July 25 -27, 2022: The 2022 National Junior Classical League Convention, Lafayette, LA

Here's what I wrote in the conclusion to my post about the 2021 (Virtual) NJCL Convention last July: 

"The NJCL Convention next July 2022 is scheduled to be in Lafayette, Louisiana, and I know by then we'll be able to travel and be in rooms together listening to music. And I can't wait for that day."

And... so it was: for the first time in three years I was able to make the trip to perform in person for what has been, every year since 2012, a wonderful set of shows for a group of mostly high school students and teachers who live and breathe all things classics.

I went back and read my post about the last time I was able to perform in person for this event, in 2019 at North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND.  The final show of that group was my 294th performance.  The two Odyssey shows in Lafayette (two hours west of New Orleans) were my 347th and 348th.

Fifty-some Odyssey shows in three years... what that number lacks in volume it makes up for in impact: 5 new states added (including Hawaii and Alaska).  Three new countries added including the holy grail (so to speak) of Greece. When you add in the over 40 Blues of Achilles shows (which didn't even start until March of 2020)... the intervening three years between in person NJCL shows look, especially given the disruption of the pandemic, like they've been pretty good for my Classics work. And they have.

Speaking of the Blues of Achilles, it's incredible to me that at that 2019 NJCL convention I was still figuring out what that project would be.  I had written the majority of the songs in early 2019 but as I look in my writing book I can see that the trip to North Dakota came right in the middle of a deep dive into the narrative arc of the Iliad in which I was struggling to contextualize the music inside the presentation of the story. Contrast that with NJCL 2022 when not only was I to perform my Odyssey two times but for the first time at a NJCL event I was to also play The Blues of Achilles (two times).  

In fact, as I struggled into Lafayette after my 5:25 am flight and two hour car ride, my first order of business (after lunch) was a Blues of Achilles show in a big beautiful theater in the Union on the campus University of Louisiana - Lafayette. 

I was a nervous for my first BOA show with a primarily high school audience but I needn't have been. The students were amazing.  I think Madeline Miller's Song of Achilles has given high school kids a window into the story that was not present for me and my generation. Certain aspects of my version (the focus on love, the particular emphasis on trying to give female characters more of a voice) seemed to connect. I was floored. The next day I did another BOA show and had a similar experience. 

The third day I had two Odyssey shows before heading back to New Orleans (in a torrential downpour) for my flight home, a busy 4 shows in 48 hours of time on the ground in Lafayette.

Of course, my flight was delayed so I had some time to have a beer at an airport bar and consider my return to NJCL.  What struck me was that I wrote the Odyssey explicitly with high school audiences in mind and it wound up, somewhat to my surprise, translating to college audiences. Almost 20 years later I wrote The Blues of Achilles explicitly with college audiences in mind and it wound up, somewhat to my surprise, translating to high school audiences. 

I can't wait for NJCL 2023 at Emory University in Atlanta.

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