Tuesday, February 28, 2017

In appreciation for an outstanding teacher

I was 15 years old and had been playing French horn for only a year when I met Mr. Princiotti. He was the director of a local youth orchestra, the Young Artists Philharmonic, and he invited me to join!

I played in the orchestra for the next three years. My high school orchestra was also excellent, and between the two orchestras I was introduced to so much great music. Mr. Princiotti promoted me to first horn after my first year -- a surprise to me. He gave me my first opportunity to play a solo in public with an orchestra when I was a senior in high school. I played the first horn concerto by Richard Strauss at a summer festival in Stamford, Connecticut. It was an outdoor festival with food and entertainment, and probably more. We played in the "Pink Tent." I have fuzzy memories of how it went, which probably means it went pretty well since I seem to have a photographic memory for mistakes!

I went on to music school and to many more musical opportunities in my life. Mr. Princiotti was a huge influence on me as a musician - a model in many ways, for a life in music. He was passionate about music as well as being a very talented and knowledgeable musician.

Salvatore Princiotti passed away last week at age 83. He had retired from conducting the Young Artists five years ago. The tributes from the hundreds of young people he taught have poured in, and while everyone acknowledges that he was a superb musician and music teacher, it is the person he was that people are highlighting over and over in their remembrances of him.

He was kind. He was truly interested in his students and let them know it. He saw the good in everyone and pointed it out. While he could certainly be firm with the orchestra, it was always clear that he loved everyone of us. A short, perpetually rumpled man, he always had time for "his kids."

A few years ago I went back to Connecticut for my high school reunion. While there, some of my fellow high school musicians organized a music reunion with several of our music teachers, all now retired. Except for Mr. Princiotti, who could not attend the reunion because he was teaching. I'm sorry I didn't get to see hi one last time, but what a wonderful life, to be able to do the thing you love, to the end.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Food, Glorious Food

I was thinking the other day of a favorite restaurant. As is the way of many of my favorite restaurants, this one no longer exists.

When I was 12, my family moved from a small town in Wisconsin to Connecticut. At some point after moving to our new town we discovered the Colonial Inn.

The Colonial Inn, in spite of its name, specialized in Greek and Italian food. (The owners were a couple, one Greek and the other Italian.) It was located on the main street in Old Greenwich, Connecticut, in a white-fronted building. Inside was dark in a cozy way and the wait staff was friendly and helpful. This was where I first ate Greek food and I soon came to love moussaka, pastitsio, and baklava. In fact, the Colonial Inn became one of my family's favorite places to eat.

One of my memories is my dad asking the waiter about a particular wine. We happened to be sitting at a table next to a priest, eating by himself, with a whole bottle of wine. He had left his table for a minute, and our waiter, seeing the wine bottle on the table, said, "Oh, the father won't mind," and poured a taste for my dad.

On another evening, we were ordering dessert. The waiter suggested we might want to try the galaktoboureko because it had just come out of the oven. If you have never had this delicious dessert, it is a vanilla custard between a top and bottom layer of phyllo pastry. This was my first taste of galaktoboureko and I will never forget the experience of the light creamy warm custard and the crispy sweet phyllo. I learned years later that galaktoboureki is supposed to be served cold, but having had it warm, the cold version has never measured up.

A visit to the Colonial Inn also became a test for boyfriends, though we hadn't intended it that way. When my sister's first college boyfriend visited us, my parents sent us off to the Colonial Inn. My brother, sister and I ordered our usual Greek menu items. The boyfriend ordered a ham steak and cheesecake for dessert. He didn't last long.

Alas, the Colonial Inn is no more, but perhaps it's better that way - memories have a way of preserving those special moments without disappointment.