NYO-USA Musician Blogs: Even the Orange Juice Was Different
Horn player Mark Trotter looks back on his NYO-USA experience. Since returning to the United States, Mark has discovered that pictures and words alone cannot adequately convey the thrill of touring China's landmarks, cities, and concert halls, or depict the depth of the relationships formed with his fellow musicians.
The cool wind whispers across stands of intertwined hemlock and elm, shimmering with the sound of softly shifting leaves. Above the treetops, rolling blue skies are patterned with wispy clouds that stretch across the brimming horizon. Far below, a lanky, velvet-black squirrel scampers across the leaf-strewn ground, stamping the faintly damp soil. I lift my cup of orange juice and stare deeper into the woods surrounding Interlochen, Michigan.
Michigan is drastically different from the glimpses of China I saw during NYO-USA’s tour. Over there, imposing skylines pierce the hazy skies as millions bustle about crowded city streets. Exciting, but taxing. Here, there’s green earth, blue skies, abundant wildlife, a quiet hush. It’s relaxing, the perfect environment for collecting thoughts and recovering from my post-tour illness before heading back home to Florida. I take another sip.
NYO-USA's horn section warms up for the orchestra's side-by-side rehearsal with the Hong Kong Youth Symphony Orchestra (HKYSO). (Photo: Chris Lee)
Orange juice. I think back to our Hong Kong post-concert dinner celebration hosted by Sir David Tang. That night, they served orange juice in slightly curved crystal glasses that were cool to touch. I take another sip, letting the memory deepen. In China, orange juice is a staple beverage present at nearly every meal, and as a proud native of the US’s citrus juice capital (Florida), I thoroughly enjoyed the taste of home overseas. But, like so much in the East, even the orange juice was different.
And now, relaxing in Interlochen, I find my inner citrus connoisseur comparing tastes. My American orange juice is thick with a mild tang. China’s is light, sweet, with “barely there” pulp, and a hint of tanginess. As the cool juice briefly settles in my mouth, its delightfully balanced taste reminds me of its Eastern cousin, bringing me back to NYO-USA 2015.
Photo: Chris Lee
Since I’ve gotten back to the States, everyone wants to know: What is China like? How to explain in just a few short sentences what could fill book shelves? I share pictures of the the Terracotta Warriors and the Forbidden City, but my six-inch iPhone screen can’t capture the enormous scope of the Great Wall as it spans 5,500 miles of steeply mountainous terrain. My family can’t truly appreciate the panoramic view of downtown Shanghai snapped from my room high in our hotel. That city’s night skyline glimmered with thousands of lights! But it’s frozen in picturesque standstill on my screen and, like a held breath, it is incomplete, just a promise of more. I have pictures of near-capacity crowds from the musician’s perspective, taken in futuristic performance halls bathed in vibrant hues of purple normally reserved for American rock concerts. But they are mute and therefore incomplete, unable to convey the thrill felt in sold-out Hong Kong as thousands roared before we obliged with an encore.
Frankly, words (i.e., this blog!), just like iPhone photos, are inadequate to describe the NYO-USA 2015 experience. I sit here staring out into these quiescent woods, thinking. Everyone asks about the places—the landmarks, the cities, the concerts. But in these days afterwards, it’s through the sharing of my stories and pictures that I’ve discovered they’re not only hopelessly inadequate, they’re secondary. It’s the things I can’t capture on screen that will endure—the impressions of places made meaningful because of the people.
“We are musicians, scientists, writers, scholars, leaders. And when I see my colleagues in the coming years, perhaps I’ll smile, hum a bar of the Dies Irae, but most of all, I’ll remember.”
The Great Wall was nothing without those who hiked it with me. Performing Symphonie fantastique in Beijing’s egg-domed National Centre for the Performing Arts would not hold any meaning without my friends who wandered the vast backstage hallways beside me. Amid echoes of the Terracotta Warriors, I hear the brilliant flourishes of the NYO-USA Brass Ensemble playing the Vienna Philharmonic Fanfare as the crowd raised their smartphones in unison to capture the moment. I’ll never forget that spot on the Purchase College stage where Charles Dutoit leaned forward to offer a compliment in his low, soft-spoken baritone and gave me … a knuckle bump. And sometimes, I imagine myself back with the “crew” watching Sherlock, all 12 of us crammed onto two twin beds in the Shenzhen hotel to watch the next episode on a 14-inch laptop screen. All of these places hold memories that coalesce with countless others, constantly reminding me of the people who made my summer with NYO truly unforgettable.
I do hope to retrace my steps to the East to rediscover the passion of Chinese classical music, but I know I can never recreate that mix of American talent that defined NYO-USA 2015.
Somehow, I am not sad. I am so thankful for these past four weeks and am certain this was only a beginning. As the members of NYO-USA 2015 fracture across the nation to our respective 37 states, our parting is an opportunity. Some of us will continue with music at elite conservatories while others will enter the realm of academia (though music will always remain close at heart). Simply put, NYO transcends music. It’s a close-knit community of dreamers, and in 10 years, the sky’s the limit. We are musicians, scientists, writers, scholars, leaders. And when I see my colleagues in the coming years, perhaps I’ll smile, hum a bar of the Dies Irae, but most of all, I’ll remember.
I take a last sip of orange juice and rise from my chair to rack my cup in the dishwasher. My horn rests nearby in it’s case, waiting for me. I run my palm against the smooth, un-lacquered brass and pick it up. It’s good to be back.