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IMG_3714If I were to re-write the lyrics to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s  timeless classic “My Favorite Things” right now, today, they might go a little something like this:

TJ’s pumpkin pancakes with cranberry apple butter,
Camping with my boys and snuggling with Auggie,
Kyoko Takezawa playing the $&%# out of the Barber,
These are a few of my favorite things ….

(Yes, I know, it doesn’t rhyme)

This week I had the good fortune of working with the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra. It is always a treat getting to play with them. Heiichiro Ohyama is a musical genius and makes me a better flutist and musician every time I work with him. This week, Kyoko Takezawa was the featured soloist on Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto. It was as if I just heard the piece for the first time. Wow. I was moved to tears several times in those two days. I don’t think there are enough words to describe her playing, really. Between working with a terrific group of musicians and friends, plus the artistic brilliance that is Maestro Ohyama and Ms. Takezawa, I am officially inspired and can’t wait to get into my practice room today for some wood shedding. Incidentally, I already paid a visit to iTunes and downloaded her recording of the Barber with St. Louis.

Sitting there listening to her during each rehearsal and the performance, I kept wondering why I’ve never really paid much attention to the Barber Violin Concerto. In a word, it’s awesome. It wasn’t on the Santo play list, though. Not to say that my Dad never learned it, he may have, but I don’t have any memory of him playing the Barber.  So, not being one of the war horses regularly heard around the Urso household, maybe this is why I came to the piece a bit later, as a professional. Still, I have heard a few phenomenal violinists play this piece and none made the impact that this performance did for me. She told the story and didn’t leave out one detail. I wish Dad could’ve heard it because he’d have loved it – both the piece and Takezawa’s playing.

I had a thought while I was getting ready for work yesterday, at the beautiful Carpenteria State Beach Campground. Yes, campground. Whenever Steve and I work in Santa Barbara or Monterey, we try to camp if at all possible. Of course, we can stay in some nearby motel, but why do that when we can camp in our cozy VW Vanagon with Auggie instead? It makes it feel like vacation. We’ve been doing this as long as we’ve had our van and would have it no other way.

IMG_3718Anyway, I had this thought and wondered why is it that I enjoy that part of it so much? Why camp? And then it hit me, that’s what Santo used to do. I have about a million great memories from my youth of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra summer tours all over Michigan. The symphony would split into two and divide and conquer, so to speak, by playing a bunch of different cities all over Michigan. Then, they’d all meet up for a final concert in one of the far, remote, absolutely gorgeous towns in the Upper Peninsula, like Houghton, or Copper Harbor, or Sault Ste. Marie. Man, those were the days! Just about everyone in the DSO would travel together via tour bus, and stay in hotels like civilized people do. Not us. We’d load up our car and trailer and hit the road, meeting up at one of our favorite campgrounds in whatever city or town that was next on the itinerary, with a small, enthusiastic group of other camping nomads from the DSO.  Including my Dad and I, there were maybe 5 or so other DSO “guys” and their families who did this. We had the times of our lives out there. I can still see my Dad, getting ready for work as the day began to wind down, transforming from camping Dad to tuxedo wearing concert violinist Dad in a matter of moments, then we’d be off to the hall for the concert.  With the exception of those few hours per day that he was working, the rest of the time was ours for exploring Michigan, eating smoked fish, climbing the Sleeping Bear sand dunes, you name it.  Over the years, we must have seen every nook and cranny of that beautiful state I love to call home.

So maybe that’s why I do what I do. It’s a good thing I found the perfect husband who enjoys the same things I do.
There’s a reason why these are a few of my favorite things; because they’ve always been a few of my favorite things:
(In no particular order)
Great food.
Camping with loved ones.
Music and musicians that inspire me and make me want to be the best I can be.

And now, to my practice shed, with Kyoko Takezawa’s sound still swirling around my head from last night. Awesome indeed!

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