Today I’m halfway through recording the audiobook for 88x50. Glass half full. (at The DiMenna Center for Classical Music)
PREFACE to “IN COLLEGE”
At this time exactly ten years ago, I’d just sort of graduated college—still an uncomfortable word for me, “college,” because I usually I call it “conservatory,” because I assume people will respect me more as a classical musician if I say I went to “conservatory,” not “college.” But it was college—Indiana University—and it was conservatory—School of Music.
At this time exactly ten years ago, I’d just sort of graduated college. “Sort of,” because it was winter, a semester earlier than the traditional spring graduation, and instead of attending the special winter ceremony, I took my last exam and drove away. So it feels more like I left college than graduated.
At this time exactly ten years ago, I don’t remember. The year-and-a-half that followed my sort-of graduation and the start of the fifty-state tour I conducted out of my car, the subject of my recently published book which I was ostensibly going to talk to you about today, is incredibly foggy. I remember almost nothing. But I can tell you I was floundering.
At this time exactly ten years ago, I was floundering, and I blamed IU. I felt spit out, rebuked, cast away even though I was the one who left without saying goodbye. The bitterness lingered, and I’ve often said, “IU provided me an education and nothing else,” but what else did I expect? It wasn’t the first, nor would it be the last, time an unknowing other disappointed my extravagant, impossible expectations, only to be relegated to the discard pile of my emotional life, a purgatory for possible future inspection.
At this time exactly ten years ago, I began building my characterization of IU as the anti-artist, the place that nearly broke me, the place where I suffered until, weirdly enough, I escaped into the real world, where I started calling myself a pianist and people started believing me.
At this time exactly ten years ago, I was about your age. I wonder if any if these memories will resonate with you. For me, ten years ago may as well be fifty, and yet many of these memories echo, or even repeat, in my current day-to-day. And while I feel that writing this piece was therapeutic, sharing it seems almost unnecessary, maybe even unfair. But I hope that listening to this wall of memory will stir up awareness in your own experience, or at least provide a glimpse into the reality that, in general, but for our purposes today, in college, there is no real formula to building a life in the arts, to growth and development, only a cumulative, chaotic recipe defined by work and faith that results, but never seems to result, in a dish ingested so slowly that you may never realize you ate it all, or digested it, or indeed, grew.
In nearly four years of living in Indiana, and two in Texas, I was called a faggot zero times, whereas in New York City I’ve been called a faggot about once a year, and growing up in Vermont, it was at least once a week.
(from my journal)
if ________ is here [at the concert], then today will mark the one year anniversary of the last time we said we would hang out.
my favorite part of riding the L train is that moment when, at 8th Avenue, the last stop, the door stays closed for an impossibly long time, sealing everyone in like fish in an aquarium, waiting, it seems, for panic to touch even the coolest passenger, and for that one person who will inevitably shout “fuck!”
i just looked up the expression “persona non grata” to see if it could in any way apply to how the piano faculty at IU has treated me since i graduated, and it turns out to be exactly the perfect definition.
a girl on the 1 train dribbles coffee on herself while taking a sip from her thermos, laughs in disbelief and says to the woman sitting across the aisle, “i fuckin hate this city.”