I believe most of us in the music profession have, at one time or another, experienced uncertainty about what we’re doing. Perhaps we have searched or waited for a rekindling of what led us to a career in music. Though I can honestly describe my career as a joy and a privilege, I have often looked for such a rekindling.
I consider myself very fortunate. I play every day; I learn new music and when it suits me I play old music again and again. I have traveled to places I would not likely have seen in a more, shall we say, humdrum line of work. But I also remember an excitement and energy I once had for music as a personal enterprise, and for the physical instrument itself! We all have stories of our earliest musical experiences and how we became hooked. I had trouble sleeping on nights before elementary band rehearsals, so excited was I. One night, at an hour too late for playing, I sat and polished my King bell-front euphonium with a cloth diaper as it lay in its open case.
Surely for most professional musicians, the dividends of a musical life change over time. It’s been a long time since I have taken any enjoyment from wiping fingerprints from my horns; I’m doing well if I oil the valves once in a while. Rehearsals can be tedious. My version of the kid in the candy shop is long gone. It takes a successful performance or a student’s breakthrough to make me feel great about what I do… and those things don’t come every day. As with anything one might undertake as a labor of love, when the motivations become career based and financial, the love can lose its luster. (Ask an avid cook who opens a restaurant and becomes a struggling businessman.)
Teaching at a workshop recently, I met eight “adult amateur” tuba and euphonium players, four of each, who reminded me that the purest form of musical motivation is simply the enjoyment of music. Mostly in their retirement years, these eight individuals could really, really play. They play not to make money, not to win auditions, not to build a career. Now, there is certainly nothing wrong with any of those things, but their motivation is refreshingly inspiring. They play because they love music; they practice to make the music better.
Making a living at music is the icing on the cake, provided that one can regularly rekindle the enthusiasm that music fosters. Without such enthusiasm, it quickly becomes a job like any other. So after that workshop, I see an opportunity to enjoy what I do even more. Consider looking out the living room window at a gorgeous vista- if you see it every day, it can become mundane, peripheral. Thanks to a reminder from a friend that you are very lucky to have such a view, you might appreciate its grandeur anew.
I begin to realize that my impression of having lost something since my youth is backwards. The horn doesn’t matter- it’s a means to an end. Getting excited about playing the tuba is just a gateway into the infinite possibilities of music, which are lifelong and reliable whether we are professional or not.
On another topic, our community is saddened by the loss of Ed Livingston. I never met Mr. Livingston but reading through his students’ stories, I feel as if he could have been a best friend. Such was his impact on so many that we would be remiss not to feature Ed Livingston on this quarter’s cover.
Finally, ITEA offers enormous thanks to Steven Mead and Hubert Gurtner, whose work made the fabulous ITEC 2012 possible. Those of us in attendance at the Brucknerhaus have terrific memories and for those who couldn’t make it, we offer an overview of the conference.