For many people out there, retirement means being old, tired, and at the end of “a good run.” It means that the passion and effort for the job has been replaced by lethargic disinterest. I certainly thought this was the case for all retiring staff… until this past month.
After learning that our orchestra director would be retiring at the end of the year, I was at first more surprised than anything else. I had only known him for three years, and he always seemed to be such a lively and passionate man. Why would he be retiring? Is he getting tired of the job? So I took time during my school day to go to his office and have a chat with him. I’m very glad that I did.
He told me about his life, and the life of his son. He told me about how and why he had taken this job, and what the orchestra meant to him. He told me about how he feels about leaving, and most importantly, he told me the reason why he chose to leave.
The reason was unexpected, but strangely understandable, in the same way that breakups are sometimes unexpected yet understandable. And it did not have anything to do with being tired of his job, getting too old, or even losing passion. In fact, his attitude towards the orchestra is still the same smiling face, exuding friendliness and love for all his students. Every rehearsal since the announcement of his retirement has been merit to his continuing, unfaltering dedication. The reason for his retirement, in fact, did not have anything to do with his job as the director of our orchestra. He simply wanted to try something new in his life.
Remarkably, he has no idea what he will end up doing. He simply knows that he wants to pursue something new, whether it be music arrangement or computer science. I can’t imagine how it feels to be so free, to be able to follow whatever paths life gives you, without fear or unhealthy attachment. There is, of course, difficulty for him in leaving this orchestra that he loves so much. You couldn’t sit through a rehearsal without him not only telling us, but showing us how much he loves us. It must have been immensely difficult, to wake up one morning and say, “I’m going to be leaving this orchestra.” But I admire him more for his willingness to take another step in a new direction, no matter how foggy or cloudy that new road may be.
Which brings me to the events of tonight: our very last concert with our director, riddled by speeches recognizing him and his work. Between the Duke Elington Medley, Copland, and Dvořák, students and staff made time to thank him for the legacy that he will be leaving. And while many will walk away, so gently humming the melody of Nimrod, from his final performance of the orchestra, I will savor the memory as the night that began a new chapter in his life.
To our amazing director and the orchestra, I leave you with these words from T. S. Eliot: “What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”