What would you do if you had to cash in your chips early? For me, it felt right to take some time to clear my head – it ended up being about a year. For income, I retained my teaching jobs, and collected some disability through the Musicians Union, as well as a disability policy I had bought years before. Yes, you should buy disability insurance when you are young! The Social Security Administration says, “the sobering fact for 20-year-olds is that more than 1-in-4 of them becomes (fully) disabled before reaching retirement age”. The New York Times reports, “that if you’re 25 years old, you have an 80 percent chance of experiencing a disability before age 65 that will keep you out of work for 90 days or more”. In a nutshell, I had the luxury of being able to just sit quietly for a while to figure out my next move.
I looked around, and applied for several jobs outside of music. The most notable, was several interviews with Merrill Lynch investments. They seemed very interested, but stopped calling after an interview where all I could talk about was music. I accepted that it had to be music after all, but what?
Since I retired so late in the season, it was too late to apply for any of the summer conducting programs that could potentially move that part of my life forward. In the spring of 1999, I had a good conversation with Murry Sidlin, one of the conducting faculty in Aspen, and he suggested that I apply for the Academy of Conducting the following summer. I was starting to feel like there might be a direction for me there. The following fall, I submitted my application for the summer of 2000. It was the first year of a new program they had rolled out, and I was so pleased to be accepted. It was a whirlwind 9 weeks, but I learned so much from my peers as well as the 1,000 or so musicians in attendance that summer. Little did I know this would create a major shift in my life, musically, socially and spiritually.