2.11.2009

Of Mind and Memory

It's amazing to witness the way the mind and memory operate. I was riding the bus this afternoon when suddenly, for no apparent reason and with no obvious cue (perhaps it's all this focusing on performance I've been doing), I began to recall concerts I had participated in as an undergraduate student--concerts I have not thought about in some time.

Internationally-renowned operatic soprano Gilda Cruz-Romo was a faculty member who coordinated concerts each semester in which students could sign up to present one aria in order to obtain public performance experience. She would decide the order of performance and frequently the concerts were two hours (or more!) in length. I made it a point to participate in every one I could and I think I still have the programs to prove it.

I remember the first conversation I had with her. To participate in these concerts, one had to make an appointment and visit her in her studio to sign a contract agreeing to perform and abide by the guidelines she outlined. There were always two copies of the contract that both she and the potential performer would sign: one for the student to keep and the other for her to hold onto as producer. The purpose of the contract? To emphasize the importance of following through on one's professional commitments. If I recall correctly, there was even a requirement stipulating that at least one week's notice had to be given should one need to cancel.

One line of that first exchange with her is seared into my memory: "Oh, bebita!," she exclaimed in her elegantly operatic Hispanic accent. "If I had eyelashes like yours, I would not have to wear these!", she said, referring to her own false lashes. She exuded this marvelously larger-than-life persona in everything she did and I can see now the appeal for much more learnèd students than I was at the time to want to study with her and bask in that fabulousness.

I can say now, unequivocally, that as shy as I was in her presence, I would not trade those interactions or performance experiences for anything. Part of me is hoping I still have those signed contracts, too.

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