I just scared myself nigh unto a panic-attack by stupidly taking a look at my calendar for the next 5 weeks. Easter Sunday, 3 Recitals, 2 studio classes... 1 day-long out-of-town youth orchestra festival, 2 dress rehearsals, a spring concert...2 nights of dance show... This is all on-top of my normal teaching/work schedule.
I am getting better at just being able to accept that this is what Nov./Dec. and April/May will look like every year. This is life for a teaching musician. Just take a deep breath, and plow straight ahead..... I'm planning to have a nap on April 19 and May 3. :)
I guess it's a little bit like being a farmer at harvest time-- You gotta do it when it's time to be done.
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I just read Karen's and Emily's blogs and they put into words much of what I've been spending a lot of time thinking about lately.
Juggling 'real life' with being a musician is hard for all of us, maybe even particularly if 'real life' is taken up with music things. There is a part of me that feels a bit trapped lately, and it has to do with the balancing part of what I do.
When I first began teaching it was (with my teacher's blessing) as a means to an end. I was a stay at home mom with 4 kids, and the lessons provided me some money to pay for violin lessons for me and my youngest.
As years went on, my kids left home, I went to school and ended up with a full studio...I have about 34 violin and piano students. I could have more but feel full. I also have a very part-time job at my church, play in two orchestras, conduct a youth orchestras, play in various pits, have a string quartet that does summer gigs and am in grad school part-time. All of this on top of having my last chick at home in her last year, and grown kids/grandkids in 3 cities about 5 hrs away. (All of whom expect to see mom regularly:). In the last 2 years I've lost my school job, lost my mom to cancer and had various other family dramas play out. Given all of this (and I understand that some of you have it even tougher) I've felt really good about the fact that I continue to get up every morning, mostly with a smile on my face, and enjoy life. I tell myself regularly, "self, you're doing OK". :)
However, I have noticed a loss....it seems that in my slog-through-it-all days, something has fallen by the wayside. That something is the thing that was the core reason-for-it-all in the beginning. My violin, my music.... I've lost that. I find it ironic that I, who began teaching in order to support my violin habit, now am identified primarily as a teacher. I'm a good teacher....I know that, and am comfortable in that identity. I have a waiting list of students who wish to get in with me....but I'm hardly a player any more. I mean, I spend a few minutes of panicked practicing before certain concerts (like the one last weekend...Scheherezade!! aaahhh!!) and I prepare for what I need to do, but I no longer have time to explore new territory on my own. Even in my own mind, I've made a shift and find myself feeling insecure when asked to play certain things that are within my range...I think of myself as a teacher, and not a player.
Now obviously, you must be a player to be a teacher....that's not really what I'm talking about though. I keep my skills up, but it's been a long time since I went exploring on my own...discovering some new thing. I feel like I've lost that person who, in the early days for example, had a burning desire to be able to play the Bach Double.
As my youngest heads off to music school in the fall, I realize that part of this in me is that my focus shifted....as she began to advance more and more, the focus went on her rather than me. She was 'the violinist' of the house...I was the mom, and the teacher. Not her teacher, but a teacher. She is a gifted player, and as we began to set goals and dream dreams for her (she did get accepted with the teacher/school of her choice) I lost sight of my own goals.
I've decided that I'm either going to cut back my studio or at least NOT let it grow. I'm busy enough. And I've already written notes to the manager and conductor of my local symphony, recommitting for the year. In recent years, I missed quite a few concerts due to the circumstances. And, biggest thing is, I'm changing my attitude. I've gotten to the place where I almost resent the symphony for the way it handles things (real problems) but have lost sight of the fact that this is something I love to do. I once dreamed, as an adult beginner, of the day when I'd be good enough to play in the symphony. Now they count on me and I resent it?
But mostly, it's about the music. I get to be a part of that wonderful music... I need to embrace that as a gift and give it my best offering. So, I've already told my kids (who occasionally give me a hard time about my weekend commitments) that I'm playing more next year. And, I'm reorganizing my life. I'm even considering taking lessons again....Maybe even just once every 2-4 weeks, to give me a reason to set goals and make progress.
As an adult beginner, there is a lot of catching up I must do, many pieces I've not yet played. Recently I was on YouTube and heard Ida Haendel's rendition of Kreisler's Preludium and Allegro...a piece I've always loved but have never played. I've decided that this is the next goal...learn that piece. Just for me...
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I'm sitting in a hotel room in Marquette Michigan, killing time by alternately resting and practicing for a concert that I am playing this evening. For the last 2 years I've been a contract musician for this orchestra in a small college town about 3 hours away from my much-smaller home. This orchestra acts as a kind of a regional orchestra, drawing musicians from as far away as Green Bay and Milwaukee, as well as northern-lower Michigan, and combining them with players from the local university.
Life situations have prevented me from playing here earlier this year, so this is my only concert with them for this season. For whatever reason, this time, I find myself struck anew by the 'unity-building' power of playing music together: the group is incredibly diverse, ranging in age from about 16 to some players in their late 70s, or even older. There are retired professionals from major orchestras interspersed with amateurs and students. As I look around, I see buttoned-down white-collars, 'emo'-type students, stereotypical 'orchestra nerds', and academics. There are men in sweater vests, students with multiple piercings, women who look like men, and a man who looks like Santa Claus. One young bass player is standing next to another who is old enough to be his great-grandfather. I see bald men and balding women, a teenage girl with the sides or her waist-length red hair shaved bald (one serious mohawk!) and boys who've obviously used a flat-iron on their long hair. There are people in this group who are comfortably wealthy and others who struggle to pay their bills each month. Some are retired, some work 3 jobs.
The fascinating thing to me is to notice what an 'equalizing' power that the music holds. We are all here with the same mission, involved in and invested in something outside of ourselves. No one cares how you wear your hair, if you have money, or what sort of degrees you have. The only real questions are about the music. Can you contribute? What do you have to say that adds to the whole?
I'm liking the easy comfort that we all feel with each other, the total acceptance of all, and awareness of being part of a team. It's affirming, and encouraging, and serves to strip away all of the 'otherness' that can disguise us in our daily lives.
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