Sunday, November 13, 2011

City of Bridges

Old ideas die hard. Say “Pittsburgh” to me and up pop the images from my childhood of cold, grey skies filled with the smoke of steel mills. Imagine my surprise to arrive here for the annual Orff Conference and see a beautiful city tri-sected by three rivers, hills with Fall leaves still intact and bridges, bridges and yet more bridges—446, to be exact. Excellent (though quite pricey) restaurants around the Convention Center, a funicular ride up the “incline” to impressive views and I’m sure much more that the indoor Conference life didn’t let me check out. But I have learned that Pittsburgh is the home of Mr. Rogers and his neighborhood, Heinz ketchup (and first, pickles), the place where rags-to- riches tycoon, Andrew Carnegie, made his fortune and of course, the 2008 Superbowl champs, the Pittsburgh Steelers. It also was the birthplace of Getrude Stein, August Wilson, Michael Chabon, Rachel Carson, Annie Dillard and Andy Warhol amongst others.

I can report from my limited experience that Pittsburgh has some honest cabdrivers (one drove back after dropping us at the funicular to return a pair of glasses left in the seat), helpful pharmacists (this one from CVC ordering a cab for us when one of our party’s sciatica prevented her from walking more) and a good recycling system at the Convention Center.

But as often happens, Conferences tend to be their own self-enclosed worlds unless you make the effort to break out and see the local sights. A time to go to workshops, network, shmooze, shop the exhibits, gather at the evening bar, with the added perk we music teachers have of singing, playing and dancing together. All the dramas that are common to any group of people that gather—the flirtations, the cliques, the gossips, the rivalry of factions—happen here as well and have from time immemorial. There are indeed folks from the other side of the river, but in this City of Bridges, one can hope that some time is devoted to crossing and re-crossing and connecting and feeling part of the same larger neighborhood. I know Mr. Rogers would want that.

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