Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Why I chose to continue playing

Many of my colleagues are surprised when they found out my doctorate is in bassoon performance. While I chose to leave the professional musician's world at a time when administration seemed to be more my calling, I still love to play. I'm lucky that I work for an institutional that not only allows me to play in the ensemble, but gives me the chance to mentor others just by performing with them.

I believe that some of the best learning experiences I've had as a musician were the moments I got to play next to brilliant performers. I learn through the making of music - not by being told what to do. I'm not saying that I'm now the "brilliant" musician. But I do get to show them my special tricks, and also how to get productive in rehearsals.

I have a special way of counting multiple rests so that one can count up to 16 measures on one hand. I learned this from the principle bassoonist in the Kalamazoo Symphony. I also know how to share snide remarks without disrupting the conductor. I also know when to tweet and more importantly, when NOT to tweet - as in, not when the rehearsal is going on, unless I'm sitting out for a movement or piece. The students here also don't know how to acknowledge when one of their colleagues does a good job on a solo. Or how to encourage entire sections to blow their chops off - and enjoy the work. Some of them are starting to get the shuffling feet after a solo. We also eat a lot of recovery bananas. I always have my reed tools handy to help a student in need. Other more seasoned players help the students read through the music - and support them later in the semester when the course load gets a little crazy.

Last year, I got to play Mahler's First symphony again. I was able to have a special moment in the music, and share it with a few of my friends who were in the audience. At one rehearsal, my daughter was with me and got to sit in the section. She seemed totally at home between me at the clarinet; almost like she was a grown up, too More often than not, when the kids are at rehearsal with me, they enjoy running around the audience seats and letting their imaginations run wild. They know that if they don't interrupt rehearsal, they might get to touch a percussion instrument at break. I dream of the day when all three of us play in an ensemble together. Maybe in 10 years - I'll see that dream come true.

One of my friends in the viola section got to play with his first year son in the cello section. It was a special moment to watch - and I'm sure dad was feeling a particular sense of pride. If it doesn't happen for me, I'll be OK - but it sure was sweet to see it for him.

It's the "community" players in the orchestra bring a whole side of playing to the university ensemble experience. All of the older players enjoy playing, and we're all happy to be there. Aside from that sense of community, I also need to practice what I preach.

I'm happy to say there are far more engineers, business and A&S majors in the orchestra than music majors. It's important to continue to put myself out there -just as I'm encouraging the students to do; no matter what path of learning they are pursuing.

I'm grateful that my family gives me the time to go to rehearsals and concerts. Steve is a special guy for taking the kids so I can have a little bit of fun on stage.

#76 of 90in90 for #LUBlogTribe

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