Why did I go back to school at the age of 41? There are a few reasons, but the one that started it was a brush with ovarian cancer. Luckily I had a treatable borderline cancer that was completely removed with a hysterectomy, and after a long period of medical tests, 2 surgeries and a milestone birthday, I was primed for thinking deeply about my life goals and what was most important to me. My family was the obvious first choice, but very quickly I realized that my calling to play the clarinet, which I had been ignoring for years, was coming in a close second. I was a professional clarinetist in my 20’s and had a great career taking me all across the United States, but when I started having children, I left that job and became a stay-at-home Mom. I had 3 children in 3 1/2 years and was overwhelmed with the daily life of taking care of them. I loved staying home with my children, and I will never regret seeing all their “firsts” and enjoying every new stage. What I forgot during that time was that I couldn’t give them the best side of me, while ignoring the talent God gave me.So today was my graduation at Peabody Conservatory. The journey was remarkable in every way. One of the benefits of being an older student is appreciating the gift of dedicated time to hone your craft. I often felt like I was able to “stop the clock” and memorize certain encounters. For example, taking in the wisdom and stories of Leon Fleisher while he conducted us (one in particular about meeting Rachmaninov when he was 6 years old), soaking in the mentorship of Anthony McGill and reveling in the precise ears and extraordinary conducting of Marin Alsop. I was also consistently amazed by the young students I was lucky enough to collaborate with, who blew me away with their maturity, talent, work-ethic and drive. I have absolutely no regrets for spending 4 years at this great institution and focusing on getting my playing back into tiptop shape (even better than before I think). ~ With respect and to all of you from Peabody! Never forget Leon Fleisher’s sage wisdom from today, “the MUSIC is the star; we are the vessel.” I can’t wait to see where the journey takes us!