As the last harmonics of my Odyssey faded into the beautiful old assembly hall on the campus of Phillips Exeter Academy on a rainy fall Tuesday night, I exhaled an easy breath and smiled.
The show in the small town of Exeter at one of the most prestigious high schools in the country meant I was one step closer to my goal of singing the Odyssey in all fifty states: New Hampshire became the 37th state in which I'd performed.
It's the first new state I've added since Nebraska and South Dakota in March and the last new state I'll add this year.
By summer of 2019 based on my current bookings (Maryland, Delaware, North Dakota) the count will be at least 40 states and in the last months I've redoubled my efforts to find performance opportunities in the remaining 10 (West Virginia, Utah, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon, Hawaii, Alaska) with a tentative goal of 2020 to get to all 50.
The show at Phillips Exeter was fantastic. Their Classics Department (5 teachers) is bigger than that of many colleges and universities and buzzing with an energy similar to the Junior Classical League events at which I've played. I got to sit in on three classes (two Latin, one Greek) and have lunch with 30 or so very smart, energetic, and diverse students.
The teachers are a wonderful, invested bunch, and typical of Classicists, polymathic. One teacher and I spent a good hour talking music and geeking out over the artist that did the cover art for much of Jason Molina's catalog.
Something I get asked fairly regularly is if I ever regret not going on with my formal Classics studies, perhaps by pursuing a Master's or even Doctorate degree, and becoming a formal teacher of some sort.
My general answer is no, but visiting a situation like Philips Exeter makes me hesitate before replying.
I know I have something special and unique in my Odyssey, both as a creative property and as an educational tool. Part of my effectiveness as a Classics educator comes from the distance at which I stand from conventional high school and university academia. I look different, sound different, and approach the material differently from how students (and non-students) generally get it and expect to get it.
I know my particular value is in complementing what traditional teachers do and expanding how students view the discipline and material and if I were a in a traditional teaching position, even if I had still created my Odyssey, my performances would be received very differently than they are coming from an full on "outsider."
One of the best lesser characters in The Odyssey is Odysseus' maternal grandfather, Autolycus. He's framed as a mysterious rogue of sorts (connected with Hermes) and he's responsible for giving Odysseus his name (at which time he quips that Odysseus will be the "most hated" of men).
His own name means "Lone Wolf" in ancient Greek.
I think about him a lot as I'm out on my travels going from town to town, state to state, pausing for a day to sing my song and engage in discussion around his grandson's exploits, and then moving on to the next place to do it again.
And the next place.
And the next place.
Lone Wolf has a pretty nice ring to it, actually.