Well, it’s not really the new year anymore, is it? Close enough. My fiancé always tells me musicians are always late, and so I’m just keeping the expectations accurate.
Why am I starting a blog that might be self-serving, redundant, and premature, given my undeveloped writing skills? Several reasons. First of all, it is self-serving. It’s a type of journaling under a more public eye than, say, the notebook I have sitting at home specifically marked for journaling, that 1) I don’t use nearly as often as I should, 2) no one sees, and 3) doesn’t lend itself nearly as well to a more polished writing style and format that I’d like to develop.
The musician’s new year. For me, as a young performer back in high school, I would always set up my new year accordingly: “this year I’m going to practice X amount of hours more than last year, and X amount of hours per day,” usually ending up in semi-successful executions of that resolution (to my credit, if I missed even a day I considered myself an absolute failure). The evolution of my musical new years is for me a narrative on what it means to grow, mature, and think beyond the note-learning of our pieces. Every year as I get a little bit older – and the new year conveniently coincides with my January birthday – I think about what it means to be truly happy as a musician and a person, and why I still want to play music. When I was a kid, I thought I’d be at the very LEAST touring the country at my present age. But really, as even college students, we were taught that there were only two paths we as musicians could take: be an internationally touring artist, or teach. How many of us wanted to spend hours a day practicing so that we could become teachers afterward? Yeah, zero. So that didn’t leave us many options. And as I struggled with depression, anxiety, feeling lost, friendless, direction-less after I graduated, I would think about how in the world I was ever going to achieve that dream I had set for myself.
I did a lot of searching in the years following my completion of graduate school. Each year became a little scarier than the next, as I looked at my dreams hopelessly and inevitably slipping from my grasp. I had no guts, no drive, no courage to pursue my dreams. Or was that really true? As I kept searching for fulfillment there seemed to be something always out my grasp that was keeping me from chasing “the dream”. Whatever that meant.
Now I’ve reached 30. You know what they say, that patience is a virtue? I thought I had it all my life, but it’s not really a quality you can know you possess or don’t possess until time actually passes and you can observe your previous self. I think. I’m still young so give me time – another 50 years? – to really become an expert on this one. But as I see another new year pass, I think about my job as a pianist, educator, friend, partner, and human being, and I realize that being a musician isn’t a compartmentalized job of simply sitting down X number of hours a day to practice one’s instrument. Don’t get me wrong, I still try to fit in as many hours as humanly possible each day to practice – it’s a necessity for what I do. But I also look beyond my X number of hours a day to see the successes I’m making in every aspect of my life, and how that relates to my general level of happiness and feeling of fulfillment. And the term “as humanly possible” has taken on a new context. If I practice every spare second I have (which I’ve tried) then meals, exercise, and reading (not to mention emails and business upkeep) go out the window. “Humanly possible” – does that mean practicing every spare second, or does that mean integrating my work at the piano with the other things in life that make me happy, and that I need, while maintaining a balance that ensures success in my current pursuits? Ah, life is messy. Balance – the ever-elusive, fragile component to our happiness and well-being.
I’ve taken on more projects – more ambitious ones – than I have in previous years. But this year, as I look for the balance of life, I find that musicianship, artistry, and depth in one’s understanding of music are cultivated by love, patience, friendship, more patience, and a holistic understanding of what it means to be a human being. Here’s to 2018, all. May it bring much learning and understanding.