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Avant Parenting

I just got back from a yearly religious retreat. OK, I say that tongue-in-cheek, but it’s sort of like that for me. Every year something else comes up for the first Sunday in June and I have to say, Sorry, I have to go to the Avant Garden Party.

What is THAT? you’re probably wondering. You may not realize that Santa Cruz is a locus of creativity for the New Music community. WHO are they and WHAT is New Music?

I remember long ago in college I asked a new friend about his music and he said sheepishly, “Well, I guess it’s something called “New Music”.” You could hear the capital letters in what he said. That was at Stanford University, which at the time had an amazing group of people working at the Computer Music Lab (CCRMA, pronounced “karma”).

Fast forward years of various stuff happening and I move to Santa Cruz to end the Love Commute. I had been living in San Francisco, and that was the place I’d always wanted to live, but my future husband was living in Santa Cruz, and that was the place he always was going to live. So we compromised (ahem) and here I am.

Our house-hunting had a composer theme. The first house we considered was owned by a lesser-known New Music composer, George Barati. Then we saw a house out in the boonies, a few removed from Lou Harrison’s house. The month we moved in Lou was featured in the New Yorker (also this article). I don’t think that at that time I knew about Lou’s connections to other local New Music outlets, but around the same time I saw an ad for New Music Works and later for the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music. I’ve become an ardent follower of both.

The web of connectivity is complex, but the important thing to know is that the Avant Garden Party started in Lou’s garden, and it was a lovely one. When we first moved in, our neighbor George was renting a cabin from Lou. George was Lou’s gardener at the time. George was gruff but terribly kind. He would leave baskets of turnips on our porch, and name for me the wonderful flowers he grew. He also liked to walk around his property naked, which was a charming addition to his character.

The Avant Garden Party was taken over at some point by New Music Works, which is the group founded by the wonderfully named Phil Collins (no, not that Phil Collins, though they bear some resemblance). Since I moved here, I have attempted to go to the AGP every year. Some years conspired against me, but for the last couple of years I’ve had a great excuse: the choral group I sing with, Ariose Singers, led by the amazingly talented Mickey McGushin, has been performing there. So not only do I love the AGP for what it is, but now I feel like I am part of it, which is really fun and deeply moving for me.

And how does this relate to parenting, the subject of this blog? Well, as you may have noticed if you are a parent, everything comes around to parenting when you have kids. And what this has to do with parenting, for me, is that part of being a good parent is continuing to keep yourself intact. And for me, that’s been the biggest struggle.

When my son was small, I was really feeling caged in. He was a fussy baby and a highly sensitive preschooler, and when I left he felt pain. I knew it and it hurt me as well. It was my husband who pointed out that I had to leave; I had to give my son the space to become himself. Around the time that my husband told me that, I met someone who told me that he’d just joined a newly formed group that was going to sing secular madrigals. I won’t go into that — if you know what that is, bless you. So I joined Ariose at the second rehearsal, and I’ve been going ever since.

Last year my children’s violin teacher scheduled her student recital on top of the AGP; I reluctantly pulled out of the AGP. This year she did it again and I said, well, it’s too bad that we won’t be taking part in the recital. I realized last year that the AGP was something I loved, more deeply than I loved seeing children locked in their battle to make a piece of fashioned wood sing. And I love that, too.

The violin teacher rescheduled the recital. I went to the AGP. It’s all good, and all part of me.

Posted in Parenting.


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