Eerie Pandemic Princeton

Greetings from my living room, work room, practice room, dog playing room, video room, dating room, despair room, recovery room, renewal room, Pilates room, giggle room, thinking room, class room, couch potato room, NY, NY.

Here’s some thoughts mulling around today:

I had a chat with a former piano student last night.  A sophomore at Princeton, he described the weird and eerie realities of undergraduate life at America’s premier Ivy League institution.  When he arrived on campus a few weeks ago, he was handed twenty self-admin covid tests with instructions to spit into a vial twice a week, seal it, stick on one of the 20 scan labels with personal info embedded in it, and drop it into the no-contact campus drop-offs.  This, along with a multi-page contract laying out the covid commandments of conduct is required of all students on campus.  If any covid protocols are violated, the student has signed into the agreement, they will be immediately expelled from campus.  

As we spoke for about 30 minutes, he was walking around Princeton’s campus on a Tuesday evening. America’s most beautiful gothic university, this campus normally bustles with student life, from all-nighter paper writers to artists and scientists quietly and noisily rehearsing or working inside labs of every type.  On this recent Tuesday evening, not a single person crossed my young  friend’s path. Lights on in dorms, ghostly, post Armageddon darkness outside; public spaces closed to all; Campus social life ground to a halt; meals almost entirely takeout with dining halls serving the required pre-packaged larder confirmed to be far worse than could be imagined. A few brave souls venture outside their dorms to sit at great distances from each other as unspeaking zombies. The infamous Princeton eating club parties are no longer. Freshman are allegedly “messing around, of course, after 6 months of zoom jail in High School”,  but no mass expulsions yet reported. Contactless zoom class instruction is everyone’s norm from their dorm cubbies. Gatherings for sports, theater, music, play of any sort are forbidden and any movement around campus is closely monitored and electronically tracked. An Orwellian reality chills the imagination…  This is campus life for college students across America.

Striking to me is the fact that, somehow, in the midst of this year of deprivation and terror, my student continues to burst with creative energy as he has always done. Telling me about his latest gigs at giant heated tents in New Brunswick and his newly setup recording studio above his parents’ garage near campus, he is mixing avant-garde instrumental band music for new albums released throughout the pandemic, and taught himself several new instruments in between the hours spent collaborating through live streaming with band mates on screens.  He reports that his academic challenges with his ever restless body have been greatly aided by zoom classes because he can now pace, fiddle, strum, and riff on a keyboard as he takes in self-muted lectures with greater absorption. He is liberated from the straight-jacket of sitting still for a whole lecture class, worrying about being conspicuous or disturbing classmates as his attention deficits involuntarily take over his body. Is this a true silver lining for the group of high potential individuals, labeled ADD, who are often eliminated from competition because of their liabilities conforming to non-covid social and educational norms ?  A pandemic discovery for the ages that could lead to an explosion of empowered new talent ?

On a day when I was personally struggling, as ever,  with the combined realities of the soon to be anniversary of this dreadful year, I am moved. Feeling defeated and despairing as I reflect on the social isolation, the enormous personal disappointments of multiple cancellations: an exciting new orchestra recording in Prague, a new coaching and teaching position in Spain, the plan to join my piano student in Germany to learn from her discoveries performing under pressure at international competitions, and tickets to a recital in Paris of my revered idol since childhood, Martha Argerich. The reality setting in that all these projects are NOT likely to be rescheduled, EVER.  I also mourn the systematic extraction of my own cherished sources of joy, surprise, and delight, in the rituals and variety of performances in my daily life at home hosting family meals and holidays, planning and presenting concerts, mulling over delicious program possibilities for beloved musicians, and the random amusements and theater of New York street life. I read the daily reports of disproportionate numbers of celebrated musicians throughout the world dying of covid, the indefinite closing of the world’s greatest performance venues, the financial bankruptcy of many of our country’s most talented classical and jazz musicians, and the pandemic flight from NYC of countless friends and family. My losses are soul threatening yet pale amid the global tragedy of countless lives extinguished. It is not surprising that despair is frequently my mind’s resting point.

How can hope remain amidst this carnage ? Until today, I was drawing a blank response to this question. Sleeping on the memory of this young man’s story, I woke up this morning with that elusive sense of possibilities before me: Just as humanity surrounded by despair in millennia past have done, I see that one day at a time, one hour at a time, we find pieces to connect in auto-motions and to our utter surprise we stumble upon a dim vision and a first step. Instinctively wired for survival, hope emerges in the darn-dest corners of serendipity. Thank you, dear undergraduate,  for showing me that despite your clear-eyed awareness of today’s bitter realities, you dare to follow your imagination for what can be and the energetic passion to make it so! May your future remain the blazingly bright bulb it is today and may we all capture a single ray of your light in its wake! Amen.

welcome to my blog!



Welcome to my new blog! My life in New York City is a work in progress. I moved here a couple of years ago after raising my sons in Princeton New Jersey and bringing an international summer piano festival to Princeton University more than 13 years ago. It seems that each week since I’ve arrived here, I turn down new alleys to discover insights and pathways to new and exciting work and relationships. I’ve had so many thoughts and observations swimming around in my head for so long that I’m finally taking the advice of several friends who have encouraged me to start writing a blog!  Today is day1!   I’ll be musing here about all things coming across my world in the days ahead:  the inspirations I take from seeing and hearing beautiful moments: music, words, people, places, food… around me.  I may also, on occasion, vent a little about a pet peeve, speak about an unspeakable sadness or share an insight or wisdom gained from something I read or gleaned from a conversation. Stay tuned as I learn my away around new ways of accessing and including visuals and other wonders of this vast vast internet space! Woo-wee!  Here we go!  Thank you, Billy, my web guru:

Norway: The Happiest Country in This World


I’m remembering my trip last summer to Norway and Spain. Here’s a couple of things that struck me. I went to Spain to attend the Malaga Classica Chamber Music Festival via Trondheim. I’ve been hearing about the programing of Malaga Clasica for several years from friends in the US. I was delighted to have been invited by the founders of the Festival, Jesus and Anna, to attend the 4-day musical feast as their guest. More about Spain in another post !

Let me explain about my pre-occupation with Norway, having been there more than a half dozen times over the years:  I have dear friends who are like family there. One of the luckiest accidents of my family’s history was the arrival of Elin-Therese, aged 19 who came to live with us for the year in 1998. Soon after she arrived it became apparent that she was a kind, patient, and witty young woman with wisdom far beyond her years.  Not only did she become a seamless addition to our family, she would remain a calm and steady rock with whom we weathered some very difficult family challenges. When she returned to Norway to launch her career and start her own family, we remained close through visits on both sides of the Atlantic. Although I don’t speak Norwegian, I have enjoyed many trips there for family occasions: her wedding, the birth of her children and vacations together at Tone and Stein’s Swedish hytte. I also lived in Oslo for several months with my two sons aged 18 months 6 years old.  I’ve been very fortunate to feel a deep connection to Norway through ET, and marvel each time I visit at many of the uniquely humane qualities that seem to permeate their culture. I feel lucky often about the fact that I have discovered the following: It just goes to show: it’s not true that you can’t choose your family:

Here’s some thoughts from when I arrived there last summer:

When I arrived we were joking about the features that have brought Norway into the world’s eyes recently for having been declared in 2017, the country with the highest level of happiness in the world.  It is interesting to note that the human factors supporting happiness are: caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance.

Since I arrived I’ve been observing the small and big ways i’ve noticed that “caring” is manifested in the society.  I’m sure this is just the tip of the iceberg but here’s a list:

In Norway:

  1. When a child misbehaves in school, a team of social workers is sent in to support the parents, the child, and the teachers. They are all worked with closely for 5 weeks to determine if the child’s behavior is the result of a family problem, the teacher, students, or the child’s mental health. Through a trained counselor, all are given the opportunity to be heard and helped to support the family. All at no cost and for as long as the family feels it is needed.
  2. Wheelchairs can be attached to bicycles  here, so I see Bronze skinned, smiling….elder folk cycled around in the sunshine along the roads to the fjords.  It’s a beautiful sight.  There is a very high priority placed on being in the sun during the light months and on everyone having access to recreation and fresh air, even the wheel chair bound.
  3. The work day is generally from 8-4pm.  They are very hard working and consider the responsibility of being present with family to be AS important as the development of a career.
  4. I am ever struck by the extraordinary level of english I encounter everywhere I go.  A political discussion with the cab driver, the gal I buy my coffee from, the fish monger in the grocery store, the janitor in the school.  They speak with incredible fluency, using slang and colloquialisms and making jokes all along the way… How in the world does ANY country teach a foreign language this thoroughly?
  5. In the winter: one day a week is spent completely OUTSIDE regardless of snow, rain sleet or cold!!!!  I asked ET if she ever gets complaints from her kids about having to have school outside on a cold day:  “What??  It’s their favorite day of the week.”  “Don’t they complain about being cold?”  “No, of course not, she says.  They wear proper clothes so of course they are not cold outside…..”  Whadya think?  Is this why they win the most medals at the winter olympics or is it why they are again considered the happiest country in the world????