Dec. 13, 2023Print | PDF
As I write this letter from sabbatical, I’m reflecting on how fast, intense, and glorious the past few months have been! I can’t believe it’s already December! So, what is a sabbatical? For me, it’s devoting time to dive into new musical adventures and opportunities, investing time and energy into my continued scholarship and creative activities, a time for personal and musical growth, as well as dedicating time for reflection, intentional rest, and rejuvenation. It’s been a thrilling and rewarding whirlwind of a journey so far and I’m grateful to be able to explore and experience orchestral music (and food!) at an international level. During my sabbatical travels, I’ve been able to reconnect with music and connect with people from all over the world in new ways while rediscovering and applying my why.
My sabbatical started off this past summer with an exciting guest conducting engagement in Carnegie Hall (NYC) which was a dream come true! I was joined by the New England Symphonic Ensemble and three choirs from North America in a memorable performance of Ola Gjeilo’s “Dreamweaver”. Shout out to Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute (GCVI) choir and their director, Lane Osborne, who joined me on the historic stage and did a fantastic job!
After Carnegie Hall, I jetted off overseas for residencies in Europe and Asia. My first stop was in Vienna, Austria to conduct opera with the Vienna Opera Academy. I spent the month of August at the Musikverein (home of the Vienna Philharmonic) working with opera singers from all over the world in staged productions of Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, I did eat Wienerschnitzel and try an eiskaffee (coffee over ice cream)! I also visited the homes of composers like Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, and Strauss Jr.!
Following Vienna, I traveled to Bangkok, Thailand in September to guest conduct the International Music Festival. There were 80 students and 9 participating schools involved from Thailand, Indonesia, India, Taiwan, and South Korea. While in Thailand, I visited ancient temple ruins (like the Ayutthaya, the Reclining Buddha, and Wat Chaittanaram), hiked in the Erawan National Park and swam in the wondrous 7-level waterfall, and spent an unforgettable day at an elephant sanctuary where I helped feed and bathe these beautiful and gentle creatures.
Next stop was Seoul, South Korea where I worked with orchestras in rehearsals and clinics and got to do a bit of sight-seeing and a lot of eating (of course!). Some foods I really liked include Korean fried chicken, spicy shrimp pizza, street food like grilled chicken skewers and gyeran-ppang (egg bread), and banchan (side dishes). I also got the opportunity to visit Korea’s Jeju Island, which I highly recommend to anyone visiting Korea! Jeju Island is beautiful and took my breath away with its amazing views! I hiked up Hallasan Mountain, visited waterfalls and a scenic cliff, explored the Manjanggul Cave, and relaxed at an emerald beach. Jeju Island (“Honeymoon Island”) is known for its mandarins, black volcanic rocks, Dol hareubang (carved expressive statues), romantic landscape, and delicious seafood and black pork bbq! This island is truly a gem!
After returning from Korea and recovering from jet lag, I conducted a Halloween-themed in October with the Waterloo Chamber Players and then conducted a concert with the Orlando All-County Symphony Orchestra (Florida) comprising of the top 80 high school musicians from the Orlando area. In between concerts in the US and Canada, I worked on and contributed articles for the College Orchestra Directors Association Journal, Music Educators Journal, and Advances in Online Education Journal.
Whew! [takes a breath] So now it’s November, and I just completed an invigorating week-long residency with the PEISO (Prince Edward Island Symphony Orchestra) where I worked with their wonderful musicians in rehearsals and a final concert. As a finalist for their Music Director position, I was also engaged in television and radio CBC interviews, had lunch with the Lieutenant Governor, engaged in many wonderful conversations with community members, and worked with various string ensembles and provided a conducting clinic to UPEI students.
Now, I look forward to spending the holiday season with friends and family and taking some time to rest, recuperate, and recharge. After the new year in January, I’ll be conducting a concert in Oregon (US) and then I’m off to New Zealand to begin my Fulbright Award. I’ll be living in New Zealand for six months (January to July) where I’ll be conducting, teaching, mentoring students, collaborating with local composers, and conducting research in the National Library of New Zealand. During my Fulbright, I will be a visiting scholar and artist-in-residence at The New Zealand School of Music—Te Kōkī, at Victoria University, in Wellington, New Zealand. I look forward to learning how to drive (and survive!) on the left-hand side of the road and you can bet I’ll be visiting the Hobbiton movie set and locations where The Lord of the Rings was filmed!
Wishing you a peaceful and joyous holiday season.
Onto the next adventure!