Have Yourself a Gerry Christmas!

It’s that time of year, time to consider the people you care for most. Whom do you love? Whom do you want to spend time with? Whom do you HAVE to spend time with? Are you happy? What does that mean, exactly?

Flipping through my address book the other night with holiday cards piled up on the cushions around me, I thought of these things and of transitions in people’s lives. I erased someone’s name this year. He was a friend and former landlord who died of cancer, and I miss running into him around town. Several friends got divorced or separated, and as I was sitting there, I realized I didn’t have their new addresses, so I made a separate pile of white envelopes on the end table, a stack of lost sheep.

But this post is starting to sound sad, which wasn’t my intention at ALL when I set out to write about my friend Gerry. I thought of him when I was addressing cards. Gerry has a new address, a new life, and, last I heard, his cat was still hiding under the bed. I messaged him on facebook to ask for his new address and stuck his card in the stack of sheep.

I met Gerry in college about twenty years ago, where we both played in the school’s orchestra. I played bassoon, badly. He played viola, only marginally better. He was a composition student, and I attended one of his first concerts in which, as I recall, Gerry wore red high-top sneakers. After graduation, we moved to the same city.

Over the past twenty years, my admiration for his energy, passion, and commitment to the arts has grown. His life itself, I think, is a work of art. He’s made films, won photography contests, designed websites, written music, taught college classes, and become a keystone of the Sibley Library at the Eastman School of Music. There's probably a slew of artistic skills he possesses I don't even know about. Forget about six degrees of separation. A lot of people in Rochester, New York are connected by a line straight through Gerry Szymanski.

What I also admire about him is that he's nice. I don’t mean that in a Hallmark card kind of way. I mean, he’s genuinely interested in other people and their ideas. He’s a good listener, a good friend, someone you want to spend time with. He lights up the room figuratively and literally, with the little silver camera that seems permanently attached to his hand. (True story: I once attended a wedding where, when Gerry showed up, the groom told him he was the official wedding photographer.)

I was delighted to hear that last week, students and faculty at the Eastman School played some of Gerry’s music during an informal holiday concert, and so I pass this gift onto you. You can see and hear it at this link. Enjoy, and have a Gerry Christmas!