If I knew in 2000 what I know now, I would have bought a piece of property in Aspen, CO. That summer I was a student. The program was nine weeks long in those days, and little did I know that the Aspen Music Festival and School was going to become the focus of my summers for the next 17 years (and counting!). In March 2001, I received a very odd email. Well, actually, all of the conducting students received an odd email from the then Artistic Director of the Aspen Music Festival. It was her negotiation with the previous summer’s Fourth of July conductor. I’m pretty sure it was an error to cc all of us on it, but it turned out to be very useful when I learned that the conductor turned down the opportunity, and soon after I received a similar email asking me to conduct that same concert!
I was sure that I was not one of the brightest stars from the previous summer, but years later I learned a few things about why I was asked to do this concert. First, during the previous summer, I had conducted on a children’s concert and had a chance to interact with the audience. I danced with the concertmaster to show the audience what a Waltz might look like and spoke easily with the audience. And secondly, it turned out that there was someone in the office who knew me from my Boston Pops days, and suggested that I might be comfortable in that genre. When I was invited to conduct the concert, I gave it all I had in terms of preparation, programming, and audience interaction. That was 2001. This past summer, 2017, was my 17th time conducting this concert. Since 2013, I have been moving my summer base of operations to Aspen. I have an entire circle of friends out there, great hiking and biking, rehearsals and concerts of several amazing orchestras to attend, and the chance to unwind after a busy (and usually somewhat stressful) year. This would never have come into my life had I continued performing as an instrumentalist. When life hands you lemons, make lemonade, right?