Sunday, July 24, 2005

Just for the Fun of It

I had so much fun making music last week. I found myself looking with envy at those members of the Chautauqua Symphony who get to do this for a living. Then I spoke to Evan, who is principal violist with a major symphony, who admitted that after 22 years it was not fun any longer. I started to wonder at what point his miraculous gift of talent turned into just a job to make money. I’m sure he is still about as good as they come out of Julliard, but what a shame that the extra passion has subsided. I had a long talk with him about this and he admitted that he peaked too early, winning big at 21 and immediately joining a symphony orchestra straight out of the conservatory, but skipping the liberal arts education that gives one multiple dimensions.

Then there’s Bill who also plays for a major symphony. Most conversations with Bill eventually get around to music because he is impassioned with music. When he was coaching Deborah and me the other day, he was literally jumping up and down at one point saying, “Isn’t this section just beautiful? It’s my absolute favorite. And you played it so well!” Bill cherishes his several European double basses as though they were valuable children. He can tell you in detail what a “chaconne” is. He has definite opinions about music – loves Bach, hates Vivaldi. But the point is that he cares deeply about music. It is so much more than a way to make a living for Bill.

I suppose this phenomenon is true for many people – those in the arts and those with just regular jobs. The idea of doing a job for money often naturally diminishes the initial motivation for doing it. Or maybe it’s the repetition. Or maybe it’s a boss/conductor who is less than supportive.

Lots of questions come into my head: When Evan retires from his symphony job, will playing the viola once again become fun? Will he encourage his children to follow music as a career or will he urge them to have a “back-up” plan? What would it take for me to abandon the piano... again? I think I am finally becoming smart enough to recognize that crucial point wherein something is no longer fun. I hope this doesn’t happen for me.

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