21. September 2010 · Comments Off on Something To Ponder · Categories: Read Online

The typical professional musician will begin playing his or her instrument sometime between the ages of 3 and 10. Once you start playing there are weekly private lessons. Then there is orchestra at school, youth orchestra on the weekends, various festivals throughout the school year and music camps during summer vacation. I spent my final two years of high school at a boarding school for the arts in Michigan, something that is not uncommon for people in this profession.

After high school, musicians will attend a music conservatory, and nowadays it is almost a given that musicians have master’s degrees or even doctorates. By comparison with another profession, people who go into insurance aren’t looking at actuarial tables during their teenage years. That degree of specialization from such a young age is something that most people could identify with athletes, but is absolutely parallel with the life of a musician, minus apparel endorsements and beer commercials.

Rehearsals for musicians are much like practices for athletes. While there is usually not the same level of focus as in a performance, you absolutely have to be on your toes. No one wants to be the person who makes themistake that grinds the rehearsal to a halt. As far as individual practice goes, musicians have to understand the mechanics of playing their instruments the way golfers understand the mechanics of their swing, or basketball players understand the mechanics of their jump-shot. It requires daily self-discipline, nearly endless, but mindful, repetition, a desire to improve and a love of the process.

For many musicians there is something of a compulsive idea, wholeheartedly endorsed at conservatories and carried throughout life, that if you are conscious and at least partly coherent, you should be practicing … until tendonitis, carpal tunnel or rotator cuff injuries stop you.

One last comparison with athletes is that there is really no “off-season” for musicians, even when the symphony is not performing.

I read it here. And there’s more there, too.

It’s something I think a lot of non-musicians might consider. I can’t tell you how times I’ve heard “But you LIKE what you do!” or “You get PAID for that?!” from non-musicians.

Truth be told, I sometimes do marvel at being paid for a job I love. But shouldn’t we all at least try to succeed at something we love, rather than something we despise? And if I earn less money than I might have doing something I hated, the rewards (at least most of the time) are worth it!

Now, all that being said, I have to confess that I did NOT do all the usual “succeed at music” things that the writer mentions. I didn’t go to Interlochen, Tanglewood, or any other music festival. I didn’t get a masters or a doctorate. And I don’t live and breathe oboe every second of the day. So some of us succeed without doing all those right things. And some who do all the right things don’t succeed. As always, life isn’t always fair!

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