Finally! Some rain and some thoughts:

This past week we’ve finally gotten some much needed rain.

Kittaroo seemed to think it was my fault that she couldn’t go outside. She inched out further and further as the day wore on (I can’t keep her inside for anything).

I welcome the stormy weather—it’s always been my favorite type of weather (morose, I know). Aside from the fact that all over the U.S. could use some serious rain, I’ve always enjoyed the pace and the feel of a rainy day. I grew up in a city that is known for its dreariness (on several levels, I think), and perhaps I enjoy such things because I have some childish nostalgia attached to it. Either way, living in a second floor flat I was muy grateful for the temperatures dropping a bit.

My meals were much the same as they’ve been the last few days, but I found some red cabbage at the local farmer’s market and figured my beautiful sauteed kale dish from the other day could use a hint of purple:

That’s one way to make healthy meals a bit easier: choose something that can easily be changed by adding or subtracting an ingredient, or playing around with spices. You really can’t go wrong unless you were to do something like mistake sugar for salt or vise versa…

I also finally managed to read this article: The Audition.

It has been circling around the internetz for quite some time now amongst my musical colleagues, and I find it to be a very well-written article that does not sugar coat the audition process or the overall lifestyle of someone who has given their life over to their craft.

And I think that’s what it comes down to. The way in which a musician or an actor’s or a visual artist’s or a mother’s job is extraordinary is that it is 24/7 and requires ALL of you. [This is not to say that others aren’t passionate and wholehearted about their careers—this is just to name a few, so certainly others can relate.] Two striking things about the article:

  1. The percussionist whose audition process the writer is following, Mike Tetreault, is quoted as saying “Give me success or take this desire away from me. One of the two.”

and

  1. Former Boston Symphony Orchestra percussionist Frank Epstein says of today’s musicians vying for these coveted orchestral positions:“The technique on the instruments has grown, but what hasn’t grown is the innate musicianship, the interpretive abilities of players. Sometimes that is the most difficult thing to measure in an audition.”

I think the first quote can be seen as highly negative and obsessive. I relate to it completely, and it is likely that many of my colleagues feel the same. I think this sort of attitude is what propels us to be better than who we are (this is positive). Those of us who hold ourselves to higher standards end up really suffering for it on a lot of levels but the silver lining comes when it inspires others to do what they can (and when we can positively formulate a plan to reach our goals).

In a Bikram Yoga class a few years ago, the instructor said something while we were in a particularly compromising pose that struck me: “If you can, you must.” In the moment she was speaking to pushing oneself to work harder in the pose, i.e., if you’re not going to pass out and you can get your wits about you: go deeper. I think especially in the realm of fitness, we often don’t push ourselves harder unless we absolutely have to (like running because someone/something’s chasing you, right?); but I then realized in that moment that unless I pushed harder, I would forever be in the same place (there’s the rub!). So, I started applying this to many other areas of my life (okay, not all the time… for example, when my alarm goes off in the morning. I CAN get up. But I don’t feel I must, unless I’m going to be late for class or work…).

That said, this sort of mentality can manifest itself in harmful ways, especially in the case of disordered eating habits and/or body image (something I and many women—and men—have struggled with quite a bit).

So then, where do you draw the line? I frankly have a hard time stepping down from this mentality as well as holding those around me to the same. And while I think it’s okay to hold on to higher standards, at what point does it create a lack of empathy?

Ultimately, I’m sure that all one can do is hold yourself to a higher standard, hope that others will do the same, and to forgive yourself when you fall short (so long as you’re seeking ways to prevent it in the future).

Maybe.

In terms of the second quote, this speaks to me the most in my struggle to becoming a great musician. I’ve had the privilege of hearing a great many artists and colleagues do their thing on stage, in masterclasses, and in practice rooms, and it’s beautiful what an individual can push themselves to do. But, when we lose all sight of the need to affect the audience, we’ve lost the reason for our existence as entertainers. While my thoughts about how to work and the trajectory of my career have changed a great many more times, the audience, to me, is our greatest asset. Our musicianship is what allows us to connect with the audience. Our understanding of what we’re performing and how it could potentially affect an audience and how to bring about that reaction (and sometimes interaction) with the audience is what maintains and expands our audience. While most artists are compelled to create and participate in their art for themselves to a large degree, the art of being an entertainer requires you to give every part of yourself over to your audience. My fondest hope for all my students and for myself and my colleagues is that we can strike a balance between trying to play the most-technical-passage-ever perfectly with finesse and without dehumanizing art.

Thoughts?

Peace.

PS-Soon I’ll have for you an album review and a discussion on protein, and my exercise routine (don’t get too excited, now)!

🙂
A teaser:

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2 comments

  1. “The Audition” was a marvelous article. Thank you for sharing it. I’ve heard horror stories for years about the audition process. I was happy to read that Boston pays its’ musicians close to what they are worth 🙂 And though I fully understand the need to hire musicians who are “genius” at what they do, the process is incredibly dehumanizing, isn’t it? And you addressed that beautifully in talking about striking that balance between perfection and connecting with your audience.

    1. I guess it’s the price you pay for being in a saturated field that has been cultivated for hundreds of years. What strikes me, too, is that the percussionist really monitored what he ate and his physical activity along with working all day and then practicing all night. I’d like to think that I do this, but at the same time, at what point is it all ritualistic (and thus, superstitious)? I have a love/hate thing with caffeine (since I’ve read a million bits of research touting its benefits as well as its pit falls), and performers are paranoid about drinking caffeine within a certain amount of time before a performance; I’ve experimented with this, and unless you have some serious imbalance already, the caffeine won’t take away from your hard work and preparation (though I don’t recommend it within 24 hrs of an audition). Anyway, it IS nice that Boston pays that much, but you kind of have to if you’re going to get some of the top musicians and if they want to live on the east coast. ;-P

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