I write from the hills of Dublin, New Hampshire - specifically the grounds of The Dublin School, a private boarding school during the academic year and summer home to the Walden School's Summer Young Musicians Program, where since 1972 young composers have spent their summers completely immersed in the study of music, composition, creativity. Musicians of Ensemble Dal Niente have been here for nine days already, perhaps the longest I've stayed in any one place in the last half year. In addition to the huge privilege of collaborating with Walden faculty composers for a concert of eight brand new pieces, I've also worked with student composers (read: kids) on their first saxophone works.
Now, I live - unapologetically and without fear - in Uptown, Chicago. The neighborhood is diverse, loud, a bit violent, a late waker compared to neighboring neighborhoods (consider Lincoln Square, where moms in yoga pants with strollers fill sidewalks by 7am), and generally not for the squeamish. It suits me. I may not live in fear, but I lock my apartment, my car, and sometimes walk with a sense of purpose. I spend most of my time in places like this.
Imagine my general shock upon arriving at Walden to find that no doors lock. None. My room, the rehearsal space, the campus library, the kitchen, the concert hall, the... Everything is open at all times. Over the initial 12 hours at Walden, my shock transformed to complete disarmament. I've not carried a wallet or keys in over a week. I leave my phone and computer in my (unlocked) room. My saxophones are laying around campus wherever I left them. Psychologically, this is good.
There is a serious amount of trust that happens here; it's not planned or forced, but rather the byproduct of an incredible community of faculty, staff, and students that are here to focus on the creative process of writing and experiencing music.
The kids sing before every meal. And before bed. They seem to care for one another. They are curious, critical, and - even though goofy and aloof - incredibly observant. I met a 13 year old boy who says Schoenberg is the most beautiful music he's ever heard; I also played Radiohead in a garage-style pick-up band for open mic night. I've learned that, given the choice, kids will eat plain noodles whenever they have the opportunity. And this morning I watched a tiny 11 year old girl unapologetically destroy two full plates of bacon. Full. As it turns out, at home she's only allowed to have one piece.
And finally, Mabel and I had our summer camp experience.