Of course I could go on and on about how fortunate I have been in every which way, at every point in my life but what I have been thinking about most this past week and that I want to talk about here is what I feel helped contribute to who I am as a musician today; things that go beyond the standard good teachers, good instruments, supportive parents, opportunities to go to music camps, competitions, festivals, concerts...I was incredibly fortunate to have all of those things too. But I was also blessed to have even more, believe it or not. And it was the "more" that pushed me over the edge, that I believe made it virtually impossible for me to not be passionate about music making, to not go crazy without it, to not feel like it was in my blood.
The neighborhood I grew up in, in San Francisco, was, I believe, an unusual neighborhood. There were many families with kids that were involved in classical music and one mother that was a pianist and piano teacher herself. For many years we regularly got together to play and perform chamber music, often times having the opportunity to play with the mother that was a professional musician. We were steeped in chamber music and we were used to playing with a professional.
When I was about 10 years old, I was invited to play piano with a professional chamber music group, the Chamber Soloists of San Francisco, at their opening concert. I played piano in a Haydn Piano Trio and when I think back on it it seems slightly surreal. I can't believe that they gave me that opportunity. It was a fantastic experience for me to actually rehearse with "real" musicians and have to make "real" musical decisions at that age. I don't really recall if I made any of the decisions - probably not. But I do remember the thrill I felt during that performance, that first "professional" gig.
I also got to perform with professionals when I played cello in the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra. Once a year, the orchestra performed, side by side, with members of the San Francisco Symphony. I'm not exactly sure if the experience was as thrilling for the adults, but for me, it was absolutely unbelievable - nerve wracking, yes, but such an adrenaline rush. To play next to musicians that played with such ease, with such musicality, but that also, gasp, made mistakes! And it was also good to see the realistic side of orchestras. There were the "grumpy old men (and women)" of the orchestra there too alongside of us and although it was a little deflating to be exposed to that, it was something for me to think about.
Later on, after I went to college and after I started focusing more on accompanying, I had the great joy of working with several cello professors at various institutions that I've studied and worked at. That, too, has been a great inspiration to me. I guess what I'm trying to say in all of this is this...
If you are a professional musician and you find yourself working with a young child, a young man or a woman who you feel possesses some talent, please don't shy away from giving him or her the opportunity to play music alongside of you. And I don't just mean in a lesson situation. That is fine and can be good. But what I mean is give them the chance to perform with you, even if it's just in a small situation. Your musical passion, your musical ability can be infectious and there's no better way for them to "get it" than to get swept away in a powerful performance situation, nerves and all. I think if more professionals took young musicians under their wings like this, then classical music might get a nice shot of needed adrenaline. It certainly worked for me.
Just a thought.