“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
The summer season is upon us, and with it comes one of my favorite pastimes, travel! Growing up in the Peterson household, our parents instilled in us a love of both music and travel. Our motto was work hard and play hard. Our family vacations ranged from mountainous dude ranches and historical cities, to peaceful lakes and exotic beaches. We always loved these trips because we could discover exciting new places as a family. I still remember Brittany and Kerri singing camp songs at the top of their lungs while water skiing together. Our family not only put on musical shows, we were also the stars of the lake when it came to water skiing. My dad showed off for us by turning around on trick skis, then he and mom slalom skied together, managing to hold hands and kiss without falling down! To top it all off, we kids could all slalom ski together at the same time, even if only for a minute or two.
My senior year of high school I had my first taste of international travel when I toured Europe with my mom and high school choir. Not the typical high school socialite, I was a nerdy, overly studious 18-year-old who preferred learning French and art history to partying with my friends. As a result, I was particularly excited to visit France where I hoped to put my four years of high school French to good use. My moment arrived while we were singing in Notre Dame. Instead of the romantic experience we had expected singing in one of the most famous cathedrals in the world, we were squeezed in tightly amidst construction cranes and machines, and were constantly interrupted by the loud clanking of workmen. After much scowling and gesturing on the part of our director, I finally walked over to the workmen, gathered as much confidence in my high school French as I could muster, and said politely Il est difficile de chanter avec cette bruit (It is difficult to sing with this noise.) Taken aback by this French-speaking American teenager, the workmen stopped their clanking long enough for us to finish our concert!
After this first international experience, I was hooked. Throughout college and graduate school I traveled every chance I could! My freshman year of college my orchestra travelled to Cost Rica where I spent a week with a musical Costa Rican family. Although my Spanish was minimal at the time, I still did my best to speak it with the family in order to learn as much as possible about their culture. The following year, I returned to Paris to study abroad, where I met a French cellist named Camille. She was scheduled to stay with my family in Kansas for a chamber music camp a couple of weeks later. As fellow musicians, we hit it off immediately! She did laugh at me for using the formal vous with her while accidentally saying the informal tu to our waiter. When she came to the States I had my revenge when she confused squirrels with sharks, talking about “the horrible squirrels that bite people in the sea!” Needless to say, we learned a lot from each other. When I moved to France a couple of years later, she allowed me to stay with her while I looked for my own apartment, and she frequently took me to her hometown of Orleans to visit her family. This became my home-away-from-home. Her father was a puppeteer by trade (a profession I never knew existed), and her mother a music theory professor at the local university. They were some of the kindest, most interesting people I had ever met. Brilliant, witty, and excellent cooks, I spent hours at their dinner table talking music, culture, and cuisine!
When I returned to France a few summers ago, my husband and I had the chance to hear Camille perform Berlioz’ oratorio L’Enfance du Christ with the Orleans Symphony. This work is not often played, so it was a pleasure to hear it performed live in its entirety: one-and-a-half hours straight!
That same trip I had the opportunity to perform a recital in Paris entitled “An American Taste of Paris,” featuring “Nocturne” and “Cortège” by Lili Boulanger, the first movement of Debussy’s Violin Sonata, and Franck’s Violin Sonata. The two short pieces by Lili Boulanger captured my attention because her sister, Nadia Boulanger, is the famous Parisian pedagogue who instructed many American composers, including Aaron Copland. Lili, however, is alleged to be the sister with true talent, but she died tragically at the young age of 25, leaving behind a much smaller but still impactful legacy of beautiful music. The Franck had special meaning for me personally because my mother had performed it at her senior recital in college. For the highlight of the program my pianist and I performed the world premiere of a work by Paris-residing Mexican composer Esteban Zuñiga. He and I have been friends for years, having met him while I lived in Paris. He wrote the work specifically for us. It was such a wonderful experience to work with him in person, and to see how music truly can bring together people from around the world!
As I begin the summer, I look forward to more of my favorite pastimes, traveling and teaching French and music camps throughout the Midwest! This summer Uptown Violins is leading camps in Dallas, TX, Wichita, KS, Springfield, IL, and Kajjansi, Uganda. Stay tuned!
First Fridays with Uptown Violins is hosted by Ashley Rescot, Director of Public Relations. Ashley received her Bachelor of Music from Baylor University, as well as minors in French and English. She taught English as a Fulbright scholar in France for a year, and then obtained her Master’s Degree in French Literature at the University of Kansas. She has taught French to all ages, including a Maman et Moi baby French class, as well as collegiate French levels I-IV. She teaches her own private violin studio and performs throughout the Midwest. Research interests include the relationship between music education and language acquisition, as well as the connection between music and other forms of artistic expression.