When we were kids, my sister and I attended many symphony concerts at the University of California Riverside. Mind you, this was not our choice. We were dragged there begrudgingly.
Our Dad worked as Associate Librarian at the University and was also involved with the Music Department. Attending those concerts was somewhat of an obligation, though he would undoubtedly describe it as a “perk.” He absolutely loved classical music and enjoyed exposing his daughters to its wonders.
In truth, it wasn’t entirely bad. It was fun getting dressed up and going out as a family. The sound of the orchestra tuning up filled me with delightful anticipation. My Sister and I played Hangman and Tic Tac Toe in the margins of our programs while looking forward to our favorite event of the night: the traditional trek to the vending machine during intermission.
But otherwise I was pretty bored. Rarely did I make it to the end of the performance without falling asleep. In retrospect, I can’t imagine how that was possible with those timpani and horns!
There is an awesome documentary series on HBO called YoungArts Master Class. In each episode an acclaimed artist shares their expertise with talented youngsters and helps them to hone their craft. It is inspiring. I have seen Edward Albee work with aspiring playwrights, Patti LuPone coach young singers and Frank Gehry assign architecture students the task of creating a whole new city.
A few weeks ago I watched an episode featuring renowned violinist Joshua Bell and a group of young string musicians. It was a spectacular show, as always, but what surprised me was how thoroughly I was enraptured by the music. It was so beautiful. I felt completely taken. As the end credits rolled Joshua Bell continued to play. I closed my eyes, silently begging those credits to roll on forever.
This week I was possessed by a thought: Oh my God! I need to see a show in the City!!
It had been far too long and I was feeling culturally malnourished. I decided to take myself on a date to see a show and then stay overnight. New York has an endless menu of entertainment options for me, Broadway usually being the most enticing. But, interestingly enough, I was most compelled by the idea of seeing a symphony. The younger version of me would be shocked, but I could not deny the desire.
I popped on to the website for The New York Philharmonic to check the schedule. This week’s guest artist: Joshua Bell.
It was magnificent.
I was seated the whole time and yet I flew.
I thought about how often music has saved me, and you and all of us, from feeling alone.
I marveled at the profound legacy of classical music and how it is eternally relevant.
I thought about the musical legacy of my family.
I missed my Dad terribly.
I watched the bows bounce and the conductor dance and remembered how joyous it is to see the music.
I listened to Joshua Bell tell my story on his violin.
I thought about everything and nothing.
I rode every crescendo and held my breath at every pause.
I did not squirm. I did not long for intermission.
I was as fully present as I have ever been.
It was magnificent.