"The first thing you need to know about the Rocky Ridge Early Music Center and Baroque workshop is that if you have any food in your cabins or in your cars, anything at all, it needs to be taken to the dinning hall area and left there, or else the bears will find it and take it. Any trash can be disposed of in the dumpsters at the entrance to the site, or the kitchen trash cans, we definitely don't want any food stuffs or banana peels left in the cabins over night."
this is where I joined the conversation.
"well of course we wouldn't want the bears to slip and fall."
There was a slight pause, and only a slight pause. I surveyed the crowd for at least a smirk but nobody was giving me anything back, maybe Baroque music nerds don't have a sense of humor about bears, or maybe I mumbled, but either way this was my introduction to the first ever class of participants in the Rocky Ridge Music Centers Baroque music program.
II. THE RRMC BAROQUE MUSIC WORKSHOP
Made up of about 16 bright eyed and diverse musicians from across the United States coming from as far as a flutist from New York City, and my wife and I from Richmond Virginia. Though myself excluded from the 16, for I was only along as a spectator, and auditor, a tag-a-long as is my lot in life, whereas my wife Jessica was there as a practicing Soprano in the rough and tumble world of professional Sopranos. The perk for me was the traveling, countless trips to New York and other cities for auditions and performances, recently taking us as far as Milwaukee, and now here in Estes Park Colorado, home to the historic Stanley Hotel of Stephen King fame, and of course the Rocky Ridge Music Center. The RRMC was by far the most remote and serene location I have ever been to in the states, and the highest I've ever been to boot, in actual feet that is. On top of that it is the first and maybe premier musical workshop where the threat of bears is a primary concern, though to be fair the word "threat" was almost always followed by the words "of seeing" or by the act of "food stealing' and never of actual attack or bodily harm. In one story told over lunch a veteran of the area relayed the event where a black bear opened a students car door, found and ate a chocolate bar, and left leaving the empty wrapper on the seat and the door ajar. This sounded more like the handy work of a clever harpsichordist to me but, she was there, so I believe her.
III. BLACK BEARS VS GRIZZLIES
What I found most upsetting about the opening wildlife safety lecture wasn't that the Black Bear presence was almost constant in the park, but that the Grizzly presence was absolute zero. Here I was for the first time in my life out of cuddly Black Bear country and almost 2,000 miles over and 8,000 feet up into flesh ripping Grizzly territory, only to be placed in a cabin surrounded by chocolate stealing Black Bears. What made the realization worse was thinking about the wasted hours i spent preparing for my trip practicing my bear encounter technique. BLACK BEAR: hands in the air, look big and scream! GRIZZLY BEAR: play dead… and also probably scream.
IV. THE MOOSE
Other than the threat of seeing a bear near the cabins we also were informed of exotic birds, Elk, Chipmunks, Squirrels, and Bats (remember Bats, they will be important later in the story.) Mostly all small critters which we were familiar with in Virginia, but then there was the legend of the First Aid Supervisor who claimed to come across a Moose drinking from a creek that ran along the boarder of the campus. The office workers and the grounds Keeper Mike both claimed that the woman was mistaken, not being familiar with theses parts of the country, and shook off the idea that someone would actually mistake an Elk or a deer with a Moose as absurd. This became a subject of much debate over the last season, and the staff this year seemed to imply that perhaps the Moose sighting was an invention with a purpose to draw attention, but this season the First Aid lady was no longer on campus to defend herself, so it was left at that.
The story of the Moose I found most exciting because my small living space just happened to be the same one in which the fabled Moose sighting took place. We were located on the second floor of the main office with a small deck overhanging each side, one of which hung right above the bordering creek where the sighting took place. Upon moving into our new space I was assured by the lady in the office that I would "see some cool stuff" if I spent a good deal of my time sitting out on the deck, which I assured her I would be doing plenty of seeing as I was spending a week on top of a mountain, with no internet or cell phone service, at a musical festival specifically geared toward a period of music and scholarship of instruments which I had zero formal training or knowledge of (Upon telling her that though I was not classically trained I did play guitar, bass, Uke, Banjo, and other things, her reaction was "oh, my son likes that Rock N Roll stuff.")
So there I was living in a cabin which carried only, other than the bed, an upright piano and for some reason a Foosball table, neither of which I excel at solo. If perhaps I had someone to play right field, or someone to play left hand i would have had my week planned for me, but alas, it was just me, a lonely Rock n Roller in a world of Early Music Specialists and obsessives. I seemed to be destined to sit alone on that over hanging back deck staring out into that bubbling creek and waiting for that mysterious, elusive, and possibly fictional Moose.