September 22, 2007

Libra Birthdays, The Craft, and the Psyche of The Business

As many of us have birthdays coming up in the next few weeks, I would like to take the time to wish all the best to Katie Pierson, Zhang Zhang, Chauncey Packer, Alexandra Gajewski, Michael Steinberg, Amy Scurria, Gabriela Frank, Chandra Smotherman, David Brubaker and all of my fellow Librans. Let's all look forward to a great year!

In 2005, astrologer Eric Francis posted a great essay about Librans at As two years have passed, it seems fitting to share this essay with all, as he did recently.

On to business: I had the privilege of speaking to an old friend tonight.

Violinist Katie Pierson and I met in 1997 at Rice University, where we were both students in Kenneth Goldsmith's studio. It is odd that it has taken nine years for us to be able to go deeper, to really talk about our Rice experience, but it was a joy to speak with her. While I am currently preparing for an audition Katie has gone through some rounds recently, the result being that she will be performing with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra as a substitute this season.

While speaking to Katie we spoke about the business and auditioning, and Katie shared some insights that were incredibly enlightening:

"There are three types of people in this business. The first type is the frantic, bragging type, those who always talk about the gigs that they are playing without having taken auditions - those who are always on the go, always playing, probably rarely practicing, who think that they are doing well. In reality, they're probably not....the second group is made of those who have a sens of themselves, who practice and are aware of their strengths and weaknesses, those who do not fret, stew, and get frustrated when they have to go through the rites of passage that are part and parcel of being a performing musician."

"Then, there's you and me, Sam. Those who have achieved, yet practice all the time and still feel as if there's SO much work to do, that they will never achieve the level at which they aspire. Those are the people who will, upon shaking the moral weight, do quite well."

Wow - I had to take pause after that one.

With so much emphasis on technical perfection (this being supported by the proliferation of perfect recordings and the spellbinding performances that leave all of us humbled), it is very easy to get into the habit of constantly drilling, measuring, and feeling frustrated with one's self instead of measuring, drilling, and trusting one's technique and the work that one has done. I have to thank her for that.

It IS strange, when one has a freelance career, one can think of taking every gig that one can get because the phone may stop ringing. That is a valid way of thinking if one feels that a career in music should be a fast-paced, flavor-of-the-week venture wherein one has to make as much money as one can before "the new guard" comes along.

Yes, it is difficult to keep up the standard that one had achieved in graduate school as well as surpass it, but that is the key if one wants to establish a real career, a real life in music.

Of course, after getting off the phone, I went to the "salle de repetition" and played the Mendelssohn Concerto instead of drilling....and all was fine, everything stayed...and I also became aware of what I really need to practice in the next few days...

All from here,


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