What sort of feelings does fall stir up in you? For me, it’s a strange combination of intense nostalgia and epic excitement. There’s a new program year, a new routine, but the are days colored with longing for summer’s freedom and the experiences of falls gone-by. September has been a time of change and anticipation for most of us since we were kids, and this one was exceptionally big for me. This season brings my first performance and tour with Fifth House Ensemble and the beginning of a new adventure in Chicago.
For me, 5HE is a dream job… which had somehow serendipitously arrived just as I was getting out of school. I finished my Doctorate of Musical Arts degree just last May (ending my 12 years as a college and graduate student!) and relocated to Chicago from NYC in August. I absolutely loved my time in school, but to say I was eager to be done with my education and get to work would be an understatement. I arrived in Chicago in time for an inspiring week of teaching artist training at Ravinia, and soon after, we began our first rehearsals for Black Violet Act 1, which we were planning to perform at New England Conservatory in Boston in a mere month’s time!
When I realized that my first official appearance with the group would be in Boston at such an amazing school, I must say it seemed daunting. However, I was thrilled to be back so soon to the familiar east coast and to get to be part of the workshops for amazing budding music entrepreneurs. Many of my colleagues over the years had attended NEC, and I had heard great things about their Entrepreneurial Musicianship Program (EMP). This department did not disappoint. In fact, I felt so inspired and overwhelmed by the outpouring of energy and sponge-like participants and audience members, that it was the perfect way to begin my 5HE career.
Additionally, nothing helps you get to know people better than traveling together. Seeing how colleagues handle the stresses of navigating Boston’s crazy roads (Carole Deeter nailed it!) and learning about their interesting eating habits (when a certain cellist goes in search of a lobster roll at 11:00 PM on a Sunday) are informative and eye-opening experiences that make chamber music making so much more meaningful. The staff at NEC’s EMP made us feel so welcome and had seemingly effortlessly organized a wonderful day of activities. What a flurry of information, music, and perfectly timed snack breaks!
My part in the Black Violet Act 1 involves the most hauntingly beautiful solo in the slow movement of the Piston Divertimento. Piston takes everything good about Shostakovitch and Barber and crams it into about 10 bars — it’s really an oboist’s dream. It was with this music that I nervously began my Fifth House journey, the epic Black Violet story projected behind us depicting a poignant story of friendship and survival. I took a minute to look out at the audience. I had been in their seats just a few months ago, eager to find out what type of world awaited me when I graduated, anxious to find ways of putting my years of training and my desire to use music as service to the real-life test. Before I joined the group, 5HE had been a beacon of proof that this sort of thing was even possible. Not unlike Violet in the story, I had survived the plague of uncertainty that beginning our careers can bring. I had even managed somehow to make some pretty good friends in the process. I am more thankful than ever for this opportunity. I only hope we were even half as inspiring to our audience in Boston as they had been to me that weekend. I have no doubt the future of our craft is in good hands. I can’t thank NEC enough for having us and making my first concert/tour experience with 5HE so special!
So another fall is upon us. As it brings those feelings of renewal, alongside the expected poetic awareness of time passing, I’m holding on to the memories of our amazing trip to NEC — a great start to an exciting year ahead!
This post was written by Merideth Hite, Fifth House Ensemble’s oboe player. Welcome to Chicago, Merideth!