October 18, 2020

Dear Opus Ithaca community,
I hope you are all well and healthy. 

This letter took a surprisingly long time for me to write. Because Opus is a non-profit music school, I like to keep our music community in the loop on how we are doing through this unusual year. I miss you all so much- and sometimes when I would start writing, my words were simply too sad. If you know me, you know that sadness can not possibly be my message to you. Music is my business- my literal line of work- but also my life’s mission and passion. And I adore Opus.

What is it I want to tell you? 
Finding that answer took some time and consideration (both of which I have struggled to find lately! I am sure I am not alone).

So, I will start by telling you that Opus is doing great.

We are creating music beautifully “on-line”, and even a little bit IN our wonderful space. Through careful planning this spring and summer with the help of our Board of Directors, the wonderful and giving Elizabeth Shuhan, and a truly brave, bold and talented faculty, we are looking forward to the 2020-2021 school year. Our music school is strong, and we are proving to be quite resilient. We have so much gratitude for our community- our students AND our faculty.

You are amazing. All of you. 

But my message?

My offering to our Opus community in 2020 lies in two childhood lessons from my parents.

  1. “Never wish your time away.”

Yes. That.

I, personally, am guilty to the highest degree. Since the pandemic started, I have been “wishing my time away.” I am waiting until things can get back to normal. “Holding on” until things can be back to what we had before. Our music industry has been hit hard.

Seize the day? Enjoy every moment?

Not quite. I am waiting for something. Treading water. Not living as fully as I can.

So I look closely at what is really happening. Hard stuff, for sure. This year is no joke.

On a personal level, I have much to be thankful for: my family and my current health.

And my greyhounds 🙂

At Opus, my other family:

Lessons are going well! All our teachers agree that their students are truly progressing.
I have decided to stop thinking of  “virtual lessons” as being a temporary fix during this pandemic. Don’t get me wrong- I can not wait until we are back “in person”- fully! But the fact is, our zoom lessons are quite fruitful. My own students are really shining and growing and learning! I LOVE seeing my students’ faces when they first pop on the screen. I am focusing on how to ENJOY these lessons more, rather than simply “make it work for now.”

I hope you and your children are finding a way to maximize the success of virtual lessons, too. I may be the only one making this realization. (But then again, this letter has turned out to be quite healing for me personally.)
If we keep waiting for something, we are missing precious moments.

Opus is growing!
We have welcomed over 30 new students to Opus this fall, giving us the largest number of private students we have ever had. We have hired amazing new faculty (Rosanna Moore, harp; Michael Salmirs and Maria Rabbia, piano; Sam Shuhan, bass), and we welcome our new administrative assistant, Benno Ressa to our staff. It truly is a wonderful community. Because of this growth, our “behind the scenes” organization is also improving- with the new registration system finally getting implemented between now and December. Such good news for all of us. Stay tuned as we make this happen before our next billing cycle!

AND family lesson #2:

  1. “Surround yourself with positive people.”

Some people have kindly told me that bringing together such amazing people is perhaps my greatest accomplishment in creating Opus. These wonderful humans! I pinch myself everyday. From the very beginning in 2011, I have had the most unbelievable people behind me, next to me, and with me in creating this school. (Starting with my family who helped plant the initial seeds, my lawyer who helped me incorporate, my founding Board members, and those 6 brave faculty members and 40 students from that first year).

If you love your teacher(s)- please tell them! 
In this virtual environment, positive feedback is totally welcome.
Last week an anonymous donor gave a teacher a wonderful gift- and it reminded me of how special our teachers are. Especially during this time when your teachers are not able to perform publicly as they used to…our students are all such gifts to us. This pandemic is making the “teacher” part of our profession as musicians so meaningful. Thank you, students.

2021 is going to be Opus Ithaca’s 10th birthday!
I know, right? So great.

I could not ask for a better group of people to BE Opus. Faculty, students, families, staff.
What a beautiful team. I have always said, and will continue to say- Opus is ALL about the people. In our school’s building or at our homes- we are all still together.
I am SO looking forward to the next 10 years.

The Moral of the Story?
Here we are- October 2020.
Opus is ready to figure out a path to whatever tomorrow will bring. Our music school will probably not be quite the same. I have come to accept that, and delight in making music every day in whatever form it takes. Living rooms, virtual projects, workshops, classes and events with your teachers- it may change every day. In music we find healing, beauty and growth. It may be more intimate and more personal now. But we must welcome music in whatever creative ways we can. It makes us better humans.

It may not be seen in the large crowds at our annual Concert for the Community or the tear-inducing Odyssey choir concerts- YET. I look forward to these immensely when they do return.

In the meantime, I plan on trying to make the most of this time.

I think my kids deserve that of me, too.

Thank you for being a part of Opus.

Keep playing music. Keep your kids playing music. It is truly a gift.

Listening. Communicating. Beauty. Expression. It is all there in the passing of time.

May you enjoy each moment when it comes, surround yourself and your kids with people who lift you up, and breathe deeply. We got this.

And as our dear Tamara Acosta coined just last season: “See you at Opus!”
Wherever you are 🙂

Sincerely, and be well-

Andi Merrill

Executive Director of Opus Ithaca