Being a musician on the road is equal parts exhaustion and exhilaration, poured on a base of hard work. Since the start of the season, I’ve run around the country performing in some exciting and unique venues: the Brahms Concerto in Juneau, Alaska, a fantastic experience, paired with rainy, cold, dark days - and seeing a black bear and her two cubs just 10 feet from me; the Mozart G Major Concerto in the “wild west,” aka Montana and Wyoming, where people take their cowboy boots just as seriously as their music; Chicago the day after the election when the entire city felt like it was running on three hours sleep; Bruch Concerto in Westchester; and filming in a cavernous studio in downtown NYC.
With it all came the mundane and sometimes infuriating norm of travel. The canceled flight and broken plane that added an unplanned night in Seattle to my schedule and caused a performance of Ysaye to be played on very little sleep. The other broken plane and resultant travel challenges that forced me to cancel my dress rehearsal in Chicago, 10 minutes in, because I felt so sick. And, of course, the endless security lines, empty hotel rooms, and search for reliable food.
As I settle back into my hometown for several short weeks, I begin preparations for the next round of it all. Yesterday, I worked on the Schubert Fantasie in C Major and spent about 45 minutes on the first note. A really, really long beautiful, extraordinarily difficult note that requires strict bow planning, purity of sound, vibrato control, and dynamic shading. It was both frustrating and addicting spending that much time on one note, all in the pursuit of artistic perfection, or something close to it.
It’s truly hard work. doing what we musicians do; it requires a seemingly bottomless amount of dedication and perseverance. No matter how many flights get canceled and hours of sleep get lost, that one long note will always be there beckoning for your full attention and being when you walk out on stage.
That is why it is so disconcerting and frustrating to hear about the problem we have in music today. Well established orchestras fight for their survival, arts education is the first to get cut, news organizations gradually reduce their art/music sections – music is being put second, or third, or fourth, all in a bid to save money.
The next time you go to a concert or listen to music, and feel some emotion cut into your core, think about the endless hard work, sweat, and tears that went into producing it. And try to imagine a world without music - it will be hard, as we are bombarded by music every day from every source – but try. I know without a doubt that hearing the music of Schubert, for example, has intangibly, yet directly, made me into a better person. And I think its not going far to assume that many of us have a piece of music or specific memory of music affecting us profoundly. So, the bottom line is that we need music. We must support art and artists and respect the enormous burden they shoulder upon themselves. Music is not a budget extra that can be cut and replaced as necessary; it is an unwavering necessity of life.
More entries: September 2012
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