Yesterday, as I was wrapping up my plastic skull model in my Granderson jersey
(Tigers, not Yankees, of course), I couldn’t help but feel immense gratitude for the past 8 days of teaching on the east coast. The students were all terriﬁc and were such a pleasure to work with. I could have easily spent hours with each of them. It’s a pretty cool thing when you are teaching a student and completely lose track of time because you’re having such a great time working with them. This happened with each lesson I taught, as well as with the two classes I presented. The level of players ran the gamut from intermediate middle school ﬂutists, to up and coming power houses from the top music schools in NY, to current and retired professional players filled with tremendous amounts of experience. Honestly, I learned as much from them as I hope they learned from me. As varied as their backgrounds were, they all shared these common threads; love of music, desire to learn something new, and true dedication to their ﬂute playing. What a treat for me to have this opportunity to work with them!
My adventure began last weekend in Winchester, VA with my old buddy Charlene Romano. Charlene and I go way back to our Northern California days – actually to the 1995 CSU, Summer Arts Julius Baker/Ervin Monroe masterclass at CSU, Humboldt, to be exact. When she invited me to
come to her charming town to present a master class and teach some of her students, I was thrilled for the opportunity to spend time with my friend and work with her studio.
Everything about my 3 days there was great. The people in Winchester, VA are some of the nicest you’ll ever meet, and I gotta tell you, I have never seen so many incredible, historic homes and other sites of historic interest, as I got to see in Winchester. What a beautiful town! Among my favorite spots was Bonnie Blue Bakery. O M G. This place is so good it’ll make you cry! In addition to their ﬁrst class customer service (Their chef Brian made me a meal to suit all of my crazy dietary restrictions … and totally on the ﬂy, too. Thank you, Brian, it was delicious!) their bakery is second to none. In fact, the sticky bun I began my day with last Saturday was seriously one of the best things I have ever eaten. No exaggeration. Southern Hospitality is alive and well in Winchester, VA, friends. Add it to your list of places to visit. You’ll be glad you did. And be certain to check out Bonnie Blue.
I love NYC. That’s right. I love it, and have spent a great deal of time there over the years for various things; NYC Opera, National Company, Chamber Music America Conferences, Auto Shows, countless auditions, and a few non-flute related vacations. Typically, regardless of how long I am there, I am always ready to head home to California by the time the day comes for me to leave. This time, however, it was different. I woke up yesterday morning, looked out my bedroom window and it was arguably one of the most beautiful days I have ever seen in NYC; mid-60’s, bright blue skies, and fluffy, wispy, white clouds. Perfect! I didn’t want to leave. I actually felt like I needed about 2 more days to just play in this great city. After a much needed walk in beautiful Riverside Park with my dear friend Carol Wincenc, and a few short visits with some local doggies out for their Saturday morning romp with their humans, I went back to teach my last lesson to one of Carol’s young, super stars. It was the perfect way to end my week of teaching.
Being invited to present a Body Mapping class at Stony Brook University was truly an honor. Carol was a wonderful host, the students were great, the department chair, Perry, and his assistant, Martha, were incredibly kind and welcoming, and the facility where I taught was gorgeous. I hope to have the chance to return there someday.
There wasn’t a ton of extra time to do my usual NYC exploration on this trip. My teaching schedule kept me good and busy, and I loved every minute of it. I made some new friends …
…got to see a few old friends …
…had one of the best Alexander Technique lessons ever with Lori Schiff, ate some really great food (as usual), heard some exceptional ﬂute playing, worked with some ﬁne young players, and even took in a few sights.
The old cathedrals and churches are always so fascinating to me. I stumbled upon St. Thomas’s while wandering around the east side a few days ago. We don’t have many of these huge extraordinary structures in Southern California so whenever I visit NYC, I love to go in, walk around, try to imagine how they were built, sit a moment enjoy the peace and quiet, and light a candle for my Dad.
He and I always talked about going to NYC together. We had it all planned out; we’d do Philly and Boston, check out all the really cool historical sites, and concerts with each orchestra, of course. Then, to NYC for more concerts and Carnegie Deli. From the very ﬁrst time I visited NYC in the fall of ’91, right after my Dad passed away, I not only fell in love with it, but I immediately understood why my Dad loved it as much as he did.
Looking out of one of the windows in Carol’s home, I had a clear view of Riverside Church. Back when my Dad went to Juilliard in 1928, it was located in the building that is now MSM, which is right near Riverside Church. This photo I took overlooking the roof tops, with GW bridge off in the distance, and Riverside Church prominently perched high atop everything else makes me smile. I like to imagine a young 14 year old Santo; child prodigy, total violin power house, probably practicing his violin 156 hours a day, and answering to the name of “Earl” because the family he lived with much preferred it to Santo. (No joke!) What were his favorite things to do? Is that what made him love NYC so much as an adult, having been there as a kid, having that amazing experience, studying with the greatest teachers in the world? As the years went on, he’d visit NYC every year when the Detroit Symphony would go to play Carnegie Hall. He’d come home and regale us with stories of his trip to Carnegie Deli, and his annual over indulgence that would always include either a mile high corned beef or pastrami sandwich, and a giant hunk of their famous cheesecake. He’d spend the rest of the night miserable (maybe I inherited my lactose intolerance from him?), and then do the exact same thing the next time he’d visit. Now that’s love. Carnegie Deli was a standard stop of mine back in the days when I ate meat and dairy. Sadly, it’s a little less fun for me now as a vegetarian, but I’ve fortunately discovered some new, fabulous eats around town. I am certain Santo would be proud of my culinary discoveries. I’m not sure what it is about New York City, but whatever it is, it’s pretty amazing. I never sleep so little, walk so much, eat so decadently, pack in so many things, and ﬁnd such inspiration as I do when I visit.
So now, I have returned home, exhausted, feeling about 10 lbs heavier, totally invigorated, refreshed, and incredibly inspired from all I got to experience in these past 8 days.