"God help us all, we go on trying to climb that miserable mountain and it is always higher than the last rise we scrambled onto. It seems to me that I have more than I can do and it frightens me sometimes until I think how it would be if I had less than I can do." -John Steinbeck
This image resonated with me all week long, as I watched our pianist sneak out of our lodging every morning at dawn, take the car keys, and climb our literal mountain to get in some solo practicing before our daily rehearsals. Nestled inside Timberline for the week, I like to think of the midnight secrets our borrowed piano must have shared with the mountains, after the music stopped and we locked the doors each night. The silence that exists before and after the music happens, that silence of muses danced with nature all week for me, during our third season of Music in the Mountains.
I first came to perform at Powder Mountain in 2013, having no idea that four years later Music in the Mountains would be where it is now: on a new frontier, an intersection between art and community and nature, and inspiring so many. Having a life in music is akin to envisioning a mountain which never ceases to rise, to devote your daily life to climbing it. Every morning I open up my violin case, and start from the bottom once more. And Powder Mountain continually rises for me to new heights, this gift of being part of something larger than our collective imaginations could even conceive. As musicians we become vessels through which the dreams of giants reach our audiences, hundreds of years later. Performing on the top of Powder Mountain feels like a gift wrapped in multiple layers of resonance.
The string quartet is a model where unity meets beauty, its members coming together for a greater whole. Chamber music is about our humanity.
In our country, a huge portion of society is not exposed to classical music. I count myself lucky that I discovered the violin through my public school system in Los Angeles at the age of five, knowing that so many of our children do not have access to arts education. Who could have known that by someone placing a violin in my hands in a school gymnasium I would then move to New York five years later to study with my idol Itzhak Perlman. In my career as a violinist and composer I have the privilege of performing in the greatest concert halls all around the world. But never have I felt the impact of this music as strongly as when I have performed at a maximum security prison here in the U.S. This is an art form that has deeply spiritual resonance and can reach anyone at his or her core and therefore I feel it is my personal obligation, and my generation of musicians’ obligation, to make classical music accessible to all. Music in the Mountains is unique because our mission is multi layered: to allow world class artists to flourish through the residency retreat, to expose classical music to new communities, and to present world class concerts for free. The result is a beautiful and lasting dialogue - and being on top of a Mountain doesn't hurt.
The future of Music in the Mountains holds great potential in my eyes. To inspire and challenge one another to never stop mastering our craft, spreading love and empathy through our music, and connecting with audiences and the community in profound ways. We have started relationships with the Ogden community through outreach performances, in particular at the Youth Futures homeless shelter in Ogden, and this year, with St. Anne's. In the future, we want to have more community engagement, and curate musical content that is relevant and collaborative, working together with other artists across genres and speakers who visit the Mountain, allowing the concerts to exist within a larger symposium of ideas.
In 2015, our second season, we played the Schubert cello Quintet. I will never forget our Friday night preview concert in the Sky Lodge. Schubert is one of those rare composers who I feel that I can connect with on an intimate level - "Schubert the man." Bach sits in a glass encasement on a pedestal for me, Mozart drifts in and out of my imagination, Beethoven is larger than life. But Schubert.. I feel like I know him, and, perhaps, that he knows me. There is something both delicate and tangible about his music - like reading someone’s diary. His music can be incredibly simple, as it makes its home in the deepest part of your heart, in the most honest, simple part of your soul. Schubert died before his 32nd birthday, ill, poor.. and yet in its sadness, his music exudes an unyielding hope. In the final months of his life, he composed so much music that it almost seems like a miracle to us looking back.
This cello quintet is one of his last pieces he wrote before his death, a sick man who knew the end was near. I had said something to my colleagues the morning of our performance, somewhat in jest... as I expressed that somewhere in the universe, somehow, there has to be an acknowledgement that his music is being played. There can’t be a way that Schubert, who lived so few years and yet gave us so much beauty, so much beauty which is still speaking to and changing the spirits of humans hundreds of years and millions of times later...there is no way that he can’t know. Of course my colleagues laughed at my words. But when we performed the slow movement in the Sky Lodge that July evening, the rarest of nights for a thunderstorm - the movement opens with a single bass pizzicato framing a sparse and fragmented song in the violin - there began the delicate sound of raindrops above our heads. The slow movement has a middle section which quickly erupts into a volatile storm, and I kid you not, within the first bars of this section the doors of the Sky Lodge swung open, we could see the picnic benches being moved across the patio by the wind, as a rainstorm accompanied the entire storm section of the movement, retreating away afterward the movement finished. My colleagues joked with me afterward, “I guess Schubert was listening.”
Playing in the clouds as close to heaven as humanly possible on the top of Powder Mountain, I’m certain he was.