This isn’t the first time I’ve been in the position of leaving a location not knowing what the future will bring, but it’s the first time at age 75!
It was the same in 1964 when I decided to leave the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam; I was lucky, the Los Angeles Philharmonic job opened just at that time. And in 1989 when I left Los Angeles, under the image of a sabbatical, and fortunately got teaching positions at the Fiesole Scuola di Musica, in Italy, the Conservatoire de Lausanne in Switzerland and subsequently other institutions in Europe. After leaving Europe in 2006, I was lucky again ending up for eight years at the Musashino Academy of Music in Tokyo.
Now it starts to get scary finishing my work in Tokyo, but again destiny is kind; I’m fully booked with masterclasses and conducting for the next year with attractive part time situations in Mexico and Okayama, Japan.
Perhaps I’m just a wanderer; sometimes I long for a family and a stable life with the same wife, children, grand children and a beautiful house, but that wanderer in me always dominates.
After 35 years of playing the single line horizontal tuba parts hundreds of times in the music that I loved so much, I was enjoying it less, something previously magical was slowly disappearing. Although I enjoyed playing in a symphony orchestra and adored symphonic music, it was a great and beautiful surprise to me to discover that I love teaching even more.
Each student is a special situation and a unique challenge. Since I stopped playing my musicality was reactivated and continued to develop, with teaching I remain an active student; I continue to learn and improve.
There is, of course, another choice! I could really retire, But no! In passed years I used to spend my summers in the small town of Vatera, on the Greek island of Lesvos. The old pensioners, whom I imagined were all retired fishermen, sitting on benches facing the ocean, usually alone but sometimes with a friend, fascinated me. How I would like to know their thoughts as they watched the horizon line (that horizontal line again!). I could do that; I could go back to Vatera and contemplate that same horizon line. But still, what is there in that horizon line, the sound of the sea, the changing sky that feeds the thoughts of those fishermen, Aye there’s the rub! I fear I don't want to know, the curiosity is perhaps more interesting than the experience.
I have just returned from a beautiful festival called Instrumenta Oaxaca, which was a great experience. First let me say that the general level of playing in Mexico is very high and the potential is huge; they learn quickly, they seem to have the physical aptitude to realize a new idea and they radiate an eagerness and enthusiasm that is quite refreshing, especially just coming from Japan and making the inevitable comparisons.
I’ve never thought much about going to a small indigenous town in the mountains of southern Mexico but I will be doing just that next September. It seems every country has a center, or centers, where brass playing evolves in a noticeably superior way. Oaxaca and especially the indigenous town (population 3000) of Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec, and the highly talented Mixes people, is just such a center. This will be a true adventure for a wanderer.
One could say that the culture shock of a quick change from teaching in Japan to teaching in Mexico results in severe whiplash.
But that’s another essay, (the next essay), it will be called “FEEDBACK”: a view of some typical frustrations of a western teacher in Japan.
November 10, Oaxaca, Mexico and November 23, Okayama, Japan, 2013.