On my last visit to Memphis I was afforded the honor of having brunch with conductor of the Memphis Repertory Orchestra, William "Buddy" Langley. It was a great time, and we discussed everything from Tchaikovsky Symphonies to designer winter scarves. I look forward to our relationship developing and growing over the years, and I hope our professional paths continue to cross. A topic that also came up was the musical culture of the city we both call home, and where it's going.
As everyone has seen over the past couple of years, the arts are under fire. Orchestras across the country have gone on strike, and some have even ceased to exist. Many people who don't happen to live in the artistic capitals of the U.S. simply don't have access to live classical music on a regular basis, and it's this situation I think about and consider when I travel home to play with Cooper-Young Winds, MRO, and other various groups, because the people of Memphis deserve free access to world class music and musicians just like the people of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, etc. Buddy said to me, "You know you're above doing this, and I really appreciate your service." Remembering a scenario from last spring, I smiled gratefully, but let him know that it is my duty.
The scenario I had in mind happened after my performance of Shostakovich 9 back in April outside of the concert hall. A woman, very excited about what she had just heard, ran up to me and said, "That was amazing! I'm sure a great orchestra job is your next move, huh? Where did you come to Los Angeles from?" I told her, and she replied, "Wow! It's really something to see people who come here from no where really make it big!" Now that's what we gay people would call SHADE.
In the third part of Disney's "Aladdin" trilogy, Aladdin and Jasmine sing a song called "Out of Thin Air", in which Aladdin doubts his worth based on his cloudy background, and doesn't know where life will take him next. Jasmine reaffirms that there's no way that someone who "showed her the world" and changed her life could possibly just come out of thin air. I mention this because it's true, and applies to us. I didn't come from "no where", and neither does any Memphian, like that woman suggested. I came from parents who made great sacrifices to buy me my first flute in 9th grade. I came from a public school system that set me ahead of the curve musically. I studied Music Education and bassoon at a university that opened my eyes to teaching and performing, and from a city whose arts community is constantly growing and providing music for everyone. I'm sure anyone from Memphis can share this sentiment, and share their stories as well.
Buddy gave me the ultimate compliment by saying I was above his own orchestra, but at the end of the day I don't think any of us are above anything we do, especially if it's for the place and the people you love. (Plus, when I take lessons up here in Detroit they read me for filth and let me know I still have a lot of work to do! haha). Never let anyone demean who you are, or where you come from. Be quick on your feet and know how to respond to back handed compliments like the one that lady gave me in Los Angeles with class and poise, and put all you've got into everything you do, whether it's preparing to be the world's next super star or playing with your community orchestra - I know I do. Plus, I love playing with y'all down in Memphis, because people like you don't come out of thin air. :)