In my resolve to be more open about junk, even in lieu of the internet and the fact that anybody could be reading this (though I suspect only a small handful of people actually do), I think I need to talk about the summer and YOA. I’ve been struggling with wanting to write this since August, so here it is, finally.
I posted once about YOA. I mentioned things. That was about it.
But how did I feel about the four weeks?
I don’t like to complain. Especially about a conceptually very cool program. Spend four weeks touring through Europe with an orchestra of awesome young musicians from North and South America? For FREE?! Rock!
But there were problems. Every program has problems, I know. But the problems I experienced were a new extreme for me with summer programs or school orchestras or anything, really.
Some Problems: Rehearsing. When are we rehearsing? For how long on each piece? Do the winds know when they do or do not need to be there? Are we going to cover all materiel in our rehearsals so we won’t be sight-reading during dress-rehearsals? More importantly, are we going to cover all materiel in our rehearsals without exceeding 8 hours of playing in one day? These were questions that never had definite answers during the four-week period. Aside from that, who on the official staff had actual performing experience and was more familiar the norms and limits of the performing world? Nobody, from what I can see. I was truly frustrated with how liberal the scheduling became after the first week. They would rehearse us for over 9 hours in one day and then give us a random free day the next. Goodbye, productivity. Remember that one time in Italy when we had 9.5 hours of rehearsal scheduled, and that very morning, somebody wrote in “additional Placido Domingo – 2 hour rehearsal” on the schedule and this freaked many people out. Several students actually stood up during rehearsal and told the directors that this was unacceptable, and then the directors told us that if Domingo had said that if we couldn’t rehearse with him that very night, he would not conduct the Verdi Requiem with us in Munich. But later when we were finally in Munich, Domingo gave us a very heart-felt and serious speech telling us we absolutely should not allow ourselves to be abused as musicians. So there was that.
Then there was organization (or lack there-of): getting us through airports on time so people wouldn’t miss flights. Making sure people were fed properly (I’m thinking about the poor vegetarians our entire time in Riva when we were being fed pork and potatoes for every god-damn meal). Making sure people knew where they needed to be and when. Making sure rules were clear so people wouldn’t end up arrested (two! two!). Making sure we had transportation to and from places so 30 of us wouldn’t have to jump a train in Munich at 11:45pm on a Sunday night not exactly sure where we’re going (true story. it sucked). Trying to avoid throwing us huge parties the night before we have to travel starting at 4am. Maybe I’m nitpicky. Maybe I have high expectations. Maybe I shouldn’t care about this right now, 3 months after the fact. But I do. If there had been at least one person in charge who had a clue what they were doing, life might have been slightly easier, and fewer staff members, benefactors and students would have been so angry.
Problems I had in my personal experience of the program: I am an introvert. Duh. I bank on this fact about five times per day. But being an introvert going to school or at an in-residence camp or festival is much different from being an introvert living out of European hotels and traveling with 110 very energetic and mostly extroverted people for four weeks. I should have anticipated this problem. That after two weeks of grueling rehearsals and sleep deprivation that I would have problems remaining cheerful and start to feel paranoid. About the fact that I am kind of weird (its’ true!). About the fact that I was sitting 3rd chair in front of some really fabulous players, many of whom were older than me, and wondering how I made it there. Paranoid that when I finally did let my sarcastic and snark-filled personality into the open, people took it the wrong way.
It seemed like there were three different types of people amidst the craziness. Those types were the concerned people, the whiny people, and the happy people. I seemed to keep ending up around the happy people which…while I don’t necessarily like to call myself unpleasant or morose, I am definitely more temperate. I am not capable of being obliviously happy all the time. And because I was around the happy people so much, I felt like I was only whining when I tried to talk about concerns. I felt that I couldn’t say anything without seeming like a complete kill-joy. And so I shut up and just tried to deal with it. This left me feeling marooned.
There was also an age divide. The younger college students and the older grad-students. I was smack-dab in the middle. This doesn’t bother me. I have friends who are 5 years older than me and five years younger. But there was a weird attitude that I experienced in other people on occasion. I don’t want to go into details of this one, because it involves more specific people, but I just remember the words somebody used to compare one musician only two years younger than himself, while walking with a reasonable group of 1st and 2nd year grad students and then little-old undergraduate me (I got the feeling he wasn’t all too keen on me): “Only an Undergrad, Almost a Masters.” Thanks.
I couldn’t seem to find any other introverts, either. I wanted to make a big sign. “Calling all introverts! Let us join and be not-rowdy!” But try as I might, I couldn’t seem to find them. Everyone had their own happy cliques, and because I am not a clique person and couldn’t seem to find others who shared my introversion or floating tendencies, I felt moderately out of place for a lot of the tour. I basically felt like nobody gave a shit, and when you’re abroad and physically feeling like crap, you really want to know that somebody actually gives a shit about you.
But again, these are trivial problems that I had in my experience of being weird and crazy and not as socially capable as a lot of people in the world. I am honestly more worried about the state of the program. It’s such a unique and beautiful thing, getting up on a stage with people from 21 different countries who don’t all speak the same language and completely blowing the audience out of the water with the music we make, as well as having this opportunity to travel, make music and gain experience to us for free. But when the executive artistic director spends that night that we are stranded in Munich partying with his friends, that bothers me. When half the orchestra is in pain from over-rehearsal and what they do is hire a private message-therapist to “fix us,” that bothers me. When they say “feel lucky because you’re in Europe for free” when we voice our concerns, that bothers me.
From what I understand, one of the YOA benefactors has arranged for 5 representatives of the orchestra from both the U.S. and South America to travel to Washington and try and make something happen. Get some things fixed. That’s how serious the state of things became during the tour. I wish the best for the program and the hardcore students involved who keep returning to the program because of the amazing things that go on within and because they are that dedicated. I wish the best for all my friends from the program. I will help in any way that I can from where I am not. But I will not be returning next year. Not even for another free trip to Europe.