The year I finally achieved Altitude 50K status

Air Altitude 50K
Ironically, the year I finally hit 50K

Ironically, 2020 was my first year of attaining Air Canada’s Altitude 50K frequent flyer status as a result of my many travels as an international working musician last year. I would have enjoyed such perks as priority boarding and access to many international airport lounges, saving me time, stress, and patience.

With so many musical activities ‘grounded’ as it were, I, as many musicians, am having mixed feelings about all this.

Some things I’m disappointed about:

A) Gigs and more: Quatuor Bozzini had some big highlights lined up for the summer season including Snape Maltings (UK), Soundscape Festival (Italy), Time:Spans Festival (NYC), and Dartington Summer School (UK). We would have been making music and teaching alongside some of the best artists that I know!
Many of my favourite music memories are associated with summer festivals. Unencumbered by administrative and household duties, I would completely throw myself into sharing meals, stories, values, ambitions, and philosophy with artists around me. Creative people thrive on summer festivals because there’s no other feeling like creating art and special moments with some of your best friends and spurring the next generation on to do the same.

B) Learning to adjust to different cultures: May 2020 was supposed to be Quatuor Bozzini’s first visit to Spain, a place we had always dreamed of visiting (and eating in!) We have also gotten to know lots of artists based in Spain and would have loved a glimpse of the culture, places and people that influence their work.

C) Meeting audiences before and after our concert (usually in a reception or bar setting!), answering questions they might have about the music we played or about our group and why we love playing works by living composers.

Some things I’m less disappointed about:

A) Being at home for a longer period of time means I can invest more in my circle of friends and neighbours. I have a greater awareness of my Montreal neighbourhood, and because life is less hurried, I get to have longer spontaneous chats with people.

B) Sleeping and eating better: getting back to the self-care (physically, emotionally, spiritually) has been great so that I can do better a job caring for others.

C) Feeling carbon footprint guilty: flying is basically public transport on a larger international scale, right? As aircraft are designed with lighter materials and fitting more people per flight, aren’t we maximising the jet fuel that we’re burning up in the sky?

more on going green:

I had started making some personal choices to help reduce my carbon footprint on the road: 1) bringing my own reusable utensils and to-go cup for those meals on the road; 2) paying for a lounge pass so that my airport meals are on washable dishware; 3) bringing my own handsoap container so I’m not unwrapping a brand new one at each hotel; and 4) opting for ‘no room service’ because, honestly, who changes their towels and sheets daily when they’re at home?

With some festivals opting for ‘flightless’ editions, they are limiting their invited artists to a certain geographical area (Should Quatuor Bozzini cross the Atlantic by canoe?) I’m afraid these trends may also lead to localized ethnocentrism and strengthen the xenophobia that is developing in certain places.

Can’t we think of other ‘green’ ways to run festivals? 1) paperless programs and welcome packages; 2) free secure parking for those who bike to concerts; 3) huge discounts on public transit for ticket holders; 4) reusable or renewable takeaway food and beverage containers; 5) ecologically responsible art installations; and 6) hiring production companies that prefer eco-friendly solutions….

These are some examples to go green without putting the burden on the artists themselves, who are trying to stand out in a competitive market.

All to say that I, the frequent flyer, am in constant reflection of who and why I am an artist, and wondering what will change or stay the same in the coming years.

Alissa Cheung

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