The State of my Profession

I am in re-evaluation mode.003

My new book, The Composer’s Landscape; the Pianist as Explorer is out, and so far, doing well. But a new book is like a new baby. It requires tender loving care and attention. It requires spreading the word, doing gigs that include playing and talking which, in turn, require practicing and writing, It requires spending money for ads or promotions in order to dispense the news about the book and spur interest; but if truth be told, once a book is written, although I wish it to be read and shared, another part of me becomes apathetic—Live and be well–go into the world and create a life for yourself!

But it doesn’t happen alone. And the work writing it, in itself, was hard enough! So that’s the book.

Then there is performance. I recently got an invitation to play a concerto of my choice with a community orchestra next season. I had thought I made a decision to quit the stage, in favor of a more peaceful existence, but I enjoyed playing at Steinway this past month, and I realized how much I adore playing, and how I could never stop. So after a performance, my highest and most vulnerable moment, then came the invitation from a conductor who was at my concert, and I heard myself telling him I would certainly consider his kind invitation. Then, the day after, I heard a young pianist who is in the process of “rising” in the music world’s consciousness. He was good. Really good. And secretly I sat there listening, appraising, measuring up my own possibilities, and acknowledging that my own Bach and Brahms did, in fact, measure up. So then, I asked myself, why would I be playing with a  community orchestra, and he be playing with  world class orchestras?

And the answers came up from my inner voices–“You made your choices years ago.” “You opted for family and having it all.” “You did not want to live out of suitcases.” And the whole litany of self-explanations.

And then , as I told myself in this inner soliloquy, “It is enough to play with musicians who love to play”; that is the real point here. It pertains to playing chamber music with friends, instead of professional colleagues (who don’t want to play “for pleasure” anywayas that is what they do all day long—)

But can I do it all anymore without sacrifice to the peace I have earned after a long life in music?

And last there is the teaching. And this past year I have given more and more time and energy to my students, not just the regulars who come weekly, but to pianists and friends who are preparing programs, and come to fill in the spaces of my schedule with two or three-hour coachings–even coming as far as from Wyoming!.

This new development in my musical life (the increasing endorsement from pianists whom I respect, that I have something of value to give them, from the vantage point of my own past experience and knowledge,) is both reconfirming AND consuming!

So I have to take toll. How much physical energy can I give over to others and still have enough for my own work at the piano? When will I start my own “Desert Isle” repertoire, which at the moment are the Debussy Preludes, which I “know”, love, and teach often, but rarely play myself.

And then the word I have stressed so much in my new book, BALANCE, came to light. I know all about balance in music–in playing Bach–which touch, which voice, which dynamics, and so on, will I use? In Chopin, how much legato, how much pedal, which voices, which timbre? And as music is so much about Life, everything applies to Life as well. I have to evolve into a new balance between the elements of my life. I have to let go of opportunities that come my way, and maybe offer them to my mature and gifted students. I can keep practicing and playing, but maybe I can lessen the stress of performance by doing what my friend Teresa did recently, and give a beautiful program at home to a hand-picked, educated, friendly, receptive, and wonderful group of people.

Perhaps at times of transition or transformation, we are not meant to figure things out and make snap decisions. Clarity and perspective will come as soon as I allow myself to feel more comfortable and less pressured. Things will settle into a reasonable pace by themselves, if I allow them to.

If I use a metaphor connecting the stages of my life to the seasons, it feels like Fall. A friend reminded me to be grateful for what has been accomplished. That feels like a harvesting. But I want to ward off Winter and keep harvesting for as long as I can, .


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