Since your years at Shining Mountain, can you give us an overview of what adventures have taken place (school, travel, work, marriage, where you are living now, more!)?
After graduating from Shining Mountain I started working towards a music degree at CU. Halfway through I auditioned, on a whim, for the Duquesne University Tamburitzans and was accepted, so I transferred to Pittsburgh – which was good since I met my future husband on day two. I toured with the Tamburitzans for two years while finishing my degree, and stayed at Duquesne for a graduate degree, also in music. After that I kept performing (primarily Argentine tango), got into arts management, and eventually became the executive director of Chamber Music Pittsburgh for a couple years. My husband and I got married in Bulgaria (my husband’s home country) and we spend time there each year. We now have a wonderful two-year-old daughter and I’m currently staying at home caring for her.
As a Waldorf student, you had access to and experience in all the arts along with the sciences. What was it about music that called you to pursue it?
I wish I knew! I don’t remember how I got the idea to play the violin – it was just always something I knew I desperately wanted and had to do. When it came time for college, I knew that if I went into a different field I wouldn’t realistically keep up with violin and it was a part of my life I didn’t want to end yet. As for music in general, I think it’s always been a way for me to experience and process emotions, to feel connected to the greater network of human experience, and to understand the world and my place in it. I think that in music one can find that which is common to all people blended beautifully with that which makes us all unique, and that, to me, is very attractive.
Building on the question above, what today inspires you to play, collaborate and perform?
On the surface, I just love doing it. I love playing with people, connecting with them through the art, glimpsing into different cultures and musical traditions, and creating something beautiful and greater than myself. It’s a way I can share myself with the world. On a deeper level, though, I think that music is an incredibly powerful agent of healing, understanding, and connection which are all things that I think the world at large needs right now. I think music puts us in touch with the best of who we are and puts our individual worlds into perspective with the global human experience, which is very liberating. Really it’s what all the arts do, I just happen to relate to music the best and I’m incredibly grateful for being able to be a part of it.
How was it to come out of a school and community that supported you artistically and creatively and step into the often highly competitive professional world of classical music? (and on a side note – I am not sure if you are playing only classical or more / other as well so I may rephrase the question depending on your answer)
It was hard, honestly. Waldorf education is fantastic in that, as you mentioned, it instills a love of many different subjects, so it’s always been hard for me to dedicate myself fully to just one area. Although I learned classical music while growing up, I also chose to focus on traditional Scandinavian music and other extracurricular activities rather than immersing exclusively into the classical world with youth orchestras, summer music camps etc. The majority of students who go into music school, however, have been focusing primarily if not only on classical music for years. So on the one hand, there was definitely a feeling of being behind in certain areas and of suddenly being a very small fish in a very large ocean. But on the other hand, strictly classical musicians often struggle with being able to play anything else, any other genre, anything that isn’t written out…and that’s where I found I ultimately had a strength. In the end, I’m happy I did things the way I did. I love classical music, but not exclusively, and I think the path I took led me to a musical life that is much more fulfilling than a purely classical one would have.
What sustains you and gives you energy in your daily life? Why?
Right now I’m finding it really exciting introducing my daughter to new things in the world, new games, new experiences, new skills, and watching her learn and thrive. It’s nice revisiting all the things I love to do, remembering ones I have forgotten over the years, and sharing them all with her. That and the thought of how much there is that I still want to do. There’s a lot more music in me but I also want to write books, learn languages, go hang gliding, see a hundred different places…and I feel that there’s a lot more I can do with whatever knowledge and skills I’ve developed to give back, help others, and make the world a better place. There’s so much life to experience and each day is a chance to absorb a little more and give a little more.
Can you describe a few cherished memories from your SMWS years?
There are so many good memories – class plays, class trips, the Halloween Journey, the spiral garden, the shepherds’ play, so many amazing stories and main lessons, senior vision fast, the pentathlon, Michaelmas…too many to count.
If you were to set your life thus far to a soundtrack, what music (composers, songs, artists) might it consist of?
Wow, I don’t think I could even begin to say. It would be really varied. Everything from Beethoven to the Beatles, Irish jigs, tangos, Scandinavian fiddle, movie soundtracks…
If you were to give advice to a young musician today, what might you tell them?
First, that practicing and having good technical skills is only half the battle. If you want to “make it” as a musician then you need to be an entrepreneur ready to make good business decisions, marketing plans, networking and all the rest. So you have to make a point of gaining all that knowledge. And secondly, that in today’s world there are a million different ways to be a musician and it’s important to think about the one that will work for you and your desired lifestyle so you can keep your passion alive. Growing up I always thought it was my dream to be an orchestral musician, but when I got to college I found out that orchestral parts aren’t my favorite to play and the lifestyle would demand that I work many evenings and weekends – not great for the kind of family life I wanted. For me it worked out better having a day job and being able to focus on only doing the music projects I was passionate about rather than constantly needing to put them aside for gigs that would make ends meet. It’s not simple or easy, but with the world more connected now than it ever has been before, I think everyone can find a way to have a fulfilling musical life within a lifestyle that makes them happy.