February 1, 2012

Competition Day - June 28, 2011

All rounds of the Padova International Music Competition were held at the Temple and Museum of Internment, a facility dedicated to the study and dissemination of facts surrounding the themes of Fascism, Nazism, racism, and the Second World War. Before entering the facility, one walks through what is called The Alley of the Unknown Prisoner, which is a series of memorial stones engraved with the names of those who perished in German concentration camps both before and during the Second World War.

This very solemn site was filled with very focused yet frenetic energy on this day as the morning and early afternoon consisted of the string preliminaries for the "Soloist with orchestra" round as well as individual rehearsals for the other divisions of the competition. While walking to my appointed warmup space I found myself remembering graduate school as the air was filled with fragments of Bach, Ysaye and Gaspar Cassado.

Throughout the day there were moments of connection among the contestants: while walking to play my preliminary round I was humorously referred to as "Brother!" by another contestant. I had the opportunity to meet this young man immediately before the announcement of the semifinalists and was again reminded of how we are all connected: in addition to having a great sense of personal style (we were dressed identically), violinist and contestant Pawel Blaszkowski (member of the Orquesta Sinfonica de Yucatan and the Quo Vadis Quartet) is a friend of conductor Tomasz Golka (a former Shepherd School classmate of mine and yes, a very good friend!).

Conversations that day - all at the conclusion of the preliminary round, of course - also included a very enlightening and affirming talk with a young Italian cellist who had given a spectacular performance of Gaspar Cassado's Suite for Solo Cello during the preliminary round. After sharing his familiarity with the Harlem Quartet, he offered much encouragement as he noted that it is still uncommon to see and hear African-American string players in Europe...

Upon leaving, after promises to keep in touch, I found myself thinking about the immediate experience: no, I had not advanced to the semifinal round. However, after having had the desire to make this trip and participate in one of these events for so long, my victory was of a different sort - a victory in ways even more meaningful....to quote dear friend Michelle Trovato, "You've already won, because you're THERE." A great perspective to have and to maintain as I boarded the bus, reminded that I was standing on the shoulders of many who have gone before and all who have shown support through the many years.

Part Four coming soon,


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