Category Archives: Uncategorized

Confession

So. Boyfriend and I just moved to The City. We’re going to start an ensemble and work fascinating side jobs and hopefully make a difference in music by doing something other than exactly what’s expected of art music, because what’s expected of art music is what’s killing it. I’m excited, and I hope we’ll be able to do something meaningful. I really want to, because we’re investing everything we’ve got in it. It won’t work unless we do.

I have visions of us, years from now, arriving at glittering cocktail parties as the most intimidatingly, brilliantly important people in the room because of what we’ve accomplished. I see us struggling for years, poor and cold and lonely, but eventually making an impact because what we have to say is important, and we’ve found a way to say it that makes sense. (I know it sounds cliché and starry-eyed, but I really do hope…) I see a fantastic career for myself—not what I envisioned, but maybe even better—rather than this faltering, uncertain half-career I’ve been having so far.

But holy crap, I’m scared.

What if this turns out to be a terrible idea? What if we’re just putting off the inevitable and someday Boyfriend and I do end up living far apart anyway because we fail and he has to get a job at East Bumfuck Community College and I have to take whatever I can get? What if I can’t get anything and I end up freelancing once a month with the Bumfuck Philharmonic and teaching kids who couldn’t give a single booger they just dug out of their nose about the violin?

What if we fail at this, but we sink so much time and effort into it that we fall out of practice at what we intended to do all along? It’s not so problematic for Boyfriend–composers’ styles change all the time. But what if I’m so busy with our music (and freelancing and day-job-working) that I’m not ready with my excerpts when that One Big Job comes along? The one I know I can and should win, someday? What if I never get the job I’ve always wanted because I was concentrating on something else?

What if, even worse and even more likely, we get sucked into our day jobs? What if we let this dream fade away because we need money and security? The salaried, somewhat pleasant positions we’ve gotten will definitely offer that. What if I end up hardly ever performing because I’m working another job? What if Boyfriend stops composing because he needs to buy us nice things? They might be nice jobs. They might even be great jobs. But what if we lose our drive and we become bitter because we let it go? What if something’s always missing?

That one’s my biggest fear. It seems the easiest, most insidious. And by far the worst.

I guess this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Who DOESN’T have that feeling at some point in their twenties? That the choices you’re making are never going to lead you where you want to be? That permanent failure and life-ruination is just one tiny misstep away? Especially when, like me, you’re about to leave the safety of school and everything you know and understand and actually try to make a life. Even scarier, we’re trying to leave the prescribed path (whatever it is), and however closely we’ll be treading to its established route, that makes it all the more terrifying.

I know everyone feels this way. But every so often, when I’m thinking about the enormity of what we’re about to do, it crushes me. It terrifies me. And it surprises me that I’m so scared.

Several months ago, my best friend H graduated from Really Famous School with a year-long contract at an opera company in Germany. It’s an unbelievable dream job, and absolutely a good move in her career. She’s definitely on the classic I’m-becoming-a-famous-opera-singer track—she’s already one of our generation’s best singers, and I don’t just say that because I love her. But still, when we talked right before she left, she told me part of her wished she didn’t have to go. She has a life and the beginnings of a career here, and she was nervous that leaving now might destroy everything she already had.

Obviously, it’s not enough to call anything off. H went to Germany. Boyfriend and I moved to our chosen City. She’s singing her first real German season, and we got pretty much exactly the day jobs we wanted. We’re trying to figure out where we stand in this new place, to establish ourselves and break into the new music scene. We’re doing our best to do what we set out to do.

And god, am I scared.

Advertisements

Who Am I?

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.