PILGRIMAGES: Julia Douglass, “Metaphorical Pilgrimage” (4/6)

Julia Douglass_KB-01Out of all those singer-songwriters of ‘90s NYC, I’m so glad that one has stayed true to her craft and continues to produce great albums. Minnesota transplant Julia Douglass has a supremely engaging storyteller’s gift–and a far better sense of humor than Bob Dylan and far less anger than Alanis Morissette. She also has this artful way of surprising you with non-melodic moments that demand attention and reward you with insight. Very glad that her peregrinations have brought her back to NYC–where she clearly belongs–a second time and that she’s releasing her album this month. Minnesota: NYers win!
Want to witness Julia Douglass’s awesomeness live? She will be performing with cellist Jacqueline Ultan, Sunday, November 15, 2015 at The Living Room in Brooklyn, NY.
~Victoria C. Rowan, Ideasmyth Creatrix-in-Chief


During my four years in Minneapolis I went back to my musical roots, as well. I was a classical musician, I played the French horn for many years–I think around twenty or so–and originally went to the east coast to study in graduate school at The Yale School Music. After graduation, New York was a quick hour and a half drive, and thanks to my friend Carol, who was already living there and who got me a job, I became a New Yorker without a lot of thought put into it. I was so exhausted from the perfectionist demands of the classical music world and from playing the french horn–for me, a tough instrument–that I finally quit, after playing for twenty years or so, although ironically, after I became a good player. But I have no regrets. I played well, but not well enough. And I’m too ridiculous to be a symphony player. I would get so terribly nervous before performances if I was soloing or playing first chair. I was just a basket case. But I’m grateful for the classical foundation. It has served me well in a strange way. I’m gonna write some songs now, I think. And so I became an enthusiastic member of the very welcoming downtown New York new music scene. And I had a ball. And rarely went to Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center during that period.

After I moved back to Minneapolis, in 2010, I went to the Minnesota Orchestra every week that first year. The brilliant Osmo Vanska was (and is currently) their resident conductor and succeeded in turning an already highly regarded symphony, into one of the best in the world. Yep. Up there with the Big Boys, the Berlin Philharmonic, The Chicago Symphony, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and The Minnesota Orchestra. It was such a thrill to go every week and hear them, and it was an even bigger thrill because Orchestra Hall was ten minutes, maybe five, from my apartment. And, after hearing this great music, every week, it worked its magic, and I was able once again to play around with my own music. It was fun again. I was literally back to my roots. I grew up listening to the Minnesota Orchestra, and they inspired me to want to be a musician. And I was back again. Once again, inspired. I am back now in New York. But I go to Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center now every week. I doubt if I will stop. I don’t dare take it for granted. The Minnesota Orchestra was unfortunately out of commission for almost two years, during a management lock-out during the contract negotiations, and it sorely seemed as if that great institution would be destroyed, or seriously diminished. They did bring it back, better than ever, but I learned not to take these for granted. I need that mojo. I love all music, most all of it inspires me in some way. But my pilgrimage back to the Mother Ship, classical music and it’s inordinate complexity and sophistication, will always do it for me. And in these times its relevance to society is becoming less and less, which alarms me. I myself will probably not be a classical musician again. I’ll continue on in my own vein, but the magical sonic worlds our symphonies create for us, and the fact that we can hear the great masterworks–Beethoven, Mozart, Mahler, Stravinsky, Schubert, Bach–are indeed some of the greatest things humanity has brought to this world. And they can’t help but be infectious. Soothing our worries, if that’s what is ailing, or inspiring  us to want to be better.

JD-BWK-square~~~Originally a classical musician, Julia Douglass won a scholarship to the Yale School of Music in the French Horn. Upon graduation she immediately quit the French Horn and embarked on her singer songwriter career in New York City. Her music has been described by Billboard Magazine as “a sterling collection of memorable melodies with lyrics that depict thoughtful, touching, amusing and above all, uncannily true pictures of contemporary American life.”

She has been described as having a similar sensibilities of 60s folkie Melanie, Randy Newman and Loudon Wainwright.  She lives in the New York area and performs frequently.

Posted in Communications, Featured Creatives, Good Ideas, Inspiration, Performance Ideas, Pilgrimages and tagged , , , , .