I arrived in Vermont in July 1988, after spending four months communicating with the ministry of culture of East Germany and finally succeeding in getting a passport to leave East Germany. Siegfried Palm had heard me in East Germany and introduced my name to Felix Galimir and Rudolf Serkin; I was accepted after sending a cassette tape to America. My first summer in Vermont was a revelation. I had almost no chamber music experience and learned playing in a group, speaking English and how to participate in the legendary Marlboro pranks. After the summer I received an invitation for a Marlboro tour in November 1989. Another great summer of friendship, music, and nature passed in 1989, and I started organizing a place to stay in NYC for the November Marlboro tour.
The day came, and it must have been something like one of the last days of October 1989 when I arrived on a rainy day at JFK. I was tired and not alert for a moment, and suddenly I realized that my wallet had been stolen. I had a terrible migraine and no money and somehow convinced a bus driver to take me to Port Authority without paying the fare. When I arrived at 8th Avenue and 41st Street it was raining hard. I walked without umbrella with my cello and a large suitcase to the Juilliard School, where a Marlboro summer friend had promised to meet me. I arrived wet and half dead at Juilliard, but my friend had forgotten our arrangement, and nobody was waiting for me. While I was waiting, Mark Steinberg walked by and was surprised to see me. We knew each other from the summer at Marlboro, and when I told him my story he immediately offered me to stay with him. I arrived at his place and slept for 12 hours. When I woke up the world was fantastic. I had a bed, there was coffee and soon my rehearsal started with my friends from Marlboro. All the struggle and stress was forgotten, and the tour started. When we would come back to New York City after a concert we would order Chinese food at 3 am, something unheard of in East Germany. I fell in love with the city and enjoyed every minute of the tour. On November 9 I was in New York, and we were watching TV. I couldn’t believe what was happening in Germany—the Berlin wall was coming down!
There were strong political tensions in the fall of 1989, but this came as a total surprise. Not only was I on tour with Marie-Luise Neunecker, the wonderful horn player from (West) Germany. We were meeting fellow Germans on the streets in NYC and would feel this incredible spirit of positive energy that was created by these events. It was as strong in America as it must have been in Germany.
The rest of the tour was like a dream. I knew life would change for me forever, and when I look back, I realize that nothing I do today would have been possible if that November would not have brought all this life-changing news. At the same time, the warm atmosphere and friendship of the Marlboro family made me feel at home in the ‘New world’ and created friendships that are still strong today. In 1991 Mira Wang and I met at the Marlboro Festival. We got married in 1996. We live in New York City today, and our two daughters go to school here.