It’s been an amazing, surreal 4 years. In my craftsman bungalow in downtown Corvallis, I got the call that I had been invited to Berlin to audition for the fabled Artemis String Quartet. I had one week to prepare two rounds of audition – early, middle and late Beethoven, Dvorak, Shostakovich, Schumann, Brahms, Bartok. I prepared it with our 3-year-old hugging my leg, clearing my schedule and moving into my mother-in-law’s house in Eugene so I could devote every precious moment to score study, practicing and developing a complex musical plan, knowledge of the compositions and the history which surrounded them. When, 10 days later, I called Jason from Berlin at 4 in the morning, saying I got the job – the first American violinist to be in a major European String quartet, I could hear in his voice the entire mixture of everything these 4 years has brought to us – his pride and steadfast belief in me, knowing that he would give up his career for me, that the girls would begin to know me more as a visitor than a mother, and that we would, in 11 days time, be landing in a new country, a new language and culture for us all to learn. And that it would be great. And scary. And that it might just tear us apart. Or it might make us stronger than we had ever been.
It was quick, but we went in with eyes open. Jason and I had been members of the Avalon string quartet in our 20’s, working with the Emerson, Cleveland, Tokyo, Guarneri quartets as well as being closely mentored by Isaac Stern. So – although only one of us was to take this huge career step, it was an advantage for me to have a home partner who not only knew the repertoire and what to expect from a career such as this, but also to know how all-consuming, emotionally complex, and personally difficult a job like this is. On top of it, I was the replacement of a beloved German man who had taken his own life 7 months prior. The quartet has been looking and not finding the answer for these 7 months, until we found each other on that rainy day just off the Gendarmenmarkt in the heart of East Berlin.
Stepping into the ring, I was strong, tough, flexible and ready. I was at my prime, both in terms of my playing, strength of nerves while standing on the greatest stages of the world, and being able to handle the rigors and loneliness of a life on the road. Jason and our girls would meet me as often as we could manage – in London, Vienna, Paris, Prague, Florence – they have been more places than I can even remember. The concerts for me are both crystal clear and a wash of airplanes, trains, after-concert dinners, and bright lights. Writing a weekly column for the London-based music website Slipped Disk kept me feeling my life, processing as I went along.
And, when the last original member decided to retire 3 months ago, I realized that this was when my story would also change. Our girls have been in Germany for half their lives, Jason needs to begin his career again, we want to meet the cousins who have been born since we left – to know what it feels like to make a s’more over a campfire, looking up at the silhouette of a mountain range and covered by a blanket of stars. To be in the place that feels more like home than any place I have ever lived – a place that has the values and freedom I want my girls to grow up in. And that place is Oregon.