Friday, July 27, 2012

a new year, a new blog

Time to get ready for a certain-to-be-amazing year in Tanzania. I’m going to start sharing with you the music that I’m listening to as I write the blog and I hope you will listen to the music while you read it. The sounds capture the mood so much more accurately. So, turn this wonderful song on:

I’m in another airport, after another slew of I-don’t-know-when-we’ll-see-each-other-next-time-goodbyes. Airports have become the loneliest place for me; they are always prefaced with bittersweet goodbyes, followed by a sigh and a look behind to give one last smile to whoever is bidding me farewell, then a push past the point of no return- the invisible border crossing through metal detectors and pat-downs into a bright iridescent land of useless items for sale and colorful strangers, each on his or her own journey and at the same time flowing together like a great migration—we’re safer when we move as a herd, going to no one really knows where. And as I sit by myself in these different colored but always uncomfortable plastic chairs, sticky with food and drinks from previous voyagers, I relive recent amazing moments that are still so alive, hugs that are still warm, yet turning into grey memories from a distant life far outside these airport windows. It’s my natural resistance to change, I know.
Whenever I’m in an airport by myself, which I seem to be most of these days, I watch the people passing by, searching for someone else who might be bored and a little lonely and I think of imaginary scenarios where I go up to him or her, strike up a conversation, and we discover that we have the same love of music, books, have been to the same places and even know some of the same people around the world. But, the passerby usually continues on without noticing my gaze. What I’m seeking is someone to travel with me, to confirm that the part life I just experienced wasn’t just a dream. And yet, I smile as I write this, because of course I know … you all are traveling with me. What would I do without the memories, laughs, stories, and gossip from all of my friends and family? Well, I would be a lot more bored in airports, that’s certain. So, here we go to another land, and more memories to miss someday.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Viewing TZ from Rio

I've been in Brazil for a little more than one week and I've had a lot of time to think about home- Arusha, Nashville, Atlanta, Marseille... where to begin? 

I'm torn, very torn between what makes me happiest. Mostly, I'm talking about my professional career: music-- my passion, my art, my life. When I am in Tanzania, I feel so fulfilled, so appreciated, and so useful. There aren't many classical musicians in Arusha and at times I forget what's going on in the rest of the world. I feel like a top-notch, world-class, butt-kicking musician in Arusha. And I get to have a lot of fun like that! But, of course, there is always something that seems lacking there-- the opportunity to learn, to grow, to for a short time soar from hearing other people, great classical musicians, playing. 

When I went home for Christmas last December, I soon heard some live jazz music with my dear friend Matthew. I almost started crying, I was overcome with the joy of hearing the beloved instrument- double bass!!-- again after so many months without it. Now I'm in Rio, visiting my father, and having the honor to hear great live music of so many types, and to play on some of the world's most incredible organs! Tonight I heard a fantastic concert by world renown, and quite young, organist Christian Schmitt. His music truly moved me, so much that I didn't really want to talk to him or any one after the organ recital; rather, I wanted to be with just the music in my mind, and my emotions for just a bit of time. [He played Pachelbel third sonata, and then later Liszt's variations on B-A-C-H. The Pachelbel seized my soul (I must learn this piece!) but the Liszt offended me. Not his playing, just the composition as a whole. It's so clamorous and doesn't seem to ever develop anything.] But, this was far too good of an opportunity to miss talking with this organist, so dad and I went off with Schmitt a small group of other organists and diplomats to have a bite to eat. At the table, I listened as Schmitt discussed his experiences getting to play with the Berlin Philharmonic. My heart melted a little as I envisioned simply being in that hall- why have I never been to Berlin?! I've spent hours of time watching videos of concerts in the Berlin Phil hall, looking at their digital tour online, and day dreaming about getting to hear a concert there, let a lone perform there!! Suddenly a pressure overtakes me, and inside I hear myself shouting at Dani: "what are you doing?! wasting time not practicing, not competing, not making yourself good enough to get there!"

So then comes the familiar dilemma: which world would I choose if I can, could, will? Will I remain in a place like Tanzania, Haiti, so many countries, that have nothing- no orchestra, few music programs, a handful of instruments and teachers? Where I would be appreciated, set to good use, but left to dry as far as filling my own soul with sharing beautiful music with world class musicians; or would I rather throw myself into the torrent of competition in the bigger arena of classical music? One that, for me is so fulfilling, and yet so heart breaking because of the constant comparison of oneself to others. The world that very few, and increasingly fewer, "mainstream" listeners appreciate, and even fewer understand? Both worlds make me whole, and I surely must find a way to remain (or even get into!) in the arena of the world's greatest musicians AND find a way to feel put to great use and share the greatness of so many pieces with those who have never heard such things. I have to set my own path, and I must find a way to be happy with it. Even though I am not winning world composition, conducting, organ, flute, percussion competitions. I have to find a way to know that what I'm doing is meaningful- meaningful for myself, for others, and for music as a whole. I refuse to become lazy, to take small, uneducated compliments as true judgments of my abilities, and will pursue a higher education and understanding of music. 

It's like there are two realities: one is my imaginary future self, something I day dream of, plot, plan, and organize each day that I live in the 'western world' where I'm reminded of my true musical 'competition'. And then, I sink back into my happy home there in Tanzania. Where ignorance is so blissful for me, forgetting about competition, entrance exams, grades, composition debuts, and judgement from peers. There, in that peaceful tanzania-filled world, I think "how can I teach my university class better? what composers can I introduce them, and myself to? How can I better engage my 6 year old piano students? How can I make my 50 year old flute student breathe more fluidly? How can I stay inspired to keep practicing, to make myself better, to stay 'in shape' musically? 

Perhaps this is the battle ever ex-patriot experiences in a developing nation. How to be two people, in two such separate and different worlds? 

Each day it's a battle, and it takes this plunge back into this western society, where we have SO much, to hold a mirror up and see how much I have in my little world of Arusha, Tanzania.