A year ago today, I played my final two shows of “The Phantom of the Opera”.

Middle Bro’ had called to tell me about Dad’s passing at 11 p.m. the night before. I was rather in a daze when I dragged out of bed the next morning, as I didn’t sleep very well. I had the vague but persistent feeling that my father visited me in my dreams.

As James drove me to the theatre in downtown Des Moines for the matinee, my emotions threatened to bubble to the surface and I must admit that I tamped them down, in order to get through that long day of performances.

I decided not to spread the word in the Phantom company about my dad’s death. Everyone was busy packing up to leave for the next city; the final show day is always chaotic and people’s nerves are frayed as they throw everything into large hampers and the stagehands load the seventeen 53′-long semi trucks with the many sets and costumes. It requires a monumental effort to “get the circus out of town”, and I just didn’t want to add to the general confusion and drama.

Besides, I was about to be laid off for six months (along with a few other traveling musicians) and knew that I might not return — so why share this news? I simply wanted to slip away without a fuss.

However, I did tell my horn colleague (I played 2nd chair) who I could trust to keep mum. E. knew that my father had been in and out of hospitals for the past six weeks, so it wasn’t a shock to him. I will always appreciate his tact and understanding.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a full year since I’ve played the show. Time has gone by so fast!

Well, it’s been an extremely busy and eventful year with many changes. When James and I drove out of Des Moines that night after my final show, we assumed that we would be spending the rest of our lives in a certain small town in southeastern Arizona.

It sure didn’t work out that way and we’re glad! Our current situation In the Woods is ever-so-much better on all levels.

It’s taken me nearly a year to regain my “horn chops”, which had been somewhat limited by playing the same show over and over again. I estimate that I played 3,500 Phantom shows over the ten years I was with the company.

So it is no surprise that I’ve had to practice and perform other music extensively in order to crawl out of the show rut. I’m just now starting to feel better about my playing.

I am grateful for the opportunities to play the horn in Northern California — I wouldn’t have performed on it nearly as much if we had stayed in Arizona.

The Phantom company will be in Sacramento from mid-May to mid-June, and I am actually going to play the last two weeks of the month-long run! I’ll be subbing for my replacement, who is taking a short vacation.

I’ll be doing sixteen shows in a row from June 3-13, with no days off. This is happening because the trucks need an extra travel-day to haul the show to their next city, Tulsa. The company crams in the eight shows-a-week quota into one less day.

It will be very nice to see my old colleagues again, but even nicer NOT to have to pack up and go to the next city with them when the Sacramento run ends!

Playing Phantom for ten years was a very interesting experience, but I am so thankful that I am off the road.