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 Resilience of professional musicians
Author: MarkS 
Date:   2022-07-27 18:19

In sports, there are many stories of resiliency of athletes in the face of physical and (more recently) mental health challenges. After being alerted to the Youtube channel "Living the Classical Life" by the link to the interview with Steven Isserlis recently provided by SunnyDaze, I browsed for other interesting interviews. There I came across a wonderful interview with oboist Alex Klein: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1V9mWyHsNRk&t=1s.

I was particularly interested in watching this interview since I had enjoyed a performance of the Mozart Gran Partita at the Aspen Music Festival in 2017 in which Klein played a lead. After that performance, I discovered that he had recently been denied tenure as Principal in the Chicago Symphony. Furthermore, this was the second time he had to leave that position.

His story is one of remarkable resilience. He became Principal Oboe in the orchestra in 1995 at age 30. In 2002, he won the Grammy for best solo performance with an orchestra. Unfortunately, he had to resign from the orchestra in 2004 due to focal dystonia in the fingers of his left hand. After a tremendous personal struggle, both physical and mental, he won the position again in 2016 only to be dismissed following the probationary period. Currently he is Principal with the Calgary Philharmonic.

In the interview, he gives a very heartfelt description of the immense challenges he has faced, as well as the personal losses, in order to maintain a career as a performer. Evidently, the interview was conducted after he had become Principal at Chicago the second time, but before he was terminated.

I would be interested in hearing about other musicians who have found ways of coping with similar kinds of challenges. (Obviously, Beethoven comes to mind, but I am thinking about more recent cases.)


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 Re: Resilience of professional musicians
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2022-07-27 18:39

Hi Mark,

That's really interesting to know about such struggles.

I don't know much about musicians but I know that in the University where I volunteer they have started a network to help disabled academics to do their best work in spite of their limitations. I think that is a wonderful thing. Helping really educated, skilled people over their limitations is a really important thing I think - rather than having them drop out or change career.


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 Re: Resilience of professional musicians
Author: SecondTry 
Date:   2022-07-27 22:35

I'd think that mere mortal resilience can't even begin to describe that needed to be a (classical) performance musician.

In addition to the need for continued excellent health, void of repetitive motion, pulmonary and other use/age related obstacles, it's a world in which it costs nothing, and therefore anyone can be, a critic.

The competition for slots is, "beyond insane."

And developing an ego confident enough to accept such criticism, but not so thick skinned as to ignore constructive criticism is a fine balance. Too open to others negativity--on the on the side of the spectrum--can do you in as well.

I think I'd prefer a much more sedate existence on the weapons ordinance disposal unit (i.e. bomb squad.) ;-)

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 Re: Resilience of professional musicians
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2022-07-27 23:08

I totally agree.

On top of that, you have to be an evening person, rather than a morning one, have a cast iron immune system for all those crowd events, and have no hint of seasonal affectiveness disorder, since you have to provide all the fun and cheerfulness at Christmas. Also travel. Also contant exposure to loud noises.

It boggles my mind.

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