Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Summer Capricorn

A fringe benefit to facing the unpredictability of life in classical music, due to the never-ending financial struggles and turmoil, is that I have time to catch up on my reading. The books I read are relevant for today, and I believe, years to come, as is the case with "Summer Capricorn".

Terry Row's first novel, "Summer Capricorn" is about Adam Nicholas, an acclaimed, professional oboist who has abandoned the uncertainty of the classical music profession in favor of a "real" job in computers. He desires a regular life with reliable hours. His choice is ill-timed, however. He embarks on his newly chosen career just as the recession hits Silicon Valley. Adam Nicholas, now desperate with the potential loss of unemployment benefits, must swallow his pride, and find a job—any job, to stay afloat.

"Summer Capricorn" is a captivating read on many levels. As I'm personally familiar with the author's stellar musicianship (we were both members of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra during the early eighties), I can relate to the frustration his protagonist shares as a free-lancer. The hours are erratic; the pace is abnormal; job security is job insecurity. When others work, we musicians play. But it is a common misconception that musicians' lives are play and not work. The truth is, that classical artists are so highly specialized that it is not uncommon for them to lose touch with the outside world. As Adam Nicholas admits: "I thought I was only good at one thing, playing music. I felt like a failure, an empty shell, when it came to the rest of my life. I wanted to see if I could do something else, anything else, and do it well."

What transpires in this marvelous tale are unexpected twists and turns as Adam opens himself up to new experiences and potentialities which are far outside of his comfort zone. While his desired career as a computer programmer is in limbo, due to the economic downturn, he has rolled up his sleeves and toiled in the land, as well as reached out to those in crisis. Adam is transformed by these experiences and renewed by a sense of awe and purpose. The world with all its mere "coincidences" takes on fresh meaning. He is awakened to different aspects of himself, as well as hidden abilities and talents. Adam beholds the Universe, with all its wonder, as if for the first time, and Life begins.

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