Sunday, October 30, 2011

Camp Rocks

As a kid, I never really went to summer camps. Or, rather, I never went in the way most people romanticize summers of their youths away at camp. I didn't spend summer by the lake, I didn't endure terrible cabin counselors, and I didn't write letters home about being miserable.

It's not as though I didn't have the opportunity to, it was more I was just busy doing other things. If you grew up in Arizona--or anywhere with a scorching hot summer, for that matter--you probably filled your summer with indoor activities; if you grew up in a place with blizzards and miserable winters, you probably relished the chance to leave your house not in a coat. Examples of my summer activities included art classes, fiddling programs, theatre workshops, Lego-building, and pretty much anything not outside. (You know those reading challenges libraries put on for kids during the summer? The kind where you get progressively cooler prizes when you read more books? I was all over those.)

A camp site near our venue in Mt. Gretna, PA. Canoes in the foreground, ropes-that-swing-into-the-lake in the background.
Now that I'm a grown "adult," I yearn for those summers away at camp in the way many people yearn for things they didn't have growing up. During my time at ASU, I went on a total of 10 retreats up into the mountains for different student organizations, and those were always my favorite weekends of the year.

Group campfires? Sign me up.

T-shirts? Done.

Ice-breakers? You had me back at campfires.

All that being said, you may just understand why two of my favorite activities in these past two months involved me going to camp: once as a camper and once as staff.

Back in August, Daniel and I went off to the very first Mark O'Connor Method Summer Camp, a week-long program in Charleston, SC, where we received training for the soon-to-be-released third book of the O'Connor Method.

The camp had a really inclusive feel to it, as it was filled with both young musicians taking lessons and group classes, and adults (like myself and Daniel) observing classes and receiving training. Plus, most of the people on faculty at the camp were in their 20s or 30s, so it was also a great opportunity just to meet other string players who feel similarly passionate about teaching and playing a variety of styles.

Downtown Charleston.
Night off at the beach.
A jam session at a nearby Irish pub.
Daniel and me with Mark O'Connor.
While I expected to have an incredible time (it was a camp, after all), I had no expectation that my own musical boundaries would be pushed in the ways they were. I had an incredible breakthrough with improvising (to which I'm very much a newcomer), and found myself just wishing the camp were longer so I could continue to soak up all that it had to offer. 

One of my favorite parts of the week was getting to collaborate with Daniel for a performance on a camp concert, where students and faculty were encouraged to get up and perform anything they had -- ultimately, there is no way to get more comfortable on stage than to just get on stage! And though Daniel and I play with each other all the time in Barrage, we'd never worked or performed as just the two of us, so it was an exciting first for us both!

Yesterday, Daniel and I recorded the set we threw together for our recital performance at the camp. Here it is! (For you fiddlers, the tunes are The Irish Washerwoman and Tam Lyn.)

Then, in August, I was asked by Highland High School to go up into the mountains for their Symphony Orchestra's weekend retreat as the 2nd violin sectional coach.

While I recognize many people my age would think the idea of spending two days in the mountains with high schoolers was some sort of punishment, I really get a kick out of being around high schoolers. For me, there's something infectious about their unflappable optimism and enthusiasm.

Plus, the students at Highland are some of the most mature, thoughtful, and hilarious high schoolers I've met in my travels.

Leaving Gilbert early in the morning.
The open rehearsal hall.
A view from inside the rehearsal hall, looking out into the forest.

I can't wait to start working with them for Barrage's 3-day residency beginning at Highland tomorrow morning!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

See Barrage Run

On Sunday, Daniel, Phil, Kiana, Kristina and I ran the Harbor Half Marathon in Corpus Christi, TX.

I must admit, I thought Kiana was crazy in August when she suggested the idea of running a half marathon during tour. Having previously run two half marathons on break from tour, it seemed to me, given our busy touring schedule, the rigorous training required to prepare for one would not only be nearly impossible to complete, time-wise, but it would also have the potential to really injure someone.

Having finished it, though, I'm glad to report that it is indeed possible to train for and compete in a half marathon while on tour with this band!

After the race! L to R: me, Phil, Kristina, Kiana and Daniel.
In some weird way, I think it brought the five of us closer together, in that we had a goal on which we were collectively focusing, completely outside the realm of what we do in our daily Barrage existence. Kristina had made shirts for each of us with the Barrage "B" on the front and our last names on the back, so we even felt like a team when we were on the course. Plus, Daniel had the great idea to turn the race into a opportunity to collect money for a charity, so we've spent quite a bit of time focusing on raising money for Josh Groban's Find Your Light Foundation, an arts education non-profit that is doing some amazing work across the US and Canada.

While I met neither of my personal goals for the race, I'm still pleased with my run given the difficulty of the course!

Feeling cheeky for a race photographer around mile five. (More importantly, this was before we had to cross that giant bridge in the background for a second time.)
The race reminded me, though, how much I love running for its community. It somehow manages to be incredibly supportive and inspirational even in a seemingly competitive atmosphere, and simultaneously draws people from all walks of life: young, old, big, small, rich, poor.

If you've not run in a race before, especially a longer one, it's quite common to make "running buddies" out on the course. Usually, these are people next to whom you find yourself for a portion of the race, but sometimes you just end up speaking to them during it.

I had a short conversation with one girl next to whom I ran for a good 3/4 of the race, and there was an incredibly built guy who gave incredibly-not-built me encouraging words when I had succumb to fatigue and was walking up a part of the bridge. These types of interactions, however short, take on a greater significance when everyone is collectively hitting mental walls and pushing themselves.

But, my favorite running buddy was this guy who pulled up next to me around mile nine.

From behind he hollered, "Morris! I'm sick and tired of seeing your shirt in front of me! Won't you just let me pass you?! Cut me a break!" I laughed, and said, "Well, you'll probably get a chance here coming up. I'm not feeling very well." His response? "Yeah, I'm not feeling well either...I went out drinking last night and have a hangover."

Later, about 100 yards from the finish line, I saw him walking with his two young children, finisher medal already around his neck. I shouted out to him, "Hey! What happened?! Where did you go?!" He yelled back, "I pushed ahead, man! You're almost there! Finish strong!"

And with those final encouraging words from my hungover, tattooed friend with gold in his teeth, I sprinted to the finish line.