These are just the top five words from a long list that describe dear Gabi, who with her work with the Creative Academy of Music shows us all how creating music is our way of making this the kind of world in which we want to live.
The spirit of collaboration is rooted in community, so it makes perfect sense that the most rewarding collaboration I have experienced was in Boonville, California. For those of you that haven't had the pleasure, Boonville is a small town in the Anderson Valley - home to wineries, hop gardens, and other quintessential California crops, including a favorite of mine: the Anderson Valley Brewing Company. But more than the commercial crops this sleepy town sows, Boonville is the quintessential western commune.
My husband and I have always loved music. When we lived in San Francisco, we had season tickets to the symphony and to a baroque orchestra. Those evenings were highlights of our life there. When we moved to the Anderson Valley there were other pleasures, but live music was not one of them! We attempted to compensate by having a wonderful audio system at home...in fact, for his retirement present my husband bought some high end speakers and set up a special listening area in our home.
Last winter we were having dinner with some friends who knew of our love of music. They had attended the first session of Gabriela’s music appreciation class, and they insisted that we join them the following week. Are we ever glad that we did!
Last year, I received an email from Gabriela Lena Frank asking me if I would be interested in participating in her inaugural Creative Academy of Music. The opportunity was so special and the chance to be mentored by someone as truly extraordinary as Gabi was too good to pass up, so of course I had to say yes. When I accepted, she thanked me for taking a chance on her – to which I replied, “I’m not taking a chance on you, your amazingness is guaranteed. I’m honored that you would take a chance on me.”
It is hard to believe it has been weeks. It is hard to feel time pass at all, after it seemed to stand still in the mountains of Boonville, California. I felt magic in my time at the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music – The magic of hearing the inchoate strands of a fledging composition woven into stunning musical life, and the magic of instant, unwavering trust in my new creative family. When Gabriela invited me to participate in the pilot year of her new venture, I knew I could expect an opportunity to commune with incredible performers and composers. However, I did not anticipate how much of the artistic nourishment I would receive would come from moments outside of the recordings and other musical presentations. One could argue my amazement was the result of the people I was around, and, indeed, I feel blessed to have been able to spend as much time as I did with the specific composers who joined me in Boonville last July. However, we were brought together by one person – Gabriela Frank – and Gabriela’s heart and leadership are the real reason I felt so much magic at her Creative Academy.
This Academy, then… Why now? Bueno, I suppose it has to do with a confluence of middle age when I'm finally able to unself-consciously say “I am a composer,” the turbulent political times we are in as a nation, and having a partner to dream with, emboldening me to dare the chances. More and more, I feel that life is mercilessly short so let's just see what happens if I were to open my home to my younger colleagues and provide emerging composers a little hard-earned counsel ("Don't make that mistake I made!"), opportunities to work with my amazing performer friends ("She's a virtuoso... Go on, load up those triple stops."), and an über safe space to challenge one's creative habit ("This is a good first roll-out... Care to make your idea even more interesting?")
Throw in other things that make life good: Home-grown/home-cooked food, laughter among new and old friends, a commitment to civic outreach, and a stunningly beautiful natural environment… Even if these retreats at the Academy are under a week long, I well remember those brief but intensely positive artistic experiences in my youth that filled me with such hope and resilience that I survived challenging artistic and professional situations later.