It's 2AM. The concerts are finished, my friends and I are back from our end of tour celebrations, and with the exception of the flight home at "half past too early", the tour is over...
But what did the first bassoon player do on the last day of tour?
Well, one of my passions is motorcycling. My best riding buddy is Alan Baer, the Principal Tubist of the New York Phil. Anytime we're within two time zones of each other it's mandatory that we get together for a ride. I've ridden with Al in most of the U.S. states (including a 17 day, 8000 mile trip to Alaska last summer), a few Canadian Provinces... and South America is next on the agenda. So, as the tour came to a close and with enough performances in this climate zone under my belt to feel confident I knew how my reeds would respond tonight, I was relaxed enough to get together with Al for a ride.
It has been my pleasure to serve as the doctor for the LA Phil for the last 15 years. It is a welcome respite from my day job. During my non-tour days I work as a busy pulmonary and internal medicine physician at Cedars Sinai Medical Center. Many of my patients have life threatening illnesses. Incontrast, on tour most often I am dealing with common ailments such as bronchitis, sinusitis, aches and pains, cuts and gastroenteritis. There are the occasional more serious problems such as appendicitis, trauma and heart disease. When traveling domestically my job and preparation is quite simple as pharmacy and prescriptions are readily available. For international travel, I try to take most of the the medications we might need with us. Additionally I try to have foreign physicians available if needed. As a result of my experience, I have been giving a yearly lecture on travel related illness for the traveling musician at The Colburn School of Performing Arts. I like to refer to my tour travels as my vacation with 120 of my closest friends!
I'm 2,823 miles away from my studio in Pasadena, and my trumpet is safely packed on the LA Phil Transport Truck. Even if I had regular access to my instrument, playing Mahler excerpts in a hotel room is not a great way to make friends with the neighbors. Nevertheless, tonight I will be expected to sit on the stage of Avery Fisher Hall in New York City and perform some of the most difficult music in the orchestral repertoire.
Staying in shape while on tour is difficult, so the trumpet section of the LA Phil has embraced a creative solution—pocket trumpets. Not to be confused with a piccolo trumpet, these instruments are the same length as a standard B-flat trumpet, but the metal tubing is coiled more tightly around itself to create a smaller footprint. When used with a quiet practice mute, the result is an easily packable way to practice on the road that won’t get the orchestra thrown out of the hotel. I've had practice sessions during delays at the airport, right in the middle of the terminal. Not to sound like an infomercial, but it even comes with a convenient travel case.
I have been looking forward particularly to this leg of the tour, a chance to reconnect with friends and colleagues who I met during my six years in New York (three attending Juilliard, three living and working in Manhattan). Two of them now live in Philadelphia, and this morning I visited with them and their four year-old daughter who was born six days after my own four year-old daughter.
My plans for NY include lots of time with old friends and visiting my favorite spots--hopefully in three days I will have receipts from H&H Bagels, Zabars, Gray's Papaya, Empire Szechuan (the good one on 72nd, not the mediocre one on Columbus), Popover Cafe, the Museum of Modern Art, and many coffee spots where the natives like to hang out. After I re-learn my jaywalking skills, I'll be ready to go.
Today was an excellent tour day--incident-free travel, a nice hotel, and a great concert at Lincoln Center. We are all looking forward to two more exciting days in The City.