Number 1 is true. This picture is a very young and very lucky greyhound, 23 years old, standing outside Carnegie Hall in New York City in December, 1989. Later that night, I got to sit on the stage and play Beethoven Symphony No. 7 with the New World Symphony of Miami Florida, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, our music director. That orchestra was the highlight of my musical life and I was lucky to be in it. As far as I know, I played only one good audition in my entire life, and it happened to be that one.
I prepared for the audition by traveling several times to Chicago to take extra coaching from Dale Clevenger, the principal horn of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Dale has a personality so huge it sucks the air out of the room when he enters, but I managed to improve during the first lesson, and he consented to another. At the second lesson Dale beckoned me into a room where he was not alone. The room was filled with students from his studio and the Chicago Civic Orchestra, training ground for the Chicago Symphony. They did not have their horns. They would be listening, not playing.
OH . . . . SNAP. I think I just pee’d . . . just a little.‘
Kind of like plunging in the water for that first open water race, I had to just take a deep breath and go. I managed not only to survive playing the excerpts in front of all these horn studs while Dale conducted and sang the orchestra parts, Dale actually banged his fist down a couple of times and bellowed, “now that’s the way I want to hear you guys play that.”
The day before the audition, however, I thought it was all for naught. Fever. Chills. Vomiting. Swollen glands. Classic flu. But some friends persuaded me to go take the audition with them “for the experience.” With absolutely nothing in my tank, I entered the hotel conference room where the audition was being held, and I played . . .
better than I ever had before and better than I had a right to expect. I slept on the floorboard of the car all the way back to Madison.
I made the call list, but there was no opening. So, I prepared to go to Northwestern to get my masters degree with Dale, accompanied by my new bride, Mrs. Greyhound. That summer, however, I received a letter. I had a job with the NWS and my job would include playing with the best young musicians in the country (aged 21-30), performing with the best conductors and the best soloists on the planet, and playing in Carnegie Hall.
My parents got to come--including my mother who passed on a piano scholarship at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia because sheltered, Baptist girls from Oklahoma did not pursue such ambitions back in the 1950s. They got to go to the “big city” and see me perform, but I got something even better. I got to go back stage and see pictures of those who had gone before me--Toscanini, Furtwangler, Solti, Karjan, Casals, Stern, Rubenstein, Horowitz. . . . . wow, and I get to walk out there too?? What a charmed life.
Little did Mom and Dad know, but this was the second time I had taken an unchaperoned trip to New York City with the girl who became Mrs. Greyhound. . . .*gasp* . . . but that’s another story.