There are times in life when one’s inner voice strongly suggests that it’s high time for a break. While I honestly haven’t always paid close enough attention to that voice inside, this time I did—and was so glad I stopped pushing thru mental and physical exhaustion, general fuzziness, and intermittent lack of motivation. I’ve always had a pretty strong work ethic, and suffer feelings of substantial guilt and irritation whenever I lie fallow for too long. But this time, I most definitely heeded the call for rest and reinvigoration, and was fortunate to receive a substantial period of leisure and travel—well earned, I think. It seems that many people operate under the assumption that arts or musical work is primarily joyful and energizing, so we couldn’t possibly burn out, right? But the mountain of effort and preparation that often goes into just a few minutes is usually hidden to the casual observer. So I very much appreciated the opportunity to take some much-needed personal time away from work, although I DID miss everyone at UUCC, especially our beloved Chalice Choir. I am truly grateful to the members of UUCC, the Executive Team and Board, who understand the necessity of long-working church staff to take periodic sabbaticals, and was both happy and humbled that everyone gave the option their blessing!
While if I had the opportunity to do it all over again, I would probably have gone someplace remote and simply stayed put, so to speak. But I am glad that I took the opportunity to travel to several different locales, reacquaint some old sights from my past, visit long-time friends, and even experience a few new places. This time last year, the very thought of taking a sabbatical seemed like a far-fetched fantasy, and I worried that if I DID decide to go ahead with my plans, that COVID would prevent me from being able to travel anywhere—particularly anywhere that I need to fly. I feel so lucky that the vaccines I had enabled me (and many others) to travel by air, and enjoy some safe vacation time even unmasked. With the rise of the new COVID Delta variant, and reinstated restrictions that make it seem like the movie “Groundhog Day”, I thank my lucky stars I had my time when I did. My travels took me to Austin, TX; Charlotte, NC; Marco Island, FL; Gatlinburg, TN; and Newport, RI. I also got to spend a lovely vacation getaway with my parents, who are both turning 80 this year.
Honestly, I didn’t practice the piano much—I had planned to make a recording in March, but it didn’t pan out, and in a way, I am relieved. I realized that my arms and hands were also crying out for a break—so much so that I ended up seeking out some Rolfing Treatments as well as Chinese Acupuncture for some ongoing muscle spasms that I have been experiencing for a couple years now, aggravated also by exercise/working out with weights. My body seems happy with that break, and grateful to have the respite. It is pretty overwhelming when I realize how much wear and tear years and years of heavy piano-playing has inflicted on my body. I consider myself a relatively healthy pianist, in general (a couple bouts of tennis elbow, but no other tendonitis, carpal tunnel or other affliction that sometime befalls musicians)—but it’s difficult to avoid the cumulative efforts of 50+ years at the instrument.
Although I didn’t practice the piano much, and my sabbatical was fully intended to be an absolute non-work interval, I DID help myself to a good bit of reading. In particular, I finally had the time to read a book that was given to all the staff as a resource, “Salsa, Soul and Spirit” (about Leadership in a Multicultural Age), as well as the most recent to me on Choral Conducting, called “Evoking Sound”, by James Jordan of Westminster Choir College fame. At the very least, I wanted to be able to formulate some new thoughts and ideas regarding church and choir, somewhere in the very back of my mind, while my other brain functions rested.
I am anxious to be working again, and eager (as I am sure you all are) to be back in the building and sanctuary for services. However, I remain sober and only cautiously optimistic about the timing of that happening for us at UUCC, given the recent spike in COVID infections.
I want to thank the choir for remaining in virtual rehearsal and work during the months of March and April while I was away, so that they could offer two additional anthems for services during that period. And I was thrilled and humbled to find out that the entire collection of their virtual videos during the pandemic was offered up for viewing and listening pleasure during the Annual Meeting! Of course, none of it could have continued without the stalwart efforts of Alan and Laurie Coltri, as well as Ross Martin—it always takes a village, and our village is full of generous and highly capable geniuses. Aren’t we lucky??!!
Finally, I’d like to express my deepest gratitude to the substitute pianists who served in my absence so willingly: Tom Monroe, Valerie Hsu, and Jeremy Rea. Without their contributions, a substantial sabbatical break wouldn’t have been possible. Plus, it’s good to have as many UUCC members and friends play for services whenever possible… and of course, it’s also good to be missed. 😊
I certainly missed YOU, UUCC—and am content and fortunate to be back in your weekly company.
In great hope for the future,
So glad that your sabbatical was relaxing and full of the people you love, and equally glad that you have returned to us, Michael.
We missed you and glad you are back! Glad you got a needed and deserved rest. Anytime you want to re-start your fabulous Monday evening zoom concerts – just let us know!
Michael, thank you for taking the time to let us know of your travels and wonderful visits with the people you know and love. And yes, we are very happy that you are back, more refreshed and ready to make music with us. We missed you, but we are also glad you were able to make such worthwhile use of your time away, truly.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Michael, on your sabbatical and return.
Kay Armstrong Baker
What a great picture of you on a sail boat. The smile on your face says it all!. I’m so glad you could take some time. I’ll look forward to “seeing” you next month.
Welcome back, Michael!
Michael – Loved your happy music this AM at ZOOM service (August 15 ). And happy to see your prestidigital fingers as lively as ever . Maybe someday you can also do some Mozart for us. I regard him as the composer who had the most fun of any of those European males. Regards John Guy
So glad you’re back, Michael. Look forward to your music and to the new series of concerts.