Weird kinda funk
It's time for me to be working harder than ever... with post-secondary auditions coming up and all. I have a lot of repertoire to prepare and I know I can "easily" do it, but for the last couple of weeks I've been feeling a funny mix of burnout, isolation, and disorientation when it comes to music that's been keeping me from doing my best.
It all started with a big orchestral gig I was hired for a few weeks ago. Lot of tricky repertoire, had to cram to learn it all. The concert went well and I had fun, but afterwards I had this unusual and overwhelming feeling of the whole music thing being so lonely. Like it wasn't playing beautiful music with friends anymore---the whole experience felt indescribably cold and I have no idea why.
It's not like it was my first time doing this sort of thing (about as far from it as you can get, actually), but nonetheless I felt like an alien in the midst of all the other musicians.
Since then, I've been having trouble getting excited to play the violin. I still practice several hours every day as always, but I get frustrated too easily and I feel like I'm at a total loss when it comes to moving my performance forwards. Progress seems to be totally random or nonexistent, even though I'm being meticulous and deliberate in my practice.
Not really sure what to make of it.
There is much stress out there lately- maybe some rest is what you need. Don't down play the "incubation effect"- sometimes a breakthrough is really only a mental and physical release away, but incubation needs a moment of time to occur.
The coolest thing about being human is that we get to be conscious and intelligent, and thereby gain the ability to introspect and answer questions about ourselves as nobody and nothing else can, though it might be appealing to try to consider external views as somehow more valid due to a difference of perspective and bias.
The feeling you describe is very common when a combination of education and avocation starts to evolve into a profession. You've got all this soulful creativity, collaborative energy, humor, and other wonderful qualities to offer, but what the orchestra manager who signs your check needs more than anything is for you to show up on time and play the damned notes in the right order. After rehearsal nobody wants to go for a pint because they've got parenting to go home to.
What Paul said. In summary: Welcome to adulthood.
You've gotten great advice already, to which I want to add a couple of thoughts.
I'd like to follow up on David's excellent points No. 1 and No. 3. Very often, what people do outside of their paid jobs is how they make a difference in the world and build meaning in their lives. Very often that includes family, volunteer work, sports, arts, clubs, hobbies, church, etc. The job is thereby a means to an end. And there's nothing wrong with that.
given that you're gearing up for college auditions, it might be worth taking a long hard look at whether this funk is your subconscious telling you that it doesn't want to go into music. One of the problems with music as a career is that the time commitment required to be competitive when you're developing your career, taking auditions, freelancing, improving your playing etc is so overwhelming that it's pretty much impossible to have much of an outside life as Paul discusses above. If music and the process of practicing, improving, performing isn't enough to light your fire by itself, you're going to have a very unhappy decade or so ahead of you.
OP, every job has its ups and downs. David Bailey gives some good advice. David's #5 is more important than you might think. Also, keep up with family and friends on a regular basis, in person. It's very easy to get socially isolated, and that can do strange things to the mind.
Professionally, maybe you can find a steady group, or form some kind of chamber partnership (of course you may not have time) and getting to know the people might make a difference. If you feel socially isolated, maybe there is stuff outside of music that you can do, as Paul suggests. Maybe you start a small meditation practice and find a group that meditates, or find some religious institution. It could be a temporary thing, or you could be recognizing some kind of existential need. And of course, there are usually very low cost therapy options connected to most universities (for students and community members as well).
If a working pro's only environment is as an orchestra section player, it can get surprisingly isolated and frustrating, it's not for everyone. Violin is such a versatile instrument; there are multiple national styles and genres outside of the mainstream classical, with small ensembles. If you had all the technique you needed, and didn't need the money, what would you really like to do?? Another clue would be; what do you listen to most often?
Wonderful and varied responses above. Those feelings and reactions can, of course (as has been pointed out above) occur in any occupation. But in the arts, your "job" isn't a day-to-day "grind," but something where the expectation is that every performance is ideally emotionally compelling and meaningful. That's a tough thing to do on a day-to-day basis, even for a short time (let alone over a period of years).
On reading this thread I am reminded of my late cello teacher who, I now suspect, probably ran into similar problems. During WW2 he was a musician in one of the regimental bands, and received a very high level of training in clarinet and sax, as well as further training in his main instruments, the cello and viola.
Cotton, et al.,
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