E: violist and new music enthusiast, living in a major American city. I come from a musical family, but not one you’ve probably heard of. I’ve been around music my whole life, so I know a little bit about a lot of different things in the music world. I did my bachelor’s at a conservatory in Ohio, and my master’s at a large school in a nearby state. I’ve been to lots of festivals (Aspen, Domaine Forget, NOI, Spoleto, and a festival I consider Mine…), and because of this, I know lots of people and have lots of stories. Because of that, though, I’d like to stay more or less anonymous—as will the characters in my stories. I’m not here to embarrass anyone. I’m just here to shed some light on the reality of being a classical musician in the modern world.
By myself, I’m not an important person, even in our small corner of society. But I’m around a lot of important people—and a lot of people who may someday be important. I’m one of many musicians my age at my level. I have some things that make me unique, but who doesn’t? I am very much a minor figure, hoping to maybe, someday, become a major one.
Starting this blog was inspired by two things—one, a great personal triumph, and the other, a huge disappointment. The triumph was getting something I wrote featured on one of my favorite blogs, A Practical Wedding. It was a post about that awkward space between being simply boyfriend/girlfriend, and being engaged, which is exactly where Boyfriend and I have been hovering for a couple years now. But the real triumph was that people enjoyed what I had to say—I haven’t felt like that in a long time. And I liked it.
The disappointment also somewhat involved Boyfriend. He’s a composer—we met when I was playing his string quartet, which is a long story—and he was writing me a concerto. We were going to enter it in a competition and perform it on both of our degree recitals this year. At first, it wasn’t ready for him to do a recital in the fall—that was fine. He’s doing his doctorate, so when he does his recital doesn’t matter all that much. It wasn’t done by Christmas break, but I went ahead and scheduled my recital for late February. The competition was the weekend after my recital date, so it had to be done.
I’m sure you can see where this is going.
Canceling my recital was horrible. I don’t begrudge Boyfriend—he doesn’t work fast when he does know what he wants to do, and it just wasn’t coming. I know all too well the feeling of having a block on something—for me, most recently, it was the fourth movement of the Ligeti Solo Sonata—that you know you have to do, but knowing how desperately you need to do it makes it more and more impossible. But not having control over the situation, over my own failure, that was one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had. Sitting there in studio class the week before the competition, watching everyone else play their competition pieces, thinking, that should have been me… It’s just numbness now. Numbness and dragging thoughts. And I’m still not sure what the end to the story will be. I don’t have another date yet—will I even graduate on time? Stay tuned for the shocking conclusion…
Anyway. My career seems to be going in zig-zags, rather than the straight lines that I might have hoped for. Even stair steps might have been more reassuring. (Maybe I’m on stair steps, but they’re really lumpy. More like foothills, maybe.) But it occurred to me, nobody is successful in a straight line. All my friends take weird detours, but maybe those weird detours will end up as something good.
I’m here as a witness to that weird, unsettling, wonderfully free part of a musician’s career. The freelance time, the time where we bounce around and do all sorts of crap that more established people won’t touch—our twenties, essentially, although for musicians, it can last forever or end before college. Who the hell knows? But it’s where I am, and I’m not going to let it pass unobserved.
So. I don’t pretend to be an expert about any of this. If I get something wrong (especially something historical!), please tell me. I’m open to input and advice, but I hope that what I say is at least meaningful or helpful to someone. I want to tell funny stories and talk about the state of music and our futures. That sounds fun, right?
Let’s get this party started.