two days in the life of Music in Familiar Spaces

We wanted to share with you a little snapshot of our life on the road by looking in detail at a 48-hour period. While no two days have been same over these last five months, this will give you some idea about the day-to-day happenings with Music in Familiar Spaces.

Before getting to that, a quick summary of what we’ve been up to since our last blog post:

A concert in Dallas in partnership with Open Classical. Photo: Serkan Zanagar

A concert in Dallas in partnership with Open Classical. Photo: Serkan Zanagar

After returning from our brief detour in Europe (which was wonderful!) we jumped right into concerts and teaching in the Dallas area, presenting three different programs over a course of a week to three amazingly supportive audiences. We want to again thank Glenn & Lauren Stroh and their church St Peter’s Episcopal Church in McKinney, as well as Open Classical (a great organization based in Dallas!) for all their support in making our time in Dallas not only a great success, but a lot of fun too!

From Dallas we headed to Lubbock in west Texas where Steuart gave a master class at Texas Tech and a concert at the town’s local cafe. We were thrilled to have so many students in the audience, and were really grateful for the support of the university’s music professors during our visit, especially our host and violist extraordinaire Kimberly Sparr and her husband and composer D.J.

Steuart taught a class to the students at Texas Tech in Lubbock. 

Steuart taught a class to the students at Texas Tech in Lubbock. 

A packed house at J&B Coffee in Lubock

A packed house at J&B Coffee in Lubock

Now for 48 hours in the life of Music in Familiar Spaces:

Monday, February 22

MORNING – this morning we woke up in one of the most beautiful places in the world: Palo Duro Canyon in west Texas, the second largest canyon in America. Several people had recommended that we should stop at Palo Duro on our way from Lubbock to Oklahoma, so we made last-minute plans to camp there for a night. Most of the people who had been camping over the weekend had left, leaving us with a quiet, uncrowded, absolutely stunning canyon to explore. We climbed up canyon walls, hiked to a little cave, cooked an amazing dinner in our little kitchen, drank coffee on top of a big rock in the middle of canyon and thought “now this is special. This is why people go on road trips. This is magical.” To top it all off, we had no cell phone reception and no internet! A true break.

Our camping ground in Palo Duro Canyon

Our camping ground in Palo Duro Canyon

AFTERNOON – when it came time to leave we packed up our trailer (a routine we are now experts in). We removed the art from the walls so that they don’t fall off while we’re driving, emptied and stored the grey water tank, closed the fresh water tank, secured the heater, kitchen cart, instruments, etc. with bungee cords, turned off the gas, closed the fan, stored the tea pot, secured the composting toilet, opened the front and back window shades, closed the windows, put the trailer step in, brought the refrigerator into the car to be plugged in while we’re driving, attached the trailer to car, got Lucy, got Lucy’s water bowl, reviewed our check-list and one hour (or so) later, we were off! On our way out we met a sweet local couple who asked about the Music in Familiar Spaces logo on the side of our trailer, and they shared with us a bit about the history of the canyon and region. One of the coolest things about the tour is getting to meet people who have such interesting stories and such different lives.

Lucy keeps Steuart company while he practices

Lucy keeps Steuart company while he practices

EVENING – the drive from Palo Duro Canyon to our next stop, Oklahoma City is ordinarily a 4.5-hour drive, but with our 55 mile per hour pace (while pulling the trailer) and frequent stops for Lucy, we knew it would take us closer to 6.5 hours. We decided to not rush, and stopped just outside of Oklahoma City for the night. Steuart drove for the first few hours while Michelle worked on her laptop in the front seat, answering emails that came in over the internet-less 24 hours in the canyon. When Michelle took the wheel, Steuart worked on his own email and called a few composer friends about a new project he is working on. After 5 hours on the road we pulled into a Walmart parking lot to sleep for the night – it was just about the opposite setting from what we had just left, but you can’t beat the convenience, right? We cooked dinner, Steuart practiced a bit in the trailer, and Michelle worked on the computer, setting up the next round of concerts. 

Tuesday, February 23

MORNING – we had a quick breakfast, filled up the gas tank, packed up and headed out before it got too late. We had only an hour and half more of driving before we arrived at our next stop, a campground at a state park just outside of Oklahoma City. The majority of our nights on this tour are spent “camping” in friends (or friends of friends) driveways. This saves us a lot of money, but we didn’t know anyone in Oklahoma City, so we booked a night at the nearby state park (you can usually count on these camp grounds to be much nicer than the local RV park).

The rain and wind fought hard, but Steuart secured the tarp and it stayed!

The rain and wind fought hard, but Steuart secured the tarp and it stayed!

AFTERNOON – when we arrived at Thunderbird Lake State Park the rain was coming down and the wind was blowing hard, with a wind chill around 20 degrees F. Our campsite was right on the lake, which would ordinarily be wonderful, but not so in a rain storm. Steuart parked, opened the door to the trailer only to see a vintage trailer owner’s worst nightmare: a puddle of rain water on the floor with water spilling in through the ceiling fan. Completely frantic amidst the continuing rain, Steuart grabbed towels (and dirty laundry) to mop up the floor and wipe down his cello case (on which a good bit of water had splashed), and dug the tarp out of the closet. By this time Michelle had heard his yelling and she equally frantically started scrambling for bungee cords to use to tie the tarp down over the roof. The wind was so strong that it was almost an impossible task. We had no ladder, and the trailer was still attached to the car. Steuart, like the super hero he is, climbed on the roof of the car and jumped onto the roof of the trailer. The only thing that could keep the tarp from blowing away, together with the bungee cords, was piling rocks onto the roof.

Once relatively secure, Steuart jumped down from the roof and came inside to warm his completely frozen hands (did we mention he had to play a concert in a few hours?). We turned on the propane heater to try to dry out the ceiling and warm our bodies. We looked up the forecast and it was only meant to rain for another two hours. We knew that moving the trailer now, exposing the roof without the tarp, would be worse than staying put. So we hunkered down, made some hot tea and prayed that the tarp wouldn’t blow away.

EVENING – as the rain started to let up we had to leave for the concert at Anthem Brewing, which was about 40 minutes away. With his fingers now unfrozen, Steuart packed up his cello, stool, stand and music, and Michelle packed up her “concert box” with the signs, sign-ups sheets, postcards, merchandise, etc., and they drove off, leaving the trailer in the hands of nature (and a tarp).

We arrived at the brewery to set-up about an hour and a half before the concert. This particular concert had had a ton of interest on facebook, so despite the awful weather, we were optimistic for a good crowd. Steuart warmed up in the space – you’d be surprised how many breweries have great acoustics for solo cello – and Michelle setup her welcome table. The brewery staff were excited and supportive, and poured us small samples of the three excellent brews which they had paired with the three Bach suites. By 7:00, the place was packed, apparently their biggest crowd yet for an event.

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People arrived already excited, already thanking us for coming, even before Steuart had played a note. After Michelle welcomed the crowd and told them a bit about Music in Familiar Spaces, Steuart started by explaining the concept behind “Bach & Beer”, and then started to play. It is always so neat to hear and feel the change in the room once Steuart starts to play. The concert in Oklahoma City attracted a great mix of older and younger people, artists, musicians, real estate agents, lawyers and truck drivers, all of whom listened with great attention and thanked Steuart with their loud and drawn out applause.

We always stick around for a while after the concerts. Steuart invites people to come look at the cello, feel the gut strings, and see the manuscripts off of which he is reading. Michelle talks to people about how it is living on the road, and how it has been to setup concerts in so many different areas of the country. The attentive brewery staff made sure that we had a chance to enjoy some beer now that the work was finished, and people slowly trickled out, signing up for our newsletter and purchasing custom zip drives and Bach & Beer bottle openers on their way out.

We headed back to the trailer and thankfully the tarp had stayed in place and kept our home dry. We ate a small snack as a late dinner, and Michelle went straight to bed. Steuart is always wired after a concert, so he stayed up and did some planning for future projects.

The next morning the sun was shining and we had an hour or so to enjoy the lake (especially Lucy) before packing up to go to the next city.

There you have it. A sample of the day-to-day joys, challenges, exhaustion, encouragement and adventures of life on the road with Music in Familiar Spaces. Thanks for reading!