I know this has been a year that is different from any other. I know there has been so much loss: lives, jobs, normalcy, and everything that goes along with life as we knew it.
I see a lot of memes going around the internet talking about “Can’t it be 2021 already?!” and I completely understand. A pandemic is usually not thought of as “good.” However, this has given me so much time to reflect on life itself and has really shaken up the industry I’ve been most familiar with my entire life: classical music.
All of a sudden, I don’t have to practice in order to fit a mold that someone else may hopefully like. I don’t need to please people with my playing. You know, maybe that’s why classical music is so “unreliable” because we do it so much of the time to get other’s approval. And there’s nothing wrong with that, it is truly how the system is built.
But this year has given me a chance to not give a flying you-know-what about what anyone thinks. I can post videos of my playing and of course, I love good feedback as much as the next person, but I’m not approaching music in pursuit of said feedback anymore. I can make mistakes and still post a video, and I’m not all of a sudden worried about what it will mean for my professional career. As a musical artist, this is freeing.
This has made me reflect on how often we try to fit into the box the famed “committee” has decided we need to fit into at any given audition. As musicians, we seldom reflect on our motivation for any given practice session. Are you playing cause you love it? Every time you practice? Of course not!
We can be motivated by a lot of really great things: possibly winning the audition, wanting to improve our sound, for the feeling of finally nailing that passage. But so much more of the time our motivation is: I’m practicing so I don’t mess up because then I’ll have failed. I’m practicing so I don’t get the notes wrong, or so I don’t embarrass myself. When these are our motivations, they have little to nothing to do with the “art” we claim to be pursuing. They are checking boxes and pleasing people.
I am a people pleaser to my CORE. I’m working through it but, if you are cold I will most likely light myself on fire to keep you warm. I’ve tried to people please my way through my career. There are always things that bothered me about a life in music, but I just did what I was supposed to because that’s what everyone says to do.
Apply to EVERYTHING because you never know!!
— SO MANY FAMOUS MUSICIANS
I tried the apply-to-everything thing. And was moderately successful, but the price I paid was largely always aiming to fit into whatever box I was supposed to fit in. I was pretty flexible and pleased a lot of people. But not once until this year (2020) did I actually ask myself what I wanted to do.
I’m practicing a thought I want to become a really deep belief. That is “I will always know what’s best for me.” Because I believe that to be true. I haven’t always believed it but I’m choosing to think it is true now because it is empowering as hell. I don’t need to ask permission to make a decision in my life. That didn’t occur to me until 2020 either. If I don’t want to apply to something, I don’t have to get confirmation that it’s okay to do that, I just make the decision. And it’s done.
2020 has taught me a lot. I’ve probably learned more this year than the past five years combined, which is why I blog so frequently…
I became empowered in 2020, I learned (and am still learning) so much about life in general. And as for music… Yeah, I learned a few new pieces, but I finally learned what trusting myself and respecting myself as a musician really meant. Which in terms of my music career, was absent for a very long time. They don’t teach this stuff in music school, and you don’t automatically empower yourself once you win a job.
I’m not in any way trying to say that 2020 has been “good” — it is of course a net negative. I just wanted to offer some perspective that I wouldn’t have if this pandemic hadn’t happened.