We had a chance to catch up with Bestselling Author Julie Scolnik on her latest book titled Paris Blue: A Memoir of First Love. The book has a unique connection with not just love but her connection to music. As a musician she has helped so many understand the power behind sound. It is our privilege to have the opportunity to talk to her today, this is what she shared up with us.
What inspired you to become a musician?
When I was a child, there was always music filling our home. The gorgeous, poignant records that my mother found for her three daughters became the soundtrack to our childhood, seeped into our DNA, connected us most profoundly as sisters, and very likely influenced the direction of our careers.
Ballet was my first love, but I realized at the tender age of 13 that it was my emotional response to music that made me crave a physical outlet for the deep stirrings it evoked. So off I went to spend three idyllic summers at a music camp in Maine, where Beethoven and Brahms symphonies were broadcast through loud speakers to awaken us in our woodland cabins, as if the trees had burst into song.
I connected deeply with these young peers of mine, each day listening to friends rehearse the Schubert Cello Quintet in the woods before lunch. When I played the recording at home after camp was over, my eyes filled with tears. And then I knew: Music would become my life.
If you could perform anywhere in the world where would it be and why ?
I must admit that I am most drawn to intimate venues, such as the old stone churches of Europe, rather than large performance venues. I especially love to play in beautiful salons, as chamber music was meant to be enjoyed!
Can you talk about your music career and how it intersects with your life as a writer?
My career as a professional flutist over the past forty years has brought me to far-ranging jobs, both highbrow and low, (from weddings and funerals as a student, to pit orchestras of broadway shows, and finally to freelancing as principal flute with opera and ballet orchestras, and as a regular sub with the Boston Symphony. Finally, at the age of forty, I founded my own chamber music series, Mistral Music, my dream job, what would become “my magnificent obsession,” for which I continue to serve as the artistic director.
I discovered that connecting with my community through an intimate concert experience was not only tremendously gratifying, but running a music series was the perfect outlet for me to share what meant most to me in life— not just music, but childhood, memories, and the mysteries of the heart. And this is precisely where the intersection of my life as a writer and a musician now takes place.
I think that the success of my music series is due in large part to the rapport I have developed with my audience members through the personal stories I tell and the messages I write in the program booklets.
I often program music that has in some way altered my own sensibilities with the hope it will do the same for my audience members. I regularly introduce a piece by recounting a story about where I first heard and fell in love with it, and explain how hearing it every time conjures the memories and emotions of that moment in time. Like Proust’s madeleine. And my desire to share an experience I have had with a piece of music is very much like a writer’s desire to tell a story.
I think that the (slightly urgent) desire to tell a story in writing probably comes from the same place as the desire to share a piece of music in a live performance. I recently discovered a beautiful quote from Maya Angelou, and I feel it encapsulates this same urgency to share art, whether it is a writer’s story or a piece that a musician yearns to perform: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
As for my own odyssey that took me over forty years to bring this memoir, Paris Blue, into world, I am beyond moved that the time has finally come to share it. All information about the book can be found here: www.JulieScolnik.com.
What role does music play in your memoir, Paris Blue?
Ah. I would have to say without a doubt that music is fundamental to the story, It is music that brings us together in the first place, and the thing that we bond over so intensely, creating an emotional connection well before anything else. The music is so instrumental to our relationship, in fact, that I provide an index at the end of the book to more than a dozen pieces that nearly become characters in the book. Each work is linked on my author site to online performances, so that readers can take a moment to listen to each piece of music when it arises in the book. I urge readers to do this because words have never been sufficient in describing music, and readers have told me that it adds another layer of appreciation for the story. Here are just a few lines from a moment in the chorus of the Orchestre de Paris, when we sang side by side on the stage:
When I walked on stage, Luc was already seated at the edge of the basses with an empty chair next to him in the soprano section. He invited me with his eyes to take that seat so we could sing the concert side by side. Although we could have done this any time during rehearsals, neither one had dared to suggest it. I sat down beside him under the bright stage lights, and could feel his right shoulder and thigh pressing against my left side. It was shockingly intimate. Soon the rest of the chorus members were filling in seats around us, and the remaining orchestra members were sitting down and beginning to warm up. It wasn’t long before the hall grew quiet in the expectant moment before the orchestra tuned and Barenboim entered to great applause.
There was no way to measure the magnitude of my happiness at that moment. I tried to imagine something that might make me feel this rapturous, but nothing came close. The proximity of Luc’s body breathing next to mine, our bodies touching, in the stillness of the concert hall, with neither the need nor the possibility to speak; the excruciating pleasure of knowing that we were feeling the same thing for the next two hours as we listened to the music that we loved. My sensibilities were set free.