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The Hard Truth

I had a great practice session today.  It’s so much fun to work on new pieces after spending so much time on one recital.  I love this phase of exploring new (to me) repertoire and idly planning future performances.  I love the technical practice involved in getting new music under my fingers before the real nitty-gritty work of interpreting and analyzing and understanding gets really underway.  And I feel terrible for wasting my morning.

This stinks.  Why should the life of a twenty-first century musician be so plagued by non-music-making?  I understand, I know, I believe that the way to a career in this day and age is to be highly entrepreneurial.  I know that I need to be making plans all the time for future performances, because no one else will make them for me.  I know I need to be working on my idea for a chamber music series, and contacting presenters to ask for recital appearances, and looking for grants, and keeping up with what others are doing, and scanning music parts to people who have already agreed to collaborate with me.  In my mind all that was going to happen this week.

It is spring break at Valparaiso University and at Notre Dame.  Several of my private students have conflicts with sports or musicals, and one was sick, and I don’t have an orchestra concert this week at all.  Effectively, all I have to do is keep up with my reed business and teach about 4 students - all week!  This is the perfect time to get ahead with all of the afore-mentioned career stuff. 

But instead I spent my morning delving deep into transcribing a violin concerto.  I spent yesterday working on a Bach Partita.  I love playing the oboe, and I sometimes wish that I hadn’t learned the truth about the rest of it.  I remember being in my early twenties, living in Chicago, and being totally fulfilled by the making of the music.  I could lose myself in a practice room for hours at a time, and eat my lunch in a daze, eager to get back to the instrument.  I would go to bed at night content, knowing that I had done what I needed to do.

Unfortunately, I now realize how much more is involved than simply honing my craft.  It is still possible for me to lose myself in practice, and I still need it - the practice, of course, and also the intensity and focus - but it isn’t enough.  I also have to do stupid computer work and send emails that make me uncomfortable, asking for attention and time and money.  I have to search for venues.  I have to look for partner organizations.  I have to keep thinking forward.  I’m not good at it and it stresses me out and I wish things could just be easy.  I wish I didn’t have to feel guilty about devoting a morning to the oboe. 

I understand that this is the way things are.  I don’t usually complain.  But this week it depresses me.  Someone do it for me, OK?  Call up and offer me a path.  I promise I’ll say yes. I swear I’ll be awesome.  Just let me pretend for a little while that it can be all about the music.


  1. Many of us have experienced this feeling of frustration, perhaps even a certain degree of inadequacy at some moment in our lives. In a life’s drama it comes out as a “ cri du coeur”. Truly I wish that I had the ability and knowledge to help. The point is, however, if you think about it, that you are the type of person, and I think I alluded to this trait another time, that your passion for certain activities surrounding your musical career will always be pressing against your talent, your time and your abilities. I am not suggesting here a life of hopeless frustration. It is at this critical point where talent and passion meet adversity that creativity is at its most orgasmic. Do you think a consultant would have helped Michelangelo with the purchase of dyes and plaster, while he was staring at the ceiling for years?
    Anyway I wish I could compose a playable cadenza for you. Meanwhile, please, accept an encouraging hug.

  2. " It is at this critical point where talent and passion meet adversity that creativity is at its most orgasmic. " That is a fabulous sentiment, Dimitri, and one which I will keep in mind as I continue to scramble forward.

    Thanks, as always!


  3. Jennet,
    just wanted to share something I found youtube. I think you might find it interesting.
    Here it is:

  4. Olya, WHERE have I been that I don't know of this gentleman? I've spent a lovely afternoon looking through his material and listening to him speak. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Jennet, glad you enjoyed it. I thought you might find it useful in your teaching.


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