Dateline: Kitchener, Ontario. March 2019
My daughter asks me about the weather each night, these days, to figure out what would be appropriate to wear the next morning. It’s been a rough winter, as everybody knows, but the period of transition into Spring, like the transition to Winter from the Fall, is… difficult for us to navigate.
Can I wear my running shoes yet? Do I still have to wear my snowpants? Can I just wear a warm sweater or do I still need my jacket? Is it going to rain? Or snow again? Which boots should I wear? Is the ice melted yet?
Meanwhile, my 11th-grader son, who seems to have finally gotten used to the daily walk to school no matter the weather, despises boots and snowpants unless he’s going sledding. The warm layers make no sense for him to bring to school where the air conditioners are offline and/or the heat is cranked up, and recess ain’t a thing anymore. A true California boy, he can hardly wait to start wearing shorts again. I had a friend in high school who wore shorts all the time - literally every day of the school year, like it was a challenge, or a uniform. But that was California, this is Ontario. Seasons are different here!
I feel lucky to experience the changing seasons right along with my children as they’ve been growing up, little by little, year by year, these past few years since relocating to Canada from California. In my former life I was sometimes away more than I was home, and the constant irregularities in my schedule made it difficult to stay truly connected with my kids as they were developing. These are some serious benefits of my post-quartet career shift - basically settling into life as an orchestral player, freelancing and teaching commutes notwithstanding: I’m home more regularly, I’m a more involved dad, I’m a more connected husband. I’m able to see, and talk in person with, and cuddle with, my wife, and hug my kids, almost every day. I can actually be there for family dinners, parties with in-laws and friends-of-friends, nephews’ birthday parties.
But it’s been a busy concert season and another round of career-shifting changes are a-comin’. I’ve been on the road a lot since January - the Edmonton Symphony work has been enjoyable, and I’m learning a lot, and quickly, in the principal position - and more travels are looming, and the separations and the uncertainties have been hard on all of us. I don’t recommend it! That said, but perhaps the relevant saying is ‘can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs’ — yeah, it’s a stretch... but it helps us all to keep looking forward to when this will all settle down.
As I wrote earlier, I won an audition last September for the Assistant Principal (2nd chair) viola in the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. I’d been in the finals for the Principal seat the day before, and the update here is that I later learned the guy who did win that ended up turning down the job a few weeks later, so the top spot ultimately has remained open. Until recently, that is, when a different previous finalist from a previous audition was invited back for an official trial this month. *Cue the Jeopardy timer music. Or a reallllly long drum roll.
Meanwhile... There was an audition in Ottawa last weekend (Saturday through Monday) for a Section Viola position in the National Arts Centre Orchestra, considered by many to be the best (and best paying) orchestra job in Canada. Thanks to my existing relationship with them as an occasional extra player, and because of my current job as a titled player in another professional orchestra, I was granted a ‘by’ into the semi-final round taking place on Sunday. I had requested simply to not have to play on Saturday because in my efforts to be a good boy in Kitchener, I needed to play in a concert there Saturday night at 8pm, making my participation that morning in an audition in Ottawa impossible, or at least impractical. In any case I of course appreciated the allowance, even though it meant I would have to drive from Kitchener to Ottawa after the KWS concert (10:45pm departure, 5 hour drive), sleep 3 or 4 hours, wake up, warm up, get myself to the audition venue by 11am.
So I did that. Except at about 7am I found myself lying in bed half asleep trying to visualize a shift in the music I had to be prepared to do because at the last minute an email had come through from the personnel manager notifying us of an update to the audition repertoire, and in my head I tried the shift over and over and over again and could never quite complete the motion, and it was only when I got up out of bed and staggered around the house for a few minutes, checked my email and saw there hadn’t actually been a message, that I realized I couldn’t make he shift because the music didn’t exist.
I played a pretty good audition - friends had suggested I might be so tired from the drive I wouldn’t have the energy to get nervous and choke - and ended up by Monday night one of three finalists to be offered a trial with NACO. My trial is scheduled for the end of April, for a week. I don’t know yet when the other two will be playing theirs, but I suppose I’ll know the final result by the second week in May when NACO goes on its big 50th anniversary European tour.
Watch this space!