Principal horn Meredith Brown reflects on the return to live performances, stepping off the hamster wheel, and finding renewed purpose.
Way back in 2020, while we were all reeling and horrified by suddenly being plunged into a pandemic, a part of me was learning about life. It turns out that even when you “do what you love”, you can be on a hamster wheel that hasn’t stopped turning in quite some time, and need a break! The hamster wheel of being a professional musician is a wonderful thing, but I did need it to stop turning for a little while, to have a chance to reevaluate what I was doing, and why I was doing it.
Returning to live performance has been a precious thing. I feel closer to my colleagues. I feel the connection made by the music with the audience, swirling around in the hall, binding us together in a shared experience we have all missed. It looks a little different, of course—we have a lot more administrative work in our lives (not typically a musician’s strong suit), keeping track of when we need to get PCR tests for certain gigs, passwords for accounts with testing companies, noting testing expenses for reimbursement. You may see musicians lined up before rehearsals and concerts to swab their noses. “AG” doesn’t stand for Attorney General to us anymore—it now means Aerosol Generator (all the winds and brass)!
Many of us have developed new skills and activities, and now have to figure out how to fit them into our former lives of driving in Bay Area traffic, teaching, and practicing music. I have friends who are now amazing recording engineers, and several who are studying for degrees in other fields, like occupational therapy. I’ve always done some work in cat rescue, as I live in an area with a high amount of need in that regard, and the pandemic allowed me to make more of a difference for a while. Now I’m trying to figure out how to do what I can, even if it’s not as much as I could do before.
Every change is a chance to mindfully create a path forward. Like many people, my priorities have shifted during the pandemic. It’s important to me that I make a difference with my time, whether I’m rescuing felines or preparing for a big solo, but I’ve realized that begins with giving myself the tools to be healthy and engaged.
Meredith Brown performs one of the most famous and beloved horn solos in Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in California Symphony’s EPIC FINALE, taking place Saturday, May 14 at 7:30 PM and Sunday, May 15 at 4 PM at the Lesher Center for the Arts. Tickets are $44 to $74. Buy tickets online or call or visit the Lesher Center Ticket Office at 925.943.7469, Wed – Sun, 12:00 noon to 6:00 pm.