Musician-in-residence sends letter to Orcas Island friends

Now that I am back from my travels of the past two months, many of my Pittsburgh friends are asking about the places I’ve been and the experiences I have had.  Berlin, Munich, San Diego all get their fair share of comment, but then when it comes to Orcas Island, the storytelling begins. New stories, new experiences, and above all: transforming ones. Ironically, it’s always the “others” who hear the stories, but I thought maybe you also might be interested to know how very much the week spent on Orcas meant to me.  

It was a week of “firsts”: first ride in a private plane (and what an initiation it was!), first time doing a master class for instruments other than violin (an equally exciting initiation!), and my first time doing a week’s residency at an American school. After 15 years of working with young people, I assumed I was going to be dealing with more of the same: kids trying at all costs to be cool, modeling their fashion after pop stars, imitating the mannerisms of TV shows, and along those lines, generally predictable. Nothing could be further from the truth. On Orcas Island I found the most genuine, natural children I have seen anywhere. These were young people who had a naive uniqueness, who didn’t look away when you spoke to them, and who were not resistant to learning (imagine, that!), in fact, I have never been able to achieve such immediate creative results with children or young people anywhere.  They were not afraid to be unique and express an idea.  

But beyond all of this, it changed my perspective and gave me a tremendous gift: the gift of hope.  Out there on a small island are children who have not been wrapped and encrusted in the mainstream, least-common-denominator social norms. Children who add beauty to the world just by being in touch with their true nature and being able to express it. There were moments shared in some of the classes in which it took all the control I possessed to hold back the tears.  Genuine, beautiful, creative, transforming lessons in life, music – and hope.  

Many thanks to all of you for giving me this wonderful opportunity, and many thanks to Mimi and Slim Sommerville for generously sponsoring my island visit.   I don’t know who benefited more: the children or I.

So, my dear friends, in honor of the light in those children’s eyes and to express my gratitude to Bill and Valerie Anders for repeatedly hosting me and my family this concert season, I would like to offer Orcas’ young violinists, through Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival, a ‘Class with a Master’ at some point during the Festival time (August 18-30) when I return to Orcas Island.  My intent is to give these school children incentive to practice over the summer and to give them a boost of inspiration for the beginning of school. OICMF Executive Director Victoria Parker will help me coordinate that with the school music teachers. I am also interested in offering, if it is desired, an individual session each to the two music teachers who work with the school’s strings program, Lizz Hanks and Pamela Wright.

Thank you all for your generosity of spirit, which is a true inspiration!

Monique Mead was the Spring 2008 Musician-in-Residence for the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival.