Music and EAs

I worked an overnight shift on Saturday on a unit I had spent relatively little time on… and it went fine! Overnight shifts are very busy from 7-11 and then quiet down until around 5. I don’t mind them, except for the fact that they are overnight and mess with my sleep schedule. Thankfully I only do them every 6th weekend (for now). 

I slept until 1:30 and then got up to face the day. I had the special opportunity to perform with several other talented musicians and dear friends at the Festival of Music. Our church hosts this series every year and one “episode” is always “Lee Afdahl and Friends,” featuring our talented music director and organist, Lee, and other local musicians. This year, I was one of Lee’s friends!

Our “flute” choir, composed of 4 flautists from our church (one with a piccolo and one with a bass flute!) and a clarinetist, performed a cheerful Celtic ditty. I loved it and in fact it is still stuck in my head. We also had some excellent performances by trumpets, soprano saxophone, clarinet, and voice in a range of styles. Nevertheless throughout the whole concert I had the weight of work hanging over my head. I love my job but on this celebratory Sunday I was dreading having to leave the fold of musicians and go to the hospital.

However by 6:00 I felt ready to head in. I donned my scrubs and headed out to the car. As I started to drive away, I realized I hadn’t eaten anything. I decided I would eat my sandwich while I did my prep work.

Then, as I was about to pull into the parking garage, I got the call. “We had an opening and we can give you an EA. And we’ll give you twelve hours.”

“Awesome!” I cried, turning my car around and heading back to the church to change and then attend a delightful evening with the Festival of Music committee…


“Hold on,” you’re saying. “What’s an EA?”

An EA, or Excused Absence, is like Christmas in July. It only occurs when 1) you have signed up to take an excused absence, and 2) they have enough nurses and don’t need you that particular shift.

In this case it occurred at the last minute. And it was PERFECT! I went to the party, drank champagne, and had a lovely evening.

Of course I couldn’t go to sleep until 1:30 because I had slept all day but you know what? It was worth it.

The Lifelong Pursuit of Music

I began playing music in high school. I tried and failed at flute in 3rd grade – I think my mouth was too small! – and then moved on to years of the desert waste of piano lessons. (No insult to my teacher or the piano, I am just not Mozart material). The middle school I attended didn’t have a band program, so it was not until I switched to high school that my dad dug his saxophone out of his closet and I began my woodwind career.

I will gloss over the next four years of symphonic band, jazz band and church orchestra. Suffice to say that my amazing saxophone teacher, “Bad Bob” Price, got me hooked on woodwinds. After 3 years of saxophone, and a brief, quickly-vetoed attempt at clarinet, I figured out that I was actually good at flute AND it was a lot easier to carry around. So I went off to college and played saxophone in the pep band and flute in the flute choir, and fell in love with a percussionist and handbell player. I kept playing in the flute choir even after I graduated since I was addicted to ensembles.

When we came to Rochester, we stumbled into what we consider the most musical church in Rochester. Handbells, choir, flute… they have all kinds of great music. In addition, the medical school here in Rochester appears to be a mecca for professional musicians. Just last night my friend Nicole and I played a duet at the Mayo Med School Recital and we were in lofty company… a professional opera singer and a professional trumpet player and tenor (professional meaning they once made all their money from music). Not to mention the other EXTREMELY talented musicians who played and sang and accompanied their way through a most enjoyable evening.

I think there was a point, before I fell in love with woodwinds, when I wanted to give up music and my dad said something like, “Music is for a lifetime.” He was right! Music is both fun and meaningful and I am so thankful for my flute, my saxophone and the ability to read music. (As an anthropologist I feel compelled to add that music is an integral part of culture, and that participating in music is an excellent way to embed onself in a culture and build connections.)  So thank you parents for making me play music, and Bad Bob for helping me love it, and all the band teachers and directors over the years that gave me these opportunities.

And if you, reader, have laid aside your saxophone/flute/instrument for a long time… consider taking it out, getting it fixed up, and seeing if you can find an ensemble nearby. I promise, there are few things as personally rewarding or socially satisfying as participating in music.