FlyerTalk Forums - View Single Post - 2010 ASTA (string teachers' association, not travel agents) convention
Old Mar 4, 10, 7:17 pm
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: IAD, BOS, PVD
Programs: UA, US, AS, Marriott, Radisson, Hilton
Posts: 7,200
Next morning I got up early to check out Pamela Ryan's
The Capricious Composer, an examination of, of all things,
caprices written for the viola. A nicely done little talk,
and I learned a bit, which was fun. Chatted with her a bit
afterwards, then it was off to the session on the Russian
violin school, presented by the same Eduard Schmieder of
last night and presided over by moi. I had so little to do
that it was silly (but it could go on my resume, if I had
a resume); Prof. Schmieder's quiet charisma and extremely
solid grasp of his subject carried the day. All I did was
sign the continuing ed forms afterward.

Lunch at TusCA, the Hyatt restaurant. I'd popped back to
the Hilton to use the lobby wi-fi (costs at the Hyatt) to
make my Open Table reservation and then run back here.
TusCA is an obvious play on TUScan and CAlifornia. The
food doesn't actually seem to be too much of either; the
service is willing but abstracted; and the physical plant
is halfway between Howard Johnson's and trendy bistro,
with the annoyances of both and the charms of neither.

In addition to various lunchy snacky things (various sushi-
type offerings and some interesting salumi and formaggi,
with check-off ordering) and sandwiches, real food for real
people was offered. I ordered short ribs with pappardelle
Bolognese, which I came to regret.

The two young folks to my left were enjoying what looked
like not-so-great supermarket sushi; the olden lady to my
right, a steak frites. My dish appeared as gluey noodles,
underlyingly gummy but also bound together in a quite nasty
white starchy sauce (bright side: not much dairy in this
- too expensive, I reckon); with this was tossed quite a
lot, 8 oz or so, of short rib meat (trimmed of fat and
membrane - but I'd just as soon have eaten fat and membrane,
which have flavor and texture) the color of Vienna sausage,
you know that pale pink that comes from stewing unbrowned
beef. The meat tasted boiled, the pasta tasted unboiled -
rather, soaked in dishwater, and the Elmer's-like sauce was
Bolognese-ized by the presence of a few halved wilted cherry
tomatoes. Unutterably bad. A glass of Chianti was totally
unmemorable, which is good by comparison. Service was slow
but pleasant; it was the best part of the meal, coupled with
the fact that it was a really short walk to the next class.

After the Schmieder session, I'd been collared by Masha
Lankovsky, director of the classical department at the
Brooklyn Conservatory - we made some small talk, and I
promised to try to attend her presentation on the Moscow
violin school (as distinguished from the Russian violin
school, a distinction that is subtle but sometimes real)
and Yuri Yankelevich, her teacher's teacher and its prime
exponent. So I showed up as promised, and it was another
good session. This year more than last, I learned a lot
from all the lectures I attended, which makes up for the
fact that several friends who were supposed to attend were
stymied by the east coast snows that either prevented them
from traveling altogether or forced them to reschedule
events into this time span. I'd sort of hoped for a couple
joyous reunions, but in fact I knew only a smattering of
participants here.

Out of curiosity I looked in on the pre-college viola master
class with Yizhak Schotten. Turns out, he was way too polite
and lenient with the first student, taking way too much time
trying to repair the irreparable (and of course failing), so
I gave up and took another tour of the exhibit hall. An odd
observation: back in the day (from the late '70s to the late
'00s) when I picked up an instrument at such a gathering,
people would come around and listen (why, I am not qualified
to judge); something has happened since last year - heart
problems, imminent retirement, more flown miles than notes
played in '09, all of the above perhaps - and my sound is
not so beautiful and my technique not so sparkling as
perhaps it once was. Nobody came to listen to me, and I
sighed again inwardly and crawled back to the hotel. Not
really; I was perfectly okay with nobody bothering me but
not so okay with the fact that I sounded not like merde
exactly but quite ordinary indeed.

My friend Candy picked me up and took me home to dinner.
She and Ken have two kids, the younger of whom (8) I'd seen
only once or twice, San Jose being not one of my regular
stops, and when I do get here, my real relatives have first
dibs on my time. Okay, I haven't been to visit for six
years. Both kids separately had the same reaction to seeing
me. Who's that? Uncle Michael? I don't have an Uncle
Michael. I did much better with the dogs Buddy and Mimi.

As it was still New Year's (the 5th day, I think), we
celebrated with an elaborate and festive meal that Candy,
always the overachiever, fixed mostly from scratch: hot
pot with seafood, roast duck, and bao with mustard greens.
The kids ate duck and noodles.

It was in the tres grandes heures rather than the wee ones
when I returned to the hotel, because there was stuff to be
done still and sessions to attend in the morning.
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