Gigging on the weekend

This weekend, like many weekends, I had a gig. I own a business called The Oread Strings in which I hire musicians to provide live music for events. I almost always play cello at the events I coordinate. This weekend, my group performed at a cocktail hour at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in KCMO.
The weather was gorgeous – about 80 degrees and clear skies. My quartet was scheduled to begin performing at 6:00 pm, so I left Lawrence at 4:30, with plenty of time to fill up my gas tank on the way out of town and arrive at 5:30. I like to be early to events I’m coordinating, especially ones where garage parking, security checks, and long walks to the performance location are necessary.
After signing in at the security desk of the employee entrance to the Nelson, I was escorted a second floor reception area. This was the wrong place – I was looking for the East Sculpture Terrace. I had to make my way back downstairs and ask for directions. I finally made my way to the correct location – there were high top tables set up, two bars, and four chairs for the musicians.
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I put down my cello, music, and music stand, and arranged the chairs in correct playing position for the quartet. I always look for a shady spot to set up because direct sunlight is harmful to the varnish of violins, violas, and cellos. Fortunately, I found the perfect place to set up – shaded by a couple of small trees.
The other three musicians arrived right on schedule, at about 5:45. We tuned up and began playing as the guests began to arrive at 6:00. The event was very elegant – women wore long dresses, men wore tuxedos. Our quartet helped set the ambience for the evening.
At 7:00 sharp, the wedding coordinator came over to me an let me know that it was time for the guests to be escorted to the dining room, and that we should stop playing. Weddings are usually kept on a very strict schedule, so this was no surprise to me. Several of the guests told us they liked our music as we were packing up and leaving. It always feels good to get some positive recognition.
We said our goodbyes, gave hugs and kudos. The musicians I hire are good friends of mine, who I usually only get to see during gigs. I am grateful for the opportunity to have a little time to catch up each time we work together. Until the next gig…
By Ellen

Trying Something New

This weekend was Labor Day weekend so we had an extra day off. My husband suggested that we take a long bike ride together, and I thought that sounded fun. He plotted a route for us that would take us through the country, on gravel roads, for about 20 miles. This seemed manageable to me – I have done 20 mile rides before and it was ok. We left the house at 10:18 am. Our route started on the levee trail by the river. This was a nice place to ride. Very picturesque, and the gravel was small – pea sized.
When we came to the end of the levee trail, we got to the real stuff. The gravel was much bigger. The ground was very inconsistent – in some spots it was squishy, in some spots it was hard. Pedaling was much harder on a gravel road than it is on pavement. I felt like I was working twice as hard and going twice as slowly. It was also very hot and humid, and I had a close encounter with a large dog who seemed to think I was an intruder on his turf. The uphills were really tough, but the downhills were pretty fun.
There were moments during the ride when I felt I simply wanted to quit. I wanted to get off my bike and walk, but I new that we were out in the middle of the country and there was no way to get home, except to bike.
Arriving back home, about 1:00, I felt exhausted and relieved to be home. Our bikes were filthy because when you ride on gravel roads there is so much dust that gets kicked up. We cleaned our bikes thoroughly and our ride was complete.
My husband loves cycling on gravel. In fact, he plans to train for the Dirty Kanza 200 in 2018, a 200 mile gravel race in the Flint Hills. He loves endurance sports. Cycling and trail running are both passions of his. I tend to prefer shorter-time-period and lower impact activities like yoga, swimming, and weight-lifting. I’m not sure if I will be doing any more gravel cycling, but I’m glad I tried it. And now I have a better idea of what my husband is experiencing when he goes out for a 3-hour ride on a Saturday morning.
What is something you have always wanted to try?
By Ellen

Why Volunteer?

My most recent experience with volunteering was for Audio Reader. Audio Reader is a service for the blind and visually impaired, in which a network of volunteers read daily newspapers, magazines, and books on-air. The service is free to any person whose eyesight or physical condition prevent the ability to read newspapers or books. Listeners receive a specially tuned radio, on loan from Audio Reader, which is how they are able to access Audio Reader content. Volunteers read from the Kansas Public Radio studios on the KU campus.
I was an Audio Reader volunteer for about 6 months, and it was a good experience. I got to know the friendly staff who worked for Audio Reader. I read newspaper articles from the Topeka Capital Journal, as well as the weekly HyVee ad. This not only helped me stay up-to-date on local and regional news, as well as grocery store deals, but it allowed me to practice reading out-loud, for clarity and accuracy, a very useful skill.
The reason I volunteered for Audio Reader is because I knew several people who had volunteered there, and had had good experiences with it. I was also exploring new career opportunities at the time, and was interested in possibly pursuing a career in radio. This experience gave me a taste of what that might be like.
Volunteering is a fantastic way to gain skills and new experiences, all while doing some good in the world. Where are you volunteering these days?
By Ellen