Those beautiful, legendary creatures with a singular, spiraling horn atop their heads we read about in Bruce Coville and Peter Beagle novels – or the extraordinary people, places, and things that make us wonder what we did to deserve experiencing them. Whether it’s a mountain range that’s so surreal it takes your breath away, an elusive bird lost to science for more than a century found, or a person that becomes the missing piece in one’s life puzzle, we should all be so lucky to encounter such magic.

spellbinding Patagonia…

Before we jump into more baseline bliss, I’ll offer a quick tour through the music, concerts, touring escapades, food adventures, and people that have made up my last few months…

The holiday season kicked off with a little upstate Friendsgiving hosting moment, followed by our first-ever CMSM “Movie Matinee” concert where we presented chamber ensemble versions of iconic movie tunes played alongside excerpts from the original films themselves. (My debut as an arranger – the Sibelius learning curve kicked my novice bum…) A stunning studio recital performed by my students at Cornell gave way to a trip back to Minneapolis (with a pitstop at the ER and then Grand Rapids, MI) over the holidays; before I knew it it was hosting my folks in Ithaca for New Years, laying down a Knights record back in NYC with the incomparable Edgar Meyer, and then a bucket-list trip of a lifetime: Chile and Argentina to hike with penguins, log some serious hiking mileage living in the backcountry, and rock climbing…that classic skyline, the Fitz Roy looking over his brothers and sisters to the north and south. I strapped my “eBay violin” to my hiking pack and brought it to every glacial lake, playing a few tunes for that crystal blue water before jumping in – like an insanely frigid rite of passage.

February brought a whirlwind of on-the-road life, the first being a tour out in the Bay Area performing the Beethoven concerto with Scott Krijnen the Castillero Chamber Orchestra and the Cambrian Symphony – with some always-inspiring volunteering with the Castillero Middle School kiddos in-between, and an 18-hour stop down in SoCal for some Joon pup and Lee family time. Audition season (219 tapes came my way from some wicked gifted violinists) and two tenure-track searches at Cornell provided for more all-nighters than I’d logged since grad school, which preceded the honor of co-leading a guest professor residency concert with the venerated Dawn Upshaw. A 3:45am alarm following the show ushered in a return to the CMSM for a debut visit from the exquisitely talented Evan Price here’s a peak at what we got up to at the top of the show:

March started with a bang, bringing back Bruch’s beloved Scottish Fantasy – a piece that had been much of my identity as a young teenage violinist, but one that I’d not visited in nearly 20 years – with the Wayzata Symphony and then again for a lecture-recital (where we introduced the original folk melodies alongside Bruch’s reimaginings) back in Ithaca. A mid-March blizzard (thanks, upstate NY) closed down Cornell for only the fourth time in 31 years…and then it was down to the Berkshires for a concert on John Perkel’s lovely series, the Berkshire Chamber Players in a program of late Mozart and Mendelssohn quintets.

Amidst all of this liveliness came another unicorn – an animal that reemerged to the world of modern science: the Black-naped Pheasant Pigeon (Auwo) was captured on film and documented by a team of researchers from Papua New Guinea and the renowned Cornell Lab of Ornithology for the first time in more than 125 years. Though known to a very small group of local New Guineans living on the remote Fergusson Island, the beautiful bird is highly furtive and is almost impossible to find, thought by many to be extinct. After nearly two months of field expeditions chasing the illusive and elusive creature, working with local hunters and living in the bush, the penultimate day of the project gave way to the images and video below (warning: the YouTube clip is one of the most heartwarming things you may ever see):

finding Auwo (pronounced au-oo-woh, the name for the pigeon in its native region)

And just as I was about to give up hope and was contemplating the positives of monastic life (maybe I’d make a good nun?), I found my unicorn. The man behind that camera – capturing his collaborative partner Doka’s reaction to finding the auwo footage – has become an inseparable part of my life. In our five short months together, we’ve climbed countless rocks (both the fake ones at the gym where we met and the real ones made of granite in the great outdoors), weathered a full-blown case of malaria (thanks, tropical parasitic mosquitos), traveled halfway across the globe together, integrated into one another’s families, and been in the audiences of some of our most important moments. I suppose one could say it’s on…

As always, here’s a photo/video diary to tie it all together:

…and a live recording of our Beethoven at Hammer Theater in San Jose

And last but not least, a very special congratulations to brother Nathan and wife Natali on the birth of their daughter over in Gothenburg, Sweden – Olivia Kim =)

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