Opera Shortstop

I seem to learn difficult things quickly and simple things slowly. It's taken me a long time to realize that one of the best strategies for coping with the busy summer season is to be sure that I get off the mental treadmill for at least an hour a day. And I've learned that one of the best ways to do that is reading fiction.

This week's diversion is Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding, and I'm loving every minute of it even though I know nothing about baseball. (A by-product of being a music industry professional is that weekends and evenings are work time, and that's rarely a good recipe for the making of a sports fan.) But I am newly fascinated by the particular skill set it takes to be a great shortstop.

Performers of all types -- athletes, musicians, actors, public speakers -- know the value of being in the zone. Staying in the now, suspending all critique of what's past and fear of what lies ahead -- it's more difficult than it seems. Thanks to my new book, I am in awe of the skills of the shortstop (baseball aficionados bear with the newbie...) and the way that he must intercept the incoming ball and seamlessly deliver it, integrating the catch with the throw in one fluid motion.

Baseball metaphors abound in popular culture -- curveball, home run, strikeout. Those kinds of references pretty much exhaust what I know about the sport, but this baseball novel has struck a chord. If only we as musicians and producers could only learn the skills of the shortstop... If we could stay in the moment, grounded but flexible, and effortlessly intercept whatever's thrown at us, it would be a marvelous thing. And if we could then, just as gracefully, transform it into an action that is diverted in another, more positive direction, well, it would be beautiful.

I've had a hard line drive hit my way this week, in the form of a change in casting for Giovanni. (If you're a Wolf Trap fan or patron and you want more detail, it's here.) It took a while for me to let go of the past and get in the zone. But now that I'm there, I'm studying the lessons of the shortstop and learning how to intercept, absorb and transform.