My passion is to help others in the community, young, old, and everyone in between, find relevance and joy in learning, performing or listening to classical music.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Putting classical music in its place

In the past few years of my life, I have gone through somewhat of a musical mid-life crisis.  I think I'm just now coming out of it and what I'm finding is that the musician I now am is a type of musician that seems to be raising the eyebrows of some of my professional peers and perhaps of some of the people that have known me for a long time.  In this post, I'm going to talk about a performance that shows, I think, a bit of how I think from the perspective of the newly-minted musician that I now am.  I'll be curious to see what you all think.  Or maybe I'll be sorry that I just wrote that.  Anyway...

At the end of last summer I was asked by a young cellist that I regularly work with if I would be interested in participating at a community arts festival with her that was held just a few weeks ago.  At first I was a little puzzled by the whole event because the women in charge were asking artists and groups interested in performing to audition way back in the beginning of the fall of the previous year.  For something that I was assuming was akin to a community talent show, I couldn't understand why this was really necessary and I admit, my ego (yes, I still do have an ego) bristled at the audition process.  We passed the screening process and in January began meeting with the other women who had been selected to participate in the event.  This was the second annual Muse: A Celebration of Women in the Arts performance and the performers included a writer reading a short story, a hoop dancer (a dancer that dances with a well-designed hula hoop), an actress performing a monologue, belly dancers with drummers, a woodwind trio, a qanun player (a zither-like instrument played in the Middle East), a folk-singer/guitarist, and us, a cello duo.  This was an eclectic group, needless to say, and I have never performed with such a wide variety of people.  At first I suppose I felt a little awkward around them and not quite sure how to fit in.  With musicians I feel like a duck in water - I know more or less where I stand, I know the standard protocol backstage...but with belly dancers, hoop dancers, actresses?  I really felt odd and a bit out of place, I have to admit.  I also felt very stiff, straight-laced, and, well, horribly boring.  

In the end, at the concert, I had a marvelous time, once I could loosen up a bit and stop worrying about myself.  And what I learned that night was invaluable, I think.  I learned that all of us, whatever our talent, dealt with the same issues when it came time to perform.  We all needed time and space to focus backstage, we all had some sort of jitters, we all felt passionate about what we were doing, we all wanted to communicate in some way to the audience, we all cared about the audience, and we all cared about one another's performances.  We also all possess a lot of talent and, do those belly dancers have guts to go out there and do what they do.  And the actress that performed her monologue...the focus she had, the intensity.  I couldn't breathe while she was doing her scene.  The folk-singer/guitarist?  She sang a song that she had never performed before and she had just finished writing it...she was very intense about it because it was written for her mother that had passed away.  My goodness, it was a rich song, and so intimate.  She had a lot of guts too to go out there and do what she did in front of strangers.  

So what's my point?  I think it's this.  What I learned is that night is that classical music is just one of many, many art forms and talents.  I suppose I knew this in an academic way, but I re-learned it in a very visceral way that night.  And although some of my peers might question why I "bother" with volunteering my time to play in the community, I have to say that it truly isn't a bother it all.  I am learning so much from being in the real world and from just hanging out.  It's also getting me to loosen up a bit...heck, I came home from that concert the other night and told my husband that I was even considering taking belly dancing lessons.  Can you imagine?!  

Now that was some concert! 


  1. You go! :) I'm happy I'm not the only one with crazy gig stories!

  2. This sounds great! Hmmm... turns out people are people, too. Audience members, actors, hoop dancers...

    Here's my take: keep on doing exactly what you're doing, for the future of music! :)

  3. I'm with Gretchen - just keep doing what you're doing. Artists are artists, period (speaking as somebody who lives with a photographer). We all share the same emotions and vulnerabilities - few are like you to have the courage to share publicly.