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Next stop: Santa Barbara!

I’m now on my flight home. I’ve got the middle seat on my side of the aisle: an inconvenience owed to my own forgetfulness to check in 24 hours before my departure, and the instigator of my current feeling of cramped boredom. Hopefully reliving the focus of my Music Academy preparation will be enough of a distraction!

As I readied for my trip to Santa Barbara, California, the home of the Music Academy of the West, I first embarked on a mission of preparing musically for my time there. I had excerpts to learn for my orchestra audition on day one, and I had solo music to learn for my weekly lessons. I decided to enter the concerto competition, so I needed to review and improve my Tchaikovsky, which felt surprisingly raw after just a few days since I’d performed it in my jury (faculty-assessed evaluation) at the end of the school year. I also spent some time trying violins, and planning the fundraiser that I’ve launched to support a much-needed investment in a better instrument (if you've contributed and are reading this: thank you!) I had three weeks, and plenty to do.

My main task was learning the orchestral excerpts I needed to perform in a blind audition on the first day of the festival. According to an email I’d received from Jorja Fleezanis, the Music Academy violin instructor focusing on orchestral studies, I needed to prepare four pre-selected examples of the repertoire scheduled for our performances over the summer. My playing would be evaluated by all three violin teachers, while an opaque screen erected between myself and the faculty would keep my performance anonymous (and their opinions unbiased). The excerpts were difficult: a section of a Mozart overture that required extreme agility in the bow to achieve huge sound contrasts; the ending of a Strauss piece full of blazing-fast passagework; the opening of a Brahms symphony demanding an undisturbed, incredibly even sound, and an Elgar variation calling for perfect bow control and a total understanding of bowing physics. Not only are excerpts like these hard to play from a basic just-learning-the-notes standpoint, I’m also expected to play them exceedingly well. Since each is only a few lines to a page long, there is a certain unapologetic expectation of perfection. Ms. Fleezanis even included advice on how to achieve this perfection in her email by giving tips on each excerpt. This was a huge help!

As I labored away on the excerpts, I also eagerly anticipated the trip itself, and the time I’d get to spend in Santa Barbara, a beach town I’d heard was beautiful, temperate, and laid-back. Never before had I been on an eight-week trip, and I was more excited than I’d been in a long time. Traveling is one of my favorite things to do in life, and I think I’ve definitely chosen the right career! I looked at countless photos of the beaches, mountains, and other attractions that give the Southern California area its reputation. Even though I despise the tediousness of packing, I had to plan for that too. I was disappointed to discover that there was no way I could bring even half of my wardrobe in just two suitcases, and I needed to bring a heavy collection of sheet music as well! I planned my itinerary to take me from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles, where I’d board an Amtrak for a two-hour trip up to Santa Barbara.

Pretty soon, the three weeks at home were over! I packed late into the night, and headed to the airport with my parents for an early flight. With the (false) belief that I’d forgotten nothing I needed, I boarded my flight thrilled for what lay ahead. While the excitement of my arrival in Los Angeles was dimmed by the struggle of dealing with all of my luggage, I settled into my seat on the Amtrak with relief. It was an almost-empty train and the views of the ocean were unbelievable. We rolled into the scenic juxtaposition of verdant peaks and glistening beaches that is Santa Barbara, California, and I had one thought: I cannot believe I get to spend my entire summer here!

It felt like forever until the conductor announced the Santa Barbara stop, and I disembarked to be greeted by Steve, a supporter of the Music Academy who had volunteered to drive fellows from their points of arrival to our summer residences at Westmont College. Steve also introduced himself to me as one of my compeers, an individual the Academy had matched me with to facilitate a fun and casual relationship with the Academy’s supporters and audiences. I’d be privileged to spend wonderful times with Steve and his wife Evie over the summer as they took me to dinners, attended my concerts, invited me to their home, and even brought me sightseeing. Steve and Evie were enthusiastic to learn about my journey as a musician, my interests and dreams, and my adventurous tastes in food! I look forward to keeping in touch with them.

As I settled into a spacious single room (let me say again: single room!), I got to know the beautiful campus I’d call home for the summer. Westmont College is green and hilly, full of trees and mountain breezes. I’d get to know the Music Academy campus soon: a practically palatial estate where I’d have all of my musical activities. But I was relieved to have completed my trip without a hitch, and thrilled to be starting my time at the Music Academy of the West!

Next: I discover the truly amazing beauty of the Music Academy, I experience a high-key terrifying orchestra audition, and realize what important things I forgot to pack!

You can find my violin fundraiser here; I need all the help I can get! I'd love to show my appreciation in so many ways.

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