So, we've had an election, and while the world is still reeling (and many still hope that a looming Electoral College meeting will change the results)...what can I say? Interesting times that we live in, and definitely enlightening times should one make the choice to become enlightened via reading.
THAT, however, is not why I'm writing, although I could.
A fascinating few months, months that included my decision - a difficult yet necessary one - to leave the Main Street Music Studios in Fairfax, Virginia. What can I say? I live in Baltimore and do not yet own a car, which means that getting to Fairfax involved a twice weekly 5 hour round-trip commute. While I was excited about the work that I was doing with my students during the 2015/16 school year (during which I had seven students), this year the student load dropped from seven to three, and then to two. It was after the drop to two that I decided to pull the plug.
Thankfully, I still teach at another school, where I have fifteen students and many other opportunities, and I am still playing concerts, so this was not as painful as some transitions could be. Ironically, one week after I stopped teaching in Fairfax one of my students there successfully auditioned for her Junior District Orchestra!
Ah, auditions and auditioning. The fact that permeates any attempt to reach a new horizon is that the true benefit of preparing carefully and really paying attention to EVERY detail of both the music and one's technique is in one's preparation. The reward may NOT be "the win", although that does feel good (and we can all admit that), but the feeling of having approached a Herculean task with all of one's self can serve as intrinsic reward. In fact, violist Kim Kashkashian shared a similar sentiment.
Over the past three years, I have had the opportunity to coach students for some auditions. As an educator, the most rewarding work has involved "serious" orchestral repertoire, and I still find myself amazed that there are both junior and senior high school students in the DMV who are required to learn repertoire that regularly appears on audition lists both for regional and major orchestras throughout the world (Prokofieff Classical Symphony?! Brahms #4?! Franck D Minor Symphony?!). The work with my students was incredibly clinical - I remember Larry Rachleff referring to this type of work as "flossing" - but MAN! When you're the person responsible for imparting the information, the responsibility itself can change your approach in ways that are first beneficial for the student but later PERSONALLY beneficial. Yes, it's clinical, but the results of that kind of deep looking are something that we should all be proud of.
Which brings me to this recent Washington Post article, an article in which a Julliard-trained violinist shares how her relationship with the violin and music went from one based on love to one based on "duty", and how that sense of "duty" made her fall out of love with the instrument.
Again, what can one say? There are so many quotes, including the one in which a person said "When it become a job, you lose your heart", or something like that. (NOTE: I shall find the original quote and post it here).
This can be true: the love of music and musicmaking CAN disappear when one realizes that one has to become a dentist of sorts to reach the heights while also realizing that "those" heights may not be reached. It's sobering. Unnnerving. Humbling. At times frustrating but in the end so rewarding.
While I am in no ways discounting or dismissing the thoughts shared by the writer of this recent Washington Post article, I have to say that a part of my journey has included both embracing and truly enjoying the clinical aspect of refining repertoire, with the real focus being on improving my violin playing at every turn of fortune's wheel.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to spend an entire day with a former teacher. It was during that time that I asked him why, considering the level of playing exhibited by many of the young people auditioning for spots at that specific school, he chose me. I am still humbled and floored by the fact that he said "I chose you because it was so clear from listening to you and watching you play that you loved music." This led into a conversation about "love and genius". Side note - it need not be said that after we parted, tears started to flow and did not stop for the rest of the day.
In 2011, violinist Odin Rathnam published a note on Facebook in which he shared this sentiment: "Music and its needs are like a refining fire, constantly challenging us to re-evaluate our choices, our approach, our tools. It is music that humbles me, day after day, year after year....But confidence in one's abilities to do music justice is just as important and humility towards music."
A refining fire, indeed. Yet, Mr. Rathnam also said the other important thing, that being "confidence in one's abilities to do music justice is just as important as humility towards music."
So? How do we balance the combination of the scientific and Dyonisian minds?
In a 1999 Strings Magazine article, Danish violinist Nikolaj Znaider spoke quite candidly about the continued searching for technical and expressive discipline that lead him to study with Boris Kuchnir. Praising Mr. Kuchnir for articulating his personal dissatisfaction, Mr. Znaider embarked on a course of study that included weeks playing open strings and an entire year studying Camille Saint-Saens' third Violin Concert, the result being "an entirely new way of thinking about sound production, articulation, intonation, phrasing-exactly what I want to do, to really think it through, also to be able to defend it.”
More later, but the metronome ticks....