Yesterday, I had the pleasure of a lovely conversation with a close friend of many years. A fellow Stetson alum, she met me when I was a music major in my first incarnation as a classical pianist. She was asking me a variety of questions which made me recall a trip during our Stetson years that changed the course of my life.
In January 1995, Stetson had its’ last winter term. Students could take the month of January and explore different courses outside of their major or take a trip during this compressed term. I remember seeing the announcement for the trip to Vienna, Austria around the School of Music. Two professors were leading the trip centered around the art, music and history of Austria and we could earn college credit. In my gut, I felt strongly that I had to go. The group would spend two weeks in Vienna, 4 days in Salzburg and 3 days in Rothenburg ob-der-Tauber, Germany.
Strong feeling, strong desire, but it was an uphill battle for me to go on the trip. My challenges were financial. I didn’t have $2600 lying around to pay for it. I have always been very persistent about things that are important to me. I knocked on all the doors I could. I was told “no” at every turn. I remember lying in my bed in my dorm room one afternoon, absolutely crushed that I wouldn’t be able to go. Heartbroken. I couldn’t understand how I could want something so badly, just for it to be out of reach.
But see, that’s just the thing. It looked like it just wasn’t going to happen. Yet out of nowhere, a door opened. A note in my mailbox from the financial aid office, that they’d found a way to make this experience happen for me. The day before, they’d told me no. There had been a chorus of no’s. But all of the sudden, it was possible.
During the two weeks I spent in Vienna, I attended my first five operas. My first was La Bohème. I had always sung informally in choirs and such, but that first night, in my standing place just behind the orchestra section, a major seed was planted…..I watched the opera singers in awe and thought, “I want to do that.” (Quite an impractical thought for a piano major halfway through her degree.) I heard the heavenly sounds of the Vienna Symphony inside the Musikverein. I learned about the Habsburgs, toured magnificent palaces. Stood at the graves of Beethoven, Schubert and Strauss. I learned, I grew, I experienced. My life was changed.
Vienna came up in one of my voice lessons at the college on Tuesday. I said to one of my students– if it weren’t for that trip, I’m not sure I’d be standing here before you. These memories helped bring a message through for me that I guess I needed to remember. Sometimes, things don’t look very good. It doesn’t look like life is moving in your favor. The deck of life keeps dealing bad hands. Despite this, life has shown me that pathways can open when you least expect it. Good things can and do happen.
My great-aunt Ofelia always said, “Lo que está para ti, nadie te lo puede quitar.” What’s yours cannot be taken from you. I was meant to be inspired by the art I saw and heard in Vienna. I was meant to be in awe, standing inside Stephansdom Cathedral. To hear a Mozart Mass sung on the Feast of the Epiphany at St. Augustine’s Church in Vienna. To have epic snowball fights with my classmates. This all took place more than twenty years ago. However, the experience served as high octane fuel for what was to come after the trip was long over–the many hours spent practicing, singing, performing, learning and teaching.
It was meant to be.