28 January 2015


Seven months later it's a snow-day, and I am finally attempting to put this experience into words. It exhausted more sighs, tears and prayers than any other physical experience I've lived through so far. I smiled through much of it, laughed at myself, learned many lessons, kept confidence in its healing (according to God's will), and just kept going... but it's been 7 months; I am still recovering, hoping for the best, still learning lessons, still praying for relief and remembering pain. 

I smile through everything. I am optimistic, think the best of people to a fault, laugh through my struggles, and generally heal quickly. I also have a very high tolerance for pain (maybe a redhead thing?). And when I do feel pain, I don't always know what to do with it. I'll unconsciously ignore it, or mask it, remind myself how many have it worse than I, wrestle through it, count my blessings, and then I move past it. I just wait it out and things work out. It in this case being an overuse injury, tendonitis, some ulna tunnel, definitely damaged muscles, inflamed tendons and irritated nerves.
The pain erupted to the point where I could no longer play a note on the piano. I flew home, and in one of my more desperate prayers, I received confirmation and comfort that God knew exactly what I was going through, that this ailment might not be text book, but that it was specifically given to me and that it would help me learn. That it would teach more patience, help relationships, and let me grow. I believed that, and still do, with all my hope and all my heart.

Three weeks into it, I was alone in the Chalet, sitting in a steaming bath full of epsom salts, essential oils, and my own tears, unable to lift my hands to wipe my face pr move a strand of hair ... or really do anything but sit in silence. There were so many books close by I wanted to study, phone calls I wished I could make, emotions to fill a whole journal I was dying to write, music I longed to prepare and practice, or at least a social media website I could browse! But physically, I couldn't. 

Muscles hold memories, and most every day for the last 20 years has been composed of practicing the piano, harp, violin, conducting, teaching from the piano, coaching, typing, writing, and working. Even though I'd never felt real pain while playing piano or conducting, it really shouldn't have been so surprising to receive an injury. Honestly, it was long overdue--I'd never broken a bone, and never had an injury worse than bad knees and mosquito bites. 

Each week that passed I would tell those who inquired after me how it was getting better, how I'd be playing again soon, how I could start my conducting doctorate program without delay. I felt directed from the Lord to continue with my plans to move and to continue with my schooling, so I also expected healing ... in whichever way the Lord had in mind. 

The weeks quickly turned to months, and the ailment moved and morphed through different phases. I always needed help, and tried to ask for it, although even asking requires movement from your arms. I didn't look like I needed help, there was no cast, and I could always force movement when I needed. I somehow completed the move across the country (with a lot of help from close family), and started seeing new doctors more regularly. The excruciating reminders came less frequently as healing continued to happen, and I tried to incorporate better habits into my new lifestyle. 

I'm still taking it easy-- lifting as little as possible, practicing only in short spurts, using heat and ice, sleeping with splints, and still praying. The pain no longer bothers me, and most of the therapy is over (although I have said that for months). There might be more help I can get, and it will take a long time to regain the strength I had, but I am doing well, and mostly I consider it a thing of the past. 

Whether it was the 'would-you-rather' question game or simply empathizing with my heroes, as a child I had forced myself to imagine how I might live were I to go blind, deaf, or even loose my legs. And I had come to terms with each situation. I could live a happy life in any of those situations. For some reason, I never even imagined a situation where I might loose my arms. I didn't think that could happen. My arms symbolized everything God had given me-- the ability to touch, nurture, write a note, compose a song, make music, act, bless, decorate, help and create beauty. 

To give up the thing with which God specifically blessed you is part of my story. Moriah, the sacred place upon which Abraham promised to give up his biggest blessing. And where he, in beginning to enact that promise, was finally able to fully receive that blessing. I promised God a long time ago that I would sacrifice and dedicate all I had to His kingdom. But promising that in my heart was different than actually enacting that promise. But part of that promise was put to the test, or enacted upon me, to a small degree these past 7 months. And as I continue to re-deserve, relearn and regain strength, I now have renewed desire to thank God for my gifts, to treasure all I am given, and to sacrifice to receive the blessings of Heaven.

17 August 2013

include 'VIOLIN' in every resume.

I often avoid revealing my whole resume in simple get-to-know-you conversations.

In fact, I sometimes hide whole sections of my life story in order not to --overwhelm someone.  

Well that sounds like a prideful pig!
But really, my accomplishments aren't really that great.  It's just some of the simplest questions are just ... complicated for me to answer. I don't want to sound like I'm trying to impress-- and sometimes I wish that some of my talents required getting to know me before they were uncovered.  whatever.

In fact, I never give the same grouping of instruments I play when I introduce myself.  And I give different answers for where I'm from too.  So, you might go away thinking that I'm a choir singer from Wisconsin, a harpist from Utah, or a collaborative pianist from Paris.  And... depending on how you react, where you're from, or how long we want to keep talking... I might flush out the whole story.  

Well, when I agreed to come visit a good friend in New England, I had no idea that her family were music lovers.  I had told them the basic conducting and piano emphases at school, but it took three days for me to uncover that I played the violin. 

at which point, my host says 'I think I have some violins you'd like to see.' And the hostess adds (apparently taking my word for my musical abilities) 'not just to see -- violins you should play!' 

I honestly thought that he was kidding around with me when he mentioned Stradivarius, but I should have been more trusting.  Of course I didn't sleep that night, thinking about the violins (okay, that wasn't the only reason...), but it was the next morning when we decided to take them out together.  

The first violin he handed me was the small a 1732 violin made by Giuseppe Guarneri Del Gesú, called 'Ferni.'  I slowly started to get used to it with slow scales, and any excerpt that came to mind, from Bach to Barber.  When I started to improvise on my favorite hymns, my host returned. 

This time the violin was made by Antonio Stradivarius in 1704, nicknamed the Gleni.  I had dreamed about touching a Strad most of my life... I never imagined I would one day play on one of his violins.  The power in the violin surprised me--I couldn't believe the G string sound, and the evenness between strings. The change onto the E string had a very clear darker even sonority that I had never heard before.  So out came Bartok, Wieniawski, Lalo and more Bach--I just couldn't get enough of it.   

Eventually the morning had wasted away and I had to leave, still smiling. What a gift!

... And I went away thinking it was such a lucky chance that I mentioned my love for the violin.  

But aren't blessings most often disguised as chances?

22 July 2013

Proud to be American. European.

While turning towards whatever has the most red white and blue in the room, we chanted the pledge of allegiance, to the flag of the United States of America for 7 years when we lived in Europe.  I was definitely American, from America, with parents from America, in the American section of the school, and speaking American at home.

It wasn't until we moved to America that I no longer felt American.  Leaving Europe / coming to America was hard on all of us.  I remember walking around town one last time, lingering at church for the last time, riding my bike around the streets one last time, walking through every room in the house one last time, and staring up at such a deep blue clear sky the day I left my heart there and flew away.  I have returned to Europe about once a year since then, and each time that I leave, I feel that familiar pang in my heart.

The difference is that the world here (in Europe) is generally built around centuries of history-- a history without modern conveniences. Their whole lives don't circulate completely around technology.  Streets were built for walking and riding -- not always planned for cars (this is why their cars are normal sized-- tiny to Americans!).  Theaters and opera houses were their primary form of entertainment.  Their lives centered around their church services and their outdoor market.  Because of this, large squares/plaza/platz/places, parks, churches, and opera houses are at the heart of towns.  The field workers in the feudal systems lived on the outskirts of each town, allowing beautiful fields to frame each town even nowadays.  Every community was self-sufficient enough to have their own baker for bread everyday, fisherman, butcher... Most often, with stores taking only the bottom floor of the living quarters.  The stores fit in around their lives. Oh, I could probably go on for some time-- do you get the point?  Somehow, this life seems more simple.

Most of the US was really shaped after the industrial revolution, with efficiency in mind.  Land zoned for housing is completely apart from commercial land which is completely apart from farming land.  Full blocks of commercial buildings are points of interests and destinations instead of a part of life.  So much of the layout of the land is for the sake of efficiency.  It costs so much to erect a performance center in specific zoning from scratch, that making ends meet seems more difficult.  Everyone is trying to get something bigger and better, faster and more immediate, more convenient, and prove themselves-- as if they have something to make up for! The cars, the roads, the buildings, the houses, the portion sizes (!), the TVs, the cities, and metropolises... Sometimes these things are so overwhelming and overstimulating.  Of course I am speaking generally.

But generally, you do shop once at a super market for food to last several weeks.  Because of this, you need a larger fridge.  We drive everywhere (Palo Alto excluded), so destination shopping is no problem, we only have to carry bags to our cars.  Once you hit farming fields, they seem to go on and on, assembly-line-like, and crops even start looking all the same. Bigger, better, better tasting, so we don't need much more variety.  We have big fridges, washers and dryers, stores, AC units... and it's quite comfortable.

So many in our culture would opt for the efficiency, the grand scale, the driving everywhere.  But so much of me longs for the former, the l'Etang la Ville, the public transportation, simple, smaller life.  Sigh.  Of course I'm very proud to be an American.  But I'm always struggling with this duality.  And I'll probably go back and forth my whole life.

... so incase you happen to be a suitor... you may or may not need to reconsider ;)

17 July 2013

bicyclettes & horloges

Yes, those are ALL bikes.  Welcome to Berlin! It's just like when we lived in Bergen op Zoom--grandmothers in dresses with baskets full of groceries on their bicycles. But what has surprised me has been the bicycles on the S & U bahn train lines.  The combination of public and personal transportation is everywhere here!  Pretty smart if you ask me.  There was not a day when I did not wish that I had a bike to get around with.  

All in all, I was quite impressed with the public transportation.  My weekpass was under 30 Euros and I was constantly in the busses, the underground train and the overground train.  What I did forget was the hour + that it takes to get everywhere.  TIME! 

Speaking of time, the German people seem to be very organized and exact.  All of our players were early for rehearsal, and apparently if you might let them off a few minutes early one day, they would think it an insult.  As a culture generally, they do like to work.  for their allotted time.   But their arms are open wide when they want to have some fun.

My host mom mentioned that when tehy moved to Munich for three years, they brought their grandfather clock.  Clocks are also important to this culture, they are everywhere! On buildings, in stations, as decoratie works of art... and I love it.  What is it about two hands spinning that is very lovely? 

Enter Berliner Symphoniker

We moved to Grazer Platz 2 once we were ready for the orchestra to come join us: a beautiful hall with high ceilings, stained glass windows letting in floods of light on both of the sides, carpet, and a sort of chapel & crucifixion statue off to the side.

The magic of such grand music played by such talented players in such a beautiful environment was overwhelming to me.  Maestro Gessi must have sensed this on my face, and explained to me how this hall was used for international radio during the Cold war, and was also important during WWII.

 The chamber orchestra, made up of the principle strings and wind section in the Berliner Symphoniker, have joined us.  I still can't even believe it.  They are incredible players, human beings, diligent rehearsal technicians...  Their rehearsal ethic was a joy to watch and work with.  Wow.

Our program with them is

Mozart Symphony no. 40 KV 550
Schubert Symphony no. 5 D 485 and
Respighi Antiche Deanze ed Arie -- Suite No. 3

I can't write fast enough to keep track of everything that I'm learning during the masterclass.  The wand lessons might be over, but there is still so much that I am learning!  Many reminders, many new things that I need to post in my conducting blog before I forget them All of the music that we are working on is from the Viennese  tradition, where the music is so delicate, aristocratic, and grand.  "The Viennese live, and let others live.  They are always inviting & appreciative."

At my first 'competition' playing the violin in America when we moved back at age 12, the judge told me that he really enjoyed my interpretation of Bach.  Then he started to talk me into getting a baroque violin, a baroque bow, and focusing solely on Baroque music... 

well that didn't happen.  But what is wonderful about this world is that through studying new cultures, new places, understanding new points of view and new ways of life, you better understand the composers with those backgrounds.  Studying German music in Germany is worth much more than the tuition that I paid to do this program.  I feel very lucky.

15 July 2013


Most days here have been pretty overcast, but one of my days here when I happened to spend the whole day out of doors the sun was beating down all afternoon.  I did indulge in a gelato at the Sony center, but that didn't seem to refresh my feet which were sore and swollen from being up on them all day long. But when you are in a place like Berlin, you can't afford to stop and get off your feet!  Every corner you turn, there is more history, modern and ancient architecture, the Reformation, the Wars, the aristocracy, picturesque parcs... :) 

While walking around one of my favorite dirt pathways alongside the Spree river, I spotted a children's play set behind the trees which blocked my pathway from the reality of the city.  I didn't even have to hop the fence as the gate was open to this deserted playground.  So I made myself at home and grabbed a swing.  
It was simply wonderful.  I thought back to all the hours that I spent on swings as a girl, and took a break.  As I swung higher and higher, I could see across the river to beautiful red roofs (above) and if I could look far enough down the river to the left, I could see Berlin's Dom peeking through the trees.  Wow. It is a sight to see.  So happily situated, guarded from the city noises, swinging through the air alone with my thoughts... it was quite magical actually. 

After seeing the outside of the Dom, I decided that I was definitely time to go visit.  From the outside, so many of the churches here look like big beautiful Catholic European churches.  But so many of them have white stark interior, helping you focus on the sermons instead of the sculptures and stained glass I suppose.  (If my churches were latin, I'd want some stained glass too!) But this church was just as grand inside as anything I have ever seen.  And yet it was also different from anything I'd seen.

Instead of the apostles and the Madonna towering over every corner, the reformers stand around the center dome: Friedric Weiss, Philip Grossmütig, Zwingly, Luther, Melanchthon, Calvin, Albert von Preuswen, and Joachim II.  My favorite of the characters were the relief sculptures between the reformers of great miracles-- Daniel, Paul, Stephen & Peter acting according to the word of the Lord.  I've seen so many churches of this size and grandure, but I am rarely touched in this way. The feeling in that church is very special.  As I was finally preparing myself to have to go (I usually have to drag myself out of churches), an organist started to play.  It was so glorious that I had to wait and worship in this place just a little longer. 

'I fear a cage...'

Sometimes I don't like zoos because all the animals have to be caged up. My favorite zoos are... Safaris. National parks. Well, ya, stuff like that.  But I felt very much the same in Berlin's Instrument Museum.  Looking at all these instruments was Not what they were made for.  It's like making a lot of delicious courses for a fancy dinner, and keeping them in a glass fridge so no one can eat them. yup, this first one is a stradivarius. 

I really enjoyed the museum because of the works of art worked into the instruments, and then i also simply love the history of the instruments (which I should know both the piano and violin's ancestors better than I do).  Most of the museum was made up of pianos ( well, variations on pianos to be more precise... Virginals, cemballos, harpsichords; violins (as well as a few variations there too), but there were also a few organs and harps.  I play all those instruments!  Maybe I only take notice of the instruments I play. Ya, there were a few random bassoon and flute ancestors now that I think of it....

I was strangely touched at a saying on three of the keyboard instruments: 'Soli Deo Gloria.'  (If you look carefully, I included it in one of the above pictures.) How many countless times have I consecrated my music to the Lord? I love this saying, engraved & painted on beautiful instruments.  It is so faithful, beautiful, sincere.  I might not want to paint on my Fazioli, but in my heart I will keep that dedication.  I will only make music to glorify God.