The arts are alive and well in Walla Walla! Opening night of the Winter Chamber Music Festival featuring violinist Orlando Wells. For information about remaining performances go here: 

The Arts. Performing, visual and literary. I love them all as both creator and consumer, as author and reader, as actor and audience, as inept sketcher and gallery visitor.


In the few days of 2023 so far, I’ve rehearsed and performed six days straight and embarked on the four-day voyage of a music festival. Not to mention writing- -always writing and always reading. Because if you’re in the arts and with the arts, that’s what you do.


It’s not just how the hours get filled during the day. If you think about it too hard, everything about the arts is about the human condition.


You’re thinking about it too hard.

And you don’t only do arts stuff, you go to the Y a lot, too.

And take care of the cat.

And worry about getting your tax stuff ready.

Clean the house, buy groceries, put gas in the car.

Go to the library, go for a walk.

Text people and take badly framed photos on your iPhone.


Lily, 9, you are straying from the point. Unless, of course, you are making a list of some of the things that make up the human condition. Some things we do because others expect us to. Some things we do so we have food, shelter and warmth. Many things we do because we don’t want to piss off the cat.


But the arts. In the case of the arts, we are striving to share the gift.




The gift of creativity, imagination, entertainment. Ultimately, the gift of community- -people coming together to create and witness something unique.


Last weekend The Nutcracker, the collaborative gift of a hundred or more people when you factor in everyone involved in bringing it to the stage, played to average houses of 600. It was incredibly fun and satisfying to be part of the performing ensemble, but also an awe-inspiring experience watching the elements of the physical production come together- -lights, sound, sets, costumes, props- -and witnessing the work of the dancers.

The arts: party scene from “The Nutcracker.” Photo by Greg Lehman, Walla Walla Union Bulletin.

In particular, I am in awe of the young studio dancers, grade school through teens. The dedication required for a person to become a proficient and elegant ballet dancer, the hours and weeks, months and years of practice and discipline many of these kids (and their parents) have invested in creating this reality, blows my mind. And the joy they bring to what they do! Honestly, it humbles me to be in the same building with these folks.


If you’ve never been backstage during a student ballet performance or dance recital you’ve missed out on a divine chaos of camaraderie and aspiration. Most of the older students performed in several dances, necessitating quick dresser-assisted costume changes behind the scenes, its own wild choreography. More surprising to me were the younger students in the wings, shadowing the steps their elders performed on the stage. You could see dreams in their movements: one day it would be their turn to be soloists and principals. Art, unfolding as a natural progression.


I was amazed.


And this week, the Walla Walla Winter Chamber Music Festival!

Opening night was a “Portrait of an Artist” concert, the artist being violinist Orlando Wells. In this format the artist selects their own program, pieces that are meaningful in their lives and careers. Beethoven, Prokofiev, a piece by a 19th Century Polish violin prodigy, a contemporary composition that fused swing and jazz. Nuanced and muscular violin with flawless piano accompaniment, up close and in a small venue. It literally brought tears to my eyes.


As did watching my fellow Nutcracker performers from the wings.


I can relate.

Me, too, but why is it like that?


Good question, 9. Maybe it’s because we’re watching and listening to beautiful gifts made by humans, for humans, a moment of connection between the givers and the receivers.


Ultimately, that’s what readers and writers hope for, too.

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