Princeton is having an all virtual semester and it seems to be going pretty well overall. Some schools are trying to have in person classes with precautions, some schools are having a hybrid combination. Some schools with in-person students are having outbreaks of COVID and sending everyone home for virtual classes. What a mess. I am still happy to be teaching from home, doing yoga classes from home, and meditating from home with people from all over the world. What a delightful surprise it was to receive an email from a grad student in Brazil about Singing in Style.
My 60th birthday trip to Greece was definitely not happening this summer. Thank goodness we hadn’t paid any money for it before the world shut down. Instead, we stayed home, safely enclosed by our fence, and had a lovely summer. Louie was the happiest dog in the world as he ran free in the back yard with his humans constantly home. The wildlife was plentiful as well, including turtles, a groundhog, and a hawk’s nest at the very top of one of the huge pine trees near the house. The three babies were awe inspiring to watch as they grew and explored our back yard all through June and July.
Emily did a two-week quarantine, got a negative COVID test, and came to stay with us for three weeks in June, and then again for seven weeks in August and September. She brought her two kitties, Buster and Moon, and we all laughed a lot watching Louie adjust to his new roommates. Emily and I did zoom yoga classes on the deck, went on long bike rides, and cooked amazing meals together.
The semester is finally over. Princeton had virtual Reunions on Saturday, a virtual Commencement on Sunday and a virtual Class Day on Monday. Now is a good time to capture some thoughts on what it was like to teach and adapt to this new world. When I got home from Forest Refuge on March 17 the world was in a panic and closing down. I was actually quite a bit ahead of the game getting ready to teach online since I had done some research and preparation a week earlier. Classical Singer Music and the NATS organization offered a wealth of advice and information to voice teachers about how to teach virtual voice lessons. I can’t say how thankful I am for their support and encouragement. I already had a decent microphone from reading for Learning Ally and I dug out a pretty nice set of wireless head-phones Michael had gotten for me several Christmases ago. I learned how to invite my students to zoom meetings and adjust my audio settings to optimize sound for singing. I downloaded the full Appcompanist library to my phone. I organized the bookshelves behind the piano and made them look presentable and attractive as a background. I was feeling pretty calm and present from my time in Barre. I was ready to meet my students online.
Just as I was pulling out of my driveway for the five-hour trip to Barre, MA and ten days at Forest Refuge, the oil change light blinked on my dashboard. Oh, no… I remembered there was some warning light flashing as I drove to FR in January of 2015 just when my mom found out that she had leukemia and her doctor suggested hospice. That was certainly a strange time to be on retreat. This time I knew I could easily take care of the oil change when I came home, but I had a sinking feeling that the warning light did not bode well.
We took a big step and fenced in our back yard. After over 30 years living here with four different dogs, the time had come. It was a major expense but a huge success. Louie loves it and we are greatly relieved to know he can run and chase birds while staying nearby and safe. When Louie was a puppy, we let him run around the yard and follow us here and there. We even let him run free on some of the nearby trails through preserved open space. It was thrilling to see his unbounded joy at running full speed through fields and woods. As he got older, he ranged farther away from us, but usually stayed within sight or earshot. A few times he chased some deer and I thought I would never see him again, but he always came back eventually. Then, it started taking longer for him to come back, three, five, ten minutes. Waiting with heart in mouth was nerve racking.
I have been hearing about the American Lung Association Bike Trek fund raising ride on Cape Cod from a number of my biking friends. Now that I don’t have to sing High Holy Days at this time of year, I am finally free to do it. What a fantastic weekend! This was the 35th anniversary of the event. After miserable rain the past two years, the weather couldn’t have been better: bright sun, 70 degrees, not much wind or humidity. Just perfect riding conditions.
We ventured out west twice this summer, though we didn’t originally intend to. Our Lewis and Clark themed trip to Montana was already planned when we learned that Emily would be the production manager for the Aspen Opera Center. Of course we bought more plane tickets and arranged to visit her there.
I just got back from four fabulous days of biking in Lancaster County, PA with the Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia Ride for Homes. This is the seventh year they have put on this ride to raise funds and awareness for the wonderful work that Habitat Philly does for Philadelphia families in need. This is the third time I have been involved. Emily was involved from the very beginning. I gave SAG support in 2015 and then rode my bike with Emily in 2016. This year I rode my bike again and covered over 200 miles and 13,000 feet of climbing! The ride raised over $30,000.
I had the best time teaching Music 214 this semester. The final concert was Saturday afternoon. Too bad it was a gorgeous day and there were a million other things going on. The audience was light but all the most important people were there and they enjoyed it immensely.
The class was a musical theatre masterclass with eight fantastic student singers. The last time I taught it was 2010. No student pianists wanted to take the class this time, so I had my old friend Tim Brown play, which ended up being better for the student singers and more fun for me.
I’ve wanted to do the New York Five Boro Bike tour for a number of years, but had been put off by all the details and complications of getting into the city with my bike and gear. This year I was going to plan ahead and do whatever it took to make it happen. I registered way back in November and planned to stay overnight in the Village with my colleague Jayn Rosenfeld. She had done the ride many times and would help with logistics and moral support. She picked up my packet at the NY Bike Expo Friday morning, and I drove in Saturday afternoon and parked at a very expensive garage on 11thstreet. The weather on Saturday was lovely and I enjoyed walking my bike and overnight backpack through the streets of Greenwich Village. Jayn and I had a wonderful and long overdue visit before we each had to set out for evening plans. She and her husband were going to a concert. I met a former student for dinner and then had comps to see the first preview of the new production of Frankie and Johnnyon Broadway. Maybe it was crazy to have a night out before a big biking day, but I had a great time and managed to find my way back to Horatio St. before 11. I actually slept pretty well with Benadryl and ear plugs.