I’m always so surprised why tourists in the Bay Area always head towards Napa, Marin, Guerneville, Carmel, Big Sur, and completely overlook the Gold Country. Calaveras County is a forgotten gem with sepia treasures from yesteryear. You see it in the architecture, you notice it in the decor, in the saloon style bars and boutique bed and breakfasts. Made famous by Mark Twain, the Gold Country offers a plethora of festivals and street fairs, from the Irish Festival to the Frog Jumping Contest. The weekend I played in Angels Camp at the Bret Harte Theater, the Dandelion Days Street Fair was going on in Jackson so after my TV interview I checked myself into the Historic Hotel downtown and then attended the fair where I bought two lovely hand made shawls and hand made soap. The following night we stayed at the Historic Leger Hotel in Mokelemue Hill. This place came compete with ghosts as well as ghost busting kits! We stayed in a room overlooking the Main Street where at night we could hear the Bluegrass/Old Time open mic drift from the saloon downstairs. We woke up and headed to Angels Camp where I had a rehearsal at the theater where I had a concert at 3pm with Frank Levy, piano, Michel Taddei, bass, & Alan Hall, drums. After my standing ovation (THANK YOU ANGELS CAMP!) we had a great meal at Camps Restaurant at the Greenhorn Creek Resort. The following morning we headed into the schools and presented 3 shows for in the local public schools. It was an unforgettable weekend with so many peak experiences for different reasons turning the Gold Country into truly a golden experience.
Performing with the Carpe Diem String Quartet was certainly a highlight in my concert life this season as I it was such a treat to work with such fine musicians. As fellow Juilliard and Marlboro musicians, we had a blast putting together a concert featuring the Giovanni Sollima Contrafactus as well as some Piazzolla favorites. In addition, the quartet performed some ridiculously difficult and compelling music. The Verdi is a rarely performed quartet that is so riveting and lyrical at the same time that one only realizes that the reason it is not performed more often must simply be because of it’s incredibly challenging nature. It was an intensive week of 10 hour rehearsals. Korine, is not only a fantastic violinist and violist, but also a composer + arranger and a acts as the Super Agent Liaison for the group. Chas is a brilliant violinist with impeccably, brilliant technique and outstanding intonation. Megumi was the Guest Violinist during this residency. She is not only a delightful person, but a beautiful violinist matching Chas as the supporting second violin. Carol the cellist provided a strong and secure bottom lines for the quartet with sonorous low register melodies as well as rhythmic stability.
The experience will live inside me forever. I also have to mention my fabulous host family, Jim and Susan Berry who very generously invited me into their gorgeous home in Columbus, Ohio. They were the impeccable hosts, charming and most accommodating with my flutey high notes. I came away from Ohio praising it’s people and especially the two former members of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra; the founders of the Carpe Diem String Quartet, Korine Fujiwara and Charles “Chas” Wetherbee. Bravi Carpe Diem String Quartet!
Perform in Antarctica? Hell yeah!
My agent called me to do a month tour of South America Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Antarctica. I said, “of course!” The best part of visiting such places is the incredible wildlife that exists in such remote places. I saw my first breeching whale… what a sight. That’s more unusual to see than a shooting star! …or an entire pod of spinner dolphins. The seas are magic with the divergent creatures and sunsets galore.
My trip started in Punta Arenas, Chile which is the gateway to Las Torres del Paine National Park. This hidden gem is the homeland to a 6,500 square mile ice cap that sits at the bottom of South America. Glaciers formed what is now this unparalleled national park with it’s majestic vistas, and sweeping glaciers, lakes, rivers and ice floes.
After performing and traveling, my next biggest passion is visiting remote areas of the planet with incomparable beauty. For me nature is is such a source for inspiration, serenity and peace. It nurtures my soul. City Girl I am not.
After visiting these tremendous vistas, I felt so motived to give my all in front of the audience. I love the South American public, because they are such fervent audiences that I received standing ovations after every performance.
The whole process of recording the Traveling Sonata was an amazing experience for me mainly because Jeremy Jouve is such a musical and exquisite guitarist. He made the whole process a complete joy because making music with master musicians, for me, rates as one of life’s peak experiences. We got together and rehearsed every day for 6 hours every day for a week before performing a couple concerts in the Bay Area. Then we hit the studio. But this wasn’t just any old studio, we recorded in the world’s top recording studio, George Lucas’ Skywalker Sound, the sound stage where all the Star Wars movies were recorded. I have recorded a few albums here, but this experience of recording with Grammy Winning Engineer, Keith O. Johnson, was extra special. It was a true honor to have been able to record in this space, with the inspiring rolling hills outside, with Jeremy as my musical partner and with Keith as our star engineer. Life is so perfect sometimes! We were invited to spend the night on the premises in the delightful Inn at Skywalker. The whole weekend was such a treat. The album was recently released and immediately it became San Francisco classical radio station KDFC’s “CD of the Week” along with Lang Lang and Alison Balsom. Reference Recordings label is so easy to work with. They have been a perfect partner, super dedicated and magnanimous.
Our last stop in our Grand Asian Tour was Beijing. Every time I visit China I’m surprised to see the incredible growth. In my first visit, I was struck by all the bicycles. Now, I was struck by all the automobile traffic. The bicycles are gone, and everyone is wealthier and owns a car. In Beijing we first performed at the Central Conservatory of Beijing and my Masterclass which was sponsored by Altus Flutes was presented in the Beijing Conservatory. Our performance was filmed and apparently shown on TV. We also did an extensive interview for Spanish Radio. The highlight, of course, for us was visiting the Great Wall of China. We visited the Ming Tombs first and then The Great Wall. Although it was my 4th time to visit The Wall every time, is magical for me. I love that it’s away from the city, in the peaceful, crisp, mountain air.
And then our tour sadly came to an end. It was hectic, it was intense, it was wonderful and challenging all at once. Mahani experienced some severe food poisoning twice. And we were absolutely exhausted after the month. It was a 5 star tour staying primarily in 5 top hotels and always being picked up in private limousines. But it was quite grueling to land one day, perform the next day, teach the following day, and repeat. Normally, I need at least one day to recover from just performing a concert. This was a non-stop month tour. But what really made our tour incredibly fruitful were all the noble and kind hearts we met along the way. This, for us, was priceless. We fell in love with Asia, it’s faces, it’s people. We look forward to returning again very soon.
We were so sad to leave Tokyo but were so happy to be received once again in the Residence of the Ambassador of Chile in Seoul. Mr. Ricardo came to pick us up and took us out for a snack before we started our rehearsal in town. In Seoul, we only stayed a mere 2 days. So we flew in, rehearsed. Next day, rehearsed, played concert. And we were out by the third morning, early. In Seoul we performed at the Korea Foundation to a sold out house. The performance was filmed and you can view it here:
We were so sad to leave Hanoi but were so happy to be received once again in the Residence of the Ambassador of Chile in Tokyo, Mr. and Mrs. Patricio Torres. Here we were met by Patricio Becker the second in command at the Embassy of Chile in Japan and who is the twin brother of the Ambassador of Chile to Bangkok. We had no doubts when we arrived spotting him. In Tokyo, Keiko-san took me to the Conservatory where I sat in on a lesson given by the flute professor. In the recital we performed to another full house, sponsored by Mitsui of Japan. The following day the Ambassador, Patricio Torres and his lovely wife, Cecilia, showed us the sights on Tokyo, The Royal Palace, Ginza and then we were invited to an exclusive dinner at an empresario’s home. About 30 businessmen were in attendance. After dinner, in true Geisha style, we ladies were invited to perform for the businessmen. It was a unique and special event, and in typical Japanese style. Nothing compares to the respect and beauty of the Japanese people. They are so gracious and noble. The city is impeccable. Most of all, I love the taxi drivers in their spotless taxi’s wearing those spotless white gloves. Japan has beautifully preserved their traditions without too much western influence. It’s always a pleasure to return to Japan and visit with it’s people.
We were very sad to leave the comforts of our regal hotel only to find ourselves at another resplendent hotel, this time it was the Hotel Metropole (Sofitel) in Hanoi, Vietnam. I have always found Vietnam to be very special as it gives us glimpses of Asia at the turn of the century. Staying at the Metropole, I felt like I had stepped back in time. There were two times that severely marked this hotel, the year it was built, and the years it was bombed (when the singer Joan Baez stayed and wrote a song to commemorate it).
In Hanoi we were met by the honorable and gracious gentleman, Alvaro Guzman who affectionately became my “cousin” given our common last name. Alvaro introduced us to the luscious Vietnamese coffee drink, No Da coffee. YUM!!! I’m not a fan of coffee, but when the Vietnamese make it and drown it in condensed milk, it becomes quite a tasty concoction indeed. I never have felt have had enough time in Vietnam. I always leave craving more. This time was no exception.
I presented a Masterclass at the Vietnam Conservatory of Music in Hanoi graciously presented by the beautiful Huong Thu Le. She had lined up about 15 students who performed for me. I was so endearing to present the elements of Beatbox to all these countries. And to see the smiling faces of all the students was priceless. Our concert was held at the Metropole Hotel where several of the students attended including a young and very beautiful young lady, Giang Nguyen Hoang Hien who has since become my Facebook friend. She is lovely and I look forward to visiting with her again on my next trip to Hanoi. Our last day in Hanoi, the Ambassador of Chile in Hanoi took us around to the Turtle Temple where at the bottom of the lake legend states there lives an ancient and wise turtle. Mahani and I had dresses custom made at one of the tailors. The traditional Vietnamese dress is so elegant and flattering to wear. It was so nice when Alvaro took us to the Temple of Literature where we saw all the recent high school graduates wearing their traditional dress. They looked spectacular. Thanks to Facebook, again, I am now friends with several of these lovely young ladies as we ended up taking a few Flying Shots together. What a memorable day this was for all of us!
After making so many wonderful friends in Singapore, it was hard to leave at 4am on our flight to Jakarta. But soon enough, we were to encounter the beauty that is Jakarta and especially it’s people.
Francisco came to pick us up in Jakarta. I had first met him in Jamaica and was surprised and thrilled to see him again. We performed at the Usmail Performing Arts Center where people like the Assad Brothers had visited before us. We were thrilled with the acoustics of the concert hall. Our Masterclass was presented at the Jakarta Conservatory of Music which is a modest and extremely warm and friendly place. Meta was my host and she did a lovely job of setting up around 10 students to perform for me. They even gifted us to a scrumptious lunch of Indonesian delights. It was quite a feast and it gave us a chance to mingle a bit more with our students. The whole exchange was a delight. We finished off our busy day of teaching with a grand massage at the local salon before returning to our oh so luxurious Hotel Melia. Heaven!
At 5am the next morning, we were sad to leave Kuala Lumpur. Actually, we really hated leaving every place as it was simply too short for us to stop for only 3 to 4 days in each location. In Singapore we were greeted by Macarena and Mr. Philip the driver. They generously presented us with lovely tours of the city and made sure we were well fed. Singapore is a very safe place established by Lee Kuan Yew in 1965. Singapore used to be part of Malaysia, but it seceded and became it’s own independent nation state. It is VERY impressive what Singapore has become. In only 30 years, Singapore established itself as one of the top ranking nations in Asia as well as in the world with a very high standard of living. The streets are safe and very clean (chewing gum is not allowed by law, for example).
I remember on a previous visit to Singapore I left my hand carry luggage in the lobby of my hotel. I left for the airport and just before arriving at the airport I realized that I didn’t have my hand carry luggage. I panicked!!! Of course, after living in New York city for so many years, where if this had happened there, I would have lost my flute, my computer, my everything. But because I was in this magnificent country that is Singapore, when I arrived back at the hotel, my hand carry luggage was still sitting there right where I had left it 2 hours prior. AMAZING!!!!!
We stayed at the Ambassador of Chile in Singapore’s Residence. He and his staff were amazingly hospitable and generous with their time, taking time out of their own day to take us sightseeing and driving us around the city. I presented a Masterclass and met some wonderful new friends, Dorin, Mark, Teg and Meri with whom we shared a lovely dinner afterwards. Our rehearsals where at the Esplanade overlooking the marvelous Ship Building. Our concert was at the historic Raffles Hotel which is famous for it’s Singapore Slings. And my Flute Masterclass was sponsored by Altus Flutes and hosted by Teg. After the informal class, we all went out for a delicious dinner. After the concert, each one of my students presented me with wonderful gifts and flowers. Singaporians are so generous and hospitable!