[tl;dr – I’m retiring this winter. Be happy for me!]
I began writing in this space 14 years ago this fall. The blogosphere wasn’t very crowded in 2004, and it took me a while to explain and justify this relatively new medium to my Wolf Trap colleagues. At that time, web sites were surprisingly static and pretty devoid of personality, and social media didn’t exist in the mainstream, so I gravitated to blogging in order to break down some walls.
Having recently left the full-time musician life (in 1997), I found the silence on this side of the audition/casting/producing table to be claustrophobic. And as someone who didn’t get my first job in opera until age 28, I frequently felt like a stranger in a very strange land. I wrote occasionally beginning with that fall’s audition tour, and the following year I logged a brief post about my motivations. I needed to create a series of bridges, and so I wrote. And wrote.
1,339 posts and 640,873 words later, I am preparing to submit the last few chapters in this particular book. I am retiring from Wolf Trap and from the opera industry in a few months.
Transitions such as this one comprise a whirlwind of emotions and frenzied activity, and the ride has only just begun. Wolf Trap has released a beautiful and slightly embarrassing press release, and I’ve been in touch personally with many of the people without whose support my career would not have been possible. As usual, over the next few months we have a season to program, artists to engage, and a summer’s worth of performances to promote. And this time, over top of all that annual activity, there’s an exciting shift in leadership.
My colleague Lee Anne Myslewski will be stepping into my job, and I cannot begin to express the excitement I feel about the future of Wolf Trap Opera under her leadership. She and her network of emerging arts leaders are beginning to transform our industry in the best way – honoring the best in our art form while identifying and amplifying new ways in which opera can speak to us in the 21st century. It’s the beginning of a new era, for opera and for Wolf Trap. I have to trust that I’ve contributed to what brought us to this place, but there are exciting new chapters out there on the horizon, and it’s time for me to step aside and allow others to write them.
I am grateful for the support and friendship of my Wolf Trap coworkers, WTO’s donors and patrons, and the web of colleagues that stretches across the globe. But everything pales next to the way in which I will miss the young artists that graced my life every summer. Hundreds of them in the last few decades. They taught me courage, optimism, grace, and empathy. And they kept me (relatively:)) young. It was the singular joy of my professional life to watch them grow into their careers, find their voices, and make their unique artistic contributions to the world.
Arts administrators often toil long past retirement age, and I offer my utmost admiration for and gratitude to those who do. I hold one of the hands-down best jobs in our industry, and it’s not easy to leave it. So why go? Phrases like “spending more time with family” and “exploring life outside of work” are too often misused as code for something else. But in this case, they are the unvarnished truth. And they are strengthened by the fact that I know my beloved WTO will thrive during and after this transition. I’m ready, Lee Anne is ready. Ready, set, go!
Over the last few years, my private life has overflowed with events both joyful and challenging. I have adult children who are two of my best friends, and they now have children of their own that I want to get to know and help to grow. After 38 years of marriage, my husband and I deserve some time together to explore life outside work. I have a parent who is ill, and I was forever changed by the too-early death of my younger brother a couple of years ago. And on the personal front, I am keen to spend more time outdoors, re-engage with music as an amateur, and renew personal connections that have been pushed aside by work. I am simply craving a transition to a new phase of life that will afford me more time and energy for the people and things I love.
Even though I have a to-do list of aspirations much longer than time will allow, I am resisting the urge to make a schedule and a checklist. Truth is, I never excelled at the Five Year Plan during my career, and there’s no reason for me to get good at it now. But I do know that I will need at least this first year to take a deep breath, and during that time I will not be considering any requests for opera-related consulting or volunteering.
I have truly appreciated my blog readership over the years, and since this vehicle was founded in pursuit of transparency, I felt that a TMI post devoted to my retirement announcement was in order. :) Thanks for reading.
For now, back to work…There’s a lot to be done!
Photo: View from our property in the hills of WV, something that I plan on seeing more often