed at the openness, quickness, and positive enthusiasm from both the professionals in the Tampere Philharmonic brass section and among the students in the conservatory. Maybe because of the relaxation from my Lapland vacation or maybe because I’m just more experienced in the art of observation, it was clear that the brass musicians I met in Finland really loved their work.

The tubists in the brass ensemble, Harri Miettunen, of the Tampere Philharmonic and Harri Lidsle of the Lahti Symphony and my host for the incredible Lapland adventure, are perfect examples of highly respected players and teachers that adore their work; this positive approach to music has had enormous influence on the students, which was abundantly audible during the Tampere masterclasses.

A hidden benefit of loving ones work in the music profession is that it can morph into that hard to define aspect of charisma. I once wrote an essay called “CHARISMA” (See my blogs), and asked if it can be taught, perhaps loving what one does is the key to teaching that very valuable, yet elusive aspect of music performance and teaching. Arnold Jacobs, who clearly loved both playing and teaching, generated both musical excellence and charisma, it radiated from him even through a telephone conversation. Maurice Andre has it, as do Christen Lindberg, Steven Mead and many others, just to mention a few from our brass community; their love for what they do supports their charisma.

Then there’s the dark side. I have a very dear friend and valued colleague who frequently said, and I fear believed, “A good musician is a scared musician”, what a miserable philosophy for pursuing the art of music.

And reflecting on myself, I hope I also have these positive qualities and a love and passion for my work. I know I am increasingly enjoying teaching and I know that my students are getting better, but quickly, I must remind myself that all students everywhere are getting better.

I feel safe in sharing my joke with my readers, I call it “My secret”, but please remember it’s a joke: I hope to live a lot more years, I hope to live so many years that I will be able boast that all tubists in the world and half the brass players have been my students.

I love my work.

Started in Tampere, Finland, March 10, 2011. Finished on a train between Zurich and Lausanne, Switzerland, March 23, 2011

Monday, March 21, 2011

Fiesole Photos

Fiesole is located on a hill just about seven kilometers north, above Firenze, (I use the name Firenze because it is correct Italian, it has a phonetic beauty and the name “Florence”, to this Southern California boy, denotes a smoggy unattractive suburb in greater Los Angeles.) I suppose in present day reference Fiesole would be called a suburb but the fact is this beautiful city of the Middle Ages flourished here long before Firenze. Just about a thousand years ago Fiesole was overpowered By Firenze and through the millennium grew to be one of the very prestigious parts of Florentine society with beautiful villas, most of them with an expansive view of the amazing skyline of Firenze. At first sight one wants to stare at this view but in a very short time the daily activities on the Piazza Mino became just as beautiful in their unique charming way.

I’m free now after four eight-hour days of masterclasses and working with the winds of the National Youth Orchestra. It was a nostalgic feeling being here again. My first stop was the pharmacy where I had shopped for the 15 years I worked at the Fiesole Scuola. My quest was to buy a long-term supply of antibiotics without the required prescription as I had done several times before. I asked the lady at the pharmacy for the antibiotics in my poor Italian and, of course, she told me it was impossible without a prescription.
“But I bought antibiotics here many times in the past without a prescription, the owner always let me have them”
She went and asked the owner, he looked through the door of his office, saw me, and told her it would be ok. Italy can sometimes be such a reasonable place!

It was time for lunch and I took a seat at the sidewalk restaurant where I had eaten so many times. There was the very loud sound of men sawing all the branches off the trees across the piazza but I knew the work would stop in a few minutes; nobody works after 1:30 in Italy. Those trees would be covered in rich green by June. The macho padrone was standing at same door as five years ago, looking tough as he scanned the piazza mostly concentrating on the abundance of pretty girls passing by. And many older men with thick Mediterranean features and absolutely full heads of gray hair were passing that same door stopping to talk to the padrone. I ordered a pizza and linguini pesto; I was embarrassed when I discovered I was slurping the linguini the same way that is considered good manners in Japanese noodle houses.

The Fiesole Scuola di Musica was the principal reason I was able to quit my job with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra; I was on sabbatical with pay from the orchestra for one year starting in 1998, but after only a few months it become abundantly clear that I really didn’t want to go back to LA, not after a year, not ever. Thanks to the Fiesole Scuola, I was able to do that, after the sabbatical money stopped it was tough for a few years but things got better.

From the very first time the Fiesole Scuola contacted me I was told the economics of the school were feeble but they would like to have me on the faculty. I was in no position to negotiate and I started working immediately. The school operated from one of the fine old Fiesole villas and it now has expanded into what many think is Italy’s best music school. However, the expansion and the prestige don’t seem to have changed the economics. I have worked eight hours a day for four days and my honorarium was less than I made last week in Switzerland for one three-hour class! The reimbursement for my travels is not nearly enough to cover the costs even calculating after having arrived in Europe from Japan, the hotel is trying to be good, but still I live on the 3rd floor and the elevator is broken! The one very good thing is that I can sign for my meals at the Pizzeria San Domenico, which is one of my favorite restaurants; that almost makes working here worth it, Almost! So the pay is bad and the conditions are poor, would I ever consider coming back under circumstances like this? Sure; Maybe!

Fiesole, Italy, March 21, 2011