Yesterday morning, I dashed off a few emails, including one to my friend and mentor, Chris Andrews, and followed up with a visit to his Facebook page. It had been a few months since we'd been in touch, so I wanted to see what was new and exciting in his world. His page was a collage of sentimental posts from friends and colleagues with photos and videos. "We'll miss you!" At first, I thought maybe he was relocating or taking on an entirely new turn in his career. Afterall, Chris was never short of ideas and ambition. But as I read more, the tone began to change. I was not prepared for what I was about to see. All too abruptly, his obituary appeared. My heart sank. He couldn't be gone. I knew we had at least a few more Mozart adventures up our sleeves to shake up this world, right? He was only 55 years old and at the top of his game with yet another innovation called Soundlink, so it was absolutely shocking. After the stinging tears of realization, I turned to the appropriate place for comfort: my blog.
In 2006, Chris empowered me via his platform of Mozart.com which truly began my journey of self-invention. Chris himself created this blog account for me. He knew I had a voice before I knew I had something to say. His encouragement planted the foundation for me establish my own professional identity. His connection to Director Phil Grabsky also led to my unprecedented opportunity to work on the theatrical release of In Search of Mozart. Chris's innovative spirit shone brightly. This kind of energy was exactly what I needed. On the secrets of success, he stated in a Grammy365.com interview: "Do one thing better than anyone else on the planet. Learn it inside out so you can know what it really means to 'know' something."
Two quotes from his site also describe and honor the way I feel about Chris as a friend and mentor...
"After any interaction I have with Chris Andrews I have a better idea of how I can make an impact in my work both professionally and personally. Chris brings innovative business ideas to the conversation that help me mold the vision for any project that I am working on. He does this through energy and passion, which ultimately is contagious; leaving me inspired and reconnected with myself and my mission." -Scott Boyle
"Working with Chris Andrews is a joy. He helped me realize that I can be the artist I chose to be and there is an audience that will listen and enjoy real talent and art. He really knows how to seek and find the best and bring the best out of the best!" Vickie Natale
After the celebrations of the 2006 Mozart Year anniversary ended, Chris sold the Mozart.com domain to an Austrian company and I became an independent blogger. It was a right of passage. My incubation period had ended and I was now on my own to evolve. Chris and I kept in touch intermittently through the years and most recently re-connected just before Mozart's birthday on January 27, 2012. I had intended to recognize his contribution to my blog and career with an interview in 2011 to celebrate the fifth anniversary of my authorship, but missed the opportunity, so I decided to seize it then. In retrospect, I'm glad I did. I published The Flourish of Mozart Year 2006: A Beginning in February. Chris shared this entry on Facebook and felt honored by it. It makes me feel good knowing that I had the chance to let him know how significant he was during a formative season in my life. Mozart has intentionally crossed my path through various people and ventures and it's difficult to imagine that it's not a coincidence that it all started with Chris, a man who, through his mother's family, also had significant heritage in Vienna.
In March 2012, Chris was impressed by my writing about the world premiere of a new Mozart work and its innovations in the presentation of historically informed performance (video and iTunes!). I was one of the only sources to cover the premiere beyond the standard AP blurb. On April 3rd, I received the last message I would ever receive from Chris via Facebook. He had forwarded my blog entry to his friend, Joe Kennedy, CEO of Pandora, and surprised me with his response. Joe enjoyed reading about this new work and appreciated the awareness I brought forward about what we'll most likely expect to see again with newly discovered and recorded works. Joe was going to alert his team of curators. This meant a great deal to me, especially since he's also one of the company's biggest classical music aficionados!
Chris was always one of my biggest advocates, so his final message to me was a more than a fitting adieu. I admired that he was always thinking on a larger scale, but not in a selfish or superficial way. In all that he did, be it upholding his Viennese family's heritage and tennis legacy, his charity work (he raised over $250,000 for Musicares alone) or his love of pioneering technology and sound, his achievements lifted up those around him for the benefit of a greater cause and a greater humanity. When my non-profit organization was raising funds to sponsor a community garden in March for Historic Green in New Orleans, Chris connected me with his friend in CA who was building green communities and gardens. He was always thinking in terms of community and this was certainly our shared philosophy when it came to Mozart or anything else.
This loss is difficult, especially now, because the world is losing its grip on its recognition and support for great music and art, which I believe truly represents the best of humanity. Life hasn't been easy for me over the past few years as an arts professional living in the United States, but from the catalyst of 2006, I've pioneered something that's truly unique and most importantly, uniquely ME, and all other struggles aside, there's much happiness to be found in it. When Chris set out to engineer the Grammy Webcast and invent the world's first CD Rom, I'm sure his ideas were met with disbelief, but he never compromised his integrity or vision. Moving forward, I'll always keep this bit of advice from Chris in mind...
"It doesn't matter what other people think of you. It only matters how you feel. If you feel good, the right people will migrate towards you, and the wrong people will stay away. By feeling good, I mean you enjoy what you are doing, you are comfortable in your own skin, and your mind is clear and able."
Thank you, Chris...