Thursday, October 21, 2010

Scheherazade at Interlochen (Ch.12 Pt.1)

I had returned to National Music Camp at Interlochen for a second summer in 1975. Not out of choice, but because my mother fell in love with the place, a music camp in northern Michigan surrounded by lakes and forests that offered a rich regimen of music and art classes. "Oh, if only I could be you," she'd intone at each visit. If it had been up to me, I'd have returned to Meadowmount. There I could at least have tested the waters of independence and crashed midnight parties. But at Interlochen there was little chance for enterprising escapes. I'd live in a rustic log cabin with eleven other girls my age under the watchful eye of a counselor, and partake in cabin clean up with my two friends: the broom and dust bin.

Though my violin teacher, Dorothy DeLay, had invited me to Aspen, it was J. Frederick Müller, my manager, who sold the Interlochen experience to my parents. As guest lecturer and adult workshop coach, Müller had an established presence at the camp. I had been his discovery; the poster child for the string instrument company Scherl & Roth. But by the time I went off to Interlochen, solo engagements had become increasingly difficult to obtain. At sixteen years of age, I was no longer a child sensation.

The World Youth Symphony Orchestra extended its arms to talented youngsters from every corner of the globe. If you glanced up at the stage of Kresge Auditorium, you'd find these words emblazoned like the Ten Commandments: Dedicated to the promotion of world friendship through the universal language of the arts. And that summer of 1975, students traveled from as far away as Romania, Israel, Finland and Iceland. Everywhere you turned you'd hear foreign dialects. National Music Camp at Interlochen would be—how did my mother put this?—a broadening experience.

The day began with a bugle call, or reveille, at 6:45 A.M. It could have been the the military, as far as I was concerned. Dressed in uniforms of red sweaters, white blouses, and navy blue knickers, campers resembled American flags as they tore out of their freezing cabins for breakfast. Teeth chattered at the speed of 64th notes. The morning air smelled of lake water, damp earth and fresh baked bread from the cafeteria. At breakfast, over a bowl of granola and milk, I found myself noticing that some of the gawky, pimply-faced boys from the previous summer had turned into striking young men with sideburns and light mustaches. Camp uniforms didn't offer much to see, of course, but male voices had deepened, and unbuttoned shirts revealed tiny tufts of chest hair.

Me and Jeannie Wells Yablonsky at Interlochen
At the Bowl, Jeannie, my stand partner, was diligently practicing the music even before the orchestra tuned. We were to rehearse Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade" a symphonic suite based on "A Thousand and One Nights". The conductor, an ape-like figure with white hair silenced the orchestra. "Boys and girls, how many of you know the story of Scheherazade?" I heard giggles from the back rows and turned around. One of the newcomers, a Romanian violinist with stringy hair was showing off her Paganini left hand pizzicato to new admirers. "Young lady!" shouted the conductor. "We'll have none of that during orchestra." He held up his score for all to see. "As told in the Tales of the Arabian Nights, the Sultan Schahriar, convinced of the faithfulness of his many wives, has sworn to put to death each one of his wives after the first night. But the Sultana Scheherazade," he pointed to me, "depicted by the solo violin, saved her life by spinning tales to her husband during a thousand and one nights."

A gentle breeze rustled the pages of our music. Jeannie speared the part with her bow and giggled nervously. The conductor lifted his arms to usher in the theme of "The Sea and Sinbad's Ship". My bow was poised in mid air to play a high E after an introduction by the harp. But then, my eyes landed on the principal violist seated diagonally across from the first violins. He swayed with the music; a lock of wavy brown hair had fallen over his forehead. He flicked it away, glanced up, and beamed at me through black-rimmed glasses. It was Scott Woolweaver, the cutest boy in all of Interlochen. I sunk my bow into the string and lingered on the first note to begin a four bar rhapsodic cadenza. This might be the summer of night after night of wondrous tales, I found myself thinking.
"Scheherazade" by Sergey Smirnov