Ellen Pendleton Troyer
I grew up as the youngest of four in Winter Park, Fl. My first memory of music was listening to my eldest sister Kathy (who was 15 years old when I was born) playing her guitar and singing to me in my crib. I called her guitar her “La-La.” Between my eldest sister’s singing, my brother’s rock band, my other sister’s flute playing, and my parent’s raucous parties with adults singing around the piano, my family has always influenced my music. My father’s family hails from Virginia and my mother’s from the Appalachian region of Eastern Kentucky. So as far as my relatives were concerned, it was “Juilliard-Shmuillaird…let’s hear some fiddling!”
I had many creative influences from my family—writers, artists, and musicians. I love them because we all see the world in a similar, albeit crazy way. My innate silliness and crazy sense of humor is why I almost gave up music in my second year at Juilliard to become a stand-up comedian. I used to go to comedy clubs on Monday nights, and even met Jon Stewart, whom my sister kept nudging me to date.
But performing music has a pull for me that I’ve never been able to ignore. The ability to be the conduit between a composer’s intent and a live audience is an ethereal experience—communicating one human being’s experience to another across centuries. Looking out in the audience and seeing tears after we’ve played a beautiful musical phrase is a thrill that’s tough to replicate.
Although I’ve tried. Being a bit of an adrenaline junkie, I’ve jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. I’ve also had wonderful adventures with my daughter Carly, who has inherited my creative silliness. She is my ski buddy because my husband doesn’t ski. I’m also a runner (and have completed a marathon and three half-marathons). It’s a great stress-reliever to get out there and exercise after using my hands as “small muscle athletes” for hours.
They say that sports teaches you motivation, discipline, perseverance, and team work. Try training to be in a professional orchestra! Our lives are so very different from the average person. From the basics of not being able to maintain a normal sleep schedule (especially when one has children) to the pressure of having to maintain a level of perfectionism night after night throughout our careers. Is it worth it? On most nights, absolutely. And for the nights when it doesn’t seem worth it? I guess I could always come home and work on that stand-up comedy routine.