My First Artist’s Residency

Earlier this year, along with my colleague Freddie Bryant, I applied for the Chalk Hill Artists’ Residency. Located on the 270-acre Warnecke Ranch in Healdsburg, CA, the residency offered lodging in a quaint, quirky house (formerly a saloon, relocated to the ranch many years ago) and a silence so wonderful that pouring seltzer into a glass was a loud sound. The best part? No Wi-Fi. My computer stayed in NYC, and I was off social media for a solid week. Heaven!

We began the trip on Sunday, May 7. Freddie and I flew to San Francisco, rented a car and drove to Healdsburg. The drive was lovely, with beautiful views of the city and a jaunt over the Golden Gate Bridge:

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When we arrived we were stunned at the beauty around us. We were greeted by Margo, who runs the residency, and she brought us to our house so we could settle in. We unpacked, went grocery shopping, and came back to get to work. We only had a week, so time was of the essence.

The next morning we were given a tour of the property in an old pickup truck by Margo’s brother, Fred. We drove on paths one wouldn’t even consider able to traverse, and saw more incredible vistas.

Freddie and I settled into a routine almost immediately: mornings for Tai Chi and practicing, afternoons for more practicing, composing, and studying. We were responsible for our own meal preparation, and often had big breakfasts of steel cut oats and hearty vegetarian dinners with just a banana in the middle of the day for a little pick-me-up.

We had some fun afternoon walks, too, and took some pictures of our surroundings for posterity:

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Having a week to focus on music and nothing else was life-changing in so many ways. For starters, I was able to clear my head of outside distractions and worries (having made sure I took care of everything that needed my attention before leaving town). Another realization was that it is possible to make room for everything, which was something I had doubted before then. I also discovered that I have been letting my music take a back seat, which I never intended on allowing to happen but did with all of the administrative duties that fall on being a freelance musician running a small non-profit and trying to present concerts and fundraise so that said concerts can be produced.

At the end of the week, Freddie and I gave a short concert at Chalk Hill’s open house. Freddie performed selections from a solo guitar piece he is writing, I performed my chord melody arrangement of “Darn That Dream” and together we played a Prelude by Gershwin and a Charlie Parker tune called “Yardbird Suite”.

I returned home the following week feeling rejuvenated and much calmer. Many thanks to Berklee College of Music’s Office of Faculty Development for this opportunity and to Margo and Kris at Chalk Hill who provided a space for artists to work!

The biggest challenge has been to keep this momentum going. It’s tough, but every day I work on it. What helps is the fact that I have a new recording of original compositions inspired by the Pirkei Avot, and I am eager to share it with you. I also have other music that I would love to play for you. So I’m going to stop typing now and get to it.

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