SBO Spotlight: Kris Kwapis

Seattle Baroque Orchestra musician is acclaimed for her ‘sterling tone’ in the New York Times, Kris Kwapis appears regularly as soloist and principal trumpet with period-instrument ensembles across North America.

A Musicians Life During A Pandemic
By Kris Kwapis

I think this pandemic time has been interesting for a lot of us, whether performers or not. As someone who usually makes their living by traveling, sometimes as many as 200 days a year, there has definitely been an adjustment period! I say each day is breaking the previous record of how many consecutive days in a row I’ve been at home, since usually I rarely spend more than a week or two in a row not on the road. At first it was a welcome moment to take a breath and enjoy a more constant presence at home without having to unpack and pack a suitcase. Then the next stage set in as I watched events on my calendar getting canceled or postposed left and right, especially projects I had been looking forward to for quite a while (a one-on-a-part Bach B minor Mass in Toronto with legendary colleague John Butt, Classical Symphonies in Vancouver, a big show highlighting trumpet music of Purcell and Handel in Portland, etc.). There was mourning and confusion, but since I’m an eternal optimist, I tried to see the silver lining. I got a head start on the garden (a bit of vegetables and lots of native pollinator-focused flowers) which I wouldn’t have normally done since I would have been on the road. I took a moment to breathe and have a consistent cuddle schedule with one of our cats who appreciates such things. It took a bit of time and practice, but I started seeing this time without traveling and concerts as an opportunity rather than a punishment.

I joined two Bach cantata zoom discussion groups with east-coast colleagues I hadn’t seen in a long time since I moved to Seattle 12 years ago. I certainly wouldn’t have had the flexibility in my schedule to have a consistent meeting time for something like that otherwise! Those groups have brought me closer to colleagues and closer to the music I care so much about in unexpected ways. My brain is so energized by focusing on digging deeper into the scholarly aspects of being an historical performance specialist, especially since those are the things we can do without concern for virus protocol. I was asked to teach three zoom classes for San Francisco Early Music Society’s summer courses, which provided an inspiring focus on historical topics I had wanted to explore in more depth as well. I was invited to be interviewed for some podcasts and got to take part in a zoom music trivia game with some colleagues in Chicago, which would have been more difficult to schedule during a typical busy season. Some opportunities for writing program notes and creating content for other organizations has also been keeping me busy on the music front, in addition to planning programs for the future when hopefully audiences will be positively hungry for the wonderful and unique experience of participating in and supporting live music again.

Speaking of hunger, I’ve always enjoyed cooking and one of the things I miss the most when traveling so much (aside from my lovely partner, Mark and the cats, of course) is having access to a kitchen! I have certainly made up for that feeling since my last flight home after a concert in late February. Trying recipes I’ve saved in a file for months, experimenting with homemade tonic for cocktails, and using produce from our little garden has been wonderful. Since I also love to be creative in visual arts, specifically encaustic medium (which is made from beeswax and tree resin), I’ve had more time and access to my home studio for painting and even taking advantage of an online course with an artist in Maine I’ve always wanted to take a workshop with but could never carve out the time to travel to her. I have finished five commissioned paintings so far this spring/summer and have plans for a few more in the works.

I’ll admit to feeling quite a bit more hopeful at the moment and I certainly felt closer to despair for the future in March and April, and I imagine many of us can relate. It is still a rollercoaster of emotions when I get reminders on my calendar of where I was supposed to be, who I was supposed to be working with, and the music I was supposed to be sharing. I keep trying to focus forward to the future and hope to look back on this time as one of growth and awareness of life/work balance priorities and silver linings.

Staunton Music Festival videos: http://siteline.vendini.com/site/stauntonmusicfestival.org/pers-baroque-trumpet

Staunton Postcard, including a recipe for tonic: http://siteline.vendini.com/site/stauntonmusicfestival.org/post-kris-kwapis

Exploring Kodawari podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/baroque-trumpet-specialist-kris-kwapis/id1518398378?i=1000478991043

Let’s Talk Off the Podium podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/off-the-podium/id1230261919?mt=2 (my specific episode is forthcoming)

Encaustic art on my website: https://kriskwapis.com/encaustic/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/clarino/