Yesterday I completed my first work week in Detroit after winter vacation, and although it is good to be back in the groove of things I wish the break were longer. Most of my time was spent home in Memphis, but the season was highlighted by a trip to New York City to visit our friend, Johnathan. I'd been to New York City before, but this time I felt like I was really a part of the urban heartbeat that drives the Big Apple, due to my, at times, having to ride the trains and buses and figure out connections on my own. We did plenty of sight seeing and "touristy" things, including a boat tour taking us to the Statue of Liberty and a 5th Avenue shoppings spree, but my lone MTA expeditions really enhanced my experience, and the random, personal connections I made throughout the city made it all even better.
My first major "connection" was made in Jamaica, Queens to visit a guy Jefferic (me and Andy's roommate, who joined us on the trip) has known for a while. First of all, I didn't realize how far this was, and making this hour-long trip really helped me understand how big New York really is. After finally arriving we were treated to a homemade brunch of french toast, eggs, sausage, and fruit that was to die for, and we had a great conversation about Queens and some of the famous people from that neighborhood in particular (including one of my favorite artists, Nicki Minaj). Jefferic's friend, Devon, is an aspiring chef, and as far as my tastebuds are concerned I think he's well on his way. It's interesting to hear a really thick Queens accent in real life...
A bus ride, a few trains, and a short walk later I found myself in upper Manhattan to meet with conductor and author, Cesare Civetta, for a conversation about the state of classical music as an institution, which was made into a video interview that will appear in his blog in the coming months. It was such an honor to meet him, and this rendezvous reminded me of how magical music is in it's ability to connect people who really wouldn't meet otherwise. I look forward to meeting with Cesare again in the future! As a "thank you" for doing his interview, he gave me a copy of his book and a score to one of my favorite pieces of all time, Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1, which I'm still overly excited about. :)
My third (and most decadent) connection took place in Johnathan's Bed-Stuy apartment, where we hosted a huge holiday dinner. We had enough ham, chicken, dressing, greens, sweet potatoes, corn, salad, and box wine to feed a small army! Johnathan and his roommate, Aissa, invited a number of their friends, and getting to know these New Yorkers really showed that the city is one of the most diverse places in the world! About half of the guests, by coincidence, were originally from Memphis, so there was definitely a southern presence in the room. After dinner we played a few rounds of the game "Villagers and Werewolves", and, no tea no shade, Johnathan proved to be just as shady in fiction as he is in real life (I was one of the first to die, thanks to him, haha). Nonetheless, it was a great time it was - I hope to connect with those folks again.
I'll be visiting the city again next month after my audition in Rochester, and in May on a DSO tour. I'm looking forward not only to doing more subway exploration, figuring out my way as I go, but also making more personal connections with people I don't know. In this digital age we've seemed to forgotten how to have an impromptu, random, face to face conversation, and despite the rumors of New Yorkers being "hardened" or "rude", I've found that this mega city is a great place to do it! The next time you're alone at a bar, coffee shop, or restaurant, see if you can make a new connection. Like the NYC Metro system, making a random connection can take you somewhere you'd never expect to enjoy!
For some strange reason I forgot to take a fierce subway platform picture in New York (I know), so we're going to use this Los Angeles photo, taken by my friend Robbie.