Advertising and Web Hosting on Woodwind.Org!

Klarinet Archive - Posting 000683.txt from 1999/01

Subj: [kl] Non-professional playing
Date: Fri, 15 Jan 1999 19:35:21 -0500

Noah A. Smith wrote,
>Speaking of which, I'm interested to know if there are many subscribers who
don't count themselves among professional musicians or music students, and
what kinds of opportunities
exist after college for music-makers de facto but not by trade.>

Christian Budde wrote,
>>Only playing, practising without ever showing the work to the public
(even if this is only your family) will take the fun out of music.>>

Neil Leupold wrote,
>>>I disagree with this statement . . . . {big snip]
The process of di-recting my mental and emotional energy at every tiny detail
of my technique and musicanship is a special and uniquely satisfying pursuit.
I spend much more time in the practice room than I do on stage with my
orchestra colleagues, and that practice time is as much a part of my love for
music as the performances with the orchestra.>>>

>>>Showing my "work" to the public is far from the reason that I
work so hard in the first place.>>>

I strongly agree with Neil about this. I have such severe stage fright that
performing is a torture instead of a pleasure. Although nobody ever pressured
me, as a child learning clarinet and piano, I didn't judge myself against the
way the neighbor's kid played, or against the way I'd played last month or
last year. I judged myself against Jack Brymer and Rudolf Serkin, even though
it was clear to everyone, and most of all to me, that I lacked such inborn
talent and that no amount of practicing would give it to me. Up to a point,
striving for excellence and recognition is a good thing, but it can also be
self-destructive (and self-indulgent) if it results in unrealistic,
unobtainable goals with eventual failure built into them. The stage fright
and self-absorbed preoccupation with my inadequacy began to spill over into
high school orchestra rehearsals and piano lessons, and even invaded my
practice time at home, where I knew my family could hear me. Early in
college, I quit music cold turkey with great relief.

In the mid-1980s, I retrieved my clarinet from my parents' attic and bought a
used 1922 upright piano for $50. The beat-up piano-shaped object wouldn't
hold a tuning and had atrocious, uneven key action. The clarinet pads leaked.
I imagined that good equipment would be wasted on the likes of me. Finally my
husband (a good amateur violinist) persuaded me to have my clarinet
overhauled, but every time I practiced, the stage fright came back. I was
sure that the neighbors could hear me and that they probably talked about that
stupid woman making so much noise. I pictured an audience booing at me.
After about two years with the problem getting steadily worse, I sold the
piano-shaped object to some starving students for the same $50 I'd paid for it
and stuffed the clarinet in a closet. It never occurred to me at the time
that this "realistic thinking" was a form of self-pity.

A decade later, I tried again. This time, I decided not to try to fight the
stage fright. I'd just accept it and go on from there. I bought a
professional-quality digital piano, put my instruments upstairs in my private
office, instead of in the living room, and dealt with the stage fright by
promising myself never to play for an audience again. For the first time in
my life, I thoroughly enjoyed making music. Soon I started salvaging vintage
wind instruments, even learning to restore them myself. I don't know what
became of the neighbors -- for all I know, I've ruptured their eardrums by now
-- but I don't feel them listening any more.

This isn't a fairy story with a magical ending. Two weeks ago, with stray
thoughts of curing the stage fright enough to try out for a local band, I
broke my promise to myself, tried to play my bass sax for friends and made it
play like a pig. (Well, maybe a giant mutant pig from Mars.) Despite that
humilation, I'm sure I'll go on daydreaming the occasional Walter Mitty
fantasy, in which I play brilliantly and people admire me. But in real life,
it ain't gonna happen. A failure? I don't see it that way any more. Playing
alone isn't the best of all worlds, but it sure beats not playing at all. I
need music, not as social life (I get that in other ways) and not a way to
show off, but because there's something fundamentally different and more
satisfying about making my own music than there is about using music as a
spectator sport. Anything can be an opportunity if you define it right.


Unsubscribe from Klarinet, e-mail:
Subscribe to the Digest:
Additional commands:
Other problems:

     Copyright © Woodwind.Org, Inc. All Rights Reserved    Privacy Policy    Contact