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Launching a Music Festival- PART ONE: "The Idea"

Upon checking my handy old-school calendar book, it seems Thursday, April 21, 2016 was the date the idea for Hawaii International Music Festival came to fruition.

Before I go on, I'd like to first talk a little about how I met my Co-Founder, Virtuoso Violinist Eric Silberger. Eric and I met on an island (so it's only fitting we create a festival which is on another set of islands HAHA).....the Fire Island Pines to be exact- a magical place where we both had the pleasure of being hired to perform for the Fire Island Opera Festival (run by my dear friend Edwin Cahill) back in 2014. Eric went there to perform with the magnificent Cellist Daniel Lelchuk (who I also knew and had met a year prior) and the spectacular Pianist Brad Moore. I met Eric at a cafe near the docks just after he arrived with the amazing Flutist Anna Urrey (who I immediately connected with and also love!) Eric, Anna and I quickly bonded over Eric's Insanity Workout videos - which he *insisted* we do daily. It was a lot of fun and I liked the spontaneity of it all- literally meeting new people and then 30 minutes later, bonding over a really hard workout in one of the most beautiful places on the planet! I quickly realized that Eric was someone who was a total go-getter, someone who had extreme amounts of energy, is very supportive of his colleagues, and someone who I can honestly say, is one of the most talented people I've ever met. I also realized that I liked being around him. In addition, I was mesmerized by his glorious playing that weekend in The Pines. I knew I wanted to work with him more. By the end of the weekend, he, Daniel Lelchuk and I were already discussing plans of a possible future collaboration. (I am so thankful to Edwin Cahill and Brad Moore for bringing us all to their festival. Without their festival, I would have perhaps never met Daniel and Eric!)

A group picture from Fire Island Opera Festival, August 2014. Daniel Lelchuk is on the far left and Eric Silberger is right next to him. Can you find me?

Group shot from Fire Island Opera Festival 2014. Daniel Lelchuk (far left).

Eric is on his right. Can you find me? :) (I'm 4th from the right) What a memorable weekend this was! Brad Moore and Edwin Cahill are on the right.

Eric and I kept in touch. He attended my Metropolitan Opera debut and after-party at Bar Boulud a few months later. I also remember randomly running into him once in Lincoln Center near Juilliard as I was coming back from a lunch break at the Met. After that, we kept in touch on Facebook and on the phone every once and a while- always discussing a possible collaboration. As we got to know each other better, I discovered we had a lot of things in common. One thing I remember about Eric from early on is how he always followed through with things. When he said he was going to do something- he did it. I am the same exact way.

Finally we reunited in-person for coffee last fall (2015). We were still discussing ideas of a collaboration with Daniel Lelchuk- but unfortunately our crazy schedules were preventing things from happening at that time. (little did we know that was all about to change in only a few short months!)

Fast forward to Thursday, April 21st, 2016. Eric had recently announced that he was recording his debut album. I wrote him a message to congratulate him and we scheduled a time to talk and catch up. It was around 3:15pm on April 21st that we finally caught up. I was sitting on the benches outside of Starbucks at 54th and Broadway as we chatted and caught up. Eric was telling me about his recording and then he suddenly asked me about how my husband's family's coffee business (Rusty's Hawaiian) was doing in Hawaii. We chatted about the coffee for maybe a minute, and then Eric said - "We should launch a music festival in Hawaii!" ..... and in probably one of the most spontaneous moments of my life- I said "OK! Let's do it!" Now, you have to understand something- I am someone who is a real thinker....someone who is introverted and needs time to digest things and think them through before's part of my process. I am also someone who is a bit cautious in general, by nature. But there was something about this idea and conversation with Eric....and I just went with it. Sometimes in life, you have to just go for things. This was one of those moments! At this point in our conversation, I had already started to walk to my car and by the time I passed Studio 54, Eric and I already had a date set (3 months away- and we stuck with those original dates, btw!)! I stepped aside in the parking garage right there to put my bag down and finish our conversation and at that point, Eric said "We should call it Hawaii International Music Festival!" So, literally, we had the idea, the festival name and dates within 5 minutes of Eric's initial idea! (Eric might even say it was more like 2 minutes) :)

I had a concert at Carnegie Hall that weekend - which Eric actually attended- (singing Schubert's Mass in G) so we set a time to get together the day after my concert (Monday, April 25th). That day became our first official "meeting"....we signed up for Fractured Atlas and recorded our first video about the festival.

This was only the start! In my next post, I will discuss the process of putting the festival together and more about the team we assembled. So, please stay tuned! In the meantime, here is a picture of Eric and I about 3 weeks after "the idea". This picture was taken during the intermission of a performance Eric did with the JP Jofre Hard Tango Chamber Band in the West Village. It also happens to have been taken the night our amazing Artistic Program Director, Carlin Ma, came on board to our project at about 1 in the morning! (a very fitting time of the day, might I add- hehe) More on that in the next installment!

With Eric Silberger.

Eric and I during the intermission of an amazing concert given by the JP Jofre Hard Tango Chamber Band, May 2016. It was one of the best concerts I have ever attended.

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