11:50AM April 28
Wednesday I only had Italian class in the morning. I would usually have piano in the afternoon, but our piano teacher has been on tour with a pop singer, so I headed home immediately after class and got a chance to catch up on the blog a bit. Mostly I was just waiting around for my parents though, who were supposed to get into the city by about 2:30. At that point, I headed down the street towards their hotel, which was about two blocks away. I knew where it was located, but I forgot to write down the name, so I ended up walking around for a bit, asking three different hotels in the area if they had "una prenotazione di Bridges."
I struck out at each one of the hotels, and just as I was starting to wonder what my next move should be, I ran into them walking down the street. None of us had eaten any real food in a while, so I took them out to one of my favorite restaurants here, on San Lorenzo. In fact, it was the same place that I went for my first meal out in Florence, my second night here, when Adam, John, and I were looking for food at 6:00PM.
It was interesting introducing them to the Italian way of living. It was siesta at the time, so the place was pretty empty, but it still took the waiters a while to get around to us. Everybody here just moves at their own pace, which is one of the things I really love about Italy. It took my mom a bit to get used to though, at one point affirming to me, "I'm being patient!"
I got gnocchi in a cream sauce with walnuts, which was pretty tasty, but not quite up to their usual standards at dinner. My mom got ribollita, a traditional Tuscan stew, which had a lot of rice and mushrooms, and my dad got a rib dish of sorts. I can't say the meal was anything memorable, but it was great to spend the time catching up with my parents in person over a nice long Italian meal.
After lunch, I pretty much expected they would want to crash, having just flown through the night. To my surprise, they were still quite perky though, and they wanted to make the time zone transition successfully without losing too much time. I had to be back on campus by 6:00 or so, but we had some time yet until then, so I took them for a quick tour around some of the major sites in Florence. We went in the Duomo for a short bit, then down through Piazza della Signora by Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi. We walked by the Ponte Vecchio, but we didn't cross it, instead heading back up to their hotel. By that point I did have to get back to school, but I wanted to at least give them a taste of the city before they ventured off on their own.
Again, I thought they might be ready to retire, but they were interested in joining me for the walk up to campus. Nick Myers, a senior sax player from the jazz department, who came abroad last year, was returning on his first official Italian tour. After school finished last year, he stayed to help Antonio with the Umbria Jazz Festival and entered himself in a contest, placing second, and getting a recording contract. He recorded his album with a lineup of young Italian musicians, all under twenty-five, and now he was back to tour. Apparently none of the clubs in Florence could meet his quota though, so David Travis, the president of the school here in Florence, and Antonio set up a concert for us to see him and his group at the Limonaia next to La Pietra. We went to the show, which was pretty good. He had a real confidence on stage and looked completely like a professional, a student no more. I can't say I was moved by everything he played though. It was his drummer who impressed me the most.
I had to stay on campus after the show for the first rehearsal with the vocal performance majors for their Gershwin songbook revue. I told my parents to go visit the gardens before leaving though, and we planned to meet up the next day around 5:00 after I was done with classes. The rehearsal went pretty well, especially for the first time. This is a great project that Antonio put together, getting the jazz majors and the vocal performance majors working together. I've always thought one of the biggest flaws in the music department, and I guess this extends to most conservatories as well, is that all of the various musicians are kept pretty separate, working on their own projects, rather than together for the common goal of music. Antonio completely understands this problem though, which is why he set up projects like this and the film score recording.
Thursday morning I headed up to campus with John in all black, as that was our performance dress for the grand Italian "spectracolo." It was the big day, and we met up with the rest of our classmates in front of Villa Ulivi before heading down the hill to the elementary school which our teacher's daughter attends. It was a lot of fun to play for these kids—and get out of class—but they were clearly into it too. In particular, Amanda, our teacher's daughter, was dancing with more passion and knowledge of the music than any of us who had been rehearsing it.
That afternoon in aural comprehension we went about our usual routines, working on singing tritones, tone rows, and complex rhythms. The second half of class we usually move to dictation, but our teacher brought in some African chants for us to work on instead. It was a lot of fun, getting the whole class singing together in harmonies and counterpoints. We were going to move on, but everybody, our teacher included, was enjoying the chants so much that we just continued to do more and more of it, making the rhythms and melodies more complex, and then improvising together. It's such a nice break to have somebody like Greg Burk, a notable American jazz artist over here, teaching us. Whereas in New York the teachers feel compelled to take things much more by the book, he, along with our other music teachers, finds ways to adapt the curriculum to actually help us as musicians as no textbook can do.
After aural, I headed down to meet up with my parents. I found out that day that I had to be back on campus again that night for our second Gershwin rehearsal, but I had plenty of time to go out for an early dinner with them. I took them this time to a place directly underneath my apartment called "Amor di Vino." I'd gone there once before with John when his friend Ben was in from London, and we had a great meal. I'd gotten pizza before though, and I remember John's pasta being the real winner of the meal, so we all got pasta. My favorite part of the meal was the antipasto though. We got a mix plate of grilled vegetables, including zucchini, peppers, eggplant, and artichoke. They were stunningly tasty. When the vegetables have as much flavor as they do here in Italy, who needs protein?
It was a good portion of food early in the evening, so we didn't really feel like having dessert afterwards. Instead, we took a bottle of amaro I'd bought a few weeks earlier back to their hotel and sat around for a while chatting before I had to head back to school. I can't say this one was as good as the first bottle that Adam and I bought of Amaro. I got it on the recommendation of my favorite wine store owner here—I've gone to him several times before, and he always tells me to avoid the higher priced bottles in favor of a lesser-known more tasty variety of liquor, be it limoncello, brandy, or wine. This bottle was definitely more complex, not able to accompany a tiramisu in the way that the first one was, and it had a mint flavor as one of the herbal qualities of the liquor which didn't quite do it for me. It was a nice time though, and I was thankful to be sharing another one of my favorite parts of Italy with my parents, knowing they would appreciate a fine liquor. I then left them to go rehearse Gershwin, and we made plans to meet early the next day for a cappuccino.