To read about the first part of 2017, click here.
At the beginning of July, it was wonderful to join the Houston Symphony for a couple of concerts in Miller Outdoor Theater. Thankful for Miller’s air conditioned stage, making the 100+ degree heat more bearable!
The next week, La Speranza performed at the MATCH for the first time for an enthusiastic crowd. Thomas Carroll, Andrew Schneider, and I performed a program of Romantic-era works for clarinet, viola, and piano.
July 29-August 13 was my second year at the American Bach Soloists Academy and Festival. It was a wonderful two weeks of Bach, Purcell, and Graun. So grateful for the wonderful experience and for the hospitality of my great friends Nathan and Stephanie Stroud.
On August 14, I flew to Houston to switch violas, then flew out a few hours later to Chicago to play in the last week of Grant Park Orchestra’s season. It was lovely to spend time with Amanda, my roommate from college and to play great repertoire with wonderful colleagues!
A week after flying back to Houston, Hurricane Harvey ravaged southeast Texas. Houston received 51 inches of rain in a single weekend. I was housesitting at the time of the hurricane, and watched with bated breath as water lapped at the front step of the house (5 feet off the ground) all night one night, fell around 5:30 AM, then rose all day the next day. My apartment and car were relatively safe (some water leaked into the apartment under the air conditioning unit) and my parents were also safe and dry. Unfortunately our storage unit was flooded and many of the contents inside were destroyed.
Also, the Wortham Center, the home of Houston Grand Opera, Houston Ballet, and Mercury, was filled with 12 feet of water, rendering it out of commission until September 2018. Huge shoutout to all arts organizations, but especially Mercury and personnel manager Judy Frow for being able to relocate all of their concerts and rehearsals for the entire season.
It was a strange, slow start to what is normally a busy time. Summer tends to be a slow financial time for freelance musicians: students are on vacation and there aren’t as many gigs. Harvey hit when we musicians were most vulnerable, and it was hard not to worry about finances. This is to say nothing for several colleagues and friends that lost property. Postal service stopped for about a month, which made getting paid for August work difficult. I was extremely grateful for some generous friends and colleagues both near and far, and I was equally grateful for the opportunities to volunteer with time and music throughout the first part of September.
September also included a quick trip to Boston, concerts with Mercury and Ars Lyrica Houston and lots of makeup lessons for my students at Tallowood. The month ended with another concert series with the Houston Symphony relocated to the beautiful Stude Concert Hall at my alma mater, Rice University.
In October, I received a long-anticipated package- a beautiful baroque viola built by Tim Johnson after a Guarneri viola. We’d been working together on it since April, and I am absolutely enthralled with the final product! It received its debut at La Speranza’s season opener on October 12 at MATCH and got a workout with 5 subsequent performances of Mendelssohn’s Octet with Mercury.
I also had the privilege of premiering a new piece for viola and strings by Adrienne Albert called In Tuo Lumine Lumen, with a wonderful orchestra conducted by my dad, Kirk Smith. At the end of the month, La Speranza was honored to perform at St. Mark’s Houston and help raise funds for Lord of the Streets. We also were thrilled to learn we’d been invited to perform at the 2018 Houston Early Music Festival this upcoming February.
November held a photo shoot for La Speranza by the wonderful Carolyn Witherspoon at Fair Star Photography and a much-anticipated album release. I really enjoy collaborating with Matt Kidd at Slow Meadow, and in September 2016, a string quartet of us worked on an album with Matt at Sonic Ranch. “Costero” was released on November 17th!
At the end of the month, I collaborated with Dr. Steve Incavo again, this time on Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet with more of my wonderful colleagues.
This past month feels as though it has gone by in a blur, but it included several holiday-related gigs, a recording session for the clarinet quintet with Steve, appearing on Houston Life with Mercury, fundraising for La Speranza, and time spent catching up with several freelancing friends I only seem to see once or twice a year. Oh, and it snowed!!
This season I have been playing principal viola for most of the concerts with Mercury, sharing the position this year with my former professor James Dunham. I am also teaching at Tallowood Academy of Fine Arts and through the Houston Youth Symphony.
Thanks for reading if you’ve made it this far. I wish you and your loved ones a prosperous 2018!