October 4, 2010

The Musician as Athlete and Other Essays

Seasons have opened - in the past few weeks I have had the opportunity to perform with both the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and the Delaware Symphony Orchestra. Yes, they are at least ten driving hours away from each other, but both experiences were wonderful, albeit in different ways. However, I have not had the time to sit and write that I would have liked to, and there are a few things that are waiting to be finished....

Nevertheless, there have been some interesting and timely articles floating around the internet about life as a classical musician. One in particular that has received rave reviews from many people (including our lot) was written by Jeremy Mastrangelo, associate concertmaster of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra. Titled "Making Music: The Work of a Syracuse Symphony Orchestra Musician Isn't As Effortless As It Seems", Mastrangelo compares the constant preparation that is hallmark of the musician's life (and the life of any performing artist) to that of professional athletes.

While to some the comparison may seem fallacious - after all, no one is wearing shoulder pads and being sacked while playing a Brahms symphony - Mastrangelo makes a very valid comparison, one that has been made in recent years by sports psychologists including Don Greene, with whom I had the pleasure of working while a member of the New World Symphony.

Over the years there have been many people who have made the case, speaking of the lifestyle requirements necessary both to obtain and maintain a performing career. Thinking of violinists specifically, I am reminded of Paul Griffith's statement: "The violinist, to be a virtuoso, must also be a recluse." Herbert Whone, in his 1972 book The Simplicity of Playing the Violin, shares that the price of maintaining a career - hours spent refining one's craft - is "no mean price".

Mr. Mastrangelo's article is definitely worth reading....to say the least.

Coming soon...thoughts on Nigel Kennedy's "SHHH!"...and more...stay tuned.

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