Endings and beginnings

It's a bit difficult, as a freelancer, to separate "season" and "summer" in the way that someone with a job, or even a student, can. However, it's probably safe to say that it's now the summer for me: I played my last concert with the Niagara Symphony for the time being two weeks ago-- I am going to be on leave from the NSO next year as I start my new job as principal of the Regina Symphony, and couldn't have asked for a better ending to my time with the NSO than playing Mahler's 2nd symphony, with my fiance playing beside me.

The week after, we were going to work together again as I came to visit him at his job, and I played 3rd and contra on-- I am not making this up-- Mahler 1. Yes, two Mahler symphonies in as many weeks: I'm pretty sure this is what I imagined being a professional musician would be likein my first year of music school.

That concert was particularly special because it was Music Director Edwin Outwater's final farewell to the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony. During the many bars of rests I had the privilege and pleasure of counting during that concert, I also had the opportunity to reflect on this crazy profession; after ten years-- a decent amount of time, in MD terms-- here's a guy choosing to move on from his job in part because that's simply what's done, not to mention the fact that he also lives and works in a different country. This is normal for a conductor. And to a lesser extent it's normal for musicians, too. 

In the past two years of "being a freelancer," I've worked in three of the four farthest practicable corners of the province-- Windsor in the west, Niagara in the south, and Thunder Bay in the north. (The farthest east I've been is Oshawa with the Ontario Philharmonic, and while I hear the Kingston Symphony is a nice band, I don't exactly regret missing the opportunity to have driven the three and a half hours it would take to get to a gig in Kingston from Kitchener...) There are really great, fun things about doing this. I listen to a lot of podcasts. I have a decent understanding of the geography and transportation systems of the entire province. And, by and large, I've been lucky that so many of the places I work are beautiful. St. Catharine's is one of the most astoundingly quick-growing cities I've ever been in -- it seems like every concert cycle, there are three or four new businesses on St. Paul street alone. Thunder Bay has some of the most stunning views from inside any city, ever. I've played pops tunes beside Niagara Falls underneath fireworks displays, I've stood on the bank of the Detroit River and listened to a Creedence Clearwater Revival reunion concert being played in another country, I've gotten to live and work in places like Dundas and Ancaster which, as a Torontonian, would have remained in the category of "places vaguely near here that aren't" if I hadn't discovered how gorgeous and special they were. I've played on the rooftop of a condo in downtown Toronto while being filmed by a helicopter. My job, such as it is, for the past few years has been really exciting, and when I attempt to describe what I do to people, they invariably seem intrigued and somewhat envious. But also confused.

Because it's hard to explain to people in other industries why this-- where by "this," I really mean this much gorram driving-- seems like a reasonable thing to do as some semblance of a regular job. And to a large extent, it's not. It's a totally ridiculous way to make a living that is wearing on me after only two years, and while there are some people who manage to sustain it long-term, I suspect I would opt-out if it started to seem like I might have to be one of them.

But at the moment, the pendulum is swinging the other way: In mid-August, I'll load the car up and drive for four days, to Regina, where for the first time in my life I'll be making all (or most) of my income from a single source, an employer who provides me with benefits and, following the tenure process, the guarantee of a job to come back to.

So, that's different. It's also eerily familiar: get in the car, drive, play. The timelines are just extended.

In all seriousness, though, I am really looking forward to this drive in the way that I don't look forward to driving, say, in rush hour on the 403. I've done about half of it before-- the bit between Toronto and Sault St. Marie, and then the Soo to Thunder Bay-- and then the next two legs (Thunder Bay to Winnipeg, Winnipeg to Regina) are new to me (except I have been a passenger in a bus going Thunder Bay to Kenora... so yes, I will probably stop at Egli's on my way by.)

I'm spending the summer, in chronological order: coaching gymnastics, going to Ottawa to have a lesson on Five Sacred Trees with Chris Millard, having a pre-party in Toronto for my wedding, going to ADULT GYMNASTICS CAMP WITH MY ADULT GYMNASTICS FRIENDS OMG THIS IS A REAL THING THAT EXISTS AND I AM GOING, getting married in Calgary, going on a honeymoon-type hiking adventure, possibly coaching some more gymnastics, and then... leaving.

It's a strange life.