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Emily Grossman

Bills, Taxes, Teaching

April 11, 2009 at 7:51 AM

Was I dreading teaching, too?  If so, why?  Certainly, it wasn't the children.  Sometimes I worry whether they like me or not, but when I think about them, they still make me smile.  Still, every time the phone rings and a parent leaves a message, I cringe.  Cancellation?  Quitting?  Did I hurt someone's feelings?  Begin a lesson too late?  Forget to inspire someone's budding passion for music?  What is it this time?  So, I get done teaching, eat dinner, go to the gym, and then settle into the computer, paying bills and procrastinating my way out of practicing for another evening.  Then it occurs to me: 

When did the violin become such a paycheck?  Is this what it means to be a professional?  To book lessons in order to pay bills, to book gigs to pay bills, to log practice hours to pay bills?  To resent all the countless volunteer requests and empty tip jars that keep me from paying bills?  Yes, things can be tight when various unexpected expenses add up, and of course, the future is never certain, but this is the way it's always been.  What's different now is, I have no real goals for myself as a musician and artist.  I already obtained the ones I saw in front of me, and the ones that haven't materialized are beyond my control anyway.  How can I be excited about teaching when I have nothing new to share?

Back in the practice room, I dig through the file cabinet in search of a juicy bone to stew, perhaps some iconic piece I've been waiting to wrap my fingers around.  Nothing strikes me.  Of course, Bach is always on the horizon, ever receding as I approach.  Since it's good to keep your eyes pinned to the horizon, Bach will always have a use in my repertoire, elusive as he may be.  Then there's a decent concerto or two, but I've recently come to the conclusion that concertos are pointless with no orchestra to back you up.  The piano reductions they make for those things taste a lot like karaoke chicken. 

By default, I'm stuck with the caps lock on D major; long loud droning scales emit from my fiddle while I think of something better to do.  Now, with half an hour of D Major under my belt and my feet firmly planted on the ground, I'm all ready to take off into something.  But what?  Tell me, O Muse.  What should I play?  More importantly, why should I play it?  Who cares?  If not I, then who?  If nothing else, I will pick something to play that I don't have to care about.  Like hold music. 

Kreutzer Etude #2 plays in my ears as I wait for something to pick up.  With 40 more to go, I could be on hold all night.


From Anne Horvath
Posted on April 11, 2009 at 12:45 PM

Yep.  I made a list of everything I wanted to learn, and then started to learn it.  I don't think I will run out of things to learn...

The downside to learning concertos that will never be performed with an orchestra is that it does feel depressing to learn a piece that won't be performed as the composer intended.  On the flip side, the orchestra in your head always sounds perfect, and you don't have to worry about the conductor getting lost.  Hang in there.

From Dottie Case
Posted on April 11, 2009 at 2:21 PM gosh, that is EXACTLY what I am struggling with.  The aimlessness of what/why and to what end ....  I've been thinking about it a lot lately trying to whip myself into some sort of motivation.

I began laying out what I've been thinking about here, but decided that I wouldn't co-opt your blog, virus-fashion.   I have a blog of my own that I can continue the conversation, here's to say, amen! sister, I'm on the same exact page and have been thinking a lot about this very thing.  Thanks for writing it.

From Joe Fischer
Posted on April 11, 2009 at 4:42 PM

When in doubt about a piece to play,I usually play something "in the peoples key" = D......Easy to play,easy to understand....Lots of improve,drones and then make an easy shift to another key and play the same piece.....Oh well,this works for me anyway.....Then,during the piece,practice scales....Listen to any piece on your speaker system-to get "in the zone",then turn the speakers off and play it yourself....Many times,all we need is a mere spark to ignite a dormant volcano in our heads....

From Emily Grossman
Posted on April 11, 2009 at 6:49 PM

The people's key!  I like that!  I often fall back on D Major, too, or it's minor version, g, depending on my mood.  And for an extra lift, try E major.

Dottie, I think you and I need to get together and play some duets.  Don't you think?

From Dottie Case
Posted on April 11, 2009 at 7:13 PM

Let's do it! Shouldn't be too long a commute going across Canada from where I am, since I'm right on the border  :).

Posted on April 11, 2009 at 9:52 PM


although this blog was meaningful, I was left wanting catfish, no moose and no volcanic activity DRAT!!!

From Emily Grossman
Posted on April 12, 2009 at 1:00 AM

Welcome to Breakup.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on April 13, 2009 at 12:50 AM

Keep with it.  Sounds a little like a minor bit of mid-life crisis.  You are discovering part of what happens in life: we acheive goals and have to figure out where to go next.  Unfortunately, for guys like me who are somewhat older than you are, that can mean wasting money on an expensive, fast car or worse.   I have every confidence that you will figure it out, with the help of D major and Bach.

From Dottie Case
Posted on April 13, 2009 at 1:58 PM

Emily, I see that Karen and I have both picked some pieces and set some goals.  Other than playing duets with me, have you decided on what you might like to work on?

I think maybe I'll do like Anne suggested and make a list of things I want to learn, then work through. 

From Christina C.
Posted on April 14, 2009 at 6:54 PM

I had a suggestion, but you came up with it on your own.  IMHO there's nothing better for putting joy into music than playing with others . Do you have anyone nearby?

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