Why A Book About Amy Beach

It was undoubtedly unwise and risky for a city woman to drive an unknown two-lane windy road into the Santa Barbara Mountains in the late afternoon of a spring day, alone. But that is what I did. As the forest thickened and the day came to a close, the light faded, and with it my vision. I do remember a trickle of fear. Somehow I found the unmarked turn-off in the dark. After another tense fifteen minutes of traversing what was now a one-lane gravel road in a forested void, it was with a sense of relief that I spied a large lit window in the distance ahead.

That I was “driven,” in the compulsive sense of the word, is my only explanation, looking back, for embarking on that journey.  How else did I manage to find my way, in the dark, with less than adequate hand-drawn directions, a broken interior car light, no flashlight and nothing in the car to drink, eat, or keep warm with in case of trouble? Just me, a change of clothes and Sam – my old acoustic guitar. By definition, a “driven person” is not aware that she is being compelled by some outside agency. The I who traversed the mountains two hundred miles from my Los Angeles home that evening was merely acting, not thinking. I was headed to a “musical week-end in the mountains”  – that is what the brochure said. It was given to me by two women, unknown to me, whom I had met at a party a few months earlier. A driven woman does not ponder or analyze why she puts a guitar she has not touched in ten years into her car and drives alone to an unknown destination, to spend a “musical week-end” with a group of people she has never met. That kind of spontaneous action is behavior attributed to an impulsive, risk-taking person, and I was neither of those things. I was driven. Compelled by unconscious forces, the products of my personal history,  that knew me better than I knew myself. Some part of me was aware that when I had laid down my guitar ten years earlier, when I had succumbed to the idea that I was not really a “serious” musician, and did not need music, I had given away the most valuable attribute of my being. Some part of my mind had read that brochure and determined to get me to that place – where I could re-connect with the music in my soul, with the need for music in my life, with the interconnectedness between humankind, nature and the universe that music offered me. continued page 2