I grew up in the westernmost house in the continental United States. If you can find it on the map you still might not be able to find it in on the planet. It is at the ocean-end of a small river valley and is home to a rowdy mix of old ranchers and transplanted east coast back-to-the-Landers of which my parents are a part. From an early age I took piano and violin lessons along with my three brothers and sisters from various teachers in the nearest town two hours away. I was a Suzuki student and until early college was most ambitious and focused as a pianist.
In the summers my family lived outside. We had a luxurious campsite in an alder forest near the river resplendent with several sofas, running water from a small creek, a huge wicker swing, and a big campfire which we would gather around at night to talk and play music. My parents are folk musicians and there were a lot of parties and a lot of singing. We also travelled a bit: to New York City every year to visit relatives, to Europe where I first learned to busque, to fiddle festivals where I won my first competitions, and around the county where I gave my first solo piano recitals.
I was one of six students at the small high school that my parents and other adults created to avoid sending their kids two hours away to a public education facility. I was thirteen years old in my freshman year, having skipped third grade (too tall for second grade) and eighth grade (otherwise, there would only be five which seemed a bit lonely.) I continued taking music theory lessons and private piano and violin lessons in town, attended chamber music workshops, Interlochen Summer Arts Camp, and travelled for a month of every school year with Human Nature, a dance/ theater company directed by a local choreographer.
Had I been accepted to the Havana Conservatory I would probably still be there, enjoying the warmth of a culture that actually supports its artists. As it turned out, I continued with my teachers near home, transferred to Oberlin Conservatory, and then ended up at UC Berkeley via Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz gave me the opportunity to play for a forgiving and fiddle-loving culture willing to trade coffee and baskets of organic vegetables for the pleasure of my ambitious screeching.