Gradations

The identification, classification and organization of subtle minutiae consumes every specialist’s life. I’m a specialist (…happy nerd)  in a couple of areas. The important ones like music, violin playing and teaching , hymnody,  are impressive and will one day be colossal palaces of knowledge. The less immediately imperative spheres I relegate to a voracious amateur status. Nevertheless, I love them all, and am not afraid to tell you about WWI poetry, 15th c. Netherlandish iconography, or eating gluten free food without hating your life.

The difficulty is in the filing and referencing of all these tidbits. Improperly placed in the mind, you may find yourself reaching for the wrong anecdote. Remember that bad timing isn’t just bad comedy. It’s bad poetry, bad music, bad manners. Be especially vigilant with topic filing in moments of stress or you may find yourself in a sticky wicket.

At this IU upper string pedagogy seminar, I and 25 other detail oriented violinists and violists are filling up our heads with massive amounts of minutiae. The glory is really getting to be too much. On Saturday, we had 7 hours of lectures, 3 hours of masterclasses and a 2.5 hour concert.

Half way through the day, we took a break, and I noticed my brain drip out of my ears. A colleague and I were comparing notes and gauging our comparative “whelmed-ness”.

It is a fact, that one can be underwhelmed. One could certainly be overwhelmed. What is it to be whelmed, satisfied and with expectations met perfectly?

It’s like this, I said. Last year, I went to Greece and set forth in the Aegean to discover the point of being just whelmed.It was to be for posterity, and I meant to be my own brand of scientific.

I walked out into the ocean and stood to my waist. But there, I was half sticking out of the water. The waves came to my neck and I was underwhelmed.

I resolutely strode forward to meet the rolling salt cobalt sea. Oh! Too far! If you stand up to your neck in the Aegean, that’s nice, but the waves crash over your head. I was fully overwhelmed.

In the end, I found that to stand up to the armpits was just perfect. Wholly whelming in the Aegean.

I continued my tale, prattling dizzily to my colleague. Of course, this only works for the Aegean. The Atlantic is less sheltered, the waves of the South Sea are wholly other. But in the Aegean, one is just whelmed by standing to the armpits on a clear June day.

You know what I mean?

“I’m from Nebraska.”

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Ghost of Music Camps Past

This spring, I registered for Mimi Zweig’s summer pedagogy seminar, and now, the day has has come, and I am here. It’s going to be an amazing course of study, and look forward to the cocky level of self confidence I anticipate leaving with. After all, I am here to gain method to my teaching madness, but I already love teaching. Isn’t that half the battle? (It better be…)

It is true that this course will be a wonderful thing for me, but the biggest, bestest thing is that I get to stay with a very good friend. And second to that, I met another friend when I got to orientation.

Standing there, face to face with another violinist, I suddenly remembered everything about the day that we met. It was not a good day. I was going off to Meadowmount, for the second summer to be a counselor. That, of course, meant that I had to be about a week early. So I arrived at the tiny Burlington airport alone. The taxi man took me to the wrong ferry, and I crossed Lake Champlain too far north, landing some 45 minutes from the camp in the middle of absolutely nothing. I was freshly college graduated (…penniless) and in the Adirondacks (…no cell reception). Eventually, I was able to get JUST enough cell reception to the head counselor to call, but she didn’t answer because she was off doing counselor things (…looking for me at the wrong ferry stop). It took 2 hours to get in touch with someone and of course, another hour and a half to get to Meadowmount after they dispatched two other, more reliable counselors in a van to come get me.

They’d saved me some dinner. It was roast beef and potatoes. I sat there, eating while everyone watched. I was very animated and may have been waving my cutlery erratically. Throughout the vasty saga, I was staring into the intense but unmoved gaze of a man with very blue eyes. He was so unamused by my tale that I began to spin it like a demented spider attempting to weave a web to catch a mackerel (… crazily). I don’t think he ever laughed. By the end of camp, we’d spent enough time together to understand that I was trying to get a reaction, and he was worried about getting stabbed.

That was four years ago yesterday. I know because it was my birthday. Today, I saw the blue eyed man again, and we greeted each other affectionately. I met his lovely pianist wife and she said the scary phrase. “Oh yes, he has told me all about you.”