It was a clear, cool night in Rosario, Argentina. I was there on tour as a bassist, with a Broadway review group.
We were staying with host families for the night, and since I was the only female musician in the group, a family of musicians requested that I stay with them.
Their house was long – railroad style, like the apartments on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, with a baby grand piano in the living room – the first thing you saw when you walked into the house.
We spent most of the night playing duets: cello & piano, piano & violin, English horn & cello…and then, the daughter asked me if I had ever heard the tango “Malena”.
The first few notes played over the speakers – the pulsing of the piano alongside a sad accordion. It sounds silly to say now, but it was as if my whole life became meaningful at that moment, with those notes. I existed for a purpose! I had a song!
From the moment I was handed my first violin, I knew I wanted to be a musician. I played in all my school’s orchestras, bands, I dabbled in fiddle, I won concerto competitions. When I asked if I could play violin in my high school’s jazz band, my teacher said “no, but you can play bass.” I taught myself how to play bass over the weekend, and came back ready to play jazz. I played in the SLC Olympics Closing Ceremonies. I played with Harry Connick Jr. and Moby. I missed my senior prom to attend a Joshua Bell concert.
And then, after 18 years of playing, I found myself in a doctor’s office. I will never forget that day, the cold exam table, the crinkle of the tissue paper underneath me. I had Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, a condition that made it very painful to play an instrument, and very dangerous as well. I finished out the semester, and gave up playing forever.
After college I went through a series of careers. I worked as a litigation secretary in my dad’s law firm, interned at Warner Music, moved to Universal Music, Film Independent, a few entertainment law firms, and then somehow I landed at Time magazine in New York. In New York I pursued tango dancing! I actually got pretty good at it! But it reminded me of that night, in Argentina. It reminded me of all the years of training and experience I had in music – and the passion I once had for classical music. I quit my job at Time, to pursue a job in classical music advocacy.
Since beginning my advocacy job, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been tango dancing. I wish I could go more often. There’s nothing quite like dancing the tango. You learn to read the smallest cues given by your partner. Your frame is connected to his – your breath in synch. You are perfectly balanced, and grounded to the earth beneath you. Your feet glide backwards across the floor and you feel like you are a part of something bigger than yourself. I hope that some day I will be able to travel back to Buenos Aires and feel that initial spark I felt so many years ago.