first things first, i think it’s curious that the one time i have a week off from EVERYTHING (google: snowpocalypse baltimore) that i didn’t blog. i was too busy being completely wrapped up in the beginning of my thesis and having crippling cabin fever. now that i’ve re-entered society, the blood is flowing and my mind is a little more agile. (so get ready for a barrage of posts)
now to this post…i had my first lesson in two or so weeks due to conflicts, snow and illness and i was really looking forward to it. i had done a lot of work on the allemande movement of the fourth Bach cello suite and any time my teacher and i work on Bach is a good time. my lessons tend to be a lot more concept-oriented and i think Bach brings out the best in my playing. i sit down and play the whole movement, repeats and all. PK rubs his chin and just looks at me. this induces a serious amount of worrying on my part. he looks at me and says, “the feeling that i get from that is that you’re holding back…”. i interject with, “do you mean, like, time?” and he says no. he meant sound wise but more importantly, musically. he continues on with this speech about how the conductor of our orchestra talks about me, how he likes what i do in rehearsals and in performance (which apparently means that he and i gel, whatever that means) but in orchestra, i don’t have to take risks, it’s not needed. here, in my solo work, i wasn’t being gutsy enough. to paraphrase (in a way my teacher would NEVER say), i was playing like a pussy.
well sure enough, as soon as he got to his point, i started to tear up a little. why? because he had hit a super sweet spot. he was right, i wasn’t taking any risks but it was subconscious. last year, i took lessons with BSO principal tubist David Fedderly, and one of the most important things i took from those lessons was that i was afraid of being musical because growing up, so many people had told me that i was being too risky and emotional with my playing. so i bottled up all of the emotion because i was a kid, what did i know. and after all of that time, i put up a wall. my collegiate professors (and even my peers) say the same thing: we can see you thinking about the music, but we don’t hear it.
and yes, i cried in those lessons, too. a lot.
so we spent the majority of the lesson trying to get me to open up. of course, i was amenable, that’s what i want but it’s hard to put yourself out there on the edge. it’s really scary. but isn’t that what performance is, anyway? that same night, i went with a friend of mine to a BSO concert (Brubeck, Ansel Adams: America; Mussorgsky, arr. Ravel, Pictures at an Exhibition) and while i was watching certain players, the first word that came to my mind was histrionics. and attached to that word was a certain kind of repulsion that really bothered me. but was that the kind of musical bravery that i was lacking? in an orchestral setting, it’s hard to tell, but it is definitely food for thought.
why do we allow our students and ourselves to hide behind a wall of proficiency? just like certain things that kids do intrinsically, we have to learn to trust our musical instincts and see them through, even if it means crashing and burning a few times. i see this as being a possible life-long battle, as it has taken years to build up these defense mechanisms. but there is hope, even if that means shedding a few tears.