A long-distance marriage

Dear Reader,

Welcome to my first blog!  

I am starting this blog not because I feel that I have anything particularly important or different to say, but that several people have asked me to start a blog, including my husband, Peter.  He and I are currently involved in one example of the ever-increasingly common modern phenomenon known as the "long-distance marriage."  Why, you ask, would any couple in their right minds put themselves and their relationship through that?  Well, it comes down to questions of career, and in my case, schooling.  

Peter and I are based in Denver, together.  We have a lovely house in Englewood, just south of Denver's limit (as a matter of fact, the street on which we live is the dividing line between the two cities; our neighbors across the street live in Denver, and we in Englewood).  Peter is a great drummer (jazz is his preferred genre, but he can play just about anything, and living in a place like Colorado necessitates that he does).  He is also a terrific drum teacher, and he has a high-tech teaching studio in our finished basement, which also houses a growing collection of drums and drum equipment.  In addition, he is currently teaching himself Pro Tools and getting into recording engineering.  He is making a good living, and his career is currently Denver-dependent.

Then there's me.  While Peter is a Denver native, and after 25 years of living on the East Coast (we met in 2006 while we were both living in New York City) is very happy to be back in Colorado for the lifestyle, I am a transplanted North-Easterner.  I grew up in Mid-Coast Maine, which is still to me the best place on earth - except if you want the kind of musical career that depends on one living in at least a large-ish city.  I spent a bunch of years in New York, during which time I had a full-time job for the Artist Management firm Jonathan Wentworth Associates, Ltd., and sang on the side.  Had I had more confidence at the time, I would have not stayed long in the office job, but instead tried to be a full-time freelance singer.  However, I was too worried about keeping a roof over my head and the bills paid - you know, that feeling of security that comes with a steady pay check can be really addictive!  Plus, I was still working in classical music, and was surrounded by musicians all the time.  I had the best co-workers in the whole world, and the President of the company, Kenneth Wentworth, became like a father to me.  Even with a full-time day job, I managed to do quite a bit of singing!  

Just when I had given notice at my job after six years, and planned to finally make a go of a singing career in New York... I met Peter and fell in love.  Peter was an answer to my prayers... and he was moving back to Colorado in three months!  It was a year and a half of a long-distance relationship (yes, we've been through this before!) before I moved out to Denver - and while I was in love with New York too and was quite resistant to the idea of living in Denver (my first year there was one of the worst of my life), it too has proved to be an answer to my prayers.  I had always been pulled toward the country (rural Maine) and the big city (New York), and believed that nothing in between could ever do - yet the part of me that loved being surrounded by nature was starved and withering away in New York.  I had long prayed to find a place where I could be happy, where I could have both culture and nature.  Though I didn't want to move to Denver in the first place, it has been that very place for me, where culture and nature are both accessible.  Of course, having both means making some sacrifices, especially if one is not rich, which we are not: one has to either live in a smaller city, or outside a larger city.  Denver is a very green city, for the most part: it has lots of parks and tree-lined streets (though most of the grass and trees were brought in and planted because they are not native).  It is also close to the mountains, and though it is next to impossible for two busy musicians to get out of the city, we at least see the mountains every day.  The cultural scene there is growing - there are paid gigs to be had for singers and instrumentalists alike, in a variety of genres, but most musicians still need to either teach or have a "day gig," as it is difficult to make enough on playing alone.  Since Peter and I couldn't see at first how we could survive with two freelancers in the household, I took a full-time job, again in music administration - this time as Music Administrator at Saint John's Episcopal Cathedral.  Again, I was glad to be working in music and surrounded by musicians; the Director of Music, Stephen Tappe, is one of finest musicians with whom I have had the pleasure of working closely, and he is also one of my very best friends in Colorado, as have been the fabulous organists who have been his assistants, Richard Robertson and Lyn Loewi; I was also a staff singer in the Cathedral Choir, which became my main community of friends; the parish community as a whole was a wonderful extended family which I came to adore, and I was blessed with many great colleagues; and, through the Cathedral's concert series, I became acquainted with various conductors and other musicians with whom I have now sung - and oh yes, I did quite a bit of singing on the side!  

Once again loyalty and love kept me in a job for longer than I really should have been in it.  All the while I was in the office at Saint John's, I felt torn between the job and community to which I was devoted, and talking myself into being content to use the administrative gifts that God had given me (yes, I AM a good administrator!), and following another, more powerful call, to use God's FIRST and primary gift to me - my voice - more fully than I was able to do in that situation.  While most days I could dive whole-heartedly into the job at hand, keep busy with singing gigs and other activities (I was on the Board of Directors of the Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado for two years, among other things), and lap up the wonderful love and friendship that surrounded me - inside my life was one of longing and discontent, because I identify myself so strongly by what I do.  

OK...  So then I decided that school was an answer.  Getting my Master's degree in singing at a music conservatory would serve as the transition between the life that I've lived - one of working a full-time day job and singing on the side - to a full-time singing career, perhaps with teaching on the side to supplement.  I have long wanted a conservatory experience - to immerse myself in music, to eat, sleep, and breathe it for several years, to go through the intensity of a refiner's fire and come out a significantly more polished musician on the other side.  I did my undergraduate degree at Sarah Lawrence College, a liberal arts environment, which was exactly what I wanted at that stage, but certainly didn't achieve that intensive music-only experience there; I applied to master's programs around 2005 or so, but at that time I was a raging insomniac without a cure, my voice sounded terrible, and I was not accepted anywhere.  This was devastating, and the timing has not seemed right again until now.  Of course, if I had been accepted in 2005, I might not have met Peter, might not have moved to Colorado, might not be married and have the beautiful life we have together - so, as bleak as it seemed at one time, it has all worked out right.  I was accepted last year by The Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University, which was my first choice.  I have no idea how or why they let me in, but I am so grateful and overjoyed, and often have to pinch myself!  

That brings me back to the start of this blog entry - I got into Peabody.  I don't believe that anything could have kept me from attending.  Peabody is in Baltimore - over 1600 miles from Denver.  Peter toyed with the idea of moving our entire household to Maryland, but with great concern and stress.  When a freelance musician moves to a new place, it takes at least a couple of years before he gets any semblance of a career going, as it takes time to build contacts and become known.  If Peter started out in the Maryland/DC market, he'd just be getting things going when I was graduating and ready to leave.  Thus, he stays in Colorado, and I live with a roommate (the wonderful Katie Schmidt, a fellow Peabody voice student also from Denver) in Baltimore.  This situation allows us both to be ourselves and pursue our own career dreams and goals.  After school, we'll decide where to be and be there together.  Will it be Denver?  We're not sure.  We both love Denver and our friends there, and yet I'm not sure that there are enough opportunities there for what I want to do.  I may need us to move back to the East, but I'm dreadfully worried about uprooting Peter from the place he loves the most.  What happens when an ocean girl marries a mountain man?  This, this is what happens!  

And yet, somehow, so far we are making it work.  I thank God that I have a husband who supports me in my dreams; I still fret about the future, and how we will survive financially, and he assures me that everything will be alright.  I don't know how I could even think about really pursuing this life, this life of a freelance musician, without him.  

Is the long-distance marriage doomed to fall apart?  It depends on the people involved.  I've had past relationships in which long distance tore us inside-out because of co-dependent behavior, a belief that we couldn't exist without the other person, that we could only bear all or nothing.  But Peter and I are both independent spirits, who keep ourselves so busy that the time passes quickly between visits.  We talk daily, and that keeps us connected.  We trust, honor, and support one another.  And most of all, we each choose the other.  

You may have guessed by now that I am not exactly starting out my master's degree and career as a sprightly early twenty-something!  As I look around the school, I have the sense on one hand that we are all the same age, AND at the same time the painful knowledge of how much older I am than everyone else.  That, however, is a subject for another day.  Have you ever had the feeling that you are living someone else's life?  I did, for a long time... but now I realize that though it has had some unexpected twists and turns, and that my path is an unusual one, it is indeed MY path and MY life - and it is rich, full, and good.