by Melanie Kupchynsky
When my kids were little, they used to hide under the table on their birthday when it was time to have cake and sing. While other children would sit there proudly, basking in the attention, mine would have to be coaxed out of hiding to blow out the candles. It must be genetic. Even though I am on stage four times per week, I have never loved that feeling of "all eyes on me". What I do love is making music as part of an amazing violin section in one of the world's best orchestras led by one of the greatest conductors alive.
Who was at that very moment walking towards me with a bouquet.
In a lovely, old-world gesture, when our Maestro receives flowers at the end of a tour concert he usually hands them to one of the ladies of the orchestra. Tonight that lady was me.
I think I know why it happened. Right before the last note of the Tchaikovsky Fourth Symphony, as I was watching him for the final cue, our eyes met for a split second, and I could tell that he was pleased. I'm not sure if everything I was thinking and feeling showed on my face, but it went something like this: "Russian music sure sounds different to me when it is performed closer to Russia, without an ocean in between.....I wonder how the Chinese people feel about Russian music......Wow, I love how Maestro is really firing up this last page, it's faster than last time but it's like the orchestra isn't even breaking a sweat......the percussion section sounds fantastic.....let's see where he is going to put this last note....BOOM! applause......
In that endless moment between the realization that it was going to be me, a frumpy middle-aged second violin section player, and him actually handing the flowers to me, it went something like this: "there are so many women who deserve this more than I do.....there's Jen whose piccolo solo was absolutely dazzling.....Cynthia is killer great on that crazy hard cymbal part...Sylvia changed Baird's broken string during the first movement in nothing flat and TURNED HIS PAGE while doing so....and so many others....everyone, really."
And then I remembered. Maestro Muti isn't just a fantastic conductor, he is also a truly great leader. One who inspires us to better our best every chance we get. And who makes each of us believe that we have an important contribution to make to our art.
And all I could say to him was: "Thank you!"