Throughout history, young female musicians have generally not had access to the large and celebrated organs in the churches and cathedrals of Western Europe and North America. On my vacation last summer in Geneva, Switzerland, I was stunned to see that times are changing. After performing the concert of a lifetime in St. Pierre Cathedral, a small Asian woman stepped into a narrow space in the organ loft and simply bowed her head.
My body was still tingling from the thunderous conclusion of the final piece, which seemed to vibrate my cells toward spiritual transcendence. The musician had certainly pulled out all the stops and played that magnificent, historic instrument perfectly. The sound was huge and the music compelling. I was weeping.
As tears spilled off my cheeks, I thought about the generations of talented women who have been denied audience and venue for their creative expressions. I thought specifically of the Asian people who have been brutally discriminated against in Western culture. For me, in that moment, that young woman symbolized an enormous amount of cultural evolution and I felt immense gratitude. In the last 40 to 50 years, women and minorities in the West have broken through many barriers in culture and the arts.
After the concert, I met this inspiring musician on the historic front steps of that famous church. I tried to thank her in English, but this being Geneva, she only spoke French.