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Mendy Smith

Musical Therapy

May 16, 2007 at 4:56 AM

The last week has been, well, to be politically correct, not the best in the past year (major understatement of the year). 14 hour days, non-stop analysis of reams of technical data. Over the weekend I got maybe 4 hours of sleep while I kept myself awake doing mathematical computations in my mind. So, into Monday morning I go to work after only falling asleep at about 6am (2 hours of sleep total for the night) for yet another day of data analysis (paralysis). At 6pm I rush home, grab my viola and sheet music and speed off to dress rehearsal. I'm dead on my feet. I can't think straight, yawning all the time, and generally comatose.

As is the norm, I'm one of the first on stage to help set-up. After getting the viola and cello sections set-up, I collapse on my chair for a few moments of silent relief. Over the next few minutes, the rest of the orchestra starts showing up, so I pull my viola out of his case, put the shoulder rest, tighten and rosin the bow, and grab my sheet music, tuner, pencil and zip-lock baggie of peppermints, then head back to my chair. I chit chat a bit with my section and the celli, catching up on the last week's adventures. The oboist begins his seemingly never-ending A to call us all in-line.

We tune, then the conductor goes over the playing order of the pieces, a few words of encouragement, then on we go for our dress rehearsal. The first 8 measures of the Slavonic Dances brings on a sudden surge of energy that snaps me back from being dead on my feet to being charged with energy in a few heart-beats. All of my week's worth of worry, "analysis paralysis", and contingency planning from my day job slip into the void and into nothingness as quickly as the dust on my living room floor dissapears through the central vac system.

On to the Egytian Ballet. Last week, it dawned on me that "Sul G" meant that I really needed to play all those notes on the G string, and reaching those A's was a literally painful endaevor. Tonight, I slid up and down the fingerboard like there was no limit to how high I could actually go.

Jurassic Park brought on a confidence in second position like I never had before. Funny how the even positions can throw you off. No faltering on a single note and shifting between 1st and 3rd position and everywhere in-between mid-slur without hearing the shift.

Andalucia was like a jam session with the guitar (and his amp) right next to the viola section. Finally, a small break! The little baggie of peppermints are shared with the viola and cello sections. We are happy with our little sugar pills. The MC practices his part while we all listen on. This is going to be a fun suprise (no hints!!!!)

Onto Corelli with the strings. I love this piece! It is baroque (my musical style addiction). I could play this over and over again and never get tired of it. Then...... the Moldau, my nemesis, the etude from.... (think hot molten lava and never ending torture). I make it through page 5 when finally, my fingers start giving out on me, but then regain their energy by the page 6. We end the dress rehearsal on Wagner. For the strings, this is a nice cool-down from the Moldau and the brass can shine.

I pack up, and head home. Work? Am I not a musician and not an engineer by trade? For the first time in a week, I fall asleep within minutes of getting home and sleep throughout the night without doing a single mathematical equation in my head. Tuesday morning brings a new attitude - I can manage any challenge that comes my way. I no longer view the system tests as an affront to my team's capabilities when a defect is found, but instead as a coach helping the team succeed in our goal.

Lessons learned from the day:
1 - Music is the best diversion from every-day life ever invented.
2 - Critism is something to take constructively to better yourself or your team, no matter the situation in which it is given.
3 - Sometimes exhaustion can bring out your best.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on May 16, 2007 at 11:10 AM
I'm glad the Moldau and not you has been vanquished! It's great how the good attitude from music spills over into your day job. I wish that could happen for me, I keep getting distracted from my day job by music and not getting anything done!
From Yixi Zhang
Posted on May 17, 2007 at 4:07 AM
After good violin lessons or enjoyable performance, I always feel so alive that nothing else matters so long I can play well and learning fast. But at work, there’s nothing more important to me than the work itself. When I run into sticky situations and feel unsettled at work, it helps to have a little voice in my head saying, Yixi, this is only work and let it go because you’ve got a lot more beautiful things in life, such as, the violin, loving hubby and great friends. So I completely agree that music is the best diversion from everyday life.

I’m not so sure about criticism though. I feel if it’s a teaching situation, criticism is usually a necessary feature. I don’t want to pay violin teacher just so that she can say things to boost my ego, but I want her to be tough on me so I’m learning faster. Same in an environment that learning and sharing the same passion are involved, such as at university or here at We can question, debate and criticize each other a lot, hopefully, without causing lasting bad feelings.

It’s an entirely different situation at work though. People will say all sorts of things and that’s just the fact, but when people talking without thinking, it does not interest me a bit. And when nasty criticism comes to me, I call a spade a spade. I believe that most time criticism is unnecessary at workplace because whatever disagreement one has, it can be expressed and negotiated in a positive or neutral manner, and that’s largely what being professional is about. Being overcritical of others to me is a first sign of either something isn’t right with the critic, or the environment, or both. Do something early because acquiescence of bad behavior can be deadly.

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