One is never quite prepared for a teaching trip abroad, particularly when the trip involves two 18 hour travel days. This trip, my frist to Auckland was no different.
New Zealand is the most beautiful place on earth. It's a collage of landscapes, sea-scapes, vantage points and outlooks that the human ability to verbalized emotion simply can not do justice. Outside of the work that I was involved in musically, which I will get to in a moment, I had the fortune of seeing a great deal of the what the North Island has to offer. After a three hour car jouney north along the eastern costal road and through seemingly endless hilly pastures, we arrived at the sleepy town of Kerikeri. We spent a quite night there in a lovely hotel and had a great dinner, albeit with less than brilliant service. The meal and the wine made up for it. The next morning we continued our drive to Cape Reinga, the most northern accessible look out of New Zealand and where the South Pacific and Tasman Sea dramtically meet. Miles and miles of winding roads, lots of cattle and sheep, and very few houses. Quite the contrary to road trips in France and Spain where seemingly every square inch of potentially beautiful costal landscape is choked by industry and urban development. We spent a few silent moments taking it all in and then headed along the western part of the very narrow cape and along the 90 mile beach, which is actually only 64 miles. We stopped to climb one of the famous sand dunes that dramatically sweep against the sea. The heat of the sand unfortunately prevented any attempts of scaling to the summit, hot feet! After an evening stop in a beautiful seaside resort we made our way through the great Kauri forest, saw the oldest tree in said forest and stumbled upon a beautiful waterfall, where we again, enjoyed a few silent moments of reflection. New Zealand looks as if aliens came to earth a long time ago and experimented with contrasts. Hills, mountains, waterfalls, oceans, rivers, rainforests, ferns, pines, all smashed up against one another, a seemingly dissonant conversation and somehow, beautifully, it makes sense and creates a unique and powerful reality.
There was a wee bit of teaching and performing too!
paladino artists Martin Rummel, James Tibbles and I performed a concert of works by JS Bach at the University in Auckland. This performance was a celebration of sorts as Martin and I have just released our first collaboration for paladino music. We pretty much performed the album in its entirety and shoved in the beloved e minor flute sonata as an excuse to perform with James. Although the concert hall leaves little to be desired in terms of aesthetics, it's absolutely dreadful to look at, the acoustics are marvelous and it felt incredibly comfortable to perform there. I'm looking forward to performing this program, Bach (re) inventions vol. 1, with Martin again and again. It's truely a beautiful collection of pieces and such a honor to share any stage with an artist of such strength and imagination as Martin, I'm very proud of this collaboration. James' approach to music making is right in line with mine, no fuss! It's like finding a long lost friend. I only hope he forgives my refusal to play the baroque flute. I will happily play without vibrato however! Several flute students, administration and facutly attended the performance, were enthusiastic and gave me a first glimps into the general atmosphere of the place.
The composition department graciously extended an invitation to present two performance lectures during my stay. Early in the second week I spoke for two hours to an orchestration class about flute extended techniques, contemporary musical notation and the flute music of Toru Takemitsu. Who knew there was so much to say! I could at this point easily imagine expanding into a semester long performance practice class, hmmm ...
Later in the week I spoke to a larger group of composers, teachers and performers and used different historical examples of trends in 20th and 21st century writing and used this time examples of Edgar Verese and Kaija Saariaho as entry points. Both experiences were very positive and rich. I often take for granted how unique my own personal experiences have been and how deep my practical knowledge goes. These moments of sharing help me put things into prospective. I can only speculate from feedback that people got a lot out of our experience together, but can honestly say that I learned a lot about myself and about the direction I want that research part of my musical life to take in the future.
I also had the chance to teach the flute students at both the University of Auckland and at Waikato University in Hamilton, two hours south of Auckland by car. Varied in level and experience, the flute students are all very committed to learning, impressively focused and extremely open-minded. As a performing artist working in a teaching context, I am made incredibly aware of how different the realities of learning in academia and living as an artist are. There is a long list of things, practical things, that every artist should take care of and as you get older and more involved in the realities of playing, that list changes and grows. At any rate, things seemed to go smoothly in both classes. The students in Auckland were preparing for a concerto competition and I had a chance to hear four very solid performances. Across the board, they all had similar problems of articulation and sound production problems that I saw through my way of approaching things. An approach that is based upon my recent performance, practice and teaching experience. I had great fun listening and responding to their issues and also had the chance to get to know a concerto that I had never heard, which in my line of business is both rare and exciting.
It's always so refreshing to teach, draw on your personal experiences of learning and performing and then to give those ideas out. It was as much a learning for me.
This trip to Auckland was one of the most special and important of my creative and personal life. It far exceeded my expectations. As I sit now on a plane to Sydney, the beginning of my trip back to the states and to a few weeks of chamber music making, I can only look forward to future visits to this special place. Next time, I will take on the South Island!