Harold Smoliar, 61, retired this year as the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s English horn player. He’s been with the PSO since 1979. He’ll continue to play jazz piano on his own and with other local jazz musicians.

“In the last few years I’ve had to practice more and more,” he said. “The effort to be fresh was a constant drain. Sure there are some physical issues now, but it’s actually mostly mental for me. It was time.”

Hm. I’m 61 as well. Interesting.

RTWT

Something we musicians wonder about much of the time when we are older is, “Is it time for me to leave?” We don’t want to leave too early, but we most definitely also don’t want to leave too late.

Our fingers can slow down. Our tongues might not move as quickly. It can be difficult to play the longer phrases. We might be slower to recover from errors, too.

And yet there are things now that I do better than I did when I was younger. I think I’m more natural in my playing. My expression just feels right … at least most of the time.

But I still get nervous. I thought that would end. It didn’t. It’s a different kind of nervousness, and it isn’t so bad I’m unhappy. It just “is” and it’s a part of the job.

But …

I want to leave before everyone is whispering, “When WILL she finally quit?” No one wants that.