Last Saturday I was invited to see a Minnesota Orchestra performance. I have a little history with this organization, and if you'd like to get THAT scoop, just revisit TRILLOQUY opus 14.
Anyway, I was invited by Afa Dworkin, the President and CEO of Sphinx, whose husband was to narrate the premiere of "An American Rhapsody". If you know me, you know that I support all things black, so I was there with bells on, as they say.
I walk into the hall and I instantly get this feeling of PTSD. Who are these people? Am I welcome here? Will this be an experience I'll remember? As the usher brought Dell and I to our seats, I settled in and prepared myself for whatever was to come.
Fast forward past the first two pieces (which included Jessie Montgomery's "Starburst" - shout out to her), and you have "An American Rhapsody" - music by Afro-English composer Samuel Coleridge Taylor, with the narration of words by George Washington. Here's a bit of what was in the program, regarding this work:
I should have known what was coming up with the use of the phrase, "human frailty that all too often renders our valor imperfect". The music was beautiful (and was performed decently), but the words! I'll have to find a transcript, but my biggest takeaways were Washington's words on slavery - specifically HIS slaves. Washington's "valor" was found in his desire to free his slaves. It was just a desire, though, because they were only to be freed after his wife passed, and after the harvest. The final words of the narration were, "Tis well". Is all well?
Dell and I left after intermission - I'd heard enough. It would be one thing if these events were painted with the truth and rawness that are the words of a slave owner - the ownership of the human body and spirit as something that should NEVER be forgiven. But this wasn't the case. At the end of the performance, people stood up, applauded, and cheered with that sense of "yes, tis well! Washington was just a man of his time, and even WANTED to free his slaves!" It reminds me a lot of this scene from Django:
I didn't mention that kids from one of the Twin Cities' black schools were paraded on stage as well, to show how culturally competent the orchestra is, right? I ALSO didn't mention that this concert was planned ONLY because the orchestra's midwest tour was cancelled, so they didn't even want to do this in the first place.
I'm tired. Orchestras are not going to willfully address how inept and incompetent they are when it comes to community engagement and cultural equity. If you call them out, they try and come for your job. This isn't new information, or even a new experience for me - just showcasing another example of why I left the stage for a job in media.
Over the past two weeks I've typed and deleted about 4 blogs posts. It's not easy talking about hitting emotional lows, so instead of letting my feels get lost in translation, I decided to take a break from it all for a few days.
Before I get into how I spent three whole days ignoring email, my radio show prep, and even my podcast, I'd like to pat myself on the back for the completion of a project that's bigger than anything I've ever tried to do before. American Public Media has a group of donors that get to attend all of the really special events - private receptions, concerts, and recently, the live taping of TRILLOQUY. In celebration of the 200th anniversary of Clara Schumann, Scott and I decided to pull together a live opus, featuring women who we thought could speak to Clara's legacy as a musician, muse, and mother. I was beyond thrilled at the outcome, and I'm even more excited for the first live opus of TRILLOQUY to be released on October 17th! Below is a photo that was taken at the end of the event - you can see the others, here.
So by the time this event was done, I was ready to pull all of my hair out. As Big Sean once said, "I feel better at work", but even a workaholic like me needs a little time away. With Scott's help, me and Dell took a trip way up north, to Lake Superior.
If you've never been to the North Shore of Minnesota, I definitely recommend. There aren't a ton of shops or clubs to keep you busy - you're forced to heal and collect yourself in this string of small towns dotted along a coast that might as well be the ocean! Here are a few photos from the trip:
If I've missed your email, DM, or any other sort of message over the past few days, I'm sorry. Or maybe I'm not. As I continue to establish boundaries between my work and personal lives, I'm finding that sacrifices have to be made. Personally, my biggest sacrifice is getting used to the feeling that people can't always have access to me. It's also a very new feeling for me to pass off my work to other people, but I'm getting there. Scott handles the TRILLOQUY production calendar at this point, and I even let Dell do a load of my laundry - if you know me, these are HUGE steps!
I'm feeling semi-refreshed right now, and while I'm glad to be back at work, I'm looking forward to the next long weekend I can use for mental health and rejuvenation. Shout out to my guys, Scott and Dell, for helping me cross the threshold back into sanity.
Do people ALWAYS have access to you? When was the last time you took a few days for yourself? How's your mental health? Don't be afraid to ask the people close to you these questions, and MOST importantly, don't forget to ask yourself these questions!