Dateline: Kitchener, Ontario. September 2018
Summer's done. Kids back in school. KW Symphony's season-opening programs’ music folders picked up. Youth Orchestra coaching dates confirmed. Rehearsals for assorted chamber music recitals scheduled. A room for my weekly U of T teaching is reserved, key obtained. Periodic get-togethers with friends penciled into our family calendars…
There's a lot going on! It's been just over two years since I moved from San Francisco to Kitchener, and I regret nothing. (Almost nothing? Meh…)
My wife and I had some good times playing occasional Tuesdays with the Toronto Concert Orchestra at Casa Loma this past summer, and a few other random gigs in the city. Our family took a road trip to visit my mom and brother at her summer cabin in Wyoming, and a couple weeks later I flew solo down to Florida to drive my brother's old Accord back across the border, grateful for the hand-me-down gift. My mother-in-law was diagnosed and apparently successfully treated for a spot of melanoma, my brothers and I sold our late father's house in Maryland, and son was accepted into both the KW Symphony Youth Orchestra and the KW Youth Concert Band where they've assigned him (mostly) to the first horn parts.
Last week I flew to Edmonton to audition for the principal viola position, made it into the finals with one other guy, but they offered him the job. The next day they were holding auditions for the Assistant Principal position, and I had booked my flights to allow for the possibility, so I decided to stay and go for it again, and won it. Yay me!
The thing is, Edmonton is a long way from Kitchener and everything we’ve spent building - careers, relationships, a new home - since moving here, so the decision to take the #2 spot and uproot my family, even with the numerous pros to making the move, is not a simple one.
My son is turning 16 soon, just diving into 11th grade in his school’s International Baccalaureate program, and doing really well in it, and thriving in the school’s music program as a French horn player, a singer, and a music club leader. Transferring in the middle of the program is not straightforward, he’s finally bonded with friends...
My daughter just turned 12 and is in 5th grade. She’s an effervescent, social, playful, caring, empathetic, funny, curious, observant, thoughtful, beautiful girl with significant learning disabilities and physical, mental and emotional developmental delays. Our cat is her binky. Every day is a challenge, for her and for those supporting her. Every year is a marathon, a struggle to secure services she needs to help her grow, and every year there are new and different obstacles thrown down or popping up in our way unpredictably, except that when everything seems like it’s finally in place, something shifts and we’re back in crisis mode...
We’ve heard the Edmonton public school system is great and to expect she’ll finally be taken care of properly, that we’ll finally be taken seriously at the outset and not 3/4 through the school year when the teachers finally acknowledge that something seems off. We’ve heard Alberta health care is great, and the ESO benefits are a bit more comprehensive than what we’ve got through KWS. We’ve know Edmonton’s cold, but we’ve also read that the city enjoys about 300 days of sunshine every year, which is a big improvement over southern Ontario as of late. We’ve heard decent housing is more affordable out west, and ESO proudly proclaims it’s the highest paid orchestra west of Toronto - but doing the actual math shows that even with the relatively higher base salary our family of 4 would have a tight budget, at least at the start, and finding a comfortable home that won’t put us in the red by the end of the year ain’t guaranteed.
So for now, we’re not booking flights and a U-haul just yet, but I will be flying out on my own a few times to play with the symphony when I can, to get a head start getting to know the orchestra before we all move. And when I do go, I’ll play in the principal seat because “the other guy” won’t be starting right away either. I’m looking forward to those opportunities, those sneak-preiviews. I’ve spent a lot of time as the lone viola voice in an ensemble, but in a full orchestra i’ve only been in the back or in the middle, so i’m excited for the chance at the leadership role, if only temporarily, or occasionally.
Meanwhile, back in KW, I’ve got one season to go before the Symphony could give me tenure, securing my job for the future in case this Edmonton stuff goes south. My intention is to “be a good boy” and be there working hard and earnestly throughout the season, despite my few trips to Edmonton, get that tenure and then, barring any other developments, take a leave of absence for a season to give me the leeway to go try Edmonton full-time beginning next fall.
Watch this space!