top of page

Feeding and Care of Artists Across the Midwest

Having just finished a 3-week tour, covering 8 states (and crossing into 3 others), a few reflections are in order on truly the most important aspect of concertizing - the meals! Many of the states I played in are integral parts of the national food chain - Kansas, Iowa, the Dakotas and Montana. I saw lots of fallow fields, awaiting the spring planting, and many pastures of cows, buffalo and sheep. So much of our national landscape has been altered by our food choices, and driving across hours and hours of farms makes you reflect on food, and gives you plenty of time to do it! I drove a total of 4765 miles, at an average speed of just over 60 mph. There were a few days dedicated to driving - 8 to 10 hours on those days. Other days, I averaged about 4 hours behind the wheel in order to arrive at a concert venue, rehearse, relax and perform. Given this tight schedule, you can imagine that meals became something quite significant! Few presenters realize how influential the meals are to the success and the memory of a concert. A middling concert can be salvaged (for the artist, anyway!) by a great meal afterwards, and a great concert can be sabotaged by having to eat McDonalds afterwards in your hotel room. Both have happened to me many times! The keys to a great meal are: timeliness, quantity and quality. Am I a diva for saying that all three are required - 2 out of 3 is just not good enough. And it shouldn’t have to be such a challenge to find all three! One of the best meals I had on this tour was at a board member’s home, where a large group of guests shared lively conversation and great homemade lasagna, salad and fine wine. Even though I had a 40 minute drive afterwards to get to my hotel room, the good feelings from this get together have lasted much longer than the memories of the concert itself. As an example of a time when great quality was not enough to carry the day, I remember the meals we had at a chamber music festival in France, which we had catered by a local restaurant. The owner/chef came himself with wonderful local food, and the quality was excellent, as was the variety. However, the timing was not great - he had a set schedule for serving, and the menu was planned out to include a first course, a second course, a salad and cheese course and dessert. But at a festival, musicians were coming and going at all hours, trying to find time to fit in group rehearsals and individual practicing. It was impossible to try to get the entire group there at the same time before sitting down to the table for lunch. And many needed to eat quickly and leave early as well. The well-planned courses did not fit our schedules, and many left hungry, or arrived having missed out on a delicious first course. The quantity was quite limited as well, the food being plated beforehand and assigned to each individual. There were those who would have to skip dinner because they were performing later, who wanted to eat more than usual at lunch. Others had had a late breakfast, and were looking forward to a bigger dinner. Dinner was even more of a disaster. Performers wanted something light before the concert and something hearty afterwards. Non-performers had time to relax and enjoy at the end of the day. We asked for a buffet style dinner, but that meant just a bunch of salads, breads, cheeses, cold meats. Quantity is an important thing for musicians! For some, I would even go so far as to say that quantity trumps quality. A French hornist, good friend of mine, truly appreciated a meal I had spent hours making, even though he had filled his plate with wonderful Greek chicken and rice and sauteed zucchini, only to top it off with a large ladle-full of raw crepe batter. He dug right into it without any hint of how it tasted, except for the fact that it was warm and plentiful. For this road trip, my challenge to myself was to be healthy - both in eating and in exercising. Long days with 7-10 hours of driving would be the death of my otherwise. I had asked specifically to be in hotels with swimming pools, and most of them were adequate for doing a few laps, supplemented with a few minutes on the treadmill. As for eating, I had made a promise to myself that I would try to eat vegetarian when I could. I had given myself one opportunity in 3 weeks to partake of fast-food, to prepare for the situation where I would be in a place with absolutely nothing open otherwise. I used tha