David Zerkel, ITEA President
“The Daily Grind”
Happy New Year! I hope that we all had a little time over the holidays to stop and catch our breaths. By now, I’m sure we’ve all put our heads down and are “back to the daily grind,” whatever that may mean for a group as diverse as ours.
For some of us, music is our work—whether we are playing it or teaching it, we are lucky enough to be doing it with the promise of a check at the end of the week. For another big chunk of our membership, a career in music is our aspiration. As someone in the education business, I tend to hear a very similar wish list from prospective music students, “I’d like to teach at the college level and/or play in an orchestra/military band.” These are noble aspirations indeed but with limited and finite possibilities. Finally, there is the chunk of our constituency that plays simply because they love to play—music has been a part of their lives for a long time and will continue to be a part as long as they can keep their horns on their laps.
I’ll readily admit that I might be a bit broad with my segregation of these groups, but what I’d like us to think about is that there should be a little bit of all three of these groups in each one of us.
We cannot all be professional musicians, but we can strive for the qualities that have landed these folks in their positions: a devotion to the art of music, a workman-like attitude to doing the things that must be done, a consistent effort to perform to the peak of what is possible and the constant pursuit of excellence.
In a similar vein, the time (chronologically) for many of us to call ourselves “students” has come and gone. However, I would like to think that all of us are still students—there is always something new to learn, no matter your level of development. I have found in my experience that the older I get, the more evident it is to me just how little it is that I know. The luxury of being a student (in the 10-25 year old sense of the word) is that we have this chunk of life that is solely dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. It is a gift of time that many of us squander, only to realize later what a wonderful gift it was.
Finally, the most enviable of groups: the Enthusiast. I much prefer this name than the other one that sometimes gets mentioned in the same breath: the Amateur. The Enthusiast plays the tuba or euphonium because they love to play—nobody goes to community band rehearsal or plays in their church brass ensemble because they have to, they do so because it brings them a sense of happiness. The same can be said for those who collect photos or instruments. I tend to agree with Edgar Allan Poe, who said, “There is an eloquence in true enthusiasm.”
So, if we are to take the best of what we all have to offer one another—seriousness of purpose, curiosity and enthusiasm—we end up with a way to avoid falling into the “daily grind” mentality. One of the best ways to accomplish this in our community is to attend ITEC in May, and make it a point to chat up ITEA members who are outside of your sub-group. We each have a unique gift to offer as musicians—the most honorable thing that we can do is to share this gift. In doing this, I think that we honor the “brotherhood” mission that our founding members envisioned when we began as T.U.B.A in 1973.
Dedication. Industry. Curiosity. Inquiry. Enthusiasm. I hope that you will join me in trying to live a life in music that is guided by these principles. Our discipline will be a better place for it.