Apologies, readers (if there are any!) for the lengthy absence. This has been a busy few months, with many surprises (both the bad and wonderful kinds) that have distracted me from writing. I first started this blog with the intent of writing about music just as I was entering a new phase of my life as a full-time professional musician. More than a year has now passed since I got my lucky break and I’ve had many longtime dreams fulfilled amidst the challenges and hardships. It’s been nothing like I’ve expected. I suppose I should have expected as much.
One year seems like an appropriate milestone to reflect on what I’ve learned so far. I’m sure I will look back on this in another year (or more likely next month) and realize how little I really knew when I wrote this. No matter. I’m going to write this down for all to see before I can convince myself that I’m wrong about everything and don’t know what I’m talking about.
Practicing is not about preparing your part until it’s perfect, nor is it about preparing your part until it’s good enough. It’s about getting better. You push against the limits of what you’re capable of and over time those limits start to give way. You become just a bit more capable than you were before, and that opens up opportunities and allows you to engage with your craft on a level that’s just a little bit deeper. More depth yields greater satisfaction, but the satisfaction doesn’t last unless you keep pushing farther. You build towards a greater artistry one day at a time.
The job provides an environment in which to showcase your art and a paycheque. It does not provide happiness. Happiness must be cultivated.
The ways in which orchestral musicians contribute to their ensemble are varied, and not just limited to musical artistry. Young players bring energy and enthusiasm to the table while older ones bring wisdom gained through decades of hard-earned experience. A musician who plays solos with courage and flair is an example of someone who contributes very publicly to an orchestra’s success. A musician who works behind the scenes to solve problems and bring people together is no less vital to the health and productivity of their organization.
No one can accurately predict the future, and this applies as much to job satisfaction and artistic success as it does to ticket sales and the overall state of the economy. I’ve played extraordinarily emotional music and felt very little, and I’ve played music that I considered totally unremarkable and suddenly been struck by a sense of deep contentment and happiness in my choice of career. The job will not always be as wonderful as you want it to but sometimes it will be better than you ever imagined.