What's in My Bag?

featuring Acting Principal Second Violin Sylvia Danburg Volpe

Violinist Catherine Ro spoke to Sylvia Danburg Volpe, Acting Principal Second Violin, about her many (often Texas-inspired) must-haves on any given day. Dig her MET Orchestra Musicians duds? Get some for yourself!

Snacking Essentials

The hummus/pretzel pack is the perfect quick intermission snack. Add it to a peppermint tea [from the Met cafeteria] and you've got ten minutes of heaven.

A water bottle is, to me, a pit essential. For any opera with an act longer than 45 minutes (which is basically all of them), you are going to require hydration at some point. Also useful for fending off unmusical coughing fits!

Staying Organized

The little blue Met schedule is our season at a glance, including show times, rehearsals, which conductors are doing what - everything. As a practicing Luddite, I use this in lieu of putting my schedule into my iPhone…because I don't know how to do that.

I have a Bluetooth along for the ride because my half hour commute home to Hastings-on-Hudson is the perfect time to catch up with my family and friends. The older I get, the less entertaining I find it to get pulled over by the police for not using one. Just use it!

My wallet? Texan, like me.

The iPhone is for not keeping track of my Met schedule.

Self Preservation

Body Butter? Self-explanatory. It alleviates the damage done by…

My Purell. Essential in a building with so many people confined to so many of the same places. It can be a rather intimate environment, germ-wise. That's why I bring protection.

The orchestra is not all that visible in the pit, but I bring lipstick nonetheless. You can take the girl out of Texas, but you can't take the Texas out of the girl!

Wings, Books, and Kids

The JetBlue wings are self-adhesive and they have let us down many times. It’s time to move them to a less-important bag.

The book Violins of Hope is being lent to me by Rabbi Eddie Schecter. It discusses the formation of the Palestine Orchestra in the 1930's - the lives it saved, the separate orchestras that European Jews were forced to play in during that time in European history. It puts our job in a very different perspective.

I would love to explain the Shrinky Dink and Shopkin in a way that makes me seem young at heart, but really it's because I am the proud owner of a five- and seven-year-old.

A Day in the Life: Elaine Douvas

featuring Principal Oboe Elaine Douvas

Violinist Catherine Ro interviewed Principal Oboe Elaine Douvas about how two of her passions, ice skating and music, parallel and inform each other. Like Elaine's MET Orchestra Musicians duds? Get some of your very own!

Catherine Ro: How long have you been skating?

Elaine Douvas: Over 20 years. 

CR: I noticed the wrist guards...

ED: Fingers go back to where they were...wrists do not, so wrist guards are a must on the ice. 

CR: Speaking of that, are you ever worried about the possibility of performance-related injuries when you're playing such long operas? How do you prevent them?

ED: The shows are not even the worst part. It's the reed making. Sharpening my blades, scrubbing knives on a sharpening stone was my first overuse injury. I have since switched to electric equipment and learned how to bend the edges on a steel rod. As for the long hours, I have a stick that attaches to the oboe that holds it up and takes the weight off my thumb. 

CR: There are tons of intricate moves on the ice. At this point, are you striving to perfect them for adult competitions or for self satisfaction? 

ED: Definitely self satisfaction. The competitions come at a terrible time like during pre-season [rehearsals]. Instead, I take different level tests. I've passed 11 tests so far of different moves in the field. 

CR: Wow, that's impressive! My daughter skates, so I know how long it takes to learn a new move and how difficult it is to pass one of those tests...and all of this accomplished with your extremely busy playing and teaching schedule!

ED: It's nice to be able to escape from reed worries, and to be able to immerse myself in something else for a couple of hours. I enjoy the feeling of wind rushing through my hair and the thrill of wanting to skate fast. It's sort of like flying. I try not to get too caught up in "progress" and try to enjoy myself. 

CR: Do you find similarities between oboe playing and ice skating?

ED: Absolutely! For example, if you're doing a figure eight, you have to push off in an exact way that is similar to an attack on a note. Or when have to go around a circle and have to make it symmetrical, it's like making a crescendo followed by a diminuendo. Having certain contact with the ice is like having a certain grounded tone. Being light on your feet is like being buoyant in a phrase.

CR: I love the juxtaposition between work and play. 

ED: I think skating has helped me as a performer to present myself better, to be more open and confident as a player. 

A Day in the Life: Leigh Mesh

featuring Associate Principal Bass Leigh Mesh

Violinist Catherine Ro interviewed Associate Principal Bass Leigh Mesh about how two of his passions, skiing and bass, parallel and inform each other. Like Leigh's MET Orchestra Musicians duds? Get some of your very own!

Catherine Ro: So, would it be safe to say that if you were not in music, you would be out on the slopes?

Leigh Mesh: Definitely. Every day.

CR: How did you get started?

LM: I grew up in Westchester County. I started skiing late, when I was 11. I was desperate to start. I grew up skiing and racing at a place called Birch Hill, which is now called Thunder Ridge. Actually, not too long ago, [my son] Wolfie had his first race there, so I went and watched.

CR: Wow, full circle! Lots of memories!

LM: Yeah.

CR: Do you find a correlation between bass playing and skiing?

LM: The technical aspects of playing the bass is very similar to mastering skiing. Anybody who plays and teaches an instrument at this level has to teach the technical aspects of using your body. Tension is a big thing to figure out in both skiing and the bass. Releasing tension, learning to relax more, prevents injury.

CR: What's in your backpack [in the picture to the left]?

LM: If I ski with a backpack, it's for backcountry skiing. I carry a shovel in case somebody gets buried, a probe to look for them, an avalanche beacon, a first aid kit, water, clothing, and a headlamp.

CR: Does your family go on these trips?

LM: Wolfie has backcountry skied with me. My wife Nancy and daughter Guin haven't, but want to.

CR: Are there any other outdoor sports you enjoy?

LM: Cycling, mountain biking, road biking - anything fun!

CR: Is injury a concern, given the treacherous terrain you've skied on?

LM: No...well, I've been injured a lot.

CR: What was your worst injury?

LM: I had knee surgery during my first year on the job, which was a pain. I also broke my right ankle because a snowboarder plowed into me.

CR: Anything you'd like to share?

LM: It's definitely amazing to be able to ski with my family we've made some incredible memories. When we retire, Nancy draws the line at Salt Lake City...not Anchorage.

CR: You have an awesome wife.

LM: The best!

Like Leigh's MET Orchestra Musicians duds? Get some of your very own!

A Day in the Life: Fitness Edition

featuring Principal Harp Emmanuel Ceysson and bassist Brendan Kane

Violinist Catherine Ro interviewed two of our newest members, bassist Brendan Kane and Principal Harp Emmanuel Ceysson, who shared how they stay in shape and keep healthy despite the rigorous Met schedule. Like their tank tops? Get one of your very own!

Emmanuel ceysson

Emmanuel ceysson

Catherine Ro: So, we play a lot here. How do you stay healthy?

Brendan Kane: Exercise. When it’s nice out, I run in the park. Otherwise, it’s the treadmill at the gym.
Emmanuel Ceysson: Yeah, I run about eight miles in Central Park two times a week. It usually takes me an hour. 

CR: And strength training?

BK: I do Crossfit five times a week. 
EC: Four times a week, I work out different muscular groups: back and biceps, legs, shoulders, and chest and triceps.

CR: Brendan, a little birdie told me you’re into marathons. Want to elaborate?

BK: I've run three marathons: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. My record is 3:18.

CR: Wow, that’s great! Anything else we need to know?

BK: Over the summer, I hike and bike in the Swiss Alps.

brendan kane

brendan kane

EC: I hiked Kilimanjaro last year.

CR: You win, Emmanuel. Can you guys tell us a little about what you eat?

EC: Lean proteins, fish, chicken, and lots of veggies. I also have protein shakes with wheat germ, almond milk, chia seeds, flax seeds, and sometimes berries.
BK: I have four eggs in the morning, and I like to make myself protein with spinach and peanut butter smoothies as well.

CR: Wow! You guys are so disciplined.

BK: Sleeping is very important, and no eating late at night.
EC: Not too much drinking, either.

CR: Oh, come on. You must have a guilty pleasure.

BK: It’s been sugar all my life, but I recently gave it up.

CR: Come on...

BK: OK, the occasional whiskey. Knob Creek, to be specific

What's in My Bag?

featuring violinist Sarah Vonsattel and chief librarian Robert Sutherland

Sarah Vonsattel shows us her "must-haves" for any situation, whether musical or baby-related! Want a bag of your own? Check out totes and more!

What I'm reading:

For Christmas last year, my husband bought me Leopold Mozart’s A Treatise on the Fundamental Principles of Violin Playing. I'm finally getting around to reading it! The New Yorker magazine is a great way to spend my time on the subway. Of course, when I get home, it's time to study the next opera, which is Bizet's Pearl Fishers. There are some tricky first violin passages in there! Blue Hat, Green Hat…my baby Felix's favorite book of the moment. Gotta keep him occupied when we're at a restaurant!

Baby, baby, baby!

Baby Mum Mums are awesome! I have to have extra diapers and wipes, a change of clothes, and, of course, baby socks.

I feel pretty!

My favorite lip color of the moment is Mac's lipstick in Hot Tahiti. Burt’s Bees lip balm in wild cherry is a close second. Hand cream, a hair brush - everything’s in the makeup case to keep things organized.

Just in case...

Altoids, kleenex, keys, Ray Ban Wayfarers, leather gloves, and, of course, my wallet. I need water all the time, so my stainless water bottle. My cell phone goes in there at all times.

Robert "Bob" Sutherland, Chief Librarian, shows us what he uses to survive a typical work day (minus the wine!). Bob owns both types of tote bags. Want a bag of your own? Check out totes and more!

In the small tote...

Ancient Scribbles

I have a leather-bound, engraved agenda organizer. I'm still old-fashioned in that way - I like to write things down. I find I remember things better when they're written down.

Book of the moment:

I'm just finishing Silence by Shūsaku Endō. It's a novel about two Portuguese missionaries going to find a fellow missionary in 17th-century Japan.

Still going strong

I use a MacBook Pro, mainly for work - music editing and computer engraving. The computer is seven years old, but still going strong!

Making the most of the score

I'm typesetting a score and parts, including both opera and concert endings, for Mozart's "Rivolgete a lui lo sguardo," an alternate aria from Così fan tutte.


I keep iPhone and computer chargers for everyday use.

In the Large Tote...

Gift transport

In this bag are gifts of wine for the stagehands who help us in the pit. The bag fits 10 bottles comfortably, with self-made cardboard inserts so the bottles don't rub up against each other.

Want a bag of your own? Check out totes and more!