Happy New Year! No, this blog post isn't about telling people to quit music or give up. :) It isn't an "If you don't like it, you know where the door is!" kind of message. Quite to the contrary, I hope that this post, like all the others, can help give insight into the HOW of becoming a better musician.
Over the past couple of weeks, I have had a chance to recharge my batteries while school has been out of session. I take these "down times" seriously, and believe that they are just as important as the times I am working. One of the things that I seem to struggle with is balance in life. On one of my many road trips this holiday season, I came up with an analogy that helps me see the importance of balance in an easy way.
Consider the door....
The average, everyday door is hung in the door frame with three or four hinges. these hinges, when well aligned and oiled, allow the door to swing open and shut with a minimum of effort. If any of the hinges are out of alignment, broken or otherwise found to be faulty, the burden of the door weight is spread amongst the remaining hinges. If more than half of the hinges are taken out of commission, the remaining hinge must bear the entire weight of the door by itself.
The "hinges" of my life include the following: family, spirituality, finances, and craft. I believe that each of these change a little bit over time, as life and experiences mold and shape us.
Hinge 1: Family. To my way of thinking, family and faith could be considered the same hinge or one really large hinge. Family and faith are defined in many ways. The "Leave it to Beaver" definition of family doesn't fit for many people, and I am not saying that it should....but what I am saying is that however you define family, it should be a well oiled and maintained "hinge." I spend quite a bit of time with this hinge, because my immediate family and other non-toxic, well-adjusted extended family mean so much to me.
Hinge 2: Spirituality. Again, this has a very wide range of definitions, and I won't begin to tell you that mine is right for you. However, being at peace with how you see the world around you and how you fit into it is important. Some will recognize no higher power for themselves, while others do. Having a sense of inner peace is what is important in how it relates to this process.
hinge 3: Finances. As a musician taking auditions, I can't tell you the number of times I've felt a sense of desperation going into an audition that I "had to win." Looking back, I see now just how dangerous this way of thinking is. It tempers the preparation and puts the musician in an uncomfortable place. Can you imagine how much more relaxed the process can be when your entire future isn't hanging in the balance? Am I saying to quit music? Absolutely not. But I find it interesting that the happiest musicians I know are those who have found a way to pay the bills in some other way, and play for the FUN of it. If the joy of performing found in the weekend warrior can be brought into the training musician's perspective, rather than trying to pick up enough students or gigs to cover the bills, then EVERYTHING becomes more enjoyable.
Hinge 4: Craft. Wiff Rudd, my chamber music coach at Baylor University, often talks about the three levels of working with music: Laborer, Craftsman, and Artist. Often, the day to day grind of life puts us in the mindset of the laborer...show up, take care of business, do a good job, and go home. The Craftsman does all of the work of the Laborer, with more detail and thoughtfulness. The Artist takes the work of the Laborer and Craftsman and adds their own personal touch. I want to do everything I can to stay in the Artist mindset for as much time as possible. When I am emotionally invested in the process, the results are more genuine and authentic, too!
How often in life do we let our various "hinges" fall into disrepair? How often to we let that squeaky door continue to squeak when all it needs is 30 seconds of attention? A drop of oil or the turn of a screw is all the adjustment it needs for years of trouble free service! How often do we leave things unsaid with those who mean the most to us in an attempt to keep the peace? How many times have I decided NOT to go for a run because I'm tired or swamped with work? My goals in 2013? Be organized enough to know where to find the oils and screwdrivers that keep the "hinges" of my life working well, and to take the time to put them to good use on a regular basis.