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Three Things My Research Taught Me, Part 3

Thing Number Three: Intellectual pursuits will only take one so far.

When I returned to Queens College for my music degree (my second BA), I knew I wanted to research music by women and get a PhD. When I finished my PhD at Harvard, I had not a clue what I wanted to do. Making musicology was not the same thing as making music. Instead of feeling inspired by my studies, I had felt increasingly burned out and stressed out, and had come to see the ego-driven academic music world as a place hostile to body, mind and soul.

I spent a decade recovering my joy in music-making after that, running my opera company and forging a singing career. Alas, I found that joy was lacking in the equally ego-driven classical music world. Then, as I gave my talks on operas composed by women, people would say, “Wow, you’re really passionate about this subject.” But was I? I cared about Maria Antonia’s music, but as for the rest, well, I felt it was important that people know about it, but that was all.

I came to realize that I really didn’t care for opera whether by women or men. Admittedly, operas composed by women have more interesting points of view on the usual themes of love and marriage than do operas by men, but the arias still fall into four basic types: 1) I love you, you don’t love me; 2) You love me, I don’t love you; 3) We hate each other; and 4) We love each other. Yawn. As a vocalist and listener, this is not the sort of music that floats my boat.

So while my research was/is groundbreaking, it’s time for someone with a passion for the genre to build upon it. Like many of the composers I researched, I’ve moved on. Francesca Caccini married into the minor nobility and, no longer at the beck and call of the Medici, apparently kept her music-making a private passion. Maria Antonia stopped composing and singing her own operas in order to tend to political matters in a Saxony devastated by the Seven Years’ War. Louise Bertin removed herself from the political and hostile Parisian opera world to compose sacred music for private audiences.

The path of inspiration, and of success, is the path of the heart, and in 2010, Spirit brought me inspiration from a completely unexpected place—Wonderland. Over a decade later, the world conjured by Lewis Carroll continues to surprise and delight me and fuel my creative fire. I invite you to come down the rabbit hole with me and discover ways to make every day a frabjous day.

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