I have spent 15 years in higher education. Studying. About to finish my terminal degree. Had some experience "from the other side" of academia. And loved it by the way. I'm just feeling most comfortable at the university environment. So what one learns for so long?
I asked myself - what did I really, but really learned in life and music? I do play better in many ways than before. Sometimes even in tune! Definitely these studies made me a different cellist. But what about a different musician? Where was that magic moment that everything clicked and I suddenly felt that I am no longer a student but a performer? Is there one like that?
I'm sitting on a plane flying back to Boston and listening to Brahms Clarinet Quintet. Wonderful piece. One of those that makes you believe that there isn't anything else above music. I gave a small class in Warsaw Academy which was great but I didn't have any "performing engagements" for 3 weeks. I did practice though. A little bit. For the sake of mental floss. This time of reflection and travels, family events and guests made me look more inside than outside and form some thoughts about the education system and our paths as musicians in general.
I believe we got it all wrong about being professional. There. I've said it...
All this being on time, prepared, playing any repertoire requested in a great manner Having any concerto ready for any day is great, but it's not what music is really about in my opinion.
When we see that the likes of Rostropovich and others play entire libraries of literature we see just that: oh, he can do that? Well, I better try to be like him. He was a giant that we need to respect and not foolishly copy. When we get too close in our thinking that we are as gigantic as some giants of the past or present we fall in a trap. Trap of serving career more than music. Yes, music is also a profession and we need to be professional to survive but music is a calling and playing a great concert happens when all energy was dedicated to the service of music. In other words, being professional in our society is a prerequisite but not a solution to perform the masterworks.
So when we lose track of what music is and why do I want to play? First of all it can't be your job. It has to be a calling. Just has to. But it rarely is until later in life. So how to know? I think the advice here is to be weary of the academic system of teaching music. One ought to play a recital when music is ready, not when the date approaches. Of course we need to learn to work with deadlines and that's why there is school to teach you that. The thing is that most people graduate and keep the same format of musical lifestyle as they did during school. School is not life. It's just there to influence you. I heard myself saying "it's so hard to practice when there are no concerts". Did you say that too? That only means that we play music for a life/career goal. Nowadays I see it differently. I want to play because I see some incredible qualities in a piece that I want to absorb, feel, understand. I'm capable of having a performing thrill and joy in my living room playing the entire suite of Bach as I am on stage. That's when I know that I have something to share. Why would I want to plan a concert with repertoire I don't like that much with a deadline that makes me learn in a hurry? I did that and oh boy how many others I've heard with shallow results... Answer is: for money.
We all need to make a living. I chose teaching as my profession as I love it dearly and am most happy with students around me. But performing is a calling that I refuse to turn into a job that pretends to move hearts and passions of the audience without proper input from my side.
So students: learn to be professional but don't mistake it for being an Artist. You are an artist from the beginning but don't give it all away for small change. Treasure it like your most precious gift and share it on most special occasions. You'll be more satisfied from your performances. Someone will ask - what about competitions? I need to learn pieces by deadline. If you gonna learn a piece by deadline - the means you will not learn it at all. Enter competitions with repertoire you have lived through and be professional with new works. In my experience I felt that you start to know the piece after the 3 concert. Or 5th. Or 6th. The more you perform the deeper the depth of the music Never ends.
I understand I welcome quite a fiery discussion on this page but what are we if we don't share our thoughts and learn from confrontation? There is no room for safe-space in music.
Thank you for reading. -- Ignacy Gaydamovich gaydamovich.com