This is the end of the first week of my sabbatical leave. My last sabbatical was in 2012. At my university, we are eligible to apply for a sabbatical leave every seven years, but I waited eight to apply, because last spring eight students from my studio graduated, and I wanted to be there for all of their final recitals and for commencement.
There is never a perfect time to take a sabbatical, particularly when you work intensively with students one-on-one. There will always be the student you felt you let down by being away. But, as someone who benefited from my own teacher's sabbatical replacement during my piano training, I think it can be tremendously fruitful to have a different teacher for a semester, who can give a new perspective and bring fresh ears to the relationship.
Although it might not feel like it to the affected students at the time, a sabbatical leave is ultimately to the students' benefit, to help create space for their teacher to reflect and renew, as well as re-negotiate various aspects of professional and personal life.
My 2012 sabbatical involved digging deeply into the prepared piano music of John Cage, particularly his Sonatas and Interludes. This was quite a gratifying project, but I felt rather isolated all semester because I worked at home and didn't see my students or colleagues. This time, I wanted to focus on using my sabbatical leave to renew old friendships, forge new ones, meet new piano teachers and students, and play music with musicians I admire and enjoy working with.
2020 being a year to celebrate Beethoven, I approached my dear friend Justine Cormack, who lives in New Zealand, and suggested performing the Beethoven violin sonatas together. She eagerly accepted, and soon I will be going to New Zealand to rehearse and perform the sonatas with her. She will also be coming to Butler in October to repeat the cycle.
In March, I will be at the MTNA National Conference in Chicago, where I will see many old friends and beloved colleagues, as well as have the chance to meet music teachers from all over the US.
I have plans to travel to China and Australia in April and am planning on playing solo recitals, giving masterclasses and teacher workshops.
So, it will be a busy and social sabbatical, affording me the opportunity to travel more extensively, practice more, and reflect more than is usually possible during a normal semester. I already miss my students, but I know they are in great hands with Dr. Andrew Hisey, and I will have so much more to offer them when I return in the fall!