What are your every day, must-reads, online or off?
I have to admit I don’t read newspapers or blogs on a daily basis and tend to reserve my reading time for novels. Fortunately my husband and friends are more au courant and take it on themselves to point me to important articles or blogs. The NY Times and Huffington Post, and Salon.com, just to name three, are big favorites.
Can you tell us about a day in the life of a professional harpsichordist?
My days are somewhat varied. I usually reserve the morning for my own practice time, although sometimes it’s necessary to schedule rehearsals in the morning. After my morning session, I have lunch, take a walk, do errands, sometimes teach a lesson or two, sometimes have another rehearsal, or if I have a lot of concerts coming up, I do some more practicing. Sometimes I have familial responsibilities—no children but two nieces and an ailing mother.
Most of my concerts, which generally consist of small ensemble or solo performances, take place on Saturday or Sunday afternoons, but occasionally I’ll have one in the evening or even a lunchtime concert during the week.
On concert days, I get up early enough to practice a bit before packing up the harpsichord (with my husband’s help), ride in the van to the venue, sometimes rehearse, tune the harpsichord, play the concert, maybe have a reception, pack up the harpsichord (or, as we often call it, the beast), and head home. Needless to say, it’s an all-day affair. Being a harpsichordist means being part performer and part stage crew! If I’m performing out of town, I don’t usually have to bring the instrument, but I often have to tune it.
How have fashions for the stage changed since you started performing?
Fashions for classical musicians have relaxed a lot in my lifetime. When I was a student all black and usually a long skirt was still the standard uniform, but now both women and men are dressing less formally and with more color for chamber music concerts. The musicians of the New York Philharmonic and other orchestras still wear tuxedos for men and long black for women, but it’s pretty much anything goes for smaller ensembles, especially among musicians that play early music (classical music written before 1800), who tend to be a bit more boho anyway, although usually there’s some attempt to coordinate colors, etc. within an ensemble.
In fact a lot of female classical musicians have started wearing pants, but I still feel more comfortable in a dress because skirts and dresses seem more graceful to me when you walk out to perform and more comfortable when you’re sitting down. And unlike many of my female colleagues (and because of all my extra duties that other musicians don’t have, like moving and tuning a large instrument), I HATE fussing with outfits. I like to just put on a pretty dress and be ready to go, preferably one with sleeves, because most venues are either under heated or over air-conditioned. So Karina dresses are the perfect solution for many of my performances. Of course there are times when all-black and a bit longer skirt is still required, so if Karina ever wanted to design a longer, all-black dress out of that same great fabric, I’d probably be her first customer.
If you could give your 16 year old self advice, what would you say?
Oh boy. Well, 16 was not a happy year for me. Partly because I was going to a high school where not many kids were interested in academics and music, and partly because of the usual female teenage angst, I was convinced that I was ugly and unlovable and had few friends, though of course in retrospect I did have friends and I probably wasn’t even too ugly. So, there’s lots of advice I could give, but I think the most important thing would be to say that there’s life beyond teenage years and that if you keep doing what interests you and what you like, whether it’s playing an instrument or solving mathematical equations or designing furniture or whatever, eventually you’ll meet people that care about the things you care about and who will appreciate you, and you’ll find your life partner (assuming that’s what you want) and your circle of friends. Not sure my 16-year-old self would have believed this, but time has borne me out—I found my wonderful husband, who is the best life partner I could have, and my circle of friends, and I’ve been lucky to be able to pursue a career in music.
Incidentally, my older niece is just about to turn 16, and I would love to give her the same advice, although I think she probably needs it less than I did at that age, being beautiful and self-possessed in a way that I certainly was not. Still, the difficulty of being 16 is that no one can really give you advice that you’ll believe—you have to live through the uncertainty of those years yourself.
Your perfect day. What would it look like?
I have two possibilities. A perfect concert day would be where all the pre-concert preparations go smoothly and I give a great performance and have an appreciative audience. And of course a nice dinner somewhere after we get the instrument home. On a perfect off-day, though, I might practice a little or I might not, then my husband and I would have a nice lunch somewhere in my neighborhood of Prospect Heights, or maybe, if we’re vacationing, in some fun place like Paris or Montreal or San Francisco, or Bologna, or, well, you get the idea.
We then spend the afternoon walking around, perhaps just looking at nice parts of Brooklyn, perhaps going into shops, maybe even visiting a museum. Of course if we’re in any of those fun places that I just mentioned, the possibilities are endless. Then we have a nice dinner, perhaps go to a concert or perhaps just come home and watch one of our favorite TV shows, like Law & Order, or the Good Wife. Or, if we’re in a foreign city, we discover a new show that we can watch to practice a foreign language, such as Kommissar Rex, a delightful Austrian show featuring a German shepherd that solves mysteries. Oh, and speaking of dogs, no perfect day would be complete without encountering at least one friendly dog to pet!
Thanks so much, Rebecca!